We spent the last month getting to know this tiny Front Range hamlet and its environs; Nederland, Ward, Rollinsville. This is an amazing place of history and new thought, of challenging weather and conditions, and uplifting people and ideas, of conflict and harmony, community and political polarization. This is one of the only towns in America where there are quite literally NO drug possession laws on the books... Zip, zero, nada. Don't get caught driving all baked up on brownies or dank, though.... that's still DUI and they have no problem citing you for that. And has the presence of cannabis in the park, on the houses and homes, smoked in little bars and outdoor cafes and public parks; has the Killer Weed destroyed this little town, twisting it into a caricature, a Cheech and Chong continuum?
Ned is just like a lot of small towns in mountainous settings. There are trailers, ranch houses, tiny huts and sprawling mansions; working class people and white collar types, yuppies in BMWs and hippies in VW vans, crusties with untagged dogs and tie-dyed skirts, scruffy beards and dusty dreadlocks hanging out in the shade of the park, and loud sports fans with bad new tattoos, dressed in school colors, hanging over the rail of the upstairs bar, berating citizens on the sidewalk and proclaiming their idiocy for all the world to see and hear. Tourists wander and point in big hats and sunglasses, snapping pictures and debating on which overpriced eatery or gift shoppe in which to spend their discretionary income. Carpenters and plumbers and roofers drive the streets in beat-up pickup trucks and brand-new company vans. At noon they fill the restaurants and grocery stores with tired, dusty men and women, enjoying a moment's respite from heat or cold and the inevitable wind. They mingle with mountain bikers and triathletes, retirees and soccer moms, military men and prowling cougars. Entrepreneurs looking for new locations eye properties and debate merits at a table beside a traveler with patched jeans and beaten pack, his loyal dog lolling a red tongue in the shade beneath his feet as he slowly chews a sandwich and sips at his water, splashing some into his palm to offer his companion. Children clap and sing along in the library as a bearded man with a guitar smiles and leads them, and three young men practice some form of grappling martial art in the side yard of a tiny painted house as a beautiful girl in a long skirt and sun hat rides by, smiling and humming.
Our time here is ending, for the moment, but, like the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains of WV, I have the feeling that our time here has just begun.