By Jack Olson
The first years: Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers was founded in 1973 by several members of Outdoor Writers Association of America who thought there should be a regional organization of individuals who had similar communication skills and interests. The first annual conference took place in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in 1974. It was successful and conferences followed in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Lake Powell, Arizona; and Moab, Utah. Over the 41 consecutive conferences, RMOWP trooped to seven states, with southern locations as far as Tucson, Arizona, and Carlsbad, New Mexico. The most recent conference in 2014 nuzzled the Canadian border at Glacier National Park, Montana.
The Glenwood Springs conference in 1974 was central to RMOWP’s initial core membership in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Glenwood Springs is a historic community on the Colorado River. One of the unique activities featured a five-year-old boy teaching fishing tricks to experienced outdoorsmen. There were more red faces than red rocks. Huge watermelons tumbled wildly in a cool spring for the evening meal. Cocktails were served in a fold of the mountains 3,000 feet above the town, hopefully not near a cliff.
In 1975 the members took a narrated bus trip to various pueblos in the Santa Fe area. Bus trips were to become common for group outings at future conferences. There was a fun lunch at Rancho de Chimayo and then a visit to the famous Ortega weavers. Arts, crafts, churches, food were just part of the experience. Cocktails showed up at a member’s home 3,000 feet lower than Glenwood Springs. (Are we seeing a pattern here?)
In 1976 RMOWP ventured farther to Lake Powell at Page, Arizona. Glen Canyon Dam backs up Lake Powell into Utah. Guides of the Bureau of Reclamation gave us a tour of the dam. The highlight of the conference was an all-day houseboat trip on the lake as far as Rainbow Bridge National Monument, sacred to the Navajo Nation. Hundreds of sculpted rock features made for the exposure of a great number of rolls of slide film. Also sculpted were the bathing beauties on the rocks. (Why wasn’t I here? I had a zoom lens.)
Moab, Utah, where we held the 1977 conference, presented us with so many outstanding experiences that we were later to return for another conference. We had a moonlight float on the Colorado River, right out of Moab. Then we had an “exciting” van ride at the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. The driver would race toward the rim, coming to a screeching stop close to the edge of a thousand foot precipice. (Where are those cocktails when you need them?) And right outside Moab, is one of America’s outstanding national parks, Arches. Even if every arch fell the park would still be a wondrous rock-strewn place.
[Editor’s note: Jack Olson, an RMOWP member since 1978, having attended 36 of the organization’s 41 conferences, has begun a retrospective of each conference he has attended. They will appear a few at a time over periodic issues. The intent is to stir nostalgia and remembrance in old-timers and foster a connection to our history with newer members. The initial years, before he joined, are gleaned from an early history summary.]