This trip Parker and I took for our first anniversary was the best trip I’ve ever taken in my life. Partly because of who my travel companion was (he’s the best!) and partly because the western United States have been my dream travel destination for so long.
Last year when we first started planning where we would go, I threw out California and Parker wanted to see Colorado (and I loved that idea too) so we said “Let’s do both!” and while we were at it, we thought of the places in between that we wanted to see as well and so our little tour of the West evolved. It was so much fun to plan (I’m a planner, I like to plan things) but it was even more fun to just go with the flow, wake up and decide where to go and what to see that day.
We loved this trip and I thought it would be fun to share our favorite spots that we discovered and let you in on our little adventure, starting today with beautiful Colorado. Click through to see the rest of this post (lots of pictures!).
First of all, I need to tell you about a blonde moment I had right off the bat. When we first flew in to Denver, I was shocked (shocked!) because I was expecting to see the Rockies right away, but Denver is like the midwest – flat as flat as flat, for miles. We landed and I said to Parker “But…where are the mountains?” Ha :) They even have tornado shelters in the airport. I had no idea! But it doesn’t take long to get to the mountains, though.
Our first stop was Jelly for brunch because it was still early and I had heard such good things about it from Melanie’s post on Denver. Her recommendation of the corn flakes french toast was spot on – yum! But my favorite was the sweet potato hash. Oh man, that was so good and went perfectly with my bloody mary.
We stayed at this great little B&B right outside Denver in the mountains called the Highland Haven Creekside Inn – such a cute place! I would love to stay there again. When we first got there, we were greeted with champagne and freshly snipped lilacs from the property. It was quiet and serene – a perfect, romantic getaway with a creek running through the property. I think I’ll forever associate the smell of lilacs with this place; they smelled like heaven!
The first night we had a show to go see at Red Rocks Amphitheater. We had always wanted to go to Red Rocks and early on in planning decided we were going, no matter who was playing, just to experience it. We got there early to go on a nature walk around the park first since we had heard there are great hiking trails.
The band playing was Big Head Todd and the Monsters and though we didn’t now who they were, we had a good time. We sat way up high in the nosebleeds for the best view of the scenery, drank beer, enjoyed the music and people watched.
The next day, we were up early and headed out to explore (after an amazing, home cooked breakfast at the Inn). We had intended to make our way to Rocky Mountain National Park and spend most of the day in Estes Park, but on our way, Parker saw a sign for Mt. Evans and impulsively turned towards it and I’m so glad he did!! It turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.
The road you can drive to reach the summit of Mt. Evans (the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway) is the highest paved road in North America and 28 miles long. You just keep driving – up, up, up! – and it was so incredibly beautiful, especially on the clear day we went. The skies were so big and blue, even when I went hiking in the Andes a couple years ago, I never saw anything this beautiful.
This was funny :) But the drive really gets kinda scary! You’re so high up and there are no guardrails around the sharp curves (with drop-offs that would for sure leave you dead if you slipped) and there were so many cyclists everywhere so you had to go around them on this road, without knowing if anyone might be barreling down on the other side. Oh yeah and there were huge walls of snow that looked like they could slide down at any moment taking you and your car down alongside the mountain too. Luckily, Parker is a champ and kept his cool unlike his neurotic wife and got us up the mountain without a scratch :)
The road takes you up most of the way, and then there’s a little hike you can take to get all the way to the top, which of course we had to do even though we were terribly under dressed for the cold winds!
After we came back down and ate lunch at a cute, touristy place in the middle of nowhere, we headed off to Estes State Park. My mom had spent time there as a kid and remembered it being one of the prettiest parks in Colorado, so I definitely wanted to see it for myself.
It did not disappoint! Unfortunately though, by the time we got there, it was really late in the day and we didn’t get to do much exploring, but we did go on a little hike and loved being in nature together. We saw waterfalls, lots of elk (even a baby that had been born just that morning!), and were mostly alone on the trails so it was quiet and relaxing.
Have I ever mentioned how crazy in love with this guy I am? I mean…I just can’t even….he’s the best.husband.ever! Anyway – just around sunset, we started making our way to Boulder where we would stay the night.
By the time we checked in to our hotel, we were so tired from our adventerous day that we just ate a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant and crashed. We stayed at the Hotel Boulderado, which is really old, but kind of fancy – like you could tell it used to be the place where all the rich, society people stayed back in the early 1900s. Now though, it just feels historic and I have to tell you – a little creepy! But in a fun way :) The room we stayed in was down a long, winding, narrow hallway that went on forever. It just kept twisting and turning and at one point Parker and I laughed and agreed that we felt like we were in The Shining and were going to scream if a quiet, weird, little boy appeared around one of our turns. Other than that though, the hotel was lovely and we enjoyed our stay.
This post was so much longer than I anticipated! Colorado was a favorite so I had to split this post in to two parts, so check back later today for Part 2. :)