Heart of the Rockies by Steph Glaser in Salida, Colorado, USA

“Town bikes (townies), dogs and chaco sandals— to me, this is Salida, Colorado. Don’t be surprised to see a banana seat, pom-pons or a flowery basket adorning these townies either. Riders peddling these classic cruisers wear chacos and their dogs lope along side the bike. It’s an every day scene.

Salida, however, is also big trucks, hunting camouflage, and cowboy boots. Rugged individualism and ranching survives along with the newer nine grain, outdoor adventure set.

Basically, Salida is a Colorado mountain town that doesn’t have to prove itself like the majors. In fact, visitors often drive right by Salida on their way to Crested Butte or they miss it all together because they opt for towns like Telluride, Aspen and Breckenridge.

For many of the locals, that’s just fine. They want to preserve that small, former mining town, hidden gem feel.

However, outdoor sports enthusiasts seek out Salida because of its location in the Arkansas River Valley. Long known as a boating community, Salida draws kayakers and river rafters from around the world. In fact, FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) is an annual festival centered around the boating history of the town. Of course, the carnival like atmosphere also has an air of legitimate competition for kayakers and boaters.

In addition to boaters, there are plenty of mountain bikers, climbers and skiers. With access to two mountain ranges that host twelve mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation, hikers often tally how many “fourteeners” they climb to the summit. Skiers take pride that they ski Monarch Mountain (again, many people pass right by this ski area on their way to Crested Butte.) Monarch does not make snow, so a powder day is all natural. The “freshies” and “face shots” do not have the mark of a machine.

Despite all the outdoor activity, Salidans are proud that their town is “not another Aspen.” After all, at the end of the main street in town and across the river, stands a dormant volcano, Tenderfoot Mountain, that is marked by a large concrete S. At night, on “S Mountain,” white lights outline the S and then alternate to red lights highlighting a heart. Ultimately, we take our town’s motto literally, “Salida is the Heart of the Rockies.”

Name:Steph Glaser

Place you live: Salida, Colorado

Occupation: Copywriter, editor, social media marketer

Preoccupation: Thinking and writing about traveling and actual traveling when I can.

A perfect day in Salida: Taking a drive with my family in the mountains on a fall day when the leaves of the aspens are changing. I love the contrast of the white trunks and the brilliant yellow leaves. Then we ditch the car and ride our townies downtown and grab a bite to eat.

If someone was visiting, what must they do? In the summer, go river rafting. There is an trip that runs right along town, and Salida also has plenty of commercial rafting operators. In the winter, head to Monarch Mountain to ski.

A perfect meal in Salida? I’m torn on this because I love going with my family to Moonlight Pizza, which has the best pizza in town and they have a brewery as well. You can’t go wrong with a microbrew and pizza. However, I also love Little Cambodia. My friend Phanny Jones, who escaped the Khmer Rouge with her family when she was six, started the restaurant and the food is authentic Asian, delicious and creative. Just the other day I ate Asian pork tacos. Awesome.

Tell us a locals only tip: In winter, if it’s sunny in town, but you see the “Monarch Cloud” off in the distance, you better check the ski report because chances are that it’s dumping on the mountain.

A little known fact about Salida? Unbeknownst to most tourists, on Tenderfoot Mountain, there is a white concrete alter that was built in honor Salida’s beloved dog, Loyal Duke, who died in 1902. After losing his master in a railway accident, Duke was basically adopted by the town. Later, when a six-year-old boy was in danger of being hit by an oncoming train, Duke saved him from the tracks. In addition to the alter, Duke has been remembered in the form of a Scotch ale, Loyal Duke, brewed by local microbrewery Amicas, and a new dog park, which bears his name as well.  Legend has it, sometimes you can hear Duke howling at the moon from Tenderfoot.

Where is your favorite place in the world? Bali

Who are your three favorite writers? Harper LeeBill Bryson and Jonathan Odell