You know those weird neighbors that have nothing in common with you? The nosy ones that stare through your window to see what's up in your world just so they can tell you how to do your life better? Those sort of neighbors make living in a community a challenge sometimes. I've been known to hunch my shoulders and run inside as they start to come my way. You may have done the same thing, too. But this year, this year ... I don't have those neighbors AT ALL. I'm talking about the other ones. The awesome ones. The neighbors we all cross our fingers for when the moving van pulls up.
I lucked out big time when Jim and Sarah moved in a few months ago. They're young enough to have the hope and perspective it takes to make our world better, but mature enough to relate to real life. They are young DINKS (Dual Income No Kids) with dogs. They couldn't be more different than my "Had 5 kids, Done with pets, Almost empty-nester" background. We get along famously because we all love to get out and have Colorado adventures.
Not surprisingly, their taste for outdoor living is quite different than mine. When I ask where they've been, very easily the conversation turns to their Ape Index for rock climbing, or dog-friendly trails. When they ask what I've seen, I'm usually driving in a car or going for a walk through the neighborhood. While I and my family are more of the meandering and snapping photos from the ground-type of nature lovers, Jim and Sarah are the hiking/biking/rock-climbing sweat-it-out folk who take their pics from cliffs.
This works out well in the scope of my current adventure, which is to explore the neighboring community of the mymountaintown.com area for some fun, educational, interesting pieces to share. I've found that differing backgrounds can open up whole new adventures on both sides. I mean, we neighbors now know that watermelon kegs are a thing that puts smiles on faces at an impromptu barbeque, no matter WHAT we do in our outdoor time.
I lucked out with you Mountain Town neighbors as well. Front Range folk have differing methods, traditions, and habits than the Mountain Folk, but so what? I'm banking that both neighbors have the same love for adventure, nature, and just enjoying life. I hung out with some Mountain Folk to do just that. I wanted to find out what all we have in common, or at least how we can benefit from a great relationship.
And I didn't need to borrow a cup of sugar to do it.
Thanks to Jim and Sarah's collaborative ideas, this particular day of exploring led me to Evergreen and Kittredge. They were great at giving me plenty of perspective about what got them excited enough to head up I-70 for a day trip. Jim even shared a website called hikingproject.com by REI. It's a great resource for hiking (or meandering) wherever there's a trail to be found. So check it out!
I took their perspective and blended it with mine. The result was a fun experience peppered with worthwhile gems just on the other side of C-470. I'll fast-forward through the chit-chat and let you get to the good part. Because that's really why you're reading this in the first place, right? I'll sum it up this way: That. Just. Happened. And by "That" I mean… So. Many. Treasures.
Like the Hiwan Homestead Museum in Evergreen. This was our first stop of the day trip I explored with Micah, my partner in crime. We picked Evergreen for out of curiosity. Just forty-five minutes away from Broomfield, and so darn easy to navigate from I-70! We rambled through the main thoroughfare until seeing a sign for a place to get the old settler history in a quiet, forested ambience. I popped open the hikingproject.com app, and an easy-to-read set of trails sprang up. It was the perfect setting for sneaking a peek at the famous woodpecker and hummingbird dances (we weren't disappointed!) and snapping some photos of the local flora. The Hiwan Homestead Museum is nestled right in a neighborhood, but provided a soothing backdrop for those historical buildings, winding trails, and beautiful bridges.
By happy coincidence, we stumbled upon the Evergreen chapter of Hike It Baby, an infant and family-friendly group that doesn't need to go far to experience the exhilaration of hiking, combined with the bonding of family units in serene settings. Lindsay Frost, the chapter ambassador/mom/hiking enthusiast, opened my eyes to the scope of "hiking". "It's as simple as this, Sharon," she said. "Take a friend, make a friend, never too young to hike". And just like that, she redefined my assumption that I couldn't maneuver the mountains while having little ones. This baby-friendly organization is nationwide, but in Evergreen, Colorado, it's just a walk in the park.
Great advice from Lindsay and the local hiking families came willingly. For instance, when asked where a great spot to grab a bite to eat would be, Lindsay's husband listened to our food mood and then laughed out the answer, "The Country Road Cafe." When we wondered what unique spot they have that no other mountain town has, they all laughed with him. The "Buck Snort Saloon." Now you know I already put in an adventure at the Buck Snort and wrote about it not too long ago, so it let me know the locals loved outsiders and wanted them to share in the plenty that was the region.
For brunch, The Country Road Cafe, a gem in Kittredge, was recommended for a "Scrambled Egg Smash" that knocks your socks off, and is worth the wait. My advice: Get comfy outside the Standing-Room-Only porch and meet your fellow diners, or take a few more steps and wait it out in the Kittredge Park. Either way, it's an adventure in culinary Ka-Chow!
Can we just chat about the beauty here? Doesn't matter if it was just the short drive from one close town to another, or being in the center of the community itself. They take "Picturesque" seriously here! The Rocky Mountain Range exudes jagged overlooks and dramatic landscapes that beg for picture moments. The well-paved roads seem to be placed just-so in the most photo-worthy views. So pull over and snap away! I took those moments as we headed back to Evergreen to stop at a unique building with an abundance of "Mountain Town Must-Haves" that were displayed out front.
Gallerie Quilt of Evergreen was our stop-in for a look at the unique metal-worked roosters and chainsaw-carved bears. Because… Chainsaws. + Bears. = The Colorado Rockies experience. Ask any outsider. It turned into a delightful conversation with Steve Starr, the owner and Nikki, Steve's daughter. They gave us a tour and quick history of the place, an introduction to the shop's mascot, Hansel, a Bernese Mountain Dog, and shared about the local legend of Dead Ed, an unfortunate local recluse who went 6 months before his remains were found in his remote cabin. "That," Steve said, "is an urban legend, seeing as (the mountain community) folk keep an eye out for each other." I totally believed him.
I've gotten nothing but love from you folks so far. You are the warm and welcoming neighbors I've been hoping for. You're generous and love the diversity and income stream the tourists bring, and bank on some lucky folk staying to take root in your community. You are shaping up to be the longer-range Jim and Sarah neighbors!
Steve and Nikki had some great advice for us newbies to the area: "Slow down on the highway and roads. Seriously, if you were to get in a tangle with an Elk crossing the road, my bet is that the Elk will walk away before the tourist in the car will!"
Note to the locals as well as any folk new to the area… Gallerie Quilts is moving from this well-known site, so go grab up what you can WHILE you still can. It's a big deal to get your new home or business stocked with a few choice pieces. It's practically an Evergreen tradition!
We said our goodbye's (after ringing up the carved bear business card holder for Micah, and admiring the incredible variety of intricate quilts) and headed into the Heart of Evergreen to meet my son and daughter-in-law for a quick jaunt around the lake. (That's Evergreen Lake to us newbies.)
We met up with Ethan and his wife, Kelsey, to stroll around the area and get their take on the ambience. They are our go-to resource when we want to adventure around an area, because they say it like it is. (It also helps that they're just a kick in the pants.)
We loved the beauty of the lake, the trail, and the walkway over the swamp. But they had some questions. (I knew they would.) I'm happy to report that I got the answers, toot-sweet. Ethan asked, "What's up with the mountain drivers, eh? The people on the highway (I-70) are crazy!" and Kelsey piped up with, "How do people commute in the snow or weather? Can you imagine the danger?" They were valid questions, so we simply went to the public. Again, the mountain town folks showed up with smiles and information.
- Casey (commuter from Pine/Evergreen area, to Arvada) "The one thing that's fine about the commute is that the roads are really well maintained. And there's plenty of warning in a storm to know if a road is closed or not. I only go there 4 days a week, and just take it easy in iffy weather. Also, I pop in an Audible book and listen while I drive. No big deal. But I DO keep chains in my car for slippery or slick conditions. Never hurts to be safe and go slow. And it's a gorgeous drive!"
- Pamela (local picknicker at the lake) "I thought the same thing about the drivers being crazy going up and down the mountain, but you know what? There are crazy drivers all over the country! I just work my own plan, obey the signs as they come up, and let the crazies go around me. Most of them are driving from out-of-state, or out-of-town, anyway. Locals know better than to be reckless."
My little family was impressed! Good points that left us with an easy feeling that comes from being a little bit more educated, which leads to broadening our horizons. Mission accomplished.
We walked. We schmoozed with other people and came away with this: Evergreen Lake House, backing against Dedisse Park, is a little haven where one can golf, hike, bike, meander around, or paddle through the crystal-clear water with stunning mountain views all around. But it's much more than that. It's a symbol of the responsibility this town takes so seriously. It's pristine and enjoyable, but clever in the reminders to keep a visitor's footprint to the minimum.
The interdependent relationship creates a balanced community of abundance.
This was huge for me because, frankly, it can be easy to lose one's accountability in a city with a dense population. And even easier to unconsciously bring that loss of accountability into a neighboring area. I may be there just for a visit, but I don't want to do any damage to the fragile ecosystem that keeps the area so alluring, and neither do the rest of us visitors, so I'll be specific for both myself and those souls curious and craving some mountain time.
- Newbies, stick to the trails and designated spots for your outdoor pleasure. There are SO MANY choices to get away from it all, or immerse yourself in the community, there is no need to break ground (possibly putting yourself, the ecosystem, or your rescuers in danger) just to see something new.
- Hey. Clean up after yourself. Leave the footprints to the wildlife, eh? Managing your trash and clutter are pretty basic, but leftover food and cutting down any part of trees/bushes, or plucking the flowers/rocks/logs for your own amusement… You wouldn't go into someone else's back yard and do what you want to it, right? Rude! So leave THEIR place alone, too! Take pictures instead, and post them so others can come see the inspiring spots as well.
- Respect the signs. The road signs are there for a reason. This means that if you see an "Elk Crossing" sign near "Elk meadow"... the head's-up is there for YOU, not the elk. Or the locals. They already know what tangling with the wildlife means. And don't try to feed them, touch them, or interact with them. (The wildlife, not the locals.) Haven't you seen videos of how it never ends well for the newbie? Just sayin… Again, respect those signs for speed, for parking, for heaven's sake, respect the experienced one's! They are wanting you here to enjoy the place.
The day up the mountain ended as we got to follow up on a great tip from Sarah and Jim to observe some rock climbing. We went to the bouldering areas in the Alderfer/Three Sisters Park area and pulled into the parking lot on the right hand side. The mountainproject.com website has great directions, by the way. Just 10 minutes from the trailhead, the first climbing spot ("The Egg") was close enough to our trail that we could see the color of the rock climbers carabiners on their belts and the chalk smears on their foreheads. I was inspired and knew I'd be coming back soon.
Who knows? I may just take a lesson or two at the Climbing Wall, an indoor climbing facility that provides a spot for beginners to learn top rope climbing and boulder skills. It also keeps advanced climbers in tip-top condition. That would be a great double date with Jim and Sarah, don't you think?
So that just happened. I saw some beautiful jewels of nature, gained a gaggle of local know-how, and didn't need to borrow a cup of sugar to do it. I admit, I'm a bit protective of my new-found treasure trove, so newbies, it's time to bump it up a notch. Give these Colorado Community neighbors some respect, ask them what they love about the place and what they wish tourists knew right off the bat. I promise you'll see and hear about the extraordinary. These neighbors are the ones worth keeping.
Join the site like I did, to enjoy the benefits of a membership with mymountaintown.com. You'll be glad you did. And keep your eye out for me in Bailey, Colorado this Saturday. Come say hello at the Chamber booth from 12:00-2:00 and get to know your neighbors! Bailey Day 2017 is this Saturday, June 24th from 10am‑4pm, and I can't wait to see y'all there!