Early one Thursday morning in late June, my daughter and I turned onto the dirt road directly across the highway from the Columbine General Store. The reviews we’d read didn’t exaggerate about the deeply rutted road. Jolting and jouncing, we at last catapulted over a steep rise and into the small parking area. I was grateful that my SUV earned its title on that trek. Compared with the approach, the trailhead parking was luxurious - a peaceful and empty patch surrounded by evergreens. More importantly, it was flat.
We headed up the lovely alpine trail, with plenty of gorgeous views - nothing but mountains to the west as far as the eye could see. Once we hit the talus field on the ridge at the top, my acrophobia kicked in. My go-to in these fear-of-height situations is to drop down to a pseudo-crawl and speak words of encouragement to myself. Works well for getting to the top, and is pure hilarity for my daughter - I heard her quietly snickering and turned to see her taking a stealth video of her nutty mom.
The Hahns Peak Lookout is such a cool structure. The view of Steamboat Lake and the 360’ surrounding mountains was fabulous. It was especially lovely to see Pearl Lake from here. The rest of this summer, while on my Pearl Lake paddles, I’ve gazed at the Hahns Peak Lookout lit up by the sunrise, and think of the fun we had that morning.
Hahns Peak Specs
Elevation is 10,839’ above sea level (the 1972 US Geological Survey says “about 10,840 feet” and in a Google search several different elevations were listed, which I found both interesting and strange).
The mountain is an extinct volcano.
Was known by trappers back in the day as “Old Baldy.”
A Little History
What is now known as Routt County was the summer hunting grounds for the Indigenous Ute Tribes, and possibly the Cheyenne and Eastern Shoshone as well (Interactive Map Native Land Digital: maps Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages - you can type in your address to determine which Indigenous Peoples originally lived there.)
Eventually trappers, explorers and gold miners made their way to the region. That’s where Joseph Hahn comes in - he found gold in the vicinity of present-day Hahns Peak.
The story is that three men, Hahn, Doyle and Way, were prospecting and winter set in. Way was dispatched to get supplies and return - he left, taking with him all the gold in camp, and was not heard from again. After surviving until April, Doyle and Hahn set out on snowshoes. They made it to the banks of the Muddy Creek on April 30, 1867, near Kremmling. The two men sat down for a rest, and this is where Hahn collapsed and died.
Steamboat Pilot Article Sidebar: Mysterious Fate of Joseph Hahn
Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection: Hahns Peak Monument to Man Who Perished After Gold Discovery
Hahns Peak Lookout
The Hahns Peak Lookout started as a stone shelter when in 1908 it was commissioned by the Forest Service as a fire lookout. Between 1908 and 1912 people and horses packed up concrete, local stone and timber to construct the building. (Colorado Preservation: Hahns Peak Lookout)
The lookout was decommissioned in the 1940s or 1950s, and fell into disrepair. In 2014 it was listed as one of Colorado Preservation’s “Colorado’s Most Endangered Places.” Between 2014 and 2017 the lookout was restored as part of a joint project with Historic Routt County, USDA Forest Service, Historicorps and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. (Historic Routt County Hahns Peak Lookout)
Hahns Peak Village
Hahns Peak Village began as a gold mining camp, and had the first post office in Routt County. It is the oldest permanent settlement in Routt County, and served as the county seat from 1877-1912. The schoolhouse, opened in 1912, held its last class in 1943.
Hahns Peak Area Historical Society
Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Travel: Hahns Peak
When Frida Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, she was only 47 years old. She had created 143 paintings, of which 55 were self-portraits. Frida’s look is iconic: thick eyebrows merging over her expressive eyes, fresh flowers adorning the braids atop her elegant head, and colorful Tehuana traditional dress lending additional vibrancy to this vivacious woman. As well, her life, her approach to that life, and the ways in which her work was an outward reflection of her most vulnerable and poignant inner emotions which are uniquely remarkable.
In 1939, her self-portrait The Frame was the first work by a Mexican artist in the 20th century to be purchased by an internationally renowned museum - the Louvre. In the decades since her death, the popularity of her work and her persona has grown. Her self-portrait Diego and I, painted in 1949, sold in November 2021 for $34.9 million (Smithsonian Magazine). For many she is a powerful representative of the feminist movement, and she is depicted on the 500 peso bill, (Diego Rivera is pictured on the opposite side), for the 100th celebration of the Mexican Revolution (Frida Kahlo.org - 10 facts.) The Frida Kahlo Museum, La Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Mexico City, opened in 1958. With 25,000 monthly visitors, the museum is one of the most visited in Mexico City. (Archello: Frida Kahlo Museum)
Frida said, “I paint my own reality.” Her work expressed the pain of her life’s experience, and she was not afraid to put it all out there for the world to see. At the same time, Frida reveled in life. She loved a good party, dancing, and tequila. She loved to give gifts and support to the people around her, and she loved children. She was dedicated to the communist movement as she felt it uplifted the common person and the workers. She was passionate and witty - for example, she referred to the United States as “Gringolandia.”
She contracted polio when she was six, which caused her right leg to be noticeably thinner than the left. She became quite athletic to keep her body strong, and disguised the leg asymmetry with long skirts. At age 18 she was in a life-changing bus accident, in which a side rail impaled her body and exited through her vagina. Immediately after the accident, she was found lying in the road. Her clothes had come off in the mayhem, and her nude body was covered in blood and a fine gold powder that someone on the bus had been carrying.
From the bus accident, Frida suffered a broken pelvis, spine, clavicle, and ribs. Her right leg and foot were broken, and her left shoulder was dislocated. Her resulting ill health, many surgeries (at least 32), and almost constant physical pain were lifelong challenges. She often was forced to lie in bed for long periods of time, and wore orthopedic corsets that her doctors prescribed to support her spine. Her injuries prevented her from carrying a child to full-term, which added to her emotional pain.
While in the initial recuperation from the accident, Frida learned to paint. Her mother ordered a special easel that Frida could use lying down, and a mirror was hung above the bed so that Frida could study and paint herself. She attributed her numerous self-portraits to so much time spent alone, and that she herself was the subject she knew best.
Her marriage to the famous muralist Diego Rivera was characterized by high drama and infidelity on both sides. What comes through in letters, accounts of friends, and several of her paintings, is that Frida dearly loved Diego, and his unwillingness to remain loyal was very hurtful. In Rivera’s autobiography, he acknowledged that the day Frida died was the day he realized that she was the best part of his life.
For several years beginning in 1943, Frida was a teacher of art at “La Esmerelda” - the Ministry of Public Education’s School of Painting and Sculpture in Mexico. She had the students come to her home as she could not physically tolerate the long bus ride to the school. The class dwindled to a group of four students who continued to learn from Frida for several years - they were called Los Fridos. Frida was not a teacher who followed a strict curriculum. She taught her students to develop their own style, to let their art develop in its own way. She taught from a place of encouragement and exploration, rather than with the attitude that she knew all the answers.
Frida Kahlo did not hold back in her life or on canvas. Her physical and emotional suffering were very real - she did not try to gloss over her reality. In her work as well as her words and letters to friends, Frida told it like it was. She demonstrated an acceptance of dichotomies in this world: pain, joy, challenges, love, life, death.
Her last painting, Viva la Vida, completed in 1954 just before she died, was of vibrant red watermelons. Translated to English, Viva la Vida means “Long Live Life.”
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera
Frida Kahlo Foundation Website: Frida Kahlo Biography
Frida Kahlo.org Website: paintings, quotes, biography and videos
“Heading to the Front Range this weekend.” “Oh, I used to live in the Front Range.”
What the heck do people mean by “The Front Range?”
I used to think the term referred to the range (Home on the Range style) that occurred on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. I currently live in Steamboat Springs, on the Western Slope. I lived for 17 years in the Front Range, and I figured the Front Range was where all the cool mountain stuff came to an end.
In the midst of writing on another topic, I looked up the term, and I’m glad I did. Here are a few things I learned:
Uncover Colorado article: Colorado’s Front Range
Colorado Public Radio (CPR) article: Guess What Colorado, The Front Range Isn’t Where You Think It Is
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT