Gilchrist: The single, over-50 tourist |

Gilchrist: The single, over-50 tourist

Michaela Gilchrist
special to the daily

My husband and I have a vegetable garden at the Frisco Community Garden. One of the pleasures of being in-town farmers is meeting travelers drawn to HC3’s picturesque cabin on Main Street, Frisco. As the season winds down and the leaves drop from the trees, there are fewer tourists in town and our raised beds are looking bedraggled and bare. On Monday afternoon, I met a 70-plus single visitor who’d dropped by the garden while I was taking care of a few chores. I’m sharing his story with you because I’d appreciate hearing your advice about options available in Summit County to single seniors visiting our towns and resorts for just a week or two.

So, here is what happened at the garden on Monday.

This fellow stepped out the back door of the HC3 cabin and lingered in the gated area. He wore a floppy green hat, a windbreaker and track pants. He inspected the compost bin and gazed off at Foote’s Rest while I wound up the garden hose. Part of the hose slipped off the big metal cuff and I had to coil it all over again.

When married couples tour the garden, the husbands worry they’re trespassing on private property, but the vivacious wives ask what it’s like to grow plants at this altitude. And then we compare notes. If the visitor is really cruel, they’ll pull out their smartphones and show me photos of their own gardens in the Midwest or the South. Infant-sized eggplants! Tetrahedral stacks of heirloom tomatoes!

(Have you successfully grown tomatoes outdoors in Summit County? If so, please email me. I’ve been told that any plant in the nightshade family is impossible to grow here, but a girl can dream.)

I digress. The visitor in the green hat lives in Waterloo, Iowa, and has been coming to Summit County to ski with friends every year since 1971. He assures me that he still skis every year but it is a lonely experience. His skiing buddies say they’re too old and they gave it up. Back in the day, when we sat two to a chair on the lifts, he tells me, we had time to talk to people. You might even ski with a new acquaintance, he says. Now, the chairs zip up so fast that people don’t talk to each other.

The visitor helped me to cover my raised garden bed with plastic sheeting (to protect it from the frost) and we put a few stones down around the perimeter.

He is divorced. Although he is retired, he owned two small businesses which he sold to his son. He tells me he hates retirement. He prefers being useful to people and doing something meaningful each day.

After the divorce, he purchased an abandoned stone quarry in the Waterloo area and began working to reclaim the land. He built a house there, trucked in soil to cover the scars in the earth, and planted buffalo grass and flowers. He tells me he is amazed by nature’s power to heal damaged places.

We talked about gardening and skiing while I harvested the last of the kale and stuffed it into bags. Then he said goodbye and walked off down Main Street, past the Baptist church.

What advice do you have for single, over-50 visitors who are briefly touring the county and who’d like to meet other people with similar interests while they’re here? Would you recommend the Over the Hill Gang at Copper? Online meetups? Is the Loosey Goosey group still active? Please email your ideas and suggestions to me – and don’t forget to add a line about those tomatoes.

Micaela Gilchrist lives and gardens in Summit County. Email her at

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