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  • Writer's pictureAngela Burke

Tales from a Tourist Town: September Days

Tales from a Tourist Town are my own musings based on observations and experiences while living seasonally in a historic mountain town. It is an attempt to retreat to my inner bat cave and filter my intuitive thoughts, giving them form.

The change is evident. The days are shorter. The angle of the sun lower in the horizon and shadows longer. In the turning of the season, death presents itself in the sleepiness of this town. The loss of glossy-sunny summer days and droves of tourists is obvious. The hum of boat motors has softened. The leaves are withering, transforming, preparing for a final resting place on the ground to create a carpet of gold. The east meadow grass is now a rich, autumn hue. And yet it is a time of rest. A time to be present in the natural world. To observe and reflect. To crack through the veneer of this little mountain town and truly see the bones of the past, the history, the legends…

And as I walk the old, dusty dirt roads of this old, western settlement, it is clear that life is the same, only with a modern twist. The characters that existed a hundred years ago exist today, simply with new problems and obstacles. The lawful, and the lawless. The powerful, and the powerless. Those that want change, those that want preservation, and those that want both. Personas, or archetypes, of the frontier are still present…the sheriff, the vigilante, the tycoon, the adventurer, the silent protector, and the wayward and lost walk these streets. Posses, in the form of cliques remain, of which I am an outlier, a familiar role.

We, in this century, are not special. We are not smarter, wiser, or immune from tragedy and struggles. There are more similarities in the heartbeat of the present than differences with those of the past and once recognized, bind together the timelessness of humanity.

Legend, as my summer-time neighbor told me, says that the first white man that lived in this region arrived around 1860 to make a fortune as a fur trapper. He made the decision to brave the fierce winter, to stay on and claim a stake in the land. But he made a grave mistake… trusting his money to a profiteer who promised to bring him provisions from Denver to survive the brutal season. The scoundrel never delivered, taking the man’s money and running. The fur trapper barely survived until spring, resorting to eating the leather from his shoes to avoid starvation. Similar to today's modern world only in a primitive form, help was sparse and unreliable, and to survive, this man had to go it alone.

And yet he endured. Change. It is most prominent in a tourist mountain town. The ebb and flow is dramatic. The northern breeze is mild…but changes rapidly into a colder, fiercer wind that reminds us of an imminent winter pressing down, its weight heavy. But like the fur trapper, this tourist town will survive as it has for over a hundred years, and the liveliness will return, but for now it naps, slowly falling into the deep slumber of wintertime...

Photos from early tourists courtesy of Grand Lake Historical Society.

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