A native of New Jersey, Bob Fread recalls the early influences of his love for the outdoors. As a child, he enjoyed catching tadpoles, frogs and turtles in nearby ponds and streams, and he says, “Even in the heavily populated state, there were still many wild places.” They all helped shape him.
During his years at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, he enjoyed motorcycle rides through the rolling hills and countryside.
“I got my first taste of what mountains were really like when I climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire and Mount Katadin in Maine. But it was my trip down the West Coast from Washington state to Baja California in 1971 that convinced me I had to move to the West.”
In 1971, he graduated with a degree in government and law. “But, while I had offers for interviews from several business, I just knew I did not want to sit in an office for the rest of my life.”
He packed his bags and moved to Denver. He explored the West through backpacking trips in the Rocky Mountain National Park, climbing in Boulder Canyon and Eldorado Canyon, bouldering Flagstaff Mountain and cross-country skiing in the mountains west of Denver. “I knew I was home.”
Fread was an avid technical rock climber for many years. “My horizons really broadened and I’d spend months at a time in Yosemite Valley climbing, but also hiking 100-150 miles in the Grand Canyon a couple of times a year.”
In 1974 while riding his bike through Washington Park in Denver, he met his future wife, Linda.
“She was playing hooky from work and I didn’t have a job — but I had two bikes and a good tan. We hit it off. She loved cross-country skiing, backpacking, and travel, so we put on our backpacks and traveled through England and Scotland for a month. When we couldn’t stand the rain, we dried out in Greece.”
After they married in 1976 and started their family, they took their 18-month-old daughter back to Europe, and “with a stroller and baby carrier, we explored Germany, Austria, Switzerland and checked out the Alps.”
Fread says he finally realized that the Denver area no longer suited his lifestyle.
“After a hike through the Grand Canyon in 1984, I called Linda from a pay phone and she told me she put a contract on a house in Buena Vista.”
He says that the home, originally built in 1884, was “small and funky and everyone referred to it as ‘Grandma Foreman’s house,’ as the family had lived there since the turn of the century.”
Fread adds, “When we moved to the house, there were still unpaved streets, and we only had to dial five digits on the phone for local calls.”
That same year, we adopted our son, Zack. I remodeled part of our garage into a studio, and we began a handmade pottery business and ran that business together until 1990.
In 1985, Fread says his climbing buddy called him and wanted to meet him at the Yak and Yeti Bar in Katmandu. “So, I bought an around-the-world airline ticket and took off for Europe, while my buddy took off for Africa, planning to meet up 6 weeks later. Miraculously, I met up with my friend and we spent 6 weeks in Nepal doing the Annapurna track. Some of the poorest people in the world, but people who smile easily and worked from the time they were young until they died. We were told that the value of what we had in our backpacks was worth more than what they would earn in their lifetime.”
The incomparable beauty of the Himilayas awed him and he respects the simple way of life of the Nepalese people.
Fread says that as the economy improved in Buena Vista, he started doing heating systems work again with his business, Cottonwood Creek Heating.
“Knowing only forced air systems when I first moved here, I branched out to do hot water systems, then stoves and fireplaces, and in the recent year, geothermal systems. You can draw heat from the earth anywhere on the planet with today’s current technology.”
In 1990 Fread began a new venture in river rafting. “I always wanted to get into river rafting and worked for Buffalo Joe’s on the weekends. I ran many rivers in the west.”
Mountain biking became another passion. I rode the Rainbow and Monarch Crest trails, but also Fourmile, trails in Park County, Leadville, Moab, and about any other place I could ride.”