Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Colorado: Mountains, Hiking, and Beer (Trip Number Three)

The third trip I took in the past three weeks was out to Colorado.  DH has gone numerous times for work in the past eight or ten years, and he's been asking for five years if I'd like to go too, provided we could tack on a few extra days at either the beginning or end of a work trip.  Ever since the first time he asked, I've said yes, but there's always been something come up that kept me from going.  You know, like having young kids at home, or having older kids at home with some important event going on that I should be at, or my not being able to get time off work, or the dates of DH's trip that particular year only becoming verified (and thus approved by the powers that be that pay for employee plane tickets and hotel rooms) a scant few days before DH needed to leave making it impossible for me to make my own arrangements to go (not to mention not having money for a $$$ plane ticket booked on short notice).

Well, this year was different.  This year DH and I decided that we would go to Colorado, on vacation, sometime around Labor Day/the first full week of September.  So I made plans at both horse farms to have time off (actually, I gave notice at one farm that I was quitting and just made my last day of work be in late August).  We were just about to book flights and hotel rooms for a 5-day trip, when DH heard that he would be going on a work trip to Colorado in early September.  So, when we arranged our plane tickets and hotel reservations we just made our 5-day trip as an addition to the dates of his work trip.  Which meant me flying one of the ways by myself, but that was okay with me.

(Side note: I once flew, 'alone', with all four of our kids when they were just 11 months, 4 yrs, 5 yrs, and 8 yrs to visit DH when he was on a 5-month special assignment on the East Coast. So actually flying by myself and only having to keep track of myself on planes and during airport layovers is not such a scary prospect.  Wrangling four little kids through big hub airports, and keeping them quiet and entertained on planes is much tougher than being all on my own.)

Anyway, our vacation at altitude is now over, and I lived to tell about it.  I don't say that lightly, because we had two main objectives: do a lot of hiking (which really isn't in our normal repertoire) and hit a couple of brew pubs a day. Too much of either activity is hard on a body.  ;0)  Colorado has tons of hiking trails.  It also has tons of microbreweries.  Not only were we planning a potentially 'dangerous' time there a mile high or more in altitude, our vacation didn't start off too well with me getting sick during the descent into Denver.  (First time I've ever puked on a plane.  All I can say is that the flight just seemed really loud, really crowded, really stuffy; I got a headache, and then a hot flash, and then we hit some turbulence. That's when things got ugly, and I don't want to ever repeat that experience again.)

But let's talk about more pleasant aspects of my vacation!

The Mountains and Hiking:

Sprague Lake

Day One was spent hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, where we encountered several mule deer.  First, a couple of mule deer does about 8 or 10 yards off the hiking trail we were on near Sprague Lake. 

Next, while following a small creek, DH nearly had a mule deer buck walk into him.  Literally!  DH was walking, looking straight ahead, and I was a few steps behind him when from the corner of my eye I saw movement directly to DH's left, in the trees.  Right about then my brain realized the movement was a buck, walking with his head down, between the trees.  It was then that I said, as quietly as possible "DH! Left!" DH stopped and looked to his left at the same time the deer picked his head up, saw us, and also stopped.  A few seconds passed where we were all frozen, staring at each other, then the deer spun ninety degrees and ran off.

Just minutes before our buck encounter near this creek.

The buck's rear end, 
which was all I got on camera by the time we realized what had happened!

While driving back out of the park, we saw a small herd of elk, including 4 young bulls and a nice 6x6.

Day Two, also in Rocky Mountain National Park, mostly driving, but we also did a little hiking in the highest elevations (12,000+ feet above sea level).  

view on the road to the top

It was really cold and windy up there, with limited hiking trails so as to not destroy the tundra environment.  

From the high peaks, we drove on the road that runs on the west side of the park to the southern entrance/exit point.  About halfway along that drive, I spotted a moose, and we pulled off to get some pictures.  Turned out to be not just one moose, but a cow and calf pair.

moose calf

mama and baby

We ended our drive in Breckenridge, where we stayed for most of the next two days.

Breckenridge was all about the hiking.  DH had heard you could hike the ski area, as well as the tons of bike trails in the area. Lacking a map and description of area hiking trails, we just asked at the front desk of our hotel where to find a nice trail nearby, and we ended up on the Burro Trail at the base of Peak 9 at the ski area.  

creek along the lower part of the Burro Trail

clearing on a side trail

I have to say, it's a good thing DH and I didn't have a printed hiking guide to consult, or we may have just stayed in our room!  (Not realizing how much hill climbing we were going to do, and thinking we weren't capable of hiking a moderate or difficult trail. . .) We wandered around on the Burro Trail for a little while, then took a side trail, and another and found ourselves at the bottom of what we figured was a slalom racing run, as there were poles on either side and a building that looked up the slope.

this looks like it might be part of a ski run

Little did we realize, we'd hiked over to Peak 10, and were staring up the Cimarron Run.  We decided to see how far up it we could get. (I swear, sometimes when the kids aren't around, we forget we're in our mid-40s, not our early 20s!)  It was really steep, and we only made it about 1/3 of the way up before deciding that was far enough.  When you're so out of breath you flop on the ground, you could say it was a strenuous hike.  Apparently the proper way to hike the ski runs is to catch a tram or other ride to the top of the mountain, then hike down.

the view from flat on my back

sitting up again, looking down the run we'd just attempted to climb
(I'd like to note that I was wearing the pair of Solar socks I knit in August; wool socks are great for hiking in, no sweaty feet and no blisters!)

We hiked back to our room (where we figured out we'd climbed 850 feet in elevation in a mile of our hike, yay us!), recharged with a lunch of garlic hummus and tortilla chips, then struck out again, this time hiking a couple miles of the Peaks Trail which runs between Breckenridge and Frisco. While the Peaks Trail rolled up and down, it wasn't nearly as steep as our morning hike had been. Gathering clouds and the forecast of a late afternoon thunderstorm were what ended our hiking this time.  

Cucumber Creek on the Peaks Trail

Our final morning in Breckenridge will be hard for me to forget.  DH surprised me with a trail ride booked through Breckenridge Stables.  Oh my!  Horses!  Not only did I get to ride, but DH also rode (in the 25+ years I've known him, I've never seen him on a horse; he's always had some excuse or another why he couldn't get on mine "it's too small and dainty", "it only knows how to wear that little English saddle; I can't ride in that", "I don't want to ride in circles"-- meaning in an arena).  

It was so awesome to not just see my hubby on a horse (a very hefty Percheron/Quarter Horse cross), but to see him smiling and having fun on a horse, WOW just WOW! (Have I said how much I love this man?) The trail ride itself was pretty cool too, riding up some of the same trails we'd hiked the day before, as well as other trails including an ancient Native American trail and having the horses pick their way up and down the steep rocky paths.  The views were great. The guide, well, he was pretty great too.  I asked a few questions about the stable's string of horses and how long the guide had been working with them, and somehow that lead to not just the fact that he had been working in various states as a trail guide for several decades, but that in his younger days he'd shown Open Jumpers out East and even trained with a former Olympic Show Jumper.  So, while DH meandered quietly on his trusty dapple grey packer, I chatted English riding with the guide and let the feisty little pinto mare I'd been assigned (when you say you are an experienced rider, the stable gives you a livelier horse than what they put beginners on) take me up and down the hills.  It was a really fun time for both DH and I.

my favorite memory from Breckenridge

somehow, everything looks more awesome from the back of a horse

Interspersed with all our hiking, deer, elk, and moose sightings, horseback riding!!!  and taking pictures of the gorgeous mountain scenery, we hit more than a handful of the microbreweries Colorado has to offer. I didn't take nearly as many pictures of them, but I did snap a few.

The Breweries:

  • Fate Brewing Company in Boulder for dinner and some microbrews on our first night.  Both the food and the beer were awesome.  DH loves IPA, so he had the Moirai, while I (the dark beer lover) had Sudice--many of the beers at Fate are named after mythology.  
  • Twisted Pine Brewing, also in Boulder.  DH had another IPA (Agaveras) and I had their Cream Stout. 
  • Avery Brewing in Boulder, where DH had the IPA of course (I think it was their regular IPA, not any of the specialty ones) and I had the Ellie's Brown Ale. 
  • Tommyknocker in Idaho Springs  where we had a light lunch of garlic fries and beer--Pick Axe IPA for DH and (one of my favorite brews) Maple Nut Brown Ale for me.  In the part of the brewpub we were seated in, they had very cool wooden boats up on the walls; a canoe and a kayak.  I was able to get a picture of the kayak without looking too strange (ie. embarrassing DH)
  • Breckenridge Brewery (in Breckenridge, of course) where DH had the  471 Small Batch (IPA) and I had the Vanilla Porter.
  • Broken Compass in Breckenridge, is a really neat, quirky place that seemed to be mostly locals (versus tourists) and the beers were great.  DH had the IPA--what a surprise, right?-- while I had the very delicious Coconut Porter.  
    While there, I noticed a neat thing--they had made a lamp out of a growler.  So I had to get a picture of that for future reference (being as DH has quite a collection of growlers at home and the area of our basement which will be his future bar has a need for lighting. . . )

  • Left Hand in Longmont, makes one of my favorite brews, Fade to Black Ale (a Metallica reference, perhaps?).  Unfortunately, it's a seasonal beer and isn't on tap yet.  So I had the Milk Stout Nitro instead.  DH had the Extrovert IPA.
  • New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, where we had reservations for their 3:00 tour.  Not only is it a really neat place, but the tour (and the beer samples on the tour) are free.  During our tour we got to have sample glasses of 1554, Citradelic IPA, Sunshine Wheat, and Tart Lychee. DH also had a pint of the Citradelic after the tour was over, but by then I'd had enough beer in five short days (normally a 6-pack will last me more than a month) that one more glass of beer no longer sounded appealing.  Honestly, I was craving a big glass of milk!  I'm just not much of a beer drinker, I guess.  I did get another decorating inspiration while there; although I'm not sure how well a chandelier made of beer cans will fit in our basement.  It looked pretty neat at New Belgium, anyway.

That wrapped up our final day of vacation.

The next morning it was time to fly back home. Which, because of time zones and layovers, and just distance in general between Colorado and Michigan, was an all day endeavor.  I'm glad to report that neither plane was loud or stuffy, I suffered no headaches, no hot flashes, and only a little turbulence. I'm back in good flyer mode.  :0)  We're even talking about taking another Colorado trip in a few years.

We definitely want to go again.  There are more hiking trails to do (and we'd really like to hike the entire 7.8 mile--one-way--Peaks Trail; you can take a shuttle from either trail head, so we could either hike from Breckenridge to Frisco and take a shuttle back, or do it the other way round; or even do it as a 15.6 mile out and back, skipping the shuttle).  Plus, we barely scratched the surface on the list of micro breweries to visit.

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