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Revisiting my hometown

| Thursday, March 30, 2017

I grew up in the Grand Valley, Colorado, a cluster of about four different towns, on the western side of the state. Every year, the seniors at my school would talk about how they couldn’t wait to leave. We jokingly called Grand Junction — the central city of the Grand Valley — “Junk Town” and complained about how small and limiting it was.

Local legend has it that the Grand Valley was cursed by the native Ute tribe, when they were forced to relocate to a reservation. According to this curse, if you want to leave the Grand Valley permanently, you must collect sand from the three mountains surrounding it. Many of the students at my school collected sand from the mountains upon graduation, for fear they would be forced to return.

Though I never got around to collecting the sand, I was as excited as my classmates to leave the Grand Valley. I looked forward to escaping “Junk Town” and moving to a completely new region of the U.S.. However, given some time — and distance — apart from the Grand Valley, I came to appreciate it in a new way.

When I told my friends at Notre Dame that people did not have to travel far from my home town to go hunting, or that the nearest ski resort was only a 45 minute drive from my house, they were often surprised. They were also surprised to learn that, in Grand Junction, during the spring, you can go mountain biking and skiing in one day. You can drive up to the Mesa or the Colorado National Monument — the mountains surrounding our valley — to go camping for a weekend. If you want to take a hike with your friends, there are an infinite number of trails.

When I returned to Grand Junction during fall break, I also realized I had missed the locals and the small businesses of my hometown. Revisiting all the places I used to roam, I wandered the shelves of the quaint used bookstore I once frequented and enjoyed mac and cheese pizza from Pablo’s Pizza in downtown Grand Junction. My grandma and I went shopping at Carol’s Asian Foods and I visited my church youth group with my younger sister.

If I had not left Grand Junction, I probably would not have come appreciate it the way I do today. I understand why my classmates and I wanted to leave: Grand Junction’s economy is suffering, it lacks diversity and it does not have very many opportunities for those who wish to pursue a career in the arts. However, I have come to realize the Grand Valley is not as bad as we once made it out to be. Though it has its flaws, it is a beautiful place to live and has a unique, thriving community. I am grateful I had the opportunity to grow up in that part of the country and I am proud to call it my hometown.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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