Thursday, March 13, 2014


Reaching Rocky Mountain: A Novel Based on the True Life Stories of James Nugent and Isabella Bird is now available as an ebook on Amazon Books. The paperback will be released in Spring, 2014 by Mountain Track Publishing.

It has been a long time coming. Ever since booklovers started reading Isabella Bird’s famous travelogue A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, published in 1879, about her visit to Estes Park, readers have been curious about the character of James Nugent, better known as Rocky Mountain Jim. Yet, only a trifling has ever been written about him.
With a charismatic personality and an extremely handsome left side of his face, he was a favorite with the women. And that was despite the fact that he led the life of a rough trapper and was severely scarred on the right side of his face from a grizzly bear attack.
Children and dogs loved him. (And what better can you say about a man’s character?) He allowed kids to scramble on his back and play with his long curly hair. He had a good rapport with most of his neighbors and was well-liked by some men.
However, it was his confrontational relationship with powerful and wealthy Lord Dunraven that led to most of Jim’s difficulties. Lord Dunraven schemed to turn Estes Park into his own private game preserve. (Lord Dunraven’s underhanded way of obtaining land on the cheap is well-documented in the historical record.) Jim was opposed to Dunraven’s plan, thankfully—because would Rocky Mountain National Park even exist today? Would anyone have even bothered to try turning the area into a national park if it was only enjoyed by the ultra-rich and privileged?

Reaching Rocky Mountain Jim not only recounts the compelling attraction that develops between Isabella and Jim (and you cannot find two people more opposite), but also details the conflict with Lord Dunraven. Furthermore, the novel provides little known historical facts about Jim’s life, while telling the tale amidst a stunning, rugged landscape and a frontier just beginning to learn its potential. Hope you enjoy the book.

MacDonald's Bookstore, A Gem of a Store in Estes Park

Did you ever see the movie where a big box bookseller took over a small children’s bookstore? Though the movie came out years ago and independent bookstores seemed doomed forevermore, there is a charming, family-owned bookshop still thriving in Estes Park, Colorado.

In fact, no visit to Estes Park, which is the town adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, should be considered complete without a stop in MacDonald’s Bookstore. Though small in size, this shop manages to pack in the latest bestsellers, magazines and an exclusive selection of Rocky Mountain regional books.

But before you even enter the bookshop, take a good look at its exterior. The store is housed in an original log cabin built in 1907 by the forest service, which was then purchased a year later by Ed MacDonald, the current store owner’s grandfather. Ed originally opened a general store with a small corner devoted to books. But when Ed retired in 1928, his wife decided to change the parlor of their home into a bookstore. Over the years the bookstore expanded to take over more of the original home.

This shop has survived more than one major Estes Park flood in its long history. In particular, in 1982, the Lawn Lake flood devastated the structure. But by then this bookstore had become so beloved that over eighty volunteers helped to repair the building.

Once you enter the store, expect to be greeted with exceptional service. Paula Steige, the current family member owning the store, and her staff are invariably friendly and very knowledgeable in helping you choose a book of your choice. The store has a wonderful collection of books concerning all western themes. The owner likes to support local authors and topics of regional interest, but if all you’re interested in is picking up the latest bestsellers, the store keeps them regularly stocked. It is one of the amazing things about this store, that a structure so small can be so wonderfully stocked with such a wide variety of reading materials.

On a personal note, my son Charlie always loathed having to do summer reading assignments and would pick his books based on how short they were. His famous line in our family was “I’d read an American Girl book if it was only a hundred pages long!” Yes, even my son Charlie frequents this bookstore. By the way, Charlie is now at the University of Colorado…he must have learned something from his 100 page novels!