Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Our super spectacular trip to Colorado

One of my friends at work built a BEAUTIFUL Cabin in Colorado.  He generously offered to let me stay.  I did not plan to take him up on his very kind offer but somehow did end up doing exactly just that!

Every year my old college roommates and I try to get together.  For this trip 2 of my college friends (La and Susan) and I met for a phenomenal girl's weekend!   Samantha, Carrie and Jessica were not able to attend).

This was probably our favorite reunion trip of all.   Colorado was SO beautiful and there was so much to do.  I wish we had more time to visit but we made the most of the time that we had.....

Day 1:
Denver Airport, Broomfield, CO and Fairplay, CO

Arrive in Denver and meet the girls at the car rental lot.  We began the trip with a stop to Chris K.'s house to pick up the key and get general cabin instructions.  Afterward we stopped at Walgreens and then Walmart due to a minor but urgent medical situation as a result of the change in climate and altitude.  After that was squared away, we finally started on the trip to Fairplay, CO.

 I am last to arrive so I do not get "shot gun".  My friend Susan is designated driver.  We did drive by Red Rocks Amphitheatre on the way out of town.  Although we had tried to catch a show, there were not any bands playing that we wanted to see.  (I had actually seen ABBA play several years ago at Red Rocks and it was AWESOME - best concert venue I have ever been to!)

Once we arrived in Fairplay we stopped at Prather's, the one grocery store in town, and loaded up.   Then we stopped at the liquor store to purchase beer and wine.  Although there was only one Grocery Store, it did seem like there were a couple of Liquor stores.  We went to the one that had the sign literally upside down (very funny - I could totally appreciate the humor in that).  Even though the sign was upside down, people had no problem finding it. The Liquor Store was quite the hot spot at 5pm on a Friday afternoon.....  For a small town the liquor store was seeing more than it's fair share of action.

After we were fully stocked up on groceries and alcohol, we began the trip up to the cabin.  This involved a drive through town, turning onto country road and driving down until it turned into a dirt road.  It then took a lengthy trip up a mountain.  It was a very steep drive with many sharp turns in a very remote area..  Needless to say we made sure that we had everything we needed before leaving the cabin or before going home.

Day 2:
Breckinridge, CO; Dillon, CO; and Frisco, CO

For our first adventure we headed to Breckenridge which was a couple of hours away.  Our first stop in Breckenridge (just outside of town) was at Snow Caps Snow Dogs.  The $65 fee for the Cart Tour covers a tour of the facility, meeting various dogs, learning about the general area and the actual facility as well as learning about the different breeds of dogs, how the dogs are named, how they interact with one another, how they are trained, how the dogs are selected and how dogs who retire are adopted out.  Quite a bit of information!  During the tour we were able to interact with the dogs which was fun.  My oldest daughter actually have an Alaskan Husky - she now lives with us so it was helpful to learn about the breed.
Playing with the dogs was fun but for some reason I was the only one of us that was not urinated on by an overly excited pup.  La and Susan kept trying to say that this was because the huskies liked them more than me but  I was completely fine with that!  I also secretly thought hat the dogs probably actually liked me best and THAT is why I was spared the grossness of having a dog pee on my foot and/or pant leg.....
Once the facility tour was complete we were ready for the cart ride   During the winter when there is a good covering of snow on the ground the dog team will actually pull visitors on a sled.  Since it was autumn however, we sat in a golf cart instead of in a sled.  The dog team was hooked up to the cart and pulled us just like they would a sled.   Our tour guide Ike explained that the dogs actually do all the work and he generally only uses the brakes to assist (not the gas).   The tour was fun and the dogs were VERY excited.

After the visit to Snow Caps we headed back into Breckenridge where we shopped for a while  Afterward we headed to Dillon Lake / Frisco, CO. One interesting thing we learned at Dillon Lake was about Zebra Mussel prevention efforts; Zebra Mussels are an aquatic, invasive species that can cause significant damage to water quality and property.  (You can read more HERE).

After Dillon Lake we stopped to eat and then headed back to Fairplay.  We made sure to stop at the Continental Divide on the way home.  We hit it just around sunset so we were thankful that we were able to get photos.

Susan @ Continental Divide, September 2015

La @ Continental Divide, September 2015

MaryBeth @ Continental Divide, September 2015

Once we arrived back in Fairplay we stopped by SouthPark Bowling Alley for some bowling and world-renowned tamales.  Seriously.  Dorothy's was featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate".   We had already had dinner but we were committed to trying these tamales.  Now I have not eaten too many tamales in my lifetime but I do have to say that these were delicious.  We got three different tamales - Jalapeno Cheese, Pork and Bison,  The Bison was my favorite!  After we finished our game of bowling (I lost), we headed back to the cabin and went to bed early because we had a busy day planned for Day 31

Day 3
Manitou Springs, Pike's Peak, and Lake George

This was the biggie.....we had a FULL day.  We started out with a trip to Pike's Peak - La said that she has wanted to visit Pike's Peak ever since grammar school when she learned about it.  I had never heard about it and no idea what Pike's Peak was.  Now I know.

On the way to Pike's Peak we made a pit stop at Wilkerson Pass - it was a little park / rest stop with a spectacular view of the valley.  I was fascinated with the Aspen trees when we were in CO.  The leaves were just starting to turn and I was able to get some beautiful photos.

We only stopped for a bit and hit the road again to visit Pike's Peak.  We had planned to take the train up to the top of the mountain but the tickets were sold out.  It was then that we made the very brave decision to drive up to the summit.  Let's just say this... It was scary on the way up and it was even more frightening on the way down.  I was not allowed to drive however as that apparently would not have just been scary or frightening, but terrifying.  I did not argue as I had absolutely no desire to drive up OR down the mountain.  Instead Susan drove up Pike's Peak and La drove down.

 On the way up there were various pit stops - one apparently that Big Foot frequents.   We tried to act as frightened as we could for the cameras.   I will not be winning any academy awards any time soon.

Big Foot at Pike's Peak - we found him!
 After goofing off with Big Foot we hit the trail again.  It was a twisty, turvy, STEEP drive to the top.  When we made it up the entire way I felt pretty lightheaded.  As I watched people veer to the edge of the cliffs on either side I sat back and tried not to judge too harshly. While Susan and La walked around I stayed back and collected rocks for my rock tumber - 1) because I was dizzy from the altitude and car trip up AND 2) because I am a nerd.

At the Summit of Pike's Peak

Rocks for my Rock tumbler
South Catamount Reservoir
South Catamount Reservoir
South Catamount Reservoir

Garden of the Gods

This was my favorite park that we visited.  
Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center - Great resource.  Had a wealth of information through interactive computers and visual displays on not only the park, but also wildlife, flowers, plants and geology native to the region.  The display was a network of tvs and touch screen computers - I could have stayed there all day looking up and cross referencing.   The museum had a display on dinosaurs and I was sad that I did not have my traveling Bronto from work (even though the dinosaur on exhibit was not a Bronto but instead a newly discovered species found in Colorado - the Theiophytalia kerri)

See the nature center photo of the interactive display followed by my own personal photos of the park (and of me at the park!).  SO beautiful.

Photo from Nature Center website of interactive display / exhibit


Manitou Cave Dwellings

I have ALWAYS wanted to visit the cave dwellings.  I find how past generations and other civilizations lived during their time on earth fascinating.  For each group of people it is interesting to learn about where they lived, what activities their days were filled with, how their families and the community was structured, etc. Details here:  http://www.cliffdwellingsmuseum.com/preserve

After touring the cave dwellings we visited the gift shop and I picked up a few items for my children.  We were pretty tired after such a full day and headed home.  This was the night of the eclipse and subsequent blood moon so we had to pull over the side of the road a couple of times and watch.  I had NEVER seen an eclipse before and always wanted too so I was very appreciative that I finally had the opportunity to do so.  The sky was relatively clear and we were able to see most of the eclipse.  An older man who drove up next to us had binoculars which he let us use to get a closer look.    I tried to get a photo but could not capture a proper picture using my iphone.  

After the full eclipse we got back into the car to finish our journey home. By the time we reached Fairplay most of the restaurants were closed except for 1!  (Asian Fusion).  We made it in just before closing so we took our food to go, had a beer while we waited for the food to be prepared and headed back to the cabin once we had our order in hand. 

Day 4

Well, we HAD a full day planned but a car accident that stopped traffic for hours both ways ended all of that.

We planned on visiting the South Park City Museum and ghost town but we were distracted by a bead store (WONDERFUL!) and art shop next door.  We ended up shopping in the morning and then headed to Buena Vista where we encountered the accident.  After waiting an hour we turned around and spent the rest of the day driving around Pike National looking for wildlife.  Susan was determined to see wildlife - especially a moose - but all we ended up seeing was a raccoon and a mule deer.  All this within 1 - 2 miles of the cabin.  We should have never left LOL!

Afterward we headed home and La made dinner.  Afterward we drank wine / beer and played cards until the wee hours of the morning.

Pike National Forest

Day 5
Back to Denver / Broomfield

The morning started with a mad rush to clean the cabin and pack the car.  We then drove back to Broomfield to drop off the keys, repeatedly thank my co-worker and then head back to Denver to the airport.  Between dropping off the keys and heading to the airport we stopped for a quick lunch at Azitra - one of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh .  (I actually meet my old co-workers there when we are able to coordinate schedules).  It was so ironic that Azitra also had a location in Colorado exactly where we decided to stop - especially as they only have a small number of locations (Raleigh, NC, Broomfield CO and somewhere in VA).

Overall it was a fabulous trip  - I already miss my girlfriends and we are already planning our next adventure!

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