Colorado’s Western Slope isn’t actually a slope at all but a series of quirky canyons, mesas and mountain ranges with names like the Bookcliffs, the Raggeds, the Uncompahgre Plateau, the West Elks, Grand Mesa, the Roan Plateau, Battlement Mesa, the Piceance Basin (pronounced pee-onse) and many others. The landforms rupture and bend toward an ever more arid horizon. Pointed tree-limned peaks flatten into broad plateaus of sage, pinyon and juniper. Bordered on the east by the Rocky Mountain high country and on the west by the dissected edges of the Colorado Plateau, the area is dotted with oddly named little towns like Silt, Rifle, Fruita, Mack and Parachute .
The Western Slope’s metropolitan center is Grand Junction, Colorado where two great desert rivers, the Colorado and the Gunnison, conjoin in the center of town. At 4,500’ elevation, it is often referred to as the “banana belt” of Colorado where winters are generally mild and summers are hot. If you time it just right, you can start spring planting in April and harvest fruit and veggies right through October.
Obama made a campaign visit here in September of 2008 but McCain took 69% of the Mesa County vote just two months later. Should give you some idea of the general political climate. Yet people seem to be more civil about it around these parts. In spite of my ponytail, I get treated decently wherever I go. And it’s a good place to raise a child.
It’s also an especially good place to get out of doors with tantalizing red rock country only a few minutes away in the numerous sandstone canyons carved out of the Uncompahgre including Colorado National Monument and my old place of business, Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area. You won’t find that name on the map anymore as it was changed in June, 2004 to McInnis Canyons in an attempt to lend credibility to the Republican congressman whose efforts prevented the area from becoming part of a national park.
Even though Scott McInnis has recently been accused of plagiarism as he makes a run for the state governorship, his surname will forever embellish 123,000 acres of magnificent country he is not worthy of being honored for. So be it. Because that doesn’t change the natural landscape of the Western Slope, nor the eccentricity of its population. Nor the fact that I live here and will probably keep doing so for many more years to come.