Ryan Rudnansky | June 04, 2015 12:00 PM ET
Colorado: A Breath of Fresh Air
After traveling to Colorado for the first time during Memorial Day Weekend, I now see what all the rage is about: It’s a breath of fresh air.
Coming from Los Angeles, I kind of forgot what fresh air and blue sky looked like. As an outdoor enthusiast, it was love at first sight.
During the weekend, I saw Rocky Mountain National Park and Colorado Springs (with short stops in Denver, Fort Collins and Cheyenne, Wyoming). It was a revitalizing feeling coming from a cramped major city. The Los Angeles area certainly has its perks, and there are mountains and some good hikes on the outskirts, but one word kept popping up in my mind in Colorado: space.
Much of Colorado outside Denver is incredibly spacious… at least, in terms of lacking large buildings and traffic. In terms of trees, nature and wildlife, well, Colorado has plenty.
Rocky Mountain National Park is a sight to behold. This is coming from a Northern Californian who has explored the Sierra Nevadas and colossal redwoods north of L.A., as well as the Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks.
At one point, I hiked a four-mile trail called Lily Mountain Trail in Estes Park. It’s a bit of an incline (you’re up pretty high at about 9,000 feet) and you have to charge up some rocks, but the top is absolutely stunning. Once I made that final lunge up the rocks, I was floored. Not only did nature bless me with a 360-degree view of Rocky Mountain National Park, but I was staring straight at the Continental Divide (it’s pretty easy to tell where it is; it’s where all the white peaks are).
I met an interesting guy at the top of the mountain who was gazing out at the wilderness below when I arrived at the summit. Beyond telling me some useful information (apparently, you can see 42 peaks that are 10,000 feet or higher from where we were standing), he had an interesting life story. He had come from L.A. and Chicago. He moved to Colorado because he was tired of the rat race. He started his own business and he’s been in Colorado ever since.
When I asked him which area he lived in, he said nonchalantly, “Oh, just over that ridge over there,” pointing to a sizeable mountain miles away.
I asked him how he got to the summit, and he said he hiked from his house over the mountain and through the wilderness.
“You just have to hack your way through a bit,” he said modestly.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
He then said, “Well, nice meeting you,” wandered over to the edge of the mountain where there was no trail, looked left, looked right, stepped down and disappeared. For anyone doubting whether someone coming from L.A. could become a true mountain man, that was proof right there.
I didn’t want to leave that summit. It was so peaceful, so incredibly jaw-dropping, so mesmerizing. I sat there for a long while—just sat—before I eventually and reluctantly headed back down. As I turned to begin my descent, I saw a hawk in the air nearby circling for prey in the valley below.
The next stop was Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs was everything I was hoping it would be. I’d heard a lot about the destination before, and now I know why.
Colorado Springs is wide open with blue skies and white puffy clouds. Of course, there are also more mountains and major natural attractions, including Pikes Peak (standing at 14,000 feet) and the Garden of the Gods.
I’d heard a lot about Garden of the Gods, so I decided to hop on over. It did not disappoint.
Garden of the Gods is an apt description. It literally looks like it’s fit for gods, boasting huge red boulders and a variety of trees and plants, surrounded by grand peaks. Arch your back and look up at the colossal red rocks, in contrast with the backdrop of a bright blue sky, and it simply doesn’t look like the real world. It looks almost as if it belongs on another planet. Of course, Pikes Peak adds to the sweeping natural canvass beautifully.
There aren’t that many spacious areas in the United States anymore. We’re bombarded with cars and buildings and paved roads where you have to drive in between measured lines.
Colorado is booming right now, and it’s only going to become more populated, but, at least for now, it represents one of the few states where you have an abundance of space, natural wonders and wildlife.
For those looking for a breath of fresh air, don’t just step out of your home or office building.
Step out into places like Colorado, where the great outdoors await.
Trust me, you’ll come back feeling refreshed, invigorated and more alive.
You may also question why we ignored these places for so long in the first place, instead opting to build stacks and stacks of concrete on the beautiful natural surroundings we were blessed with.
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