Colorado: The Inside Story

Last month, with wildfires raging throughout Colorado, we thought long and hard before deciding to follow through on a booking made last spring and take our kids to Vail.  They’re twenty-two and eighteen, and it’s getting harder to find a time when everyone can get away–we didn’t want to miss this chance.  We were a hundred miles from the nearest fire, and while it was the hot topic of conversation, on everyone’s mind and in their thoughts and prayers, we never felt we were in danger.

Colorado was beautiful.

We hiked…

And played…

Toured beautiful gardens…

…and sculpture parks…

Saw wildlife…

…and admired the local color.

They say travel is broadening, and now I know why…

Best of all, Colorado is rich in history.  The kids are collaborating on a web comic set in the Old West.  Research has been crucial to my own writing, and this was a perfect opportunity to let the kids do research for their project.   They were excellent pupils!

We went to the Barney L. Ford House Museum in Breckenridge and The Historic Park and Museum in Frisco.

In Denver we saw the Black American West Museum and the Byers-Evans Mansion.  In Leadville, after touring the National Mining Museum and Hall of Fame …

….and The Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin, we ate at The Golden Burro (AKA the Brass Ass), an establishment with its own colorful story.   Each one opened up a window in time…

…which we could look through for a peek into the lives of those people, the challenges they faced, their success and their failures.  There were big stories about fortunes won and lost and won again, and little stories from their daily lives.  Their joys and their sorrows were not so different from our own.

They say in Colorado, “Everything begins with mining.  Everything!”

So we visited The Country Boy Mine, which closed down mining operations after World War Two, and opened up again as a tourist attraction in 1991.

It was a trip that would take us a thousand feet into a cold dark mountain, and a hundred years into the past.  We suited up…

…and prepared to mine The Country Boy for the inside story.  We learned that after big mining companies came in and took over in the 1880s, few miners struck it rich; most worked for minimum wages and were subjected to the indignity of body cavity searches each time they left the mine.  Conditions were brutal and life expectancies short.  They went deaf from the hammering, and worked in muck up to their knees, by only the dimmest light, as they were forced to pay for their own candles.  Many died of lung disease, if they weren’t killed in an accident first.  Canaries were hard to come by and too fragile to live at such high altitudes, so the men lured rats into the mines by sharing their midday meals with them.  The rats could sense the ground tremors and anticipate a cave-in.  If miners heard the squeak of fleeing rats, or felt them brushing past their ankles, they too would run for their lives.

Here’s what we learned in Colorado.  The people there have a history of boom and bust, hardship and hard work.  Whether it’s faith, pluck, or sheer inner strength of will, if you knock them down, they will pick themselves up and find a way to keep going.  My heart is aching for them right now.  The entire nation is grieving with and for them, holding them in their thoughts and prayers…

…sending them wishes for peace and healing.

All material copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck


  1. Naomi, beautiful as usual and particularly poignant right now with a trip through the beauty of Colorado, when the state (and the rest of us) is trying to heal from the recent ugliness.

    1. Thank you, Cathryn. Every trip is a gift, and not something that I take for granted at all. I know their lives will fill up and they will have other commitments, but as long as they want to and are able, I will cherish our adventures and our time together.

  2. Beautiful post, Naomi. I love the picture of the family portrait with the window reflected on the convex surface of the glass.

  3. Naomi,
    Thanks for this touching and beautiful account of your trip to Colorado. It’s been a hard summer for the people there, and in many places of the U.S. Even in China we feel it. We all too often forget, when talking about the “good old days” that for many, there was no such thing. It puts many things in perspective. I’m glad your experience there was “broadening” although I hope not too much, so to speak. Blessings to you.

  4. Naomi, thank you first, for visiting Colorado, as many areas have been hurt from lack of tourism due to fear over the wildfires. Secondly, thank you for your thoughtful writing and sharing about your experience here. We appreciate people like you who tell the story! 🙂

    1. It was our pleasure. It had been so long since we had been there that the kids could barely remember it. You have a gorgeous state, and a fascinating history. I hope that we can return before too long. Best wishes to ALL of you.

  5. Dang, I hate when I type in a long comment, and then my computer fritzes and internet drops out and so it doesn’t take. Sigh. 2nd try at this. Naomi, this was a very touching tribute to Colorado and your fun vacation. Your kids are cute (don’t tell them that–they’ll probably hit me on my head and I’m not wearing a miner’s hat to shield me).

    1. Hi Char,
      You are so dear! Second time was the charm. I appreciate your taking the time. I know exactly what you’re talking about, because it happens to me too.

  6. Miners responsible for providing their own candles … we forget how short a time ago this type of atrocity was a common place. Thanks for the reminder, Naomi, and for your post of a joyous, positive family holiday.

  7. What a wonderful trip for you and your family. So much to be learned from the history of every place one visits. Those miners certainly had a hard life, and there are many still today who toil underground.

    1. Yes, wherever we go, we end up fascinated by the local history and stories. You’re right about the work conditions for miners today, which are still difficult. I am sure it’s as bad or worse in other countries. Thanks for the visit, and taking the time to comment, ad!

  8. Beautiful post on a beautiful area. There is a lot to see and learn in Colorado, and it looks like you and your family took supreme advantage of it. Those are funny pictures too–your kids are a couple of hams.

    1. We have so much fun when we’re on the road, or at home. When the kids are no longer able to travel with us, my dear husband will be challenged to be as amusing as the kids in our photos, but he is a pretty good sport. I have the advantage of a camera in my hand. My sister says that if you are holding the camera, people will do anything you ask them to. Sometimes I have to ask the kids, but mostly its a matter of, “Oh, my gosh. Where’s my camera?”

      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Love how well you have combined an account of your enjoyment of this family trip and a beautiful tribute to the people of Colorado! Wonderful Naomi!

    1. Dear Nikki, It is so disquieting, so sad. The people of Colorado are just getting pounded, taking more than their fair share of it right now, and on top of everything else, they are hurting economically because tourists are staying away. I just wanted to send a message of support.

  10. Another very enjoyable post. I’ve only seen Vail in the winter, so it’s nice to see the summer greens through your camera lens. Also a very nice tribute to the people of Colorado, they are having the year of challenges, aren’t they.

    Have a wonderful week!


    1. HI Elisa, one day I’d like to see Vail in the snow. It was certainly a beautiful place to visit in the summer. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. It is always good to hear from you.

    1. Hi Kristopher, I was really glad that we went too. My mother-in-law was extremely concerned and thought we should cancel, and this was a good reminder not to let our fears,or those of others, take precedence over our gut instinct which, in this case, told us that it would be safe. It was really a great experience. Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to leave a comment.

  11. This is a beautiful post, and I love the pictures. Time with our grown-up kids is such a treasure! Your words and your photos serve as a reminder of man’s inhumanity to man, but also of the beauty of the world around us and the ability of man and nature to survive.

    1. Thank you, Carol. I try to keep my perspective balanced. I loved that photo of your daughter meditating in the middle of the road–made me think that you must have lots and lots of fun with your kids too, and it’s a good reminder that it doesn’t have to stop when the kids grow up or leave home.

  12. LOVELY photos and adventures. Even with tragic happenings, we need to be reminded of the norm & beauty of CO. You did that so well! One of our favorite places to “get away”.

      1. Not shirt but we loved it. We sat in plain view of the camera that photos diners 24/7. We sat hubby and son opposite the camera, and they tried to look up the website to wave to themselves, but I don’t think they were able to connect.

  13. I’m happy to hear the wildfires were far enough away so you were able to enjoy your vacation. I’ve never been there but have always heard how beautiful Colorado is. The photos brought me closer to where you were. Thank you for sharing.

  14. This is a wonderful post, Naomi. I loved the photos of the beautiful kids too. And the reflection in the glass is perfect. A really interesting trip. Thanks.

  15. I’m glad you were able to make the trip. It sounds like a lovely area, and so much to see and learn.

  16. I love the photographs and the narration behind it. Your kids are perfect models. I hope that one day we get to travel like this when Jakub is bigger.

    This is a refreshing post in light of what has recently happened in that state. Thanks for sharing. Great post, as always!

    1. The kids celebrated their second and sixth birthdays on their first overseas trip. I think maybe that’s why they grew up loving travel, and being such good travelers. We always brought read-aloud, art supplies, little goodies and snacks, and for emergencies, I brought little wrapped toys that I KNEW they would love. I could pull them out and give them a little present that would capture their attention and get us through that rough patch. I only remember one time when I had to leave a place early to accommodate a tired little girl, and that was York Minster. I hope that you have lots of good travel adventures with Jakub!

  17. Great post, Naomi! I really enjoyed a visit to Colorado Springs and Boulder this past spring and I hope to get back to explore more of Colorado soon.

    I was particularly touched by what your wrote about mining and miners. I have a real soft spot for miners, an aching sympathy, or perhaps empathy, as if I was a miner in a past life.

    Every time I hear or sing the old Merle Travis song “Dark as a Dungeon” I choke up and tear up at these lyrics:

    I hope when I’m gone and the ages shall roll
    My body will blacken and turn into coal
    Then I’ll look from the door of my heavenly home
    And pity the miner a-diggin’ my bones.

    1. I remember when you took your trip–were you anywhere near the fires, or was that before they started? What powerful and compelling lyrics in “Dark as a Dungeon.” Thank you for your really thoughtful comments.

      1. That was before the fires. But, when I heard about them and all the damage they did in and around Colorado Springs, I was pretty amazed that one of the highlights of our trip, Garden of the Gods, was spared.

        Was it the will of the gods? I don’t know.

  18. There’s so much beauty in Colorado. Too bad it allows guns.
    Glad you were able to take a vacation with your two grown kids- the time flies by and it gets harder to do this.

    1. I know these days of traveling with my kids are numbered–I take nothing for granted, and treasure each adventure all the more for that. Thank you for your visit, and for taking the time to comment.

    1. HI Jamie, thanks for stopping by. Colorado is really interesting, beautiful too, and it has a unique history, full of colorful characters. It is always good to hear from you, Jamie.

  19. Beautiful story and photos! ..and oh, there it is again, as always the smile comes along while reading your post, followed by a sincerely good feeling. Thanks!

    1. Dear alicematilda, I smile as soon as I see your wonderful image in my mailbox, and your words never fail to give me a smile and a lift. Thank you for your visit.

  20. Thank, mj. I have been in a terrible time crunch–straight from vacation to a writing conference and rehearsing (cramming) for an upcoming storytelling tour, but I read your post on Colorado and was really moved by it, and the wonderful and touching post you wrote about your storytelling mom, which affected me greatly. I decided to wait to reply until I could give you the proper thoughtful response. But as long as you are here, I wanted to say that I enjoy the funny posts–you’re so good at it–but you are a wonderful storyteller, and I love those best of all. You know how to speak from the heart.

    1. Wow, thank you so much, Naomi! I go back and forth between both types of posts. It’s funny, I was telling my wife, just yesterday, that my story posts almost always do better than the purely funny posts. I like doing both styles, but am conflicted about sticking to one or the other.

      And don’t worry about rushing and making comments. I get way behind on commenting myself, and feel like I’ll never catch up. I do so appreciate what you do and say on your blog. It’s always got that right mix of quirky, serious, fun, and visual beauty.

      1. Hi mj,
        You are a funny guy, and you do that so well. One style of writing doesn’t necessarily preclude the other. Humor is a great way to help get to the core of a story or soften a hard message, and it’s entertaining too, which is really important if you want people to keep reading long enough to hear what you want to say. I remember the post about your family vacations–it was very funny, but sweet too. Don’t be hesitant to let your serious side show. You are a fine writer and a great storyteller.

        Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments and your very kind words!

  21. There are so many beautiful places in this world, blighted by stories of extreme hardship. If only beauty always bred further beauty.

    I love your photos, especially the one showing the local colour. That blue is amazing.

    1. Hi Sarah, I wonder if the hardship helps us really savor and appreciate the beauty when we see it. Thanks so much for visiting. I always look forward to hearing from you.

  22. Thank you so much for sharing your photos ..although they make me so homesick. I was glad to see that the fires had not damaged this area. Thank you again you area wonderful photographer and have abeautiful family 🙂

  23. Awesome story and pictures. I LOVE COLORADO. Just went there with my dad in May. We drove from Washington to Wyoming to Colorado. Beautiful country. My cousin lives in Colorado and so the updates on the fire were amazing.. glad you chose to do it.. looks like it was a great decision.

    1. Thank you. I am SO glad we chose to go anyway. It was very beautiful and very different, and that was great, because I love to discover new places. Do you get to Colorado often? How great to have family there to visit.

      1. Ironically I haven’t been there in close to 15 years. I’ve been overseas a lot and it just seems like there was always something going on. It was awesome because my aunts and uncles are 85+. So it was a great trip. Love re-connecting.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s