The Rocky Mountain Way: Better Than the Way We Had

I live in Colorado and I’m annoyed every single day by its beauty.

SHUT UP, MOUNTAINS, WE GET IT ALREADY.

SHUT UP, MOUNTAINS, WE GET IT ALREADY. (Credit: Adam Ginsburg)

Colorado is so obnoxiously beautiful that it’s really easy to take for granted. There were deer and elk in our yard almost every day when I was growing up. I put a picture of one on Facebook as an afterthought last time I was home. When I came back an hour later, it had become the most popular picture I’ve ever posted, and that includes a hilarious photo of a bagel stuck to a tree.

Living here comes with certain obligations.

CObligations, If You Will (I Wouldn’t.)

1. As citizens of the thinnest state in the union, it is incumbent upon all Coloradans to periodically mention how comparatively skinny we are. (We’re still much fatter than we used to be, so take that ranking with a grain of salt. Or, if you live in West Virginia, take it with a deep-fried stick of butter. YEAH I SAID IT, WEST VIRGINIA.)

2. We wear hiking boots everywhere. Going to the store? Lace up the boots. Taking the trash out? You’ll want some traction. The only exception is in the dead of winter, when we are allowed to wear snow boots. Although the Crocs headquarters is here, we never wear Crocs. Never.

3. We drink outdoorsy microbrews, Coors products, or wine from the Western Slope. If the label doesn’t have a mountain pass on it, we pass on it.

4. If it smells like a skunk, it’s probably weed.

5. We all own vests and we wear them with our hiking boots while we drink our mountain beer. Yes. It’s exactly like living in a John Denver song.

6. As a Coloradan, you will go outside and YOU WILL LIKE IT.

I love this state, but unfortunately I’m more of an indoor person, which is like being an indoor pet in that I’ll almost definitely be hit by a car or carried away by a large bird the moment I leave my home. There are a lot of reasons I don’t like the outdoors. Chief among them are my vampire-like skin tone and my utter lack of coordination, as demonstrated below:

"Wouldn’t it be funny if you took a picture of me like this?” she joked, and immediately regretted it.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if you took a picture of me like this?” she joked, and immediately regretted it.

Because I live in Colorado, I feel guilty about this in a way I wouldn’t if I lived in Kansas or Antarctica. Occasionally, the guilt drives me outside to do things I wouldn’t normally do. Last week, for example, I went hiking. Incidentally, we tell people we don’t like to “take a hike” because it’s a terrible pastime.

Some people hike because it’s meditative. Nature’s stillness brings stillness to the soul, I guess. I’m not one of those people. About five minutes into last week’s death march, I remembered why I hate it. I kept remembering things for the rest of the hike. It was an extremely whiney outing.

Hiking Will Kill You!

– I once went on a hike with my dad and when we got back, my mom had been hit by truck and airlifted to the hospital. True story. (She’s fine now!) Another time I went hiking and when I got back, my boyfriend dumped me after cheating on me. (I’m fine now!) What was the common denominator? Hiking. I’m not saying correlation implies causation, but I am strongly insinuating it.

– Speaking of airlifts, outdoorsman Aron Ralston, who sawed his own arm off to escape from the boulder crushing it, was airlifted to the hospital in the town I live in now after being rescued. Hiking can result in a loss of limbs!

– Growing up in the mountains, I learned to hug a tree and stay put when lost in the woods. Eventually, a search and rescue helicopter pilot will find you. If you’re lost in Wyoming and you’re very lucky, that helicopter pilot is Han Solo. Now I live in the desert and I’m less clear on the rules. Do you hug a cactus and hope you hallucinate Han Solo while you slowly die of dehydration?

– The wild does crazy things to people. Chris McCandless burned his possessions and starved to death in an old bus in Alaska. Henry David Thoreau moved into a cabin, grew a horrifying neck-beard, and indirectly forced his aunt to pay his taxes for him. No thank you, wilderness. Thoreau makes me want to Thoreau up.

"Hello? Stephanie's not home right now, Wild. May I take a message?"

“Stephanie’s not home right now, Wild. May I take a message?”

Hiking Will Puzzle You!

– I think the scenery is beautiful. What I don’t understand is the appeal of seeing it twice– once on the way to the end of a trail and again on the return trip. It’s like we’re checking to make sure the back of the landscape is as nice as the front was.

– For some reason, people on a trail are different than people on the street. On the street, you nod at a stranger who was passing you going the other way, but when you’re on a trail the unspoken etiquette is to greet them and start a conversation about the conditions or the climate. It’s befuddling. Maybe we’re so happy to see another human in the middle of the wilderness that we have to express it through small talk.

– Sometimes you spend hours getting to the top of a mountain. Once you’re there, you admire how small everything looks. You say things like, “I see my apartment! No, sorry. That’s a big dumpster.” You take some pictures. The whole thing lasts a few minutes, and then you turn around to spend hours hiking back down. I invested time climbing that mountain. It was difficult and it hurt. I don’t want to reverse the accomplishment and see the other side of the scenery I just saw. It makes the whole thing seem pointless.

What I’m trying to say is, I live on top of a mountain now because coming down seemed stupid.

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15 comments

  1. msharyf

    Once we went hiking in Srilanka and the guide is like ‘ Oh you guys came in the afternoon. People usually come in the morning cause its a half day hike to the top. No worries, we’ll climb without rest. :s’
    Omg that was the worst.

  2. Jorie

    Don’t forget the lightning storms which can move in suddenly and without warning in the summer and Ben Franklin your ass while you Instagram the view from the summit. Good times. (But seriously I love your state).

  3. sarah9188

    I am pretty sure we are the same skin tone, and when you live near the beach, people expect you to not look like your skin could glow in the dark at night. I’m sorry, but I have to slather at least 50 SPF to keep from turning into a freaking lobster so no tan for me.

    I’ve never been to Colorado, but I’d like to say I saw the mountains and talk about (versus actually doing) hiking.

  4. shenanitim

    This post is gonna make me millions! Reading about how dull the tops of mountains are once you’ve reached them, I thought, “why not put a penny stretching machine up there?” That way, once you’ve completed the Packer Trail, you can commemorate it with a tacky souvenir. (This’ll also help CO’s board of tourism, as visitors and residents alike will know which trails they’ve already experienced.)

    Now to think up a mascot…

  5. theliteraryhorse

    Oh Oh Oh!!! I know tha answer to the desert. You do not hug a cactus. You fill your pockets full of pebbles, do not sit on any rocks, and occasionally hurl a pebble in random 20 ft arcs, in case a rattlesnake is wandering near you. You then hallucinate a Wookie doing search and rescue (they’re good with heat), and wish you were next to a drinking fountain. Really hard. Because wishing really hard gets you stuff. According to my brain. Then I think you die? My brain isn’t clear on this point.

  6. angelajardine

    I’m not sure you can get dehydrated if you are hugging a cactus … aren’t they supposed to be full of water or something? Seem to have forgotten everything Bear Grylls said …
    I guess the real downside to hiking is taking a camera with you? :)

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  8. Life on a Branch

    I moved to Colorado a few years ago and everything you said is dead on, haha. I like the outdoors but sometimes I just want to sit around inside and read or watch Netflix. You can never do that here because it’s always sunny and the guilt of being inside is killer! When I first moved here I complained that it never rained. I’m from the Midwest, which seems almost tropical compared to Colorado. I found myself wining about it being sunny and 75 every day. People thought I was strange.

  9. annesquared

    Yep – go for a hike, bad things happen. I cook a meal and these things happen or have happened: dishes get dirty, fire alarms go off, I get burnt. Simple coincidences? I think not. While not enough events to run through my statistical software, I’m going to follow your lead and quit while I’m ahead. No more cooking!

  10. MikeW

    Sometimes hiking in Colorado is like getting on an elevator. C’mon, everyone’s doing it! Kidding. I’d rather the trails be busier so long as people take Teddy Roosevelt to heart; no littering; no urbanizing the rocks / trees etc. Busy trails mean healthier people. May it be.

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