Renegade Roads

Nez Perce in Yellowstone

Fort Yellowstone-Cavalry_Gen. Oliver O. HowardEmma Cowan awoke early the morning of August 24, 1877, to the sound of strange voices coming from outside the tent she shared with husband George on their vacation in Yellowstone National Park. Peering from under the canvas, Emma saw Indians.

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Following the Old Spanish Trail

los-angeles_spanish-trailUnlike the Santa Fe or Oregon Trails, you won’t find any trail ruts on the Old Spanish Trail. For that matter, it’s even hard to find tapas restaurants.

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Seeking Ute Stories

Southern-Utes_lt-Styer_ute-amigos_fort-duchessI sat in the front row of a school auditorium watching girls compete in a princess contest. This was not a competition of fancy hair and youngsters wearing makeup, but rather a tradition dating back decades.

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On the High Plains Trail . . .of Hall of Fame Western Writers from North Dakota to Wyoming.

L_Amour--Owen-Wister-The-VirginianVanette Johnston was moved to tears when Western Writers of America (WWA) inducted her late husband Terry C. Johnston into the Western Writers Hall of Fame during the annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, in June 2013.

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Give Me a Homestead

female-homesteaders_chrisman-sisterWhen my grand-mother arrived in Wyoming in March 1903 and moved into the two-room cabin her first husband had built, she must have believed her life in the American West would be better than what she would have found in her homeland.

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The Frontier Christmas Trail

Santa-Lucia_carolers_nagle-mansion_Georgetown_CO.Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Well, actually they were roasting on a gas barbecue grill, but those warm chestnuts made good hand warmers in the crisp, cold December air at Christmas Market in Georgetown, Colorado.

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Trailing Billy

Last October I made my umpteenth trip to New Mexico from Arizona where I live.

Like the preeminent Billy the Kid scholar Fred Nolan and master collector Bob McCubbin, I blame a book for leading me back to New Mexico. Not just any book, but the same book: The Saga of Billy the Kid by Walter Noble Burns.

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On the Trail of Ancient Artists

petroglyphs_valley-of-fire_las-vegas-nvThe tourists from Canada said they could not “read” the petroglyphs carved onto the rock walls at Valley of Fire in Nevada. “They don’t appear to be speaking Blackfoot,” the man told me as he inspected one of the carvings. He was joking, to a point.

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Hanging Your Hat in Colorado’s Historic Hotels

best-western-historical-hotels.Sure, you can find historic hotels across the West, but I don’t know if any state offers a better selection than Colorado. Don’t believe me? Well, try this road trip on for size.

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History and Art Along the High Road

Haystack-Taos-Valley_boggs_E-L-BlumenscheinA broken wagon spoke deserves all the credit.

Think about it. Needing to repair their wagon, Eastern artists Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest Leonard Blumenschein stopped at a sleepy little village in 1898, and Taos, New Mexico, has not been the same since.

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On the Trail of Jedediah Smith

fredrick-remmington_western-artistThe rugged country on the west side of the Teton Range, between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, is a wilderness area named for Jedediah Strong Smith, who came west as one of the trappers organized by William Ashley in 1823.

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On the Trail of Solomon Butcher

Grandpa-Brumbaugh-sod-house-Coburgh-Post-Office-Custer-County-NebraskaSolomon Butcher first saw Nebraska in 1880 when he claimed homestead land in northeast Custer County.

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Sleeping in a Dog’s Head

black-foot-teepee_montana_edwards-s-curtisNesting in the belly of a beagle, in the cabin of a sternwheeler or in a granary surrounded by flower gardens can give you not only a unique night of lodging, but also a chance to explore the American West and have something to talk about when you get back home.

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On the Trail of Warring Parties

Civil-War-Confederate-soldier-library-of-congress.A few years ago, I was having dinner with a Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area representative, talking about—what else?—the Civil War in Kansas and Missouri.

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Buffalo Tracks

sam_burrow_manager-charles_goodnight-ranch_buffalo.In the Rockies of Western Montana, I have the most perfect view of a buffalo. It’s inspiring, humbling, beautiful, majestic.

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Following an American Patriot

RR_Sam-Houston_funeral-home_birth-placeOn this summer month, when most Civil War minds think about the events 150 years ago at a town called Gettysburg, I’d like to draw your attention to a great American, and a Southerner to boot.

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Following the Santa Fe Trail

santa-fe-trail_new-mexico_wagon-rutsWhen first opened to traffic in 1821, the Santa Fe Trail linked the American markets along the Missouri River with the long-established Mexican trade center of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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The Bloody Bozeman

Fort-Ellis-Montana-1871-Bozeman-Trail-historical-photoTrails across the West in the mid-1800s crisscrossed Indian lands, often displacing the people who had been living on the land for generations. The Bozeman Trail is no exception. It cuts through some of the prime hunting grounds for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Crow tribes and was hotly contested as a result.

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Up and Down in the Black Hills


There are two sides to every story, and the greatest thing about the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming is that you can hear and see both sides.

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Remembering the Dakota War in Minnesota

Families-on-the-prairie_dakota-warAre you here to see the Dakota War exhibit?” a male worker at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul asks me.

It takes a moment before I can answer. I didn’t expect anyone in Minnesota to be broadcasting the 150th anniversary of a war that most people here would just as soon as forget.

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A Pathfinder’s Trail

oregon-trailThousands of overland immigrants to Oregon and California from 1845 to 1849 followed a path first blazed by John C. Fremont.

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