Article & photos by Jack Olson
Back down to the Four Corners area for our 13th annual conference held in the historic town of Durango, Colorado in 1986. We had two 4-star events at this conference. We piled onto the Durango & Silverton narrow gauge railroad for the round trip to Silverton and back. It’s a stunning ride, smoke streaming back from the engine, the San Juan Mountains towering above and the Animas River raging below. On another day we visited the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores and then filled three boats for a cruise on McPhee Reservoir, stopping on shore for a sumptuous and leisurely picnic. A rollicking melodrama at the famous Strater Hotel topped off the conference festivities.
It was wildlife galore at our 1987 conference in Custer State Park, South Dakota. We stayed in the State Game Lodge and traveled by bus through the wildlife reserve of the park. There were loads of buffalo and we could get out, not too close, to photograph. Comical wild burros entertained us and thrilled the youngsters in our group. We descended into Jewel Cave National Monument, motored out to Badlands National Park, and finally, the Husteads hosted us for dinner at quirky Wall Drug. Of course, we made a big deal of a visit to Mt. Rushmore and the lesser-known Crazy Horse Memorial. It was a privilege to ascend to where workers were carving the huge face.
In 1988 the overriding theme was water at Lake Powell, near Page, Arizona. Where should I start? Well, a sunset dinner cruise on the lake sure got things off swimmingly. Then we went for an all day boat trip on the lake to Rainbow Bridge National Monument and various nooks and crannies a few inches wider than our boat. For pure excitement we floated down the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry, stopping along the way for a guide to lead us to hidden petroglyphs. Walls of red rock loomed above us. It was a memorable experience at a memorable conference.
Red River, New Mexico was our destination in 1989. We traveled far and wide from Red River. We couldn’t miss a visit to Taos; it was just too close. We’d go back years later, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Taos Pueblo was a cultural fascination for us. We scattered all over the Pueblo’s grounds to marvel at this ancient structure. The same was true of Martinez Hacienda where we ate lunch and watched a mason applying adobe to a wall. The group filled up a bus and we went into unknown territory. It is Valle Vidal, an addition to the national forest which was just opened to the public. The forest archeologist was our guide. He took us to remnants of the logging and ranching activities which flourished in the past hundred years. We nervously heard a tale of bullet holes in the ceiling while we looked over our shoulders as we ate dinner at the historic St. James Hotel in Cimarron.
[Editor’s note: This is a continuing conference retrospective by Jack Olson, an RMOWP member since 1978. They will appear a few at a time over subsequent issues. The intent is to stir nostalgia and remembrance in old-timers and foster a connection to our history with newer members.]