Although just 55 years old at the time of his tragic death Jan. 6 in an ice climbing accident, lifelong Lake City admirer Jack Nichols had in fact already lived several lifetimes. During the short lifespan of just over five decades, he was an accomplished outdoorsman and sports enthusiast who led an eventful life as river guide on torrential, whitewater rivers in such diverse locales as Zambia, New Zealand and a variety of U.S. States, including more than 100 raft trips through the Grand Canyon.
He was a published author, formidable team member in the school’s community Knowledge Bowl sessions, past Chamber of Commerce president, and owner of an outdoor recreation business which promoted Lake City’s outstanding environmental surroundings.
Nichols is survived by his wife, Hinsdale School Superintendent Leslie Trimble Nichols, and two sons, University of Denver student John Hatley Nichols IV and community school eighth grader Thomas Nichols.
He is also survived by his parents, long-time Lake City seasonal residents John and Mary Ann Nichols, a sister and brother-in-law, Tracy and Mike Coffin, of Austin, Texas, and brother and sister-in-law, Dawson Nichols and Jenny Stewart of Seattle, Washington.
At the family’s suggestion, contributions in Jack’s memory may be made to Lake Fork Community Foundation, the Whale Foundation, an organization based out of Flagstaff, Ariz., which supports river guides, or to a college tuition fund which has been established to assist Jack’s sons.
A self-described third generation “fan of Lake City,” John Hatley Nichols III was born in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 19, 1962.
Jack’s first Lake City excursion came as a one-year-old. He was almost immediately enthralled with the mountains; his range of adventure gradually increased as he matured. “Lake City was the sort of place where there were no limits as long as you made it home by dark,” he later recalled.
He received a B.S. degree in natural resources from University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., in 1984 and further expanded his globe-trotting skills in Fairbanks, Alaska, while enrolled in a graduate geology program.
In the 1990s the lure of Lake City proved too strong and he returned as a full-time resident. From 1994 until 2002 he owned the outdoor recreation company Cannibal Outdoors.
He began part-time work as deputy Hinsdale County Building Inspector in 2010, and was named Building Inspector and Enforcement Officer for both Hinsdale County and Town of Lake City in November, 2014.