5 Reasons Why Not To Move To Colorado If You’re A Nature Lover
January 29, 2018 / By Chris Oudean
-Pine Valley Ranch Park, Colorado
A healthy plant cannot survive without strong roots in rich soil. One could say the same about your mental health. Without a rich soil of positive experiences to feed the roots of your emotions, your mental health cannot sustain a good mood. When you wake up one morning and realize that that soil around you isn’t sustaining you anymore, its time to pull up your roots and replant them in richer pastures. This is the reason why after four short years living in Denver, Colorado we decided to move to the Pacific Northwest. In hindsight, we’ve now compiled on this posting a few reasons why not to move to Colorado.
I’m not saying that Denver is a terrible place to live. It has many outdoor activities to keep you occupied, and the night life in the city is pretty spectacular. I’ve never been to so many music concerts in my whole life, each one a memorable experience. Plus, there’s tons of sunshine! It can get pretty hot in the summers, but year round, blue skies are a constant happenstance, which makes for a bustling skydiving and hot air balloon community.
At first blush, you’d think Denver is perfect for an outdoor enthusiast such as ourselves. The majestic Rocky Mountains were mere minutes away. Katie and I lived 10 minutes drive from Red Rocks Amphitheater & Park, which has a number of decent hiking trails including a tough incline to the top of Mount Morrison. The sun stayed up long enough in the summers for us to head out after work every day for a quick stroll down the numerous bicycle paths blanketing the urban landscape. Sure, the elevation gain was pretty tough to deal with at first, considering we spent our whole lives at sea level, but we were optimistic. We always are in the face of adversity.
Reasons why not to move to Colorado:
The thing is, well, there were many things that led to our decision to move.
First, there was the hail.
We’d been there for about 4 months living out of our truck camper before we finally both found employment and could afford a place of our own. In less than 2 weeks time of moving into our own apartment in Lakewood (a suburb of the greater Denver area), on one evening we found ourselves stuck in the middle of the most terrifying thunderstorm we’ve experienced before or after in our lives.
Just before we arrive home from a short nature drive, we get a tornado alarm on our phones. Something dark and ominous is forming just ahead and it doesn’t look good. We park and start running for the door just as the hail starts coming down. Now, this isn’t your piddly little 3/8” hail, oh no no no! This stuff is pushing beyond quarter size, and I mean the coinage. We race to the top floor where our apartment resides and our cats are already losing it from what sounds like a freight train crashing onto our roof. As the winds are making pretzels out of the trees outside, we grab our clowder and make for the bathtub in case the tornado hits hard. Luckily, in a few more minutes it was over. It was at this point we should have been thinking we’d made a terrible mistake moving here. Later we’d find out this was a regular occurrence.
Second, there was the lightning.
Lightning can be fun. It’s exciting to watch, scary and beautiful at the same time. Imagine having regular fireworks just outside your place. Pretty neat, right? Wrong. Now imagine wanting to go out on a stroll, or a bicycle ride, or even a hike with the knowledge that at any minute those fireworks could be reigning down on you. Still think it’s neat? Living in a lightning strike zone can be something to brag about, but it’s no spring picnic. I came from Alaska where lightning was as precious a commodity as Gold. If you heard it, you were lucky, and seeing it was something to run down the street about. I can’t tell you how many cancelled trips, or curtailed expeditions there were on account of thunderstorms.
I’d come to realize that if you live here long enough, you just stop caring and go about your day disillusioned at your impending doom. I recall a particular time we were racing back down a mountain to escape zeus’s onslaught while passing a band of merry hikers on their way up the trail, completely complacent in their obvious soon to be deaths. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to warp your brain to that perspective.
Third is the people.
The people of Denver are a rowdy bunch. They are proud of their city, and are quick to embrace the marijuana and LGBTQ communities. Many believe wholeheartedly in full equal rights (as do I) and have a “live life to it’s fullest” attitude. But I think the lightning has brought out some of the longtime local’s self destructive tendencies. They drive waaaay too fast! Many highways post 75 as the limit, while the morning rush whooshes by patrol cars pushing 90 at times. Either you’re in the pack or you’re late for work.
The same can be said for their lifestyle. Always on the go, moving full speed ahead, they take on all manner of extreme sports here. Ultra-marathon runners move here to train due to the altitude making their body more efficient at oxygen absorption. This lack of slowing down started to wear on me though. More and more, it felt like I was just waving to people in the fast lane and never getting to know anyone. In Alaska the pace was slower and in my experience people tended to take a more “embrace the nature and relax” sort of approach. Yes, there were a lot of hippies there.
If you’re a high energy go getter who loves skiing, frequenting popular night clubs, laughing in the face of danger, and managing multimillion dollar companies, then Denver is your Mecca. I, on the other hand, am not a single one of those things.
Four, there’s the nature itself.
Alaska is a pretty intensely remote place. Millions of acres of national and state park land encompassing countless adventures that could fill a lifetime. There are places where it could take weeks of hiking to see any trace of humanity. Nothing comes close to this in Colorado. In the densest parts of the Rocky Mountains, you’d still be lucky not to see an airplane overhead, or gunshots in the distance, or heaven forbid, someone’s luxury mansion pitched atop a ridge-line.
Five, there is the cost of living.
This was fully realized after our first year of living here around tax time. For the first time in our lives we owed money. It caused us to take a good hard look at our expenses and where they were going. As it turns out, the cost of living in the Denver area has been slowly and steadily increasing over the last decade. Don’t even think about looking for a house unless you’re ready for a mortgage over $200,000. In the four years we lived here, our rental rate went up 50-100 dollars a month each year. These extra costs made it all the more difficult to fund our camping, hiking & road trip habit.
Across the board, the cost of living is rising, not to mention state taxes for sales, Department of Motor Vehicle fees, & property tax. Longtime residents have noticed, and there is now a growing trend of people moving away from their home state. The local Denver Post has a good article regarding the recent trend: “More Coloradans moving out as population growth brings traffic headaches, higher home prices”.
Right now you must be wondering, if you loved it so much, why not go back to Alaska?
Alaska isn’t a great place to live if you enjoy hiking year round. I suppose you could snowshoe it, but it’s just not the same. Not to mention all the huge wildlife waiting in the thickets to maim, trample, bite or otherwise damage your soft flesh. Ok, it’s not that bad, but there’s a lot of big creatures there to keep your distance from. It’s the suffering cold of winter that gets me. In 18 below weather, you won’t find me walking down the street if I can help it. Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, the best you could hope for on a warm day in winter was the upper 20’s. Plus the daylight feels like it’s only 2 hours long on winter solstice.
I need a place where I can be active outdoors year round. A place where the trees are tall & dense, with the fresh wind off the ocean not far away, and moderate temperatures. Somewhere there are literally hundreds of established hiking trails to venture down, and plenty of camping to boot. As it turns out, there is a place like this. It’s the Pacific Northwest! In our search for the perfect getaway locale, we landed squarely on Bellingham Washington.
In this region of Washington, it’s basically a rainforest. You’re surrounded by tons of forest and it rains all the time. The great thing though is that temperatures are very moderate, perfect for outdoor activity! The extra humidity keeps the air constantly fresh and clear of pollutants too which should help me with my mild asthma issues. There are definitely trails round these parts that will make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
There’s my old Alaskan nostalgia kicking in. The feeling is hard to explain, when you look around and it seems like you’ve left society, standing at the precipice of natures domain. It’s both welcoming and frightening all at once. This addicting sensation is finally within my grasp once again in Washington. The many adventures we will have here will surely water my roots and once again bring a sense of fulfillment, for what is life without adventures to fill it.
-Just some of the pictures of beautiful places we’ve taken around Bellingham, Washington.
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