The picture you see above is of me on the right and my friend Richard Nicolette on the left at Mt. Evans just outside of Denver on the Front Range. Richard is my oldest friend. In fact, he was the first human being that I knew outside my mother and dad when I was a kid. We grew up in the neighborhood together and now he lives in Arvada, Colorado. Richard and I skied together as kids and he has been living back and forth in Colorado/Pittsburgh three separate times and now lives in Colorado permanently. He was the first guy I ever saw do a back flip on skis. In those days, these were done on 210 cm skis. A pretty impressive feat. One day Richard called me from Aspen where he was working at the Mesa Store Bakery and told me that he laid out a back gainer for Boz Skaags. I thought that was pretty cool and we had many ski adventures in the last 50 years together.
Recently in the last several years, my travels have taken me to Denver for various reasons and Richard and I always get together. In these recent times, we have hiked together because I found myself in Denver during non-ski seasons of the year. But that is ok because we have been able to catch up while hiking and while we have had fun, we have endured some amazing weather. For instance, several years ago we were hiking up the James Peak Lake Trail in the Roosevelt National Forest not far from Boulder. In Colorado, you need to make sure that you get your hike started before noon and make your way back as soon as you can because there are always wicked thunder storms in the afternoons in the mountains. We made the mistake of staying too long at Chipotle in Arvada, our favorite haunt( how about that Chris, Adam and Loraine). We started the hike in the early afternoon and by late afternoon we were still up high at the lake when a really big thunderstorm was brewing. The clouds were black and the lightning was right on us. When you are high in the mountains, the lightning is all around you and it can be pretty un-nerving. We had our rain gear with us and quickly donned it before the biblical rains began. We nervously laughed at each crack of thunder and lightning until we started to run towards the parking area. Not a good time when the storms begin. At the end of that hike, we went immediately to the Sundance Cafe on Highway 119 near Nederland. After the storm, we sat on the deck and had an amazing view of the Front Range and talked incessantly about the harrowing experience on the mountain that day.
We went another day to the trail systems in Golden, Colorado where the weather was so hot, we were glad that our hydration packs were full of ice water and we had a spare bottle between us. Those trails are really well laid out and the city of Golden should be proud of their system which is within easy reach of the town. http://www.golden.com The trip to Mt. Evans on another hike in another year was momentous in that it suddenly turned very cold and the rain was intense and freezing. Richard and I never let the weather spoil our fun and fortunately we have the packs and the rain gear to protect us. You have to have the gear if you want to venture into the outdoors especially in the unpredictable Front Range of Colorado. Mt. Evans is 14,264 feet high and is one of the famous fourteeners in Colorado which locals like to summit during the summer months. However at that altitude, curiously not far from Denver, you have to be prepared. It can snow in mid summer and this particular picture was taken in August. You will notice I am wearing a wool hat. Many people have died from exposure because they go to this altitude without backup clothing and hypothermia is a real threat especially when you are stuck in a cold rain storm.
Richard and I always like to do adventurous things together. We have weathered many storms together hiking, skiing and riding road bikes. But we have also weathered some life storms as well. Richard was one of the first people to call me when my father suddenly passed away in his sleep 12 years ago. He was on the phone when my mother passed 4 years later. We talked for hours about the old neighorhood and stories about our parents and how they raised us back then. To this day, when we see each other, it is as if I just saw him yesterday and we pick up talking about the old days and current situations in each other’s lives. Richard likes to hear about my son Jack and my wife Janet. He doesn’t have any children but is engaged to a really cool lady named Linda who is truly his soulmate and I am happy for him. We E-Mail each other frequently and they tend to be contemplative about life in general. Richard has had to weather some storms. He has a degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and has been in the graphic arts business all of his life. Unfortunately, that industry has fallen on hard times because of the new technology of self publishing and the Internet. However, Richard has re-invented himself as a substitute teacher in the Denver and Boulder area and couldn’t be happier. He has a real passion for kids and his gentle spirit is welcome in all of those classrooms. I like to think that I have weathered some of his life storms with him that are just as hairy as that day on the James Peak Trail.
So, if you have a lifelong friend in the world, cultivate that relationhship. They say if you die with 5 real friends, you are truly a blessed person. Richard is one of those people in my life. We like our gear, we weather the storms on the mountain and in life together. If you have a friend like that, make an effort to see them at all costs. Life is short and friends are true treasures in life. Go hike and catch up with a friend. Thanks for reading.