The day began with disappointment.
We journeyed the short distance to Winter Park Resort to play their 10,000 foot course in the mid morning. We were prepared to hike the mountain to play (we're too cheap to pay $15 bucks per person to ride the life, and we needed the exercise). As we approached the staff running the lift to get a course map, we find out that the course is closed for redesign until July--that really sucked--I was looking forward to that course. The course is being redesigned to cover more are on the resort, another mountain that is, and from what I was told the course will be much better than it was. But I have trouble with the fact that they did not mention their redesign on their website. But...c'est la vie.
As we pondered what to do next, I looked at my list of courses within close driving distance and chose the Pioneer Park DGC in Hot Sulpher Springs, CO--about 10 miles west of Granby. A tiny town known for their, well, hot sulpher spring pools and spa, the course was not easy to find. But we had an angel looking over our shoulder.
I followed the signs to where I thought the course might be when a 1971 VW bus pulled up to us and said "you two looking for the disc golf course". The fellow was a bicycle mechanic named V.J. Valente Jr., the maintainace guy for the course and its main proponent in town. He gave us directions to the 'disc golfers only parking lot' about 1/8 mile up a dirt road, handed us a score card and some mosquito replant, and told us about the tournament they had last week. Its guys like V.J. that keep our sport what it is--dedicated volunteers who love the game and want to make the course better than it was the day before. Thank you V.J..
The Course ran in two figure eights along the Colorado River (its headwaters are about 50 miles northeast in Rocky Mountain National Park). Signage was good--V.J. had really tried hard to make it better for the tournament he held last weekend, so we showed up just at the right time. I'm particularly glad he gave us the mosquito replant--otherwise we would have been eaten alive. The vegetation was lush, lush, and thick. Underbrush, sagebrush, wildflowers, and towering cottonwood trees made this course very tight (and difficult to find a disc). The front nine was short, averaging about 250 ft per hole, but very tight--almost every shot required a tight Annie or forehand, but the latter was inefficient for most players I watched. The course had marshy water on it, unmarked on the maps and signage, and we had to dig our discs out of the muck once or twice, but at least they were located. I threw 3 down on the front and was feeling good...for now.
The back got a bit longer. My bogey free round went away on #12--a 350 foot shot that was well protected by lots of trees. Then came #13--it gave me nightmares last night--a 310 foot hole, the basket was about 40 feet to the left of the raging Colorado River. I took my trusty Scout (my go-to disc of 10 years) threw it; I thought it would be pin high and was looking for a bird. Little did I realize that the land was sloped towards the river, and my precious Scout took a right turn and bounced right into the river. The disc golf gods hath taken away. But as one friends noted, giving me some perspective on the situation, perhaps it was a sign. Needless to say, I was very, ahem, angry (this is a family blog).
Two bogeys in a row never sit well with me. But this was beyond angry. I walked over to 14, a 250 foot hole, with steam rolling from my ears. The shot was nerve racking. If you intended on throwing a heizer, you would have to cut the corner of the river--if you threw an annie, you risked putting your disc in the river as I had done the previous hole, as the river was less than 30 feet to the right of the basket. So I pulled a disc without thinking about it, threw it without thinking about it, and ca-ching--hit an ace. The Cheetah I threw cut the corner of the river that had just swallowed my favorite disc, caught a few breezes, and glided into the basket. The ace breaks a 6 year drought (I took about 5 years off between 2004-2009) and made me feel a little better about my scout.
I finished the round 2 down after a not-so-impressive back 9. But the commradorie, the ace, V.J., and the quality of the layout settled my nerves. I would recommend the course to anyone who is interested in how a very tiny community (under 1,000) supports a disc golf course and maintains it for others to play. It is off the beaten path...it is not highly rated...it does not have pdga concrete pads; but it does have charm, great natural features, and a lots of love put into it. We couldn't ask for more in a course on our vacation.