Friends remember JR Lott of Steamboat and his legacy of love and adventure

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Friends say JR Lott’s smile was contagious and it was clear in this photo of him on a camping trip. There will be a celebration of life ceremony honoring lott on Saturday, May 7.
Brittany McGuire/Courtesy Photo

Friends of Arlo “JR” Lott will gather on Saturday, May 7 to remember the Steamboat Springs man who served his country as a Marine, was a devoted father and was always there when his friends needed him. .

“I guess in the world there are 400 people who consider JR their best friend,” said Ryan Wattles. “He just had this ability to really make everyone feel good and important and special.”

Lott died April 17 while climbing Farnsworth Canyon in the San Rafael Swell between Green River and Hanksville, Utah. He was 41 years old.

During his 16 years at Steamboat Springs, Lott left an impression as an active member of the running community and with the Steamboat Springs Rugby Club. He loved the outdoors, including hiking, hunting, fishing, and rafting.

Lott leaves behind three children, Waylon, Abigail and Emily, from his first marriage.

“One of the greatest things about JR is what an amazing father he was,” said Matt McDaid, who served in the US Marine Corps with Lott. “I mean, he raised these kids to be so strong and independent and thoughtful and smart.”

JR Lott at Fish Creek Falls with his daughters Abbey, right, and Milly, left.
Brittany McGuire/Courtesy.

Lott is also survived by his parents, Arlo Lott Sr. and Kathi Bybee Lott, and four older siblings – Andy, Michelle, Eric and Spencer.

A tribute will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Strings Music Lodge, followed by a celebration of life at Howelsen Hill Lodge. Storm Peak Brewery will host a benefit event for Lott’s children following the Celebration of Life.

Wattles first met Lott six years ago through a mutual friend while living in Hayden. The two men, who both served in the military, shared many things in common, including a love of racing, caring for their children and a passion for farming.

The two started a small-farm business focused on community-supported agriculture and built a strong friendship that lasted for years.

“We were both interested in farming and we were both young veterans with young families,” recalls Wattles. “He showed up at our house all the time to bring food or to help. He never asked what to do, and he never asked me if I needed help; he would just start doing whatever he could.

JR Lott is rafting the Upper Colorado River in early June 2021.
Brittany McGuire/Courtesy Photo

The two would train together and they took part in the grueling Ouray 100 Mile Endurance Run a few years ago after Wattles signed up Lott to run with him.

“I think it was 2017, and I woke up early for some reason and was looking for a race to sign up for – it’s something he and I did together,” Wattles said. “I texted JR for his UltraSignUp login credentials, and he immediately texted me with the login and he didn’t ask why.”

Wattles said he knew Lott would be up for the adventure.

JR Lott camps at Baptist Draw in the San Rafael Swell. Besides being a veteran and a loving father, Lott was also an avid outdoorsman.
Brittany McGuire/Courtesy Photo

Lott’s passion for adventure began at an early age.

After graduating from high school early, he traveled to New Zealand, where he spent time hunting, farming and working as a ski patroller. There he discovered a love for rugby – something he brought back with him when he moved to Steamboat Springs. It’s also where he met his good friends Kit Callahan and Robbie Shine.

“He had been a big part of the sport in the city for quite some time,” Callahan said. “He circled around in a lot of circles. He was certainly involved in rugby, but he was heavily involved in the steam racing community and the breeding community. He embraced as much fun as he could get in a cool way. He would wake up, go for a run, then go rafting, then hike, then race down the mountain and ski hard like all of our friends in this town.

Prior to arriving at Steamboat, Lott served as a Marine, enlisting the day after 9/11 and undertaking two tours of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I joined the Marines in 2003, and after boot camp, when I finally got to my unit, (Lott) was my squad leader,” McDaid said. “So from the start, he was my leader, and that’s how I met him.”

McDaid appreciated what his friend brought to the table, and McDaid said his parents thank Lott for helping bring their son home safely. McDaid added that due to their military roles, his friendship with Lott was slow to develop. Despite Lott training and working him to the bone, McDaid never doubted they would become good friends.

“I think we both figured out our roles,” McDaid said. “We just knew that once we were done we were going to spend a lot of time together in the mountains hunting and fishing.”

After his service, Lott took a job with his longtime friend Tony McKendrick’s fence-building company, which eventually led him to Steamboat. Lott also began taking classes at Colorado Mountain College and eventually earned his bachelor’s degree. He was also working on getting his master’s degree.

“There’s only so much you can do with fencing, so he went back to school and then got into permaculture and that side of things,” McKendrick said. “I think he was always a farmer at heart and always wanted to be a steward of the land. He wanted to leave a place better than when he arrived, and it was also rooted in him.

Lott’s passion took him to Elkstone Farm in Steamboat, where he pursued his desire to garden and farm. It’s also where he met girlfriend Brittany McGuire in 2018.

“We were friends for a good year and a half to two years before we started dating,” McGuire said. “There was always this really intense connection with him… He was just this really unique individual. He was incredibly funny. He didn’t take things too seriously. He was an incredibly hard worker and an incredible father.

She said that over the past two years they were rarely apart and enjoyed running, travelling, rafting and canyoning. They also shared a passion for gardening, agriculture and the environment. They lived in northern Routt County, where Lott ran a ranch.

“He was really into the environment and sustainability and incorporating these more intensive alternative grazing methods with cows,” McGuire said. “It was a big part of his interests and just his passion for the land and what he did every day.”

Howelsen Hill ski area and Steamboat Rodeo supervisor Robbie Shine met Lott on the rugby pitch and also hired him to work at Howelsen Hill, where he groomed the Nordic runs three days a week.

Shine said Lott was reliable and always showed up for his early morning shifts. Lott also put his agricultural knowledge to good use by encouraging the downtown ski resort to use his compost tea instead of fertilizer when they worked on the top side.

“He was friendly and welcoming, and he exemplified that as a person,” Shine said. “It’s something that people should strive to maintain within our community. His smile was contagious, and it came from his love for life, and it will be missed.

McKendrick traveled to Steamboat from New Zealand to honor his friend, and McKendrick said he was not alone given Lott’s passion for life, his love for his children and all the other people he he touched down at Steamboat.

“He just loved life and he loved adventure,” McGuire said. “We just created such a wonderful life together…He filled my cup for sure, and I don’t think there’s anyone else who can or ever could be compared to him.”

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