|The Baldpate Inn, October 1989|
"I first came to Baldpate for a summer job in May 1989. I had just graduated from college and had no idea of what I was doing next or what to expect. I just knew I was moving to Colorado. When I got there I was home!
Brad Martin with the key to Iowa, a corn cob. 2012This was only the third season the Smiths had owned and operated the Inn. They had purchased the main lodge from a Texas lawyer and developer, Rex Baker. Much of the land that surrounded the main lodge, including most of the cabins and all of Lily Lake was still owned by Mr. Baker. His office building, up the hill from the inn and beside Highway 7, would eventually become the Lily Lake / National Park Visitor Center. Next to his office, there was even an abandoned, rickety old fire watchtower. The “Danger” and “Closed” signs only encouraged a couple of midnight ascents – Don’t tell Lois.
Our staff consisted of Lois, Mike, Jennifer, a very young Mackenzie, some very young cousins or friends of the Smiths, Lois’s dad Sam, Mike’s mom Dot, a retired Smith family friend Harold worked the front desk, a local Estes Park friend Pat, also retired, a just graduated from high school gal from Oklahoma named Shelly, and me. Occasionally, we also got some help from a local high schooler named Reed. The Smiths were loving and generous so anything and everything that needed doing to make the Baldpate work we did. We were small, mighty, and instantly family! I have never worked so hard in all my life as those first couple of summers.
I hope you noted the ages of most of the staff. Many of them were barely teenagers. I had a few friends from college who had gotten jobs in Estes Park and they referred to the Baldpate staff as “the toddlers.” Shelly was the only person remotely close to my age. She was cute, flirty and again close to my age (kind of) – so we started dating. She and I went to Estes Park or Boulder on our days off – doing the typical touristy kinds of things such as mini golf, buying rubber tomahawks and hippie-watching on Pearl Street.
|Reed, Reed's Brother, and Brad Martin hike Flattop Mountain|
Through my college friends, I met some rock climbers and started to spend more and more time trail running, hiking and climbing. If Colorado hadn’t already roped me in, this was it. When I started really going to the mountains, it was all over baby! Any thoughts of growing up or moving on or a career in the flatlands dropped away like a stone kicked from the top of Longs Peak.
Too soon though, summer ended. Estes Park became a relative ghost town compared to the bustle of summer. Shelly went home, Baldpate closed, all the cool hangouts in town shut down, and every college-aged person went back to their real life.
Not me though.
The Smiths had “adopted” me by this time and helped me out by finding me a winter job and some lodging in their summer cottage next door to their home in town. I practically lived with the Smiths all winter. Jennifer and Mackenzie had become my newest younger brother and sister and I always managed to show up at their home around dinner time. Though I loved the time with them, I was also very lonely and that first winter was pretty tough. Thoughts of summer, climbing, and girls sustained many a long winters day and night.
Young Mackenzie Smith and Innkeeper/Owner Lois Smith, winter 1990
Eventually it was May and we were shoveling away the last remnants of snow and reopening Baldpate for the season. I had worked with Lois during the winter to recruit staff and we had a slightly more mature and certainly larger staff coming on board. Shelly returned. The staff looked to me for direction at work and at play. I led hikes, impromptu camp-outs and conducted staff meetings. I had midnight gab sessions with Lois. I went climbing. Boy was this cool. How could I do anything else??
Seven years after that spring day that little Mackenzie had trailed after me as I unpacked my car and moved into the Wild Wing for the first time, I was still returning. Many things had changed. My sister had come out and worked with me for a season. My father had spent a summer at the Inn as a handy man. Mackenzie and Jennifer were grown up with lives of their own. I had gotten a master’s degree and was now a climbing guide. Later I would become a teacher. Through the Baldpate there had been a wonderful girl named Justine in my life. And a lifelong friendship with a great guy named Greg. College interns in hotel and restaurant management now assisted Lois in smooth operations. Baldpate had new land, cabins and Lily Lake was part of Rocky Mountain National Park and hardly any dining room guest ever asked, “Don’t you just have a steak?”
What had not changed was the homecoming feeling from Lois and the Baldpate. So, long after I was no longer officially an employee, I kept returning. I’d show up after closing time and help unload a rack or two of dishes anticipating a chat with Lois and hoping for some free food and an opportunity to flirt with pretty college girls.
And I met Reneé. She was working at Baldpate for a part of a year-off between graduating from college and the real world. We spent most of the last part of that summer together. We went climbing. I showed off. Somehow I talked her into staying the winter. Lois might have helped. Two years later we held our wedding reception at Baldpate! We’ve made a life and a family just down the road from the Inn. I’d like to think that maybe our kids will one day work at Baldpate too.
If you want to learn more about Brad's mountainous adventures that living at the Baldpate surely fueled, come watch his Summer Enchanted Evening presentation, Mountaineering for the Regular Guy, on Wednesday, August 8th at 7pm in the Key Room. Brad is certainly a fundamental part of the Baldpate family, and we are lucky he chose to share his story with us!
Despite all efforts to the contrary, I was growing up. However, no matter the scope and range of my life journeys, Baldpate has always welcomed me back. It is an anchor for me, fixed and equalized. Anytime I walk though the front door, it’s like coming home."
Brad and Reneé Martin celebrate their wedding at the Baldpate Inn
Key Room Museum Curator