For our very first episode, we’re sending you a special greeting from Palisade. Learn a little more about the town of Palisade, your host, Lisa McNamara, and what you can expect from future episodes.
Hello and welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast that’s all about the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m your host, Lisa McNamara.
Have you ever wondered what its like to run a winery or a hotel in one of America’s most beautiful small towns? Or do you want to get to know your neighbors better? We’re here to give you a snapshot of the people, businesses, and history of the Palisade area with stories for locals and visitors alike.
Today, in our first episode, we’re sending you a very special greeting from Palisade! Keep listening to learn a little more about the town, your host (me!), and my plans for this podcast.
Palisade sits in the easternmost portion of the Grand Valley where the Colorado River exits the Rocky Mountains and starts its journey through the canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau.
The Uncompahgre band of the Ute people first lived in this area before they were forced to relocate. The first settlers arrived in the Palisade area in the late 1800s and quickly realized they could use water from the Colorado River, which borders the southern end of the town, to grow peaches, grapevines, and other crops. After coal was found in the cliffs to the north of town, coal mining, in addition to the orchards and the vineyards, sustained the town in its early days.
Palisade was named for the tall cliffs, aka “palisades,” that line the northern edge of town. These cliffs help create a unique microclimate, along with other surrounding features like Grand Mesa, that makes this area a touch warmer than its neighbors. It’s high desert country with lots of sun, warm days, and cool nights.
Now home to over 2,500 residents, Palisade is still known for its peaches and wine, though coal mining has gone the way of the dinosaurs. The town is home to over 500,000 peach trees and 1,000 acres of vineyards, which produce about 90% of the grapes used in Colorado wines made both here and around the state. Palisade is part of the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) created in 1991. The town’s population swells on festival weekends during the summer as visitors and locals alike gather to listen to live music, eat peaches, celebrate honeybees or lavender, and drink wine.
So that’s our little town. But who am I, and why am I doing this podcast?
My path to Palisade was as winding as an old, untrained grapevine. (I have great similes.) Having growing up in a small town in upstate NY, I was eager to get away from country life and explore the US and world. After graduating, my now-husband, Paul, and I moved to Chicago and spent the next eight years taking in everything that the big city had to offer: shows by all my favorite performers, food and drink I’d only read about, an inspiring art scene, people from all over the world, and easy access to faraway destinations via major airports. But I missed nature and biking and the outdoors, and that was all harder to find in Chicago.
So back before Instagram was big and vanlife was a hashtag, Paul and I quit our jobs, sold or donated most of our stuff, and traveled around the United States for a year in a minivan. After a wonderful, but savings-depleting year, we went back to work and over the next decade lived in upstate NY, Wisconsin, Chicago again, and Fort Collins, where, during the pandemic, we got itchy feet once again. So we bought a pickup truck and a small camper that fit in the bed of the truck, quit our jobs, sold or donated most of our stuff, and lived on the road again full time for fifteen months.
That’s when I got a taste for making podcasts. I created a podcast called Road Tripping in America while we lived on the road full-time. But the travel podcast world never quite seemed like the right fit for me. We were often out in the backcountry somewhere, visiting places that I didn’t really want to tell lots of other people about and not seeing many other people to talk to. And full-time road life also didn’t feel like a great long-term fit. We missed having a community, having local friends we could invite over for dinner, seeing familiar faces in the post office and at the grocery store. We were tired of looking for a new place to sleep every night. We had been moving so much and for so long: fourteen moves and over two years on the road in the past twenty years. We were exhausted!
We knew we wanted to stay in Colorado, so we sat down and made a list of our criteria for the perfect location. Walkability. Affordability. Culture. Friendly people. Easy access to nature but also to an airport. Then we looked at all the options. And right at the top of our list was the little town of…Montrose, CO.
That’s not Palisade! Nope. It was not Palisade. We were all in on Montrose, but after a few months of trying and failing to find a house there, with the winter weather closing in, we decided to rent a place in a nearby town to catch our breath. And the best place available for rent at that time just happened to be in Palisade.
We had visited Palisade before and loved it, but worried that the town was too small and for Paul, too hot in the summer. Still, facing the alternative of another winter on the road, we decided those fears did not outweigh the known difficulties of wintertime vanlife. So we moved into the rental and collected our remaining house stuff from storage.
In Palisade, we biked through the vineyards and had a happy hour glass of wine at places we’d only ever visited on vacation. We shopped for local produce from the farmer’s market and marveled at the delicious Palisade peaches, plums, melons, and Olathe sweet corn. We gazed out our windows at the kinds of views we’d have had to drive miles down a backcountry road to enjoy. And, most importantly, we were embraced by the warm and friendly community. We had accidentally found exactly what we were looking for. I didn’t want to start over again somewhere else.
Over twenty years, every step we took brought us closer to the right place for us. And despite all our research and analysis and pro/con lists, we ended up just stumbling onto it in the end. And now we’re staying put.
So hi, that’s me, but we are not going to be talking about me on the regular episodes. What I quickly realized is that there is an abundance of amazing people here in Palisade, with so many stories to share.
There are the owners and staff of the more than 30 wineries and tasting rooms, brewery, cidery, and distilleries.
The workers who tend the vines, orchards, and fields, pruning in the winter, harvesting in the summer and fall, and everything else in between.
The farmers growing peaches and other fruits, veggies, lavender, and lots of other crops. The people at the insectary who help them all out. What’s an insectary? Am I even pronouncing that right? Let’s find out together!
There are the restaurant and food truck owners who add their own flavor to the town.
The festival operators who plan legendary events.
The farmers market organizers who make downtown Palisade the tastiest place to spend summer Sundays.
The shop owners who are ready to rent you a bike, a kayak, or a paddleboard, or source you a cute hat or unique piece of art.
The local pedicab operators who offer a unique form of transportation and tours.
The hotel and B&B owners where visitors can rest after a fun day or locals can outsource their guest rooms.
The locals, who can share what’s it like to live here – from fun things like community bike rides to important services like child and migrant support to the same housing availability and affordability struggles and the kinds of cultural changes that most small Colorado towns are currently facing.
And there’s so much more. But you get the point. There’s a lot going on in this little town.
Right, right, OK, first I have to meet these people, then I have to convince them to talk to me on tape. Come along as we see how that goes! As a newer Palisade resident, I bring no assumptions or judgments to the table. And I’m not taking sponsorship or funding from guests, so you can listen knowing that you’re hearing a perspective that’s unbiased. I only want to learn all there is to know about this town and share the cool stuff with you all.
The Postcards from Palisade podcast will be available on all the major podcast distribution platforms. Find us and subscribe now so you never miss an episode. We also have a website, postcardsfrompalisade.com, where latest episodes and links to more information are hosted.
If you are interested in being on the show or if you have ideas for a future show, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at lisa(at)postcardsfrompalisade.com.
Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.