Thunder rolls to regional Boy Scout camp

Local companies helped move Thunder, a massive bronze statue, from Michael Byram and Ann Smead’s home in Arrowhead, to the Western Colorado Boy Scouts’ Steve Fossett Spirit of Adventure Camp. That silver haired gent is Kevin Fifield with Beck Builders.
Special to the Daily |

About SOAR

The Steve Fossett Spirit of Adventure Ranch is available to other groups outside the summer camp season. Schools, youth groups and corporate retreats are all welcome. If you are interested in contributing to the camp or its endowment, contact Wayne Nelson at (970)376-5848 or at

SOAR is one of only four high adventure Boy Scout camps around the country. The camp is located near the confluence of the Colorado River and Sweetwater Creek. Scouts ages 11 years and up can have adventures ranging from mountain biking, orienteering and backpacking to class IV whitewater, climbing fourteeners, and hut-to-hut trips.

About the Western Colorado Council

The Western Colorado Council of the Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1942 and is headquartered in Grand Junction. It serves more than 4,000 youth members and more than 1,000 volunteer leaders through Scout units in 15 counties of western Colorado, including Eagle, Garfield, Summit, Pitkin and Routt counties. Go to

EAGLE COUNTY — Thunder rolled right down Interstate 70 to a Boy Scout high adventure camp.

The incredible bronze statue of a bird was delivered to the Steve Fossett Spirit of Adventure Ranch, a Western Colorado Council of Boy Scouts of America High Adventure Camp along the Colorado River near Sweetwater.

Michael Byram and Ann Smead donated Thunder and say they were thrilled to do it.

The two bought a house in Arrowhead and decided to personalize it. Thunder is a wonder, but the two wondered how to incorporate him into the new house. Thunder lived in the front yard, standing proudly and welcoming the world.

It’s a big welcome. Thunder is 7 feet high, 9 feet wide, 6 feet deep and weighs 1,800 pounds. The rock foundation was estimated to be 10 tons.

“It’s an enormous structure,” Byram said.

Thunder is big and bronze and beautiful. He needed to live somewhere but not in their front yard.

Recycling Thunder didn’t even cross their mind, he said. “It was too important to discard.”

Tom Bashford is an architect with Shepherd Resources and a leader with local Boy Scout Troop 222. Shepherd was doing the design work at the house and noticed Thunder right out front, welcoming people to the place.

They talked, as folks will do — Bashford, Byram and Smead. Thunder’s impressive but doesn’t generally add much to conversations.

It turned out that Byram’s father was career Air Force, and Byram was a Boy Scout as a kid growing up on Air Force bases in the U.S. and Spain. He was also a member of the Order of the Arrow, a Boy Scout honors organization.

“Scouting was very strong in Europe at that time,” he said. He said the values Scouting teaches are something he has carried with him his entire life.

“It was a great movement to be part of, and (it was) vital in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” he said.

Soaring with Steve Fossett

A couple years back, Western Colorado Boy Scouts opened the nation’s first new Scout camp in years — Steve Fossett Spirit of Adventure Ranch — and named it after Beaver Creek resident and adventurer Steve Fossett.

The adventurer and Eagle Scout set 115 world records and credits the Boy Scouts with helping him “catch the adventure bug.” His world records include the first solo nonstop round-the-world aircraft flight and the first solo nonstop round-the-world balloon flight, as well as records for gliding and sailing. He also completed the Boston Marathon, the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the Leadville Trail 100, swam the English Channel and scaled the highest peaks on six of the seven continents.

The Beaver Creek resident disappeared while flying above the Sierra Nevada mountains, on Sept. 3, 2007.

His wife, Peggy Fossett, donated $100,000 to establish the camp in his name.

The Scouts worked out a lease on the Anderson Camp north of Dotsero, where Scott and Tammy Stuart owned and operated summer camps from 1976 through 2012. Steve Beckley, an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 225 in Glenwood Springs and who runs Glenwood Caverns, found out that Anderson Camp was looking for a new direction and made the first contact.

The idea immediately took wings.

The Sculpture

Byram and Smead were on a trip to Jackson, Wyoming, and Smead was reading about “Akicita: The Messenger.”

Thunder was sculpted by Dan Garrett, well known for sculpting and painting of Native American culture and mythology. Thunder is a mystical figure, a representation of the Thunderbird Messenger Akicita, believed to be the messenger between the Lakota Sioux and their gods.

The connection between Thunder and Scouting is through the Order of the Arrow, an honor society of Boy Scouts. The totem for the local Order of the Arrow Mic-O-Say Lodge is the eagle.

“It was the neatest symmetry I’ve ever seen in this sort of situation,” Byram said.

Thunder soars

Thunder has wings, but he doesn’t actually fly. Then again, he did in this case. Thunder flew by cranes and trucks to the Spirit of Adventure Ranch, where he welcomes Scouts from all over the country.

Several local companies donated their services to make it so.

“How great is it when a community says, ‘Yes! That’s the right thing to do!’” Byram said.

Smead convinced him to move to the Vail Valley 11 years ago. They’re both active in all sorts of community organizations.

“It’s one of the most caring places I’ve ever experienced,” he said.

Regional Scouting leaders call the statue “iconic.”

“That iconic statue is going to come to symbolize the SOAR camp and the Spirit of Scouting,” said Chris John, president of the Western Colorado Council of Boy Scouts, based in Breckenridge. “We’re very grateful to the family for their generosity. People are re-engaging with Scouting in Western Colorado.”

The move

After getting all the proper permissions, the planning began for moving Thunder from Arrowhead, down I-70, up the Colorado River Road and placing it near the newly constructed amphitheater at the Spirit of Adventure Ranch, north of Dotsero.

Bryan Brubaker, vice president of operations/principle, and Kevin Fifield, superintendent for Beck Building Co., coordinated the move. They lined up all the subcontractors that generously donated their time and equipment.

Andy Romero, of Gallegos Corp., arranged for Hi Cranes to lift the sculpture at the house and place it on the trailer for transport.

Chris Spiegel, of Spiegel Construction, provided equipment and his time to transport the sculpture to the Steve Fossett Spirit of Adventure Ranch.

Breckenridge Crane Service set the sculpture into place near the amphitheater at the camp.

Thunder now lives on a hillside overlooking the amphitheater, the parade grounds and the teepee villages.

“Tom Bashford did all the work on this. The simple part was deciding to make the donation,” Byram said. “To have a chance to do this is incredible. If you’ve been a Boy Scout, it was just perfect.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.