A group of 22 Colorado Press Women joined by family members and a friend relished scenery, western hospitality at lodging and cafes, unique sites and frequent rain at a summer getaway at Westcliffe, Colorado over July’s final weekend.

Snuggly nestled between the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Range, Westcliffe and its neighbor Silver Cliff offered getaway attendees a Dark Sky presentation, a tour of a historic ranch, a mountain hike and a lavender farm at the valley’s 7,966 feet elevation. Though Wet Mountain Valley caught on-again, off-again drizzles and downpours over the weekend, it is actually situated in a semi-arid and low-humidity climate, according to one tour guide.

Meredith Thomason of KLZR

Dark Skies, Inc., of the West Mountain Valley led the effort for the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff to be certified as an international dark sky community by the International Dark Sky Association. When clouds prevented use of their big telescope, two volunteers at the Dark Skies Smokey Jack Observatory gave an educational talk using Internet photos.

The excursion began with a welcome dinner at CPW member Ellen Glover’s forest home whose setting challenged attendees’ driving skills on mud-slick country roads. The cheerful gathering was an introduction to a pleasurable weekend for which Ellen was the organizer and host that combined scenery, tours, shopping, smelling the numerous flowers in the motel’s courtyard and learning about local issues from the news director of Westcliffe’s nonprofit KLZR radio and Ellen, who occasionally writes for the venerable Wet Mountain Tribune.

By Sharon Almirall
Photos by Ann Lockhart