A merry-go-round near endlessly tools its ongoing circular parade of animals. Handmade by a local man, it is in some ways the symbol of what Nederland is all about for us: highs and lows and always going somewhere but never quite making it anywhere in particular.
Mountain peaks rise high above the forested town, slowly losing their caps of snow in favor for the short-lived summer here at 8300-some feet of elevation.
The front porch of the local pizza shop is, by 3pm most days, packed with longhaired hippies, mountain adventurers and thirsty locals alike. They pass around pipes of legal marijuana like handshakes, strong beers accompany.
Boulder Creek runs through town, raging from the spring snowmelt. A skatepark and teen center attempt to lure older children away from the allure of a town that legalized pot well before the State of Colorado did so.
Bars and boutiques, mountain outfitters and restaurants are all staying busy as tourist season picks up. Old friends come out of the woodwork and we place this town at the top of our “if we ever settle down” list. For now, anyway.
Our Airstream home on the go is busted down and in its third week of repairs an hour away in Denver. We switch off between staying with friends, a hotel in town and a little cabin just down the road.
It rains and then the big blue sky shows back up. It’s cold and then the sun blazes heavily away the afternoons. The sound of gunfire rings out in the Roosevelt National Forest. The sound of folk bands pours out of the bars and across the creek.
People complain to us about the tourists, not knowing we’re temporary transplants ourselves. I love the feeling that drums up when locals think you’re one of their own.
I meet a man on the back deck of our hotel who’s moved here from Floyd, VA to pull felled pine beetle trees from the forest with a horse. He’s out of a home for the weekend and so taking his tarp up to the national forest. I give him a ride the 3 miles up the hill and into a campground laden with signs warning of a recent moose attack on two women and their dog.
At a bar a few days later, a guy tells the Lady and I of how he watched as a cougar emerged from the woods, snatched up his 28 lb. cat, and disappeared back into the thick.
We are stranded here for another week, and I couldn’t be happier.