1. Colorado casual
You’d never be judged for rolling into brunch at Snooze in your workout clothes. Or going to breakfast straight from the campsite with dirt under your nails and smelling like you’d spent three days locked inside of a smoker. If you really wanted to class it up for the night, maybe you’d throw on a flannel and a nice pair of jeans, but no way were you going to leave the trucker hat home.
2. Beer stickers on everything
The hand dryer in the bar bathroom. Your Nalgeen. The bike rack on top of your neighbor’s ‘92 4Runner. Hardly a surface remained unstuck by Odell leafs, New Belgium bikes, Great Divide “I Believes,” or red left hands.
3. Pre-Broncos game grocery store runs
You’d be at King Soopers loading up your cart with brats and queso and get randomly high-fived by a stranger in a Von Miller jersey, then spend 15 minutes in the checkout line talking playoff scenarios with a guy in an orange wig and “Omaha!” shirt. It made you proud of your team and your state and proved how sports can bring people together. That is, unless you weren’t really a fan and you knew the best time to shop was during the game.
4. Cornhole on brewery patios
A cold Compass IPA in one hand, a bean bag in the other. Afternoon sun overhead, a group of friends around a fire pit and a guy playing bluegrass covers in the corner. You holed three bags in one turn. This was the absolute pinnacle of your life.
5. Pueblo chiles, Rocky Ford melons, Olathe sweet corn, Palisade peaches
The true taste of summer — you queued up at the farmers’ market to savor these seasonal delights, knowing they’d be gone in a few weeks, then eagerly await next year’s crop. In other words, it was how humans were meant to eat.
6. The DIA train chime
After long travel days and a seemingly endless string of airports, those little two-second ditties (officially an art exhibit titled “Train Call“) always reminded you that you were finally home.
7. Mountain towns
Whether day trip or weekend staycation, was anything better than a gorgeous drive through the mountains to lost-in-time Lake City, blue-collar Leadville, or heaven-on-earth Crested Butte? You grabbed an Americano at Camp 4, took in a day hike at Oh-Be-Joyful, then a beer and lunch on the patio at Brick Oven Pizzeria, all the while thinking, “Could I live here? Yea, I think I could live here.” On the way back to the car you were inexplicably pulled to the window of the real-estate office, drooling at the possibilities.
8. Fitness guilt
While the credits rolled on your fourth episode of The Wonder Years, you checked your Instagram feed to find a calorie-burning stream of selfies on summits, post-race medals and waist-deep powder. You thought, “oh man, I should really get out there,” and were just about to lace ‘em up when Netflix’s cursed “Autoplay Next Episode” feature kicked in. “Well maybe just one more…”
9. February grilling
You never put the Weber away. There may have been snow on the ground, but you could always bet there’d be a few midwinter 70-degree days.
10. The lack of flying insects
You used to complain about miller moths until you went and moved to Florida and left the screen door open one night. Now you long for the days of dry air and cold winters that would have killed off these pterodactyl-sized beasts you’re ineptly shoeing out of your bedroom.
11. Glorious tap water
Put that Brita away, Rocky Mountain snowmelt was the original #nofilter.
12. Wildlife spotting
Mountain goats on Quandary, elk in Estes Park and bighorn on the cliffs above I-70 in Georgetown…you were pretty sure you could have landed a gig on NatGeo.
13. Subarus everywhere
Seriously, was there anyone who didn’t have (at least) one?
14. Your secret campsite
You had no idea how spoiled you were until you moved to New York and the only star anyone’s ever seen is atop the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. You close your eyes and visualize your favorite camp spot. It’s one of a thousand hidden away in the Colorado mountains and you only told your closest friends about it. The boughs of the spruces would flicker in the firelight. There was a lake fed by snowmelt. And on clear, moonless nights you could see the Milky Way. A blaring horn snaps you back to reality and you’re almost hit by a cab. As a tirade of Arabic curse words is unleashed upon you, you say aloud, “why did I ever leave?”