Lonely Planet Writer

Colorado's ‘Land Library’ invites you to recharge your batteries in an epic setting

A charming idea is being brought to life against the stunning background of Colorado’s unmistakable, mountainous terrain. Once it’s completed in 2018, Rocky Mountain Land Library will be an idyllic retreat where lovers of both books and nature can immerse themselves in the Colorado countryside, while learning about the area’s rich history. In the meantime, a host of workshops on topics like ecology, writing and papermaking are being run in this incredibly unique space.

The charming Cook’s House. Image by Michael Ciaglo

The project is a labour of love for Jeff Lee and Ann Martin, who were inspired by a similar retreat they visited years ago in the UK. “Ann and I have worked at Denver‘s Tattered Cover Book Store for over 30 years”, Jeff tells Lonely Planet. “Back in the mid-90’s, Ann read about Gladstone’s Residential Library in Wales. We had never heard of such a thing before, and being the book lovers that we are, we had to find out more.”

Just some of the Ranch’s assorted books. Image by Michael Ciaglo

“During our short visit, we met people who had already spent a few weeks there, working on writing and research projects, and using the estate as a jumping off place to explore the Welsh countryside. We came back to Denver with the start of a vision: wouldn’t it be great to establish something similar in Colorado? Our personal book collection had always leaned toward natural history subjects, and so why not a residential library focused on people and the land?”

​Stunning Mount Silverheels is part of the Rocky Mountains. Image by Sarah McLaughlin

That book collection has grown to an incredible 35,000 volumes, so Jeff and Ann needed to find a suitably large space to begin work on the retreat. “After a long site search”, says Jeff, “we began renovating a historic 1860s high mountain ranch in Colorado, located less than two hours from Denver. The Rocky Mountain Land Library is all about the natural and cultural heritage of the land; our collection isn’t just about natural history, it covers how people make a living from it, whether that’s farming, ranching, or mining. The chance to locate the Land Library on a historic cattle and sheep ranch was too good to pass up. Plus, it has a large bunkhouse – perfect lodgings for a residential library!”

The Bunkhouse, with Cook’s House in the middle. Image by Jay Halsey

In today’s digital age, Jeff thinks it’s important to regularly ‘detox’ from the pressures of everyday life. “We believe that it’s very important for individuals and society to reconnect to nature and the land”, he says. “Having a direct experience of nature is one of the great joys of life. It’s also essential for a truly informed and responsible citizenry. The Land Library at Buffalo Peaks Ranch offers the quiet we need to slow down to nature’s rhythms. The books (and our workshops/classes) are there to inform and inspire people – opening everyone’s eyes to the subtle wonders they’ll experience at the ranch, and throughout the high mountains of Colorado. But even more importantly than that, we hope everyone returns home with eyes to see nature all around, even in the city… especially in the city!”