I haven’t been exactly sure how to approach writing about our Dust Bowl Road Trip. There is a lot to unpack here (to use a phrase popular in today’s lexicon). It was an adventure and it was eye-opening on many levels. We made several unexpected stops that included a blown out tire in Colorado or Oklahoma (we’re not sure).
I’ve decided against a day-by-day account. I think I’ll hop around a bit, however, I am going to start here in Colorado.
If you’d like to know what inspired this somewhat unusual road trip, please read “A Dust Bowl Road Trip: The Reasons Why.”
I had no idea that Colorado was part of the Dust Bowl until I saw the exhibit at History Colorado, a very good Denver museum. During that visit a number of years ago, I learned Baca County, in the southeast corner of Colorado, was impacted by the infamous dust.
Baca County is bordered by New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas. Springfield is the largest town, population 1,381 (2020). To say the county is rural, would be an understatement. It’s not a place to run out of gas or get a flat tire, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Through a friend of a friend, we had found a place to stay. Off the radar and a long way from anywhere, the guesthouse at Canyon Journeys is located on the Everett Ranch next to what’s thought to be the oldest house in Baca County, probably built in the 1890s.
The guesthouse isn’t a spring chicken either. Built as the post office for the area around 1915, the story is here. Today, it’s a place where hunters, birders and other travelers can hang their hat for $100 per night (and there’s no charge for the dog).
Down a long, dusty road, a startled blue heron flew up from a wet spot that crosses the road just before we entered the ranch property. Cows, including plenty of babies, milled around on this open range ranch.
A herd of barking dogs greeted us as we rolled to a stop in front of the stucco and wood guesthouse. The ranch is home to lots of border collies and Pam, the resident ranch dog that loves people and belly scratches. Happily, Fritzi, along on this Dust Bowl journey, jumped out of the truck and after a long sniffing session, got along with all the dogs, although she did bark at a barn cat.
Laneha Everett, with her son on her hip, met us and gave us the lay of the land while the dogs milled around at our feet. This is a working ranch, Laneha and her husband, Casey, run it along with Casey’s parents. Laneha and Casey live next to the guesthouse in the oldest house in Baca County. The ranch has been in the Everett family since 1941.
The family remodeled the post office, which has served as storage and a bunkhouse, for guests in 2008. Equipped with a small kitchen that has everything, even a toaster, the guesthouse has a bathroom and a bed. Up the ladder in the loft, there’s another bunk-style bed. A propane stove and large, comfy chair in the corner round out the accouterments. It reminded me of a slightly bigger “tiny house” on the prairie. Although Baca County isn’t the prairie and is surprisingly diverse when it comes to elevation.
Fifty minutes away in Springfield, we ate dinner. The guesthouse is technically in Pritchett but the town, about 30 minutes from the ranch, is almost void of humans. You may want to cook dinner at the guesthouse, although the chicken fried chicken, chicken fried steak and pie at Longhorn Steakhouse Cafe & Gift Shop is worth the drive to Springfield.
This isn’t Certified Dark Skies land, but it should be. Inside the guesthouse, cozy in bed, with the lights off, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I also noticed that all my other senses seemed heightened, including smell, and the scent of freshly washed sheets filled my nostrils.
We put one of Fritzi’s clean blankets on the big chair and then her travel bed on top of the blanket. In dog-heaven, she slept there peacefully all night. The next morning, Fritzi was ready to move into this guesthouse in Pritchett.
Our breakfast consisted of butter and toast. We’d decided to take dirt roads south instead of paved roads, and would not be passing any restaurants for a long time. The night before, with the Springfield grocery store closed, we’d scoured the three gas stations for breakfast items, bumping elbows with dozens of truckers who come through here on their way to Amarillo, Texas.
The ranch is within a stone’s throw of Picture Canyon and Carizzo Canyon. There is also some of the best Colorado birding in Baca County. I couldn’t wait to tell an avid birder friend about this place. Laneha Everett provides guided tours of the area and of course, you are welcome to explore it on your own. Just make sure your tires are good—story to come.
Honestly, I could go on and on about what’s in the region. Baca County is a nature lover’s dream. There are even dinosaur tracks—but again, I am getting ahead.
Please visit the website Canyon-Journeys.com to see a comprehensive list of Canyon Journeys and Baca County’s offerings including lodging at the guesthouse and tour opportunities.
Now, I can be the friend who sent you there!