The Force is Found Here
Running the high country in Colorado, looking at 4 degrees below zero by morning. Hunkering down, a reliable heater, tossing a third quilt over the bunk. Salida’s snow and ice is melting off in the sunny patches, the rest is as stubborn as a stain. Short days and long nights make for bountiful nurseries come September. I am that offspring.
Clear as a bell. The Arkansas River and footbridge separates my van from downtown and a cup of coffee tomorrow. In Salida’s city limits the Arkansas runs plenty good, but measures mountain width not bottom valley Missouri wide. This is a recovering river, flowing clearer and cleaner. Falling water over rocks descending across the landscape, beats the truth into water, not every time, but here is where the purest water is found.
Overnight other side of the Arkansas River
Salida appears prosperous. Running east ninety miles, another 3000 feet lower is Pueblo, an aching coal fired power plant-steel mill closing mess. Salida is a recreational destination for the tattooed and pierced, a place where the dream and libido may be celebrated by10k run and circus arts school workout. If you live in the heart of town a fair shot at a barista shift could well unlock a chance to find a show business contract that gets you out of here. At least for one season or part of more than another.
Still, the bitter truth is Salida’s civility begs you to not go, not forever, not for too long, why go at all— yeah, truth be told I have to go, but I’ll see Salida, I’ll sleep in your midst again— she’s too tender a mercy to turn your back on.
The Kindness of Baristas
5000 citizens make their home here. We know them as former urban dwellers, a tad more stinking liberal than folks you’ll find in most other corners of this region. Buena Vista has a more moneyed conservative interloper. Other communities tend to pray on Sunday’s, spray Roundup, and detest the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service. Tantrums over land management afflicts certain folks living out here. Salida is an incursion of the sportsman and recreationalist, they have no understanding of how it is folks survive up here.
After hiking to the top of the many 14er’s here in Chaffee County the idea is to come off the mountains and soak in the nearby hot springs to rid your aches, pains and sore feet. Then, you’ll cast about choosing one micro-brew pub or another while you whittle away on a few pints. Better still make it a pub crawl, art walk, end up at the one vegan joint before you give up the day.
Circus Wagons and Gypsy Types Abound
Living in a mountain town, elevation 7083 feet, sorts out the pretenders from the real thing. Then, you have to reckon with what work you might find. Mountain bikers, river kayakers, and trout fishing addicts end up squeezing cheek to jowl making the job market tight. Like all of hell on real estate earth housing is not cheap. Shoveling snow ferrets out a good chunk of folks considering settling here in the county seat of Chaffee County.
Taken as a whole there’s a mix of artists, entertainers, writers and vegans, near vegans, and never will be vegans congregating in this mountain town. Purchasing supplies at the local Napa Parts Store the gentleman behind the counter had an affable grace for a man grinding out a shift slinging parts all day long. I didn’t get too nosy, but my guess is he’s a local ticket buyer, audience member and supporter of what ends up gracing the local galleries and stages.
Salida’s Historic Old Bones
If somebody is getting rich in Salida they are keeping it a secret. Somebody must be rolling in the dough, but likely if moneymaking is your prime directive another more populated cosmopolitan community may help increase your odds. Come to Salida for what quality of life a small Rocky Mountain community might lend to your life.
Living amidst the historic buildings in the heart of Salida brings out the best in the worst of us, and it appears most of the truly miserable are either broken of their cantankerous nature or after finding they don’t fit in go ahead and mosey on down the line.
Like the Arkansas River Salida has a way of clearing the window into our soul. You will find the tempo of life soothing, lack of traffic congestion reduces your foul mood and the enthusiastic spirit of the younger citizens providing hope for a better tomorrow. Out of the blue you’ll want a dog.
Bisbee and Salida
In my mind there are a few Salida’s scattered across the American West. I’d nominate Bisbee, Arizona. The two towns both host about 5000 contrary souls. Bisbee’s elevation is 5,538 feet, at this elevation cooler nights take the edge off the Sonoran Desert. What you may find to do in Bisbee for work is much the same as here. There is no room for multinational destination service providers to come in and muck up the place. Airports are two hours away. Roads are two lane, twisty, and if you’ve never been to Bisbee or Salida you might give up before you get there.
Essential Progressive Services
Perhaps the ingredient that protects and preserves these mountain towns is that there is no gosh darn gold rush bubble fueling mindless growth. What you have here is what you’ll find thriving here and not anywhere near as much the same. I’d reckon Mendocino, Sedona, Jerome, Santa Fe, Taos, Carmel, Ojai, Sisters, San Luis Obispo, Ashland and Sun Valley all miss the mark because of one fault or another. Salida’s got this sweet spot quality the other community’s have let slip from their grasp. You’ll come for the ease of life, the surrounding majesty of the snow capped peaks. You’ll set roots down and stay because you have found your people here. Like you they find the place speaks to what they want to make out of their one crack at life on earth.