A 10-inch rain on September 12 sent water flooding over the banks of rivers around Estes Park, Colorado and into surrounding homes and businesses. Over the next few days, as the rain continued falling and the water continued pouring into Wind River Ranch, former Lake Highlands residents John and Beverly York worked feverishly to fight the damage being done to the Christian dude ranch they help run in the heart of the flooded area.
“We had already had lots of rain in September,” John told me. “Then we had massive downfalls – 17 inches in two days. Next, we had a mini-mudslide. Water just started pouring down our ranch road. It came about mid-day. Will Caldwell [2007 LHHS grad] was running down the mountain yelling, ‘mudslide, mudslide’ to warn everyone.”
“All the staff worked with sandbags and push brooms, moving water and trying to keep it in the road. They fought it all day, but the road was filling up with silt and the silt was headed toward the cabins.”
“We were having a pastors’ conference. We didn’t understand the magnitude of what we were fighting.”
“We thought we had suffered the worst of it. Everybody was gonna work all night in shifts, sandbagging and shoveling, and some had gone to sleep, but then about 11 we heard the mudslide. It was within feet of one of our buildings, of taking it out. It broke on a fault line, and we had about 3 or 4000 trees come off the mountain.”
“Unbelievably, it did not damage one building. It changed the landscape of our property completely,” John laughs, “It gave us new views and new water features.”
Turning serious, he adds, “We are all fortunate that God just put a tent over us.”
The retreat has to be cut short, and pastors were evacuated to the nearby high school, which had become a makeshift shelter for locals unable to access their homes due to washed-out roads. It took a few more days to dig out and return their rental cars.
John first left Lake Highlands and a career in the financial industry to become general manager of the camp in 1998 with Beverly and daughters Amy, Karlie, Molly and Katie. The family returned to Lake Highlands in 2004 (Beverly taught math and helped lead the Wranglers at LHHS). John and Beverly returned in 2012, and John now serves as the camp’s property manager.
“The best part of my job is that I get to love on kids and love on staff, and I get to be around incredible people. Every day, I’m watching God peel back the veils of heaven.”