I love living in Northern Colorado, but I have so many reasons that narrowing it down to only five requires that this post have a theme. I've picked one that Colorado is justifiably famous for - the outdoors.
It's beautiful here, particularly if you're a fan of blue skies and wrinkled geography. I never get tired of looking at the mountains or being in them - their presence off to the west is a constant visual anchor in our daily lives. The scenery is breathtaking, no matter the season, offering blazes of gold from the aspens turning in the fall, snow capped peaks in the winter, and welcome shades of green in the spring and summer.
Along with the beauty of the mountains comes easy access to the outdoors, also very much a part of our lives. I lived for a while in a bleak midwestern city which shall be nameless, whose only access to the "outdoors" was a metropark of 3 whole acres featuring a 1/4 mile "walking path", or you could go stand out in a cornfield. Here, the real outdoors is minutes away, whether it be the civilized miles of bike/hike paths, parks and reservoirs or slightly more remote pristine trout streams, hiking trails and true wilderness areas. 56% of Larimer County, in which Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park are located, is permanent open space, consisting of municipal, county, state and national forests and parks and recreation areas.
And if that weren't enough, the climate acts as a multiplier, providing four different versions of the outdoors. We have four distinct seasons in Colorado, and I find all of them to be immensely enjoyable (even if, on occasion, they all occur within the span of a single day - I've skied in June, and golfed or hiked in the mountains in January many times). Because of a couple of unfortunate snow storms during nationally televised Denver Doncos Monday Night Football games, we have a reputation of having hard winters. Nothing could be further from the truth - we enjoy well over 300 days of sunshine a year, and when it does snow, it usually melts within a day or two. I've shoveled my driveway exactly 4 times in the last 3 years - sure, I could have shoveled more if I wanted to, but the climate encourages that particular brand of lazy procrastination.
Along with the outdoors comes a real bonus - wildlife. Mary and I are fortunate to live just a little bit out of town, kind of out in the country but still only 10 minutes from Old Town Fort Collins, so we share our neighborhood with an amazing assortment of birds and beasts. Our lake is a stop on the semi-annual waterfowl migration - we usually have a half dozen different species of ducks as regular visitors, hundreds of them, along with the occasional rarity like Trumpeter Swans - and our seasonal and permanent residents include Canadian Geese, herons, pelicans, gulls, ospreys, hawks, eagles and cormorants. We also regularly see deer, fox, coyotes, muskrats, a huge assortment of birds and a troop of particularly obnoxious raccoons, and are enjoying a rabbit infestation, awaiting the inevitable bad news for them as we work through the predator/prey cycle. And that's just our neighborhood. A couple of minutes travel into the mountains and we have a great chance of seeing bear, mountain lion, bighorn sheep and elk.
I especially like how easy it is to include our dogs in our outdoor activities. With the exception of Rocky Mountain National Park, which is flat-out dog-hostile, the doggies are a welcome part of our hikes, and can go swimming pretty much anytime our lake isn't frozen. They have a large fenced lot to run around on, even if they prefer hanging out in the house with us (or more accurately, where the treat jar is located). And they live in a community that is about as dog-friendly as possible. When the dogs are happy, we're happy.
I've lived in Colorado for 34 years, I love it, and you couldn't get me out of here even with dynamite.