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GlenwoodSprings_DenverPublicLibrary

A photo of the Glenwood Springs Bath House (circa 1910) courtesy of the Denver Public Library.

By Bill Deverell

Day Four. Spent the night in Grand Junction, Green and Colorado River country. Hot and dry. Dinner at a pub in Grand Junction’s old downtown. A bit of Dublin broke out while we were there: an eight-piece band playing traditional Irish music. Gave the evening an added dose of cheerfulness.

Up and out pretty early, climbing towards the canyon country of the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs. A quick stop in Palisade, heart of the state’s peach-growing country to fill the car up with a box of peaches, sweet and tiny plums, peach salsa, peach and jalapeno jam, and some rhubarb jam. The plums went fast. Palisade is a beautiful little town, hard up against sheer canyon walls and mesas, drawing, I suspect, all its irrigation from the Colorado River. The peach grower I talked with said that the water rights for his orchard went back to the 1930s, and that his neighbor grower had rights that stretched back to the early 1900s. Irrigation canals cut from the river crisscross the landscape, and the valley that Palisade sits in looks like a plein air painter’s paradise.

Arrived later in the morning at Glenwood Springs, home to the famous hot springs and “the world’s largest hot springs swimming pool.” The town is tucked in the canyon and sits directly atop geothermal activity that bubbles and boils water from down below. Sulphur, rotten egg smells mingle with the gurgle of the springs. The springs at the Glenwood Hotel have been a tourist and health seeker attraction since the 1880s – people come from far and wide to sit in, and even drink, the warm water. The notorious gunman, gambler, and dentist, John “Doc” Holliday, died in this very hotel, tuberculosis (and hard living) having caught up with him at the young age of 36. His was an extreme case – he was an unusual figure in the Old West, a dentist and a killer. Legions of “less colorful” seekers showed up in Glenwood Springs to take the waters, to look for temporary convalescent care in the post-Civil War era when the nation and so many of its people were wounded and broken. My son and I took the waters, and I admit that I wondered if Doc Holliday would have liked the great water slide we rode with exuberance over and over again.

Glenwood canyon was, as ever, beautiful. The Colorado River crashes down right alongside I-70. We saw dozens of rafts, one dowry, one surfer, several kayakers, and lots of people fly fishing in the spots where the Colorado runs slower and deeper.

We drove on past Vail and Copper Mountain and on through Summit County, a part of Colorado I know well from summers and winters of my youth. On through Frisco and Breckenridge, towns I first got to know when they were still nearly ghost towns of the mining past. Now they bustle, and we got stuck in a tiny traffic jam in downtown Breckenridge. Up and over Hoosier Pass, through the tough little towns of Alma and Fairplay. Across the open-space, treeless flat of South Park (the famed and ribald cartoon series draws its name from right here), and then into Colorado Springs from the backside of Pikes Peak. Now we are here for a few days, and I will be interested to see how this city has changed since I grew up here decades ago. It is a curious place.


The 1910 image of the Glenwood Springs Bath House can be found on the website of the Denver Public Library Digital Collections.

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Brick from the wall at the Civilian Conservation Corps in Leeds, Utah. Photo by Bill Deverell.

By Bill Deverell

After a great Fourth of July in St. George, my son and I headed out this morning to Colorado. First stop was the CCC camp in Leeds, just east of St. George. Here’s a photo I took of the wall of the CCC officer’s quarters up on the hill. It’s likely, given the other signatures I saw, that this was not “Dobby Cleve.” I think it may have been a man named Dobby who was from Cleveland. What’s amazing about our ability to do family history these days, through various genealogy sites, is that a couple of hours of work would probably allow us to find out just who this was, this man who scratched his name into the stone of a small building in the red sandstone hills of southwestern Utah in the heart of the Great Depression.

Up and out of the canyons surrounding St. George and on towards Cedar City. Here, where there is now a superb Shakespeare Festival, is the site of one of the most notorious massacres in all of American history. In 1857, at the height of tensions between the Mormon theocratic community and the federal government (which resulted in the Mormon War), the Baker-Fanchon wagon train bound for the far West wandered through nearby Mountain Meadows. The emigrants hailed mostly from Arkansas, though they had absorbed some others from Missouri. These later additions may have heightened the tensions, seeing as they came from a region which had so recently persecuted the Mormons in one violent encounter after another.

Mormon militia members, in league with local Paiute Indians, attacked and put the wagon train under siege. After several days, Mormon fighters approached the train under a white flag, offering the emigrants protection and safe escort back to Cedar City. It was a ruse. Once on the trail, the Mormon militia members turned their weapons on the settlers. With the exception of the very young, all were murdered, well over 100 people. Adding another macabre note, the spared children were brought back to Mormon families to be raised as adoptees (some later returned to Arkansas by federal officials). To top off the weird grimness of it all, the one man brought to justice for the massacre, John D. Lee, was executed by federal firing squad twenty years later, sitting on the edge of a coffin at the very site of the massacre. I can’t drive by Cedar City without thinking of all this.

We usually press on to Salt Lake when we take this trip each summer. But this year, a deviation. We turn east onto I-70, bound for Colorado to visit my family. This is a glorious detour from our regular route. Such stunning canyon country, and if you look closely, the landscape reveals far more color than just the spectacular sandstone red. Reds in rich array, whites, grays. It is breathtaking. Not many people live out here, but here and there you can see an old cabin. And in the valleys, where there’s at least a little water, small communities.

On the way into Grand Junction, Colorado, we drove alongside and over the Green River. Full of snowmelt as we saw it today, lazy and powerful, the Green is the parent of the mighty Colorado, falling out of the Wind River Range in Wyoming, where we will be in a week or so.

Tomorrow, we hunker alongside the Colorado River for awhile, a route I love, a trip also alongside the history of the Rocky Mountain West, a journey from the western slope up and over the Rockies to the front range.