The most amazing people in this world are the visionaries. The ones who look at a field overrun with weeds and see the community garden it can become, or the broken down building with boarded up windows and envision a new children’s museum, or a gramps who takes his grandkids to a dump to find special exciting treasures!
EE Kardatzke, my Gramps, was exactly that. He bought a no frills cabin at Glacier Lake near Boulder, Colorado in the late 1960’s for $4000 that became our family’s vacation home for those early years. I remember that the kids bedroom had a triple bunk bed in it and we would jump from the top bunk to the floor over and over again. There was one bathroom in the whole cabin and the toilet could only be flushed once every 30 minutes. My Gramps and my dad built us the coolest fort outside. It was two stories, kind of like a tree house, and had a potbellied stove next to it where Gramps would fry bacon and scrambled eggs for the whole family. Gramps would hike with us kids to the neighborhood dump to rummage around for fun stuff like empty Joy bottles and old cans. I remember feeling so proud when I would find something he thought was worthy to keep. We would then make our way back to the fort and place our treasures in their perfect spots. Since I was the littlest grandchild I often rode on his strong shoulders. I’ve never felt taller.
We had motorcycles and for a time, horses on the property. I remember feeling such happiness when we all were together in that 1000 square foot cabin. Hippies and vagabonds were everywhere in Colorado during the 60’s and 70’s and Gramps didn’t want them breaking into the cabin when we were gone. Whenever we would leave, he would put an envelope filled with $1 bills on the door with a sign that said, “Take what you need and leave some for the next traveler.” One time we came back to the cabin broken into with a note left on the door that read, “The envelope was empty.”
In 1972, Gramps sold the Glacier Lake cabin for $11,000. I was only 4, but I distinctly remember feeling like my best friend had died. I cried and mourned with my siblings and cousins. I realize now we might never have gone on our European vacations if we’d kept that cabin. Dad took us for the very first time to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and England the following year. But that cabin at Glacier Lake is forever etched in my mind as one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever seen on earth.