Learn about ‘Colorado’s Historic Mountain Passes’ at Avon library | VailDaily.com

Learn about ‘Colorado’s Historic Mountain Passes’ at Avon library

If you go ...

What: Book signing and historical presentation by author Larry Rynearson.

Where: Avon Public Library.

When: 2 p.m. Saturday.

Cost: Free.

More information: Call 970-949-6797.

AVON —Author Larry Rynearson will give a book signing and historical presentation on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Avon Public Library. Rynearson’s book, “Colorado’s Historic Mountain Passes,” offers a new look at history by using the state’s mountain passes as the point of inspiration.

Much has been written about the mountain peaks in Colorado, about the 13ers and 14ers, about when and how and who climbed them or skied them. As interesting, beautiful and challenging as those lofty peaks are, the real story of Colorado can be found on the passes between those peaks.

By way of these passes, our state was settled by early explorers, adventurers and entrepreneurs. Rynearson has chosen to write specifically about “… 92 passes that were built for and used regularly by wheeled vehicles” including wagons, handcarts and railroads. Most of these passes are located west of Interstate 25 and have roads built between the late 1850s and the end of World War I.


We learn why the passes were needed, the people who used them and how the passes got their names.

Rynearson begins with a brief overview of the geology of the state and an introduction to some of its early inhabitants: Native Americans, explorers, surveyors, miners and railroad workers. He gives special attention to Otto Mears, who he calls the “Pathfinder of the San Juans.” Mears built roughly 450 miles of toll roads in important areas of southwestern Colorado, including what he refers to as the Rainbow Route — the spectacular road from Ouray over Red Mountain Pass to Silverton. The rest of the book is about the passes. He organizes them according to various regions of the state, marks them on maps and give us the GPS location, elevation, date of the first roads over it and the county in which it is located. A color photo accompanies almost every pass history.


The histories are both informative and entertaining. Rynearson doesn’t just give us dry data about the passes. He has clearly conducted extensive research and has great enthusiasm for his subject matter. Each history is liberally peppered with lore, trivia, anecdotes, fact, science and natural history.

We learn why the passes were needed, the people who used them and how the passes got their names. For example, did you know that bootlegging was heaviest in the Fraser River Valley and the upper basins of Willow Creek during Prohibition? Or that in the summertime the top of Independence Pass was so soggy it was necessary to build a narrow, one-way road of rocks and timber over it? When “ … two freights would meet, one of them would have to leave the road.”

This is a fun book — one you can dip into for a few pages or get lost in exploring entire areas of the state. Rynearson is a resident of Glenwood Springs. He will be staying after the presentation to sell and sign his book as well as answer questions.

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