Snow, snow and more snow

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The Strawn Hotel was a landmark of pioneer Pagosa Springs. It was located on Pagosa Street on the lot just east of the school district office until it burned a few years ago.

By John M. Motter
PREVIEW Columnist
Maybe one of you old-timers out there can help me. I’m going to ramble through a description of a winter I spent living on Hermosa Street in Pagosa Springs when the snow piled up higher and deeper than any year I can remember since moving here approximately 50 years ago. I think it was during the late 1970s.
The snow piled up higher than my front door. Only the porch saved me and allowed me to open the door. Snow was well above my head on either side of the front walk leading to the street. I contemplated turning the walk into a tunnel by covering it with 4×8 sheets of plywood.
If you have similar memories, let me know what year that was. I do know that us folks on Hermosa Street would not have been able to get in or out of our houses without the free and cheerful help of “Hoppo” Yamaguchi. I think I have the right Yamaguchi brother.
He lived down on the east end of Hermosa past Lynn George. His sister also lived on Hermosa on the north side of the street. She was married to Bill Cotton(?). The Yamaguchis were a remarkable family that had moved to the U.S. from Japan prior to WWII. I’ve heard that Hoppo was the most decorated WWII veteran in Colorado. He lost a leg in a bloody battle near Cassino in Italy.
Hoppo had a Jeep with a snowplow and, during the winter, he’d plow Hermosa Street and the driveways for all of us living along the street. I rented what was known as the Skutvik House in those days. County Clerk Falima Gardner lived next door to me. Both she and Sheriff Norman Ottaway were single, but they saw a lot of each other. Ottaway was county sheriff for about 27-28 years and was a man you didn’t want to mess with. He could put you on the floor quicker than anybody I ever knew. I saw him do it.
The Skutviks were of Norwegian origin and had moved to Denver to find work. Pagosa Country had a lot of Scandinavians during the early logging and lumber days circa 1900. While I’m besieged with a head full of wandering memories, you might be interested to know that there was a small shed full of wood chips in the back of the Skutvik house. Since the properties on the south side of Hermosa Street backed on the river, the residents used to chop blocks of ice from the river and store them in the “ice house.” Why? Not many folks had refrigerators before 1940.
While we’re on the subject of ice, when I moved here, a lot of folks were still using the “ice cave” located along Williams Creek as a source for blocks of ice. It was reached by driving out Piedra Road to where it crosses the Piedra River. From there a popular hiking trail follows the river downstream to First Fork, etc. Just beyond the gap in the river cañon east of the road, the river is joined by Williams Creek. If you hike down to that junction and turn right and follow Williams Creek upstream, you’ll find the ice cave. I assume it is still there and still full of ice.

This story was posted on February 18, 2020.