Blog post by Jeri

Chris and James McDougald at Bishop Castle in the San Isabel National Forest in the Wet Mountains

Chris and James McDougald, longtime friends from “back home” in the Denver metro area, visited us here at Cliff’s Edge Inn last weekend, and we spent Sunday afternoon on an excursion to Bishop Castle.

It is a beautiful, 30-mile drive through the Wet Mountains to get to Bishop Castle from Westcliffe. The castle itself is a work of art, a work in progress, and the work (and vision) of a single man, Jim Bishop. The castle could be defined as visionary art or a folly;* other words that come to mind include fascinating, stunning, fanciful, and unbelievable.

*In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, either suggesting by its appearance some other purpose, or merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building to which it belongs. (Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folly)

Bishop Castle: Not something you see every day.

Bishop Castle: Not something you see every day.

Everything about the site is fantastic, from the towering stone and steel structure of the castle, to the dragon’s head soaring from the top of the building, to the signs posted all over the grounds of the property, advising us of Jim Bishop’s epic life’s work and political views. (You can read about Jim’s views and see an example of his signs at http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2047, but to really experience them you will have to visit the castle.)

THIS EXPERIENCE IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART

You move from level to level in the castle via winding stairs on the inside of turrets, or climb stairs on the outside. (By which I mean to say you may be able to use the outside staircases, but I certainly can’t – those outside steps make me very, very uncomfortable.) I believe you may be able to go up many floors, but I really can’t say from experience. I was perfectly content to stop at the level of the great room, where stained glass windows look out to a magnificent view.  You can see why couples want to get married in these romantic, fairy tale surroundings.

A sign posted at Bishop Castle

A sign posted at Bishop Castle

Throughout the day we enjoyed discussing the drive of people with a single-minded purpose and devotion to a cause, whether building a castle or competing in the Olympics or following any passion passionately. We also talked about the relative importance of building codes, the art of discussing politically-charged topics, and the other incidents of vertigo or fear of heights we have experienced. (Chris remembered the glass floor of the observation deck at the World Trade Center; I remembered my daughters casually walking to the 800 foot drop off the edge of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland ten years ago.)

Places like this are hard to describe

As I was trying to describe Bishop Castle to Chris and James before we set off to see it, I had the sense that they couldn’t understand why I wanted to take them there. I couldn't quite find the words to describe the quirky spirit and outlandish beauty of the place. I keep running up against this same sense of inadequacy when trying to explain my experiences since moving here to Westcliffe. 

I guess that all I can say is that I need you to come see it so you will understand.


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AuthorJeri

Guest post by Lisa

Up until 3 months ago I’d not even heard of Westcliffe, and now, I am moving there. I understand that type of thing happens a lot there. :)

Lisa.jpg

From Manhattan to Westcliffe?  How did that happen? Well, a few months ago, I found myself on a call with Cathy, a good old friend, who I hadn’t seen in years, but we’d been involved in a non-profit endeavor and had a life tested friendship. She told me about a small town she’d fallen in love with and a beautiful property there that she wanted to bid on. As the story unfolded she revealed more about the place, the people, the landscape and her possible plans. About the large landscaped garden around the property and about the potential to build some small living units as short term rentals. How she felt immediately drawn in by the open heart of the community. A small community of people who love where they live. Oh, and she told me about the mountains. The Sangre de Christo and Wet Mountains which define the space Westcliffe occupies. The Sangres an uncompromising majestic range which changes character as the light and shade reveals and obscures, as the aspens change color, as the storms roll through. And the wildlife; elk, deer, coyotes, eagles, bobcats, bison. She told me about the deep sense of homecoming she felt.

I was sitting in my apartment in the East Village of Manhattan knowing I was ready for a big change but not having any idea what that might be. Now, I really do love Manhattan. I love the crush of diversity here, the sheer number of people colliding with great purpose into each other in such a great city means very often something deeply sweet emerges. But it’s also a challenging place to be for someone with a practice centered around being still and relieving stress. I’m a Cranio Sacral Therapist - a subtle form of bodywork. There is no silence in the city. So after 3 years here and 8 years before that living in Amsterdam, I knew I was truly ready to leave.

So, last December I came to visit Westcliffe for a few days....just to make sure that I could handle things slowing down (and maybe even stopping!) for a while. Cathy picked me up and drove me slowly through the town and then we pulled into the Cliff’s Edge Inn. Aussie and Lyza Jane, her two idiosyncratic miniature Australian shepherds, were waiting at the door. Jeri, Cathy’s good friend and business partner in the Bed & Breakfast, came up and gave me a great warm welcome....I toured around that great big hug of a house, each new room like meeting a new friend. I was introduced to some of the place’s secrets - like the underground wine cellar (they may regret that). And no sooner had I put my bags down in one of the supremely welcoming  B and B rooms I was walking out into the cold bright star-filled night (stars!...no light pollution) to Chappys for a couple of glasses of red wine and a steady flow of open faces to meet and greet. We took a walk next door to the Somewhere Saloon and met Donovan, the owner. An ex-marine with likely the most impressive - and pink - beard I’ve seen in some time, with a lot of great plans for his town. This was characteristic of my visit - that people really felt personally about Westcliffe, people really care about each other and how the town grows and evolves. And you get the feeling that maybe everyone doesn’t agree on how that may look but there is respect in how those differences are handled.

Mission Wolf Colorado Lisa and Cathy.jpg

Wow...I am rambling on and on! I haven’t even mentioned the wolves yet!  A short drive away is an amazing sanctuary where you are invited and encouraged to get to know the wolves up close and personal. The time I spent at Mission Wolf will rank high on my most moving moments. I think Cathy has already written about it a little so suffice is to say - you haven’t been kissed until you’ve been kissed by a wolf. I also had the honor of being able to attend the Xmas party of the Alpine Gardener’s club. A room full of strong minded independent women with a great sense of style and who clearly know how to have a good time. In such a short time I feel I was allowed to discover another world.

While I was staying at the Inn, Cathy had a steady stream of quite lovely people stop by - special shout out to Sharon, a very talented local photographer and minister in training who shared her experience of living in Westcliffe for many years.  I got to spend some time with Steve and Edward who were doing some work at the Inn. Edward is an Amish man and I don’t know too much about their religious philosophy but whatever it is – it’s working. He communicates such a still and present sense of joy in life.

Each new meeting was just as simple and full as is only possible when you’re not rushing to be somewhere else. So by the end of the visit Westcliffe had slowed me down into a place of great appreciation and gratitude. I’ll be arriving end of March with two fat city cats, looking forward to getting to know the mountains, the people, and myself a bit better.


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AuthorThe Inn
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Blog post by Cathy

If you view crossing the finish line as the measure of your life, you’re setting yourself up for a personal disaster.…. You need to honor the highs and the peaks…— you need to prepare your life for them — but recognize the fact that the preparation for those moments IS your life and, in fact, that’s the richness of your life. 
(Chris Hadfield, author of An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth)

It is a bit odd to be writing a food blog for our website when we have yet to serve a single meal to anyone other than our friends and family!  Yet according to our trusted advisors (them again!) we need to, because food is very “sexy” right now.  They also make the brilliant observation that half of Bed & Breakfast is, you know, breakfast … and therefore something that probably matters to our future guests.   

Right there with you, future guests! Truth is; it matters to us too.  

We love food.

Vegan no-bake cinnamon cheesecake with grapes. Photo by Audie Wood

Jeri and I love talking about food, shopping for it, preparing it, smelling it, sharing it and eating it. Also, for me,  it is not just about the food….it is about what happens when people come together in a beautiful, relaxing setting (a la the Sangres) with good food on the table.  Joy is felt and given, laughter and warmth abound, and miracles happen.  It is one of the true treasures in my life, and I love (LOVE) extending it to others.

So, it wasn’t as hard to convince me to write THIS blog post as it was my first one.  But then came the request for “lots of pictures please”!  And lo and behold, in typical Westcliffe fashion, (see Jeri’s recent blog), someone was right there to help. A few of the local photographers offered to come over and “shoot my food,” Which is not something that a vegan gets to say very often!  (I love that line and have crafted this entire blog around it :) ).

 (Wait a minute! What!?! Did she say vegan?!! Really? What does that mean about our breakfasts?  She won’t serve carrot sticks for breakfast will she? Rabbit food?  In horse and cattle country?  Really? ) 

Not to worry dear future guests…Your culinary experience with us will be more than just carrot sticks.  Not that there is anything wrong with carrot sticks, mind you. They are wonderful, (full of vitamin A), but let’s face it, sometimes, you just want…… more.  I am vegan, but the B & B is not. :)

Anyhow, back to the food photo shoot story. I had the real pleasure of having three of the local photographers over to take pictures of my food.  The delightful and talented Mary Chandler, Jim Gearhart, and Audie Woods  (the equally delightful and talented Sharon Langfeldt was over a few weeks earlier to take some inside shots, which you can see on our "Gallery" page). Within minutes of arriving, this generous and witty group were climbing step ladders, crouching in corners, rearranging the food, then shifting the whole operation outside, opening cabinet doors, and speaking in a secret society language (EVs, depth of field, resolution, shutter speeds, AE), and generally having fun. The results are beautiful and are posted on the food page. It was an honor to have them use my food as a their “subject”, and Jeri and I (and our web designers...) are very grateful. Once again, it highlights the warmth, kindness and generosity of the people of this beautiful little town.

So, dear future guest, rest assured!  Our goal is to have you leave here feeling nourished, body and soul. We believe in using the freshest ingredients available, local if possible, organic (as available), grass-fed beef, and so on.  But the one thing you can count on – no matter what – is that your breakfast will be a true labor of love. Promise.

Cathy showing off her homemade Indian dinner

Cathy showing off her homemade Indian dinner


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AuthorCathy
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Blog post by Jeri

The view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as you are driving west toward Westcliffe on Highway 96 is spectacular.  I have never seen anything like it. Every time I come back to Westcliffe it brings tears to my eyes, so last time I came back to town I finally stopped to get a picture of the mountains at the point where you first see them after coming out of the Wet Mountains. I got out and walked up and down the shoulder of the road to get the best angle – my daughter had urged me to think like a photographer, so I was giving it my best shot. (Please see my previous blog post for the resulting photo and let me know how I did.)

I was just walking away from my vehicle when a car stopped. Then another car stopped.  Both drivers just wanted to make sure I wasn’t having car trouble. When I told them I was fine and appreciated their concern, one of them shrugged and said, “It’s what we do out here.”

It’s the truth. I have experienced an incredible amount of care and friendliness since arriving here in November. On my first Sunday at my new church, Community UMC, I told people that Cathy and I were becoming innkeepers. The next day one of the members of the congregation stopped by with a B&B cookbook and two of her favorite breakfast recipes. (Sarah Smith’s self-proclaimed Best French Toast in the World is in fact the best French toast our friends and family members have tasted. Thank you, Sarah!)

At a recent town meeting I introduced myself to Kathy Taylor, who reminded me that we had met before.  When I was hazy about the details she reminded me that we had talked one night after she played in a bluegrass band at Chappy’s, a local saloon.  She had been walking down the street carrying her stand-up bass to her car, and I had been walking home after listening to the band. I remembered her once she reminded me, but mostly my memory from that night was of following a woman carrying a stand-up bass down an almost empty street. I loved it that she remembered me, and that we had that moment in common.

Hermit Road heading northwest from Westcliffe. Not as snowy as the day of my story, but still looking like a long road through wide, empty spaces. .

One more anecdote: Shortly after a big snowfall early this winter I went for a drive out on Hermit Road with a friend. A slight misjudgment on the location of the (invisible) edge of the road took us straight into the ditch, buried up to the wheels. We got out and started shoveling, when around the corner on the hillside above us came a big pickup, slowly negotiating the icy road. (In my memory, the music from The Lone Ranger starts playing in my mind at this point.) The woman driving the truck pulled up and, as a matter of course, positioned her truck to tow us out of the ditch.  When she was done she waved off our thanks and drove on.

Moving to Westcliffe in the off season means we are experiencing the relatively small population of folks who live here year-round. These folks take care of each other; it’s what they do here.


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AuthorJeri

Blog post by Cathy

When I moved to Westcliffe in November, I reckoned that a few new adventures were in store for me…as even my journey TO Westcliffe was an unanticipated, surreal event which basically unfolded day by day before me. Much of this miraculous unfolding was due to the help of my wonderful, much-loved, crazy group of friends who held my hand and guided and directed and advised me every step of the way. I love them, I trust them, my life is immensely rich because of them.

Coffee and Roadkill.jpg

However this group of friends, who have been unwaveringly spot-on up until this point, now seem to have collectively lost their minds. They are now recommending that Jeri and I each BLOG, letting our “unique voices” shine through.  REALLY? Me?!  Blog?  HA! What these very sweet, well intentioned, yet obviously delusional friends fail to realize, is that the very first thing my “unique voice” wants to tell them is not only NOT unique, it is also not fit for print.  Especially in a public forum. (Ever notice that BLOG is a four letter word?  No coincidence, that…)

However, simply out of respect and gratitude for everything these wonderful people have given, I felt I had to at least give it a shot. And I must admit that once I started writing, I became quite excited by it!  As I soon realized that my unique voice can use this first blog as an opportunity to lower expectations (aka.. get out of ) any future blogging!

So here you go:  My unique voice wants to tell you that it doesn’t speak blog, and you won’t be hearing much from me. HA!  HA!

Fortunately, Jeri, my business partner, takes to blogging like a fish to water, so she was overjoyed at the idea. She now walks around viewing everything through blogging eyes. She sees a tumbleweed and thinks of a clever blog…... I see a tumbleweed and wonder if it is going to get caught in our fence. (it did...)

I anticipate Jeri outblogging me by a ratio of 20:1. Which is wonderful, as she has a beautiful (and unique!) blogging voice, and we are safe in her capable blogging hands. I will chime in occasionally with quick renditions of some of the Custer County Characters (CCC) who cross our paths, or the wonderful new people we are meeting (many of whom also qualify as CCC), as well as my gardening / cooking / courteous canine challenges.  Other than that though?  You will just have to come visit for more.

And as for my friends?& They were right…. Once again.


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AuthorCathy
CategoriesAround the Inn