20 Sep 2010, 7:32pm
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Durango, the San Juan Skyway and the Western Movie Culture of the Four Corners Region According to Fred Wildfang

The Marquee-Lined Hallway of The Rochester Hotel, The Hollywood of the Rockies

The Marquee-Lined Hallway of The Rochester Hotel, the Hollywood of the Rockies

Writer and historian Frederic B. Wildfang has made Durango and the outlying area his passion for nearly two decades.  Author of a handful of books about this colorful corner of southwestern Colorado, Fred clearly loves the San Juans, the most striking mountain range of the Rockies.  “It’s an interesting area historically and scenically,” Fred says in a recent Travel Fun interview.  And certainly its geological richness has left an indelible mark on the region from mining and ranching to tourism and western-movie making and much more.

Preserving Durango's Heritage:  Fred Wildfang and Family

Preserving Durango's Heritage: Fred Wildfang and Family

As for Durango, a dynamic town where Fred lives and works, Fred feels it’s a very friendly place filled with a great mix of the old and the new from weather-worn cowboys to fresh-faced outdoor enthusiasts from the nearby college.  He hikes everyday in the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest road-less area in Colorado, which lies just outside his door.  Fred also loves to use Durango as a base for visiting other great western destinations such as Creede, Colorado and Lake Powell, Utah.  In his most recent book, “Images of America:  The San Juan Skyway,” Fred features this unbelievably scenic 236-mile loop that wends through glacial valleys and over high ice-sculpted peaks, traversing the old mining towns of Silverton, Ouray, Telluride and Durango.  It’s one of the most renowned drives in America and one that you’ll want to take with Fred’s book in hand.

With such spectacular scenery and a wealth of remnants from the Old West, it’s no wonder so many western movies were filmed in the Four Corners area. Fred’s wife, Diane, and her son, Kirk, took over The Rochester Hotel, an historic hotel in Durango a number of years ago and renovated it to a heartwarming place to stay, one of my favorites in this fun-loving western town.  A must-see tribute to the history of western movie making in the region, the rooms and hallways of this cozy enclave showcase western movie memorabilia from Fred’s collection.  Each of the rooms is named after the movies filmed in and around the San Juans, beginning with “A Ticket to Tomahawk,” a western classic made in 1949 starring Marilyn Monroe. Fred talks about this movie and others in our interview.  You’ll discover that most of the westerns were filmed in the fifties and many boast a connection with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway, a national treasure that provides reason enough to travel to Durango.

Click on the play button below to hear my interview with Frederic Wildfang.


The Rochester Hotel, 721 East Second Avenue, 970-385-1920 or 800-664-1920, RochesterHotel.com

The Rochester Courtyard with an Old Rail Car

The Rochester Courtyard with an Old Rail Car

Book Picks

In addition to “Images of America:  The San Juan Skyway,” mentioned above, if you’re going to Durango, you’ll also enjoy “Images of America: Durango,” authored by Frederic B. Wildfang as well. Go to ArcadiaPublishing.com to find out about these books and more.

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