In which I don't do Ned justice.
Having grown up in a rural area in Virginia, I was very comfortable living up in the mountains of Gilpin County. Gilpin County, I think, is the stereotypical image of what people who've never been to Colorado think it must be like. Denver, I might point out, is nothing at all like Gilpin County.
It is very dark at night in Gilpin County, with lots and lots of stars....so many of them! You've never seen so many stars and such an inky black sky. It is extremely quiet at night too, even though we lived on a relatively well-traveled road. When my friend Allie, who lived in San Francisco, came to visit, she suggested I get in the car and drive by a few times with a booming stereo and a honking horn, just to make her feel at home so she could sleep.
But aside from the serenity, it can also be quite treacherous. Most mornings in the winter entailed scraping the windshield, warming up the car for 15 minutes and driving on snowy and icy roads down the canyon to work. The wind would howl at night and would blow in the cracks of our wooden house. It could be so bitterly cold with that wind....you couldn't leave the house without wearing a hat, gloves, and a down jacket. I haven't worn my down jacket once since I've lived in Denver.
You have to be pretty tough and resourceful to live in Gilpin County. Besides the strong weather, there are no stores. There is only a gas station, a library, a small liquor store, a bar (we lived next door to it!), and a brand new rec center (which of course I joined). Nederland is the closest town (besides Black Hawk and Central City, which are small touristy gambling towns), and even then Nederland's B&F Market is not the best place to buy your provisions.
We did spend quite a bit of time in Ned while living in Gilpin. Kevin, having lived there for 2 years prior to me moving up there, still sort of considered it home base. There really is no place quite like Nederland. Really. It's kind of a hodge-podge of a town.....quaint, lots of character. There are vacation homes there, in areas surrounding Barker Reservoir, but the homes in town are piece-meal; kind of ragged, kind of charming. That's the way I would describe the people there too.
Hippies, drugs, counter-culture. That's mainly what folks think about Ned, and for the most part they're right (It is only 17 miles outside of Boulder, after all!). But there's also an unpretentiousness and self-sufficient community vibe going on there too-something Denver and Boulder lack. At first glance Ned borders on exclusivity but once you linger long enough you easily feel at home.
Ned is a place where the service in restaurants is slow, but you don't care because hey-it's Ned. There is one theater, an old community theater, that shows one movie a weekend--$5 admission, $1 popcorn. The owners raffle off prizes before the movie starts. People clap at the end. No one's cell phone accidentally rings.
In Ned you can buy coffee out of an old train car, hike in a gazillion different places, never wear makeup, wear sweats out and still feel totally comfortable, buy organic food at the local co-op, take your dog everywhere, sit on a porch and eat breakfast while looking at the continental divide, ride your mountain bike, watch famous musicians (SCI, YMSB) play in local bars, and pick up hitch-hikers and feel totally safe.
Ned's not right for everyone, but it was right for us.