…. Feel free to slap my wrists for taking such long breaks between posts about our Colorado trip! I’ve been busy, lots to do, blah, blah, blah and just plain forgot! Picking up where we left off!
Day 4 – Estes Park & Rocky Mountain National Park
On Sunday, Aaron and I woke up bright and early (not easy to do after a rocking wedding reception and after hours) and headed to Estes Park. As with every place in Colorado it was a scenic drive but by the time we got there we were ready to eat and stretch our legs! If you haven’t been to Estes Park, I would highly suggest you check it out. It is a town where time seems to have stopped. All sorts of “old-timey” shops are lined up and down the main street. I tried and tried to convince Aaron that we should get one of those “old western” pictures (where you dress up and everything) but alas, he was a party pooper – plus it is expensive and as photographers we knew we were getting ripped off! We stopped at a local eatery and mustered up the courage to eat some wild game. Aaron had an elk burger, while I had the bison burger. Maybe it was because we were starved but the burgers were actually very good (mine was better:)).
We strolled along for a bit more, enjoyed some caramel apples, and then loaded our full bellies back into the car and headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park. The park has a highway that runs all the way to the top ridge and then comes back down on the western side of the mountains. We headed on up the mountain and took in the beautiful sights. Like every other tourist, we stopped at many of the pull-off areas and took scenic pictures (and looked for wildlife – I really wanted to see a big horn sheep)! I had never been on a mountain like that before and I was just stunned by the beauty.
A nice Dutch tourist took our picture… I’m pretty sure he told us to “say cheese” in Dutch!
We made it all the way to the top and had started back down the other side when we were greeted by some elk. Did I say some elk? I meant LOTS of elk! The elk had taken over a small campsite and were causing traffic to be backed up pretty badly. We were able to snag lots of pictures – they didn’t seem too camera shy 🙂
We continued our descent down the mountain and headed back to Denver where we would be staying for the next 2 nights. It was a long drive back, we were exhausted and hungry and by 11:30pm we had finally checked into our hotel, eaten some dinner (delicious fish and chips from a local Irish pub) and poured ourselves into bed!
Day 5 – Idaho Springs and Denver
Despite our late night on Sunday, we woke up bright and early on Monday morning and took a short drive to Idaho Springs for a zipline excursion. Originally we were supposed to do a rafting/zipline excursion but the river was too low to raft. We had a great time ziplining though! Stepping off the side of a mountain is a bizarre experience but quite thrilling – plus we looked super cool in all our gear.
Right outside of Idaho Springs is Mt. Evan, so we took a little drive up the mountain until we hit Echo Lake. I had really been wanting to see a mountain lake and this one sure fit the bill – it was beautiful.
Echo Lake… so beautiful and serene…
From Mt. Evan, we headed over to the Red Rock Amphitheater. This place has been the home to many concerts, ballets, and other performances and there really isn’t anything comparable to it. The natural formation of the rocks had created near perfect acoustics for performers and Aaron being the band geek that he is couldn’t get enough!
Reminded me of the Flinstones or Pride Rock from the Lion King 🙂
After checking out the Amphitheater we headed into downtown Denver for some lunch. We ended up at Croc’s (great Mexican inspired restaurant) and our waiter suggested to us some amazing local craft beers. Not only did we get excellent food (bacon wrapped shrimp with tomatillo sauce) but we were introduced to Dry Dock Brewing Co. Dry Dock is a local brewery that has been snatching up awards left and right for their amazing beers. We fell in love with their Apricot Blonde… In fact, we loved it all so much, we called them up and asked for a tour that afternoon. Thankfully they were very accommodating. So after lunch we headed over to the brewery, received a brief tour, and sat and enjoyed sampling their other various beers – each one was sooooo good!
I am determined to have the Apricot Blonde again! It is the perfect summer beer…. better than any ‘shandy’ around!
After we had our fill of Dry Dock, we traveled back to Boulder in search of a waterfall. I follow a blog called “Iowa Girl Eats” and she was in Boulder the same time as us and blogged about this beautiful waterfall they had found on a hike. I thought that sounded like a great idea so we set out to find the same waterfall…..
Aren’t we cute… (actually we were freezing.. darn that fickle mountain weather!)
… we succeeded! It was rainy and chilly but still amazing. After we snapped some (er… many) pictures, we headed back into Boulder in search of some pizza! We ended up in the “college town” part of the city and had a delicious pizza dinner at The Sink (featured on Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins on the Food Network). Stuffed full, we made our way back to Denver. I won’t tell you that we got lost and ended up driving through the “rough” part of town near midnight.
Day 6 – Denver
Tuesday was our last day in Colorado. Everything was bittersweet that day… Aaron kept saying “say goodbye to the mountains this will be the last time you see them…” What a turd! Thankfully our flight didn’t leave until 7pm so we had plenty of time to go exploring that day. We headed out about 30 miles east of the city and went to an animal reserve that was designed for rescued large game. Many lions, tigers, and bears (oh my) along with wolves, pumas, and even a porcupine. The reserve is miles and miles of mostly open land and a 25ft high bridge cuts through the middle. We able to walk on the bridge and look down into the animals dens rather than looking through 10in of plexiglass at a zoo. The animals that were there had many sad stories (rescued from bad situations) so it was a little saddening but we got to see the tigers at feeding time… that was pretty cool!!!!
Keeping in our animal theme, we headed back to Denver and hit up the Denver Downtown Aquarium. It was overall a pretty relaxing day. We got to see some nasty looking sharks and even petted a stingray! After the aquarium, we headed to Freshcraft, a downtown Denver restaurant that one of the locals we met at the Dry Dock Brewery had suggested. We feasted on some delicious food and of course, enjoyed more local craft brews. Then it was time to pack up and head back to the airport. On our way, we stopped at the Moonlight Diner again (where we had enjoyed a magnificent breakfast on Day 1) for a traditional chocolate malt. So. Darn. Good. I hadn’t had a malt in months (years maybe) and this really hit the spot!
A short wait at the airport and before you knew it we were back in Des Moines.
While we loved visiting Colorado, we were thankful to be back in Iowa (with its flat roads, minor traffic, and more affordable cost of living)… Aaron and I are keeping some of the Colorado influence in our lives – trying to make sure we enjoy being outside when we can (and when it is 1000 degrees) and have even tried our hand at brewing our own beer (thanks to my brother-in-law). We are counting the days until we can go back and visit again!