Things to Do

Continental Divided: Our guide to the ten states of Colorado

Is Colorado a state of mind? This state survived last year's secession movement, when a dozen counties wanted to leave Colorado (and, in one sad case, align with Wyoming), but Colorado is still separated by differences in geography, economy and philosophy. In honor of Colorado Day -- August 1, which commemorates the day that the Centennial State became official -- in this week's issue we take you on a trip through ten very distinct states of our state, everywhere from Methopotamia to the Land of Disenchantment to JesusHChrist!dom to Coolerado. See also: Fifty reasons why Colorado is the best state in the country 10) Coolerado (City and County of Denver, Boulder and a few pockets in the suburbs) At the teeming center of the region's cultural ferment, the core of its educational, financial and political institutions, lie the Grande Douchey of Denver and its laid-back ally, the People's Republic of Boulder. The tastemakers of both cities have always felt themselves psychically apart from the vulgar plebes of the provinces, ever since Jack Kerouac found beatitude in what would one day be LoDo. Alas, the recent influx of craft beers, marijuana dispensaries and raw bars have upped the hipster quotient to an insufferable degree, drawing invading hordes of buskers, foodies, fixie pixies, ravers and new urbanists. Despite the long lines queueing up at the latest "urban eatery," the cognoscenti remain unimpressed; to act otherwise would simply not be cool. 9) The Automan Empire (The rest of the Front Range) Inhabited by a nomadic race that can transport enough soccer gear for an entire team in the roomy humps of its minivans and sports-utility vehicles, the suburban wasteland that girds Denver and stretches along the Front Range is a sprawling tribute to restlessness. When not caravaning to office park from bedroom community, from big-box store to strip mall, or generally to hell and back, locals spread mulch and talk about "trading up" to that four-bedroom, three-car-garage neo-ranch in a newer, better, covenant-controlled subdivision that's just around the corner -- or soon will be. Keep reading for eight more states of Colorado. 8) JesusH.Christ!dom (El Paso County) Maybe it's the military presence -- all that marching and saluting. Maybe it's too much focusing on other people's families. Maybe it's a residual influence from the prison-industrial complex thriving in Cañon City, the capital of Pen State, just forty miles away. Whatever the cause, an uptight, lockdown state of mind seems to prevail in El Paso County, where most citizens are fervently in favor of God, country, a purple mountain's majesty, and guns...but not taxes. All that deep, deep repression of sinful impulses produces some strange outbursts -- the occasional pastor engaged in meth-fueled trysts with a gay masseur, or a horndoggy shirtless sheriff. Even parched nature itself seems inclined to burst into flames now and then in this kingdom of wrath. Still, a burning bush -- that's a sign from the Bible, right? 7) Land of Disenchantment (Pueblo, Trinidad and much of south/southeastern Colorado) Graced with mountains named after the Blood of Christ and a river commemorating Purgatory, southern Colorado is a place of divine peevishness. Waves of conquistadors, Texans and sex-change doctors have descended on this land of desolate beauty, promising peace and prosperity but leaving behind abandoned coal mines, idle foundries, shuttered private prisons, listeria outbreaks and shattered dreams. Some locals have emigrated over the mountains to the neighboring State of Euphoria, the San Luis Valley, in search of hot springs, quinoa and mystic vibes; others are hoping that a critical mass of B&Bs and artsy characters in scenic backwaters like La Veta will transform the area into a kind of Taos North. But until somebody jump-starts the economic engines of the Pueblo-Trinidad corridor, disgruntlement is the new normal. Keep reading for six more states of Colorado. 6) LaLaLand (Summit County, Vail, Aspen, Telluride and a few points in between) A lack of oxygen can lead to confusion, elation, hallucination and brain death. Resort developers have sucked on the thin air of the Rockies and created something unprecedented: old mining towns and alpine meadows transformed into bubbles of privilege for the bored and well-heeled. Skiing, snowboarding, golf and spa treatments, bike races and jazz festivals: These Gucci-padded wonderlands have something for everyone, provided that "everyone" can afford it. The rest of us get a nice tip. 5) Frackenstein (Weld County) They like to shake things up in this gas-rich empire, home to an endless procession of towering shrines erected by drill-thrill cults with exotic names like Anadarko and Noble. The well pads generate cash, jobs, millions of gallons of tainted water that must be injected back into the ground, and unease. Recent earthquakes and other ominous phenomena have prompted a bunch of torch-bearing, Prius-driving villagers, known to the locals as "fractivists," to demand an end to the energy industry's weird experiments. But Governor John Hickenlooper, who's had a nip or two of strange fracking brew himself, is determined to keep on frackin'. Keep reading for four more states of Colorado. 4) Methopotamia (Northwestern Colorado) Colorado's roomy, less populous northwest quarter has always been a place of highly flexible speed limits and rugged individualism. Nothing out here but the occasional fossil or fossil-fuel-fired power plant. And cows. And dinosaur bones. And a Kum & Go. And more dinosaur bones. And another Kum & Go. And Utah. And -- man, I got to get me some meth. 3) Mesapotamia (Grand Junction to Durango) The dramatic mesas and gaping canyons of western Colorado have always held a certain attraction for those looking for a place to retire, from the cliff dwellers of ancient times to today's snowbirds and empty-nesters. Tours of wineries and organic orchards, hayrides, prairie-dog shoots and river rafting are part of the charming local customs that help ease the way to one's dotage. Just watch out for the wildlife on the roads, the whitewater around the bend, and the uranium tailings upwind -- or the journey might be shorter than anticipated. Keep reading for our last two states of Colorado. 2) Ganja Gateway (Eastern Plains) Calamities of biblical proportions have long besieged the good people of the eastern plains: drought, tornadoes, corn smut, ice storms and private prisons, to name a few, all of which are generally accompanied by lightning. These sturdy folk, every bit as resilient as the truculent old coots found in a Kent Haruf novel, have responded with grace, ingenuity and occasional pot shops for boosting the economy. The result? A massing of state troopers across the border ready to leap on any car bearing Colorado plates that crosses into Kansas, Oklahoma or Nebraska, in search of illicit weed -- and a Washington Post reporter recently documenting all the action. Better those officers should stroll across the border to our troubled farmlands and do a little weeding themselves. 1) GetOffMyLawnLand (Everywhere else) The state flag for this rugged territory features a chipped, faded green "Native" sticker from the early 1980s, plastered on the rusted-out bumper of an even earlier-vintage pickup. The Natives are a proud people, even though the family ranches are being chipped away by tract homes and the family businesses are eroding under the relentless creep of Walmart. Plenty of hunting and fishing, waitresses named Darla and Belle, and a general suspicion of "newcomers" who've been around less than three generations are all strong indications that you've arrived in the land of People Who Were Here First. Have a tip? Send it to [email protected]
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.