Getting to Golden, CO. USA
9/21/18: recapping 9/19-9/21
I’m so happy to be in colorful Colarado now! I arrived here 2 days ago, and came straight to Golden. It was raining really hard and the drive from South Dakota to Colorado was a long torturous one. I almost cried as I was nearing the end of Wyoming because I had absolutely no gas and there was no building in sight. Luckily my car made it to Cheyanne and I found gas- whew! I also found my lunch, a sandwich from the refrigerator with no condiments. It was rough, I also drove through a reservation on a dirtroad for about 2 hours and saw many disturbing things- like dead cows with their faces chewed off. That was in Nebraska! Too bad, because I have no plans on visiting Nebraska on any larger scale. I arrived here around 18:15, and Deb left the door unlocked. She had a networking event that she hosts just a little ways from home. The event was from 18:30-20:30 but she needed to set up. She sent me the address so I could join in on the event once I was settled. Paxton greeted me at her door, he’s a golden doodle- more doodle. I lugged my bags up the stairs found my room and was grateful. Then I took some time to get ready. I met her and about 8 other independent business women. They were all so friendly and nice. I hope to stay in touch with them. After the event ended Deb and I got to know eachother better over a late Happy Hour. Deb is my friend’s old roommate from college, so I had only texted with her and had a few short phone calls.
Hiking in high altitude AND Denver, Co. USA
We went to Table Mountain Inn. She ordered us both margaritas- they were ginormous! We could’ve shared one. I had tacos and some of her frito pie. Then we came back to the house and she went off to bed while I hopped in the hot tub to soak. Sleeping was tough, it was hot, like my dads house. I think it was a mixture of altitude and tequila also. I was tossing and turning until around 03:00. Then at 03:00 I breathed in and realized how dehydrated I was. Although I had water in my bag, I decided against getting up. Then I went back to sleep and slept through the night until about 07:00. When I went downstairs Deb was disappointed. She wanted to hike early in the morning, but the weather wasn’t to her liking. I didn’t understand because it wasn’t raining, it was just a little overcast, I thought it was pretty ideal. We decided to wait it out and she made us breakfast. The haze lifted and THEN I understood- this is what Colorado is suppose to look like. We hiked South Table mountain, right next to the Coors brewery. It was really tough but I made it to the top without getting sick! I was worried about the altitude; I have heard some stories prior to arriving.
Paxton and I played a bit before heading back down. This was quite the workout. My entire body was sweating and my shirt was soaked. After this Deb drove me up to Lookout mountain for more picturesque views. By the time we arrived home it was already afternoon and although I was sleepy, this was the only day I had time to see Denver. Ha! Like I had any time. Denver is bigger than Baltimore, and I had about 4.5 hours to see it all. Well it’s pretty obvious I didn’t see it all, but I am happy with the experience I had there and my finds. Denver’s elevation is 5280, so I was slugging around, not quick like usual.
On my way out I purposely missed my exit, and in doing so, I stumbled upon the perfect skyline view. I had to get back to Deb though. I watched the sunset for about 30 mins and hopped back on the road to take Deb out to dinner. She kept encouraging me to go to Red Rocks Amphitheater to see a concert. Little Big Town was playing. I was just too tired, and I figure I’ll be back. I found a place in Golden that Deb hadn’t been to. It was Abejas. It was a super fancy tapas place. The food was great, portions were small, and presentation was everything! We shared octopus, it was delicious, both had our own entree, and then split dessert. After dinner Deb gave me a facial, I actually really like all the Mary Kay products she used. They add up though. I plan to purchase moisturizer and a charcoal mask from her. She is going to help me with makeup this morning. She tells me the foundation is comparable to Estee Lauder. I’m pretty excited but it’s getting late and I need to hit the road soon to Glenwood Springs, near Aspen. Oh, and I have to figure out Durango tonight, it looks like the photography tour sold out or was cancelled.
Independence pass to Aspen
It was all about the road. These past 2 days I drove over the Independence Pass twice, to Maroon Bells, through the forest alongside the Rio Grande river on 149 all the way to Durango. I took the long way both days. I’m so glad I did! I feel like I truly was able to see all of Colorado, at least for this season. I bet Colorado doesn’t have 1 bad season; It’s always beautiful!
Upon coming to Aspen on Friday I stopped multiple times to either take pictures mentally or physically. I took my time down the windy mountain sides. The aspens (trees) are so colorful now from bright green, to super yellow, to neon oranges and a few reds. When the wind blows the leaves dance, it’s so magical. Truly.
I notice most of the aspens that I drive through seem to be within 7,000 to 8,500 feet of elevation. Everything above that is an evergreen or dead. I did not get to Aspen before the thrift shop closed because of all my impulsive stops- a thrift store Deb had recommended based on my taste. Instead I passed through Aspen on my way to my hotel in Glenwood Springs. I have since been back and made it to the Thrift store in Aspen.
The more I saw, the more I texted with my friend Chance. I can’t believe he ever left Aspen. I told him where I was staying and he reacted the same way as Deb- “you have to go to the hot spring”. I still had to drive an hour back to see Maroon Bells to drive in because the route is closed to vehicles from 0800-1700. I head back there and of course it’s gorgeous. It’s also covered by tons of people. Afterall, …it is the most photographed spot in Colorado. I left there around 1945. By the time I arrived back to my hotel I still had time to make the hot springs- I got the ‘last chance, we close in an hour’, discount. Not bad! I’m happy I didn’t rush the Maroon Bells for it, lots of couples and kids. I already had heard of the springs through research for this trip and originally wanted to skip it. While it wasn’t a highlight, it was nice to relax.
Durango, CO. USA
I slept in a little longer then planned and then took care of a few things with scheduling and budget.. etc. During breakfast I figured out my final route for Durango. I took the Independence pass to Twin Lakes, through Bueno Vista and Monarch on 24. I drove through the Gunnison and Rio Grande National forests. This part of Colorado was barely touched, with reservations and views for miles. I cut to South Fork on 149. This whole drive was off the beaten track and gorgeous.
Oh yeah, on my way out from Glenwood Springs I stopped at Green Dragon… when in Colorado. Today was all about the road. I’m staying in the Bunny Shack- an AirBnB for the next two nights. Tucked away from city lights, in bear country. I have a little cabin here. I have a big morning tomorrow. The Durango train was sold out for the photography tour and most of the seats on the regular train, too. I wanted the open Gondola and figured if I couldn’t get the photography package than I’d rather have an ATV tour. Time for bed.
Durango, CO. and Silverton, CO. USA
I’m currently sitting next to my campfire roasting marshmallows right outside the city limit of Moab. Have you ever seen a moonrise? I’ll get to that in my next email, but let’s wrap up Colorado.
I slept well in my little bunny shack. And I woke up ready for the day, or so I thought. I woke up quite early, and time started to fly. I made my way downtown to pick up my bus ride to Silverton. The buses were scheduled to depart at 09:30, I arrived at 09:15 and had to park 2 blocks away. I was so anxious, I shouldn’t have smoked on my way… hindsight. I really don’t like to smoke- it always makes me anxious, I guess I just assume it should be part of the Colorado experience. I made it and sat by myself- on the wrong side of the bus; I had views but the other side had THE views.
Our driver was great, very knowledgeable, and she narrated our entire 1.5 hour ride. As soon as we arrived I was scooped up by Eric along with Liz and her husband and we were off to get our ATVs. The couple shared their ‘ATV’ so it looked more like an off roading go-kart. They were in their early 70s, visiting from Texas. Liz thought I was awfully brave to ride a four wheeler by myself. I didn’t think much of it… the ride wasn’t as I’d pictured it, not better or worse, just not what I had imagined. I need to stop going into my days with preconceived ideas.
We had some spectacular views out in the back country; Just gorgeous. I brought along my tripod and camera, but we never stopped (I had a tripod delivered to the hotel in Glenwood Springs). I continuously would slow down and take it all in when I could. Eric was worried we would miss our train back. Anyway, we stopped and had lunch at this small old town, abandoned now, from 1907. The houses were all open to wander, so wander I did. I first wandered into the last private owner of the Hope Diamond’s home. I’ll have to research her some more. Then I wandered into the guy who built that town and toll for the trains home… etc.
I think I went into about 4 homes there. The floorboards were loose and weak so a tad bit frightening to walk on. I wouldn’t have done it alone, but Eric assured us it was normal. There were signs with information on the outsides. I didn’t really spend much time in either of the cities- Silverton or Durango. Mainly went there for the train, and added the ATV excursion last minute. I’m glad I did, they were filming a movie in Silverton so the main street was blocked off anyway.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
We got back to the train with some time to spare. I naturally walked into the touristy store by the track. Oh My God, there was a mirror, and my face was filthy!! Ha. I knew I had dust all over my clothes, but I had a sunglass line from the dirt! Oh, wow. I bet that’s how they came up with BareMinerals. I grabbed a couple stickers and a t-shirt and the train arrived. All aboard, so we thought, we had to abruptly stop for a few runners. Redo- we were on our way. The train takes you through a protected forest. Only backpackers, bears and passengers ever access this territory. You are not allowed to have any sort of vehicle, motorized or not, on this land. Welp, other than the train.
This is a coal engine steam train and it was running well before the national forest association was formed. The train runs on the Narrow Gauge Railway. Therefore, the train is the exception to the rule- grandfathered in. This is said to be one of the top 10 railroads in the world. I really enjoyed it, although I’d have loved to be on the photography ride. I guess I should be an early bird… as in book 2 months in advance when I first found the event. Because we were returning on the train,
It was a slow ride as the conductor held tight to the brakes. We were going down the mountain at a steep incline through canyon like walls and on the edge of cliffs. I met a family from Ohio, or at least they were Ohio fans. They may have been from New Mexico, they said they were going there after Durango and Durango is their favorite place. It makes a bit more sense that they live in New Mexico. Either way. Great family, I mainly spoke to the dad because he was sitting beside me. He’s been to 49 states, and just doesnt have the urge to go to North Dakota. I’m so happy I got that one out of my way. Haha! ….that was a tangent.
Finally we arrived back to the station, it was after 6. Other than a turkey sandwich for lunch, I hadn’t had anything all day! I planned to go back to my AirBnB to have a quick shower and come back to town to have dinner and walk a bit. SUNDAY. Everything closed before I could get back. I ended up having McDonalds instead. Slept well again and was on my way to Utah. I also made 2 more reservations I was missing- one right after Moab!! Poor planning, but it worked out nonetheless.
I planned out my entire roadtrip and route for 2 months prior to my trip. Over half of my stays were booked and I stuck to a strict budget. I like to have a plan to guide me with space for spontaneity