Category Archives: Colorado

Breckenridge

I live in Colorado but I’m not a skier.

This takes some explaining when I first meet people.  I did not grow up in Colorado, and my family was not particularly athletic.  (Okay, my family was not the least bit athletic).  My first ski experience was as a teenage exchange student.  My host family took me skiing in France’s Massif Central range.  They stuck me on a pair of skis and let me loose on the bunny slope.  Honestly, it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.  I could not stay upright and spent most of the day on my derrière.  Not an unexpected result given that I had not taken a ski lesson.

Sadly, this experience has stayed with me over the past two decades and I had been reluctant to attempt downhill skiing again.  But in 2011 I resolved to be more adventurous, and when a group of colleagues invited me to take part in a ski weekend in what is essentially my backyard, I thought it would be a great time to write a new ski chapter.

Breckenridge is less than two hours from my home, an easy drive along U.S. Interstate 70.  When entering the town I was on high alert for the welcome sign, and I was not disappointed.

Northbound on Colorado 9

The sign is not unlike those in other mountain/rural/remote areas I have visited – wooden and rustic.  But the professional calligraphy gives it a refined and sophisticated feel.  Perhaps my only criticism of the sign is the fact that the elevation is not labeled – I know it’s 9,600 feet, but with so many international visitors the potential for confusion exists.

Just over 150 years old, Breckenridge was named after U.S. Vice President John Breckinridge.  Essentially it was a bribe – the goal of local leaders was to secure a post office, and it worked.  But the town’s pro-Union citizens soured two years later when Vice President Breckinridge sided with the Confederates and they changed the spelling – the first i was replaced with an e.

The town is home to less than 2,500 full-time year-round residents, but as one of the most popular ski resorts in the world, the population swells in the winter.  I was one of this year’s Spring Break skiers and the mountain was extremely busy when I visited in mid-March.  The weather was perfect – upper 30s (Farenheit) and sunny skies – and I was told the snow was perfect, too.

I’m happy to report that my second ski experience was a resounding success.  I learned to stand, stop and turn.  By the end of my full-day lesson, I could ski down a green run without a problem (although I still need to work on getting off the ski lift).  It has almost erased the memories of my first ski trip and I am confident that I will not wait another 20 years before taking to the slopes again!

Colorado

Thirteen years ago this week I moved to Colorado.

It was meant to be a temporary home – just a year or two – before moving on to bigger places (I had my sights set on the East Coast).  And, except for a two-year experiment in the Eastern Time Zone (not quite the East Coast), Colorado has been my home since September 1997.

I distinctly remember navigating the winding hills of Raton Pass in my Mazda Protégé and seeing the welcome sign as I crossed from New Mexico into Colorado.  The welcome signs for Colorado remain the same today.

The word Colorado means “colored red” in Spanish.  Colorado is famous not only for its red rocks, but its blue skies, yellow sunflowers, green forests, purple columbines and orange sunsets.  The state’s motto – Colorful Colorado – reflects this beauty and diversity.

But the welcome sign is dull and lifeless, and doesn’t include any color.  NONE.  Unless you count white as a color that symbolizes the snow that has made Colorado skiing famous throughout the world.  (But I think that’s a stretch.)  In this photo I was at least able to capture some of the colorful landscape, but not all border crossings are as attractive as this one.

Some Colorado border crossings include a farewell to visitors, such as the one below.

The Beginning

Welcome!

Road trips through southern Colorado are breathtaking.  Majestic mountains, shimmering aspen groves and spectacular cloudscapes – beautiful views at every turn in the road – create a sense of place like no other.

But my eyes always seemed to be focused on signs.  Road signs.  And welcome signs fascinated me most of all.

Nearly five years ago I took this passion to the next level and began photographing welcome signs and chronicling my journeys.  I’m pleased to begin sharing my photographs with family and friends – and anyone else who may be interested – through this Web site.

This sign was one of the first that I photographed and remains one of my favorites.  In 1858, Fort Garland was established to protect settlers in the San Luis Valley, part of the New Mexico Territory at that time.  At its peak, 200 men lived at Fort Garland, including Kit Carson, the Fort’s commander.  The Fort was abandoned in 1883, but was restored in the 1950s by the Colorado Historical Society and the Fort Garland Museum continues to preserve the heritage of this region today.

The population of Fort Garland is less than 500, and the town doesn’t have a stoplight.  But it does have a brightly colored, sturdy, hand-painted welcome sign.

A special feature of this sign is the back that bids farewell to visitors.  (The San Luis Valley boasts the largest native Hispanic population in Colorado, hence the Adios.)