Packing Like a Pioneer: What to Bring for a Summer in Colorado

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Some summers call for trading in the heat and humidity for fresh mountain air, bluegrass music, and some hyper-masculine vibes.  

A far cry from my trek last summer through castle country in Dordogne, France, I decided to trade in my marinière stripes and channel my inner Calamity Jane in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.  

Reinventing yourself is all the rage, right? To play the part, I packed my rucksack with these stylish essentials. 

Storing your fire water.

Maybe it’s the ruggedness of the West, or just my post-Paris penchant for socializing over a drink whenever and wherever the opportunity arises, but a flask is a stylish accessory for the amateur pioneer.  

Who knows—depending on the altitude of your impromptu happy hour, you may even see Babe the Blue Ox. 
Cowboys aren’t exactly my thing, but Scottish Highlanders are (hello James Fraser), so my go-to flask hails from Scotland and is embellished with their national flower—the thistle.

Donner party or Danner boots?

Climbing Colorado’s 14ers as a flat-land East Coaster is excruciating enough. Do you really want to add to the pain with bad footwear?

Being a sucker for anything vintage (especially ’80s Levi Mom jeans), these boots are lifers and totally worth the investment. They come with a lifetime warranty and free tuneup. You might even recognize them from Reese Witherspoon in “Wild.”  

Maybe you’re not trekking across the U.S., but with these boots, at least you know you could. Think of them as your version of Indiana Jones’ whip and fedora. They will become part of you, and you will be one with the terrain.

Authentic, historic American art.

The history of the West is beyond depressing.

Our parents’ generation may have been all about Annie Oakley, John Wayne, the 49ers, and Pecos Bill, but to our cohort, arguably the greatest Americana is the wearable art crafted by the Navajo tribe.

Their unique prints and jewelry made from sterling silver and turquoise are unparalleled.

I’d always wanted a real squash blossom and finally splurged on one for my uber-bohemian wedding. (Mine cost a pretty penny, but there are much more affordable versions out there.)

Pendleton everything.

In the mid-19th century, when the Oregon trail was all the rage, the Pendelton Woolen Mills became a bustling place for military wool items as well as Native American trade blankets. 

They continue to keep the Native American spirit alive with historically inspired wool-printed merchandise. My leather strap and picnic blanket are practically appendages at this point.  

On unexpectedly chilly nights it serves as a wrap, and during the day becomes a picnic setting. When in the West, you need both.

No country for old hats.

Throughout my travels, I’ve found that each destination deserves its own unique hat.

In Greece, a wide-brimmed straw hat. In the English countryside, a tweed newsboy cap. In Paris, a beret. In the Swiss Alps, a Russian puffer. And in Colorado, a leather fedora.
I recommend Minnetonka, because Minnesota is full of nice people and the company supplies quality American-made merch.
And no trip is complete without a playlist to frame the experience…
My recommendations:John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High”Phish, “Possum”Simon & Garfunkel, “America”Disney’s Pocahontas SoundtrackBob Dylan, “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35”David Bowie, “Young Americans”Bob Marley, “Three Little Birds”

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