Amy Carrill , Peak to Peak
Colorado is a beautiful state. At first glance much of it seems untouched by people, a spectacular wilderness that has remained unchanged for millennia. Millions of acres of pristine forested mountains. But lace up your boots and hike in any direction, beneath trees and through tangled undergrowth, and remnants of early settlers soon emerge from the flora. Collapsed one-room wooden cabins with stone foundations, broken fragments of lavender glass and rusted cans, and mining test hole after mining test hole, shallow, overgrown, yet very much visible. Everywhere you look are signs of long-gone people.
The library holds an extensive collection of non-fiction books about Colorado, shelved together for easy access. Some of them, in particular, examine the experiences of early settlers and visitors, giving a glimpse of the lives they led, here, all around us.
In 1916 two college-educated women from New York decided to teach school to settlers’ children in the tiny town of Elkhead. Nothing Daunted, by Dorothy Wickenden, tells the story of those teachers, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, but it also describes the lives of the settlers themselves in good detail. And, more broadly, Wickenden discusses the burgeoning state of Colorado in general, from cosmopolitan Denver to conflict with indigenous inhabitants to riding the train along the new cliff-hanging Moffat Road.
In 1887 the young English naturalist Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell arrived in Westcliffe to study the area. During his years in residence, he wrote hundreds of letters to loved ones back home. The Valley of the Second Sons, edited by William A. Weber, gathers these letters into one volume. Cockerell describes everything he observes, the land, the people, the various modes of living, and every last thing, it seems, that he encountered or learned in his daily life, all with a scientist’s eye to detail.
Heartbroken and apparently dying of tuberculosis, Dr. Susan Anderson arrived in Fraser at the age of thirty-seven. Met with the typical suspicion directed during that era at female physicians, she gradually developed her practice as need for medical attention superseded prejudice. Along the way, her illness abated. For the next fifty-three years, Dr. Anderson tended to the inhabitants of the area, including lumberjacks, ranchers, and the workers who dug the Moffat Tunnel. Doc Susie, by Virginia Cornell, is one of several books that tell her story. Though containing some flaws, such as fabricated thoughts and dialogue, the book describes life on the western side of the Divide in good detail.
These examples are just several of the many library books depicting earlier Colorado residents. Alongside those volumes sit many others pertaining to the state, with quite a few of them describing hiking trails, mountain bike paths, four-wheel-drive trails, and ghost towns. Check out one of these latter books, pick a route, and go hike, bike, or drive your way among the remnants of history.