Lighthouse Writers Workshop

Come April, I’ve found a Travel Writing Workshop in Denver. It’s run by the non-profit Lighthouse Writers and their faculty is impressive. When my traveling gets me to Colorado, I’ll update this post with what I learn over the four week course.

In the meantime, I’ll post my opinion on the required course material The Best American Travel Writing 2013 and I’ll add additional resources I find.

Best American Travel Writing 2013

Notes (Will be a TOC once I’ve read enough)

I’ve been up late reading the past two nights jotting down some thoughts or notes. There are a ten names I’ve written down for further research (that will give me a better understanding of the book), which I’ll add for you once I determine if they need to be included.

One that I’m positive does is Cartier-Bresson, who is pivotal to the anthology’s curator and therefore to me as the reader. More on him in a few days.

Of particular note is the attempt of this book to bridge the gap between journalistic and artful writing. Travel writing, to truly work, needs to be a bit of both-fact mixed with wonder.

Elizabeth Gilbert says (1) there are two facts to travel writing in the intro of this book.

  1. There is no story in the world so marvelous that it cannot be told boringly. There is no story in the world so boring that it cannot be told marvelously.
  2.  There is no story in the world so boring that it cannot be told marvelously.

(1) (2013-10-08). The Best American Travel Writing 2013 . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.



2 Miles Above Sea Level

12,126 feet above sea level, I reached a dream. One boot planted on the watershed flowing to the Atlantic. My other planted on it’s opposite that flowed to the Pacific. I was straddling the Great Continental Divide almost two thousand miles from my home. And there was a moment of certainty. That all my private worries, uncertainties and problems were worth overcoming just to stand there.

Only a few months before, I was busy trying to restore my new home, an old airstream trailer. Additionally, I was working 40 hours a week. Driving an hour each way. Just married. So when my wife asked me if we would be able to fly out to Colorado like we’d dreamed of, I nearly said no outright. Too many things already begged for attention and finances were tight.

But that idea festered in my mind. I loved Colorado and had always wanted to visit the state, ever since I was a child. The Rocky Mountains especially captivated my imagination in ways that few other places could. Honestly, I wanted to go, but I was afraid of the cost, emotionally and financially.

Still, I took time off work. My wife and I bought tickets. We told her friends in Colorado, who I barely knew, when we would be there. Digitally rented a truck. Got our half-done home in a semblance of order. Then we endured the skeptical queries of others who thought we should have said no. Other’s perceived opinions weigh on me in a ways that most don’t notice. But, we both pushed on.

Getting to Colorado was stressful and difficult. And, when we stepped off the plane, our problems didn’t magically end. Our first adventuring steps took us to the car rental who didn’t have our reserved truck. They offered, laughably, a mini-van to accommodate all our gear. Worries and other’s skepticism threatened my mind again, striking doubt. But my wife pushed forward, finding another rental company and getting us the best truck we could.

Finally, we got to our destination and after several days, our friends helped us carve an ambitious drive through the Cottonwood Pass from the Denver area. We set out on a two day drive in the early morning, without even a place to sleep that night.

As we drove, my wife began to feel sick. Fifty miles later, she felt worse. One hundred miles and two tissue boxes later she didn’t feel any better. As we entered the pass, I realized she wasn’t going to feel better that day and I told her we would return to Boulder. Just over fifty miles from the divide. But she insisted we keep going and I love her for it.

Still threatened by skeptic thoughts, plagued by difficulties and obstacles, I nearly gave up my joy to experience the Rocky Mountains up close. But then, things began to change. Overwhelming yellows sprouted from white Aspen trunks, a cascade of vibrant color in the late fall. Driving higher, past lakes, sheer rock jutted from the earth and a forest grew as far as I could see. Crisp air heralded the snow that appeared in patches. Streams grew quieter, freezing the higher we drove. Then, finally, after hours of driving and doubting, I opened my door to stand in front of an old wooden sign announcing the Continental Divide. It might as well have said, “Bravo!” and offered me a toast.

An expansive vista of snow capped mountains extended around me. A moose ranged down by a lake a few hundred yards away. Slopes of snow gracefully slanted down the mountain in brisk powder. Sudden gusts of wind would send it twirling in the sunlight. My boots slid slightly on the uneven ice. And for miles and miles, I could see. Really see. A beautiful creation that stretched and called to me, “Isn’t it worth it?”

“Yes,” I murmured back.

And then it all rushed to me. My worries were something that I would always have. Uncertainties were something I needed to overcome to grasp my certainty that I was right where I needed to be. Problems were bumps in the road that tried to keep my wife and I from finding this incredible place.

Staying home was safe. But braving the unknown was success.

It was accomplishing a dream for me. To physically bear witness to the vastness of our planet that still exists. It was worth braving all those troubles to live out my dream. Nothing else compared to that sight the rest of our trip.

Wichita Wildlife Refuge

Something is serene about hiking beside a lake skipping stones. A four month old puppy trotting beside you, overturning every stone, trying to sniff out the critters in the dirt and mud.

I’m not certain what’s said, between me and the lake’s serenity. But it’s a quiet conversation – only punctuated by splashes, boots crunching along the stones and waves licking the shore.

Creation communicating thoughts that are peaceful, contemplative – fulfilling.

An afternoon well spent.