Our new look, and the dog days of summer – Fruita, CO

Comments 33 Standard

Our 5-week stay in Fruita, Colorado is winding down.  The extended stop had a two-fold purpose; to get a better feel for the area as a possible place to settle down one day (it’s on our short list), and to wait for the Fall colors to change so we can enjoy them as we continue our travels south and then east.

You see, in 2015 Steve experienced the turning of the Aspens into gold by himself while I was in the Philippines. He raved about it and promised that we would enjoy it together someday. And we’re excited that we’re starting to see the signs now! Keep on reading …

Hiking Colorado National Monument- Fruita, CO

Comments 10 Standard
Showy Four 0'clock

The Rim Rock Drive at Colorado National Monument was a convenient way to admire the iconic red sandstone landmarks there, and to peer into the gaping canyons. (Read post here)  After doing that for a few hours it was time to lace up our boots and hit the trails.  There was a large assortment of them, plus an additional list of trails outside the monument provided by Pam (Oh the Places).  It was hard to pick which ones to follow, but we certainly weren’t disappointed with our choices.  Keep on Reading

Rim Rock Drive – Colorado National Monument- Fruita, CO

Comments 11 Standard

Before my hasty departure to the Philippines, Steve and I were well underway in our exploration and hiking at Colorado National Monument.  I was happy that my “guest blogger” was willing to fill in while I was gone, adeptly sharing his solo excursions as he made his way into Arizona.

Now that I’m unpacked and settled in, I’ll do a bit of back-tracking to cover our experiences while at Colorado National Monument.  Our home base was at the very nice James M Robb Colorado River State Park in Fruita, Colorado (Steve’s review here).

Fruita was a city that we both loved.  It’s at a relatively low elevation and has an environment that we think we could actually settle into someday.  We know we’d never get tired of looking out the windows at this fantastic monument every day!  Keep on Reading

Amazing western Colorado – prt. 2

Comments 20 Standard

I arrived at Alpen Rose RV Park in Durango (review here), and was disappointed after previously staying at three Colorado state parks that were so nice.  This place was pricey and the sites were close together.  I guess I should have been happy that the coaches next to me provided some protection from the winds that went through in the afternoons.  Most other amenities in the park were very nice, but a little space and privacy are paramount to us.  However, it was a fairly good home base from which to do some exploring. Keep on reading …

Amazing western Colorado, prt. 1

Comments 35 Standard

I didn’t intend to post while Mona Liza was in the Philippines, really I didn’t.  Blogging is mainly her thing, I’m just the peon editor in this operation.  But after driving so many miles southward through mind-blowingly beautiful western Colorado, I’m inspired to at least take down some notes about the beauty here, if for no other reason than as a reference for when we plan our trip back.  And we will be back during fall of another year!

western Colorado

Some nice scenery on my drive southward

I’ll skip the background detail that my honey does so well, and just try to give a feel for what I experienced here.  Since I’m not comfortable using her “super-cam” camera (as I call it), and she took our other camera with her, I bought a little Nikon camera to use while she’s away.  That means you won’t see the quality of her photos here, but you’ll get the idea.

Mona Liza’s last-minute flight was scheduled for the day we were due to leave Fruita, CO for Ridgway.  After dropping her off at the airport in Grand Junction at 5:00am, I went back to Betsy and had coffee before hooking up the car for my solo drive to Ridgway State Park (my review here).

DSCN0014

Heading southeast on highway 50, I discovered that a portion of it had a lot of large dips in the road, although the road surface itself was smooth.  That forced me to slow down a bit, or be faced with picking things up off the floor upon arrival at Ridgway.  But it wasn’t really a tough drive, just long and quiet without my cute little navigator/photographer next to me.

Ah, this is more like it, some of the fabulous scenery near Ridgway

The two things we had planned to do while at Ridgway were to drive the Million Dollar Highway, and to check out the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  I’m very glad I decided to stick to those plans even though I was alone.

Million Dollar Highway –

Sorry to have Mona Liza see these photos, but this was perhaps the most amazing stretch of highway I’ve driven during our journey, not just because of the geology, but the fall colors were blasting me from all sides!  I determined that Betsy could have made it, but it would have been brutal not only because of the turns, but also due to the ascents to passes exceeding 11,000 ft.

The drive from Ridgway to Durango, my next stop, was only 80 miles via the MDH.  But while driving it in the car I quickly decided to take the 150-mile trip around to the west, which was fairly challenging in itself and included a climb to over 10,000 ft.  I did see one large motorhome on the MDH during my trek, and the driver’s eyes were bulging out in such a way as to help finalize my decision.  In my opinion, this is not a place for large RV’s!

Million Dollar Highway

Ouray

The town of Ouray sits in a beautiful location indeed. I didn’t have time to hang out there, unfortunately

Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway

This kind of scenery makes you wish you didn’t have to concentrate on the road so much!

DSCN0061

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

In Silverton I saw a train pulled through the mountains by a real live steam locomotive.  I wonder if I could take a ride on that? Stay tuned!

Black Canyon of the Gunnison –

Wow, what a wonderful surprise this place was!  I arrived at the park about the same time the sun did, and although the fall colors aren’t prevalent here, the amazing granite canyons are about as stunning as I’ve seen anywhere – some towering 2,300 ft. above the river below.

My little camera was tested as each overlook showed a new gorge in the maze of canyons, and of course my feeble attempts at photography don’t do it justice.  The road actually runs a ways away from the rim of the canyon, so each stop involves a short to medium walk to the rim – providing a decent amount of exercise if all stops are made – and I didn’t miss any of them.

Black Canyon

The canyon has north and south rim roads, and I took the south rim as most people seemed to and stopped at all 12 overlooks.  It was about 16 miles one-way into the park on the main road, and there were places to have lunch at the picnic tables or to take a hike, in case walking to the rim 12 times wasn’t enough.

Black Canyon

I was overwhelmed by these canyons. Maybe not as grand as the Grand Canyon, but every bit as dramatic in their depth and structure

Black Canyon

There were also lots of birds here – sorry again Mona Liza!  Birds, schmirds – I was here to look at massive granite walls!  A wonderful place not to be missed if you’re in the area, and either of the rim roads can be enjoyed comfortably in a half day.  It’s quite a drive from one rim road to the other, as there is no bridge across, so plan on a full day if you want to travel both roads.

Black Canyon

This place made me feel very small…

That’s about all I had time for during my stop at Ridgway.  I had a few items to attend to on the coach, and some recipes to try out in the kitchen before moving on to Durango.  As I mentioned, the drive there was challenging mountain driving, but the fall colors kept my spirits high when I had a chance to look at them. This state is quickly moving up my list of favorites!

 

Next up:  Amazing western Colorado, pt. 2



 

 

Colorado’s natural gems

Comments 15 Standard

( Due to a family emergency we’ve had a change of plans and I won’t be posting for a while.  I’m heading for the Philippines and will meet up with Steve in Arizona when I return in a few weeks.)

====

Our next stop at Glenwood Springs was at a lower elevation – 5,746 ft.  It gave us a different ambiance from our previous stop at 9,600 ft.  Here, we were looking up instead of looking down, and we were surrounded by steeply contoured canyons on all sides.

Our home base at Glenwood Canyon Resort (Steve’s review here) was our jumping off point to visit two of Colorado’s natural gems – the iconic Maroon Bells and Hanging Lake, an amazing wonder of nature.  We also took a challenging hike up a lesser-known path, the Jess Weaver Trail, aka the No Name Trail.  This was definitely a “get your butt out of bed early” stop, due to the popularity of the attractions.

Glenwood Canyon Resort

Jess Weaver Trail –

Our first hike on the Jess Weaver Trail was 6.3 moderately-difficult miles out and back, but we liked it so much that I ended up extending out to eight miles and Steve did nine.  With an elevation gain of 1,600 ft. starting at 6,260 ft., it was surrounded by towering cliffs and meandered along No Name Creek beginning from the trailhead.  The sounds of the gurgling and rushing water from the creek relaxed us during the long climb.  We didn’t meet a single person on this trail until late in the return portion of our hike.  Loved it!

Jess Weaver Trail

The trail ran between No Name Canyon and Grizzly Canyon

Colorado Bear

Our first bear sighting in Colorado!

Hanging Lake –

The next day we arrived at the trailhead just after 6am (a first for us).  This destination is so popular that the lot often fills up by 9am, and it’s really too crowded to enjoy the hike by then.  When we arrived at the lake there were already 5 people there, and when we began our decent after pictures it had increased to about 20.  Steve counted over 100 people that he passed on the trail during his decent to the trailhead!  The short 1.2 mile one-way trail features a serious elevation gain of 1,000 ft., so it got us huffing and puffing as we hustled up to the top.  But the breathtaking sight of the clear lake soothed our lungs and relaxed us right away.

Hanging Lake trailhead

Entering Hanging Lake Trail before sunrise

Hanging Lake Trail

Glenwood Canyon cliffs

Hanging Lake Trail

A final push to the top

You may ask, “What is so special about this lake?”  Well, Hanging Lake has all the qualities to make it a designated National Natural Landmark.  It’s a rare example of a lake formed by travertine deposition, where the natural geologic and hydro-logic processes continue to operate as they have for thousands of years.  It is perched on the edge of Glenwood Canyon cliffs and its clear turquoise travertine lake and the waterfalls that spill into it were the reward for our rigorous uphill climb.  Steve said he was a bit underwhelmed after all the hype and thought the Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon were more spectacular. But he agreed this display was definitely worth the hike!

Hanging Lake

The turquoise colors of the lake are produced by carbonate minerals that have dissolved in the water.  Because of its fragility, hikers are asked to observe strict rules which include no dipping or touching of any body part into the water or waterfalls.  We hoped the hordes of hikers we encountered that day paid attention to those rules.

Hanging Lake

The clarity of the water was stunning

wpid41235-2015-09-19-CO-1710112.jpg

After a few minutes of soaking in the pristine beauty we headed out, as we already heard other noisy hikers coming up the trail.  But behind the lake we discovered Spouting Rock, appropriately named as water flows through a set of holes in the limestone cliffs of Dead Horse Canyon.

Spouting Rock

The very unusual Spouting Rock

Maroon Bells –

Our last 5am awakening got us an early start for our visit to iconic Maroon Bells.  It’s ten miles west of Aspen and about an hour of driving from Glenwood Springs.  Because of its popularity, access to the scenic area between 8am to 5pm during the summer months is via shuttle only.  Arriving before 8am allows one to drive up to the lake for $10, or for free if you whip out your Annual National Park Pass as we did for the umpteenth time this year.

Maroon Bells

The photographers waiting for the magical sunrise

The two giant snow-striped mountains, named South Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, tower over 14,000 ft. (14er’s), and are nestled in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.  I learned they are the most photographed peaks in North America, and to catch their alpenglow is something special and worth being there before sunrise.  Sure enough, several photographers were already staking claim to their perfect spots when we arrived.

As the first rays of sunlight started hitting the tops of the mountains, the cameras were clicking like hundreds of crickets.  The peaks are touted as the most photographed, but I can guarantee my captures don’t do justice to the beauty here, especially with the fall colors all around!  You’ve got to be standing here to appreciate it.

Maroon Bells

The alpenglow just starting to appear on the peaks

The steep majestic mountains are the result of more than 300 million years of geologic activity, including sedimentation, uplift and erosion by wind, water and ice.  According to the U.S. Forest Service, the mountains received their distinctive maroon coloring from the weathering of hematite, an iron-bearing mineral.  Maroon Lake occupies a basin that was sculpted by ice-age glaciers.

Maroon Bells

Located in the 2.3-million acre White River National Forest, the Maroon Bells tower over numerous hiking trails that offer unbeatable views of golden aspen trees.  Due to the cold weather and incoming crowds we opted for a short scenic trail that weaved through the shimmering golden aspens around the lake.  Here are a few of my captures of the colors, but again they don’t do justice to this amazing place!

Quaking Aspen

Just being here was a delight for the eyes and the soul.

Maroon Bells Wilderness

Maroon Bells

wpid41294-2015-09-18-CO-1700962.jpg

Maroon Bells Wilderness

Maroon Bells Wilderness

Maroon Bells Wilderness

Aspens

Aspen

wpid41258-2015-09-18-CO-1700848.jpg

The Maroon Bells were truly magical, and the breathtaking beauty surrounding us made it well worth the early wakeup and drive through the town of Aspen, which we visited later in the day to get a feel for the cool resort town.

Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells

Like the first shot, but a few minutes later with the alpenglow further down the peaks. I couldn’t pick my favorite!

Capturing the Colorado gems may require a little sacrifice, but the reward at the end is pure bliss!



 

Our first glimpse of Colorado gold – Breckenridge

Comments 10 Standard

Last spring when my good friend Ingrid learned we would be back in Colorado this fall, she quickly whipped up a list of “must see and do” mountain towns along our proposed route.  As a welcome reminder, she recently posted her favorite mountain towns and added even more places that piqued our interest.

Thankfully we listened to this Colorado gal, for the two stops we made along I-70 in the Rocky Mountains offered our first glimpse of the aspen’s golden shimmering leaves. Those of you who have driven RV’s on I-70 know it’s a scenic drive for the passenger, but not so much for the busy driver, who is trying to avoid frying the brakes and/or transmission on those major grades.

wpid41085-2015-09-12-CO-1240670.jpg

It should read “Truckers and drivers of motorhomes and vehicles pulling other RV’s!”

Steve had to focus on the road as we traversed the Rockies and several construction zones, while I was busy snapping away at the gorgeous scenery.  Our first mountain town stop was at Breckenridge, located at the base of the Tenmile Range at an elevation of 9,600 ft.

Breckenridge Ski Resort

The peaks around Breckenridge are nestled among a host of Colorado’s famous “14ers.”

Nothing says “autumn” in Colorado quite like the side of a mountain covered in the stunning leafy gold of aspen trees, and at this elevation they were changing colors daily right outside our door.

wpid41103-2015-09-13-CO-1700290.jpg

Enjoying the fabulous leaf peeping, we just happened to be in town at the right time to check out their annual Oktoberfest celebration.  It was a fun event, and several revelers donned German outfits and brought their own steins for frequent refills.

Octoberfest 2015 Breckenridge

A beer, a pretzel and perhaps some German folks?  We had a great time at this big party!

Colorado’s famous high country aspen reliably turn gold beginning the second week of September through the first week of October.  And the quaking aspens were aglow as we drove along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway toward Leadville and then made a detour to Lake County airport.  Steve had heard about the highest-elevation airport in the U.S. at over 9,900 ft., and he was pleasantly surprised to discover we were close enough that he could stop by to check it out.

wpid41114-2015-09-13-CO-1240805.jpg

Leadville Airport

With a spring in his step, he was on top of the world!

As one might imagine, Colorado has countless top-notch hiking trails surrounded by natural beauty, and while at Breckenridge we hiked two of the three we were hoping to complete.

We started with an easy hike at Hoosier Pass Loop, but it was miserably cold and started raining so we aborted that one early and left after getting a photo at the Continental Divide.  But we did complete the other two hikes – a “must do” at McCullough Gulch Trail and a section of the extensive Colorado Trail that we were able to access right out of our campground, Tiger Run RV Resort (Steve’s review here).

Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass

Those dark clouds behind me conspired to thwart this hike, and no time for a re-attempt

Colorado Trail –

Just a short walk from Betsy was an access point to the 500-mile Colorado Trail (we didn’t do all of it 😉 ).  We followed switchbacks up the hill behind the RV park and enjoyed beautiful views of the area below.  This trail took us through several miles of forests and meadows while providing great views of Tenmile Range and Mt. Quandary, one of the 14ers.

Tiger Run RV Resort

Those switchbacks are the access to the Colorado Trail, right out of our RV park

Quandary Peak

Viewed from the trail, Quandary Peak, the highest summit of the Tenmile Range at 14,271′

Tiger Run RV Resort

Looking back at our campground – Tiger Run RV Resort

wpid41152-2015-09-14-CO-1240997.jpg

One mile done, 499 to go!

Aspen Gold

Aspen gold at our feet

McCullough Gulch Trail –

On another day we followed the McCullough Gulch Trail, considered a hike with elements of quintessential Colorado landscape.  This trail meandered through evergreen forests and meadows, and past waterfalls to finally end at an alpine lake at the base of Quandary Peak.  There were some challenging sections in this 5+ mile roundtrip trek with an 800-foot elevation gain.  The scenery was so gorgeous I don’t think you could take a bad picture here, and my camera was in overdrive.  So much beauty to capture and take in, it was definitely one of our top hikes of the year!

wpid41139-2015-09-16-CO-1250540.jpg

wpid41135-2015-09-16-CO-1250391.jpg

Blue Reservoir

Blue Reservoir framed by 14,265′ Quandary Peak

wpid41144-2015-09-16-CO-1250474.jpg

Here’s where we had lunch

wpid41146-2015-09-16-CO-1250572.jpg

Steve was repeatedly awestruck on this hike

And there’s more gold at our next stop!

 

Next up:  Colorado’s Top Gems



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roaming Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Comments 14 Standard
Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park

We’re back in Colorado, and this time we’ll hang around the central and western areas of the state until the threat of nasty weather runs us off to warmer grounds.  The first time we stayed in Colorado last spring we were enthralled with the beautiful scenery around us, and the many iconic outdoor places to explore and visit.

On the current migration toward our southern winter destination we’re climbing over the Rockies on I-70.  Our first stop includes a long-anticipated visit to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).

Boyd Lake State Park

A morning crescent moon (with Venus nearby) appears  at Boyd Lake State Park

A 5:30am wakeup at our home base at Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland gave us an early start toward RMNP, which allowed us to avoid the crowds for several hours.  Leaving before sunrise also rewarded us with an alpenglow as the sun slowly rose to awaken the sleeping giants:

Alpen Glow

Some 4-legged morning greeters were on hand as we entered the park:

Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park

Our greeters just inside the front gate at RMNP

Rising over 14,000 feet at many points, the Rocky Mountain Range stretches between the United States and Canada forming one of the worlds longest mountain ranges.  Rocky Mountain National Park preserves a respectable 415 square miles of breathtaking scenery.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Map of RMNP, courtesy of NPS

With only a day to explore, we had to drive the road to the sky – the Trail Ridge Road. This is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, and it traverses upward from forests and meadows to stunning views of the spectacular Rocky Mountain Range.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road near its highest point – the cars look like ants from here!

Although we’ve been at higher elevations in the Sierra’s, it was exciting to drive over the summit here at 12,183 feet.

wpid40976-2015-09-10-CO-1690988.jpg

There were pullouts that allowed us to stop and take in a broad landscape of rugged beauty, and to be awed with the enormity of these mountains.

Never Summer Mountains

Looking out into Never Summer Mountains – thus named because summer temperatures average less than 50º

Forest Canyon

Just beyond this meadow lies Forest Canyon and the Continental Divide with Mount Ida

Two hiking trails from the road provided us with sweeping views of the mountains; the Alpine Ridge trail and Tundra Communities trail.

Alpine Ridge Trail

Alpine Ridge was only a short 1/4-mile walk, but its 300 ft. elevation gain got our hearts beating and put us over 12,000 ft. at the top

Alpine ridge Trail

At the summit of Alpine Ridge trail – windy and freezing cold!

The Alpine Visitor Center sits more than two miles above sea level and is self-contained, with no phone lines or utilities to connect it to the outside world.  It’s open only 5 months a year, and it uses a diesel generator to supply power, treated melted snow for drinking water and sewage is hauled away daily by truck to a local treatment facility.  Rangers fondly call it “an island in the sky.”

Alpine Visitor Center

Alpine Visitor Center viewed from the top of Alpine Ridge trail

Along the road, wild animals big and small couldn’t care less if they caused a traffic jam – this is their territory, after all.

Coyote

A coyote in search of greener pastures

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Wouldn’t you stop for this little marmot sitting in the road?

Big Horn Sheep

Although they weren’t on the road, these guys halted traffic in a “no stopping” zone as they rested on a hill

The Tundra Communities trail began at an elevation of 12,050′ and gained 260 feet of elevation.  The area is known as the “Rooftop of the Rockies, the land of fierce extremes.” Only tundra-conditioned plants and animals can survive in this environment.

A plaque along the trail described the alpine tundra of RMNP as vast, covering nearly a third of the park.  It’s only here where one can observe and enjoy the community of highly specialized species up close.

Tundra Communities Trail

Here are some of the species we saw that are able to adapt and thrive in the harsh winter conditions:

By noon things were getting busy, with few places to park our car.  And this was after Labor Day on a weekday!  We were able to find a good lunch spot at Lake Irene, where I captured some beautiful summer flowers on perhaps their last blooming days of the year:

We reached the western end of Trail Ridge Road and cruised through the quaint resort town of Grand Lake after lunch, then turned around for the long haul back home.  We stopped briefly to get a capture of yet another lake surrounded by mountains:

Grand Lake, CO

We were unable to park at Poudre Lake near the Continental Divide, so I just snapped a shot as we went by:

Poudre Lake

Poudre Lake

The first pine tree infestations we’ve seen were in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and it’s a major problem here as well.  It seems that Mountain Pine Beetles are killing pine and spruce trees throughout the Rocky Mountains, and it’s a growing epidemic.  On a lighter note these dead trees actually gave a bluish hue to the mountains from a distance, mixing with the green of the live trees:

Infested mountain Pine Trees

Lots of infested pine trees – very sad

Rocky Mountain National Park

The mountains with the dead trees take on an interesting green/blue hue in the right sunlight

We got just a taste of Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was a long day and we wished we were staying nearer to the park so we could get in some more serious hiking on the trails there. No question, this is a place we’d be happy to come back to and spend a lot more time.

With winter just around the corner, these massive mountains will soon be covered in snow for several months – we wish we could see that!

 

Next up:  Continuing our Rocky Mountain adventures…



 

 

 

A day in the mile-high city – Denver, Colorado

Comments 17 Standard
Union Station, Denver
wpid37458-2015-05-30-CO-1050869.jpg

Purchasing our “day passes” before hopping aboard light rail into the city

All of our prior visits to Denver were confined to either the old or new international airports, waiting for connecting flights across the nation.  Now we were just a few miles from the city and had to make a thorough visit.  Our home base at Dakota Ridge RV Park (see Steve’s review here) was conveniently located only a short walk from the “W” line light rail station, so with afternoon thunderstorms a daily event in the area we caught an early train into the mile-high city.

Denver has been identified as the Mile-High City because its official elevation is right at one mile (5,280 ft.) above sea level. Because of that I had always thought the city was located in the mountains, but it’s actually 12 miles east of the front range of the Rockies, which dominate the views.  The picturesque mountain panorama near Denver is 140 miles long, and those mountains helped spawn many nasty thunderstorms that we endured during our visit.

Denver Skyline

Downtown Denver skyline from the west

Like any other metropolitan city, there are many attractions to see and things to do, but our day was dependent on how far our two feet could take us in the time we had.  It was a long day, and I thought I’d try to share what grabbed our attention without boring you all to death.

Our initial stop was near the hub of the light rail system, the newly-renovated Union Station which is Denver’s transportation center.

Union Station, Denver

At the back of Union Station is a transportation hub for buses, Amtrak and the light rail

Terminal at Union Station

Union Station is a transportation, dining, shopping and entertainment mecca, with a nice hotel upstairs

We continued our stroll around the Union Station historic neighborhood and saw a few buildings that are registered in the National Historic Register.  The  huge Icehouse Building was a functional cold storage warehouse continuously for eighty years.  Being in an ideal location near Union Station, it has been repurposed as a tavern and apartment loft.

Icehouse

Wynkoop Street

Wynkoop Street as seen from the arch of Coors Field

With no baseball game that day, the area around Coors Field was totally quiet – perfect!

Coors Field

Coors Field – home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team

We visited Larimer Square, the oldest and most historic block in the city.  In the 1850s, representatives from various area settlements got together over a barrel of whiskey and decided to consolidate their resources.  The city would be named Denver, adopted from James Denver, the Kansas Territorial Governor at the time.  Today, Larimer Square is one of the most stylish shopping areas in the city.

Next we strolled through the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian promenade lined with trees, outdoor cafes and retail shops.  We found the area to be a bit seedy, with all kinds of characters walking around.

Two things made us pause there, though.  One was Steve’s stop for his favorite driving snack – jerky.  He’s been on a long quest for the ultimate jerky, and is now considering trying to make his own.  Anyone out there have an excellent recipe he can use once he gets his dehydrator?

wpid37470-2015-05-30-CO-1060039.jpg

Our second stop was near the north end of 16th street, where I had noticed one of several colorful pianos in the middle of the street.  Of course, I sat down for a pose and to make a musical moment of my own.  But my piano-playing days are in the past and I quickly gave up.

I later learned that these brightly painted upright pianos are a part of Your Keys to the City, a public piano art program created by the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District.  It’s the first time we had seen an outdoor public place where anyone can sit down to play a piano and enjoy the moment – cool!

We ambled into a beautiful stone church building that seemed to be engulfed by a high-rise next door.  It was quite an unusual sight to see a church overshadowed by a tall modern building.  The church was built first in 1940, and as Denver grew the preservation of the Holy Catholic Church was a priority.  So the new skyscraper was designed in a unique triangular shape that encircles a large section of the church, but it doesn’t disturb any part of its structure.

This church’s history indicates 300 tons of Colorado colocreme travertine marble cover its wall and columns, making it the largest collection of this stone in the United States.

A strange courtship of structures

A strange courtship of structures

A bit of a trek north and over the South Platte River on a pedestrian walkway took us to the giant flagship REI store.  I spent about an hour shopping for hiking goodies while Steve mostly admired the architecture of the huge brick building.

Here’s something unique to some cities in the state of Colorado:

Marijuana Store

After several miles on our personal walking tour we got downright thirsty.  We picked the Tavern-Downtown with its rooftop patio to resolve the issue.  It overlooks Coors Field, and on such a gorgeous day we couldn’t help but do some people-watching.

On the roof at Tavern-Downtown

On the roof at Tavern-Downtown

Finally, we hopped back on the light rail so we’d make our much-anticipated dinner reservation at the historic Buckhorn Exchange Steakhouse.  Located on the southwestern side of town, it’s Denver’s oldest restaurant and offers an unusual array of delicacies.

This restaurant has been in business since 1893 in a standalone brick building.  The place oozes saloon ambiance, and the walls are adorned with a collection of over 500 mounted animals and trophy heads of every description.  Bears, birds, mountain lions, elk – even a two-headed calf are on display.  Antiques, firearms and western collectibles cover every remaining inch of the walls, and patrons are encouraged to look around and take pictures.

Buckhorn Exchange Steakhouse

This amazing place could be a museum! Behind the bar is liquor license #1 for the state of Colorado

The draw here, as it was over a century ago, is the game-centric menu.  As an appetizer we ordered the grilled rattlesnake over a spicy cream cheese sauce – wow, was it yummy!  My entree was buffalo rib eye, while Steve devoured a buffalo prime rib.  He said it was one of the best pieces of meat he had ever tasted.

With our tummies satisfied and our legs weary after walking over 13 miles, we hopped back on the light rail and headed back to Golden.

Dinner at Buckhorn Exchange

As usual, there were many more things to see and do in Denver, but we were happy with what we covered during our long day.  And that wraps up our extended stay in Colorado!

 

Next up:  Kansas, baby!



 

 

Exploring the iconic Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater – Morrison, CO

Comments 16 Standard

There were numerous hiking trails to choose from near our RV Park in Golden, Colorado, yet we kept going back to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater – not once but three times! The first time was with John and Pam, then with Al and Ingrid and finally Steve and I took a last hike there before moving on.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater viewed from Dakota Ridge

Our inclination toward Red Rocks Park had a lot to do with its scenic trails, geologic features and its music venue like no other.  We learned that a lot of big-name bands have returned repeatedly to this beautiful amphitheater set into the towering rocks and offering amazing acoustics for their music.

Creation Rock

The back side of one of the natural sandstone walls lining the amphitheater- Creation Rock

 Eroded sandstone and siltstone Red Rocks

Checking out the eroded sandstone and siltstone

The top of the outdoor amphitheater is a perfect place to take in the 200-mile panorama of Denver and the distant plains.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Dakota Ridge is the first one across the valley, and the Denver skyline is in the distance

The amphitheater is open to the public for viewing and exercise activities when events aren’t scheduled.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Ingrid, Al and Steve watch the hoards performing their daily exercise rituals

We also saw several people capturing the beauty of the area with strokes of a brush.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

A lone painter doing her thing

We were happy to see abundant wildlife and wildflowers during several hikes through and around the park.

We marveled at the open air amphitheater built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the National Park Service – without any help from machinery – between 1931-1941.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

I would love to watch a concert at this 9,000 seat venue!

We discovered a great music museum within the amphitheater.  It had nice displays showing the hundreds of acts that had performed here during the past decades.

Our hiking muscles were quickly whipped back into shape as we explored several of the many hiking trails surrounding the geological formations.  On one day we met with avid hikers John and Pam to tackle the Red Rocks Trail, a 6-mile loop that lead out of the Park and connected with the Dakota Ridge Trail.  We also traversed the Matthew Winters Open Space area that day on the way back to our cars.

Hans and Lisa had already hiked these trails several days before, so we mostly followed their path.  Rather than rehashing the details of these scenic trails, I invite you to check the accounts of Metamorphis Road and Oh the Places They Go for more information about them.

Red Rocks Trail

The gang at the trailhead with Dakota Ridge in the distance

Dakota Ridge Trail

These beauties took a break at the top of Dakota Ridge

Red Rock Parks

Steve and John are dwarfed by one of the sandstone formations

When Al and Ingrid arrived in town a few days later we hiked the Trading Post Trail, a 1.4-mile loop that wound through spectacular formations, valleys and a natural meadow.

Trading Post Trail

Ingrid gives Steve instructions on how to take our picture.  Gee, I never do that!

Trading Post Trail

I think he listened well!

Red Rocks formations

These red rocks appeared to be neatly arranged

Trading Post Trail

Final stretch for the ladies in blue

Steve and I went back on another day to climb the Funicular Trail to the north entrance of the amphitheater.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Those are “hogbacks” on the left and in the valley

Before audiences are amazed by a performance here, they can choose to get a good workout by walking up from one of the parking lots to the amphitheater.  There are plenty of steps up to and around the seating area to get the blood pumping.

Red Rocks  Amphitheater

Just some of the stairs leading up to the amphitheater

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Looking up from the stage

Another place we kept going back to, this time for authentic and fresh mexican food, was La Casa Alba in Golden.  Lisa found this hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and by the time we left town we had been there for lunch with special people four times!

LA casa Alba, Mexican Restaurant

Another great meal at La Casa Alba. Don’t miss this place if you love authentic mexican food!

And that’s how we spent ten days with friend bloggers in and around Golden after my returned from the Philippines.  Till we meet again, my friends, see you somewhere out west this fall and winter!

Next up: A day in the mile high city-Denver, Colorado