LORDS AND OUTLAWS: THE PARKS OF COLORADO

Andrea Downing

In my recent release, Shot through the Heart, my hero, Shiloh Coltrane, goes in search of outlaws in the Colorado Rocky Mts. through both Estes Park and Brown’s Hole (later named Park). This mountain area was once called the ‘Switzerland of America’ because of its beauty, and within its domain at around 8,000 ft. are several “parks”:  North Park, Middle Park, South Park, Winter Park and, of course, Estes Park. Why are they called “Park”?  Apparently, it’s Colorado-speak for an upland valley—and I have to say sounds rather nicer than ‘Hole,’ which is another western take on valleys, as in Brown’s Hole.

  Estes Park was renowned for its beauty but was also an abundant hunting ground. It was brimming with wildlife that attracted numerous overseas visitors in the 19th century, notably wealthy men who came to hunt creatures they wouldn’t encounter back home. The Earl of Dunraven, an Anglo-Irish peer, was so enamored of this area, which he first viewed in 1872, that he set out to make it his own.

 

Why Dunraven favored Estes Park came down to several details, as varied as the beautiful sunsets, the dry air, and the fact nearby Denver was a station for no less than five railroad lines. He loved the area so much that he paid Albert Bierstadt $15,000 for a painting of Estes Park. The way Dunraven set about obtaining ownership to six thousand acres was a modus operandi that would be employed by numerous ranchers throughout the west in the coming years. Exercising his vast resources, he had his agents bribe various American citizens to make use of both the Pre-emption Act and Homestead Act to either buy or prove up 160 acres each. By choosing the sites wisely, Dunraven enclosed more acreage without access to water. Thirty-one claims were filed for his use.

In the next sixteen years, Dunraven was able to make the seventeen-day journey from Liverpool annually or more often. But as time went on, with squatters moving in, a grand jury investigating his claims, and his own increased involvement in HM Queen Victoria’s government, he was unable to visit after 1882 and eventually sold his land.

Most people who have visited the national park will have travelled at least part of Trail Ridge Road. Peaking at 12,000 ft., it twists and turns on the backbone of the Rockies through some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. If you continue on this road on a rather circuitous manner, you will eventually reach Steamboat Springs. And from there if you head north, you touch upon Brown’s Hole, or Brown’s Park, nestled near the borders of CO, UT, and WY. You can see in the photos how the landscape changes from the greens of Estes Park to the red rock country and canyons of Brown’s Park.

Brown’s Park had a long history of being visited by Native Americans and trappers.  Its harsh landscape was not particularly welcoming but a few settlers did move in, and there was a trading post. But the main visitors in the late 1800s were rustlers and other outlaws, and it became part of the outlaw’s trail, which included Robber’s Roost (UT) and Hole-in the-Wall (WY). Men such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Elzy Lay, and Tom Horn, as well as the Queen of Cattle Rustlers, Ann Bassett, had hide-outs or homes in Brown’s Park. Today part of it is the Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge, and its landscape, which eventually leads into Flaming Gorge in WY, remains fairly isolated and remote. Strict regulations are in place for the hiker, camper or other visitor, and warnings such as lack of cell phone reception and bringing enough water abound. For the outlaw on the run it remains a perfect hide-out.

To find out whether or not Shiloh gets his man and returns home to his beloved, you’ll have to read Shot through the Heart.  I’m happy to let one lucky reader find out for free by commenting below. The prize will be a signed paperback if the winner is in the US or, for an overseas winner, any version of an eBook they prefer.

 

Gunslinger Shiloh Coltrane has returned home to work the family’s Wyoming ranch, only to find there’s still violence ahead. His sister and nephew have been murdered, and the killers are at large.
Dr. Sydney Cantrell has come west to start her medical practice, aiming to treat the people of a small town. As she tries to help and heal, she finds disapproval and cruelty the payment in kind.
When the two meet, it’s an attraction of opposites. As Shiloh seeks revenge, Sydney seeks to do what’s right. Each wants a new life, but will trouble or love find them first?

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