My Trip to Colorado
A few weeks ago, my husband and I escaped from work and life for a week to visit the beautiful state of Colorado. When I started planning our trip, I suddenly discovered just how HUGE the state is. I quickly realized we would not be able to see the whole state in one week, so we decided to focus our trip on the Boulder / Denver metro area, with a 2-day stay in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park being the highlight of our trip. If you’ve never read my About or Photography pages, you might not know that I’m primarily into nature and landscape photography – so I was REALLY excited about capturing the beauty of the Rockies with my camera.
I have an uncle who lives in Colorado and was kind enough to be our tour guide for the first few days of our trip. The first day we took a quick drive out past Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park. The afternoon storms had already started building over the mountains at that point, but the scenery was still breathtaking. I took some quick snapshots but didn’t fuss too much because I figured we’d be back later in the week when I’d have more time to take photos. We got our first taste of Rocky Mountain elevation at around 11,000 feet above sea level. The air was noticeably thinner but not too uncomfortable.
The second day of our trip we took a ride out to Pikes Peak, which I later learned is the 39th highest peak in the US at 14,115 feet of elevation. We opted to drive up to the top, although there is also a cog railroad you can ride to the top. Honestly, I’m not sure which is more terrifying but I can tell you the drive to the top of Pikes Peak was breathtaking in more ways than one. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart! The views were incredible on the way up, and we discovered a few surprises along the way. Did you think Santa’s Workshop was in the North Pole? Wrong! It’s in Colorado. And so is bigfoot! Or so the sign would lead you to believe. At the top of Pikes Peak, I discovered what they mean when they talk about “thin air” at high altitudes. At 14,000 feet, moving any faster than grandma walking speed would leave me gasping for air. The best way to describe it is that you’re breathing air, but it feels like the air isn’t working. It’s a unique sensation, and one I’m definitely glad I did not experience for long!
Sadly, after that the rain started so the rest of our trip was spent focusing on indoor activities and just trying not to get swept away in flood waters. For rainy day activities, I recommend a visit to the National Center for Atmospheric Research for some cool, sciency weather exhibits. Also, take a tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory in Boulder. They’ll give you all the free tea samples you can drink of any flavor you want! If it’s not too rainy, the Denver Zoo is huge and very nice.
But wait, we haven’t talked about the food!
We discovered Early Bird in Westminster, CO almost by accident and we ended up liking it so much we ate breakfast there 3 times. Early Bird focuses on fresh, seasonal, and local food that delivers a lot of flavor. The first time we visited the creme brulee french toast grabbed my attention right away. I ordered it topped with peanut butter and bananas. So filling and delicious! On subsequent visits I tried one of their “risers” (open-faced omelets) and their signature eggs benedict with braised pulled pork. Of course I couldn’t leave without one of their browned butter nutella cookies too! Everything was fantastic and so reasonably priced. There is no way you will leave Early Bird hungry!
Speaking of breakfast, when I solicited recommendations for places to eat around Denver, the one place everyone unanimously recommended was Snooze. After having breakfast there, I completely understand why. We ordered the highly recommend pancake flight to start, with Blueberry Danish, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and Sweet Potato pancakes. They were so good my eyes rolled back in my head. It was a tie between the pineapple and sweet potato pancakes for my favorites! Then, because it’s my favorite breakfast ever, I had to order the eggs benedict with smoked ham and smoked cheddar hollandaise. Everything was so perfect it was hard to believe, right down to the crispy, not at all soggy hash browns.
Another favorite place to eat in Denver was at Pinche Tacos. They had rave reviews online and I figured it would be a good stop for lunch. The sign outside simply reads, “Tacos. Tequila. Whiskey.” Who could say no to that? Not me! We started with an order of Queso Fundido con Tequila because I can never say no to queso. The chips were so fresh they were still warm and the melty cheese was incredible. At that point I decided that if we were in a place known for tequila, I needed to try a margarita. They make excellent margaritas. Lots of fresh lime flavor and they’re not overly sweet or salty. For lunch we tried a selection of their extensive taco menu, including a chipotle & beer battered fish, slaw, avocado & pineapple guacamole taco (my favorite) and the Carnitas taco, made with crispy roasted pork, pickled red onions, and avocado crema (my husband’s favorite). Incredibly we still had some room left after all that, so of course I had to order the churros for dessert. I loved the way they served them in an oversized mug with a chocolate dipping sauce!
The award for most unique dining experience goes to our dinner at Gold Hill Inn. My uncle told us he wanted to take us to this great restaurant, but that on the way there we would wonder where he was taking us. He wasn’t kidding! Gold Hill Inn is just 10 miles outside of Boulder, but it’s 3,200 feet above Boulder at 8,300 feet above sea level, on the side of a mountain. About halfway there, the road turned from asphalt to dirt. The restaurant is housed in a 1924 log cabin. It was like taking a step back in time! The food, however, was just as modern as any other restaurant. We were treated to a 6-course meal of home cooked, seasonal foods. It was an experience I won’t forget!
Last but not least, I fell hard for ModMarket when we accidentally stumbled upon them for lunch one afternoon. ModMarket is exactly what I wish fast food would be. They focus on real, whole foods with no preservatives or artificial sweeteners. You won’t find any Diet Coke at ModMarket! As they say, “We make things from scratch, which is a total pain, but it makes our food taste better.” Love it!
The Floods & How You Can Help
I’m sorry I don’t have more or better photos to share, or really any recommendations for outdoor activities in Colorado – which is full of them! You’ve probably heard on the news by now that the Denver / Boulder / Estes Park area of Colorado experienced heavy rain and some of the worst flooding in decades the week we visited in early September. We ended up cancelling a lot of our plans, including our stay in Estes Park, but we were fortunately never in danger. While I am hugely disappointed that our trip didn’t turn out to be what I had hoped for, I also realize that things could have been much worse and we were overall very lucky. My disappoint is nothing compared to anguish of residents in Boulder, Estes Park, Longmont, Lyons, and other communities along the Front Range as they try to clean up and recover from the massive floods. Many towns received over a foot of rain in 3 days, with Boulder receiving 17 inches that week – 9 inches of which fell in ONE day. The amount of rainfall many of the Front Range towns experienced during that week exceeded their average annual rainfall totals.
I’ve included a few links below in case you feel compelled to help. While the rain has finally stopped, Colorado is facing a long clean-up process ahead of them as they continue to recover from this natural disaster.