Food, Friends and Fun
By Joy Ariel Apelquist, Eagle Vail Chapter
The first-ever RMEF Colorado Rendezvous kicked off this past July at Five Points Campground between Canon City and Cotopaxi, Colorado. Volunteers Marv Toreson and Gene Pask organized the event. More than 25 adults and 10 children gathered to tour several conservation easements and enjoy great food and fun family activities with other RMEF members.
Our weekend started Friday evening with check-in and set up at a cozy campsite alongside the Arkansas River with great fishing opportunities. RMEF staffers Troy Sweet and Allen Kerby and volunteers Art Graham, Bobby Gray and Brian Soliday were wonderful hosts and greeted us as if we were old friends. Our meet-and-greet was great fun, and we were treated to regular sightings of bighorn sheep throughout the evening and weekend.
We were excited to jump on board and eager to attend an event that was “kid friendly.” We brought our boys, Noah (10) and Jonah (8). The boys met up with other children for a weekend of non-stop play and fun.
On Saturday we geared up for our caravan to visit the conservation easements with RMEF lands program manager Brandon Hoffner and Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) district wildlife manager Kim Woodruff. The first stop was an area known as Jackal Mountain-Quagmire. Landowner Rusty Ross shared with us why he chose to work with RMEF to ensure the future of his family’s property through a donated easement. Ross is a true advocate for RMEF!
Then our caravan headed to another RMEF conservation easement, Jackal Mountain-Badger Creek, for lunch. This easement was donated by Frank Black and the Black Family Trust. Here we were treated to a picnic lunch sponsored by RMEF.
Next we traveled to a pinyon pine-juniper mastication project site near Howard that is part of a watershed health and wildlife forage project coordinated by the DOW and Bureau of Land Management and funded partially by RMEF. Did you know that pinyon pine and juniper use up to 32 gallons of water per day? When these trees overrun the landscape, the ground beneath is left dry and barren—not very appealing for elk and other wildlife. The project encompassed both private and public lands and employed a machine called a “Hydro Axe” that literally pulverizes the trees and roots into mulch. We were quite impressed and amazed at the scope of this project and pleased that the RMEF allocated PAC funds to support the effort.
Back at camp Saturday afternoon, we participated in a Gear Swap/Sale. It was fun to see what others had to trade or sell. There were fishing poles, RMEF gear, targets, bullets and all sorts of fun paraphernalia. Of course, everything had a great story attached to it! Brian and Caryssa Soliday gathered the kids together in the afternoon for an elk calling demonstration. The youngsters then received complimentary elk calls from Hunters Specialties.
Our potluck dinner that evening was a marvelous affair! The Colorado State Leadership Team graciously sponsored the barbecue dinner. There was enough food to feed an army. Troy Sweet was the master at grilling our fabulous feast. Everyone was mighty satisfied with an amazing meal of chicken, steaks and Olathe sweet corn—all cooked on his towed portable behemoth of a grill. The rest of us pitched in and made marvelous side dishes, and Brian Soliday treated us all to Dutch oven fire-baked cobblers with scoops of vanilla ice cream on top. After dinner we participated in a campfire chat to discuss the day’s events, RMEF’s new and ongoing goals for the state of Colorado, fundraising and the plan for the 2011 Rendezvous on the Uncompahgre Plateau.
The weekend ended with Sunday breakfast, while bighorn sheep grazed 100 yards from us. As new RMEF members (2009), we were very impressed with the organization and friendliness of staff and everyone who came together to create a great weekend! This was a great family affair we’ll be sure to attend in the years to come.