Nestled on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains and nearing the Colorado/ Utah border is a growing city with small town feels. It's a fairly large—in fact, with 55,566 residents , it's the 15th most populated city in the state of Colorado. And yet, it feels like a small town, with no sky rise buildings in sight and a downtown area that's only a few blocks long.

It is a city famous for being a junction to trade routes in the Midwest, most famously known as the “Old Spanish Trail.” In 1776, two explorers led a large group of people on this wagon route and called themselves the “Dominguez-Escalante party.” These travelers were exploring a path from Santa Fe to California and consequently came through Mesa County in August of that year.

It is a city built within a fertile valley surrounded by farming communities, which engulf the 38.61 miles of Mesa County land. The Colorado River flows straight through the valley, which replenishes the soil yearly and fuels the land for strong harvests. Famous for the richest fruit in all of Colorado, one can find the freshest and sweetest peaches that a late summer has to offer here.

Overlooking the valley floors are miles of Mesa canyons, mountainous peaks and high desert landscape, all within a few miles of each other. If you're looking to find an escape from the city life and an excuse to strap on a pair of hiking boots, then come get lost for a few hours or days in Grand Junction, Colorado!

For hundreds of years, people have come through this city looking for trade, shelter and adventure. However, modern day peoples were not the first to inhabit this beautiful land. Archaeological evidence dating back to 11,000 B.C.E. shows signs of Paleo Indians, Archaic Indians to 8,000 B.C.E. and Fremont Indians from 700-1,200 C.E. One can find evidence of these peoples throughout the surrounding terrain, as cave paintings and cultural items have been found in the caves along many mountains. These native peoples roamed this land freely, developing deep connections with nature and undoubtedly falling in love with the earth.

There is an old legend in this part of the state that has claimed Grand Junction as a cursed land. The legend explains that as the white man began to make their way into what is now Grand Junction, they forced the native tribes (specifically Utes) away to find new homes. As the natives left, they put a curse on Grand Junction. From that day on, all who come to Grand Junction and take the time to know the land, fall in love with this place. From that day on, all who fall in love with this place will be drawn back time and time again; they will be a part of the land as much as the land is a part of them.

From personal experience, I can attest that the legend of Grand Junction is true. I’ve spent time alone in the Monument, I’m learning the language of the land and it speaks loudly to anyone who really listens. Within the short 1 1/2 years I've attended Colorado Mesa University, I’ve grown up and deepened my sense of self and self-worth more quickly than at any other time in my life thus far. I truly love this school and community.

I encourage anyone looking to find a greater meaning in their life, who want to find themselves or who want to set goals and reach them to give CMU and Grand Junction a chance. There is nowhere else in Colorado where can you find a deeper spiritual connection to the earth, and nowhere else will you find a prehistoric landscape untouched by time, infected with the wisdom of those who came before us echoing in the wind. I can feel them here; their voices call to me in my wake and in my rest, the land tugs at my heart and guides my soul. The earth is here to help, to heal, to give and take. I am here to learn all I can and to give back whatever possible in return. This city is my new home, this land is my friend and I am grateful for life.