The Best Of Both Worlds: Mile High City vs. Rocky Mountains

Since coming to Kenyon, some of my friends call me Mountain Girl—out of love, of course. When asked why, one friend, Molly Moran (a fellow HCK contributor), said: “Grace says things about fishing, farming, and just nature in general and assumes everyone will know what she's talking about, when in reality, coming from NYC, I never know what she's saying. It's like she speaks a different language.” I don’t really notice myself doing this, but I guess I have made the occasional comment or joke about orienteering and fly-fishing. I find this nickname really funny, but I guess it’s…true? At least, true-ish. 

The City

I am from Denver, Colorado. I have lived in the same neighborhood my whole life, essentially right smack in the city center. And while it’s not New York City, Denver is certainly no small town. The “Mile High City” is both hustling and bustling, and I grew up right around the action. There are so many advantages to living in the city; it’s got all you need and more! I love being able to walk two blocks from my house to my favorite local bookstore, the Tattered Cover; to the record store, Twist and Shout, next door; to the public rec center right across the street. I love going to the aquarium fifty times a summer, seeing concerts at the Pepsi Center, and never running out of new restaurants to try. Denver is a city full of all kinds of people, and it’s been growing and changing a lot over the years (hello, 2012 legalization of recreational marijuana and the subsequent appearance of countless dispensaries!). It has its own special energy, I think. For example, my neighbors across the street have giant red paper letters in their front window that spell out the word “RESIST,” and my other neighbors have a giant whiteboard leaning against their porch where they write inspirational (sometimes very interesting or wacky) quotes every day. There are at least three houses in a five-block radius that have plastic flamingos on the front lawn. Everyone is just doing their thing, not afraid to send a message (literally or figuratively), but they are also very chill and generally friendly. Growing up there taught me a lot, and I couldn’t think of a better place to call home.

The Ranch

Back in the ‘60s, my grandfather and some of his CDC coworkers bought shares in a ranch called Ginger Quill. My family has been going there every summer since. It's named after a fly, as the ranch is right on the South Platte River, a great place to fly fish. It’s located near the small (we’re talking less than 600 inhabitants) town of Walden, Colorado up in North Park, near the Wyoming border. The ranch consists of acres upon acres of Rocky Mountain wilderness and a few cabins. There’s the Big House, which is, as the name suggests, big. It was the first building to appear on the property when it was a homestead in the 1920s. It’s a white house with green trim and it has enough room to host at least fifteen people. The maintenance hasn’t always been kept up with, so it’s a little janky and crusty; however, that’s just part of the charm. When a bat flies into your window and lands on your hair, as it did to my uncle Brad, or a mouse runs across your bare feet as you stand cooking Annie’s Mac & Cheese in the kitchen, as it happened to my mom, it’s just part of the charm! All jokes aside, I love that house. The ranch is my favorite place on earth because it’s where my fondest memories were made. It’s my second home, and I’ve basically grown up there. My whole family spends time together at the ranch each summer. Even though not all of us live in Colorado, we all make the journey because it’s that special.

But what is there to do on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere, you might ask? Well, some of my personal favorite activities include: fishing in the lake or on the river, critter-catching (including snakes, craw-dads, minnows, the occasional rodent, etc.), archery (stick a paper target on a bale of hay and go nuts), hiking and exploring, river tubing or rafting, kayaking/canoeing, bone collecting (some examples of bones I’ve collected are: bear tooth, antler, and bird skull), driving ATVs (like golf carts on ‘roids) on bumpy dirt roads and trying not to tip over, mooing at cows and seeing if they’ll moo back, playing hide-and-go-seek tag in the forest, filling a box with random stuff and hiding it as a time capsule, and more! 

You might notice that none of these activities require electronic devices. One reason is that, at the ranch, there is no cell service or wifi, and I love it. Taking a break from my phone and other devices is so refreshing and makes me feel disconnected from the world in the best way. When I disconnect from the world on my phone, I am able to connect with the real world, that of my family members and myself. Whenever I am at the ranch I feel incredibly free. I can wake up, throw on a flannel and my hiking boots, grab an apple (the best hiking snack, hands down), and run around like a maniac in the woods for as long as I want. I can sit by the river and read a book all day or hang out with my cousins. I don’t have anything on my schedule except whatever the heck I want. There is no better feeling. 

What I’ve Learned

Spending time at the ranch helps me slow down from my busy life in Denver. I love the city and all its quirks, but I was not built for life in the fast lane. I need to just be sometimes. I’m the type of person who loves to be alone, and I can sit for hours watching a pair of bald eagles soar or a river flow. I honestly cannot put into words what a gift my time at Ginger Quill ranch is and has always been, but I know that I am who I am because of that wonderful place. I have learned how to take a step back from the rush of my daily life and activities and center myself. I have felt a deep connection with the earth and with other people. And I have experienced the truth of John Denver’s words from his song Rocky Mountain High (my all-time favorite song; go listen to it if you haven’t, or even if you have, listen again), which, as a whole, is a perfect expression of my sentiments about the Rocky Mountains. I’ll leave you with a few lines: 

“Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams

Seeking grace in every step he takes

His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand

The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake

And the Colorado rocky mountain high

I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky

I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly

Rocky mountain high”

- John Denver, "Rocky Mountain High"


Image Credit: Grace Cox, Bruce Francy