Nedescapes
Monday, March 23, 2009  

On Carousels, Coffee Shops and (high) Country Lanes


by Marcelo Games

Heather and I and our two boys live about 25 miles south of Nederland, along the not quite as famous Gilpin County portion of the otherwise famed and fabulous Peak-to-Peak Highway. The more famous part is the northbound stretch along the spectacular Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, between Nederland and Estes Park with its views of the Continental Divide, pristine mountain meadows, glistening mountain streams, deer and elk migration routes, and the miles of aspen groves that draw so many here in the Autumn months to witness the yellow-orange-red explosion of color that marks the changing of the seasons. It truly is a fabulous road - and I don't mean the road itself (not the smooth asphalt, pretty lines or striking curves) but the unfathomable landscape it winds through and that makes it so very highly worthy of its "scenic" designation.

Our end of the Peak-to-Peak - while not as continually sweeping and dramatic as the north end - meandering as it does through a series of hills and valleys, cutting across the 'town' of Rollinsville and the tiny industrial zone of Mid-Gilpin-County with its library, gas station, mechanics' quonset, slash pile, car wash and the county roads-department site, offers every bit the beauty and spectacle, just cut up a bit more by human habitation and mountain commerce. Just past our neighborhood, in fact, as you begin the slow descent from our 9400' to the 9000' of Black Hawk and Central City below, the utter majesty of nature's presence unveils itself in two miles of snowcapped tundra and alpine forest that can momentarily stop the heart of even the most hardened, mountain-savvy local who dares to take a 'casual' glance. But hey, this is Colorado, and the truth is that just about anywhere you go in Colorado there's something wholly and uncommonly beautiful to be witnessed.

But I digress. My point when I mentioned how we live some 25 miles out of town, along with the fact that my other job (the one where I don't manage vacation rentals), involves the care of 70+ alpacas on a 50 acre ranch, is that I don't get out as much as the average town-living person. More often than not my jobs consist of feeding, cleaning and mending on the ranch, or booking, cleaning and mending at the rentals. When I do get to town, it's usually to shop, attend a school function (the boys go to school in Nederland, Heather works there), visit a friend or go to dinner and then a movie at the Backdoor Theater in the old elementary school-turned-new-Community Center (a very fun and singular small town experience). Sometimes a week or two or three pass before I find myself in town, and as Nederland is a bustling and active place filled with creative, innovative and forward-looking people, I occasionally roll in to find a town not so much changed, as, well, sort of re-arranged... Just last month I arrived to discover that The Good Karma Center had moved from its place next door to the bank and hardware store on the west side of town, to a new place across from the Teen Center 'way over' on the east side of town (and changed its name to The Studio Darshan). The Happy Trails Bike and Coffee Shop was in the process of moving from its own space in the train cars by the supermarket to The Good Karma Center's old spot just across the street. And to my pleasant surprise, the Carousel of Happiness was suddenly more than just a great idea and a collection of fabulous carousel sculptures warehoused in the hills, quietly awaiting a real home: the frame was up and the long-time, wonderful vision was finally coming alive in the form of that very home; right smack next door to the train cars- a new, one-of-a-kind Nederland attraction.

It's all connected after all. A town like Nederland is a dynamic, living organism, and it adapts to change and flux like any living organism; rarely is a space ever left empty for too long a time, and rarely is a niche not filled to balance out the proper function of the whole. It's like the wilds not an fender's length away from those cool high country lanes, where the aspens and evergreens trade off between forest and meadow; where the elk grazes by day and the coyote hunts by night; where creek, spring and alpine lake take turns replenishing the lot with runoff from the snowmelt far above, forever giving, taking and sharing in the Rocky Mountain lifestyle. It's all connected, and to be a part of it - whether working, visiting or just passing through - is a pleasure and privilege beyond imagination. Just that. Plain and simple.

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