Woody Creek and Owl Farm: Time Stands Still

June 2007
After a weekend in Aspen and Woody Creek, where I stayed at Hunter Thompson's Owl Farm, I have some good news to report. Despite Hunter's death and the sale of the Woody Creek Tavern, both Owl Farm and the Tavern remain the same venerable institutions they've always been. The NORML Legal Committee hosted its second annual legal education seminar for drug defense lawyers at the Gant in Aspen this weekend. For the first time, admission was opened to non-lawyers. There were a few dozen political and medical marijuana activists among us. Tommy Chong was a featured speaker and instead of flying in and out like many speakers do, he spent the entire weekend with us, even taking to the stage Sunday at our party at Owl Farm with musicians Jimmy Ibbotson (formerly of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and a Woody Creek resident), Rick Rock (who plays guitar and sings Bob Dylan tunes with perfect pitch when he's not bartending at the the Woody Creek Tavern) and former NGDB legend Bobby Mason. Since Hunter's death, his wife Anita has been determined to maintain Owl Farm exactly as it was during his life. From his famous kitchen where fueled by his favorite substances he greeted his guests and talked on the phone at all hours of the night, to his books, photographs and hundreds of posters and objects that grace the walls and furniture, to the bedroom known as "Johnny's room" because it's where Johnny Depp always slept when visiting Hunter, it's like stepping into a moment frozen in time. The house and land remain a testament to Hunter, and if Anita has her way, they always will. What's the sign of a great weekend? For a news junkie like me who is online blogging and surfing whenever I'm not working, it's this: I didn't blog or check the news once in three days. On Friday night Anita, Shelby (Hunter's long-time Washington editor), Laura Doty (a young Denverite who is working as an Owl Farm intern when she's not skating in Disney On Ice) and I went out for a late dinner at the Woody Creek Tavern. We sat outside for hours on the back patio which we had to ourselves. The food was the same as always -- great fajitas, burgers, salads, margaritas and fresh guacamole. When it got chilly, the staff brought us a selection of jackets to wear that had been left behind over the years. Laura got so attached to the smoking jacket they brought her, they said she could keep it for the weekend. I asked our waitress and a bartender how they felt about the sale. They were upbeat and said they plan to keep their jobs. No changes are planned to the menu or the unique ambiance. The new owners are keeping to the philosophy, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Saturday, while I was at the seminar, Anita, Shelby and Laura and a bunch of volunteers cooked like crazy and transformed the house and grounds into a party environment complete with music stage in anticipation of our Sunday closing party. Saturday night, now-veteran Aspenites Gerry and Chris Goldstein opened their home near the Aspen Art Museum to more than 100 of us, for a buffet dinner catered and cooked on site by Cache Cache's talented chef, Chris Lanter. Sunday was another glorious day. Around 1:00 pm, more than 100 from the NORML seminar, their guests as well as neighbors and others began arriving at Owl Farm. Anita's account is here. Jimmy Ibbotson and friends were already on the stage with equipment plugged in and speakers working at full capacity. They played for almost five hours, at times joined by Tommy Chong and a few musical lawyers. (Here's a taste of Jimmy, the Bard of Woody Creek and a one minute interview with Tommy and another with Anita.) There were never-ending quantities of food and good cheer. I have no doubt Hunter was looking on approvingly from wherever his spirit has taken him. It was a day spent in a different world, one populated by people who embrace life, can put world issues and politics aside for an afternoon to enjoy beautiful mountain scenery, open space, fresh air, personal freedom, barbecue, an open bar and the comraderie of 150 kindred spirits. Try to take some time this summer and travel to our state's beautiful mountains. Their majesty will make you feel humble and so grateful just to be alive.