Our Colorado correspondent talks with other Coloradans about what they love about the Centennial State.
With all it’s got going for it, it’s no wonder that in 2019, USA Today declared Colorado the second best state in the country to live in. I talked to some of my favorite notable Coloradans to find out what they love about the state.
His friends call him RJ. Robert Wagner has enjoyed an acting career spanning some 70 years. Early on, Wagner appeared in the 1954 western Broken Lance with Spencer Tracy and went on to make a name for himself on the big and small screens, including in the series Hart to Hart, most recently appearing as Anthony DiNozzo’s father on NCIS for nine years. He’s been married for 31 years to wife and fellow actor Jill St. John; the couple have lived in Aspen for decades.
What drew him to Colorado and Aspen
Well, obviously, Jill. But I first came to Colorado after the war in the late 1940s and more specifically to Aspen in 1949. I have always loved horses, wildlife, rivers, and streams. When I came here to go skiing with two French Canadian ski instructors who stayed on here and made Aspen their home, Aspen was a much smaller and different place.
A perfect day in Aspen
When I wake up I realize that I am one of the most fortunate men in the world. First I look over at Jill and then out across the Elk Mountains. Frequently I’ll see elk, fox, and deer and feel so lucky to literally live in a forest. As Jill says, “There are only so many front-row seats,” and we are fortunate to have one.
JILL ST. JOHN
She heated up the big screen as Tiffany Case opposite Sean Connery’s James Bond in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and went on to a decades-long film and television career, including appearing as herself in Robert Altman’s Hollywood satirical comedy The Player.
Why she moved to Aspen
I came here in December 1959 with the man that I married several months later. I flew to Denver and drove to Aspen during a snowstorm. I woke up early and walked out to view this then-small Victorian town full of empty lots and dogs running around, and soon had a little place outside of town. I was living in London making movies but many years later was able to purchase 5½ acres with a beautiful view and that was it! I made my permanent move to Aspen in 1972.
What she likes about Colorado snow country
I really feel that being immersed in nature like this prolongs your life, and my goal was to be the oldest woman on the ski lift. But a bad skiing accident has unfortunately squashed that dream. But in Colorado you can also bike, hike, fish, and just look at nature around you, as well as experiencing all the culture that the area has to offer.
Funny little story
“Good cuisine has always been a large part of Aspen,” St. John says. “Acquolina has wonderful authentic Italian food and is decorated with blown-up photos of Italian movie stars. One day the owner said, ‘I’d love to put RJ’s picture up, but he’d have to be with an Italian.’” [Wagner interrupting] “So I brought in a photo of Sophia Loren and me.”
RICH “GOOSE” GOSSAGE
Baseball Hall of Fame phenom and star relief pitcher for the New York Yankees Goose Gossage grew up in Colorado Springs, where he and his wife, Corna, have lived almost all of their lives. In his prime, his pitches flew at more than 100 miles an hour. After pitching in three World Series, he retired from the game but remains active in youth sports in his hometown, where the Rick “Goose” Gossage Youth Sports Complex accommodates baseball, softball, skateboarding, BMX, hiking, and biking.
His favorite time of year in Colorado
I love all the seasons, especially the fall. Summers are so short here, you blink and you miss them. The changing of the leaves is the most beautiful time, especially when the aspen turn from green to yellow then gold, and the oak brush turns from yellow to a very deep copper. It’s such a fabulous time, but the only bad thing about it is that winter is coming!
Why he stays
I spent four years in San Diego playing for the Padres, but we always knew we would move back to Colorado. My family didn’t have two nickels to rub together when I was growing up — I was the youngest of eight kids. But living in the beautiful and rugged Colorado mountains gave me a sense of place. My father lived like a mountain man. When I was a boy, the outside was my playground, and now hiking and fishing are truly in my DNA.
I love Bonny & Read in downtown Colorado Springs, especially the oysters; before COVID, my wife and I would eat there a couple of times a week. Good seafood is hard to get here in Colorado and Bonny & Read has the best in the area. We also like The Famous Steak House for great steaks and Jake & Telly’s Greek Taverna for Greek food.
Sunrise, lupine wildflowers in front of Mount Gunnison (12,725 feet). (Photography: Courtesy John Fielder)
Colorado-born celebrity interior designer Kari Whitman founded her eponymous interiors company in 1994. Dividing her time between Los Angeles (20 percent) and Boulder (80 percent), she works with high-profile clients such as Jessica Alba, Antonio Banderas, and Melanie Griffith. Her passion is high-end residential design, which she showcases in unique homes throughout Colorado and the world.
Why she moved from Los Angeles back to Boulder
I was raised in Boulder and then moved to New York, thinking that I wanted to move away from Colorado, and of course years later, realized how wonderful Colorado really is. Ending up in L.A. for a few years, I dabbled in acting and modeling, but I soon realized that acting wasn’t my calling. I had always loved design and had taken drafting in high school. When my focus became design, Emilio Estevez was my first client. Four years ago I opened my office in Boulder and felt like I was going home. Now I divide my time between California and Colorado.
What makes Colorado so special
There is so, so much. There is an energy in Colorado that I have never felt anywhere else that is caused by the bright sun and the quiet snow, and even the flow of the mountains. I am around people who love their neighbors, and there is a feeling of freedom here. When I get to Boulder, I never really want to leave.
How Colorado and Boulder inspire her unique sense of design
The state and the town inspire me 1,000 percent! Nature is my muse. One quick example: I was looking in my front yard and pulled a piece of bark off of a tree and created a color palette from its greens and corals for a house that I’m designing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Perhaps Colorado’s most prominent nature photographer, John Fielder has published 50-plus books in 40-plus years. In 2020, he published the bestselling book Colorado’s Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000-Foot Peaks. This fall, he’s coming out with a new book on the state: Weld County: 4,000 Square Miles of Grandeur, Greatness & Yesterdays (available for preorder on johnfielder.com).
To experience his Colorado
I love to share Colorado through photography and a few well-chosen words when appropriate. My skills come from a strong pair of legs that can take me most any place, and my eye as a photographer capturing Colorado nature. I’ve lived in the state for more than 40 years. I love sharing with my readers the sublimeness that is Colorado. I believe the state is the most beautiful place on earth!
About his new book, Weld County
I spent four years exploring the Great Plains of Eastern Colorado for publication this September of an extraordinary book about Colorado’s third largest county, Weld. It includes 175 images of farms and ranches; the Poudre, Platte, and St. Vrain rivers; the grasslands and Pawnee Buttes; old towns and buildings; and wildlife galore — even then-and-now photographs of historical Weld County. Weld’s de facto official historian, Peggy Ford Waldo, has written text to connect the dots from the county’s creation in 1861 to what has become Colorado’s fastest growing major county, yet still a place defined by its remoteness.
Why he stays
I remember standing in Rocky Mountain National Park with my middle school science class looking at beauty. Although I’ve traveled around the world, when I come back — no matter what wonders I have seen — I always say, “I like Colorado better.”
Stephen Weaver was formally educated as a geologist and continues to work as a geology instructor, but he’s also a photographer who shoots award-winning images of the natural world. He’s a member of the Ranchlands group of artists, which meets every year at visually inspiring places like Zapata Ranch and Chico Basin Ranch to create pieces for a fall art show.
What brought him to Colorado
Geology actually brought me to Colorado initially. I attended the Colorado School of Mines, where I received my PhD; then I moved to Wisconsin, where I taught for several years. And then I moved back to Colorado to teach geology at Colorado College. I love both working with students in the lab as well as photographing the vast outdoor areas of the state.
A perfect day in the Centennial State
For me, it is an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunset, when I am out in either the prairies or mountains and have scoped out an area for a beautiful photographic scene. I may go to Lost Lake in the Crested Butte area, where I can capture the clouds above the horizon that are reflected in the lake. A perfect day is when I can extract art from nature that tells the viewer a story about the environment. As both an artist and a scientist, I try to understand the science of geology in nature, as well as being an artist capturing what is beautiful.
Locoweed and Pawnee Buttes, Weld County. (Photography: Courtesy John Fielder)
LEAH DAVIS WITHEROW
The curator of history at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Leah Davis Witherow was selected as a “Woman of Influence” in 2018 by Colorado Springs Business Journal.
Little-known secrets about the Front Range
A place that has real meaning for me and seems like such a great getaway is Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, a living-history museum. When you are on the grounds, nestled in the southeastern end of the Garden of the Gods, you feel a world away from Colorado Springs. Facing west, all you see are foothills, mountains, and blue skies above. It almost feels like a step back in time. One of the things that I really appreciate is that the interpreters present inclusive history. There is an American Indian interpretive area, the blacksmith shop, the historic Rock Ledge house, and the 1900 Orchard House — hundreds of years of continuous history in one location. It literally takes your breath away.
I absolutely love spring and everything that it represents. I love to walk through the new grass, start to work in my garden, and feel the sun on my face. Spring gives me a sense of hope, renewal, and positivity, and we have months and months before winter arrives again.
Colorado native and a former professional rodeo cowboy who specialized in bull riding, Kody Lostroh was the 2009 Professional Bull Riders World Champion and consecutive 10-time qualifier for the PBR World Finals. He lives with his wife, Candace, in the small town of Ault.
Why he lives in Colorado
I’ve lived here all my life and know and love everything about the state — good people and good country. There is so much to do and experience here. We’ve lived in the area for eight years, and here at the ranch we raise bucking bulls, and 60 to 80 head of cattle, as well as several horses. In the winter I’m a hunter’s guide.
His favorite season
Well, we can experience all of the seasons in one day here, but I really like early spring in Colorado. The weather starts to get nice and the fields are starting to green up.
Married to professional bull rider Kody Lostroh, Candace Lostroh is a former competitive barrel racer.
What makes Colorado so special
The state’s got everything! The four seasons, tons of different landscapes, and especially lots of huge mountains to climb. I also really appreciate the variety of great people who still enjoy experiencing the diverse agriculture and wildlife, hunting, and just being outdoors, and pray we can always keep it that way.
Crestone Peaks and Sand Dunes, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado. (Photography: Courtesy Stephen G. Weaver)
Colorado newcomer Boyd Smith is the curator at the newly opened U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, having joined the team in June 2020. Smith is also a fine artist and previously served as curator at the Black Cultural Center at Purdue University.
What drew him to Colorado
My partner received a fellowship from Colorado College, so I started to search for either a curator or creative-director position and soon landed the job at the museum. I already had several military friends who lived here. I must say that the landscape alone is so beautiful and constantly changing, and I’m looking forward to really exploring the area.
What makes the place so special
I’m looking forward to once again hiking up the Manitou Incline [a 2,000-foot gain in elevation from start to finish] and climbing to the top of Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain. The area really physically challenges me. After a day of climbing, I might hit the Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. or Boxing Brothers Cider House in downtown Colorado Springs.
JACKSON CLARK II
Jackson Clark Sr. began trading Navajo rugs in Durango in 1957. Jackson Clark II now owns the gallery his father founded all those years ago, and today, Toh-Atin Gallery has one of the finest selections in the country. Although the majority of the gallery’s weavings come from New Mexico, one of the weavers Clark II works closely with is Denver-based Navajo artist Lynda Teller Pete, whom he considers one of the best in the world.
Challenges of living in a mountain town
You have to have a bit more intention to live here. We frequently have to shovel snow and put up with the cold, but I love every fall when I pull out the chainsaw and cut up enough wood to burn in my fireplace all winter long, along with getting my skis out to sharpen and wax for the breathtaking slopes. As a tourist town, we get to expose visitors to such beauty as Chimney Rock National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park, along with exhilarating mountain roads. My grandfather came to Colorado to die but ended up running a Navajo trading post until he was 96.
What keeps him in Durango
I was fortunate to be born here and am the fourth generation to call the area home. Of course, growing up here there were times that I yearned for more excitement. But when I wake up and look at the beautiful San Juan Mountains, my heart beats faster and I’m thankful to live here. This place has everything I need.
Photography: (Cover image) courtesy John Fielder
From our July 2021 issue