Colwell Cedars Retreat

      ~ merging awareness, creativity, and nature ~

About Us
          We—Joe and Katherine Colwell—visited the North Fork Valley in 1990—and like so many others—fell in love with the area; and were fortunate to find this 40 acres on the southeast end of Redlands Mesa. At that time we were planning ahead to Joe’s retirement. For the next seven years we spent long weekends and vacation weeks here—camping, cleaning up the old homestead, and building trails.
          The land was homesteaded by Hazel Short in the 1930s, and continued in her ownership until 1988 when she deeded the property to her nieces. In 1990 they sold to a developer, and we came along at the moment when he was ready to list the property. From 1998 to 2000, Joe interviewed Redlands Mesa residents who knew Hazel, and he has been working off and on since then on a book inspired by her life and this land.
          In 1997 we realized that while we were physically in the Black Hills of South Dakota—where Joe was in his 28th year with the U.S. Forest Service—we were mentally here. So, we did some math, and realized that if we lived frugally, he could retire early, and we would move here. So we did.
          We were also fortunate to find a terrific builder and subcontractors, and moved into our home in January 1998. Katherine’s artist friends visited during construction and immediately started planning our first retreat, which we held in May 1998. The Viola Guesthouse and garage were constructed in 2000.Over the years we have documented with photos the homestead cleanup, our landscaping, the building construction, the flora and fauna, and our retreat guests.
          Looking back over the years, it has been a remarkable journey—incredibly interesting, challenging and rewarding—with no end in sight: Joe keeps “finding” new trails to build, and with Katherine’s health odyssey magically resolved (the root causes were gluten and art/environment toxins), in some ways we may be growing younger as the land is restored.

A Brief Bio for Joe
          During his 27½ year career with the Forest Service, Joe worked in most areas of land management on 6 different ranger districts, on 5 national forests:   range management, timber, recreation, wildlife, land-use planning, environmental education (certified as a facilitator in Project Learning Tree and Project Wild), and mediation and facilitation.   Prior to his Forest Service career, he spent summers during college working at Idaho State Parks in recreation management, and at Mt. Rainier National Park on the trail crew, thus getting on-the-ground experience which he still puts to use.

          Joe's BS from University of Idaho-Moscow is in Wildlife Management.   In 1978-79, the USFS sent us to Michigan, for Joe to get an MS in Resource Economics and Land Management Planning.    Until 2011, Joe spent several weeks every year during the wildfire season dispatched to do fire information around the western states.   
          When he is not doing trail maintenance, landscaping projects, defensible space work at Colwell Cedars (thinning and removing fire-prone vegetation), and vegetable gardening (he is trained and certified as a Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver), Joe reads extensively (non-fiction and fiction), and he works on his Forest Service memoirs, several novels, poetry, and essays.   Go to the Words pages for details on his 2015 published book: Canyon Breezes, and progress on Zephyr of Time.
A Brief Bio for Katherine
          In 1978, Katherine explored her plein air graphite pencil drawings as design sources for her embroidery, as independent studies to complete her BA in Fine Art (University of Northern Colorado).   Then, while Joe was studying economics and planning at MSU, Katherine studied embroidery as drawing in the MSU visual arts graduate program; she subsequently delved into small business management to learn how to make a living as an artist.    The decades since have been an amazing creative journey.   On Katherine’s Studio-Gallery page you will find a short highlights resume.
          The term fiber artist does not truly describe the work she creates.   The foundations for all her work are:
                   1st  —  the fine-hand-sewing and clothing construction skills Katherine learned in middle school, high school and apparel design courses;
                   2nd —  fine art skills and the development of intuitive senses from drawing in nature.
          As a life-long-learner, every medium and material explored over the decades simply makes more unique synthesis in her artwork (for example:   studying with Lakota beaders; and spending a year researching archival-conservation materials and techniques applicable to her media).
          The adage “To teach is to learn twice” is relevant, too.   Katherine lead our annual Embroidery and Fiber Art Retreat most years, and she spent the prior year studying something new, in order to teach it;   the most fascinating (and inspiring) was learning to write poetry and then teaching it to embroiderers so they feel comfortable composing and using their own poetry in their fiber art.
          Katherine continues to teach art, and is deep in an embroidery of the Black Canyon, and planning her next her two-sided and 3-dimensional embroideries.   Plus, Colwell Cedars Retreat (website and other marketing, and landscaping/gardening), and her volunteer work as Communications Secretary for the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce create a full and engaged life.
          As an art educator, she works with individuals (including Vision Program students), and organizations in small workshops and art classes in her Colwell Cedars studio and the Cedars’ meeting facility — focusing on design fundamentals, critique skills, drawing, and fiber media.   Please go to her Teaching and Mentoring page for more information.

Thank you for visiting our website—we hope you enjoy your virtual tour of this amazing forty acres, and look forward to sharing it with you in person.