There is nothing like Colorado in the summer, and that’s doubly true if you’re lucky enough to live in the mountains like us. From the blue jay skies to the snow melt rushing down the creek, our early summer setting almost seems like a dream instead of real life. And there is a delicious quiet in early June, a few days nestled in between the end of school and the start of vacations, days where the weather is still iffy enough to discourage day-trippers, days when we residents get to actually enjoy our own town before the tourists invade… er… visit.
In my opinion, this is also an important period of preparation. No matter the years I spend here, there is a seasonal shock at the beginning of summer, and I have to remind myself how to live amongst tourists, how to conduct a normal life in a place crawling with new people checking out from their normal lives. Sometimes, the best advice is simply avoidance, I’m sorry to say—but for those unavoidable moments when you might find yourself in the throngs, here are some helpful tips for identifying either tourist or local (you know, one of the 10 people you might not know in town).
I live on a pretty road in a pretty canyon, and I can determine, within a matter of seconds, drivers who do not live on this pretty road. Be wary of motorists who:
—too closely observe the speed limit
—completely ignore the speed limit by driving at least 10 mph below it
—brake at every turn
Another hazard of tourist drivers is that despite the crowds, they seem to think of themselves as the only cars on the road. This may lead to a half-hearted attempt to pull off on the shoulder before changing their minds and swerving back onto the road, making a five-point turnaround on a blind curve, coming to a full stop at the sight of a flower—hazard lights not guaranteed but always a hilarious addition when they blink on.
These crazed driving skills are so obviously tourist, and it is important to distinguish them from the crazed driving habits of locals, which may or may not be intensified by visitor-induced road rage. For example: the black Tacoma impatiently riding the camper being towed by a pickup this weekend, only to cut me off to pass them on the Parkway—with no wave. That person is a local, and I have made a note to keep safe distance in the inevitable event of future encounters.
You might be a tourist if you’re wearing hiking boots, wool socks, a backpack and a broad-rimmed hat to walk around Evergreen Lake. I don’t know who told you that it was a hiking trail, but your clunky outdoor gear is very noisy on the wooden boardwalks. But that one’s obvious. Locals, if you encounter any of the following on the trails, you’re actually viewing tourists in their non-native habitat:
—a group larger than four people
—Camelbak water packs below
9,000 feet or on a 2-mile loop
Now, this may be the one area where the locals and I disagree because, see, I’m willing to stay off the trails in the summer. Some of you, that’s why you moved here, and I get that. To those courageous individuals who take to the trails in the midst of tourist season, here is what to do if you encounter a tourist on your hike (note—you will encounter a tourist on your hike): Maintain eye contact. Never run past. Don’t bend over. Aggressively wave your arms, throw stones or branches, do not turn away… oh, excuse me. This is what to do if you encounter a mountain lion, but I think the advice for tourist encounters is at least similar.
Here is my best analysis on identifying tourists at local restaurants. If there are people at restaurants, they are tourists. Locals know better and spend all their dining-out budget in the off-season. (Can’t wait to see all of you in October!)
(Okay, just a few comments.)
Personally, I find my own property and the deck a satisfying summer perch. I like to stand up here on high and yell at the cyclists screaming at each other down below or to scare off wanderers who have mistakenly pedaled up the first switchback of my gravel road, claiming they thought it was a public trail. Anyone who lives here knows well enough that we crazies live up in these hills and yes, I can both see and hear you at all times.
Well, happy summer, everyone, and be careful out there! Be on your guard. Warn your friends. And the number one rule of summer: Trust no one—reveal no locations of pristine, unadulterated and still silent secret spots.