Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Colorado roadtrip 2013- Part 2 (further south)

After our week in Estes Park, my mom and I drove south to visit my brother and his family near Colorado Springs.  In addition to the usual overabundance of good food and beer, it was a fun weekend of playing with new dogs and moving heavy rocks around the garden.  Every time I visit, I'm impressed how well they've been able to use stone and native plants to create such a beautiful space in an area not especially conducive to gardening.

I also had a great time resetting my brother's garage wall, and challenged myself whenever possible to set problems using only holds from the same set, including any that were already used in his permanent circuit.

From there we spent a couple days in Boulder (more on that in the next post) while we waited for Emily to arrive.  On our way to collect her at the airport, we stopped at the Broomfield butterfly pavilion, a place I'd wanted to go for years after seeing the signs but had never managed to fit in.  Despite the occasional difficulty of navigating through mobs of small children, it was well worth the stop.

With Emily in the car and all of our stomachs growling, we went to check out the Highland Tavern before leaving Denver.  The homemade pork rinds were the main thing that brought us there, and were as good as we expected, but they also had the best tater tots I've ever tasted and spare ribs cooked in Dr. Pepper.  Now I just need more excuses to go to Denver!

We continued down to Salida, where we would be staying for the next five nights with the gorgeous Mount Shavano looming above us.  Salida itself was not particularly a place I'd want to spend much more time (aside from Moonlight Pizza), but it provided a great base for several interesting day trips.

The main reason for our trip south was to celebrate the wedding of our friends Lisa and Ron.  After our first night in the cabin, we met at their house in Gunnison and caravanned from there to Lake city, where we got on the bumpy road up to the flower-filled American Basin.  The ceremony was short but beautiful, and we had a great time catching up with friends at the reception a couple days later.

In the meantime, we had a free day in between, and decided to drive a little further south to Great Sand Dunes.  I've wanted to go there ever since seeing a photo in a calendar several years ago, and definitely wasn't disappointed.  From the first sight of mountains rising above the tallest dunes in North America to our walk across a seemingly endless expanse of sand, it was a unique experience to say the least.

We fit in two good hikes while we were in the area.  The first was right near where we stayed, walking up the Colorado Trail near where another trail went up Mt. Shavano.  We had no particular destination, but spent a couple peaceful hours walking through the longest stretch of aspens I've ever seen on a trail.

We also drove up to Cottonwood Pass and walked along one of the ridges for a bit, enjoying the views of unfamiliar mountains, and surprised at the heavy concentrations of columbines in some of the rock piles we passed through.  An approaching storm made us head down a little earlier than intended, but I'd love to get back up there and check out the area a little further.

We spent a few hours after the hike walking around Buena Vista, which of all the places we visited down there would probably be my first choice to return to on a future trip.  Walking through the river park we saw several great looking boulders, and it was fun watching people play on the rapids.  We also stopped at the Deerhammer Distillery, which only sold a couple products, but had an excellent cocktail menu developed around them.

That night we made one last stop at Moonlight Pizza, then got on the road early for lunch in Boulder and another trip to the airport.  To be continued...

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