“Come for the winter, stay for the summer.” We’ve all heard that little gem a thousand times over, right?

It’s a common refrain uttered on valley patios, picnic blankets, and river rafts throughout the season, but its ubiquity doesn’t make it any less true. For the many—many—transplants laying down roots here, the saying frames a Western Slope summer as both an immense joy and an utterly enchanting surprise worthy of tethering us to this land forever.

That a Colorado summer could rival or surpass the brilliance of winter may have left many of us in shock. As John Denver sang about that transformative mountain summer of his 27th year, it was like “coming home to a place he’d never been before.”

(I can see the born-and-breds rolling their eyes now, for this summer stuff is something they’ve known all along. Bear with me, friends!)

July is an exceptional month in the valley, giving us peak sweetness in an already sugar-sweet season. Valley markets burst with fresh local produce, festivals overflow with music and revelry, peaks brim with hikers, and sunsets are long and slow and dreamy. What a time, what a place.

For every native Roaring Forker, transplant, or visitor, this month is always something special. Stay for the summer, and enjoy it while it lasts.