Rocky Mountain Snyder Family XMAS | 03

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A few years ago my father had open-heart surgery.

After the operation, he was a little out of it. In fact, one night he told the nurse that he thought he was in Ireland.

Now you can think that’s sad or funny, but I just wonder what was going on in his mind to make him think he was in Ireland.

Why Ireland of all places? What did that look like to him … a guy whose farthest adventure out of the U.S. was Kakabeca Falls in Ontario, which is, for all intent and purposes, Northern Minnesota.

Either way I’m glad he got to go.

Today, Dad is 85, living in Minnesota, where people don’t endure the cold, they enjoy it.

Sam, my son, has a lot of his Grandpa in him. This year my four-year-old boy is going to a Montessori pre-school. His teacher told us how he was doing.

“I asked Sam what his mother’s name is,” Miss Karlyne told us. “And he said, ‘Rose.’

“I asked for his father’s name; Sam said, ‘Charlie.’

“I asked him what city he lives in and he said, ‘Colorado Springs.’”

“But then I asked him what state he lives in and Sam said …

“’Australia.’”

Year of the Ladies …
In her first semester of kindergarten at Academy Edison, Gina pulled down the “Science Award” for her outstanding performance during her class project on “The Five Senses” … Carli, now in third grade, is reading at the sixth-grade level … Rose got a new job as Associate Director of Coaching for the U.S. Olympic Committee … after a tough series of callbacks during a vigorous audition process, Gina landed the plum role of “Mrs. Claus” in the Christmas pageant; Gina says, “I like being on stage” … Carli is developing into a world-class age group swimmer; she won a the 100-yard individual medley against five 9-year-olds and a couple 10-year-olds (Carli is 8), but alas, tested positive for performance-enhancing Curious George fruit snacks … Rose had fun riding the Orange Stinger with Gina and California Screamin’ with Carli at Disney’s California Adventure.

Sam the Man …
Sam stood on our couch and said, “Watch Dad.” Then he dove off the couch into a perfect cartwheel. He’s four. I yelled, “Rose, get in here!” I looked at Sam and said, “Do that again.” He climbed back on the couch and attempted another flying cartwheel. Except this time his plant hand didn’t hold his weight and his arm crumpled up like tissue paper as he fell to the floor in a heap. I couldn’t tell if he broke his wrist, arm, shoulder or all of the above. But he was fine. I said, “Sam, don’t do that again.”

>> Sam is shown here doing a perfect cartwheel at California Disney, wearing sunglasses and his hat on backwards.

>> Carli is interested in taekwondo, so how lucky were we to run into 2000 Olympic gold medallist Steven Lopez at the Olympic Training Center.

>> I took this picture of a saguaro in Phoenix at Thanksgiving. As you can tell by the number of limbs, this cactus is over 4,000 years old.

Year of the Trails …
I finally bagged Pikes Peak (14,110 feet). I did the hike with three women, two from Sweden, one from Norway. They were fun and the hike easy except for the exposed snow-packed ledges near the top. You can read all about it in my new book, “How I Climbed my First Fourteener in Only 14 Years.” A little later I hiked the Mount Princeton (14,197 feet), in memory of my sister Joyce. She and I vacationed at the Hot Springs Resort a few years back. Hanging out in the hot springs was slightly easier than crawling up a pile of sharp rocks on the ridge of a mountain. Since I’m not a fan of heights, I was “scared” for most of the day. I have to thank my support team … my family for being patient with me; Howard Brooks for keeping me on the right path; Sarah Altonen for rubbing out the sore spots, Carli Rosie for making my ice baths; and, of course, the Scandinavian Hiking Team.

My Best Day …
One Saturday in the early fall when Rose was out of town, I took the kids up to the Crags, a trail on the other side of Pikes Peak. It’s one of the best family hikes in the area. We packed some food, loaded up my CamelPak with Gatorade and drove up the mountain towards Cripple Creek. Everything went as well as it possibly could.

We had to take a bumpy, narrow dirt road back to the trailhead. The sky was as blue as blue can be. The aspen leaves were all brilliant autumn yellow. There was a dirt trail and a creek and mountains and those smells you smell out in nature. We saw pine trees and flowers and butterflies. And the kids got after it. They were so great. I gave each of them a camera and told them to take pictures of anything they wanted; Gina took a lot of pictures of dogs. We hiked about five miles that day and the kids just really had fun. We had a picnic. As we were leaving the dirt road to get back on the highway going home, Sam said from the back of the van, “Dad, that was a good hike.”

Other top days … exploring Seven Falls with Carli, catching The Boss with Rose, touring Hemingway’s House with the fellas, and drifting on the Mississippi with my father.

Sunset at Key West …
I’m pictured here with my good friends Dave Anderson, Paul Gaulke and Jeff Niederloh at Mallory Square. Paul and Jeff have the biggest smiles because Jeff has lodged most of his right knee up Paul’s butt. That was their best day. We were all observing our 40th birthdays in 2003 … except for Paul, who’s 41, and Jeff, who will turn 40 sometime next year. Rose and her friend Linda, who both turned 50 in 2003, are vacationing in San Diego after Christmas.

A Cold and Windy Night …
The following account, a true story written Dec. 23, 2001, is an excerpt from the never-before-published Snyder Family Christmas Letter of that year. Not only was it written that day, but also it happened that day. Writing is so much easier when you just say what happened. Sam was two; I was 38.

It was a cold and windy night, just before sunset. Sam was being a handful as per usual and was working Rose’s last nerve.

“Take him out of the house,” she said. “Take him for a ride in the Jeep or something.”

Being that Rosemary wears the pants in the family, I hurried to get Sammy and me ready. But I didn’t want to go driving around in the Jeep, so I asked Sam if he’d want to go for a walk. He was up for it.

We got bundled up. The temperature was in the 20’s, but I try to follow the example of my brother-in-law, Mark, who lives up there in Minnesota. If it’s below zero, above zero, whatever, his kids are out playing in the snow.

I put Sam in the stroller, slapped a blankie on him and we were on our way … up the big hill towards the park.

Sammy was happy. He said, “Daddy, nook at all of the ‘no.”

I said, “Yep, look at all of the snow.”

“Hi, ‘no,” Sammy said, waving his blue-mittened paw at the newly fallen snowflakes.

We got up to the “T” in the road and had a decision to make … go straight and head right to the park, or turn and continue the walk. I turned. I didn’t really want to go to the park; it was cold and I didn’t want to run around chasing the boy … but Sam made a pretty good case for going to the park – he said, “Daddy, I want to go to the playground.” – and I relented.

Our neighborhood park is really cool because the view of the mountain range. The Continental Divide goes on and on until it disappears into the horizon at the edge of the world. From that little neighborhood park, you can follow the horizon from the mountains for about 180 degrees to the south and east; it’s quite a vantage point.

Sam jumped into the snow and was in heaven. He just liked stepping on it and picking it up. He went down a slide and there was nothing but snow and ice at the bottom. He liked that too. He ran over to the swings and gave out a call. He needed my help and I finally had to leave the park bench to provide it.

Sammy was in rare form on the swing. He was getting upset because he wanted to go higher. “Harder, Daddy, harder.” So I gave him a series of “underdogs” that left him flying towards the heavens.

It was a good time. I had spent the day shopping at the perfume counter for Rose; the fresh air was doing me good.

After a bit of swinging, the sun began to set, turning the clouds above the entire mountain range a brilliant orange. I asked Sam, “Do you want to stay or should we go look at the orange sky.” He actually picked the orange sky.

Near the park, there is a trail that winds up and around the houses to an even better vantage point … unobstructed views of the mountains and the orange sky. In the summer, this is the place to go on the fourth of July; you can see fireworks from several towns near and far.

We took in the views and continued down the path. It was cold and now the sun was setting behind the Rockies. I asked Sam, “Should we go home or keep walking?” He said, “Keep walking.”

We crossed the street and were about to run down the hill – like we’ve done so many times before – but I saw something out of the corner of my eye … Christmas lights! One of our neighbors does an amazing job with the decorations each year. They live up on a hill and decorate everything from their roof down to the street; it’s something to see. It looks like a massive spider web. In fact, the house was featured in the newspaper this morning.

We’ve driven by and even stopped at that house many times, but we’ve never got really up close and personal, so Sammy and I took a detour and walked right up to the driveway. It wasn’t too dark, but all of the lights were on and it was cool to see.

We were ready to leave … but again something caught my eye. It was a deer. Sammy and I tried to get a closer look. We found a spot right across the street from the deer.

“Sammy, look!”

There wasn’t just one deer. There were four … five … wait, seven … eight deer!

There were eight deer, including one that had a set of antlers this big!

“Nook Dad! Nook at all the Rudolphs!

“Hi Rudolph!”

“I want to touch his nose.”

We watched Rudolph and all the other reindeer eat dinner for about 20 minutes. It was good and dark by then and the Christmas lights were bright and beautiful. The temperature was dipping and it was time to go home.

We had to hurry home and tell Mom, Carli and Gina that we had just been face-to-face with Santa’s reindeer. Santa must be in the neighborhood!

“Bye Rudolph.”

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Love,
Charlie, Rose, Carli, Gina, and Sam Snyder

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”
– Henry David Thoreau

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