Whit’s End: I’m not a native Coloradan, and I can learn from those who are | PostIndependent.com

Whit’s End: I’m not a native Coloradan, and I can learn from those who are

Carla Jean Whitley
"Build a snowman" is one of 100 items on Generation Wild's list of things to do before you're 12. These Glenwood Springs Elementary School second-grade students have experience; they took advantage of the snow Jan. 11 by building a large snowman at Veltus Park with teacher Phillip Gallegos.

Colorado natives have a leg up on transplants, in many ways. At least, that’s my perspective as a still newcomer to the area. Coloradans seem pre-programmed with an appreciation for the outdoors. The state is one of the healthiest in the union. And the lung capacity that accompanies life at altitude doesn’t hurt, either.

Make no mistake, I don’t care to bash my home state of Alabama. I’ll even stick up for Florida, the state of my raising, on occasion. But I’m often envious of the activities kids here are raised around.

Generation Wild drives that point home. Lists of the organization’s 100 things to do before you’re 12 are available at the Garfield County Public Library District branches. Though I’m three times the target age, I picked one up and quickly marked off the activities I’ve completed.

Sixty-six down, 34 to go.

These aren’t strictly Western activities, by any stretch. I’ve gone on hayrides, read under a tree and picked up pennies from the deep end of a pool. But some of the proposed items simply aren’t possible back home: Hike a 14er. Visit a glacier. Soak in a natural hot spring. (Florida has two, but Alabama is bereft.)

The South is too hot through much of the year to make the outdoors enjoyable. Some people tough it out, and good on them. I remember spending summers languishing on the trampoline in my babysitter’s backyard, my sister and I envious of her daughter, who was allowed in the air conditioning. That black backdrop was no place for cooling off, but it at least provided a comfortable place to lie down.

Great Outdoors Colorado, which created the program, aims to reconnect kids with nature. And that’s an advantage children of the ’80s and earlier certainly experienced, regardless of environment. For better and worse, we didn’t have access to the gadgets and screens that now occupy so much time. We were often forced to get creative to find entertainment. My babysitter had a Nintendo, but video game systems weren’t yet in every home. We had one TV for much of my childhood, and we didn’t always have cable. My siblings and I instead wrote and performed plays, rode bikes, played kickball and read voraciously.

Technology is a boon, but it’s also too easy to get lost in the screens and sounds. I’ve recently changed my iPhone display to grayscale in an attempt to battle that addiction. My to-read list is long and always growing. And I’ve got 34 items to check off on the Generation Wild list, so I’d better get to work.

Carla Jean Whitley is the Post Independent’s features editor, and a Colorado transplant of 10.5 months. Learn more about Generation Wild by visiting the library or generationwild.com.

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