Base Camp @ Grand Lake: Humble Beginnings

Base Camp @ Grand Lake

Base Camp @ Grand Lake had been my (Stella’s) idea. In May of 2017, right before we opened our cabin in Grand Lake for the season, I suggested to Larry that we start a website where we could share with others about our adventures, showcase Larry’s photos and discuss the gear that we use. And more importantly, I thought it would be an enjoyable hobby for Larry, who had immediately jumped onboard with the idea. 

When we initially launched Base Camp @ Grand Lake, we had just intended for it to be a fun, casual hobby. However, the website quickly developed into a part-time job, requiring constant maintenance and the upload of fresh, relevant content. Who would’ve thought that now, four years later, Base Camp @ Grand Lake would see over 1,600 visitors per month? It has taken a lot of work, networking, creative brainstorming, and research to bring the website to where it is today. So, how did it all begin?

One of our many adventures...

Larry and I met June of 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin (he is originally from Michigan; I am from Idaho). We soon learned that we had/have a great deal in common, and we wanted to explore doing new things together, the first of which was kayaking. This was a golliath step for me because I had a deep-rooted fear of water stemming back to my childhood. However, I really wanted to overcome that fear because of my desire to experience this water sport together. After kayaking a few times, my fear had begun to recede as I developed confidence in myself and how to handle the kayak within the water. Shortly thereafter, we both had developed a love for kayaking. We then carefully researched, and subsequently purchased, a sit-in tandem kayak, nicknamed the “Big Mango.”

I am also embarrassed to admit that when Larry and I met, I had not ridden a bike in about twenty-five years. But I wanted another outdoor activity for us to enjoy together, so I was, again, willing to step out of my comfort zone for the greater good. After work one day, I abruptly made a detour to a local bike shop and picked one out. We have been enjoying this activity together ever since (I have since purchased a new bike in 2020; Larry in 2021).

Our next outdoor activity to try together was cross-country skiing, which ended up being a mega passion for me, in particular. We purchased equipment, and skied as often as we could (we have since purchased new equipment in 2020). And once we had moved to Colorado, we became heavily immersed in backcountry snowshoeing and stand up paddle boarding. Combing all of these activities, many of which we had explored together, we have become adventure junkies who crave being outdoors all the time…retirement cannot come soon enough for us!

In April of 2015, we purchased our first camper trailer, nicknamed “Silver,” and kept it as a ‘permanent’ at Egg Harbor Campground & RV Resort in Door County, Wisconsin. We loved spending the summer there, and had fully intended to keep our permanent site there for years to come; however, a cascade of events brought us to Colorado in December of 2015. I am certain that there is a purpose for which we ended up in Colorado, although I am still unable to put my finger on exactly what that may be yet. I still love Wisconsin, and I loved my job there more than I could ever find words to express. Leaving was extremely difficult, although I do not regret moving to Colorado. It was simply the start of a new adventure for us; change is often uncomfortable.

Humble beginnings... Wisconsin.

The biggest bonus of moving to Colorado were the experiences that we were able to offer Aspen. She swam and hiked on the weekends in the summer/spring/fall, traveled with us everywhere, and snowshoed extensively in the winter. She craved outdoor adventure like a thirst that could never be quenched. While living in Wisconsin, we were unable to swim Goldie and Aspen as much as we had wanted because the water contains so many contaminants. And during the warm summer months, it is unsafe due to the overabundance of blue-green algae. But in Colorado (and the western states where we have traveled), the water is wonderful for swimming pups! Both Goldie and Aspen loved swimming more than anything, and whenever it was time for them to get out of the water, they never wanted to.

Heartbreakingly, Aspen passed away in March 2019 from cancer, and our other precious golden, Goldie, had also passed away from cancer nine months after we moved to Colorado. This has left a hollowness in us that can never be filled and a deep sorrow that can never be mended, although their spirits are ever-present. The walls of our camper are lined with beautiful, bright ceramic tile photos of them.

Our first visit to Grand Lake had been the summer of 2016. We were on the hunt for a permanent place to keep Silver so that we could use it as a summer cabin like we had in Door County. Silver has as a large slide out, fully fenced yard for pups with a full-length mat to keep them clean, kitchen, dinette, bedroom, bathroom, and sitting area. And, no TV! We both agreed that there would be no television in Silver, because it is about getting away from the world, embracing other hobbies and being outdoors. Whenever people walk into Silver, they are shocked to see a large, vibrant canvas photo of South Lake Tahoe in the place where the television would normally be.

When we purchased Silver, we had no intention of keeping it in storage and then dragging it around on the weekends. It is too cumbersome for that, and the setting up/tearing down process is not something that we enjoy – at all. So, we decided that we would either find a permanent place in Colorado to keep Silver where it could be used as a summer cabin, or we would sell it, which we did not want to do.

In the Midwest, having a ‘permanent’ at a campground is ‘the thing,’ and the envy of all your neighbors. On Fridays, it is commonplace to hear people say, “We’re headin’ up Nort’ to our permanent for the weekend.” And everyone knows exactly what that means. Having a permanent in Wisconsin is just as much a part of Midwestern culture as cheese curds, brats and the Friday night perch fry. People who have permanents form a tight-knit community within the campgrounds, and often keep their permanent site indefinitely, sharing it with their family and friends.

Allowing people to keep their RV’s on-site, year-round, is a lucrative business strategy, but not one in which is embraced in Colorado. We were shocked to learn that very few campgrounds here allow permanents. When we had visited Elk Creek Campground in July 2016, we were delighted to learn that they do. That first weekend that we had visited, we never left! Silver had found its permanent home in Grand Lake, which we open up every May and close down every October. We fell in love with the beauty of Grand Lake, as well as the unique culture of the small mountain town. It was at that point when we had begun scheming for a way to make Grand Lake our year-round residence. And now, we both have remote jobs where we would be able to make this happen.

And though we love Grand Lake, we are not content to only be in Grand Lake. We continue to travel throughout the mountainous western states kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, biking, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, and then writing about (and photographing) our experiences. This is a fundamental necessity of the website.

For spring/summer 2021, we have the following outdoor adventure trips planned:

1) April 17-18 ~ Glenwood Springs, CO: Our first trip to this area. We plan to embark upon some hikes, and enjoy a long bike ride on the Rio Grande Trail bike path.

2) Apr 23-25 ~ Gunnison, CO: Our first trip to this area. We will be staying at a horse ranch/Bed & Breakfast in Montrose. We plan to do some hiking/biking in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and then spend a full day kayaking at Blue Mesa Reservoir.

3) May 5-9 ~ Moab, Utah: Our first trip to this area, and a ‘bucket list’ place for Larry. We plan to hike in the Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, enjoy a long bike ride on the Moab Canyon Pathway bike path, and visit the Moab Giants Dinosaur Park.

4) July 9-18 ~ Kalispell, Montana: Our first trip to this area. We will be staying at a beachfront Bed & Breakfast on the shores of Flathead Lake. We plan to kayak and stand up paddle board on Flathead Lake for a few days, hike and kayak in Glacier National Park, and enjoy a long bike ride on the Great Northern Rails to Trails bike path.

5) Aug 4-8 ~ Bear Lake, Utah: Our third trip to this area, but I just cannot get enough of the beautiful water there; it lures me like a siren’s song. We plan to kayak and stand up paddleboard for many miles each day, along with biking and eating lots of great food at our favorite restaurants. My parents, and their adorable pup, will be joining us again this year.

6) Aug 9-15 ~ Alpine, Wyoming: Our first trip to this area, which is about 40 minutes outside of Jackson Hole, where we have spent a great deal of time. We plan to spend two days kayaking and/or stand up paddle boarding on Palisades Reservoir. We are staying at a lodge situated on the banks of the Snake River. The other days will be spent biking and kayaking in/around Jackson Hole and Teton National Park.

What are the plans for Base Camp @ Grand Lake in the future? We have three projects underway:

1) Advertising: We are community-minded and want to promote local businesses. So, we are reaching out to a small number of Grand Lake businesses to feature on our website. We want to keep the website uncluttered and user-friendly, without the presence of any pop-up ads.

2) Photography: We are setting up an online retail store where we will be offering limited prints of Larry’s finest outdoor photography. The prints will be available in multiple sizes, and will be printed to order. They can be printed on metal, glass, canvas, and ceramic tile (my favorite). And a few of the photos will also be made into large, multi-piece jigsaw puzzles. The Base Camp @ Grand Lake logo sticker, which Larry had hand-drawn by an artist, is also available for sale. 

3) Other: Last summer, we had started planning a large-scale business venture, which would be entirely unique to the Grand County area. And depending upon the growth of our product, it could be made available in Summit County as well. We project that this future business could allow Larry the opportunity to focus on it full-time, along with the other business ventures listed above. However, this is still years out, and may or may not come to fruition.

My dream is to operate a small Bed & Breakfast where I would cook amazing breakfasts, soups and snacks for guests using produce from my four-season greenhouse. I love cooking for people, and would like the opportunity to provide guests with a great place to stay while they explore the splendor of Grand Lake. Until then, our day jobs await…

Ducth Oven Breakfast
Our Famous Dutch Oven Breakfast Casserole

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