Day Trippin to Evergreen

I can hardly believe that it is February. Life has been great going into 2017 thus far. I have been working per usual, and trying to fit in little adventures here and there. I live in Denver, Colorado and I have for about 7 years. There are many reasons I stay here even though my soul seems to feel the need to wander. One of the top reasons being the close-ness to so many different things.

Today happened to be a day off after 7 in a row. I was exhausted by the end of last night but I knew the weather was going to be bitchin. 73 degrees in February is a nice surprise. To have the day off and being able to get out and take advantage is wonderful. I decided to take the drive up to Lair O’The Bear Open Space in Idledale(about 30 minutes from Denver near Red Rocks Amphitheater). I brought my partner in crime, Lucy, to have some fun in the sun as well.

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There was a nice little creek running through the park that Lucy took advantage of before and after our small hike. After a short swim for her, we headed up the hill for one of the hiking loops around the park. It was gorgeous day and the part where we hiked was pretty quiet on a Wednesday afternoon. Parts were challenging as there were still ice and slippery conditions for some parts. I have heard there was a castle somewhere nearby, but I never saw it. Maybe next time.

After a mile and a a half our loop was coming to an end. It was time for a beer in Evergreen(because why not? It’s only a few miles up the road!)  Lucy and I stopped at Lariat Lodge Brewing and it felt like a mini mountain oasis. It is just on the edge of town and you have to drive up a little hill to get to it. They have a dog friendly area where you can enjoy a beer with your fur babies, you just have to serve yourself. I ordered a Lariat Lodge IPA which was a really great American Style IPA. I also ordered a Portabella Mushroom Sandwich and fries at the bar as well. The sandwich was just meh in my opinion, but when you are a brewery I suppose great quality beer is what is most important. The views here are awesome and made for a mostly relaxing afternoon, besides the loud children banging rocks on the table behind me. Do they seriously go to school anymore?

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I do love Evergreen, and try to make the quick trip over when the days are nice and I’m not working. I have also visited Evergreen Brewery and Tap House after trips to Elk Meadow Dog Park. Not only do they brew their own beer, they also carry other popular local beers. Their food was also phenomenal! I had a veggie sandwich with a cup of tomato basil soup. So good!

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There are a lot of things do in the Evergreen area, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. I have seen elk and deer many times just strolling around. Evergreen Lake is also very pretty and you have a good chance of spotting some wildlife there.

On your way out of town stop at Espresso Evergreen for a Caramel Macchiato and a treat for the pup!

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My First 14er! And Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge, CO.

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I’m going to throw it all the way back to Labor Day on this one. I started a draft awhile back, but writing had to come to a halt for a bit. Life has been busy, and sometimes things get put on the back-burner. I just couldn’t not post about this accomplishment that has been on the bucket list for a long time.

We woke up to leave Denver at 4:45 AM. You always want to set out early for these things because of risk of afternoon storms(lightning specifically). We had a two hour drive ahead of us to Breckenridge where my first 14’er, Quandary Peak, awaited. After a quick stop at 7/11 for gas, coffee, and protein bars we were on the way. I would like to say that the drive was beautiful, but it was still dark until we got to the trail-head. With that being said, be very cautious when it comes to animals wandering onto the highways.

 

We arrived just before 7 AM and the sun was starting to make an appearance. There were a lot of other people starting to migrate in the parking lot and bundling up. It was a chilly 29 degrees when we arrived. I had come prepared with Under Armour and lots of layers! I also made sure to bring a coat for the top of the peak because the winds often pick up and it is COLD. Layers are definitely key. Comfortable shoes are also important. I wore my Nike tenny’s with the most traction and they worked just fine.

The climb up was a challenge for sure. Many people on the trail were stopping to catch their breath as Quandary Peak is pretty much all vertical all the way to the top. The bottom is dirt and more like a steep hiking trail, as you climb more to the top it turns into pure rock and you are using muscles that you did not know you had. We stopped and took many breaks and there was no shame in that. These hikes are hard on your body and your lungs, especially if you are not used to the elevation. Always have water handy and bring protein snacks or dried fruit to help give yourself an extra energy boost when getting closer to the top. Though you may feel that all you can focus on is the pain in your legs and chest, take a look around and admire the beauty that you are trekking through. This time of year provided leaves changing colors and beautiful mountain views. Many have claimed to see mountain goats when they hike here, but we had no such luck on this day.

After 3.5 hours of hiking, we finally made it to the top of the peak. I have never seen anything like the views that I was taking in. There was 365 degrees of beauty around us and it has a way of making you feel like a tiny ant on this huge peak. I, of course, had enjoyed a beer at the top of peak and took in the beauty for as long as we could handle the wind chill.

It took another two hours to climb down, and some of the really steep parts hurt my toes as we climbed down. We got to the car and it never felt so good to sit down. We had also never been so excited to eat lunch. We drove into Breckenridge and found a restaurant on Main St that had a little bit of everything. After we finished eating, we drove to Broken Compass Brewing to reward our labors with some cold beers. This little brewery has some awesome beers! I had specifically been hearing about the Coconut Porter and had to give it a whirl. It was SO. GOOD. There are a lot of Coconut beers where you have to wonder where the flavor is. This beer had the perfect amount of flavor and resembled the taste of Samoa Girl Scout Cookies. We also ordered a flight and tried a few others.

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The taproom was really cool and had a ski chair as a table inside. They also had some barstools (that were all full when we arrived) as well as a patio area. We chose the barrel with the two chairs around it and enjoyed people(and dog watching). I ended up bringing a growler of the coconut porter home with me that day and I’m kind of wishing I had some right now.

 

Homesick for Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

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It sure has been awhile since I have had time to blog. I am very fortunate to work at such a great place, but it also takes away a lot of my free time in the summer. So here I am with a Monday off, a little bit of rain in the forecast, and a little free time.

I took a little trip back to the place I grew up a couple months ago. We happened to have a long weekend and decided to make the trek down South from Denver. Pagosa Springs is about 5.5 hours South of Denver so it’s not a short drive. In my opinion, you need at least 2 full days in Pagosa to grasp all it’s small mountain town glory.

From Denver, I recommend taking Hwy 285. In my opinion it’s the fastest and prettiest drive to get here. Once you see signs for “The Overlook” when you are coming down Wolf Creek Pass, you have begun your journey!

  • Take a photo at the Overlook on your way into town(or out). It’s one of the prettiest views in Colorado in my opinion.
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The Overlook. See my Instagram at lindstagrams228
  • Get out and stretch your legs at Treasure Falls.  Just a couple miles from the Overlook you will find a huge waterfall with a small hike to get up to it. If you like waterfalls like I do, you will enjoy getting out of the car for a few minutes to check it out.

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    Treasure Falls
  • Find a Campsite. There are many camping options in the Pagosa Springs area, but I personally love Jackson Mountain. Another few miles down the pass heading into Pagosa Springs, you will see signs on the right for Jackson Mountain. Drive in a couple miles and you will start seeing areas to camp. Camping is a personal preference for me, but there are lots of hotel options in Pagosa Springs as well.
  • Grab a Beer! Anyone who knows me, knows that breweries are like a destination for me. I love to go new places and try new styles. Though Riff Raff Brewing is not new territory for me, it is a destination I try to stop at every time I am in town. This old Victorian house was a tea and brunch place for the longest time, and I am so happy that it is now a successful brewery owned by two of my local friends. The beer selection is amazing, and the food menu has a lot of great options for different tastes. My personal favorite beer that Riff Raff brews is Spruce Juice. It’s a lovely pale ale brewed with new growth from local spruce trees that has been featured at Great American Beer Festival here in Denver. Not your thing? You are still likely to find something you like on draft here from their brews or brews on their guest tap.
  • Do some shopping. Pagosa Springs is a small town, but you can expect to find a couple nice local shops. It was too early for dinner after our beer stop so we decided to look around at a couple of the places that were open. A lot of these are right downtown all within walking distance of Riff Raff Brewing, Pagosa Hot Springs, and restaurants.
  • Grab some food! Beer and food go hand in hand for me. If there is a restaurant that has good beer, and also good food then we have a winner! One of my personal favorites in Pagosa Springs is Kip’s Grill & Cantina . Expect a very quaint space inside, a fairly large outdoor patio, excellent margaritas, and Baja-style tacos. Though they only have three beers on tap(one of them is PBR, and that will never change due to local demand)you can expect to find one from Ska Brewing in Durango and usually one from Riff Raff Brewing across the street. The spicy shrimp tacos are amazing and fresh and go great with an order of the Jalapeno poppers or vegetarian green chile queso. Kip’s also makes a mean margarita and I highly recommend one. Look for the chile pepper sign!

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  • Visit the Hot Springs. There are two hot springs in Pagosa Springs and you can choose depending on your personal preference. There is the famous Pagosa Hot Springs along the San Juan River that is amazing in my opinion. Expect to pay around $30 to get in, so make a day of it if you can. I always recommend this one at least once just so you can experience it. There are many different pools with temps ranging from 80 to 115 degrees. This is a huge tourist destination so it can get very busy from time to time. The other option is the Overlook Hot Springs which I also really enjoy. It is right on the main strip downtown and has two indoor pools and a couple on the roof as well. You can also get a massage here if you are really interested in getting you full relax on. I recommend these in the evening when the weather is cooler.
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Overlooking the San Juan River. 
  • Toss some discs. I love disc golf and there is a really cool disc golf course on Putt Hill right in the middle of town. We chose to get a little extra exercise and climb to the top to play. You can drive up most of the way if you want to though. We played all 18 holes and it took a couple hours. It’s a great way to get outside and walk around. We brought Lucy up with us and she had just as much fun running around. The course is pretty covered with shade so you stay pretty cool. There are places to buy discs for disc golf in town if you don’t have some already.

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  • Eat breakfast at Pagosa Baking Co. Located right downtown, Pagosa Baking Co. offers an amazing selection of baked goods as well as breakfast burritos, quiche, and did I mention amazing coffee? Service comes with a smile and one of the local regulars will probably chat you up.
  • Play in the river. The San Juan River flows right through town and it is gorgeous. You can take a stroll along the river walk, stick your feet in and watch people on rafts and tubes float by. You can do these things yourself if you like playing in the water. Book a rafting trip with Pagosa Rafting when the water is high, rent tubes from the same place when the water is lower. Don’t forget…that water is freaking cold!

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  • Eat lunch at Farrago Market Cafe. This place is one of my favorites in Pagosa Springs. They have yummy vegetarian options, great pizza, beer on tap, and a great patio! What more could you ask for?
  • Hike one of the many, many surrounding trails. Some of these trails are a little bit of trek, but you are guaranteed to find some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado that you will ever see. You can even hike to some natural hot springs that dont cost anything to soak in. Just be aware, it is the middle of the woods and clothing is optional. Click here for a list of hiking trails in the area. http://pagosa.com/pagosa-hiking/
  • Visit Pagosa Brewing Company. The very first brewery to open in Pagosa. Also a brewery with great selection and yummy food. My favorite beers here are the Peachy Peach and the Chile Verde Cerveza. Both have won awards at Great American Beer Festival. This location is uptown with the grocery store and gas station I go to, it’s a good stop on the way out of town.

That is about two days worth of stuff to do in Pagosa to keep you busy. These are things I tend to do when I go back to visit the place I basically grew up. Pagosa Springs is a true gem of a mountain town in Southwestern Colorado that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Durango is also an hour away and offers a lot of great dining, craft beer, and activities for outdoor enthusiasts alike if you have more time to spend in the area. I feel homesick for Pagosa Springs sometimes, but I love my life in the big city. It’s nice knowing that it’s only a long weekend trip away.

The Beer Scene in Cheyenne, WY(maybe some hauntings?!)

I had a rare weekend off from work so we decided to take a mini road-trip to somewhere we have never been before. I had never been to Wyoming, Nate knows I love haunted stuff, and it was a few days after our 5 year anniversary. Why not!?

We were on our way to Cheyenne and we were to stay at the haunted Plains Hotel right smack in the middle of downtown. We were also going to “beer venture” around Fort Collins and Cheyenne.

On our way to Cheyenne, we stopped in Fort Collins for Totally 80’s Pizza! If you are near the Fort Collins, Colorado area you have to “totally” stop by this place! Unless you hate the 80’s, and in that case you may not love it so much. The pizza was great but the little mini 80’s museum was even better.

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After checking out this awesome place for lunch, we were off to our first brewery! Black Bottle Brewing is right around the corner from this place and they have a ton of options! Not only do they have a large selection of beers they have brewed in house, but they have a large list of visiting beers as well. I went with the Honey IPA and it was pretty good! It was a warm day and we were sitting on the patio in the sunshine. This beer was great for that! It was light and had all the hoppiness that an IPA should have. The honey finish was a nice touch since I’m a honey lover. 🙂 We also shared a Smoked Porter that may have been a little much for a warm day, but I was still a fan. I like smoky beers, though they may not be for everyone. They are definitely better in the winter or on colder days in my opinion, but to each their own. The brewery itself was cute, and definitely had something for everyone!

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We decided to hit up Arc for a quick treasure search and then we were off to Wyoming for the night. The drive was not long at all from Fort Collins and we saw lots of antelope and even some bison.

Of course I had to get a picture of the “Welcome to Wyoming” sign and also one of downtown Cheyenne. It’s not very big at all. but it has it’s own charm and old West feel. We arrived at our hotel and it was creepily empty. The lobby was really pretty and reminded me of something out of the past. Apparently the reason it’s haunted is a murder/suicide of some guests in the 1900’s. The guy was a scumbag and was found with another woman on their wedding night. The angry distraught newlywed wife killed her new husband and his mistress and herself not long after. Apparently something fell or was pushed from the 4th floor as well. (Not only do I like beer, but also have an interest in haunted stuff!)

Since Cheyenne is very small, things close kinda early so we had to get a move on. Our first order of business was a brewery called Danielmarks Brewing. It was in a old looking house and was very charming.

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photo cred to kgab

The inside is really cute as well, and it was starting to fill up as the wind and rain started up. We found two spots at the bar and ordered beers. I ordered a pale ale and Nate ordered the IPA they had. Both beers were pretty tasty and the brewery offered free popcorn! This brewery is still new to Cheyenne and they are working on some stuff still, but I thought it was great! I highly recommend it for it’s comfy atmosphere, good beer, and the friendly service. They have something that everyone would like! When in doubt, order a flight!

We took a dinner break and went to a really great Mexican restaurant that was a bit of a walk from Danielmarks, but well worth it. The restaurant was called Hacienda Guadalajara and did not disappoint. In the middle of our “beer venture” we decided to get Pomegranate margaritas. They were delicious and well worth it. The crab enchiladas and chips and salsa were enough to prepare us for our final brewery of the day. There are only two in Cheyenne, but with craft beer on the rise all over the country, I can foresee more in the future!

Freedom’s Edge was our last stop of the day and it was amazing! Definitely the highlight of Cheyenne for me. The space itself is really cute, and it was full of really friendly people. The beer list contains 8 beers that are all pretty different. The highlights for me were the strawberry mango wheat and the chili beer. I usually like the odd beers with enhanced flavors because I love to mix up my palate, especially when it comes to beer. We ordered a flight and tried them all. The chili beer had a little after kick, and is great for people who like spice.

After a flight and a game of Connect 4, we were off to “ghost hunt” which really ended up being us passing out. Nothing eventful happened in the way of hauntings during our stay in Cheyenne, but some great beer was had and it was a successful weekend!

Vegas Vacation!

Yes, it’s true.

I turned 30 a couple weeks ago and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.

My twenties were so good to me! They were full of fun times, travel, life lessons, and hundreds of new friends throughout the years. I think the older we get, the more sentimental we become. I decided that I wanted to be with my family on this special milestone of my life, and what better way to celebrate a milestone than a trip to Las Vegas. My sister(who was pregnant at the time of our vacation, but not when we made it an official plan to go), and Mom, and my Grandma were all officially coming with me. That means three generations all together on a girls trip!

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My sister wasn’t in Vegas yet! But we got this cute shot.

I could have had a “party hardy” Las Vegas trip, but I really wasn’t concerned with all those things like I used to be for every other birthday after I turned 21. All I wanted was some good food, good times, sunshine, and 5 days away from work and “life.”

I flew out of DIA on a Thursday morning and the wind was CRAZY! I’m not great at flying generally. I love to travel, but I always get a little nervous when it comes to heights and planes. The wind on this specific trip was not making it any easier on me. Lots of turbulence and a Dunkin Donut was probably not a great choice for breakfast(vacation, you know).

After a rough, scary landing, I navigated my way around the McCarren Airport to find my Mom and Grandma and we were off to Treasure Island. We used a shuttle service at the airport called Airline Shuttle that was $15 roundtrip that took you to the front door of your hotel and back to the airport, right to your airline. Just make sure to tip him a couple bucks. It’s a great way to avoid cabs and have some more money for the fun stuff. Speaking of cabs, I highly recommend downloading the Uber and/or Lyft app if you don’t have them on your phone already! They were a life saver. You can usually find a friend that has a code for a free ride or at least a percentage off of a ride. This was the only service we used for rides besides the shuttle.

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Outside of Treasure Island at night!

Treasure Island was not a bad option for our hotel room for the timing. We were there for Chinese New Year and it was a very busy time to go. Ideally, we wanted something not bad on the pocket book but also something that was central to other hotels and things to do. Plus, you don’t spend a lot of time in your room so I never go for a super expensive room when I travel. TI is definitely not the nicest place you will find in Vegas but it fit our criteria. We also got pretty lucky on the slot machines there, as my sister and I both won over $100. There is a free tram that takes you to the Mirage and you are closer to Harrah’s and other resorts if you like to explore like I do!

We were in Vegas for 3 nights and 4 days, and these are the activities we did in that short amount of time…

  • Explored surrounding hotels. We went to the Mirage(not much to it honestly, not my favorite but the volcano show was ok) The Bellagio(the fountain show is a must see, they also have a botanical garden inside that changes it’s theme frequently) The Venetian(one of my personal favorites! the gondola, architecture, decor, and everything is amazing! The Grand Luxe restaurant inside has amazing food for a great price. I highly recommend it!) and Caesar’s Palace(probably my favorite hotel in Vegas. The shopping center is huge with so many various shops and of course a Fat Tuesday alcoholic slushie stand!)
  •  Went to old town Las Vegas and Fremont Street. We started with an amazing brunch at a restaurant called eat. I ate a delicious breakfast sandwich and I had some bites of my mom’s pancakes that were served with all-natural maple syrup. So good! After brunch, we walked across the street and walked through Container Park and took some photos of the gigantic Praying Mantis and continued to walk around and explore all the old signs, original vintage Las Vegas casinos, street performers, and shops. Lots of diversity and fun! We went during the day, and it was pretty mellow on a Friday afternoon. I hear the crowd is more lively at night, and all the lights are much prettier obviously.
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This doesn’t even do this buffet justice. This was one of many plates.
  • Ate the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace. Yes, it’s on the pricier side but we went big since it was a celebration. The food was amazing and they offered so much variety. I think I ate my weight in crab legs. 😉  They offered Mexican food, Asian food, meat/cheese/olive/cracker platter choices, salad bar, and much much more. It’s in a very nice atmosphere. Did I mention a very large gourmet dessert section? Yummy

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  • Went and saw a Cirque du Soleil show and I highly recommend it to anyone. We saw the Mystere show that was at our hotel. There are other options, but this one was the first in Vegas and the performance was amazing. There is a bit of adult humor, but mostly just mind-blowing acts and people doing extreme things with their bodies. It blew all our minds and was probably our favorite thing that we did the whole time.

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  • Pool time is a must if the weather is right. I had a few hours before my flight after everyone else had left and wanted to relax and enjoy some “me-time” before I went back home. The weather was perfect and I was able to enjoy a mimosa and a pina colada by the pool and get a little bit of color.
  • Playing slots is always fun for me, but I make sure to play them right. I only put $5 in at a time and play slowly. This way the drink lady comes around and gives you a free drink(just make sure to tip) and you don’t blow all your money in seconds. I played the Ghostbuster and Game of Thrones slots the most. I always pick the ones with fun bonus game features. I always make sure to cash out while I’m ahead and give myself limits, or else I would be in trouble.

I had an absolute blast in Vegas, but after four days I was definitely ready to get away from all the bright lights and slot machine sounds. I will never forget the awesome time that my family and I had together. Thirty has been great so far!

Snow Day! And a scrumptious vegetarian recipe.

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It’s a snow day in Denver! I was already off work today and yesterday anyway, but I’m still playing by snow day rules!

I took Lucy on a little stroll through our neighborhood and I was wearing my snowboarding clothes. It’s not like we got THAT MUCH snow, but I enjoyed having a reason to wear my big comfy snowboarding pants and poofy coat. The walk didn’t last long, the wind was freezing and blowing directly in my face. brrrrr…

So what else do you do on a snow day when you have the whole day to play? Well, I have decided to have a real “snow day” and stay in. I have finished season 2 of Girls, and I also cooked a delicious healthy dinner last night and have plans to cook something creative again tonight(and possibly spend some more time with my DVR!)

I stick to a pretty vegetarian diet. I eat fish so you could say that I’m a pescatarian(have no idea if I spelled that right,but you get the jist). I love to cook, and also love the challenge of taking recipes and turning them into vegetarian/healthy options. So I present you my Taco Quinoa Bake. This five ingredient recipe is so easy, healthy, and quick. It makes it’s way into my monthly meal cycle a couple times.

TACO QUINOA BAKE 

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can Rotel Green Chile’s and Tomatoes
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 cup of quinoa(I always make extra for salads and other recipes, but cooking a half cup would be ok for this recipe. Follow the recipe on the box you buy)
  • 1/2 bag of low sodium taco seasoning. Full bag if you think it needs more flavor!
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese(again this is personal preference with how much cheese you like)

Preset oven to 375. Cook quinoa first. Lightly grease your casserole dish. Stir other ingredients together. Blend quinoa in with all other ingredients after it’s done cooking(typically 15 minutes or so) and add to casserole dish. Top with cheese and cook for 20-25 minutes. Make sure the middle is warm before pulling out of the oven.

It’s that easy and it tastes really good! If you have a meat-eater in the house, or you feel like adding that extra protein this dish is great with chicken or ground beef.

Happy Snow Day from Denver!

 

Being outside…a Colorado high all on it’s own

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There are many reasons I have decided to call Colorado home.

All these reasons make me feel zen and make me feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be at this time of my life. The outdoors are mostly what contribute to these zen feelings.

I work full-time at a job I love, but when I have my days off I look to life outside my door. I live right smack in the middle of Denver, Colorado which is about 40 minutes away from the mountains and I try to get out of the city when I can.

There is a little place I love in the Evergreen area called Elk Meadow Dog Park. The photo above was taken here in November when all the foliage was happening. This is a dog park/hiking trail and is a great way to exercise you and your pup. Obviously it’s better in the summer and fall months, but you can catch some days in the winter where it’s not too cold. It’s a scenic drive to Elk Meadow from Denver. Afterwards you can check out the adorable mountain town of Evergreen while you are on your adventure.

There are closer options to get outside if you don’t have the time to drive up to the mountains. Denver is home to many parks to enjoy the outdoors. My favorite park is Washington Park and I frequent this park most to run with my dog or just to enjoy outdoor activities. There are many other parks in the Denver area. Cheesman Park and City Park are two of my other favorite parks in the area.

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Washington Park in the winter

No matter where you go outside, or what you do, it never feels bad. There are so many options and opportunities to leave your house and embrace the outside beauty that awaits you. Go skiiing or boarding, go hiking or camping, the list never ends.

I’m adding two things to my “Things that Make Denver Great” list. Elk Meadows Dog Park(even though it’s technically in Evergreen) and Washington Park. (Both pictured above) Enjoy!