I quickly jumped on a plane to Vail, where I knew I would be at least a few hours closer to my destination. When my friend picked me up and we began driving through those normally beautiful mountain roads, the snow began falling like confetti. Eventually the road disappeared, and we traveled at a snail's pace through the mountains toward his house in Yampa, Colo.
The streets in Yampa are made of dirt. The population is just over 400 people. There is one general store, two bars, and a diner. There are cowboys, ranchers, hippies, and coal miners. Mountains surround the town and its just about 40 miles from anywhere.
Driving through the snow to Yampa, I began to remember that living in the mountains can be as dangerous as it can be peaceful. And part of that peace comes in those moments following a storm. Eleven inches of what the locals call, "the white love from above" fell that night. The next morning I snowboarded in the same snow that almost killed us on the road - and travel difficulties, work, and all other problems quickly receded and the only things that seemed to exist were the mountains, the snow and I.
In Yampa we lived slowly. My friends have a 1-year old boy named Charlie, who walks through the house among dogs four times his size. He speaks in a language we are beginning to understand. At night we watch the kid, the dogs, the stars, and the snow.
I grew up with these friends, and they are from the East as well, but the two-year rule doesn't apply to them. They've been in Colorado for 10 years, with only a one-year hiatus back east. I think that one year sealed their decision to remain out west.
And I know, for them, it was the right decision, because when I see them and the life they have built, I see happiness and a style of life that fits them like '70s ski pants. And as beautiful as this life may be, I know there is a life, equally beautiful, that I have built in Philadelphia. There is a person I love whom I live with in the city, and we use it as our classroom, playground and living room. We explore it as if it were a trail up a mountain. We stop and stare at its endless curiosities and thrive on its diversity. We call the place home.
My friends belong in the mountains. I belong in the city. And the best part about this realization is that we know one another well enough to know that it could be no other way.
My last night in Yampa, my friend took me to a bar called the Royal. A man in a cowboy hat sang country songs on a small stage. Men and women did the two-step, cowboys yelped to the music, and my friend and I toasted friendship and the lives we live, different as they may seem to be.
Nate House (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives and writes in Philadelphia.