“This landscape is unlike anything I have ever seen. How inadequate are my words....” That was written 150 years ago next Saturday (July 2, 1866) by Bayard Taylor, famous travel writer whose trips had spanned the world, including the Alps. He was astride his pony on Ute Pass, above the Lower Blue River, looking straight west into the heart of the Gore Range, and what would become, more than a century later, the Crown Jewel of Summit County, Eagles Nest Wilderness. The trip is described in Taylor’s book “Colorado: A Summer Trip.”
Three “Friends of …” organizations — Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness (FENW), Friends of the Lower Blue River (FOLBR), and Friends of the Dillon Ranger District (FDRD) — will host a sesquicentennial celebration Saturday morning, July 2, at 9 a.m. on Ute Pass (map athttp://www.fenw.org/img/map_utepass.jpg). They are billing it as a refreshing and inspiring way to start your July Fourth Holiday Weekend, with a spectacular, panoramic view of the Gores, readings from Bayard Taylor’s book, “Colorado: A Summer Trip,” other quotes that celebrate wilderness and the rural lifestyle of the Lower Blue River Valley, and a special guest. Colorado poet Erin Robertson will read her composition, commissioned especially for this event.
The program will begin at 9 a.m. after light breakfast refreshments. Hosted by Summit County sages Currie Craven and Sam Kirk.
8:30 a.m.: coffee, fruit & pastries, meet & greet
9 a.m.: Welcome, invocation, introductions
*Sam Kirk will read from “Colorado: A Summer Trip,” by Bayard Taylor.
*Readings from the audience. Bring your favorite quote about Wilderness or the rural life (keep it short, please), or choose one from several dozen that will be available.
*Colorado poet Erin Robertson will read her composition, especially commissioned for today.
AN EXCERPT FROM “COLORADO: A SUMMER TRIP,” BY BAYARD TAYLOR
Background: (A map of the entire trip is at www.fenw.org/img/map_1866trip.jpg.) Over Berthoud Pass and down the Colorado River through the heart of Middle Park they rode, and then up the Williams Fork River, following an old Ute Indian trail, crossing on July 2, 1866, the Williams Fork Mountains at what was then and is now Ute Pass — exactly 150 years to the day before our July 2 celebration. The party descended part way down from Ute Pass into the Blue River Valley before the full panoramic view appeared.
“From the top [of Ute Pass] we looked down a narrow, winding glen, between lofty parapets of rock, and beheld mountains in the distance, dark with shadow, and vanishing in clouds. The descent was steep, but not very toilsome. After reaching the bed of the glen, we followed it downward, through beds of grass and flowers, under the shade of castellated rocks, and round the feet of natural ramparts, until it opened upon wide plains of sage-brush, which formed the shelving side of an immense valley. The usual line of cotton-wood betrayed a stream, and when we caught a glimpse of the water, its muddy tint — the sure sign of gold-washing [in Breckenridge] — showed that we had found the Blue River. We had crossed the Ute Pass, as it is called by the trappers, and are among the first white men who have ever traversed it. We now looked on Park [Ute] Peak from the west side.
“Instead of descending to the river, our trail turned southward, running nearly parallel with its course, near the top of the sloping plane which connects the mountains with the valley. The sun came out, the clouds lifted, and rolled away, and one of the most remarkable mountain landscapes of the earth was revealed to our view. The Valley of the Blue, which, for a length of thirty miles, with a breadth varying from five to ten, lay under our eyes, wore a tint of pearly silver-gray, upon which the ripe green of the timber along the river, and the scattered gleams of the water seemed to be enameled. Opposite to us, above this sage color, rose huge mountain foundations, where the grassy openings were pale, the forests dark, the glens and gorges filled with shadow, the rocks touched with lines of light — making a chequered effect that suggested cultivation and old settlement. Beyond these were wilder ridges, all forest; then bare masses of rock, streaked with snow, and, highest of all, bleak snow-pyramids, piercing the sky.
“From south to north stretched the sublime wall — the western boundary of the Middle Park; and where it fell away to the canyon by which Grand [Colorado] River goes forth to seek the Colorado, there was a vision of dim, rosy peaks, a hundred miles distant [Flat Tops]. In breadth of effect — in airy depth and expansion — in simple yet most majestic outline, and in originality yet exquisite harmony of color, this landscape is unlike anything I have ever seen. I feel how inadequate are my words to suggest such new combinations of tints and forms.”
Those are pretty potent words from a man who had traveled — and described — the world, including the Alps. The party next moved on upstream along the Blue River to what is now submerged under Lake Dillon, then on to Breckenridge, and over Hoosier Pass to South Park, over to the Arkansas River Valley via Mosquito Pass, and back (via South Park and Kenosha Pass) to Denver.
A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE
Bayard Taylor wrote “Colorado: A Summer Trip” in 1866. John Wesley Powell first climbed Mt. Powell two years later, in 1868 (the year before his first descent of the Grand Canyon), the trans-continental railroad completed three years later, in 1869, and Mark Twain published “Roughing It” six years later, in 1872.
ABOUT BAYARD TAYLOR
Bayard Taylor was a prolific travel writer, lecturer, novelist and a poet. He was born in 1825 in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. At the age of 19, he set sail for London; the two-year grand tour not only served as Taylor’s college education but also determined his new career. Although his true passion was poetry, he learned early that he could earn more money by writing prose.
In 1850, Taylor married a childhood friend, Mary Agnew. She died only two months after their marriage, leaving Taylor bereaved and anxious to travel again in order to cope with his grief. He went on a two-year trip to Arabia.
During the Civil War, Taylor served as Washington correspondent for the NY Tribune until 1862, when he was appointed secretary to the U.S. Minister at St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 1866, Taylor traveled to Colorado and took a strenuous loop trip through the northern mountains on horseback with a group that included William Byers, founder of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News. His letters describing this adventure were later published as “Colorado: A Summer Trip.” During this decade, Taylor published 11 works and delivered more than 600 lectures (including in every mining town visited on this trip).
Taylor’s deep interest in German life and literature (especially Goethe) culminated in his appointment as Minister to Prussia in 1878. Sadly, he suffered repeated illnesses, and died in December 1878. “Colorado: A Summer Trip” is available for $2 at Amazon Kindle.
Bill Betz is a volunteer with Friends of Eagles Nest Wilderness.