West above prisoned eyes

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Two thousand miles and 5000ft from my hometown in New York, the “Rockies” are every bit of splendor imagined. Composed of many narrow ranges, conglomerated into a whole– from a distance they become one. The silhouette, the names of places, the arid valleys and basins; all are iconic, and American as Kansas.

Boulder, and Denver and Fort Collins are all myths come to light. These are real places after all; I’ll no longer wonder how a city differs at a mile-high (it doesn’t), or how a city can be home to so many breweries (Ft. Collins, somehow), or why everyone loves to hate Boulder (because it’s great). Putting faces to names, I’m solving the Colorado puzzle. I’m looking forward to solving the westslope soon, back on the Divide.

I don’t think that Denver needs any more millions of easterners, but towns in decline and tollways and beltways make Colorado seem easy. There’s still lots of space here, and the air and water is clean. Who’s to blame for the Chesapeake and the Everglades?; if Colorado’d had east-coast industries and millions of people a hundred years ago I’d be telling you about the prettiest Superfund site in the country. In some cases, mining has made quick work of what easterners took decades to do.

With circumstance and luck, the people came later and some hard lessons had already been learned in the east. By the time the modern population boom
hit Colorado, Aldo Leopold and John Muir were resting below ground, and on bookshelves countrywide. And by that time we’d learned to appreciate inhospitable, rocky landscapes for their ecological and aesthetic value; or their property value.

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