Dear Colorado,

I have to admit something. Sometimes, I think about leaving. Vagrant thoughts often land my mind on the other side of the world. I’ve chased them to Bali, Chiang Mai, Amsterdam, and many more. I love being gone. I love airports, beaches, and spicy noodle dishes served on street corners. I dream of far-flung nights full of green-bottled beer with labels I can’t read.

I’ve even considered a few other states. I remember an excited night lying in bed with my wife researching Fairbanks and reading crazy stories of the heroics it takes to survive winter there. Our trip to Burlington was fun — Vermont is beautiful but at the end of the day it offered nothing we want that we don’t already have.

Still, I think often about packing up and moving on. There was a pristine beauty in the old days, back when Denver was a flyover and Californians still considered beach-front living trendy enough to stay glued to the coast. I was here then, and I’ll still be here when they’ve gone.

I’m proud of every stamp in my passport. But nothing compares to the joy of watching my town, the home of John Elway and cow parades and restaurants named after Jack Kerouac, grow into a global hub of craft culture and entrepreneurial spirit. Hell, our governor made his name as a brewery owner. If that doesn’t signify the type of stamp you’re leaving on the world, nothing does. Colorado, you’ve long been a target for backcountry wanderlust, but now the world is seeing you for everything else.

No matter how many times I curse the worsened traffic or sit on a rooftop at happy hour pointing out the transplants solely by the stitching on their hat, it doesn’t quell the satisfaction of watching our state get the recognition it deserves. With all of the drawbacks of growth, of trend-followers swarming from all directions, of 5 o’clock wakeup calls on powder days, I could never love another the way I love you.

Colorado, Chuck Thompson must not have stuck around long enough to get to know you. Denver’s only bland to those who’d rather stay inside, who’d rather have a Bud Light, who can’t quite cut it as part of our composite of hipster-mountaineers. I’d have thought a cultured writer from the Pacific Northwest ought to be able to appreciate as much, but apparently, he was too busy staring east. Good riddance, I say.

Thanks to an undying hunger for the outdoors along with strong doses of local pride and grassroots action, you are inked into the history books as a place where many of the things I most cherish stand as not only readily available but as enduring pillars of our culture.

When I really think about it, when I allow honesty to overtake wanderlust, I see that my desires are met and that everything I think I’m short on is nothing more than a cut-and-paste pornographic episode of digital fakery. Photoshopped images of “perfect” sunsets over water are nothing when compared to the orange glow that pings off the Rockies each evening. Colorado, #nofilter was practically invented just for you.

I love weather forecasts promising chaos on I-70. I can’t get enough of the champagne powder, or the Mile High Salute. I’ll never be able to decide which mountain town is the perfect one, though I’ve narrowed it down to those accessed by US Highways 285 or 160. I love to hate the Rooftop at Coors Field and the facade of Colorado Springs. I love quietly mocking people overly concerned with “bagging 14ers.”

I love waking up to this:

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And working my ass off to get up here and back down before the afternoon clouds roll in:

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I guess what I’m trying to say is: Colorado, I’m not going anywhere.