Red Cliff, Colorado

It’s real easy to spend all this time outdoors in Colorado and just be like “hell yes I am moving here immediately" and ignore that these areas, though quiet during the summer, come ski season are flooded with people. People and their money. That money sticks around, making it hard to afford living adjacent to nature’s majesty when there’s not a lot of job options six months out of the year. Spending a few days out in the area you got a real sense of how much folks sacrifice to afford, or luxuriously spend without concern, to live where their hobbies are.

If you look up the stats on Red Cliff you can see people there ain’t making a lot of money, but this small town continues to avoid the development happening in the counties surrounding it. Paul took me here after our hike to show me more realistic expectations of lower income (read as: my income) lifestyle.

It’s become a microcosm of the then-already-declining, mid-century mining era, with mostly simple homes and trailers surrounded by the vehicles that are actually practical for the varying conditions. Sure, its encapsulated eccentricities and grit have become a minor tourist attraction— the town now sports a fancy inn and restaurant for visitors. You can also see signs of newer money in the handful of recently built timber frame homes up on the hillside. But like if I wanted to follow through with leaving my home of Chicago (and all the amenities and opportunities available to me here) for the mountains, this would be one of the few places I could afford to live. Of all the experiences and perspectives gained on this trip, this one was incredibly unexpected.