The Never-Ending Search for Princess “Falling Rock”
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
Falling Rock. Watch for Falling Rock.
The signs can be found all along Colorado highways and beyond. While most believe that they are cautionary indicators of unstable terrain, there’s another story that many have not heard.
This is the story of Princess Falling Rock and the never-ending search to bring her back home.
The story begins in the rich and fertile San Luis Valley, a unique area where the Sangre de Cristos and San Juan Mountains appear to face off in a dramatic display of scenic beauty. It’s here that Chief Rock established his summer camp for thousands of his people who would hunt and fish during the warmer months, hoping to reap a harvest big enough to take them through the long winter.
It was also in this valley that the Chief’s cherished daughter was born. However, the much anticipated event was accompanied with such pain and trembling that it shook the mountains, causing huge boulders to come crashing to the ground as his daughter found her way into this world. Ultimately, the blessed event left his wife dead after giving birth. The circumstances surrounding the arrival of what would be Chief Rock’s only child, were so significant that he appropriately named her Falling Rock.
While the Chief’s grief over the loss of his wife was unbearable, the love he had for his beautiful daughter was unmatched in all the land. He adored Falling Rock. As a young girl he would take her into the mountains and teach her everything she needed to know about living and surviving in the rough mountain terrain. By the time she was a young woman, her legendary mountaineering, hunting and fishing skills were unmatched only by her beauty.
One summer, the Chief decided it was time to find a husband for his beloved Falling Rock, a man worthy of his daughter and his legacy. Many warriors and brave men came before the Chief to prove themselves worthy, but his daughter was not interested in any of them.
By the end of that summer the highly sought after princess went off into the woods to escape the fray of young men who sought her hand in marriage. She was never seen or heard from again.
Chief Rock’s grief was enormous and he refused to leave the summer camp without his daughter, bearing out one long cold winter after another. He cried out for his beloved Falling Rock as he criss-crossed the unforgiving terrain in search of her.
Over time, the region saw changes and more people moved in and began to settle the area, bringing with it what is now part of the present day highway system. Toward the end of his life, Chief Rock negotiated with state transportation officials, allowing them access to build roads through his traditional hunting grounds, but on one condition. To help in the never-ending search for his beloved daughter, signs were to be posted by the highway department as a reminder to all people who travel through the Rocky Mountains to “Watch for Falling Rock.” To this day, that agreement is still honored.
So as you travel about in the inclement spring weather, perhaps dodging boulders that come crashing down on the roads this time of the year, keep an eye out for Princess Falling Rock. Maybe this is the year she can come back home.