When I moved to Cuchara in 2016, I visited in the summer and fall. It is certainly a magical time, but I was afraid to visit in winter for many reasons.
I was told by everyone who lived here, in the winter I needed an all wheel drive vehicle which I didn’t own.
I did attempt one winter to come for New Year’s Eve at the Timbers. The menu alone was enough to make me drive 10 hours from Fort Worth. (Thank you Scot Mangold for amazing dinners we all enjoyed when Timbers was open)!
At that time we had a condo at the ski mountain. The road wasn’t steep, but it was a long, slow incline. I was told it had been plowed and wouldn’t have any trouble in my front wheel drive vehicle.
Well…….that was not to be the case. I got to the turn of from Hwy 12 and started up toward the Mountain Park. I got about halfway up that road and started sliding backwards. I finally was able to stop sliding and got out to check the road conditions. Well, it was mostly ice and I did not have spikes on my snow boots so there was no where I could go, so I slipped and slid back to my car. I was forced to wait for someone to happen by to help me.
A couple in a pick up truck showed up coming towards me from the mountain park. I waved them down. They thought it would be better if I backed up down the mountain and tried the Panadero Loop instead. I thought, “back up down this road? Am I nuts?”. But back up I did, right until I did a 180 and was headed front forward back down the mountain. I tried to make it up Panadero Loop, but I didn’t make any progress whatsover.
I asked the kind couple who rescued me if they would go up the loop to Mike and Tullie Fleener’s house and ask them to come get me. I also called Jackie Christian with Capture Colorado whose husband pastors the Christian church at the bottom of the hill to let her know I was going to have to park my car in the church parking lot for the week. I was going to have to depend on friends for transportation.
I was perfectly content to be without a car for that week. I got to read and write, cook, and watch my favorite TV shows. And the dog loved it! She had never been in snow and was immediately captivated. Like a new toy at Christmas, she took off running and jumping and spinning in circles. This photo was screen shotted from a video I took of her in all her excitement.
It was perfect. When New Year’s Eve rolled around my friends Pamela and Jeanne came up the mountain to get me to head to Timbers for the Annual Pine Cone Drop in Cuchara.
It was pitch black out at 7 pm. Keep in mind there are absolutely no street lights at all in our adorable little town. To make things a bit more complicated, they had never been to my condo. So, I bundled up and waited outside with a flashlight to flag them down when I saw headlights approaching. I remember at this time, it was 5 degrees outside, but I was warm and toasty in at least two layers of clothing, socks, and the heaviest coat I had ever owned.
We were headed to dinner at Timbers and then staying afterward for the annual Pine Cone Drop. The Annual Pine Cone Drop began several years ago as a tradition that still lives. Lenora Brooks had the idea of, “Maybe we should drop a pine cone instead of a ball? This is the country after all!” There was silence, as everyone contemplated the possibility, still never thinking that maybe the shape of the object used wasn’t our main challenge. But after a couple of seconds, folks starting talking about how they could build the pine cone – and the rest is history!
The pinecone took shape over the next several weeks. Larry and Lisa Dasenbrock designed the frame for it, using a metal tomato tree. Larry then wrapped chicken wire around the frame and we hung a hook on the top. So far so good!
Then the group set out to gather pine cones, which proved quite a challenge because by this time there was a couple of feet of snow on the ground and there were no pine cones to be seen. But the word went out that pinecones were needed and they literally appeared from everywhere! We had people dropping off bags of them in the village and people calling us to pick up boxes of them at their homes. We had lots and lots of pinecones! Lesson learned: be careful what you ask for, you might get it – especially in the Valley!
They gathered in the Green Room of the Inn with gloves, wire cutters, wire and the boxes and bags of pinecones. Two days and many scratched fingers later we had a 5-foot structure in a sort of pine cone shape covered with pine cones. Now what?
They decided that no one would see this pinecone in the dark on New Year’s Eve night. It needed lights. And glitter. So they sprayed our work of art with glitter paint and draped it with strings of lights. Ophs! How would we turn on the lights if the cone was hanging above the Village? Oh, and how were we going to hang this very heavy and very prickly thing? And then, how would they ever get it to move?
Enter an architect, two electrical engineers, one physics major and a business administrator! (Kind of reminds one of the joke, “how many XXX does it take to —?”) Well, after much discussion, consideration, checking of wind conditions over past years and consultation with the Timbers and Dog Bar folks, it was determined that the pine cone would be attached to a wire across Main Street and moved by a pulley system. More conversation, consultation, measuring, climbing of ladders and viola! It was up and working. That first year we used battery lit lights and our architect was up on the roof of the Timbers in the dark of New Year’s Eve night orchestrating the Pine Cone’s inaugural trip across Main street.
The Cuchara Pine Cone drop has gone through a few changes in an attempt to make it easier and safer to manage. We dropped it the first year (too tricky to have someone on the roof), raised it from a box the second year (that didn’t meet with the crowd’s approval) and slid it the third year (that is really the best approach so far to make it safe and efficient and string it across the parkway and drop it from both end. To this day, this is how it is done.
My first night at the Pine Cone Drop in 2018, I had a marvelous time!! The food was outstanding and the company was even better. At least 12 of us were seated family style at a large table in the bar. We finished our meal around 10 pm, and walked outside for the annual “Pine Cone Drop”. By that time the pine cone tree dropped the temperature was zero degrees and I had never been so cold in my life. Perhaps it helped that we all had partaken in a bit of spirits that even, alcohol and celebrations included!
When the Pine Cone Tree drops the crowd then joins in with our The Pine Cone Ball Slide. (To be sung to the tune of “jingle Bell Rock”)
Pinecone ball, pinecone ball, pinecone ball swing. Pinecone ball rides and pinecone ball slides Lighting and shining on all of our fun Now the pinecone ball hop has begun Pinecone ball, pinecone ball, pine cone ball swing Pinecone ball sways in pinecone ball ways Glowing and blowing over all of the street That’s the pinecone ball beatWhat a bright time, it’s the right time To slide the pinecone down Pinecone ball time is the right timeTo be singing in our favorite town. Slide on down pinecone ball, swing over us all Sway, as we watch the clock. Swing and a-swayin’ in your own pine cone way. That’s our pinecone ball rock. That’s our pinecone ball, That’s our pinecone ball rock.
The Dog Bar and The Timbers have long supported the Pine Cone Drop each New Years Eve. However, due to COVID there will not be a Pine Cone drop this year. It’s a wonderful tradition that has been going on the years and I, for one, cannot wait until it comes back!