A few years ago, Colorado was a state I had heard of, and that’s about it. I had never heard of the Anasazi, never heard of Four Corners, never heard of Mesa Verde, never heard of Chimney Rock, or Yucca House. I knew that people went skiing in Vail, that Denver was a mile-high city, that there were mountains, and I could have told you it was somewhere between the Mississippi River and California, if I’d ever thought about it. Which I really hadn’t.
Then I started watching a TV show called Digging for the Truth with Josh Bernstein. I loved it. I was teaching Ancient Civilizations to grade 5 students at the time, which I found fascinating, so watching Josh travel around the world to various archaeological sites really took my fancy. Then one episode took us to Colorado, and to various sites where the Anasazi lived and built amazing stone villages like Chaco Canyon, Cliff Palace, Yucca House, and Hovenweep. I recognized some of the locations as being places where Ansel Adams took photos as part of his mural project in the early 40s. I was preparing to retire, when I learned that ordinary people could go to archaeological sites as volunteers to work with real archaeologists and make real discoveries about the past. There were opportunities all over the world with a variety of archaeologists and universities, and also with an organization called Earthwatch.
Almost before I knew it, I was scheduled to go to Colorado the following September to meet up with other archaeology enthusiasts like myself, to dig in and help discover more about the history of this ancient people. I decided to drive out (remember Dinah Shore singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet”? — well, I did it!), taking a bit of time in Chicago and Denver along the way. It was an amazing adventure (both the trip, and the “dig”), which I highly recommend to anyone with a yearning to learn and a desire to dig.
Anyway, I was 3 1/2 days in Colorado before arriving at Crow Canyon Archaeological Centre where my real adventure was to begin. Suddenly, I was immersed in Colorado. (You can read about my adventures in Colorado, and later on Easter Island, here.) Before going, I read a book called House of Rain (which I wrote a review of on my blog), which was all about the settlements of the Anasazi throughout the whole area, from Mexico and through all states of the Four Corners (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona), and how they were all connected through a network of roads and signal towers. It was fascinating reading. One of the archaeologists I worked with was mentioned several times in the book which added yet another dimension to both the book and my personal experience.
Almost two years later, and I’m discovering more books than I might ever have imagined that take place in Colorado, are written by Colorado authors, have characters from Colorado, and feature side visits to Colorado. Who’d have thunk it? Liars’ Games by Susan Finlay takes place in a suburb of Colorado where the protagonist is keeping a low profile in a witness protection program. Candy Canes and Cupids by Fern Michaels was one of four novellas in a collection of stories called When The Snow Falls. In this one, the two main characters end up working together at a swanky ski resort near Denver. I’ve since added Wings for My Flight: The Peregrine Falcons of Chimney Rock by Marcy Cottrell Houle to my reading list; it is focusing on the recovery from the endangered species list of the Peregrine falcons and her personal work to help achieve this. It turns out Hunter S. Thompson and James A. Michener hail from Colorado, and a blogger I follow was just at a writers’ conference in Colorado.
The Terrence Malick film, Badlands, although loosely based on events that took place in Nebraska, was all filmed in southeast Colorado. (Starred Martin Sheen and mentioned in the dual biography written with his son Emilio Estevez, Along the Way.) Several scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed around the small town of Antonito, Colorado, and, according to cbsdenver.local, “the famous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park is most commonly known as the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining.” (OK. Gonna give that one a wide berth!)
I know I’ve come across other authors, bloggers, and books based in Colorado but am unable to bring them to mind at the moment. Suffice it to say, I have a burgeoning new respect for Colorado, its fascinating history and talented authors. Maybe you can add to the list of Colorado greats!