Globe Trekker Holly Morris discovers a land of cowboys and old mining towns, a land that time forgot, a place where people fleeing religious persecution found their promised land and outlaws became legends... Welcome to Colorado and Utah!
Holly begins her trip in Denver the capital of Colorado - also known as Mile High City because it stands 5,280 feet above sea level. Over the past few decades the city has attracted many artists and bohemians whose influence is reflected in the city's architecture - notably the Denver Art Museum, designed in part by world famous architect Daniel Liebeskind, and the Clifford Still Museum, designed to present the work of Colorado's most eminent painter. Holly takes a tour of the city's coolest sights with resident pop artist Phil Bender.
Denver is also the home of the cowboy so Holly has to pay a trip to Rockmount, the best cowboy outfitters in the West. Run by the world's oldest CEO "Papa Jack" Wilde, Rockmount has made cowboy clothes for countless film and music stars - most recently for the Oscar-winning movie "Brokeback Mountain".
A little known fact is that one in 3 cowboys were in fact African Americans so Holly pays a visit to the Black American West Museum to learn more from its curators. The museum was the brainchild creation of retired barber, Paul Stewart, who was so amazed to see black cowboys roaming the city he felt compelled to record their existence for posterity.
It's time to hit the road and Holly continues her journey, hitching a ride through the Rocky Mountains, and heading south west. She stops off at the ghost town of Carson which thrived during the late 19th century Gold Rush but was abandoned at the end of the boom. From here she hikes a stretch of the legendary Colorado Trail.
Holly and her guide Pete Turner set off for Silverton - it's a 2-day hike 3,500 metres above sea level, and covers around 40km. Taking in the Lost Trail Creek, Cataract Lake, Cuba Gulch - the Colorado Trail runs along the Continental Divide and is flanked by the the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean on each side. Holly is enthralled by the amazing cacti, alpine meadows, hummingbird moths, butterflies, and rock formations she encounters along the way.
Next stop is Silverton an old Victorian town - home to the Colorado silver mining boom of 1874 - where a hot bath and a good night's sleep await our weary traveller. The following morning Holly continues her journey to the end of the Trail by steam train. The Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was used to haul precious ores to and from the old mining towns. Holly enjoys 70km of breath-taking mountain scenery on her journey to Durango where she can't resist the challenge of a Saturday night rodeo!
Historically, rodeo was introduced to Durango by the Mexicans, who colonised the area until the mid-1800s. The local horse wranglers - or vaqueros - had contests to see who could stay the longest on a bucking horse. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows later popularised the sport and brought it to an international audience.
From Durango Holly heads north through the Rockies to Crested Butte, birthplace of the mountain bike - and continues her journey cycling onwards to Aspen. The trail has challenging terrain and all manner of treacherous drops - it's a ride considered to be a rite of passage for mountain bike enthusiasts, including Holly!
Exhausted but exhilarated, Holly flies 500km from Aspen to the state capital of Utah: Salt Lake City.
Utah is the adopted home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons. Fleeing religious persecution, in 1847 Brigham Young brought his 147 pilgrims to Utah's Great Basin and they settled here in 1847 to build their new promised land. Today roughly 75% Utah's 2.5 million residents are members of the Church which has a following of some 10 million members worldwide.
Mormons are considered to be some of the best genealogists in the world. Their interest comes from their belief in the eternal family unit - which maintains that ancestors can be converted to the Mormon church even after their death. Holly meets members of the local Mormon community and discovers some surprising ancestral connections of her own!
Next on the agenda is the annual Pony Express re-ride just outside the city. Holly is itching to take part in this 4km ride - along with 100s of other participants - but first has to make a pledge to clean living and honesty, as ordained by the Pony Express founder, Alexander Majors in 1860.
Beyond the Salt Lake Flats, Holly discovers Utah's mountains are a mecca for adventure sports enthusiasts like herself. The state has a wealth of fantastic ski resorts on offer in the northern Wasatch Range, the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Great Salt Lake. There are also 5 national parks to the south (e.g. Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon).
Holly travels onwards and south to Circleville, home to the outlaw (and former Mormon) Butch Cassidy who was immortalised in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch was renowned for robbing banks and trains with the Wild Bunch Gang throughout the south west. He fled to South America with his partner Sundance Kid in 1901 and was allegedly killed in a shootout in Bolivia.
Holly reaches her journey's end in Monument Valley, Kingdom of the Navajo Indians, and spectacular backdrop to countless classic Hollywood Westerns.
Holly is enthralled by the landscapes of Colorado and Utah. It's a region rich in culture and steeped in the history of the Wild West and blessed with breathtaking mountains and stunning desert scenery.