Southern gal at heart, Western gal by choice | PostIndependent.com

Southern gal at heart, Western gal by choice

People ask why I moved to Glenwood Springs. The answer is simple: Look outside.

My first trip to this area was in May 2015. One of my college roommates invited us to her still-new home for a girls' weekend, and two of us flew across the country to visit. As we drove through Glenwood Canyon, I took photos and videos, thrilled by the sight. I had no idea how much wonder lay ahead.

Our hostess, Heather, worried aloud about showing us a good time. She needn't fret, we said. Even driving along the Interstate was exciting, although of course it paled in comparison to our hike to Hanging Lake. We were charmed by the drive into Carbondale, and then exhilarated by the bike ride back to Glenwood.

By the end of that trip, I itched for another. The Western Slope called me again in January 2016. I jumped hip-deep into snowdrifts and reveled in frigid walks through downtown. I cried the night before my departure, unprepared to leave this magical place behind.

Little did I know that, just less than a year later, I would call Glenwood Springs home.

That's a big move for a Southern gal. Prior to last week, I'd never lived north of Cullman or west of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I spent my developmental years in north Florida and the first 11 years of my career in my birthplace, Alabama. As I interviewed to become this paper's features editor and prepared to relocate from Birmingham, Alabama, person after person asked if I liked winter. I think so, but heck if I know, I said. I'm a Southerner. I barely know what snow is.

Time will tell, but here's what I can say a week into my residency: I love the warmth in strangers' greetings and their affection for this community. I'm thrilled to walk, rather than drive, my lunchtime errands. I'm tickled by this place's combination of low-key, small-town charm and access to entertainment. And there's no greater sensation than crisp air whipping by as you ski at Sunlight.

I can also tell you about my credentials, and I don't mind doing so (I love talking shop). They include eight years as a magazine editor, three of newspaper reporting and a couple of books.

What I'm really interested in discussing, though, is heart. That's what drew me to this community, and I bet that's true for you, too. Glenwood is a special place, one that helped even the most die-hard supporters of my hometown understand why I would leave. After a few days here, my father, who lives in Florida, joked that he should call my mom and ask her to sell the house. She could meet him here, he said. Though he was kidding (he boarded a plane two days later), he left with a lengthy to-do list for his next trip.

Help me understand what makes this community important to you. Email me at cj@postindependent.com with story ideas or to schedule a chat over coffee. No one knows a place better than the people who call it home. I'm fortunate to be in a position to share these stories, but you are the people who have lived them. I'm so happy to join you.

Carla Jean Whitley is the new features editor at Glenwood Springs Post Independent. You can learn way too much about her life and professional experience at carlajeanwhitley.com.