A 1916 Guide To Colorado

July 11, 2011 1:31 PM

Nothing Daunted

(credit: Simon & Schuster)

Dorothy Wickenden is the executive editor of The New Yorker. Her new book, Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, was recently published by Scribner.

In Colorado, it’s not hard to travel back to the frontier. I discovered this as I was researching my book about the year 1916 when my grandmother and her closest friend left Auburn, New York, to teach in the Elkhead Mountains. Denver was already a modern metropolis, with streetcars and Coca-Cola signs, but the Western Slope felt more like the 1870s. Here’s how to retrace their steps.

The Brown Palace Hotel

321 17th Street
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 297-3111
Details, Reviews & Directions

This luxury hotel was completed in 1892. The Grand Staircase, the yellow onyx walls, and the eight-story atrium, crowned by a stained-glass ceiling, are all preserved. “The Brown” still serves afternoon tea, and has its own historian who gives tours. She throws in colorful facts about Denver’s origins as a mining camp, when it shared the banks of Cherry Creek with the Arapaho.

(credit: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Amtrak)

The California Zephyr

Union Station
1701 Wynkoop Street
Denver, CO 80202
Amtrak: (800) 872-7245

Pick up the train here, and follow the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railroad’s original stunning route over the Continental Divide as far as Winter Park, (where Amtrak continues west on a different path). Conceived by David Moffat as a transcontinental railroad, the “Moffat Road” got as far as Craig, in 1913, before it bankrupted him. You can no longer follow the mostperilous part of the trip by train, up “Hell Hill” to Rollins Pass, but from July to September, you can drive up the old dirt roadbed, either from Rollinsville or from Winter Park. Four-wheel-drive vehicle recommended!

Tread of Pioneers Museum via Facebook (credit: facebook.com)

Tread of Pioneers Museum

Corner of 8th and Oak
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
(970) 879-2214
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Housed in a 1908 Queen Anne Victorian, this collection focuses on Native American arts, ranching, mining, pioneering, and the history of skiing in Routt County. Carl Howelson, a champion skier from Norway, introduced ski jumping to Steamboat Springs. It also has an excellent localresearch library and a historic photograph collection.

Tracks and Trails Museum

129 East Main Street
Oak Creek, CO 80467
(970) 736-8245

Oak Creek was once a thriving coal-mining town, thanks to David Moffat, who routed his railroad through town. This small collection offers a vivid history of mining, the railroad, and the sordid and inspiring past of Oak Creek. Mike Yurich has spent much of his adult life assembling the miners’ helmets, lunch buckets, and an array of photographs and newspaper clips chronicling notable events in this former melting pot of immigrants and industrialists. Tours of the ghost mines can also be arranged.

(credit: nature.org)

Carpenter Ranch

The Nature Conservancy
13250 Highway 40
Hayden, CO 81639
(970) 276-4626
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Nineteen miles west of Steamboat Springs, the Carpenter Ranch was built by the former Texas Ranger J.B. Dawson, by putting togetherfour abandoned homesteads. It was later bought by the male protagonist of my book, Ferry Carpenter, a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School and Hayden’s first lawyer, who established the Elkhead School for the settlers’ children in the mountains. He convinced my grandmother and her friend Rosamond Underwood to be the first teachers there. The ranch is now run by the Nature Conservancy, which describes itself as “a birdwatcher’s paradise.”

Hayden Heritage Center Museum & Research Library via Facebook (credit: Facebook.com)

Hayden Heritage Center

300 West Pearl
Hayden, CO 81639
(970) 276-4380
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Several miles further west, stop and explore the former depot. There is an exhibition of photographs of the Elkhead School, tooled saddles, the thresher from the Meeker Massacre, and the best collection of rocks andfossils west of Denver. Upstairs, in the stationmaster’s old quarters, is a small research library with excellent resources about the area’s history.