Imagine yourself surrounded in the warmth of a log cabin, experiencing solitude and immersion in nature, while relaxing over a healthy gourmet meal presented with unique flare. After all you’ve earned it, because earlier that day you summited a wilderness mountain peak.
This describes an experience that I just shared with a fun group of fifty to sixty year-old guys from Jacksonville, Florida, organized by long-time friend and client Ed Smith. These guys are fit and run marathons, aren’t afraid to hammer on mountain bikes, and have climbed many fourteeners and thirteeners with me in the past.
We set up a six-day itinerary with hiking in remote reaches of the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area, the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area, and the San Isabel National Forest near Buena Vista about 40 miles south of Leadville.
Our trip was staged from a private three-bedroom log home surrounded by stunning views of surrounding peaks, deep-green forests and woodlands, brilliant aspens, and flower-filled meadows in the adjacent San Isabel National Forest.
We call the cabin Raven’s Retreat, and it is truly a place to retreat from the hustle of everyday life. No phone rings there and you cannot see or hear anything manmade. You only experience sounds and sights of nature. You gaze out for miles and miles of open space and feel that you are on a planet that’s just one big national park.
When immersed in time at the cabin, troubles seem to just fall away. A new perspective is gained that proves that life here on earth is very peaceful. Sometimes we do no-drive days and just head out from the cabin for sunrise bird watching, afternoon mountain bike rides, sunset hikes, or nighttime sky gazing.
The feeling at Raven’s Retreat is a different feel than the Vail Valley. When I look out at the landscape from the viewing deck of Raven’s Retreat, I feel a sense of calm as my eyes roam with infinite possibilities from woodland to meadow, to aspens to faraway dreamy mountaintops.
I’ve seen bobcats in the yard several times. I’ve seen mountain lions, bears, bighorns, antelope, mule deer, and golden eagles just on the drive in. Raven’s Retreat is about ten miles off of the payment and is accessed by gentle dirt roads and jeep trail. It is located adjacent to miles and miles of wild lands with very few people, which enables the wildlife to thrive.
My co-leader on this recent trip was none other than Bag &Pack Shop manager Marc Rouse. As a guide, not only is Marc fun, energetic, helpful and knowledgeable, but he is also an award-winning chef. Marc designed a menu to maximize health to our bodies and enjoyment to our palates including halibut topped with mango chutney, grilled chicken puttenesca served on a bed of polenta, lemon pesto shrimp over angel hair pasta, and after climbing 14,000 foot Mt. Harvard we all enjoyed organic New York strips succulently grilled to perfection.
Mornings start off early with the full sun shining on the deck and streaming through the dining room at 6:00 a.m., as it rises over Pikes Peak fifty miles to the east. Freshly brewed coffee and refreshing fruit smoothies start off the day. My wife Tanya joined for a day and led morning yoga out on the deck. Our days were filled with hiking, mountain biking, trail running, and wildlife watching.
Next week I am hosting my clients and friends Andy and Lili Neale from Coconut Grove, Florida for a ten-day visit. We have recreated together for the last twelve years. After having attended a medical conference in Vail for many years, I talked them into going on an overnight trip to the cabin on cross-country skis. Like everyone else who has been there, it is a place that beckons you to come back and relax a bit more.
In addition to being avid hikers and cross-country skiers, Andy and Lili also enjoy watercolor painting, photography, and hard-core bird watching. Raven’s Retreat is the perfect venue because we can book professional guides or instructors for just about any activity; yet return each day to the relaxing comfort of the cabin.
A log cabin in the woods is an icon of American settlement. Consider spending time with your friends and family in a remote mountain cabin enjoying a healthy lifestyle of relaxation, nutritious and delicious food, and challenging fun activities.
Writer Tom Wiesen and photographer Tanya Wiesen are the lead guides and owners of TrailWise Guides. Privately guided wilderness hiking and backcountry mountain biking tours are available daily. Call TrailWise for more information including multi-day stays at Raven’s Retreat at 827-5363.