Visiting the John Denver Sanctuary, Aspen Colorado

A creek runs through Aspen Colorado in the winterJohn Denver’s love of the outdoors, the human spirit and the simple gifts of Mother Nature are among the reasons I was one of his biggest fans. He and his first wife Annie lived in a log home in Aspen, both of which he sang about often.

Despite my frequent visits to Colorado for many years, I had never found my way to Aspen. The first time I finally turned off I-70 at Glenwood Springs for the 40 mile drive along Highway 82 into Aspen…it was like “comin’ home to a place I’d never been before.”

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What to See in Aspen, Colorado

Main Street Aspen Colorado covered in snow.Aspen is beautiful, of course, but lots of Rocky Mountain communities are equally beautiful. Despite the influx of high dollar jet-setters from around the world, Aspen maintains little pockets of quirkiness. The novelist Hunter S. Thompson actually ran for sheriff of Aspen.

A memorial to the 10th Mountain Division on the streets of Aspen Colorado.I learned that the 10th Mountain Division trained here prior to their service in World War II, and later those veterans helped develop Aspen as a world-renowned ski destination.

While enjoying lunch at a coffee shop, I heard at least four languages being spoken.

The cheapest place to get a beer in this oft-over-priced community, I learned is at The Elks Club.


The window of a thrift shop in the shopping district of Aspen Colorado

Almost by accident, I stumbled into what has to be the world’s best thrift shop, located right across the street from Gucci, Prada and Ralph Lauren. I was told that all of the multi-gazillionaires who come to Aspen can’t be bothered with packing and luggage. They simply fly into the community, buy everything they want or need, and then leave it behind when they leave — thus the world’s best thrift shop.

Finding the Aspen that John Denver Loved

Lyrics to a John Denver song carved into a boulder in Aspen ColoradoBut I didn’t come to Aspen to shop or drink cheap beer. I came for John Denver, to the sanctuary his friends and fans built for him after his death in October 1997.

Located on a creek bank adjacent to the Rio Grande Park, the spot is as peaceful and natural as the music he sang. My spirit reached a gentle interlude as I sat listening to the water trickle through the snow-covered creek. A bird sang overhead.

My formative years, when I could spend my own money on music and drive a car with the stereo blaring songs of my choice, were all shaped by John Denver. After all these years, I can’t exactly put my finger on why, as a teenager of the 70s, when rock musicians were creating such great work, I chose the simplicity of this country boy.

The tranquility I experienced in Aspen on this creek where the lyrics to his songs are carved into stone stayed in my heart long after I departed, much like the songs that found a voice in this Rocky Mountain haven.

A memorial at the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen Colorado

Try Some John Denver Music for Yourself