History on Horseback: How Cottonwood Pass has changed and how it hasn’t since 1883
Driving down Highway 40, past the numerous construction sites, parking lots and modern businesses, it can be hard to imagine what Grand County was like before the Digital Revolution.
On Thursday, a group of around 40 residents and visitors got the chance to go back in time and experience the county the way homesteaders did.
The History on Horseback tour, hosted by the Grand County Historical Association, the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust and the Linke family, took participants from Granby to Hot Sulphur Springs by Cottonwood Pass, just like the county’s pioneering families did.
Participants had the option to ride the tour on horseback or take a surrey cart along the road. The tour began at the Linke Ranch, which was settled near Eight Mile Creek in 1883, before Granby even existed.
Before long, others began to call the area home, and the tour highlighted the nearby homesteads of the Chamberlain, Hathaway and Button families.
Merrit Linke, Grand County Commissioner and one of the guides on the tour, said the event not only shows the importance of knowing local history, but also serves as a reminder that much of it didn’t happen that long ago.
Other traces of history on the tour included stops at the former foundation of the old schoolhouse now located at Pioneer Village Museum, the Eggers barns, an old stagecoach stop and the lettuce patch that coined the term “iceberg lettuce.”
“The history of the community can be interactive and exciting,” said Shanna Ganne, executive director of the historical association. “You can put yourself in the place of I wonder what that would be like and actually do it, and that’s what we did riding over Cottonwood Pass.”
Along the way, other descendants of homestead families chimed in with generational stories and tales of working the land and learning to live in the mountain environment. Robert Duvall, an 89-year-old who moved to Granby in 1937, said he remembers having to haul water from the creeks and log aspens to fuel the stove.
Aside from history, the tour also focused on the importance of land conservation and resource protection, since the route crossed into many land easements and touched on water rights.
Though the event was a fundraiser, both Ganne and Jeremy Krones, executive director of the land trust, emphasized that the point of the ride was more to get the community involved in conversations around history and conservation in a unique way.
“Events like this are much more of a transaction,” Krones said. “(Participants) get the ride, an experience, and a story.”
Ultimately, Krones said he hopes to take the feedback and experience from this year to make History on Horseback a regular event, possibly at different locations all over the county.
Both organizations also noted that the event couldn’t happen without community support.
Horses were provided by the Linke family, Ritschard Cattle Co. and High Country Trails, while the two surreys were provided by Ted Pratt at Flintstone Gravel and Trucking and an ATV was provided by Power World. Lions Head and Dean Public House provided breakfast and lunch, respectively.
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The YMCA of the Rockies received a grant from the World YMCA to fund sustainability initiatives, including the construction of a solar farm at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby.