Vail Daily column: How you know you’re home |

Vail Daily column: How you know you’re home

Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

Wow, we’re starting to lay in some real time here. Sixteen years this week. No wonder folks I bump into have begun to refer to me as being here, and at the Daily, “forever.”

As with aging, it doesn’t really feel that way. Other than the little kids who moved with us from the San Diego area have put college in the rearview mirror. And the eldest’s wife is pregnant now. We’re stepping all too briskly into the next generation.

Eagle Ranch flourishes where only bulldozers worked when we moved up the road. Frost Creek was just part of a nightmare called Adams Rib then. The townsfolk still were whittling it down to what became an empty, if beautiful, golf course.

Our new town had half the population it has now, and Eagle’s still tiny, like the valley some bemoan turning urban. Listen, you don’t drive within minutes from trailhead to trailhead, parking at the one with no cars, in any urban place.

Besides, I’ve seen too many true urbanites move up for their escape only to discover the lifestyle still lacks a certain convenience, people move at a more casual pace, think differently. Drives the city people nuts. I’ve seen at least one cry about this, what brings me the greatest joy.

The last thing I thought I’d do was grow up to work at newspapers, get (or stay) married, have kids, see the kids have kids.

I only knew in my soul I’d be in the mountains. Or at least I had that deep feeling and even some yearning about this. This goes back to early childhood in Hawaii, born into a family oriented to the beach and the ocean. A grandfather helped start the Waikiki Yacht Club. My father was prized in his prime as a helmsman in the sailboat-racing crowd.

Sailing was well beyond sport for him, all the way to his calling. The way the mountains called me.

I learned early I got seasick too easily. Once threw up all the way from Oahu to Molokai. Never mind I also was one of only two who held it together during another wicked race and took my turn steering our boat to victory. Barfing across the Molokai Channel remained the one seared in queasy memory, though. The mountains never did that to me.

The Mainland is mecca if you’re a kid growing up in Hawaii. Well, pretty much anywhere but here is mecca wherever you grow up, though I didn’t know that then. I heard my kids vow never to return here in their turn. That quieted once they saw more of the world as adults.

As a child, I dreamed of desert sand until I camped in Death Valley, but snow stuck. My wife, an Indiana girl, still craves the ocean. I sailed, I surfed, I ran beaches and camped on them and built fires on ones bursting with driftwood. But the snow does it for me, along with the wind in the cold fir up high, the sense of possibility in the trails tracing their way ever deeper into the wild, the meadows and wildflowers, the sharp crags breaking free at tree line.

Backcountry Santa Barbara came close. First newspaper job in Quincy, California, in the sawmill Sierra north of Lake Tahoe, seemed like it for a while.

But I needed to wander and see the America where we would not plant roots — the Midwest and the Northeast, which only ruined us for crowded Southern California.

I guess I’d forgotten my childhood calling by the time we wound up here, me only thinking I’d been sidetracked from the “normal” career path. My wife knew better.

The kids just missed the snow. So Vail to them sounded like paradise compared to Murrieta, a town metastasizing like its neighbors in a hot, scrubby valley behind Camp Pendleton.

No place is paradise, of course. At least not in this life and frankly I’d be disappointed if in the next.

But I can tell by my ongoing fascination with our little community’s issues, the people, the paper’s challenges and glories and even setbacks.

I can hear it in the creek, the birds, the whisper through leafless cottonwoods outside my home. Feel it in the last delicious bit of warmth on the deck as I step out barefoot, anticipating what comes next and how I need to get busy stacking that big pile of firewood before the next storm.

I can tell by this reluctance to hit the road, catch a plane, go somewhere.

Why? I’m here.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at and 970-748-2920.

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