Updated With Photos: Boulder Research Trip

Back in January, I posted a blog about my four-day research trip to Boulder, CO for Boundary Lines. With the book coming out in just over a week(!), I thought it would be a fun time to update and expand on the real-life locations that inspired the novel’s fictional events. Here’s how the original research trip broke down:

(Warning: if you work really hard at figuring things out, I suppose this could contain vague spoilers for Boundary Lines.)


I. Breakfast with friends

My flight left Madison at 5:08 in the morning, and I arrived in Denver just after eight a.m. After getting my suitcase and picking up my rental car, I drove to a Denver suburb to have breakfast with my friend and fellow Westmarcher, Stant Litore, he of the Z.ombie Bible. This part wasn’t too strong on research, I admit, but it certainly was fun.


The drive to Boulder was pretty scenic, despite the overcast weather.


II. Lunch with Brieta

My source in Boulder has long been my wonderful cousin Brieta (BREE-tah), who answers bizarre text questions like “Does Boulder have any homeless people? I want to kill one.” We knew we’d be going somewhere nice for supper, so we ended up just eating lunch at Whole Foods, which is a shockingly crowded lunch destination in Boulder. I was fascinated by the number of recycling bins, and the detailed instructions for what to put in them. Throwing away my trash took ten minutes.


III. Carnegie Branch Library

Boulder has a lovely main library, but I had my sights set on the Carnegie Branch, which is famous for having the most information about local Boulder history. You can read typewritten mining reports, breakdowns of population, and, I discovered, check out the supernatural section.

IV. Hotel Boulderado

Have you read Misery? I haven’t, but it turns out the Hotel Boulderado (a pun before puns were a thing) is mentioned there. Brieta suggested visiting while we were downtown, and I loved the hotel so much I put it in Boundary Lines.  So beautiful, and next time I’m in town I want to have a drink at this bar.

V. Pearl St

Boulder’s famous pedestrian mall. We walked and walked, browsing at some of the little shops and checking out one of my new favorite bookstores, the Boulder Bookstore. If you’re in town, I highly recommend leaving yourself enough time to browse the multiple floors, each with multiple wings.

VI. Supper at Efrain’s Mexican restaurant

This was Brieta’s suggestion for delicious “real” Mexican food, and she was dead-on. Except for the part where I’m from the Midwest, and I was raised on hamburgers and tator tots, and I couldn’t eat anything there without crying except the kids’ quesadilla. Seriously. I had to send back my food for the children’s food. I had no problem with my margarita, though.


I. Recovery morning

I was supposed to spend the morning writing and going through all the books, pamphlets, brochures, and notes I’d procured the day before. What actually ended up happening, however, was a lot of sleep, and a bit of hiding from my cousin’s terrifying Chihuahua. No, that’s not a joke. Yes, I wish it was.

Yes, he's crazy.

The Hannibal Lector of six-pound dogs.


II. Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center

This trip, to a wolf sanctuary two and a half hours southwest of Boulder, was worth every minute. Our guide took us through the center’s many enclosures featuring wolves, coyotes, and foxes, giving us information about each one and a chance to take pictures. The wolves were behind a fence (two fences, in some cases) and we stood behind a guardrail that was usually several feet away, but I still found myself unconsciously taking a few steps back now and then. Evolution works.

Pictures below, but you can also click here and see a video of us howling at the wolves. Spoiler alert: they howl back. Theirs is better.


III. Supper

Brieta and I stopped at a Greek place in Colorado Springs called the Caspian Café. It was like the delicious Olive Garden of Greek food. I mean that as a compliment, for I love the Olive Garden forever.



I. Museum of Natural History at CU

In Boundary Crossed I introduce Simon, an evolutionary biologist who works at CU. In Boundary Lines, I explore a little bit more of his career. Simon is a curator and professor with the museum, and the nice folks at the real-life museum very generously gave me a backstage tour to help with accuracy. My favorite part: the basement of the museum has been turned into a sort of free coffee shop called the BioLounge, where students can work, study, meet with professors, and look at some really fascinating exhibits. When I was there, they were doing an exhibit about things that had been confiscated at US Customs, which included a full-sized zebra fur. I ended up working both the BioLounge and the zebra into the story.

II. Wander around CU

Since Simon works on campus, I decided I wanted a bit more of a feel for what the university is like. It’s actually a remarkably beautiful campus, even though I was there on a not-so-beautiful day. As a bonus, I also stopped for lunch at DP Dough, which we used to have in Madison before they closed down. My calzone tasted like nostalgia. As a result, Lily, Lex, and Simon now have dinner at an unnamed off-campus calzone shop.


III. Back to Pearl Street

I wanted one more look at Pearl Street during the day – and a chance to spend a little more time at Boulder Bookstore. I had planned to hike into Chautauqua Park at this time as well, but to my dismay the whole area was fogged over.

IV. Drive around

Sounds boring, but I drove through some of the neighborhoods where I have characters living, so I could get an idea of what the house setup is like. I’m not posting any pictures here for the sake of privacy, but let’s just say Boulder has its share of gorgeous homes.

V. The Boulder Police Department

No, I wasn’t arrested (THIS TIME). But in Boundary Lines, my protagonist Lex is investigating a mysterious, goo-covered bundle found in Chautauqua Park, and her investigation sort of bumps up against the BPD’s. The media relations person at the station was also kind enough to give me a backstage tour. I didn’t take ask to take photos out of respect, but here’s a shot from the outside.

Police Dept



I. Hot Springs

Okay, my idea was to set a scene of Boundary Lines at a hot springs, so I drove over an hour to the closest one, in the town of Idaho Springs. When I arrived, however, I found myself a little squeamish about actually using the facilities, because they looked a bit…mmm…experienced. Like a fifty-year-old daytime hooker. I took some photos, though, and also explored the main drag of Idaho Springs’ downtown district. I was actually pretty charmed by some of the stores, and there’s a pizza place I plan to patronize should I ever go back.

Indian SpringsII. Tattered Cover in Denver

The Tattered Cover Bookstore is one of the largest and most well-known indie bookstores in the country. I had heard about this place years earlier and desperately wanted to visit, the way some people long for a certain restaurant. So when it was almost time to head for the Denver airport, I elected to make a stop. And geek out a little.

Tattered Cover


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  1. Did you visit CU’s cafeteria named after CO’s most famous cannabil … From Wikipedia … In 1968, students at the University of Colorado Boulder named their new cafeteria grill the “Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill” with the slogan “Have a friend for lunch!”.

    Another location with “atmosphere” is the hotel north of Boulder used to film The Shining.

    Loved the first, looking forward to reading the second Border Crossing novel.

    Oh … If you want to work in some Eastern demons, don’t forget Boulder is also the home for Naropa University, one of the few Buddhist/Eclectic universities in the US (their football team is really bad).

  2. Barbara in Swampeast

    While Idaho Springs is the nearest hot springs “resort,” right next door to Boulder is Eldorado Springs, which has an artesian pool that has reopened. Ten years ago or so when I was up there last, it was closed. But it has a great atmosphere in a narrow canyon. I suggest you check it out next time you’re in Boulder. The old mining towns close by are also a treat.

  3. I really hate it when an otherwise empowered female character becomes a “whiny woman”. I will be requesting a refund from Audible on the basis that I can’t bear to get to the end of “Boundary Lines”.
    I found myself wishing that the female lead would get killed, perhaps you can arrange a grizzly end for Lex in book 4, lest assured, I won’t purchase the book or read about it

    • Rest assured, most people don’t agree with you and maybe you should save your opinions for reviews… instead of hunting down an author just to jam your opinion where it wasn’t wanted or asked for…

    • I really hate it when an otherwise ill-mannered twit thinks its appropriate to become an insulting, whiny little boy on a respected author’s blog where she’s discussing how she goes about doing her research.

      BTW son, a “grizzly” is a bear. A GRISLY end is, what you’re seeking, but of course you wont know about, because you wont bother to read it. Not that anyone really cares much whether you follow up or not, “lest” assured. LOL

  4. Thanks for thinking of your fans with postings like this! The only book of yours I haven’t read is The Big Keep, and within the next week that will no longer be true. You’re a very inspired writer and I hope you keep us enthralled for a long time to come.

  5. Thanks for posting these. Nice to see the places from the book! I really enjoyed all your books. I love the reality with just wierd stuff going on! A lovely distraction after a crazy day! So thank you!

    If you ever need doctor advice or San Diego advice for a story happy to help!

  6. I started reading the Boundry series on a whim. Thoroughly enjoyed them and have now started the Scarlett Bernard series. As I am planning a trip to the Boulder area next month I really enjoyed the setting in the Boundry books. I already had an appointment at the hot springs you visited although now I’m a little nervous after reading your comments, but will probably go anyway–after all I have health insurance. What brought me to the website was seeing the name of a bar near where we are staying is called “hair of the dog.” Think I will have to add it to the itinerary. Made me curious to know if you were from Colorado. Ironically, you are from Wisconsin, as am I. Small world. Enjoying your books immensely, please keep them coming!

  7. Sooooo I read book two in a day!! Amazing!!!! She is boom three haha

  8. Cool trip! Can’t wait for the next book! Squee 🙂

  9. Thank you for sharing your research trip with us. I am currently listening to TRAIL OF DEAD and looking forward to starting HUNTER’S TRAIL. So excited for the release of BOUNDARY CROSSED and the subsequent novels. Will enjoy learning about Boulder, a setting i know very little about. Hope the writing for book 2 goes well. Thanks again for sharing!!!

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