DENVER (CBS) – Colorado Getaways has been a staple for television viewers across the state for more than two decades. This weekend the half-hour program kicks off a new season, one that will be filled with stories that reflect on what’s changed since the series first hit the airwaves.
The show began as a seasonal travel special in the late 1980s. Doug Whitehead, the show’s current producer, first began working on stories for the series in 1992.
“We’ve expanded the kinds of stories first presented by reporter Leo McGuire in Getaways. His philosophy was to go to those places that most people could visit within a budget,” said Whitehead, who reports, edits and shoots video for the show.
But Getaways has roots dating back to the 1970s, when travel stories were featured as part of CBS4’s newscasts.
Those features evolved into a series called “Denver 100s,” which focused on the premise that people could travel and “get away” within a 100 mile radius of Denver.
In 1987 Colorado Getaways became its own regularly-scheduled program in the Saturday 6:30 p.m. time slot. It’s been there ever since.
“It would be difficult to find a non-news show in Denver that’s lasted more than 25 years in the same time slot,” said Whitehead.
Getaways has had several producers, photojournalists and hosts throughout the years. Many remember CBS4’s Bill Stuart as the long-time host.
“It’s a great way to let people know they don’t have to travel far to enjoy what Colorado has to offer,” said CBS4 News anchor Jim Benemann, who has been host for Getaways since 2002.
Whitehead, whose assignments for the show have taken him all over the state, doesn’t like to mention specific places as his favorites. Instead he prefers to talk about categories that he enjoys.
“I like the area around Cortez for the ancient ruins and the Ancestral Puebloan history. There is more than just Mesa Verde,” said Whitehead.
He also enjoys southeast Colorado, specifically following Highway 50 from Pueblo to the Kansas border.
“There is quite a bit of interesting history, not mining history, which you’ll find in western Colorado,” said Whitehead.
Spots that he recommends are the Santa Fe Trail and Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, a 1840s adobe fur trading post near La Junta, as well as Dinosaur Tracks, featuring the longest exposed preserved dinosaur tracks in the world.
Whitehead also recalls visiting the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, where 650 Colorado volunteers attacked a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on Nov. 29, 1864.
He also likes the Western wilderness — from Crested Butte to Aspen.
“It’s hard to pick favorites,” said Whitehead. “I’ve traveled a lot of the state, but I haven’t seen it all by a long shot.”
“There are so many public lands. I haven’t been on every river, in every hot springs, down every ski area. There are a lot of places,” said Whitehead.
On Saturday the 25th Anniversary Colorado Getaways shows begin. Whitehead said he’ll be looking back in the archives from when the show first aired. He hopes to find out what’s changed since 1987.
“I hope to give a perspective to those who maybe went to those places as a kid and find out what’s different, what’s changed since they were last there,” said Whitehead.
One of the changes is in the Colorado State Forest State Park, which offers visitors 71,000 acres of forest, jagged peaks, alpine lakes, wildlife and miles of trails along the west side of the Medicine Bow Mountains and into the north end of Never Summer Range.
“Twenty years ago, Cameron Pass, or Highway 14, was not even open in the winter time,” said Whitehead.
Now that highway is accessible to traffic year-round.
Whitehead also said the landscape doesn’t usually change in 25 years, but what’s on it has changed.
“There may be a new visitor’s center on the property, the ruins haven’t changed, but the understanding of the culture may have changed,” said Whitehead.
Another state treasure, the Colorado National Monument, celebrates its 100th year in 2011. Whitehead will take a look back at its history as one of the grand landscapes of the American West.
Skiing has also changed significantly in the last 25 years. In 1987 snowboarding didn’t even exist.
“There was no such thing as a snowboard. It really re-energized the ski industry,” said Whitehead.
Skiing technology has also changed the sport, along with the recreation areas. Ski areas have added different terrain parks geared towards boarders or extreme skiers. Many have also added more acreage or expanded to include such terrain parks.
Camping has gone through an evolution in the past two decades with better techonology and equipment. The activity has also changed along with improvements to campgrounds.
“One thing that made a big difference in state parks is Lottery money that started being used to preserve and improve open spaces in Colorado in the early 90s,” said Whitehead.
Mountain biking was a relatively new concept 25 years ago. Now there are hundreds of miles of trails specifically designated for mountain bikers.
Rafting has also gone through an evolution.
“It was pretty primative. Rafts have a better construction thanks to improved technology. Now kayaking is huge! There wasn’t a lot of that,” said Whitehead.
But through it all, “there are plenty of places to go where there’s still old Colorado left,” Whitehead says. One such spot is Trappers Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness.
“It’s been like it was for 70 years,” said Whitehead.
Throughout the season Whitehead says he will be looking for suggestions on urban getaways, those activities close to home.
“Not all getaways are in the mountains or on the plains,” said Whitehead.
Viewers are encouraged to leave comments for Whitehead on their favorite Colorado Getaways, and what may have changed in the past 25 years. He just might re-visit that location on an upcoming episode. E-mail Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Written by Jennifer McRae for CBSDenver.com.