Colorado: Part II

We awoke on Sunday morning with our bags packed and ready to trek into the mountains (and by trek, I mean drive). E, A, AK, AB and I all piled into the van and went on one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. Ascending into the mountains, I saw sharp cliffs, green pines, and soaring birds of prey.

Unfortunately we also saw the wreckage from the 2013 Colorado Floods. Homes that sat on the river had been gutted by the rising waters. Riverbeds were dry, and once-grassy yards were dead. I saw a couch literally dangling out from the bottom of a home whose floors had been ripped out. Very sad to see. It makes you grateful for the workers who are striving to get things back to normal.

Our arrival to Estes Park was a blustery one. The temperature was actually quite pleasant – low 60s – but you wouldn’t know it because of the chilly wind! After having a lovely mountain-y brunch at a local restaurant, AB, AK and I went straight Sombrero Ranches to ride horses in the foothills. We were signed up for a two-hour horseback tour of the foothills of the mountains. I love riding horses, so I was very excited! My horse’s name was Pecas (pee-cus). He was very sweet, but turned out to be a bit of a rebel!

We spent the next two hours bouncing in between awe and fear. The views were beyond gorgeous. It was so quiet; all we could hear was the sound of the wind and our tour guide yelling back to check on us (“How you doin’ back there, Chicago?”). It’s a good thing he was doing that, because sometimes things got pretty scary! Our horses were working so hard to climb up and down these rocky, muddy, snowy, uneven hills. I had to learn to trust Pecas; he’s done this a billion times before! Pecas also decided to canter a few times during our tour. If my equestrian cousin hadn’t taught me how to control a horse, I’d probably be lost in the mountains right now. It was all worth it, though, for those views.

image(3)

Once we were back on “flat” ground and trying to regain our own footing (isn’t it funny how much your legs hurt after riding a horse? I find it so ironic that you were basically just sitting the whole time!) we went to our lodging for the evening, The Stanley Hotel. This was a wonderful gift from E and A. It was even more beautiful than in the photos. Not to mention it has a cool back-story: it’s where Stephen King got the idea for The Shining! The movie actually plays 24 hours a day on channel 42. Hilarious!

photo(1)

We strolled around the downtown area for a while before returning to the hotel for a dinner of Prosecco, pizza, and a fruit and cheese plate. Then we had an appropriate ghost tour of the grounds. Now, I’m not necessarily a believer in ghosts, but I actually had a ghost experience on the tour! Our tour guide had us sit in a basement room to wait for a little girl ghost named Lucy to arrive. She liked to close doors, which did happen, but that’s questionable “ghost” activity. She also would sometimes take candy out of peoples’ hands. Our tour guide gave us Dum Dum suckers, which he told us to balance sucker-down on our palms while holding our wrist to stabilize it. And…nothing happened. At the end of the tour, we were in the foundation of the hotel (it was built right on top of the rocks in the early 1900s) wandering around in the dark. I felt the sucker still in my pocket, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny to try that again here?” I meant it more so as a joke with my friends. But then, the sucker twisted 360 degrees around in my hand, with the stick up in the air, pointed at me, and then fell off of my hand. I yelled some expletive (sorry kids), the tour guide turned the lights on, and a woman snapped a picture of me. She came over to me and said, “I don’t want to freak you out, but…” Her photo showed me with the sucker in my hand and an Orb (a spherical light that paranormal experts claim is a spirit) right next to me. The tour guide came to look and said, “This is really cool.” So I took that as validation for my ghost experience! I still have the Dum Dum. Wish I would have asked that lady to email me the photo!

Anyways, after our experience, AB, AK and I wanted to go to their famous hotel whiskey bar (a Dumb & Dumber scene was filmed there, too!). I was excited before I started to feel suddenly nauseous. We made it to the bar, where I ordered a Dark & Stormy with the hope that the ginger beer would calm my stomach. But to no avail: I had to run back to our hotel room to yak and crawl into bed. Apparently I am susceptible to altitude sickness! I was trying to stay hydrated, but from what I researched, a lot of it is simply passed down from your parents. I later found out that my dad has a serious weakness when it comes to high altitudes, too. Thanks, dad!

The next morning we had to get ready to trek back down the mountain. The night before, the bartender encouraged me to take my drink upstairs for when I felt better. I awoke to it sitting on the windowsill. It was so sad! We couldn’t leave, of course, without going up a little higher in the mountains first. We ascended to nearly 9,000 feet, looking over what seemed like eons of snowy, green-speckled peaks. Watching the wind blow snow over the caps was my favorite part. We also saw a pack of elk casually grazing by the road, which was strangely magical!

Despite my brief mountain-induced illness, I really loved being in Estes Park and Fort Collins. Everything was so new to me. The air was like taking a fresh drink of water, the people were down-to-earth, the beer was tasty (and dangerous), and the terrain always had me staring. Someday I’d like to go back, maybe to Pikes Peak. I’ll just have to remember to bring my Dramamine next time!

 

IMG_3605

Also, a side note: here’s a funny story about Jim Carrey’s ghost experience while staying at The Stanley Hotel (he only lasted three hours!).

Colorado: Part I

Just over a month ago, my friends “AB”, “AK” and I were gallivanting amongst the Rockies in the lovely town of Fort Collins, Colorado. I had been anxious not only to see this new terrain (I’m a pretty staunch flatland girl), but also to get out of the city in general. Once you catch the travel bug, it’s hard to shake, folks.

Anyways, my friend’s mom (I shall call her “E”), had recently moved to Fort Collins to be closer to family, so we decided that it would be fun to pay her a visit over a long weekend. Though, in reality, we only spent about 2/3 of our trip in Fort Collins – the rest of the time we were up in Estes Park – but more on that later!

Our trip was surprisingly easy to start, considering that our departing flight was a mere two hours after we all were finishing up work. Luckily I ran into AB on the El, so I had a buddy to meander through the airport with! Our plane was on time and so were we, so there’s not much to complain about there.

Clearly we arrived late in the evening that Thursday, and we were kindly escorted from Denver to Fort Collins by my friend’s aunt (“A”), so we were not able to do much sightseeing (or seeing at all) before passing out on our makeshift beds in E’s new home.

The next day we awoke with slight headaches due to the elevation, but it wasn’t anything a little Ibuprofen and a lot of water couldn’t fix. We stopped at an adorable downtown coffee house before starting our trip off right: a tour of New Belgium Brewery! We were able to snag the last three spots for an 11:30am tour of the place, so we took up the opportunity right away. You probably know New Belgium best for their ever-popular Fat Tire pale ale. Trust me, though; they have many more delicious nectars to offer.

Our fantastically friendly and knowledgeable tour guide (whose name I regretfully forgot to write down) showed us around, explaining how the brewing process works, and showing off the variety of different methods New Belgium uses. They even make beer in whiskey barrels! I should also mention that the place is wonderfully decorated with recycled merchandise. My favorite tastes were the Frambrozen, a raspberry brown ale, and the Rampant IPA, because I’m a sucker for a good IPA. Plus, we got to ride down an in-brewery slide at the end of the tour. Drunk on good beer + slide = happy campers.

We also hit up nearby breweries O’Dell’s and Fort Collins Brewery for a couple more beverages. Unfortunately I sliced my thumb in-transit trying to close a broken umbrella (read: too much beer), so I had to do some bandaging, but it did not pain me too much (also read: too much beer).

After a much-needed nap and some snacks, we went back out to downtown Fort Collins to have dinner and check out the area. Dinner was at an Italian restaurant, and it was pretty lackluster. But they were participating in a dine-out charity event, so I won’t narc and say their name. Not that a billion people are going to see this, but anyways! We browsed a few local shops and “previewed” a jazz club that we wanted to try the next night. I even ran into an old high school friend on the street! Small world, huh?

We awoke the next day ready for some more movement-oriented activities! E had a membership at a local gym and could get us in for a free day pass. E, AB and I decided to rock the Zumba class while AK went for the treadmill. I’m always teetering on whether or not I should be embarrassed or proud of my moves in Zumba, but the instructor was so damn energetic that I just went for it.

We then went for a lovely hike in the foothills of the Rockies with E’s fuzzy Scotty dog named Charlie. Like I said, I had never seen a mountain terrain up close, so my bug eyes were even larger during the hike. The snow was melting with the warmer weather, but still coated parts of the trails. It was like a trip through winter wonderland that didn’t require a parka. There were throngs of pine trees surrounding us, beautiful rocks and sparkling mud, and even a waterfall. What struck me most was the quietness. I don’t want to be one of those city people, but sometimes you get so used to white noise that your forget what real silence is. It was very nice to be still for a moment.

image(1)

Later that evening, we went downtown just the three of us for dining and drinks. We went to Jax for dinner, where we had summery cocktails and fresh fish. I had the steamed mussels in a garlic and white wine sauce. In the words of a faux food savant: divine! We stopped by The Welsh Rabbit to taste some cheese. The man at the counter and co-founder, Dean, was very generous and let us try pretty much everything.

We nibbled on some delicious sharp Parmesan as we strolled down the street to the aforementioned jazz club, Ace Gillett’s Lounge. Of course, live jazz played in the background. It was a little too loud for those interested in conversation, but the music was great nonetheless. I had a “Tripping the Light Fantastic” (honey-ginger rum, fresh lemon, and ginger beer), AB had the “Furry Pussycat” (peach vodka, amaretto, orange juice), and AK had a beer from Fort Collins Brewery, I believe. Soon after these drinks were finished we were in a cab back to E’s place and sleeping hard in preparation for our ascent to Estes Park the following day.

Part II will bring the tales of our time in the Rockies!