People always talk about southern hospitality and how friendly the folks are in the south, especially in Charleston, South Carolina where we’re from. In fact, Charleston was voted the friendliest city in the world in 2016 by Conde Nast Traveler. And there’s no doubt about it… You definitely feel the southern charm when you visit our beautiful city and the surrounding lowcountry islands.
But we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the warm and welcoming folks here in Del Norte, Colorado where we’ve been visiting for the greater part of April. This very small, but growing town has it’s own western charm and even though we’re surrounded by the cold majestic snow capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the northeast and the San Juan mountains to the southwest, we feel nothing but warmth and kindness from the locals here in Del Norte.
We were even invited to Kevin’s birthday party this weekend at the cabin. He told us back in March when we first spoke with him about renting his cabin that we were welcome to rent his place for a month or two, but he always has his birthday party on the property (which we now understand why. As most of our readers already know, his off the grid property deep in the canyon is pretty special). He didn’t hesitate then, before even meeting us, to let us know we were welcome to the party. We took this to be a kind gesture, but clearly felt it would be awkward for us to attend. We thanked him, but said we’d make other arrangements for that week so he could have the property for his friends and family to enjoy. Even after arriving, Kevin told us two or three times that we were more than welcome to stay for the party and he assured us we’d have a great time. Still feeling as though we’d be intruding, we made plans to tent camp for a week or two in or around the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Well, mother nature decided to bring a lot of cold wind and snow to most of Colorado this past week and tent camping would have been pretty miserable. After four nights in a small frigid cabin in Fairplay, Colorado and not sure where to go next, we called Kevin to see if the invitation was still on the table. Without hesitation he said, “Yeah, come on back. We’ll have a blast.”
We arrived Friday afternoon and offered to help set up for the festivities. In the pouring snow, we helped Kevin and his friend Heather cut down two dead trees to restock the wood pile for the stove and camp fire and to also get the wood-burning HOT TUB going the next day. What a sight to see! Kevin built this awesome wood burning hot tub and it works like a charm. We pumped ice cold water in from the creek and then stuffed the wood stove. After only six hours that water was hot and steamy and the four of us enjoyed a nice moonlight soak Saturday evening under the stars.
Folks started showing up right on time Sunday afternoon for the birthday party. Everyone greeted us with the sincerest kindness and we felt so comfortable and welcome among the large group of friends and family. Luckily the sun was out in full force that morning and had melted most of the snow on the ground. We all grabbed a couple clubs and headed out for a fun light-hearted game of golf together after which the majority of us summoned the courage to ride the zip line down the rocky hill and across the creek. A delicious feast was prepared over the camp fire and of course we all sang happy birthday and enjoyed cake and ice cream. A small crowd stuck around late into the evening and we all sat around the camp fire telling stories and sharing laughs.
Neil and I had a blast indeed. We ever felt an ounce of awkwardness. We felt right at home actually. What a great feeling… to be a complete stranger at one hour and then become fast friends with so many before nightfall.
Kevin’s sweet uncle shared countless rock climbing stories from back in his youthful days and invited to take us out to Penitente Canyon right outside of Del Norte to teach us the basics. He’s in his eighties, but still has the heart and spirit of a young man. Neil and I know absolutely nothing about rock climbing so we are delighted for the opportunity to learn from a true veteran.
Another friend, on his way out, let us know we were invited to the May Day party this coming weekend on the Rio Grande River. “The more the merrier. It’s a potluck. We’ll have plenty of meat to roast. Just bring a dish to share and some drinks.” We exchanged phone numbers with a neighbor who plans to go. Her and her husband said we were welcome to ride with them and she sent me the nicest text message welcoming us to contact them anytime if we wanted to get together during our visit.
We also met another wonderful woman who plans to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail in August and she said she’d love some company on the trail if we were free and interested in joining her. And of course we’d be honored to do so… what a great way to return the hospitality.
I guess it just goes to show the world is full of kind and generous people. You just have to open yourself to the opportunity to be welcomed and I’m so glad we finally accepted Kevin’s invitation. We had such an amazing weekend with incredibly kind-hearted people and I feel tremendously grateful for all the warmth received here in such a frigidly beautiful town.