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Tuesday, February 10, 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 near Ouray and Telluride. 
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.

Telluride Airport
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.

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 anthology 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


  1. Hi Kristy, I've already started on the wonderful stories in Cowboy Kisses...can't wait for yours. As for the San Juans, wow, hubs and I took a driving trip through Colorado a year ago, and Silverton, Durango, Ouray...I couldn't get enough. The Million Dollar Highway just stole my breath, and just thinking about it, still does. xoxox

    1. Tanya,
      It is really breathtaking! I just finished your story. Really fun! Great job.

  2. Hello Kristy. Such a great story line. Sounds like Miss Amelia will pitch Ned a fit when he tries to woo her. Speaking of Wolf Creek Pass, we were going through it to Pagosa Springs back in 2005. It started to snow and the Pass got real slick real fast. On one side was the side of the mountain jutting out at us, on the other a bottomless drop. A semi was coming right at us on our side of the highway. Yikes! Luckily my son-in-law was driving and whipped the mini-van to the other side of the road smooth like and then back into our lane. I had sat with my eyes closed clutching my seat...when I realized I was going to live.. I asked him how he could be so calm..I mean that was one big semi. He laughed and said it was from years of driving on the autobahn. Anyway we finally got off the mountain and into the Springs. We were asked by folks where we'd come from and we told them Wolf Creek Pass. They were in awe of us after all the pass had been closed down. Wasn't fit for man nor beast to be traveling on.

    1. Barb,
      That is one scary story. I've been to Wolf Creek a few times to ski. It gets lots of snow early in the season, and is sometimes the only place to hit the slopes. My dad was always a very dedicated skier. But with all that snow comes a lot of road closings. Glad you're here!

  3. I admire anyone who likes to ski. Heights are not my thing. I don't think I would even venture to go on a ski lift. Sad, but true. I was in Colorado once years ago, but I didn't have the time to really explore the state, so I really appreciate that nice tidbit about it.
    I liked this excerpt. I see Amelia is already attracted to the adventure and excitement of Ned--and not just to write a novel. We always like the bad boys.

    1. Sarah,
      I will admit that I get very uncomfortable on ski lifts sometimes because I, too, have trouble with heights. I have to force myself to think about something else! Thanks for your kind words about the excerpt. I had a lot of fun writing this story!

  4. I love the San Juan's not only up close, but as they scrape the skyline from the Victor area here.
    This story sounds like the type I will love. Thanks. Doris

    1. Doris,
      I think you are on the east side of them? I envy you all who live in Colorado. Such a beautiful state!

    2. North and East. I'm in Colorado Springs.

  5. Kristy,

    I was born and raised in Colorado, and I've never been snow skiing. That's probably as sacrilegious as being a native Hawaiian and never stepping foot in the ocean. I have, however, traveled around the state, and the San Juan mts are indeed wild and majestic.

    I haven't read the stories in the new anthology, Cowboy Kisses, but it's on my Kindle. :-)

    1. Kaye,
      It's never too late to get you up on skis! We can probably put some training wheels on them. :-)

    2. Kristy,

      Actually, for the snow slopes, I'd have to have training skids rather than wheels. bwahahahaha. *wink*

  6. Hi Kristy, Colorado is a beautiful state. I hope to visit it again while I'm still able to enjoy the sights. (For some reason age keeps creeping up.) Your story sounds like a good one and I appreciate the teaser. Now I'm off to Amazon to download it.

    1. Hi Agnes,
      There's no room for age around here! But at least we can travel in our stories. I hope you enjoy the anthology. I have several of your books on my kindle and look forward to them as well.

  7. Kristy, I've never been to Colorado, but I've wanted to visit there as well to several other western states. It's just finding the time and money to do so. but hoping to do it soon. So, thank you for taking me on an exciting and informative trip. Sounds wonderful and looks breathtakingly beautiful. And your blurb was enough to hook me good. I'm so very pleased and honored to be part of Cowboy Kisses with you and the other six authors--golly I love that cover. Haven't read A Westward Adventure yet, but I will be reading it shortly. Wishing you the best.

    1. Beverly,
      Thanks so much!! Such a lovely post you left. I very much enjoyed your story and am pleased as all get out to share book space with you. Cheers!