Monday, February 2, 2015

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

By Kristy McCaffrey

The San Juan Mountains are located in southwestern Colorado and are part of the Rocky Mountains. With high quantities of minerals present, gold and silver mining camps popped up in the area during the 19th century. Those camps are now major towns such as Telluride, Ouray, Silverton, Lake City, and Creede.

On the east side of the mountains the Rio Grande flows. On the western slope, tributaries of the San Miguel, Dolores and Gunnison rivers feed into the Colorado River.

San Juan Mountains, Storm King Peak.
Today, tourism is a large part of the local economy with wilderness trekking, mountain climbing, and camping popular. Because the San Juans are extremely steep and receive a lot of snow, skiing and snowboarding are also a big draw. Telluride is home to a major ski resort, and there is also skiing at Purgatory, now known as Durango Mountain Resort. In addition, there is skiing on Wolf Creek Pass at the Wolf Creek Ski Area, and at the Silverton Mountain Ski Area.

San Juan Mountains near Ouray.

The San Juan Mountains are home to the highest airport in the U.S. The Telluride Airport sits at an elevation of 9,070 feet, but as of January 1, 2015 they discontinued all commercial flights. Speaking with locals this past December while in Telluride, I learned that frequently those flights were diverted or cancelled due to weather. Most people fly into Montrose, two hours north.

Telluride Airport.

The setting of my new short story ‘A Westward Adventure’ is the San Juan Mountains, although the town of Laurel is fictional. Writer Amelia Mercer, traveling from New York City, arrives in Laurel to visit her legendary Aunt Teddy, an unmarried woman living life on her own terms. When Amelia’s luggage is stolen from the stagecoach, bounty hunter Ned Waymire comes to her aid. An elegant lady from back East is a rarity in these parts, and he’s suddenly of a mind to court her. Add a dog named Riggs and an unfinished bounty that’s haunted Ned for years, and Amelia has more than her share of ideas for her new romantic novel A Westward Adventure.

I hope you’ll check it out. The Cowboy Kisses anthology (a coincidence that it's the same name as this blog) features eight historical western romances. Be swept away by a cowboy and a kiss this Valentine’s Day!

Excerpt from A Westward Adventure

The front door opened and shut, and in the next instant Ned Waymire filled the parlor entryway. As soon as Amelia locked eyes with him, he froze.

“Ned, I’d like you to meet my niece, Amelia Mercer.” Teddy waved him into the room. “Amelia, this is Ned Waymire. He boards here. There’s also another gentleman, but he’s been away recently.”

Mister Waymire removed his hat, revealing dark hair, and cleared his throat. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, miss.” He stepped forward to take her hand.

The touch was warm and his sun-darkened fingers overwhelmed her pale ones. As she smiled and nodded, she tried to ignore the tingling sensation that crept up her arm. Up close, he exuded even more strength than was apparent in the marshal’s office.

A man who spent his days outdoors.

A man who called the earth his home.

Vivid blue eyes stood out on a sun- and whisker-darkened face.

He was the perfect western hero.

“I just saw you,” she said, glad her voice sounded calm considering how her insides quivered.

“That’s right.”

He stepped back from her.

“You’re not married, are you, Amelia?” Teddy asked.

“No, ma’am.”

“Why, neither is Ned.”

Heat suffused Amelia’s cheeks. “I don’t believe in marriage, much like you Aunt Teddy.” The words rushed out of Amelia. “Women don’t need men to make their way in the world. Why, look at you? You’ve done quite well on your own.”

“I’ve never been placed on a pillar,” Teddy said. “What do you think of that, Ned? I’m a woman of example.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Ned replied.

“Did you get Billings?” Teddy asked.

“Yep. You were right. He was in Old Man Hill’s abandoned mine.”

“I knew it.” Teddy chuckled under her breath.

“Are you a bounty hunter, too?” Amelia asked.

Teddy cackled. “No, but I could be. Don’t you think, Ned?”

“You’d outgun us all, Teddy.”

Amelia sensed an affection between the two, and it warmed her heart, although this entire reunion with her aunt was far different than anything she imagined. She knew she had the first chapter of her new novel.

“I’ll just be turning in now, ladies,” Ned said.

Amelia, her cheeks still warm from being in the same room with him, met his eyes briefly then looked away in embarrassment.

What if he thinks I like him?

She imagined the type of woman he fancied was far from the likes of her. Why, he probably thought her a silly city girl. And he’d be right. But her mama had long taught her to be an independent thinker, to believe that a woman’s mind was equal to a man’s. Most of Amelia’s writings had been social commentaries, addressing important issues such as the educational welfare of children, the plight of the homeless and less fortunate, and the lack of voice the average woman had within marriage. But in her heart, she longed to pen an adventurous tale of a woman who not only sees the world, but tames a man in the process, who finds love with an equal, inciting passion in her partner.

She hadn’t told her mother she planned to write such a novel—she’d likely think it beneath Amelia—but her heart burned with the desire to share the story singing in her heart. Coming to visit Aunt Theodora had offered the perfect blend of adventure and inspiration.

Ned Waymire departed the room and his footsteps could be heard climbing the staircase.

That man was the epitome of adventure and inspiration.

Copyright © 2015 K. McCaffrey LLC


Shanna Hatfield said...

Interesting info and what a fun excerpt from your story! Thank you for sharing it! :)

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Thanks Shanna!! Happy Valentine's.