Vacation Part 1: Colorado

Vacation Part 1: Colorado

At the end of May, Josh & I embarked on our greatest adventure yet – a trip out west to Colorado and Utah!  We packed every day with as many vistas, breaths of fresh air, and places as possible and came home exhausted, sore, and full of wanderlust.  Colorado took our breath away – literally.  Like most adventures, I will blog about it to reminisce in the future about all the amazing places we visited.  Perhaps by doing so, it will keep the wanderlust at bay.  Honestly though, I think it will just remind us of how wonderful, beautiful, and “us” these mountain states are.  Without further ado….

Day 1 (Tuesday):

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3 AM at the airport

Our flight departed Philadelphia in the wee hours of the morning.  We were on our first plane to Chicago by 5 AM and after a short layover we would fly from Chicago to Denver.  Once in the air, somewhere above Pennsylvania, we were able to see the sun rising behind us and the moon still ahead of us.  This was an interesting sight and made the thought of a 5 AM flight a little less bothersome.

We landed in Chicago and tried to patiently wait for our second flight of the morning.  Shortly after boarding our flight along with 90% of our fellow passengers, the flight attendant announced there was a hydraulic leak in our plane and we all had to get off and wait for another plane.  Annoyed and frustrated, we shuffled off the plane and waited for an alternate plane to arrive.  Our flight left nearly an hour later than it should have and I felt shorted for time I was losing.  We occupied ourselves with in-flight episodes of Modern Family and rest.

We finally arrived in Denver, successfully navigated the chaos of the airport, hopped on a shuttle to the rental car company, and picked up our rental car.  Within less than an hour of landing, we were driving away from the city and towards the mountains.

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Frisco, CO

I persuaded Josh to stop in Frisco which was the first Colorado mountain town I had ever visited in Colorado back in March of 2017.  Surrounded by mountains we parked and walked to Butterhorn Bakery & Cafe on Frisco’s Main Street.  We were seated immediately and were excited about finally eating a real meal.  I was thoroughly impressed and satisfied by the veggie hummus wrap with a side of quinoa that I ordered and Josh enjoyed “The Frisco” – a turkey bacon sandwich.  With full stomachs, we planned our 1st vacation adventure – a hike up Mount Royal.

We drove less than a half mile to the trailhead, put on our hydration packs, asked a local which direction to link up to the trail, and we started hiking up… up, up, up.  The hike was 1.4 miles to the peak from where we parked.  The entire hike is uphill and we were quickly out of breath from the altitude difference.  We kept trudging along and a local trail runner passed us with ease.  As we approached the peak, the wind picked up.  We got to the top and the wind was brisk.  We admired our surroundings, wandered around the peak, took PLENTY of pictures, and then decided to descend.   The hike down was just as interesting as the hike up.  Loose stone required that each step be carefully planned.  We each slid a few times but arrived back to the trailhead without injury.  Our first Colorado hike was complete!

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windy hair on top of Mount Royal

Our next destination was Angela and Phil’s!  We continued our drive until we got to our stay for the next few days!  We were welcomed happily by our friends, went on a search party for a missing neighborhood dog, and ate nachos for dinner!  Our night ended shortly after dinner and showers.  Josh and I had been awake for nearly 22 hours and we knew we needed rest for the next day’s adventures!

Day 1 stats:  2.8 miles, 1,312 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 10,465 ft

Day 2 (Wednesday): 

Thanks to the time difference between the east coast and the mountains, I woke up pretty early Wednesday morning.  Luckily when I realized it was still dark out, I was able to force myself back asleep.  Josh & I had a relaxing morning before heading out for a hike in New Castle.

We hiked up to the Mount Medaris trail system.  We passed cacti, lizards, and plenty of wild flowers.  We had a lovely view of the surrounding mountains, the entire town of New Castle, and the river down below.  It was calming to be atop such a small town.  Part of the trail was steep but we took our time and took plenty of pictures!

 

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coming down Mount Medaris

For lunch, we walked to Hogback Pizza.  It was a cozy pizza shop – perfect for a small mountain town!  Interestingly, even though the pizza was round, it was cut into squares.  The uncanny shape of our slices didn’t effect the taste in any way!  Our cheese pizza was absolutely delicious – pizza stop #1 of the trip got an A++.

Later in the day, we decided to drive to the Hanging Lake trailhead.  The hike up was enjoyable and we continued to ascend into land that reminded me of the Grand Canyon (although I have never actually been to the Grand Canyon…).  At the top, we scrambled up some rocks protected by a guardrail to our right.  The water was so pristine and blue and the waterfalls were peaceful.  There were a few other hikers at the top and a kind mom offered to take our picture (see below).

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After taking in Hanging Lake for awhile longer, we continued a short hike up to Spouting Rock.  We had no idea what Spouting Rock was, but it was quite a sight to see!  A waterfall was literally spouting out of the rock face.  For no reason visible to our eye, water was just spewing from the huge rock wall in front of us.  We walked behind the waterfall for fun and then continued on our way back down the trail.

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views from Hanging Lake Trail

After we returned from our hike, we went out to dinner with Phil & Angela.  They chauffeured us to BrewPub in Glenwood Springs.  The restaurant was huge and the staff was friendly.  I ordered a spinach salad with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette and Josh enjoyed a burger and an oatmeal stout.  Both of us enjoyed every bite of our meals.  Another meal success!

We went to bed that night pretty worn out from hiking in the heat but we were excited for another day of adventures to come with the Dunn’s.

Day 2 stats:  5.8 miles, 1,922 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 7,306 ft

Day 3 (Thursday): 

Thursday morning we woke up pretty early to get a jump start on the heat of the day.  Josh drove us all to Snowmass Village.  We parked and took a shuttle up to the Rim Trail trailhead.  This particular trail was absolutely breathtaking – both literally & figuratively.  The singletrack we ran on was so perfect and picturesque.  The ascents kicked my butt, but the views throughout the entire run were incredible.  We saw snowcapped mountains in the distance, a lake, and the village of Snowmass.

About half-way through the run, we approached another long ascent.  Feeling extremely short of breath, I opted to powerhike most of the 2nd climb.  Josh joined me as the mountain folk (Phil & Angela) charged ahead.  It was a long climb but the view up top was awesome AND we got to enjoy a wonderful downhill lasting at least 2 miles.

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Our Snowmass run totaled 8.1 miles with 1,077 feet of gain, averaging 11:40/mile.  Our max elevation was 9,178 feet above sea level – quite high for us east coasters.  This was probably my favorite adventure in Colorado and my favorite run of our entire trip.  I still can’t get over the beauty of the singletrack we ran on.

After leaving the beauty of Snowmass, we made a pitstop at Red Rock Diner in Carbondale for lunch.  I ordered a veggie quesadilla with guacamole and Josh had a BLT sandwich with fries.  We were both quite satisfied with our meals.  Luckily, our next hiking stop was a mere half mile from the diner so when we got done we made the quick drive to the Mushroom Rock trailhead.

The Mushroom Rock trail was copious with red dirt and great views of Mount Sopris in the distance.  I felt entranced by Mount Sopris – which was still snowcapped when we were visiting.

Hiking along the ridge was slightly frightening at times and we kept questioning if Mushroom Rock actually existed.  We made it to the top and Josh & Phil fearlessly made their way out to Mushroom Rock.  Angela & I hung back, afraid to make the commitment to venture out any further.  Eventually we mustered up enough courage to crawl out further (key word: “crawl”).  We all sat and took in the surrounding views before heading back down to the parking lot below.

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peak of Mushroom Rock trail with Mount Sopris in the background

After losing Mushroom Rock Trail halfway down the trail, we ended up on Blue Ribbon Trail.  Luckily, Blue Ribbon was further away from the ridge so I was slightly more comfortable hiking down.  We all made it back to the parking lot quite exhausted from so much activity in our day so far.

We arrived back into town covered in red dirt and sweat.  Angela left for a town gathering and Josh and I began planning for adventures in our next state – Utah.  We went to visit Angela and met her co-worker.  They convinced Josh to visit the Black Dog Saloon so we walked there and Josh ordered some brews.  Uniquely, there was money pinned to the ceiling.  I was intrigued & Josh continued to enjoy his brews.

Our third and final hike of the day was Prendergrast Hill Trail with Angela.  Adopted by New Castle Running Club, we enjoyed a peaceful sunset hike up to the peak.  Our legs were tired but more time spent outside in the mountains was time well spent for us.  We felt like we had been fully immersed into the mountain town and we loved it!

We enjoyed pasta prepared by Chef Angela and then went to bed shortly after – completely exhausted from such an adventurous day!

Day 3 stats:  12.1 miles, 2,013 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 9,178ft

Day 4 (Friday): 

We departed early Friday morning for Moab.  We were sad to be leaving the Dunn’s (and their cats) but we knew we couldn’t stay forever.  However, we do indeed know that we will be returning as soon as possible!  We left the mountain town at 7:15 and began our drive to Moab, Utah.

As we were driving, Colorado transformed from lush green mountain landscapes to desert.  We stopped at the Target in Grand Junction for a sheet, a blanket, two pillows, gas, and donuts – all necessities for our adventures in Utah that will be described in a blog post titled “Vacation Part 2: Utah”.

Colorado was beautiful, memorable, adventurous, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, enchanting, and unforgettable.  Even weeks later we are both still dreaming of a day that we come back.  We are forever grateful for good friends willing to open their home up to us for a few days.  We feel more connected to the Colorado lifestyle after they shared stories of their experiences thus far.

In our 3-day stay in Colorado, we covered 20.7 miles on foot with a total elevation gain of 5,247 feet.  Our max elevation was in Frisco, Colorado at 10,465 feet above sea level.  Our days were packed with miles and long climbs and rewarded with spectacular views and cautious descents – all of which we are grateful for.

We know we only saw a minuscule amount of what Colorado has to do, see, and experience.  This gives us so many reasons to return to such a beautiful fragment of our country and we can’t wait to return.

Nevertheless, as we crossed the Colorado-Utah border we knew that more adventures awaited us.

Colorado Stats:

  • Running miles:  8 miles
  • Hiking miles:  12.7 miles
  • Elevation gain (combo of running & hiking): 5,448 feet
  • Max Elevation:  10,465′ above sea level (Frisco/Mount Royal)

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