There is a feel in the air in mountain towns different from the feel in the plains or on the coast. It’s an air of expectation, possibility.
Maybe it’s in the unsettled dust from the gold and silver rushes, or the light reflecting off unfound gemstones and precious ores.
Maybe it’s the confined space of deep valleys and sheer cliffs or the clawing claustrophobia of days or weeks of snow on snow on snow, piling impossibly high and impassable, that gives rise to the unmistakable feel of light and adventure when finally the sun thaws frozen motion and breaks the bonds of propriety and caution.
It’s a hard life, populated by risk-takers and entrepreneurs.
You don’t see folks carrying a lot of extra weight in the mountains; people are lean, tough, alert, like the mountain lions that prowl the pressing forests.
They are gregarious, generous with their time and resources.
Yet there is a laid-back feel.
That Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana is no surprise. Pot was part of the local culture in Steamboat Springs when I lived there in the 70s, and though many talking heads predicted a sudden and precipitous rush to mass ruin and degradation once it was legalized, but hey, why rush? As one Leadville, Colorado local put it, “Those folks who thought that just don’t know Colorado.”
Tracy & I recently spent some time in Leadville, and skied a day at Ski Cooper, training grounds for the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale during WWII. Leadville has been a boom, bust, boom, bust town, exploding from nothing to some 60,000 miners and adventurers in the 1880s, sporting 130 saloons and the Wood’s Opera House seating 1,000, soon eclipsed by the Tabor Opera House, the “most costly structure in Colorado history,” according to Wikipedia. Now it is home to about 2,600 citizens.
It’s simply amazing country. The above picture is just outside of Leadville on Highway 91 heading back to Copper Mountain and Interstate 70. Note that we are already above 10,152 in Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the US, and those peaks towered above our drive.
The air is thin and Tracy & I, from our home elevation of 151 feet in Gainesville, (which is actually quite elevated for Florida) found it wasn’t just the scenery taking our breathe away. For example, stairs were a challenge. Short stairs.
But skiing, as most always, was wonderful.