RMOWP Early Conferences, Part III

Article & photos by Jack Olson

1982 was the last year I missed a conference. Some friends were going to be touring Europe and wanted me to join them. I drew the short straw so I went. But everyone else had a really good time at the conference and missed me, I hoped. The group went to Park City, Utah, the first of two times we would visit that beautiful mountain community. By this time we were scheduling out-of-the-ordinary activities. There was shootin’ trap at Browning Arms, and a tour of their archery factory. Our birders enjoyed the Farmington Wildlife Refuge. A tram ride to dinner at the Snowbird Ski Area topped off the festivities.

Sunset Crater Volcano Natl Mon
Picnic supper at Sunset Crater Volcano Nat’l. Mon,

Europe was OK but I was glad to be home for the 1983 conference in Flagstaff, Arizona. Oh, so close to Grand Canyon. But we more than made up for it with an extensive round of bus excursions to Walnut Canyon, Wupatki, and Sunset Crater Volcano national monuments. We spread out a sumptuous picnic dinner at the last at, appropriately, sunset. We hiked in each of these national monuments but my favorite was the Wupatki Ruin. It is wide-spread, dramatic at sunrise and there was a nearby Ball Court, site of a mysterious game played by the Sinagua culture. Our cars kicked up clouds of dust as we drove up a dirt road to a Forest Service lookout for a view of the surroundings. It was (cough, cough) worth it.

Trail ride in Shoshone National Forest
Trail ride in Shoshone National Forest

No matter which direction we traveled from Pahaska Tepee in 1984 we were exploring fresh territory for RMOWP. We were smack dab at the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and we didn’t hesitate to take advantage of it. There was a guided bus tour with many stops, such as whenever we saw a buffalo. We savored a classy lunch at the Lake Hotel Dining Room overlooking Yellowstone Lake. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody can consume almost an entire day. There are exhaustive exhibits of western art, Plains Indians, natural history, firearms, photographs and images of Buffalo Bill’s life and times. Staff at the museum took us behind the scenes into their storage area to view artifacts they have no room to display for the public. The final day we took a thrilling horseback ride up steep hills into the Shoshone National Forest. We had a brief snack and then a screaming ride straight downhill as a thunderstorm approached.

Trail into Carlsbad Caverns
Heading down into Carlsbad Caverns

We trooped underground in 1985. Well, at least for a while at Carlsbad, New Mexico. The high point—no, the low point—was a descent into Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I’ve been in several caves across the country but this is my favorite. We could wander and marvel at the varied formations. I had time to set up a tripod and make a photograph that is still being bought in the gift shop 30 years later. I did not, however, make any friends when I took a group photograph of everyone. Do you know what a flash does to people’s eyes in the dark? One of the most unusual and exciting events was watching a few hundred thousand bats stream from the cave at dusk. We made our first, and only, foray into Texas to scramble to a couple of sites in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We whizzed along the Pecos River through Carlsbad in a jet boat. Our group got up close and personal with tarantulas, peccaries, and mountain lions in Living Desert State Park.

[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.]