Hopefully, this is not my last steep thought, but it is, in fact, my last Steep Thoughts.

This space has been special to me, as I’ve attempted a transformation from big city girl to wizened mountain woman. You’ve all humored me as I’ve tried to be funny about high heels and tourist traffic and enemy number one: cyclists. We’ve laughed about elk shows at the lake and National Cheese Day and Christmas carols. A time or two you have suffered through my attempted philosophical meanderings. And let’s not forget the time I took a troll’s mean-spirited email and turned it into a grammar lesson. The point is, this little column has been a liberated space for me, a home for whatever is on my mind or whatever I felt needed expressing. It’s really lucky to have a place like that—especially for a writer.

It’s a tricky thing to give up, and I know the next time a tourist makes an 18-point turn on a blind curve on my road, I’ll probably think, damn, this would have made a funny rant. But I’m also fairly certain that it’s the right time for a new kind of space. With an MFA program behind me and my daughters much older than they were when I began writing here, I need a little time to level my thoughts instead of climbing them.

Maybe it’s growing up or maybe all this nature and mountain air finally got to me, but I have felt a tectonic shift. The terrain around me has taken a new shape, and I want to find my footing, really plant my feet on the ground and feel the earth instead of skimming along as if things will always be the same. I want to have time to take brownies to the school party, for the few school parties I have left. I want to spend an afternoon lost in my own mind, terrifying as that may be, so I can finish my novel. I have wanted these things for a long time, but have found it very easy to get swept up in the busy flow of life, as if I had no rudder to steer with.

This probably reads more like a personal manifesto than the final words of a humor columnist, but I have had conversation after conversation with people wrestling with how to move forward in life. It’s like we’ve made the climb so steep, we can’t possibly hope to summit. This is Colorado, so I know there are a lot of “Nothing’s Impossible” mountaineers out there, but when it comes to a life path, I just want to say: sometimes it’s okay to choose the flat dirt trail through the trees instead of waking up before the crack of dawn to hike a fourteener. The Patagonia People may disagree, but I promise, one is not more honorable than the other. Whether you’re destined straight up or just meandering Elk Meadow, any path can present the opportunity to change direction.

Whether you think my thoughts have been steep or flatter than the new sidewalk around the Lake, I have reached that Robert Frost moment. It’s time to choose. And I have to go with the new adventure, the path I haven’t traveled yet. I’ve imagined where it leads, but there’s really only one way to find out.

I say all of this to express—this decision has not come without thought. Just this week, I met someone new who has been reading along all this time, and I felt a little twinge of sadness, maybe even guilt, over going a new way. After all, I couldn’t have gotten this far without any of you. Thank you—truly. Thank you for reading, for sending notes. Even the not-nice ones always found their place in here so we could laugh. Thank you for stopping me in the grocery store to tell me you liked what I wrote. Thank you for being the kind of community that could take a joke, and get serious when it was time. For what it’s worth, even if I don’t look like it, or even if I’m not good at it, in my heart, I feel that this has all made me a real mountain girl.

With immeasurable gratitude,