Tuesday, February 07, 2006


One of the coolest things I’ve read in a long time was Sheila’s account of her experience traveling through Colorado many years ago. Recently, my wife and I were driving through Colorado and Utah and I kept thinking what it would be like for someone who spent their life in places like New York City, Chicago, LA, or even Atlanta, to see the West for the first time. How they would react if they were suddenly exposed to not only the wonder and majesty of the wide-open spaces and towering peaks, but to the lifestyle of those that live out here. Not those that live in Denver or Salt Lake City, but those that live in the many small high mountain towns; I mean really live there. Not the big city folks who spend a few weeks or months in their high country “cabins”; but the folks that make their living here. Those that work in the agriculture industry, or the family owned local restaurants.

I imagine it would be as foreign to them as my first big city experience was to me. I grew up in a town of 1500 people, and my high school class had 52 students before the dropouts and flunkies. This school had students from two different towns, and about a 20-mile radius of all the farms and ranches. The first time I was in a real metropolis scared the crap out of me. I was (still am to a degree) claustrophobic from the crowds of people, and not being able to see the horizon; sometimes for days! I imagine someone from the big city would have similar feelings of anxiety. Looking out across the horizon for 50 – 60 miles with no sign of civilization would be frightening as well as inspiring. I chuckle at the thought of having someone from NYC come visit us at the house we’re building back in my small hometown.

First, they would have to fly into Denver, and then be driven for 5 – 6 hours along two-lane state highways to a town with one traffic light. Finally, finish the trip out on eight miles of dirt road to a solar powered home with the nearest neighbor barely visible down the canyon. During the night, coyotes howling along the dark ridges would serenade them and if they get up early enough, they would see wild deer standing outside their window.

Mountain living is definitely laid back. I remember several years ago, my in-laws were visiting us in Colorado. My wife and I were camping on our property (where we’re now building our house) for two weeks in a tent, while the family stayed in town at an RV park. We were making dinner at the RV park, and realized we didn’t have any baked beans, and since it was a Sunday afternoon, the market was closed. (no such thing as a 24 hour market here!) I said I would run up to the camp and grab a can or two, which Grandma thought was ridiculous since it was close to 20 miles round trip. To us, it’s just part of life. You have to plan ahead and be willing to be flexible when needed. You want to see a movie? Fine, the nearest theater is at least 16 miles in the next town, and they have one screen!

Driving back through Utah that week, we were between Monticello and Moab as the sun was setting. The vermilion landscape was bathed in a blazing sunset of yellows, oranges, red, and purples; I wish I had the skill to describe the over-whelming BEAUTY of that vision. Its times like those that I’m reminded how lucky I am to live where I do. I like the big city, but Love my mountains. My Mom told me something a long time ago as I was leaving to join the Air Force; “The Mountains will always be here, and you will come back someday cause they get in you blood and will always draw you back.” In other words, I guess you can take the boy out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the boy. Corny I know, but oh so true. I just wish everyone had the chance to REALLY see and experience them.

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