Brevity does not make life meaningless,
but forgetting does.
- William Least Heat Moon
This page gives a little history of Shalom and how it came to be, from the early days of camping in canvas tents, to the Wooden Ship, to construction, and on to current times. These are the most meaningful places - with their people, events, and objects - that I have known and remember.
The family made the first trip from our ancestral home in Texas to the interior west without me, since I hadn't "discovered America," in Dad's words. In 1952, on the return drive from Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, the folks stopped over in Gunnison Country for a few days while Dad recovered from the flu, being unable to drive any further. My sisters Janice and Joyce had already joined up. They were so taken by the beauty and (then) remoteness of the Taylor Park valleys that they determined to come back. And kept coming back. Taylor River Road wasn't even paved above Almont in those days.
I was born the following May ...hmmm... so the annual road trip was rerouted to a lake nearer home. We came back the next year and thus began many happy camping trips. Our spots included One Mile, Lottis Creek, and Cold Spring campgrounds. Mom washed diapers in the cold river. Apparently that would be unacceptable today. It was at Cold Spring (still the best water to be found anywhere) where Joyce smashed her four year old brother (me) with a pillow, sending him into the sheepherders' camp stove in the tent, gashed head a bloody mess, requiring a head shaving for the patch job. For years I claimed she hit me with a stove.
Our favorite spot, though, grew into family lore as Grasshopper Park, a two-table Forest Service campground, complete with privy and clear spring, a few miles up Spring Creek. It no longer stands, leaving only the too-big-to reach-around spruces and our fire ring. We slept in three canvas tents, cooked on a Coleman stove under heavy canvas awnings, and sang around the campfire. We children played and learned to fish; Dad actually fished for and caught quite respectable brown trout on his fly rod. Mom cooked. I suppose she did other things, too. Those month-long camping trips were the highlight of the year, around which all activities for the rest of the year circled.
The Wooden Ship
Years later, at age 19, my friend Clyde and I thought it would be good to remove ourselves both from college and polite society, which held no interest for us in those turbulent times. Our destination, pre-pipeline Alaska, proved out of reach for two broke kids, so we settled on Taylor Park. Joyce steered us to Tellurium Creek on the north end of the valley. Clyde and I built a "cabin" and stayed there from May til October that year. No car. No money. Leaky roof. Flour, rice, beans, corn meal, oatmeal, coffee, water from the spring that tasted like wine. The faithful dog, Socrates. We hiked many miles every day and called this place home. I read Walden for the first time that summer. And spent most of my life trying to circle back to paradise, a theme we might all do well to embody.
Wooden Ships ( thank you Paul Kantner, Stephen Stills, and David Crosby)
Go and take a sister by her hand
Lead her far from this foreign land
Somewhere where we might laugh again
We are leaving
You don't need us
Sailing ships on the water very free and easy
Easy you know the way it's supposed to be
(See blog post dated 1/5/2017 for a more extended version of the Wooden Ship story - Ed)
Again, time passes. It comes time for Dad and Mom to retire. Time. Joyce, again, finds this remarkable site on Willow Creek which flows into Taylor Reservoir from the south. Sorry, no directions to this undisclosed location. We began construction the summer of 1980 with the massive job of clearing the building site by chainsaw. It's in mostly lodgepole pine on a grassy and wildflower studded meadow about 200' from the creek. Well, it became grassy and full of flowers after Mom viciously attacked the prevalent sage with pick and shovel, alleviating her allergies. There was also an enormous Blue Spruce, too-big-to get-your-arms-around, blocking the priceless view of Ice Mountain. It had to go. I almost cried when the deed was done, but left the four foot tall stump in memoriam, where it passes time today.
The Wooden Ship in Later Years
Ed at the Custom Mill on Site
Shalom under Construction in 1981
We built the foundation that first summer. Since I was in the masonry/brick & stone/carpentry business, working, living, and skiing in nearby Crested Butte (THOSE were the days - also a story for another time - at least the parts I could repeat), the stars aligned and I became cheap labor. Now, how DO you find the starting point to lay out an essentially round house out in raw space? After some head-scratching, Mom decided we would pick the center point of the cabin and line out a series of 60° angles from that point. A little geometry would give us the length of the radii and and the six wall sections (24'). Then we could rotate corner points to achieve the desired orientation. With the help of Ross Seeton's transit, we turned the six pie slices of the 360° circle and had our layout.
Anyway, I put down the concrete footer to the points of the hexagon and put up the concrete block walls. My friend Dennis and I installed the floor joists and decking, then covered it up for the next season. The stonework on the exterior would wait until later. "Later" actually consumed my free time for the next five summers, filled with finding, hauling, and setting over 30 tons of stone.
By 1981, Gary and Charlie Seeton, Ross' sons, had constructed a unique, one-of-a-kind attachment to a portable sawmill to accommodate our crazy hexagonal cabin. No sir, no square corners for us. Round. A circle. With the help of an ancient 90' tall crane Gary drove down from Montana at 35 m.p.h., the Seeton boys erected the walls, cut the windows and doors and said, "Now, how you gonna hold up that roof?" Seems our resident architect had neglected to include that minor detail on either page of the construction plan.*
We put our collective heads together and came up with a brilliant scheme to hold up the massive 12" diameter rafters converging in air in the middle of the cabin. I would drive to the salvage yard 90 miles away in Montrose and load two tons of steel on my 3/4 ton pickup and bring it back for Charlie, the resident expert welder (really), to stick it all together. The boys built a special welding table on site to accomplish the seemingly impossible - weld two pieces of 10" steel pipe together in perfect alignment to reach 25' from the basement to the peak of the roof, then attach smaller pipes radially around the central pipe, on an angle (remember, no square corners) to support each rafter. Whew! Glad that worked! You can see the result in the photo above. The big roof logs were cut and milled up nearby Bertha Gulch, where the abandoned mill rusts with time.
OK. Now we have the rough outline of a cabin. Mom, Dad, and I spent the rest of the summer and fall covering the roof, installing doors and windows, building interior walls, getting the plumbing and wiring done, installing fixtures, cabinets and all that stuff. Mom cut all the tongue and groove pine for the ceiling on a big radial arm saw while I called down measurements from above and pounded in nails. A big woodburning stove occupies the place of honor in the center of the cabin, behind which I laid up a native stone backdrop. The two large picture windows gave us perfectly aligned views of Ice Mountain and Willow Creek. We had been camping in tents for two summers; getting to move into something approximating a house was a real treat. It would soon become home to lifetimes of seasons.
Now it is my time to retire and I have circled home to a cabin in Taylor Park where I belong. The once golden age has returned, yet again. I'll go to my house in Colorado Springs when, and if, I feel like it.
* Actually, Mom (Jean) imagined and drew the perfectly serviceable floor plan and wall elevations. No roof plan. She was a teacher and seamstress, not an engineer, and can be forgiven.