Settling Into Stanzas: Wilder Gulch and Chapman’s “Out Where the West Begins” |

Settling Into Stanzas: Wilder Gulch and Chapman’s “Out Where the West Begins”

“Out Where the West Begins” by Arthur Chapman

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,

Out where the smile dwells a little longer,

That’s where the West begins;

Out where the sun is a little brighter,

Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,

Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,

That’s where the West begins.

Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,

Out where the friendship’s a little truer,

That’s where the West begins;

Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,

Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,

Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,

That’s where the West begins.

Out where the world is in the making,

Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,

That’s where the West begins.

Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,

Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,

Where a man makes a friend without half trying,

That’s where the West begins.


Arthur Chapman wrote “Out Where the West Begins” in just 10 minutes.

Mr. Chapman was working for a Denver newspaper at the time — the Denver Republican. He wrote one poem a day for the paper to publish.

On one particular day, at 5:50 in the evening, Mr. Chapman still did not have a poem for his editor. So he sat down and scribbled down, “Out Where the West Begins.” He submitted the poem to his editor in time to catch the 6 p.m. trolley home.

At the time, Mr. Chapman probably didn’t realize the fruit his 10-minute investment would bear. Over the following years, various newspapers, designers and even music composers re-printed his popular poem.

History buffs might enjoy looking up the poem in the Colorado Historical Newspaper Collection (accessible online). Newspapers from Estes Park to Eagle County re-printed the poem throughout the 1920s. Cynics might also enjoy Googling the various parodies the poem inspired.

The poem is straightforward. And, while it may lack depth, its popularity suggests deep resonance with adoring readers.

Wilder Gulch at Vail Pass

In the western corner of Summit County lies Vail Pass, home to adoring hikers, bikers, backcountry skiers and snowmobilers.

The most popular trail at Vail Pass is the Shrine Mountain Trail. A less traveled (but equally enjoyable) trail is Wilder Gulch Trail No. 9075.

Wilder Gulch Trail is a 3.5 mile (one-way) hike up to Ptarmigan Pass. The trail rises gently and consistently, making it accessible for a variety of hiking abilities. Beavers also take advantage of the gentle slope, at various points damming the creek that runs down the gulch.

The trailhead is accessible from Interstate 70 at the Vail Pass Rest Stop (Exit 190). As you pull into the rest stop, go south and follow the signs to the restrooms. Park anywhere, but then move to the lower parking lot.

The original trailhead for Wilder Gulch Trail begins at the Tenmile Canyon Recreation Trail (paved bike path). A second trailhead now exists at the lower parking lot, behind the sanitation building.

In the winter, the trails around Vail Pass are popular with snowmobiles and other motorized travel. As such, many of the signs marking the trailheads have been knocked over.

If you choose the bike path trailhead, walk alongside the path for about a mile toward Copper Mountain. When you reach Wilder Gulch, turn right and cross under I-70. Continue a few hundred meters until you reach the junction with the main trail.

A downed trailhead sign at the southwest corner of the lower parking lot marks the alternate trailhead. This alternate trailhead is more direct but also crosses the west Tenmile Creek. There is no bridge, and as of mid-June the creek was running cold, fast and up to the knees. Use caution.

Once you cross the creek, hike along I-70 for just under a mile before reaching the junction that connects to the bike path trailhead. After finding the junction of the two trailheads, hike west and up the gulch for a couple more miles.

As you progress, the peak in front of you, Ptarmigan Hill, will come into focus. Near the end of the trail, the elevation gain increases as you crest Ptarmigan Pass. The sun shines bright and breeze blows fresh on Wilder Gulch Trail No. 9075. Hike west and enjoy where the West begins.

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