There are many ways to approach travel. Some people travel for experiences, like festivals. Others visit places to see a specific landmark, experience a natural phenomenon or take part in a specific activity. Many seasoned travelers indicate that some of the most rewarding travel experiences are when they get to experience life in a different place. It is why Samantha Brown advocates going for a walk and Anthony Bourdain would always meet up with locals. For them, traveling is (or, sadly, was) not just about checking items off of a bucket list and visiting landmarks. It’s about experiencing a bit of life in another place.
During a global pandemic, that can be difficult. It is hard to sit in the restaurants where locals eat when the restaurants are restricted to takeout and it is hard to talk to locals when there are not too many people out and about.
Last summer, when I visited Leadville, another high elevation town right in the center of Colorado, there were plenty of people out and about. This was likely due to it being warm out, as it was summer. However, even then, it would have been strange to talk to people I did not know while everyone is on edge about what germs people could be bringing. Still, through both experiences, I was able to get a little taste of life in these small high elevation towns by spending a couple of days in town, slowing down, observing and noticing.
The region of South Park, in which Fairplay sits at the heart of, is breathtaking right from the start.
Regardless of season, there is nothing like driving over Kenosha Pass on highway 285 and suddenly gazing upon the wide open valley surrounded in all directions by some of the Nation’s highest peaks!
After spending a few winter days here, I wonder if the locals start to take these breathtaking sunrises and sunsets for granted.
Most people who come to the region in the winter come for the skiing, some of the best in the world!
However, there are a few things I did not learn about winter at 10,000 feet in Central Colorado on ski trips.
While this many not be too big of a deal for those that live in more rural areas, it is always interesting to spend time in places where people regularly encounter wildlife.
Both alive and dead.
Having spent most of my winter days here riding ski lifts and whizzing back down the mountain, I did not realize that a brisk walk, around town or in the nearby mountains, can actually be quite comfortable in the middle of the day.
The sun shines quite bright at these high elevations.
Note: The reduced distance to the sun is not why the sun’s rays feel stronger at higher elevations. The distance between the earth and sun is slightly over 90 million miles. 10,000 feet, by comparison, is negligible. The actual reason the sun’s rays feel stronger up here is that they are traveling through significantly less of the earth’s atmosphere.
Despite the temperature being right around the freezing point (32°F, 0°C), I was walking around in just a hoodie.
The flip side is, though, it starts to feel quite a bit colder as soon as the sun goes down.
The other fact of life specific to this region is the wind. In winter, it can get quite nasty quite often. Surprisingly, these windy days, where travel and spending time outdoors is quite unpleasant often occur in total sunshine.
Every time I’ve spend time up here in the winter, I’ve observed this interesting mix of calmer, more pleasant days and days with strong winds.
It was at this point I really wished I could wander into the bars and restaurants in order to talk with those who live here, in one of these towns.
I would love to ask….
Are the weather forecasts up here reliable enough, so that people know when the wind is going to pick up?
Are residents able to take advantage of the nicer days?
What does everyone do on these unpleasant windy days?
Is it bothersome that, even in the summer, it gets pretty chilly after the sun sets?
Is this sign, where people take their pictures as the characters from South Park by sticking their faces into these four openings, spreading the coronavirus?
Maybe I’ll find these things out and more, in 2021.