There’s no place like Colorado

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2017

DENVER, Col. — Even with the adjacent Rocky Mountains, whose peaks are always snow-capped — July 4th is no different from New Year’s Day — the climate here is becoming more often than humbling. That Denver is a city of sunny days most of the year comes as a surprise to many. The unofficial count is 300 days with at least a couple hours blessing from “Ol’ Sol.”

Coloradans will tell you right off that they live in the healthiest environment there is. Residents here are always outdoors which includes the days they wake up to a blanket of snow.

This is a jogger friendly city, but hiking in the most pleasant of surroundings — stunning scenery in every direction, picturesque and pristine — seems to enrapture natives. Cycling gets top billing also. Do as you please, just get outdoors and have at it.

When Denver was building a new stadium for its NFL franchise, there was talk of domed construction. The city’s rabid fans almost had apoplexy. They prefer an outdoor environment to cheer on their beloved Broncos. If snow happens to come, then it is time to frolic and party.

Visitors flock to Colorado for skiing at the aforementioned resort communities and others. They come to see the leaves turn in the fall, the aspen trees giving off color second to none. Hardwoods at peak color throughout the city, display an autumnal splendor that takes your breath away.

Want to fly fish?

Colorado anglers say, “no place better.” If the fishing doesn’t captivate you, the landscape and the environment will. The waters of the rivers and creeks are refreshing and emotionally seductive. You could be standing in a creek, fly rod bent, line taut and look up to see a freight train making its way from Denver to Salt Lake City. Someday, I aspire to make that trip. How many legal hurdles stand in the way?

I remember coming here years ago and being invited to a ranch nearby. After a scenic drive up into the foothills, the host, a hospitable rancher who was gifted at making do, took a shovel out of his pickup and dug a hole in the dirt. After filling the hole with charcoal, he lit a fire, and at the perfect time, placed a half dozen thick steaks, wrapped in tinfoil, on the coals. He then covered everything with the dirt from the hole he had dug.

He knew exactly when the steaks were done. He removed the dirt, took the steaks to the tailgate of the pickup, removed the tinfoil and grinned, “Come and get it.” Next, he popped cans of Coors Light for everybody. No steak since has equaled or surpassed that one. And shall I say, “A good time was enjoyed by all!”

Back to the Mile High City where dining outdoors is not as elementary as with the aforementioned rancher, but the 16th Street Mall offers a dining ambiance that would be difficult to find in most cities. You can walk to the 16th Street Mall from most city hotels. It has become the heart and soul of downtown Denver.

It took years of planning and construction until it officially opened in October 1982. A crowd of over 200,000 people showed up, and today it remains a popular local attraction with tourists flocking there all seasons of the year.

There are shops and restaurants galore with expansive sidewalks along a tree lined corridor, “flanked by iconic lighting fixtures.”

On a past trip, one noticed that there was a plethora of pianos anchored up and down the mall. You could be enjoying a nice social with ample food and drink, and someone would sit down and play good old fashioned numbers, upbeat music to emotionally garnish your meal — the sort of thing that brings forth one of those, “I can’t get enough” testimonies.

At the Ritz Carlton, general manager, Grant Dipman, a Georgia graduate, takes especial interest in guests who are Red and Black affiliated. Grant is ably assisted by Michele Ugarte, a former University of Georgia coed, who swoons generously when she talks about her days on campus.

“The Dawgs,” she says, “are making people everywhere so proud.” For these two Dawgs, their Rocky Mountain High is their UGA connection.

Loran Smith is the executive secretary of the Georgia Bulldog Club.