Happy hump day my friends!
If you’ve been holding your breath for this final installment of our travels to the great state of Colorado, please exhale. We don’t want anyone passing out over delayed blog posts or long stories yet-to-be-told or pictures-yet-to-be-viewed. 😉 Phew. Part 3. We all made it this far. Be forewarned…this is a long post. But there are a ton of pictures so it should go pretty quickly. The highlights will be…aspens…the trees and the town. For example…I mean, come on. Glorious.
As you can imagine, I have an extensive travel “bucket list.” And even though we’ve been blessed to see more places than many folks these past years, my list is getting longer, not shorter. Such is the plight of a lifelong traveller I suppose. However, as I added several new things to my bucket list during our Colorado trip (skiing and apres-skiing 😉 in the Aspen/Vail/Breckenridge area, a killer concert at Red Rocks, climbing Mt. Elbert, and seeing the Uncompahgre Range to name a few) I did get to check off experiencing Colorado’s famous “aspen glow” in the fall. It’s been on my list a while- I’ve literally dreamed about being in those glorious rustle-y golden branches with little bits of gold dust floating down around me with a bluebird sky and snow-capped peaks in the background. Ok maybe not an exact literal dream, but a daydream for sure. Well when I found out we were heading to Denver in early October, my first Google search was for the timing of the aspen change this year. I was so excited to see that we would probably be hitting it juuuuust about perfectly- a titty bit past peak in some areas but just right in others. Yay for the Lord’s good timing to just happen to get us out there at just the right time to experience a unique part of the beauty of this area that a lot of visitors miss and only locals get to enjoy- if they take the time. 🙂
With Denver in our review mirror and an Airbnb waiting for us in Silverthorne, we chose to take the Loveland Pass over to ST instead of the Interstate on the recommendation of our Airbnb rentor (as in employer…we’re the rentees…clear as mud?!). It was absolutely stunning and a lot different than our drive through RMNP-area mountains. When we got out of the car at the Continental Divide sign (picture time of course) it was so cold and windy and the air was so thin it was like being in a whole new cloud-tipped world- especially coming from Denver.
In Silverthorne we found our next Airbnb- an awesome little 2 b/2ba condo with a fireplace and Netflix and aspens right out the blessed window. And at a price less than any Holiday Inn-esque establishment I’d searched for, if I wasn’t already sold on the awesomeness of The Great Airbnb I was now. If you’re ever traveling anywhere with a family (or you’re a single or couple for that matter- there are options galore!) I highly highly recommend at least checking it out in comparison to your Priceline or Expedia lodging options. We’ve had nothing but lovely experiences with the people renting their spaces out and the prices are legitimately so reasonable for what you get. The local owners are so helpful to tell you about their neighborhoods- especially when it comes to recommending places to eat, get coffee, or explore nearby. Almost every place we went in the Silverthorne area came as a direct recommendation from Alan, our Airbnb host, and they were all perfect. More on that to come.
Day 1 of Part 3 sent us just down the road to the lovely city of Vail…where we planned to just quickly grab a coffee and walk around and say we’d been there but ended up spending hours eating crepes and $$$ on gondola rides up the ski slopes through the most stunning stands of aspens we’d see the whole trip. Sorry. That was a long and probably improper sentence haha. I’m ahead of myself…rewind a few hours to when we stopped in Silverthorne for coffee and breakfast burritos at a place called Red Buffalo Cafe. There was a Willie Nelson look alike playing guitar, a perfect spicy coconut milk bhakti chai, and outdoor seating next to a little mountain stream. What’s not to love. I could have stayed all day but the aspens were calling. Onto Vail. Whew what a fancy-schmancy little place! I can see why celebrities and wealthy ski-bunnies feel at home here. The architecture is that of a quaint village in the French Alps or perhaps the storybook princess section of DisneyWorld, with people watching and prices to match. I loved it. The aspens were SO so vivid here and the rides up and down the mountain to view them via Gondola One were priceless. Right Matt? 😉
From Vail we drove on to Glenwood Springs to visit the famous hot spring pool. This naturally spring-fed pool of legend is crazy big and is always 90ish degrees. Even though it contains over a million gallons of water (!) it refreshes itself completely every 6 hours and the hot springs water needs to be mixed with fresh water or it would be 122 degrees. Woah. I visited this place as a kid and had very fond memories of the crazy-clear-bathwater swimming experience, and our visit was a great experience, but I remember the pool being bigger and less crowded when I was a kid. There were A LOT of people here- no lounge chairs, no locker space, no privacy, but the kids still had a blast. Matt almost didn’t make it out of the locker room (see below) but he loosened up and tossed the munchkins around in the water like a good Daddy despite his wardrobe challenges. 😉 We had fun taking underwater pics with our new knock-off-but-still-waterproof-and-one-tenth-of-the-price “GoPro” which you will see some of right about now!
After a full and exhausting day of driving, gondola riding and hot springs dipping, a big ole Colorado dinner was in order. I Yelped a few places in Breckenridge, which was on our short list of places to stop even if we couldn’t spend a ton of time here, and found a joint called The Canteen. Called in for a reservation for 6 and the nice lady on the phone said they didn’t have any openings until 9:30. So….called a bunch of other less-yelpy-places with NO luck. Apparently Breck is a busy place to eat on a Saturday night…who knew? As all hope seemed lost a very nice
man angel called from The Canteen and said they just had a cancellation for exactly the time and number of people we were looking for and would we like the table? Ummmm yes please! Turned out to be one of the yummiest meals we had on the trip and the view of the cute city of Breckenridge with the sun setting behind the range out our window also didn’t suck. 😉 A very good day indeed.
Day 2 of Part 3- “Adventurers Unite” was the battle cry as we prepared to drive Independence Pass on our way to hike the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen. This day was seriously so lovely and fally and aspen-filled and darned near perfect I don’t even want to write much about it but I will show you lots and lots of pictures. The drive was stunning, the waterfall we stumbled upon was stunning, the hike at the Bells was stunning, the aspens forests were stunning…you get it. It was almost too much to take in.
That night when we got back to Silverthorne we had a memorable and way tasty dinner at this little joint our host recommended called Cafe ProFusion. When we walked in the 3 other tables all stopped and stared and it was pretty clear this was not the sort of place people generally take kids. And the 3 tables were 3 out of 4 tables in the place. Tiny. But the owner (who were also the servers and cooks) were so gracious and acommodating to our tired, hungry, under-10 crew and we had a table and appetizers and pitchers of water in no time. Side note- when you take your family to Colorado, please oh please be sure to drink extra water during the day. Seriously we were so thirsty and dehydrated by the end of the days that we would drink like camels at dinner time and before bed and of course have to pee all night long while still having cotton mouth. Spread your H2O out throughout the day and stay hydrated!! End of PSA. So…our dinner…yummy/unique/fresh/flavorful Indian/Asian/American comfort food fusions that just really hit the spot. I wish I would have taken more pics there but we were so tired and hungry we just ate and ate then went to bed. Very exciting, I know.
OK- if you need a stretch break, go stretch now. Do some down dogs or something cause we got one more day to go in Colorado plus a bonus stop at the home of some dear friends in West Nebraska. I know this is kind of a marathon post but, hey, its mostly pictures so you can do it. 😉
Matt just loves when I plan our travel adventures with evening research weeks before we leave for our destination and want to share all my fun findings with him before bed. Don’t you honey?! 😉 All the Airbnbing and Yelping and Tripadvisoring and blogreading- isn’t the www just amazing? Plus part of the fun for me is looking into the coffee shops and restaurants and road-side attractions and must-dos of an area and mapping out a general plan of attack to make the most of our always-too-short time on vacation. I always say that I’d hate to quickly decide to eat at the first place that looks good when the best place in town was just down the road. That said, I always try to leave room for some spontaneity and flexibility in our day/trip as a whole because you just need to. Things will always come up that take longer than you thought they would or something will catch your eye that you didn’t plan that will end up being one of your most memorable stops. Our Red Rocks time and exploring that waterfall off of Independence Pass were just two of the fabulously unexpected stops we made this trip. So our final day of our Colorado time came and I didn’t have anything planned! What fun- a day to follow our noses into some mountain trouble! 😉 Matt had actually been doing some research and found an off-road “road” that apparently climbed above the tree line through streams and past abandoned mines and sounded like too much fun to pass up. So we grabbed coffees and Larabars and extra water and went off the map. The drive was actually way fun and gorgeous (big surprise, right…everything here is gorgeous!!) and the abandoned (silver??) mining structures were really cool- the kids loved looking around as much as we let them knowing the building could fall at any minute. 😉 Ready for more pics?
From our morning off-road adventures it was time to pack the car and say goodbye-for-now to the lovely state of Colorado and drove through Denver, Fort Collins, Cheyenne and the windy-est backroads of Wyoming to get to the Scottsbluff area where our dear friends from home have relocated to be closer to family. Our little town misses them, their workplaces most assuredly miss them, our neighborhood misses them and I especially miss my pedicure-wine-homeschool-cincodemayo-everything friend. Thank God for texting. It was a pleasure to spend a few days relaxing, playing, hiking and working with her family at their homesteaded ranch which my kids thought was basically the most magical place on earth. They’ve been begging me for chickens and mancala and a dog named Bear and yucca plants ever since. 🙂 Unfortunately a few slightly sick members of both families cut our time with them a little short, but we’ve got plans to see each other again soon and had a sweet time reconnecting before we got back in the car and drove once again back East toward home.
Next came home sweet home and soaking in the afterglow of an amazing, inspiring, exhausting, delicious, friend-filled mountain adventure we’ll never forget. There was also lots of laundry, unpacking, car-detoxifying, grocery getting, school catch-up-ing, family reconnecting, and general settling in to a version of normal life before we threw it all into a glorious travel-induced tailspin again with our Deep South tour.
But that’s another story for another post, which I pinky-swear to get around to in the next itty bit.
Much love and thanks for sharing our Colorado adventure with us! I’d love to tell you more about specific places we went and ate and how it all worked if you have any further questions or comments, just let me know. And if you’ve been considering a CO adventure of your own but aren’t sure when or where to go, can I suggest Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, Silverthorne, Vail and/or Aspen in late September/early October? 😉 I promise you will love it as much as we did.
It’s good to go adventuring my friends! Til next time,