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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Visiting a Town on the Santa Fe Trail

“Now the Santa Fe Trail belongs to the keening wind. It belongs
to summer rains and to the fearful snows of winter. It is owned
by the prairie dog, the jackrabbit, the rattlesnake… And for a
brief interval it is mine, by adoption, since I choose to stake my
claim on a tiny fragment of its shining history.”

When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821 the Santa Fe Trail began to boom. Used, in parts, for many years previous by many different people, it was now a highway of international commerce between the United States and Mexico, which held Santa Fe, New Mexico.
As travel increased, conflict between traders and settlers began to increase with the many Indian tribes that hunted in the area. Most negotiations with the Plains Indians were peaceful though. But in 1846 the Mexican-American War began and the 900 mile trail was used as a supply line for the United States military and the forts along the route.
One of the stops on the line for the Santa Fe Trail, a National Historic Trail since 1987, was in Lamar, Colorado. And it was a stop for me on a recent daytrip to see southeast Colorado, something I had been interested in doing since I moved to Colorado nine years ago.
The moment I pulled into town, Lamar grabbed me. And although I was only there for an hour, I am now a big fan and am excited to go back and see more of this classic American small town.

There were two things that initially caught my attention. The first was a former World War II Japanese Internment Camp, Camp Amache, that sat just east of town on Highway 50. We didn’t stop since nothing now remains of the camp, which is now an empty field. But, I was extremely interested in the history of it, as I am with most things, and instantly wanted to know more as I drove on by.
The second stop, which definitely caused me to raise an eyebrow, was at a petrified wood gas

station. It now stands as an empty building for tourists like me to snap a photo and go, but it offered a certain amount of charm and history for the city, and the trail, that I reveled in. I got a big kick out of it was happy I stopped, even if it was just for a moment, to check it out.

But really, it was the look of the town that excited me the most. It really was one of those great John Updike Main Street towns that had a personality that so many places now lack. And, unlike many of the deserted and crumbling towns I saw on my daytrip, it seemed to be vibrant and alive.
As I headed back to Denver, from Lamar via Bent’s Old Fort, I followed a few of the roads west that comprised what is now a driving route for the Santa Fe Trail. Unfortunately I didn’t have more time or otherwise I would’ve followed the roads straight on in to Santa Fe. Still though, I think the only way to do it right would be to start in Missouri at the trailhead, just west of Columbia.
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