Many of you remember folksy singer, Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr, better known by his stage name, John Denver. John was a talented and very successful singer, songwriter and actor who made his home in Aspen, Colorado. John loved the town of Aspen, the state of Colorado and its Rocky Mountains, and fought to conserve them.
Mr. Denver was know for his “clean” presentation and enthusiasm for his music — and life in general. You’d recognize many of the songs he wrote and we’ll see the lyrics for his biggest hits shortly. The Colorado state legislature adopted his song, “Rocky Mountain High” as one of its state songs in 2007. John was an avid pilot who died tragically in the crash of a small experimental aircraft in 1997 when he was just 53 years old.
The town of Aspen has honored its most famous resident in a very unique and memorable way, by creating the John Denver Sanctuary in Rio Grande Park. The memorial is situated away from “downtown” Aspen — itself hardly a bustling metropolis — and is located along a small river in a quiet park. The sanctuary’s Song Garden features the lyrics of the singers’ most popular songs etched into granite rocks including: “Annie’s Song”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Sunshine on My Shoulders” and many more. Smaller rocks on the hill are said to be arranged so as to represent musical notes to one of John’s songs, though I can recall which one.
You approach the sanctuary from Aspen through a trail beside Theater Aspen. The entire area is a natural park-like setting with flowers, native grasses, ponds, a waterfall, hiking paths and Rocky Mountain views you can enjoy in seats crafted from boulders. It’s a beautiful tribute in a lovely place that I know John would loved and that his fans can enjoy anytime. It’s well worth finding if you’re in town, especially on a warm summer day.
The John Denver Sanctuary is always open and admission is free. A gallery of images from the sanctuary follows, but first a videoclip of John’s singing his most famous song: