We — Joe and Katherine Colwell — visited the North Fork Valley in 1990 — and like so many others — fell in love with the area. We were fortunate to find this 40 acres on the southeast end of Redlands Mesa, and plan 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.
We moved into our new home in January 1998, and hosted our first artists' retreat 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, his words continue to pour forth, and with Katherine’s health odyssey magically resolved, in some ways we may be growing younger as the land is restored.
Katherine and Joseph Colwell exploring the high country near their Colwell Cedars Retreat.
During his 27½ year career with the U.S. 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 his Author page for details on his 2015 and 2016 published books, Canyon Breezes and Zephyr of Time, and published in 2018: his novel Sands of Time, a short story collection Tales of Ravens Nest, and Echoes of Time, his essay collection about nearby Dominguez-Escalant National Recreation Area.
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. The term fiber artist does not truly describe the work she creates.
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 continues to teach art, and as an art educator, she works with individuals (including home school students), organizations, and 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 Art Classes page for more information.
Please take your time, look around, and learn about us. Enjoy the photo galleries and slide shows, then contact us to schedule your art class or lodging. We look forward to hearing from you.