You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s more in touch with nature than Ron Belak.
From an early age, he accompanied his dad on fishing trips along the limestone creeks near his hometown of Syracuse, New York, sparking a lifelong obsession with fly fishing. Later, a sixth-grade project to collect various types of rocks led to an interest in fossils and the decision to study geology, which he did at Syracuse University and then at Indiana University where he received his graduate degree.
It was while attending a required geological field course in the northern Rocky Mountains that Ron realized he wanted to live in the west. After grad school, he took a job as an exploration geologist with an oil company in Tulsa. An exploration geologist is tasked with finding natural resources such as oil beneath the oceans and underground, often in remote locations. “I felt like a kid looking for buried treasure,” he laughs.
In 1979, he transferred to Denver, where he “lasted about six months at an apartment in the city.” He moved to Lookout Mountain and then to Evergreen in 1981 where he and his life partner Peg Linn live today.
“My oil career lasted a short 8 years,” he reveals. The mid-1980s surplus of crude oil resulted in significant cutbacks within the industry. “After being laid off multiple times, I decided to go back to school at CU for an MBA with an emphasis in finance. From there, I got a job at GAO (the Government Accountability Office), working as a Natural Resource Analyst, combining both of my areas of study.” The GAO is responsible for overseeing federal agencies, and I worked on programs involving oil and gas royalties, coal mining, geothermal development, environmental compliance, forest ecology, wildlife management and municipal water supplies.
He retired from that position after 23 years and began a new career as a freelance writer and photographer. “I’d published a few papers for technical journals back in my grad school days, and honed my writing skills at GAO. But those were pretty dry articles. I wanted to write about something a little dearer to me.”
That has resulted in approximately 65 articles he’s written for Colorado Outdoors Magazine. “And because magazines have lots of pictures, I had to learn a lot about photography.”
Ron has developed a passion for backpacking into the back country, specifically to areas with glacial lakes, where he can fish for cutthroat trout and brookies.
Since there’s not a lot of fly fishing to be done in the winter months, he has a variety of other interests. He downhill skis (“Mary Jane is a particular favorite”) and both he and Peg cross country ski (“We like Snow Mountain Ranch”). Formerly he participated in a lot of cross country races and ski marathons, and still does a few of the shorter ones. “I’m also a runner,” he says, “But the years and miles have taken their toll, so I’ve cut back on that somewhat. Skiing is a little easier on the legs.”
Ron sat on the board of the Evergreen Chapter of Trout Unlimited for 24 years, and is still active with the group. The organization is responsible for a variety of programs, including major restoration of rivers and streams, children’s fishing clinics, protecting water quality, conservation education and stream clean-up, including Evergreen’s own Bear Creek.
“Now that we’re retired, Peg and I are trying to travel more,” he says (though Peg stays active, as well, sitting on the boards of The Evergreen Parks and Recreation District and Evergreen Audubon). “We don’t have kids or grandkids to dote on — just a 50-gallon tank of tropical fish. We’ve been to France and to Hawaii, and we’d like to go to Africa to see the big mammals and to Argentina to catch some big fish.”
Like Peg, Ron is also a member of Evergreen Audubon. “After 50 years of staring down near my feet at rocks, I decided it was time to look up into the sky at birds for a change,” Ron explains.