Monday, October 17, 2011

Field Trip: Taking Inspiration From Your Surroundings

Whether you're in a slump, stuck for ideas, lacking inspiration or just wanting a change, a great way to get yourself started is to go on a field trip. A field trip, you ask? Yes, a field trip! You're never too old for a field trip.

Yesterday, I packed the kids up and headed out to the old mining district, specifically Victor, Colorado.

There's a better chance you've heard of Victor's neighbor, Cripple Creek, but they both have old preserved mining equipment from the last big gold rush, as well as preserved buildings from the time. Walking through a town that still boasts the gorgeous brick visages of the late 1800's and early 1900's will get you in a creative mood if nothing else can. Since we went on a Sunday afternoon, it was a virtual ghost town, which meant I could envision the old days: miners grabbing the electric car out to the mines; rich men in suits and hats strolling with powdered, perfumed women in long dresses with frilly hats; the bawdy madams of the red light district calling out to the saloon goers; trains steaming their way into town. Into historical fiction, non-fiction, steampunk? This place had it all!

I had intended to hit Victor, Cripple Creek and Florissant (to view some fossils and fossilized redwoods), but the kids and I had so much fun hiking and exploring the old mines and homes that we never made it anywhere else. And, while I'd really gone out there intending to get some fall foliage shots with maybe a couple of homestead/aspen shots, most of my hundreds upon hundreds of photos from yesterday are of the great old buildings.

I highly recommend that any field trip you go on, you take a camera, pad and pencil. Jot down ideas and notes that come into your head. Take photos of those things that inspire you, as you will continue to be inspired each time you reference them, and it will help to keep those ideas fresh.

Not everyone has a mining town near them that they can just pick up and drive to in an hour, but anywhere that allows you to get lost in the feel of a different time or place, anywhere that allows you to be closer to nature or deep in a past time, is perfect. If you're busy and can't spend a day exploring a new place, take a half hour jaunt to the woods, the beach, the mountains, a historical site near you or even your downtown, which will often boast older buildings, especially deep in the heart of the city. Go somewhere that is bustling with people to watch them and take it all in. Listen in on snatches of conversation and fill in the blanks. Any of these things can get your mind working in a different way, and bring out the creative juices.

I thought I'd pass along a handful of photos from my day out yesterday to maybe give someone else a little inspiration. I hope you enjoy!

An old homestead along Highway 24

Victor, CO, downtown, as you come upon the city

Victor City Hall, built 1900

Street view in Victor

Old buildings in Victor, including Victor Record (newspaper)

Shot of inside of one of the old electric cars that took men up to the mines

Old home on mining site. That top window was creeeeeepeeeeeey.

Mining buildings down the slopes

Old mining machinery

Some sort of motorized mining cart

Mining cart

Ore processing house at mine

Theresa Mine

Theresa Mine gears

Small building by Theresa Mine; I've seen this referred to at the changing house, and it had a little bench inside.

Homestead above Theresa Mine

Note: Do not use these photos without my permission.

Have you gone on any field trips lately? Any you'd really like to go on?

May you find your Muse.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful field trip! I really enjoyed seeing your beautiful pictures! Julie

  2. What a wonderful trip! I love the pictures... they inspire all kinds of plot lines... (=

  3. The mining slopes are beautiful. And, I love old towns, houses and buildings. Great idea for when the muse isn't speaking. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Gah! I'm dripping with envy!
    Darn you and your Colorado surroundings!

  5. Awesome photos! I wish we had time to go on a field trip. My son is not a good traveler. Maybe in a few years we'll be able to do so.

  6. These photos are amazing, they really seem to capture the essence of being there. Great setting for a book!

  7. GREAT photos, Shannon. Looks like you guys had lots of fun. For us, we have Natchitoches, LA (where Steel Magnolias was filmed), Jefferson, TX, and several wineries (also in the TX area) which supply both culture, wondrous sites, and good old-timey yumminess. Every time we go, visit one of this historical places, I have to take a camera, pen & pad--SO many ideas come to mind while padding along the brick-laid streets, through old general stores, and wending through antiques and 19th century homes.

  8. I went to cripple creek once (with my son I wasn't gambling I swear!) and I couldn't quite place the feeling I had while I was there, but you said it perfectly!

  9. i'm going to Kennedy Space Cente wednesday with little man i hope it opens up my writing box and gives me some ideas

  10. Great pictures. I've never been to Victor or Cripple Creek, might have to go if I'm in that neck of the woods.

    I do like people watching and coming up with outrageous conversation and/or secrets for them.

  11. Awesome pictures. I've never been to a mining town.

    I've explored some parts of Florida, amazed at what I find during the long drives and stops. In the near future I'll be doing more traveling, so I look forward to finding out more about my state.

  12. Julie, thank you! It was so much fun!

    Jo, that's great to hear!

    Shelly, I also love old buildings, especially if I can learn a little something about their history.

    Andrew, but I miss the ocean!

    Christine, I am lucky that the littles were/are agreeable. I bribed them for the just over an hour drive by letting them play video games.

    Amanda, thank you so much!

    Alyssia, thanks! Those places sound truly wonderful. I hope to discover a bunch more neat locations.

    J.A., they used to do cool gunfights and the like out there, but I'm not sure they do anymore. There are a bunch of places I want to get back out there to visit.

    Becca, have fun tomorrow! What a cool place for you guys to go together!

    Mike, they're both neat places. Victor struck me as a bit more of a ghost town, and that's when it isn't a Sunday, as well. Cripple Creek is a boom town in a different way these days. I saw some very interesting folks out there in downtown Victor, though, and stored away a couple scenes.

    Medeia, that's part of it, too: it's so fun to see bits of Colorado's past, explore my state and learn about it. I'm sure there are some fascinating things to experience throughout Florida.

  13. Ohh I loved those images... you're so right - they are full of inspiring ideas... just looking at them makes me imagine myself there in a different time and world... these are great:)

  14. Tania, thank you! That is wonderful to hear!

  15. See, I grew up in and around Jefferson, TX, so none of those places really do it for me. Although, my memories of tramping through the East Texas woods do still hold magic.

  16. Great snaps. I think I mentioned, maybe not, I am from Colorado (eons ago) and I return to visit a favorite Aunt in Pueblo. It's not my favorite place on earth, but the Aunt. Long winded, but Cripple Creek has a casino, yes? I seem to recall being drug there last year... On the point of the post, field trips are amazing for more than shaking up the muse. I am off to Santa Fe this weekend. Oh.. I can feel the energy now.

  17. Andrew, a friend of mine has a ranch in East Texas with a little pond. I've never been out to it, though.

    Brenda, thanks! I think Cripple Creek has a few casinos (I have only been once since it became a gambling establishment). Are you from Pueblo or elsewhere in Colorado? I've heard good things about Santa Fe.