Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to Behave When Visiting the Mountains

I'm writing this from a place of anger this evening, because of an event earlier in the day.  This list of mountain etiquette has come from this event and others. You know, we enjoy people coming to the mountains.  We appreciate your tourist dollars. Here's how you can prevent yourselves from becoming a hated stereotype of a mountain tourist.  Honestly, if you just follow these few things, you will find we are friendly and welcoming people up here. IF you do not. we're not.

1. Don't Act Like We're Stupid

I've lived in a mountain town since 1980 (with a several year stint in the Midwest) And  it was awfully amusing to us in the summer as teenagers, when we wore raggedy clothes and hid our shoes and sat on the steps of the Little Bear in Evergreen when the tourist bus came up from the city, pretending to be "them poor mountain waifs" as one woman called us.  The really amusing part? One of my cohorts in this venture had some of the richest parents in the area.  We'd laugh and then go back up to the arcade, having fully amused ourselves.

Well, I'm an adult now.  I lived in a mountain college town from 1984 to 1995. It's also a tourist town, popular in the summers, during hunting season, and especially winter, because a ski area is half an hour from town; you MUST pass through this town to get to the ski area.  It's a college town.  In the most educated county in the state of Colorado. Damn near every adult has a bachelor's degree, many have masters or higher. Even the ranchers have degrees.  And yet, people from out of town treated us as if we were the stupidest things on earth - all based on the fact that we lived there.  We CHOSE to live there. But we were stupid, because we lived in a mountain town.

The area I live in now - still a mountain town - is rife with published authors of all sorts; children's authors, fiction books, history books, even heavily researched scientific tomes on wind energy.  Newspaper men and women abound, both those who write for paper papers, and those who write for online news sources, including myself.   College degrees are pretty thick on the ground here.

We're not stupid. We have a clue. We purposefully chose not to live in the city, but thanks for telling us how we are "stuck" here.

2. This Is NOT Your Backyard

Seriously.  In fact, I have a feeling you would treat your back yard better.  The number of people I see on the highway tossing trash - or even worse, lit cigarette butts- out the window is sickening.  Do people not watch the news? Are they not aware of the number of fires this state has had this summer so far? We're not even to the end of July.  Your car has an ashtray - use it. Use a soda can. And when you stop for gas, throw your trash out in the gas station wastecans. Cause as stupid as we are, our gas stations DO have trash cans.

Several years ago now, husband and I were out for drive in the surrounding area, and we went through one of the state camp sites.  There, in a fire ring, was a fire still smoldering.  NO sign of anyone camping there.  Luckily, it was near the creek, we had a bowl in the back we used to give the dogs water, so we dipped several bowls full of water out of the creek, stirred it, dipped more water, and kept it up til that fire was all the way out.

You wouldn't go away and leave your back yard grill on, don't leave a fire burning in a campground or park, please.

And don't leave your trash about - the mountains are not a landfill.

3. Come Prepared.

While some clothing stores in the mountain towns would hate for me to tell you this, I will anyway. COME PREPARED. What do I mean?  Yeah, it's 95 in Denver, you're hot, so shorts and a tank top are a good thing.  But it's cooler up here, and after dark, it can often get downright cold up here. In fact, just last week, it SNOWED on some of the higher peaks. About five years ago, we went to Como for the fireworks, and we needed winter jackets and blankets.  High altitude - it's colder.

So come prepared.  Put a change of clothes in the car for colder weather. Jeans, sweatshirt, hoodie, socks, shoes. Please, bring extra shoes - appropriate shoes.  Stop trying to hike in flip flops, or even high heels. (Oh yes, I've seen this.) Sneakers are a great invention - I wear them a lot myself.  Bring them.

But if you don't come prepared, then don't whine and complain at us like we made the weather just to thwart you.  You'll note we'e dressed for the conditions of the day or evening.  And we're sorry if you're cold, but not our faults, and surely not our problem. Do not try to make it our problem.

4. Respect the Towns and Neighborhoods

This comes with codicils of Find Out the Local Laws, Don't Feed the Bedamned Wildlife, and Stay Off Private Property.

These are the ones sticking in my craw today.  I live in the longest county in the state; the laws that apply at the far end of the county down in the city apply to this end of the county as well, like leash laws.  However, we're in the unincorporated part of the county, so we also have our own set of rules.  So, if you are a visitor to our neighborhoods and towns - say you're renting a house for the summer, or are visiting family and friends, you still need to keep your dog on a leash when walking down our roads.

Why, you ask? But aren't we out in the country? Yes, you are. And in the country, lots of people have livestock.  I have chickens that free range, my neighbors do as well. Another neighbor has horses, and in the surrounding few miles from where I live, you will find chickens, horses, cows, goats, llamas, sheep, even a peacock. I don't think anyone near here has pigs, but it is totally possible.  If you let your dog run loose, a non country dog that does not know these animals, and that will succumb to his or her innate predatory nature, peoples chickens get killed, livestock and horses get run into barb wire fences and seriously injured - I've seen this happen.  This is thousands of dollars of potential damage I'm talking here. Keep your dog in check.

Conversely, in this part of the county - and the next county over - MY dogs can run freely on MY property as much as they or I like. And there is not a damn thing you can do about it as long as MY dog stays on MY land. DO NOT come walking through my neighborhood and scream at me and my dogs because they are loose and in my yard. DON'T tell me how you are going to call the cops on us, especially after I tell you that my dogs are allowed to be on my property, even if they are barking their fool heads off. And sure as hell do NOT brandish a rock at me or my dog; if you'd been just a couple miles up the road, you WOULD get shot for that kind of behavior. Oh, and NEVER threaten my dog that's clearly on a lead - If you're not on my land, then that dog can't get close to you.  If you are that afraid of dogs, don't have one.  And in the future, find somewhere else to walk - this is NOT the only road.

Yes, this one is a pet peeve of mine.It happens too often - to me, once a year is too often.

 As is cutting through my property without permission. Local kids who live here get away with that, because they KNOW whose property its cool to cut through, where the livestock is, where the dogs are, etc. They do not randomly go through someone's property.  Just because it looks like a forest or mountain meadow does NOT make it a state park.  Doing this can get you hurt - and who ends up being liable? The property owner - all because you were cocksure that you could go anywhere. WHY don't you do this?  Some livestock are NOT friendly - hell, a lot are not. You are in their territory, and they will protect it. And this time of year, they will also protect their young.  A land owner tends to know what he has on his land  - there are mines with sinkholes, there are wild animals, there may be traps - people can trap food on their own land up here in most places. There are a miriad ways for you to get hurt.  Sure, you could still easily get hurt in a state park, but then the liability is on you.  NOT us.

As for the wildlife - well, you hurt them, and in return, you can get hurt.  Around here, we have the cute fluffy bunnies, and the cute deer, and the elk who are not so cute.  You think a cow is serious about protecting her baby? NEVER cross an elk protecting her young. Or a bull elk in rut in the fall - you are seriously asking for trouble.  But that's minor.  You feed the animals, they lose the ability to forage for themselves. And when you stop feeding them, the get sick and die.  Rather simple.  BUT, that also brings the predators right down around us -and we have enough close enough already, thank you.  You end up putting our livestock, our pets, even our kids and ourselves at risk by feeding the wildlife.  No worries, they can and do find enough to eat by themselves, thank you.

We also have the NON cute wildlife - foxes, a local pack of coyotes, lynx, bobcats, mountain lions and bears.  And as pretty as you might find those animals to be, they are dangerous. Don't leave your food or trash outside - that attracts them. And if they come to the house you are guesting in, they are likely to come to my house just down the road as well.  The coyotes are close enough, living just up the hill from here, about a mile away.  They don't need to be drawn down even closer.

And I just remembered this one; easily forgotten this time of year with the heat, but respect private property and DON'T CUT DOWN OUR TREES!!  Our yards are not sanctioned Christmas tree or firewood areas - are you truly that lazy you cannot get the map from the Forest Service? It's ONLINE!!

You may think what I just wrote is mean, and you're entitled to your opinion.  But look at it from my point of view, which reflects the point of view of a LOT of my neighbors here and in small mountain towns across the state.  This is our HOME. We live here year round, no matter the season.  We choose to be here, even driving up to two hours one way to work out of Denver or Grand Junction or Colorado Springs or one of the ski areas just so we can live up here. We do not come through your suburban neighborhoods and throw our trash in your yard, or wander through it, cutting down your bushes and trees. We don't scream at your dog for existing.  We don't speak to you in condescending tones about how quaint it is to live in Westminster or Highlands Ranch or LoDo.

Please stop doing these things to us.

Thanks for reading my rant - we'll be back to your regularly scheduled every day stuff tomorrow.

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