Thanksgiving automatically brings to mind all the stories we learned in school about how the Pilgrims came to America in search of religious freedom, landed on Plymouth Rock and were saved from starvation by friendly Indians.
Much of what we think we know is wrong. Or at least off-kilter.
“The story we get about the Pilgrims was actually constructed by the Victorians, after the Civil War,” says Kathleen Curtin, former historian at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Mass.
On an end table in my living room sits a chubby, six-inch-high blue pottery owl with huge eyes. His name is Bernard.
Bernard was also the name of the slightly plump, doe-eyed waiter who brought us strong coffee and a genuine smile every morning on a trip to Cancun some years ago. When I saw the owl, reasonably priced in the hotel gift shop, I had to have him. Twenty years later, every time I pass by him, I think of how friendly and sweet our waiter—and the people of Cancun – were.
The newest hot spot in Denver also is where the town got its start: at the railroad station.
The newly renovated Union Station in downtown Denver echoes the past and celebrates the present. The historic 1914 building has undergone a $54 million renovation that incorporates public spaces, 10 local restaurants/bars, three retail shops (with more to come) and a spanking new 112-room luxury hotel carved out of what once were offices, a drafty attic and, frankly, empty space.
One of the delights of traveling – in Colorado or anywhere – is finding great local restaurants. They don’t need to be the fanciest, or most expensive – and often they’re not. What they do offer is good food at good prices or something unique that sets them apart from the predictable mediocrity of fast-food and chain restaurants.
During the past 30 or so years of traveling our state, I’ve found a few that are must-visit venues when we’re on the road. I’ll even time my lunch stop to coincide with them – even if lunch has to be at 11 a.m. or 3 p.m.
In the arid, cactus-strewn hills of northern New Mexico lies Ojo Caliente, an isolated hot springs resort where the rest of the world fades away.
From Colorado Springs, head south on I-25 to Walsenburg, then take U.S. Highway 160 west to Alamosa. From here, catch Highway 285 south through Antonito into New Mexico. At the “town” of Ojo Caliente, follow the sign (turn right to get to the resort). The sign’s easy to miss, so watch for it! Allow about five hours for the drive, depending on traffic.
Dinosaurs left tracks all over Colorado, but nowhere is the fascination with these prehistoric beasts so evident as in the northwestern part of the state, home to Dinosaur National Monument. About 90 miles north of Grand Junction, you'll pass through the town of Rangely just after you hook up with Colorado Highway 64 west. If you need gas or a meal, get it here. It might be a while before you get another chance. The town of Dinosaur, about another 19 miles away, has a Colorado Welcome Center with lots of information on the monument.
Not many major cities can boast about having two bison herds, a national wildlife refuge, a dinosaur dig, a world-class outdoor amphitheater, and an expansive botanic gardens – all within the metro area.
Add a river where you can go whitewater rafting amid skyscrapers, more than 850 miles of hiking and biking trails, about 200 urban and nearby mountain parks, and you have a city tailored for those who love to be outdoors.
The rising sun casts a golden net over the vineyards of the Grand Valley, on Colorado’s Western Slope. The grapes seem to bask in the early morning glow as it burns off the mist and shares its warmth. If grapes had faces, they’d be smiling.
This is Colorado wine country.
Twenty-five years ago, most people never heard of it. But in recent years, Colorado wines have been holding their own in prestigious competitions, a sign that the industry is maturing.
Some anniversaries are truly worth celebrating. When the Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago, we saw rubble remaining from World War II and ugly gray concrete buildings erected by the Communist regime. That was 1989.
A year later, East and West Germany were officially reunified. Today, East Germany has blossomed into an inviting destination of modern hotels, fine restaurants and restored historic attractions.
If you haven’t been to the Colorado State Fair, then you probably also haven’t visited Pueblo much, either.
You should … do both, I mean.
Pueblo may be the most overlooked and underestimated destination in the state.
The fair is the perfect excuse to go to the Steel City. It runs from Aug. 22 to Labor Day, Sept. 1, and includes a carnival, live concerts by famous artists, Western culture, a rodeo and all the trappings. And don’t miss out on the alarmingly unhealthy but tasty fair food!
Few sounds evoke Colorado’s history more than the mournful call of a train whistle echoing through a canyon.
It was by train that many settlers and miners came here, and commerce got its foothold on the state. It was by train that schoolteachers, preachers and families traveled to create such communities as Georgetown, Durango, Silverton – even Denver and Colorado Springs.
Once upon a time, there was a little town southwest of Denver that served as the hub for a farming community. Founded by a surveyor-turned-entrepreneur, Richard Little, he named it for himself: Littleton.
The town grew. Denver grew. Eventually their boundaries merged. But Littleton has retained its own unique personality despite its becoming what is commonly thought of as a Denver suburb.
Summer’s end already looms near. How can that be? But it’s true – some kids go back to school in less than a month.
Have you been to the beach yet?
Even though Colorado is a landlocked state, plenty of Rocky Mountain lakes and reservoirs offer miles of shoreline for swimming, playing or just relaxing by a sparkling body of water.
Right here in Colorado Springs, we have Prospect Lake with a roped-off swim beach and lots of sand for building castles. They even supply the buckets. And if you’re unsure of your swim skills, there’s a lifeguard on duty.
The howl of the wolf is a song rarely heard in Colorado these days. The wild ones are gone, driven to extinction by hunting since 1945. The controversy about reintroducing them to the state rages on as we speak. But you can hear their howls at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, tucked into a secluded sanctuary near the town of Divide, just west of Colorado Springs, up Ute Pass.
Summer comes late to Colorado’s high country, but as the snow finally recedes from the peaks of the West Elk Mountains, the wildflowers grow bolder, get taller and paint the slopes with a veritable rainbow of colors.
By July, the Alpine valley that is home to Crested Butte is blanketed with swaths of red and orange Indian paintbrush. Periwinkle blue columbines drape the hillsides around and above town. This natural artist’s palette is rounded out by dainty scarlet gilia, iridescent blue flax, cheery yellow sunflowers, deep purple delphiniums and dusky blue lupines.
As far as the eye can see, the prairie stretches, endlessly flat until it meets a stark blue sky at the horizon. An occasional dark dot in the distance might be a shrub or a cow, but the dominant gray-green, tan and buff tend to blend into one homogenous hue.
At first glance, Comanche National Grassland in southeastern Colorado is not an exciting place. But first, even second, glances don't do justice to the subtle beauty of this hidden corner of Colorado.
Long before the tourists came, before the roads were built and the trails improved, an intrepid Englishwoman explored the vastness of what is now Rocky Mountain National Park.
Isabella Bird’s sojourn came in the fall of 1873 and winter of 1874, not long after the mountain man and before the area’s first ranches were established.
She recorded her impressions for posterity in one of my favorite books, “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains,” waxing poetic about the pristine landscape and vividly describing the hardships she encountered. She wrote: