Meanwhile in Colorado: 52˚ at 12,000 feet

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By Connie Swinney

Everyone agrees that “everything is bigger in Texas.”

But somehow when we planned our excursion to Colorado, I did not anticipate how much the features of that state could overwhelm a lifelong Texan such as myself.

The first time I ever saw Colorado, it was during a drive-by. I was 22 years old, when I took a bus to Ogden, Utah (curiously, my first time ever to visit a place outside of Texas) to retrieve a 1985 Jeep Wrangler from an old college friend and drive the vehicle back to my hometown of Big Spring.

The bus rode the interstate for much of the trip, so I must have slept through the parts of the trip where I might have viewed mountain ranges. It was the trip back in the jeep through Utah, over to Wyoming and into Colorado that I experienced a sight that left me awestruck.

At one point, after several hours of driving, I looked over and noticed a snow-capped mountain range.

“What in the world,” I thought. I had no idea at the time I was gazing at the Rocky Mountains from outside Colorado Springs because I stuck to the highlighted roadway on the paper map I was using for the sole purpose of finding Big Spring, Texas again.

I stopped on the roadside and stared at the unreal sight for a good, long while. It seemed like a dream, a painting, perhaps a postcard. At that time I vowed, “one day I'll visit this place again.”

Finally, my Colorado dream trip came true this month.

It reinforced for me why I wanted to go back and why those of us from the Lone Star State might feel compelled to visit the Centennial State.

To sum it up, our trip to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park proved to me that Colorado is a truly a majestic place.

First, the road from Marble Falls, Texas to the Rockies is approximately 950 miles. You want to get an idea how far that is? That would be like driving from the northwest corner of the Panhandle of Texas to the eastern corner of the state . . . plus add about 150 miles. That's how far!

I will skip the drama and despair which occurred on the journey there and instead fixate on the unblinking beauty and glory of our destination.

In some areas the snow reminded me of Sonic ice. Of course, I trampled around in it, just to let it soak past my hiking boots into my socks. Why? Because back home, it was 95 degrees for several days straight. Barring hanging out in the freezer section of HEB, there would be no other way to wander around in 59-degree weather while gazing at oddly unfamiliar, yet mesmerizing wildlife and snow-capped mountain tops.

As any proper “word nerd” would do, I learned a few factoids about the state.

Although my great state of Texas revels in rodeos – with the first one being held in Pecos, Texas in 1883 – the world's first rodeo mantle is held by Colorado. The first bronco-bustin' contest in the world was held in Deer Trail on July 4, 1869.

If I chose to live in Colorado I might be labeled a “mouth breather” because it's no exaggeration that the air is thin up there. No matter what was on the itinerary, halfway through any plan – such as walking from the parking lot to the foot of the mountain trail – I felt compelled to sit down for a few seconds to catch my breath.

My understanding is that it would take at least nine days to become acclimated to the atmosphere. So for health reasons, employees should request the minimum vacation time for a Colorado trip to be at least that long – not just four days! (Sigh)

Colorado is named the Centennial State because it became a state 100 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.

But I recall seeing the phrase “Colorful Colorado” spattered on tourist T-shirts throughout various gift shops.

The more recent unofficial nickname is well-earned for its beautiful scenery of mountains, giant pine trees, roaring crystal clear rivers and breathtaking views.

Just like stepping into a painting.

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