After Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks landed on an unspoiled corner of Colorado’s red-rock country to call his own, he just couldn’t keep the secret. His sprawling family retreat became Gateway Canyons Resort, made up of two lodges and 14 luxurious casitas. It’s also where Hendricks hosts TED Talk–like, five-night Curiosity Retreats, where activities are led by special guests such as violinist Charles Yang and Master Sommelier Larry Stone. We spoke to Hendricks about his love for the land, his new role as innkeeper, and more.
How did you get turned onto the canyonlands in Colorado?
I was around a campfire in Kenya with a group of filmmakers from the BBC’s Natural History unit. They'd been all over the world, and I asked them what was the most exotic, beautiful, spectacular place they'd been. They all said the American West. In 1995, I discovered this incredible red rock canyon country in far western Colorado near the Utah border that was magnificent and truly undiscovered.
What about this area speaks to you?
It's a place where the earth really opens up to tell its story. When you look up at the walls of the canyons, it's all these layers of earth that go back 300 million years. To be able to wake up in the morning and go see dinosaur tracks is something really special.
Why did you want to become an innkeeper?
We bought a ranch property there, and then pretty soon I started having my own company retreats there. That turned into the idea of developing a small luxurious resort, surrounded by this magnificent landscape. We think it's a very special part of the world, and something that we wanted to share.
Do you see a parallel between Gateway Canyons and the Discovery Channel?
Absolutely. I think through Discovery we were able to take people around the world vicariously through the medium of television. It intrigues them to an extent that they make a list of where they want to go over the next five years. The idea behind Gateway Canyons is to find new ways to satisfy people's natural curiosity about the world.
Jeff Wise is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure and the author of Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger.