Lost And Found
Last summer I was given a waterproof sports video camera called a Hero GoPro by a friend of my wife’s, as a thank you for helping her move. She worked for a retailer that sold them and got a good discount on it, but since I lacked any experience downloading digital video, the camera spent the rest of the summer safe in its box.
Then in the fall a local business that sends me lots of fishing business wanted to shoot some video to promote the fishing side of things. We did a couple of trips but had only marginal weather, and I really hoped to get some sunnier shots of the colorful cliffs past which I float. Then I remembered that I had the GoPro camera, and decided to learn how to use it so I could shoot video on some of the autumn trips I had scheduled.
The camera worked great and took excellent video, and soon my wife was using it as well to get footage of the dogs we board. Soon ski season began and I started taking shots of some of the various tree and bump runs I love to ski all around Beaver Creek Resort. That year was one of the snowiest ever recorded in the area, and the skiing was terrific. One Friday I was doing my volunteer job at Beaver Creek, and during our free ski period in the middle of the day I hooked up with a neighbor couple who live just down the river from me. It was a perfect bluebird day, with a cloudless sky and six inches of powder snow that had fallen the night before. I had already shot what I hoped would be good video of myself skiing down a bump run with the sun directly behind me, a perfect silhouette bouncing between the round soft mounds of fresh snow. When I met my friends, we spent the next hour filming our runs down Arrowheads perfect runs and aspen glades.
Around 1:30 pm, it became time for me to get back to the main mountain so the three of us got back into the lift line. Approaching the lift I reached up and took off the GoPro camera and stuck it in my jacket pocket, so as to not look like a total geek while I wasn’t using it. Previous days on the hill I had been using the helmet mount, but it can be a little awkward to use when you can’t see the camera, so I had switched to using the head strap to keep it on my head which worked a lot better, as I could pull it off, switch it on, put it on again and ski. As we were about to board the lift, a woman on foot came up and started asking the liftie how to get to the Arrowhead Club yurt on top, and since I was in my red volunteer coat I offered to show her. My neighbors got on the lift and the woman and I got on the next, and she and I had a nice chat as the loft ascended.
When we got off on top, I bade my chairmate farewell and skied over to see my friends. As we were discussing which route we’d take back, a man skied over to us and said in a thick foreign accent that someone on my chairlift had dropped a pair of gloves. He said that he thought it was near lift tower twelve, but that he wasn’t completely sure. I thanked him for telling me and as he skied away, I dug into my coat and found my main pair of gloves, and reaching deeper found my extra pair. I assumed that it must have been the woman who dropped hers, but by now she had already walked further up and across the hill making her way to the yurt. I quickly hurried away from my friends to let her know, and when I got within earshot shouted, “Excuse me ma’am! I think you may have lost your gloves off the lift!” She heard me and turned around, shoved her hands into her pockets, and pulled them again producing a pair of black leather gloves. “No, I’ve got my gloves, it must have been someone else!”, she hollered back.
Puzzled, I skied back to where my friends were waiting and told them, and we discussed what I should do. My first instinct was to ski down to get them, but Ben said, “Well if they came off of a different chair, you should probably leave them where they are because someone is going to need them and will be looking for them”. That made a lot of sense, plus if I didn’t get back to Beaver Creek I’d miss the 2:30 volunteer meeting,so we skied back to the Beav.
When we were above Red Tail Camp, I told them that I’d like to ski ahead of them and film them coming down the hill. When I got to the bottom, I stopped, turned, and stuck my hand into my right jacket pocket, expecting to feel the camera and its strap in there. I had a small pang of recognition that my pocket was unzipped, but that thought reached my brain only an instant before the realization that the pocket was empty. A big curly CFC-free lightbulb went off over my thick skull and I realized that it wasn’t a pair of gloves that had fallen off my chairlift, but my Hero GoPro waterproof digital HD camcorder!
My friends were waiting for me to give them the signal to start skiing, so I waved them down and told them what happened. We skied down to Red Tail Camp and they took the lift back to the main mountain and I took Larkspur up to get back to Arrowhead. Once off the lift, I tucked the long catwalk back to Arrowhead almost the entire way. Once there I skied underneath the lift looking in vain for my camera, feeling like the dumbest dumbass in the history of dumbasses.
Most of the lift had groomed runs beneath it, so by the time I came looking for the camera the odds were pretty good that someone would have found it by now. But about halfway down the slope the groomed run turned right and the lift went through a section of dense woods, with just a narrow double black diamond trail winding through it. I took the trail and tried to scan the brush off to my right to try and see the camera but saw nothing. Once out of the thick growth it was back onto a groomer, and I followed that back to the lift.
I asked the lift attendant if anyone had returned a camera and he said no, so I took off my skis and walked over to the small rental shop to ask them and got the same response. Then it was back onto the lift and as I rode up I kept my eyes glued to the ground below, feeling like a WWII bombardier flying over Germany looking for munitions factories. I counted lift tower numbers and sure enough, lift tower twelve was in the thick woods. But below me I saw nothing, and from the top of the Arrowhead lift I made my way back to Beaver Creek Mountain, dope slapping myself the whole way. Later that day I stopped by the Lost and Found office and reported what I lost, but no GoPro cameras had been found or turned in. Over the next few weeks I stopped by several more times just in case, but the answer was the same. One of the weird things was, about an hour before I lost the camera I had been holding it in my hands on the lift looking at it, thinking that when I got home I should write my name on it in case I should ever do something stupid like dropping it off a chairlift. That turned out to be a great idea that but a little too late.
When I got home that night I went online and put a “Lost” ad in the local paper, which ran for two weeks without any responses. Then about three weeks later I was skiing near the Strawberry Park lift and saw a dark object in the snow, and when I stopped to pick it up I found that it was a wearable sports video camera, though not a GoPro. My first instinct was to keep it, but knowing how much it would be missed by its rightful owner I made my way straight down to the Lost and Found office to turn it in. Before I did, I stuck one of my business cards into the mount and asked the girl in the office if no one claimed it, could I have it? I explained to her that I had lost mine a few weeks before, and that it seemed as though my getting to keep this one if unclaimed might restore some sort of karmic balance. She said that I would have to talk to the head of the office about it.
The weeks passed with no word of my camera and I mentally wrote it off. My wife and her friend who had given it to me gave me much grief about losing it, which didn’t make me feel any less stupid. The ad ran out, and back at the Lost and Found office the manager said that even though I was the finder, I could not have that other camera. She said that if were unclaimed by the end of ski season it would be donated to a charity. But in the back of my mind, I kept just a small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, the camera was still up there in the snows of Arrowhead, and that once the snow melted I could go up there and find it in the woods. That year proved to be a record one for snow however, and it kept falling well after the lifts had closed. I could see the stretch of woods from I-70, and all through March and into April I’d look at Arrowhead whenever I passed by on the interstate waiting for it to melt.
Finally in late April, it did. One day I got off of work early, and instead of going home I drove up to Edwards, parked in the now empty Arrowhead parking lot, and began walking. Up the hill I went past brownish patches of melting snow, and through wet rivulets caused by the same, until I finally reached the edge of the woods. Trying to stay as close to the underside of the lift chairs as possible, I made my way uphill with difficulty through the thick brush. Then the hill flattened a bit right near lift tower twelve, and I was disappointed to see that some kind of crew had been through there already and had cut down all of the saplings which had impeded my progress. It was now much easier to make my way, but if I had dropped my camera there then surely one of the trail crew would have found it. Along the way I did find a ski pole, which helped as a hiking aid, and then a nice leather glove, and then fifty-five cents in a neat little pile. But by the time I made it all the way through and back onto the grassy slope which a month before had been a groomed ski run, I had not seen my camera. With that, the small flame of hope that had led me up this hillside just about flickered out.
I started to walk downhill the easy way along the run instead of the woods, but I stopped once more to look at the scrub brush below the lifts and noticed that the hill between the uphill and downhill chairs did have a noticeable slope between them, and I thought that maybe the camera could have hit the ground, and slid on the snow which would mean that it wasn’t right under the chairs. It was a long shot, but I was already up here and wet and tired and dirty, so what the hell, I went back into the woods, this time hewing more closely to the downhill chairs.
After clawing may way through more wet and pokey brush, I stopped not far from lift tower twelve to catch my breath, looked to my left, and saw my camera about ten feet away resting beside a two-foot tall pine tree! I did an over the top neck-snapping double-take, and closed my eyes and reopened them to make sure I hadn’t imagined it, and yet there it was, a Hero GoPro weatherproof wearable sports HD-ready digital video camera. I picked it up in disbelief, holding it in my hands for the first time in four months. I tried to turn it on, but of course the battery was dead, and at that point I didn’t really care if it worked or not. Even if it were broken then at least I had some closure, and knew where it had been all this time. Apparently, once it had fallen from my pocket it had hit the snow and slid, until it reached the little pine tree, which may have had a small well around it which gobbled it up. I raised my hands up to the sky and yelled “Thank you!” to whatever cosmic entity is in charge of such things.
Now I made my way back down the hill with a bounce in my step, but I was so excited that I had to tell someone, so I called my neighbors and told them of what I was holding in my hands. I related to story of its discovery and we had a good laugh, and after we said goodbye up I stood up, and saw the biggest black bear I’ve seen about fifty yards away, ambling down the slope. I tried again to get the camera to turn on but of course it wouldn’t, so I contented myself with walking down the hill following the bear, who was unaware of me at first. Then near the bottom of the run we were sharing he abruptly stopped, looked over his shoulder, and saw me. I stopped as well and trying to to look afraid, began talking to him. “Hey bear!”, I called, “Nice day for a walk! Look what I found today!” I yelled, holding up my camera for him to see. The bear wasn’t impressed.
We stood there looking at each other for awhile, and when he sat down I began walking again. He quickly got up, made as if to charge, and suddenly the camera didn’t seem so important anymore. But he stopped when I did, and after another tense moment or two he got bored and slowly disappeared into the woods.
When I got home I had to find all of the accessories to the camera so that I could try to charge it back up, and that took some doing since I had put them all out of sight.. Seeing Hero GoPro this and Hero GoPro that had only served to piss me off in the intervening months, and on a couple of occasions I had been tempted to toss that stuff out. When I first plugged it in nothing came on, and I thought that maybe after all that, the camera was dead. It was in a clear waterproof housing, but the housing had slightly popped open when it hit the ground, and perhaps moisture had gotten inside. But I left it plugged in overnight, and the next day when I tried to turn it on I was delighted to see it come back to life. The next step was to try to download the video on it, and my wife who is a wiz with iMovie plugged it in to her Mac, and it spent the next night being downloaded onto that.
The next day the neighbors happened to be over, and all of that video now resided on her hard drive. At the bottom of the screen was a series on little thumbnails showing what video there was, and you could see that the first several of these thumbnails were of ski footage but eventually all the thumbnails turned black. We started watch the videos on her computer screen and there was indeed some good footage of all of us. But then the image turned very strange, it looked like a colonoscopy. The image was mostly dark, but with a red flower-looking center that opened and closed like a video voyage of someone’s small intestine. I turned up the audio to see if that would lend any clues and what we heard was my deep, rhythmic breathing. We quickly realized that it was probably the sound of me poling my way into the lift line, and the reason the image kept going from dark to deep red was that my arms were moving forward and back. It seemed that when I stuck the camera in my pocket, I had forgotten to shut it off!
Now we all hunched around the computer screen, watching as the image brightness stabilized. That would have been me riding the lift! And as we watched, the image went from almost dark to slightly brighter, then a little brighter, then brighter still, until suddenly it went to bright white. That was the camera coming out of my pocket, and the auto exposure trying to catch up! Then as we all watched, we saw a nice digital HD image of the snowy ground below the Arrowhead chair lift rushing at the camera, like smart bomb footage from the first Gulf War. Finally the image went black, and a second or two later the autoexposure caught up again and after the image brightened, we were treated to a nice image of snow, of which there was an hour and a half more of filling my 8gb SD card. We hooted and hollered and laughed watched the footage again and again. The camera’s head strap had apparently acted like a parachute to keep the GoPro’s lens pointing down as it plunged to earth.
The camera is still working fine, and its cinematic career has come full circle. All of that massive snowpack led to an epic river running season, and I got terrific footage of some massive waves with it. I wish I could say that I’ve gotten smarter about zipping pockets and the like, but my absentmindedness only seems to get worse the older I get. However I did do one thing since I got it back – I etched my name and phone number onto the camera in case I lose it again. Perhaps someday I’ll have a couple hours of footage of the Colorado River, from a trout’s perspective!
Not long after I wrote the above, my wife and I did what was supposed to be a quick float down the river in a two-person inflatable kayak. The river had receded from its record levels, but was still very high for August. There was a wave train that had been particularly fun that summer not far from our put-in, but what were fun waves in a full-sized raft looked enormous from the ducky. A big refractor swept over the left side of the little boat, and flipped us into the river. The Go Pro was on my head, but not for very long. My wife and I had a very long and scary swim, and it wasn’t until we dragged ourselves out of the river that we realized that I had lost the Go Pro again. I had lost it for four months, had it back for four months, and then managed to lose it again, this time in a place where the name I etched onto it wouldn’t do me any good.
Every time I’ve told this story to someone, (usually to strangers on the
Arrowhead chair lift), they tell me that I should let the Hero GoPro folks this story,
Arrowhead chair lift), they tell me that I should let the Hero GoPro folks this story,
and maybe I could get a free camera out of it. I don’t really expect that to happen, but since I’ve had many people tell me that and I’ve been too broke to buy another yet, I decided to actually write about it and send the tale to you. I really loved that camera and would love to get another one some day! Feel free to use this story for whatever marketing purposes you wish!