Silverton finds life lessons in missing resident’s story |

Silverton finds life lessons in missing resident’s story

Nancy Lofholm
The Denver Post

SILVERTON – Loud cracks rise from the Animas River as ice shatters under a blinding midwinter sun. That sound in this otherwise silent valley puts a big grin on Bruce Conrad’s face.

“A little thing like that is so ‘Dad’ to me,” says the 39-year-old San Juan County sheriff’s deputy.

“Dad” is Skip Conrad, a man who was as much a part of these mountains that he rambled for 30 years as the avalanche chutes and the twists of streams.

Skip took off from Silverton 31/2 years ago on one of his twice-daily hikes into the mountains and never returned. His remains have never been located. But Bruce and the many Silverton residents who cherished Skip for his care of the mountains and kindness to the people there

Bruce Conrad flips through his father’s Bible near the family home in Silverton. (William Woody, Special to The Denver Post)

say they feel as if they’ve found Skip in other ways.

Most have come to grips with the possibility that Skip did not intend to return when he took off down Lackawanna Road the morning of Aug. 21, 2006. He was a lean and ropy 56-year-old. He could out-hike those half his age. But his carotid artery was shutting down, and doctors had told him it was too far gone to fix.

He had told more than one person he preferred to be “coyote food” than waste away in a hospital bed.

“He chose his own exit. And that’s pretty cool,” said San Juan County Commissioner Pete McKay, who always counted on Skip to speak out for environmental causes.

Good friend Anita Steck is one of the few who doesn’t think Skip chose a hike with no return: He was too averse to drawing attention to himself.

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