By Urban Conversion contributing writer, Tim Resch
It was 1988 and I was determined to make a living under the big Colorado sky, exploring an incredibly unique way of life. Although I was raised back East, I knew I had found what I was born to do – and I was on a good path to figuring out how to survive (and hopefully thrive) living this new lifestyle in the backcountry of Colorado. Forming Silverado Outfitters was my first step.
The next three years were full of unimaginable adventure. I started to see that each season brought new opportunities of finding ways to be in the mountains, have fun, and make a little money. Winters were spent working as a lift operator at a ski resort and skiing free everyday. The Spring meant bringing the horses up from winter pasture to leg them up by clearing trails in preparation for summer rides, pack trips and camp outs. Our bread & butter though was the fall season of big game hunting.
I finished my 20’s and entered my 30’s with Silverado Outfitters along with my business partner and mentor, Ron. I came to the realization though that the business really wasn’t big enough to support both his family of five and me. I knew I needed to find a way to support myself while living my version of “the dream.”
As fate would have it, I fell in love with a gal from the ski resort who wanted to move up to Boulder, Colorado to go to school and wanted me to come up with her. Honestly, that was the last thing I wanted to do…. go back to Boulder, the town I left three years earlier to find my dream and a new course in life. As you know, love works in mysterious ways and since I had little money and felt it was time to move on….I decided to give it a try.
I left the San Juan Mountains in the spring of 1991. I got rehired at my old job at Celestial Seasonings and made it 35 days but just couldn’t stomach the same old, same old! I had had a taste of what life could be like the past three years, following my passion for the West and rural mountain living and this was stifling me. I knew I had to go.
Timing is everything and just up the hill from the same country I had first learned to ride in my early 20’s, the Roosevelt National Forest, there was a lodge looking for a horseman supervisor to run their operation. I got the job and when asked where I wanted to see it go, that was like setting me free to dream up anything that I thought could be fun and profitable. Over the course of the next 9 years, I tried everything; sleigh rides, hay rides, pack trips, television commercials, music videos, hunting trips, everything I could think of to use horses for. It was a very profitable time and I was on my home turf. I loved it!
As always, the only constant is change… and the lodge was sold. The new owners did not feel the same way about the horse operation that I did, and I knew I had to go. I was the licensed outfitter for the lodge and decided to leave them the summer permits but I would take the fall hunting permits and started my own business – Estes Park Outfitters.
It was now 1999 and I was the sole owner of my own business in the same backcountry I began in. I had no summer operation at that time and was asked by the National Park Service if I would like to be a mule packer for their summer season. The U. S. Forest Service has a long tradition of using pack stock to bring supplies to remote locations to support fire and trail crews where no mechanized transport is allowed. This was another dream come true. I now was able to ride in some of the most fantastic high country in the United States every summer and work with the best livestock and equipment the government could afford. I was an official G-man.
In 2010 at the age of 50, I needed to reinvent myself again and dreamt up a new way to continue being in the saddle. I fill each season with something new to do, meet people and have a little fun! For the past 5 years, Estes Park Outfitters offers backcountry snowcat tours up to my “off the grid” cabin, vacation rental of my Lodge, summer half day /4 person horseback tours, and fall big game hunts. I still love everyday I get to be here and always manage to have a little fun. As a dear old friend once told some friends of mine, “it takes a trained eye to tell when he’s working and when he’s not!”
Watching a single film at the age of 13, “Jeremiah Johnson,” changed my idea of who I could be in this world. I made it to the Rocky Mountains by age 19 and never left. At 55, I feel like my life has now come full circle. The June 2015 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine wrote an article on the gilded age of traveling through the Rockies in which I appear.
“Gilded Age travelers were most at home on horseback, so I decided to explore the forests as they did. The question was, where was I going to find a “mountain man” as a guide in Colorado these days? I asked around the climbing stores and bars of Estes Park before discovering there was, in fact, one last equivalent, named Tim Resch—Rocky Mountain Tim, you could say—who I was told lived with his horses “off the grid.” Smithsonian Magazine, June 2015.
They referred to me as a “Mountain Man,” and that acknowledgment made my heart swell. There have been so many ups and downs over the past 36 years, but no regrets…. Everyday is a privilege.