2016 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award Winner

Author GP HUTCHINSON - 2016 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award Winner

Daydream Destinations of a Western Writer

The alarm clock goes off, and before my feet hit the floor, I’m reaching for my phone to check the Weather Channel. Is it 23 degrees out there this morning or 53? Crazy winter that it’s been. Whatever the temperature, the trees are still gray, and I find my thoughts drifting with ever-increasing frequency to late spring or early autumn and a vacation somewhere out beneath the big sky of the great American West.

Western LandscapeSouth Carolina is wonderful and it’s closer to my kids, but my heart yearns for the wide-open lands of mountains, deserts, canyons, and prairies.

Since it’s Saturday, I have a little time to let my imagination run with the notion. So where would I go? Top daydream destinations–what would they be?


By Sefor4Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Hmm. Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle sounds good for starters. Colorful. Fascinating wind-sculpted rock formations. And not anywhere as crowded as the “Big Hole” in northern Arizona–though I wouldn’t mind heading out that way either. I recall reading about an outfit that offers five-day horseback tours of Palo Duro. That’d be a nice way to see the place. If the “Grand Canyon of Texas” was good enough for cattle baron Charles Goodnight, I think it could inspire a story or two that Western fans might enjoy.


CC BY-SA 3.0,

But I’ve got an itch for something with more Spanish or Mexican influence, so Santa Fe, New Mexico, comes to mind. Or maybe Taos. Old towns by North American standards. Places where Kit Carson kicked around. I really enjoyed Hampton Sides’s Blood and Thunder, the epic biography of the Old West legend. I liked the way Sides described northern New Mexico, and I’ve only been through the southern parts of that state. I hear the Sangre de Cristos are awe-inspiring at sunset, and the architecture and the arts communities of old Santa Fe and Taos have tremendous appeal.

My dog’s got his paws on the side of the bed now. Nature is calling him–and not in the way that dreams of mountain grandeur do. I suppose I’d better wrap up my morning musings and take him out for a stroll.

Before I get up, though, I snatch a final few seconds to ponder which Old West destination would best serve me best as a writer. Which would help me spin the most engaging tale of peril and passion? Of frontier courage and gun smoke? Old Tucson? Tombstone? Maybe. But I think I’d rather stay off the beaten trail, see a little something of the back country. Arches National Park? Bryce Canyon?

Perhaps you’ve got ideas. Can you suggest a favorite locale in the American West that’s sure to stir up a writer’s creative juices? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Until then, Adios, my friends!

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  • Rebecca Hammett says:

    In New Mexico, I found myself imaging life in earlier times when exploring the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The entire wilderness area spurs your imagination to soar with possibilities. But, in all my travels, the area that really calls to the OLD WEST part of me is the Black Hills of South Dakota. I can literally FEEL the spirits of the people who settled this area and the Indians who’s heritage was stolen from them. Its no step for a stepper to slide over into Wyoming and let your imagination run wild with visions of buffalo, herds of cattle and proud Native Americans watching as the ‘white man’ invades their sacred lands. This is the land I dream of when I need to get away from my everyday life. My heart is here, even though I live miles away in the Sonoran desert.

    March 19, 2016 at 2:37 PM
    • GP Hutchinson says:

      Thanks for commenting, Rebecca. I appreciate your respect for the Native Americans and the lands in which they lived. My brother hiked the Badlands of South Dakota last summer, but I’ve not yet had the privilege of personally visiting either the Black Hills or the Badlands. There’s so much variety and beauty in the American West, right?

      March 19, 2016 at 7:57 PM

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