A Colorado Summer Vacation

Tom travels for work pretty often. Too often, in my opinion, for it’s far different for him to be out-of-town now than it was when I lived in Virginia. Just this week, pup and I dropped Tom and his suits off at the airport at 5 a.m. Monday for a three-day conference he’s putting on in Chicago, leaving us with lots of time for decorating and napping together. (And, job searching? And a puppy’s tooth extraction.) But the perks of his work-travel allow Tom to explore new cities (and countries!), and every once in a while, I’ll try to tag along. (San Francisco, you’re next!)

Last month, his company produced its largest event in Denver. A trip to the midwest seemed ideal for my own summer “funemployment,” since I’d last traveled to Colorado when I was but 1-year-old. Memories of hiking in the mountains during that trip are nonexistent, though a photo proved I had fun. This time, I’ll remember the vacation. Colorado is completely stunning.


The conference was still ongoing when I arrived mid-week, so I roamed along the 16th Street Mall for most of the afternoon, and relaxed on the banks of Confluence Park. (Travel tip: Getting to downtown from the distant Denver International Airport is incredibly easy and doesn’t require an expensive taxi. A public bus runs about every hour, and is only $11, exact change required. A free shuttle along the 16th Street Mall dropped me off right by the hotel.)




To cap off the night, we sampled a flight of nine beer tasters at Renegade Brewing.

Thursday, After the U.S. lost 0-1 against the German team in their last group match of the World Cup, Tom and I walked to the Hertz rental car office in downtown. And then this happened:

I had dreaded renting a car for the first time, and, after an hour wait alongside several other couples in the tiny lobby, cars arrived from the airport, and we could get on the road to Boulder.

Our airbnb rental looked–and smelled–exactly how you may imagine the house of a hippie in his 20s. It was perfect in that way. Before a storm blew over, we meandered along Pearl Street, a pedestrian-mall lined with local shops and restaurants, much different than the atmosphere along 16th Street in Denver. A favorite was Ku Cha Tea House, and I wish we could have either enjoyed a mug of tea here, or at Boulder’s other tea house, a literal gift from Tajikistan. Escaping from the ominous clouds and wind, we ducked into Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery; the vibe reminded me of Harrisonburg’s Little Grill Collective, but with a brewery and free beer samples when you walked in the door. Yes, please. The day ended with a stroll along Boulder Creek’s rushing waters.





A childhood vacation to Rocky Mountain National Park has longtime been a favorite memory for Tom, so I was excited to share the experience again with him. The mountains are incredible. Beautiful. Magestic. Awe-inspiring. Breathtaking. Tom kidded me for repeatedly saying, “Wow, this is so pretty!” and challenged me to use better adjectives. The words all seem so cliche, but yet, true. These huge Rockies put my Blue Ridge to shame in some ways.

We began with a moderate hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead to three lakes–Nymph, Dream, and Emerald–all quite popular for park visitors.




Park rangers mentioned that the moose has been spotted by Sprague Lake recently, but I guess he didn’t think our PB&J or chips smelled alluring that afternoon, so our picnic lunch was peaceful.


Storms lingered in the distance, but we wanted to drive through more of the park and to the Alpine Visitor Center before the day ended. At 12,005 feet above sea level–that’s 2.3 miles above San Diego–it was cold! Sweatshirts didn’t protect us from the mid-30 degree temperatures and sleet as we snapped photos of the Never Summer Mountains, then ran back down to the rental, a red Impala.






Driving back to Boulder on U.S. 36, we saw some of the lingering devastation from the September 2013 flooding. Two-mile stretches of the road were pure dirt as construction crews rebuilt the area along Boulder Creek.

We ate well on this trip, and never had a disappointing meal. We enjoyed a light dinner outside that night at The Kitchen Next Door, a restaurant group that focuses on community, while watching the people of Boulder bustle about Pearl Street. Our time in Boulder ended at the Saturday morning farmers market, where I once again learned how different the growing seasons are across the U.S. The only fruit we saw were cherries, and late spring vegetables were abundant. Portable tables and chairs in the park made the market more comfortable, and community groups set up children’s activities, as well.


Back in Denver, we visited with my cousin and her family while watching another World Cup game. Our last airbnb experience was at a little apartment near Curtis Park, near an industrial-turned-hip neighborhood with breweries, bars and restaurants, including Stem Ciders and Work & Class, where Tom announced this had been the best meal of the trip. Seated at the kitchen bar let us watch all the dishes being made, including our own: roasted goat, a salad with tempura broccoli, chickpea croquettes, creamy braised spinach, and griddled goat cheese masa, plus chocolate bread pudding and lemon-blueberry meringue pie.



Surprisingly the next morning, we had room for eggs and pancakes at Syrup, in downtown, which we then walked off going to Confluence Park. An annual riverfest was taking place, and both of us wished we had our suits on so that we could take part in the kayak rides down the river or the stand-up paddleboard lessons.



Our trip ended at Tom’s aunt and uncle’s beautiful house outside Denver, with a dip in their pool, grilled kebabs and garlicky grilled corn. Thank you so much for your hospitality!

Until next time, Colorado.

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