One week vacation in Colorado 8/31-9/7, and it could not have been more beautiful. We arrived in Boulder late on Wednesday night, and after a brief issue with our room, we grabbed a bite to eat and got settled in. Our friends Bridgette and Brian came out early the next morning (September 1st) and we headed up to Estes Park for some hiking. We decided to hike the Glacier Gorge trail up to Mills Lake, about 7 miles round trip with about 850 ft elevation gain. This trail was moderate and took us past beautiful Alberta Falls, over very scenic trails, and ultimately to Mills Lake. On the return, we actually could have done a loop up to Bears Lake but by this point we were all hungry and looking for some real food beyond nuts and bars! We went to a restaurant in Estes Park town called Twin Owls Steakhouse. We ordered Elk medallions for appetizers; for dinner the guys and me had the Bison Steak special with potatoes and veggies, and Bridgette had a 4×4 which had lobster tail and Filet. Since we were in Colorado we had to try some of the game, it was a bit expensive, but the food was delicious! A very successful first day in Colorado!
September 2nd, We spent our second day touring around Boulder, the Flat Irons, some scenic overlooks and explored some areas around route 72, Nederland, and Blackhawk. We ended up in Golden Colorado to meet up with some old friends Shirley, Steve, Mike and Jeanine. We all went out for a wonderful lunch and then a nice walk along a waterfall path at Lair of the Bear park. We agreed to meet up for another hike the next day at Estes Park. Note to self, I really loved the Golden Colorado area!!
Well, since this was Labor day weekend (September 3rd), we expected the park to be crowded. Parking is very limited and we were lucky to be able to secure spots just before everyone was denied entrance into the park. We hitched a shuttle over to Bear lake and after a brief hike (2 miles) toward Fern Lake (and storms moving in) we headed back and did the .5 mile walk around Bear Lake until the skies cleared, then we headed up toward Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. The hike was about 4 miles out and back with ~700 ft elevation gain. This was a very scenic hike with plenty of Aspen trees, wild flowers, and 3 different lakes. Each turn was more stunning than the next. I told Chris that I was never going home again…..Leaving here and heading for dinner we stopped in Estes Park town again, but this time our dinner luck was not as good. We picked a restaurant called Wild Rose and not only was there a huge delay in delivering our food, it was ICE COLD when it arrived, not to mention NOT fresh (just don’t go). We tipped the waitress and left everything on the table. We then ended up at Smoking’ Dave’s BBQ in Lyons, the food was awesome fresh and tasty! Everyone was happy, we should have just headed straight there, now we know.
September 4th, we decided to drive to Colorado Springs and up to Pikes Peak. Naturally I wanted to take the cog train up but since my husband refuses to plan anything in advance I didn’t purchase tickets in advance (as one should do during a peak holiday season). As a result of this, the cog train was sold out and we had to 1) wait in the entrance line for the highway for OVER 1 hr. just to pay to head up the road and 2) pray that the tin can KIA compact car we rented would make it up and down the 20 mile steep slope of the mountain. Well, after some hair pin turns and the smell of some rubber burning from the car, we finally made it up to the peak. Thankfully, I did bring pants and a sweatshirt but forgot my socks/shoes, so I had to walk in sandals and freeze my toes. Well worth it though, what a beautiful site!! We explored, took pictures, took more pictures and were just amazed to see how many people were making the trek up the mountain on a bicycle!!! The wind was so crazy that I was getting blown away just standing there, and the roads were amazingly steep. I couldn’t imaging walking up much less trying to pedal up on a bike!! After a very slow downward drive (and our brakes did not over heat, nice job Chris!), we had some lunch in downtown Colorado Springs and then made a last minute decision to drive to the Royal Gorge Bridge (RGB). This was another 1.5 hrs SW of Colorado Springs and it was already about 3 pm. I have to say this was pretty uneventful place. After paying $40 dollars to “get in”, we walked across the bridge, took some photos, watched a movie about the RGB and we were done. Now, there were other things to do that were amusement park-ish (zip line, swing, cable car), all except the cable car were about $50 per person to do and we were not interested. So, we left to take the 3 hr trek back to Boulder and hope to get on the main highway before dark. I was disappointed in this part of our trip as it was a very long drive and I felt deflated on the experience. We should have done this with a rafting trip, or something that would have had us in the area already, but not as special drive out.
September 5th, Labor Day. My other must do hike for this trip was the Wild Basin area Trail past Ouzel Falls (Allens Park). This was another moderate hike about 7.5 miles round trip (we had a 1 mile walk just to get to the trail head) with a 1073 ft. elevation gain. This hike had one beautiful waterfall cascade after the next and plenty of beautiful vistas to enjoy. We stopped to take plenty of pictures along this route and sat to enjoy the sounds of rushing waters which was so relaxing. I once again told Chris I was not going home…..I hope to go back to this one day and take the extended trail to blue bird lake. After our hike we decided to explore some of the local neighborhoods (this trip was also to identify some potential areas for retirement), so we ventured out toward Longmont, Loveland and then to Fort Collins. We stopped in Fort Collins for a while to explore the downtown area, grab a bite to eat and enjoy some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Some college girls asked Chris for his autograph, I didn’t realize he was such a superstar! Also we both really loved the Ft. Collins area, this seemed to be more affordable living; had walkability in town and also suburban-ish areas, and only a short drive to the mountains.
September 6th, Our last full day in Colorado! We drove around Boulder for a while checking out the neighborhoods and discovered (sadly) that there is no way we could afford home in that area (confirmed with a stop at the local real estate office). We then met Bridgette and Brian at the Red Rocks amphitheater and explored that area for a while, then headed down to Morrison to grab a bite to eat. Afterward, we headed back up toward Golden Colorado and up to lookout mountain and Buffalo Bill’s grave and museum and of course we spent more time gazing at the beautiful vistas Colorado has to offer. After a while we said our goodbyes and we headed back to Boulder and packing up for our trip back home.
I was very sad to leave this beautiful state, more so than I would have normally on most vacations we go to. The reason being is that I can really see us living there; it wasn’t just a “beach vacation away from it all”. I can see it being a home, somewhere that we can establish ourselves and be happy with nature, reasonably good weather, friends nearby, and also very low traffic! Ah, we’ll see…
Here is a good web page I used to find some of the trails we hiked called Rocky Mountain Trails. I also had printed some of the trail maps in advance so we could decided on the length and difficulty of the trail as we went along. One other note is that we purchased a 7 days pass for the National Park (only $10 more than the one time fee) and we used it all all of the hiking locations we went to. Good deal if you plan to do more than one day of hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Next stop on the home hunting and hiking trail is NC, South Carolina (foothills), and Tennessee in October.