A Grand Adventure in Grand Lake(and a quick stop in Estes Park)

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Sometimes the greatest adventures lie the closest to home, where all you have to do is hop in your and drive a couple hours to feel like you are really far away.

This was the case for our last adventure in Grand Lake, Colorado. We both worked that Saturday morning and decided to basically have the car packed and ready to leave Golden at 4:30 sharp. When are ready for vacation, we are REALLY ready for it.

We decided to start our vacation at a little place called Bread Bar in the tiny, tiny town of Silver Plume. Seriously, this town is so tiny that if you blink while driving on I70 you might just miss it. I’m pretty sure this might be the only thing in Silver Plume and it’s totally worth checking out if you love a good craft cocktail! The decor is also to die for with a very eclectic, trendy, mountain home feel on the inside and a really awesome back patio with incredible views. It was a great way to start our trip!

After a couple drinks at Bread, we were on our way to Grand Lake. The drive itself was very pretty and there were great views all the way there. It took us about two hours to get there and we were starving as we pulled into town. We opted for the town favorite, Sagebrush BBQ and Grill for a bite to eat before we retired to our house rental for the night. They have a great variety of food and a full bar. This is definitely a local hang-out as the bar was full of townies. We didn’t stay long, but we did end up coming back here a couple days later to eat again.

Our house rental was a personal friend’s rental and he was kind enough to let us rent it for the weekend and the views were immaculate. It was a little ways out of the town itself, but it was the perfect spot. It was quiet, we saw a ton of wildlife(including a young moose that hung out in the neighborhood) and we didn’t have internet. It was actually quite lovely not having to rely on streaming video in the evenings. We hung out on the patio and took in the views of the lake, stars, and just enjoying the quiet of it all. We called it a night pretty early and woke up pretty early the next day ready to adventure…

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The next morning we woke up early to grab some breakfast in town before the crowds started to rush in. We opted for the cutest little place called the Fat Cat Cafe which is an adorable little spot right in the middle of downtown that is a breakfast buffet! They had so many options including eggs, meats, quiche, and a whole table of just desserts that I did not even make it to because everything else filled me up. I highly recommend this place! Now that we had eaten, we were ready for the kayak adventure we were about to embark on. We decided to rent a tandem kayak for three hours. One hour didn’t seem like enough, so we opted for the three hour option for the better deal. It ended up being $100 and it was money well spent. As we cruised around Grand Lake, we looked at all the lake houses and decided to go through to Shadow Lake and check out that area. I’m really glad we did because we saw two moose hanging out on the shore. I have never seen them up that close before which was really fun, but also a kind of scary experience. Keep in mind that moose are mean, very mean, sometimes. If you put their babies in the equation, they might just kill you. You think I’m joking, but DO NOT MESS WITH THEM or get too close. We admired them from a distance as we paddled around.

After our arms were so tired we felt they were going to fall off(and the incoming rainstorm) we decided to paddle back to the shore and head home to change out of our wet clothes and get ready to explore the Grand Lake Cemetery. I realize that it’s not everyone’s top choice of vacation activities, but as a photographer I find that sometimes this is one of the most interesting places to take photos. The amount of history here is absolutely amazing and there are some very eerie grave stones. Some of them don’t even have names on them, and some are marked unknown. It was a fun hour to walk around  and explore something new.

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After the cemetery we drove to the tip of Rocky Mountain National Park where we didnt actually drive into the park itself, but we caught some great views and a whole bunch of elk and some more moose!

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The next day we decided to do a nearby hike called the Colorado River Trail that was only a couple miles long. It had some very pretty views and was just challenging enough, but they were also doing a ton of work in the area and a lot of the trees were cut down to help prevent fire danger. The benefit was we only saw a couple other people on the trail and it was lovely and quiet. There were some great photo opportunities and we saw another moose! The trail takes you down by the river where there are benches to just relax and listen to the water, or you can even take a little picnic down there if you wanted.

We arrived to our last day in Grand Lake and decided to grab a quick coffee and breakfast at The Hub before we ventured to Adam’s Falls for a quick hike. It’s a quick half mile up and you can choose to continue to hike beyond the falls if you want. We just went up and came back down because we were about to head to Rocky Mountain National Park for the rest of the day.

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Rocky Mountain National Park is worth the trip in itself, but keep in mind that it gets pretty busy in the summer months. People are not always very smart either. They will stop dead in the middle of the road if they see an animal so be sure to drive carefully!

We decided to drive to Estes Park which is on the other side of RMNP. The drive was gorgeous and had many moments to photograph. There are many overlooks with historical signage to learn more about the park itself and it’s history.

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After the drive(and many stops in between to take photos) we decided to hike to a waterfall. We decided to do Alberta Falls since it was a pretty short one at 1.6 miles round-trip. It’s a great chance to see Bear Lake as well since it’s right there. There are many to choose from, but we just opted for one that wasn’t going to take as long since we already went on a hike that morning!

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After the hike, we decided to go into Estes Park and go to one of our favorite spots, The Stanley Hotel!

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Some other facts about The Stanley…

  • It was the INSPIRATION for the book/movie The Shining. Stephen King stayed here for awhile and was inspired when he stayed in one of the most haunted rooms. A lot of people believe that the movie was filmed here. BUT…
  • Dumb and Dumber was definitely filmed here. The famous staircase is where they are handing out money to all the people who work at the hotel. The hotel bar was where Jim Carey sat and waited for his date that would never come. Jim Carey also stayed in one of the most haunted rooms but did not make it through the night, he still wont talk about why or what happened!
  • F.O Stanley(Stanley Steamer fame) arrived in Estes Park in 1903 and opened the Stanley Hotel in 1940.
  • The hotel is known to be very haunted, but specifically Room 217. The hotel offers ghost tours and the Ghost Hunters tv show even filmed here once.

If we are in the area, we will always try to stop and order an Old Fashioned at their bar. The Stanley Hotel is known for their whiskey, they literally have walls of it!

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If whiskey isn’t your thing, they have many other choices! One of my personal favorite is the Redrum Cocktail based on The Shining of course! 😉

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We walked around the property a little bit before calling it a day and making the trek back to Golden. It was a great trip with great company! Till the next one!

 

 

 

 

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New Orleans: A City of Creole Magic

 

Another year in the books and we find ourselves in 2018. My last post was a year ago in February and so many things have happened in the last year. I accepted a job at a brewery back in April and my life has changed so much since then. Not only did I take a new job in a field that I’m passionate about, but I also fell head over heels in love with my soul-mate at 31. Many say that soul-mates don’t exist, but I beg to differ. There are so many wonderful adventures that we have had over the summer and fall that I cant wait to share. But first, I want to talk about our first out of state trip together and it just happened to be to one of my most favorite cities in the United States, NEW ORLEANS!

I hate going back so much in time and having those long overdue posts. I feel like I forget small details that I would have liked to include, but I’m going to do my best because it was the most memorable time I have had in New Orleans yet! The inspiration behind this trip in November was a wedding of a good friend of mine. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard that it was going to be a parade through the streets of the French Quarter, but if you knew how creative this couple was you wouldn’t question(more details about the Second Line wedding below!)

DAY 1. The Beginning

We started our adventure early on a Thursday morning. I always try to take early flights so I feel like I have basically a whole extra day at my destination. We arrived at the airport a couple hours earlier than necessary so we could have pre-flight drinks at the airport before we boarded.  Never a bad idea getting on the plane with a little buzz, especially if you are a nervous flyer like me.

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We landed around 1 PM at Louis Armstrong International Airport and headed straight to the ground transportation area. They offer cab rides for $35(not including tip) for up to two people into anywhere in the French Quarter. I also compared the prices on Uber and it was going to be about the same at that time of day, and the cab was already conveniently located by the curb. He was also local and gave us some good advice when it came to staying safe and where to avoid.

We stayed in an area called Marigny which is known for it’s Bohemian charm, quaint bars, and a great food variety. We rented a room through Airbnb a few weeks earlier that was right on Frenchmen Street and only a few blocks away from some of the most awesome music venues in New Orleans such as The Spotted Cat. It was also far enough away where we got a good night’s sleep in our quiet room(most bars don’t close here!) After we dropped off our luggage, we were both antsy to get out and explore(not to mention hungry!) We took the 10 minute walk into the French Quarter and decided to stop at Acme Oyster House. Normally I’m all about more local fare as opposed to more of the chains, but this was one of the only places with a short wait at the time, and we were STARVING. It also had pretty great reviews. We ordered Chargrilled Oysters and a cup of Gumbo each. We also had a couple tropical beverages because when in Rome. After our meal, we decided to walk around some more to burn off the calories. We grabbed a daiquiri at one of the endless shops and walked the French Quarter(totally legal to walk around with drinks). We walked around the dock for awhile and watched the riverboats, walked the streets including around Bourbon Street so Nathan could get the full experience in New Orleans. Normally I would not recommend going here because it’s a drunken shit-show and it smells like vomit most of the time, but that’s all part of the experience. I highly recommend checking out Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It is one of the oldest bars in America and is only lit by candlelight in the evening. Most nights they have a piano player that plays requests. Try to grab a spot at the piano if you can, but keep in mind that this place can get pretty packed. Since we were both pretty tired from a day of travels we decided to hit it pretty early to get ready for the next day of adventures. We decided to grab a pedi-cab to Frenchmen and walk the rest of the way.

 

Day 2-Friday. A bit more hustle and bustle than when we arrived because of the long holiday weekend. We decided to start our morning with a nice breakfast to get moving. There is a Ruby Slipper that was a five minute walk away from our place. Keep in mind that it is popular so get your name on the list, and they will text you when your table is ready. This place is so worth it, that we visited twice while we were in town. There are other locations as it is a franchise, but don’t let that steer you away. I enjoyed the Skinny Migas which was so yummy and it hit the spot for a healthy way to start the day. I knew other unhealthy decisions would be made later in the day. One of my most favorite place to go when in New Orleans is the Carousel Bar located inside the Hotel Monteleone. Who wouldn’t want to have a classy cocktail on an actual carousel? Order a Pimm’s Cup or an Old Fashioned you will not be disappointed. Best. Cocktails. Ever! The bartenders really know their stuff and are happy to make you a wonderful cocktail. Again, this place is very popular and spots at the bar can be hard to come by but it’s worth the wait in my opinion. We spent the rest of the day wandering around and to my surprise, my wonderful boyfriend booked us a dinner and cruise on the Riverboat Natchez. It included a dinner, music, and a two hour cruise on the Mississippi. This was such a fun experience and a great way spend an evening. I highly recommend this if you have time.

 

Day 3-Saturday. Wedding Day!

Since it was an evening wedding, we had some time to hang out. We went to Ruby Slipper again for brunch(yes, it’s that good!) and then walked back to the Airbnb to catch up on some rest because I had a bit of a headache from drinking too much the night before. We took a short hiatus from the 90 degree weather outside and hung out in the AC. It was a much needed little break from the go, go, go that we both needed. We got dressed in our fancy wedding clothes and decided to go grab a Hurricane at the famous Pat O’Brien’s. This is one of the most famous New Orleans staple drinks you can get. It’s sweet and so, so rummy but you gotta try one once. They have an awesome courtyard seating area, but with the weather being what it was, we decided to stay in the air conditioning. It was about wedding time so we went to the courthouse a few blocks away to wait for everything to start.

It was not a typical wedding, but it was by far the coolest wedding I have ever been to. It’s called a Second Line and basically the wedding was in front of the courthouse. You are open and vulnerable to having people watching, but it’s all part of the fun. The ceremony took 5 minutes and then we all took pictures before we went off into a parade through the streets. The main line leading the parade for a wedding is made up of the married couple, the brass band and usually a grand marshal. The second line is the wedding party and any passersby who want to join the celebration. The bride carried a white umbrella, and the ladies that paraded carried white napkins or hankies that we waved around for good luck. So many people were watching all of us and cheering. Definitely one of the coolest experiences I have had. We then had dinner at New Orleans Creole Cookery that I highly recommend for unique, Creole cuisine and it’s fabulous courtyard. After all the celebrating, we made our way back toward Frenchmen Street and checked out two local bands. One was reggae, one was more of a brass band. You get so much variety on Frenchmen and I highly recommend it if you love dancing and seeing live music. We called it a night about 12:30.

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Day 4-Sunday. Football and burgers

We slept in a little bit and did not go to Ruby Slipper this time. We decided to head into the French Quarter to try to find a place with food and football. We ended up at The Jimani which is a little local haunt(literally, there was a huge fire upstairs and it’s rumored to have ghosts). We enjoyed some pretty good food while having the option to watch any game though we really wanted to watch the local Saints. I enjoyed a BBQ Shrimp Po Boy and a Cajun style Bloody Mary that were both awesome. We then met up with a friend of mine who lived in Colorado and walked around. We checked out a lot of independent art galleries and antique shops on Royal Street. My personal favorite was the Craig Tracy Fine Body-Art Gallery. We then had an early dinner at Port of Call which is one of my most favorite places in New Orleans. No, it’s not Cajun food. Yes, it’s burgers and baked potatoes. It is one of those unsuspecting amazing places you find with great service, and the drinks….you have to get a Windjammer! A large one so you can take the awesome cup home with you.

Day 5. Monday. Our last day.

We have arrived at the last day of our adventure. Let me tell you, I love New Orleans but five days is PLENTY. We were pretty ready to get back to our own bed and out of the humidity. Our last day was really special because we actually got out of the French Quarter and went to one of the most wonderful restaurants in the world, Commander’s Palace! I made a reservation for lunch a month in advance, because yes, it gets that busy. Also keep in mind when packing that they have a dress code that I would describe as office professional. Men must wear collared shirts, closed toe shoes, and NO jeans or shorts! I would check the website to make sure, just be prepared. While we waited for our reservation time, we walked around the neighborhood a bit and looked at all the beautiful houses(Sandra Bullock lives practically next door to Commanders). There is also Lafayette Cemetery right across the street that is a MUST! It’s one of the older cemeteries in the city and the burial method in New Orleans is a little different than any other place. All the graves are built above ground because of the city being below sea level. You can always take a guided tour if you want to learn more, but we just walked around. When we were finally seated we ordered a 25 cent martini to start. Yes, you heard me right, This is a thing at Commander’s Palace with the purchase of a meal. They are decent, but they have other wonderful cocktails as well. They are known for their Turtle Soup, but I decided on the Crab Bisque, which is an absolute must if available though their menu changes all the time. I also had a fish dish that was superb. You really cant go wrong here.

To complete the experience, we rode the streetcar back to the French Quarter and stopped for another round of drinks with our newly married friends before we grabbed our luggage and hopped in an Uber to go back to the airport. It was an amazing trip that I will never forget.

 

NEW ORLEANS QUICK TIPS!

Weather: Early November, still very hot and humid. I brought dresses, shorts, tank tops, and short sleeves. We both brought light jackets that were only needed for the riverboat cruise for me at least. We wore our Chuck T’s as comfortable walking shoes, because you walk A LOT!!

Food: A reason to visit the city all in itself!

*Deanie’s Charbroiled Oysters

*The Jimani-they serve food practically ALL night if you are looking for a simple late night bite.

*Ruby Slipper-best breakfast/brunch in the city in my opinion. They are located all over the city.

*Port of Call-best burgers in NOLA. Sometimes you grow tired of the rich Cajun/Creole food.

*New Orleans Creole Cookery- great place to try a variety of Cajun dishes ranging from pasta to meat dishes.

*Commander’s Palace-don’t miss this place! It is always rated one of the best in the whole city.

*Verti Marte-need Tums and a sandwich at the same time? This little corner mart and deli has awesome food at all hours of the night!

BARS-because let’s face it, you are going to get drunk in New Orleans! 🙂

*The Golden Lantern-One of my favorite bars in the quarter. It’s a gay bar, and everyone here is always so friendly. Best Bloody Mary in town.

*Pat O’Briens-At least stop here for a World Famous Hurricane. Sit in the courtyard if you can.

*Molly’s-The frozen Irish Coffee here is amazing!

*Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar– the oldest bar in America. All lit up by candlelight at night, piano players, and a cute little courtyard.

*Carousel Bar– My favorite place in the Quarter! Located inside the Hotel Monteleone. You must order a Pimm’s Cup!

*The Olde Absinthe Bar in Pirate Alley- absinthe is not for everyone. This place is worth checking out though just to see how they make these drinks and the history.

*The Rum Shack– located on Magazine Street. Great cocktails, away from the quarter, and really good food. Think tacos and rum!

OTHER THINGS

*Visit an old cemetery(many in the area but keep in mind most lock up around 3 PM)

*Explore the city’s haunted history, there is a lot of it, EVERYWHERE!

*Take a Riverboat cruise

*Walk. Explore. Shop local galleries and boutiques!

*Check out a museum. Museum of Death, Mardi Gras museum, and New Orleans history museum are all in the city.

*Music on Frenchmen. So many different genres! It’s a must!

*Ride a streetcar if time allows!

Though we felt safe in New Orleans, please be cautious and keep a very close eye on your belongings at all times. Use your street smarts and only walk in well lit areas and never leave your drink alone! Most importantly, have a blast!

 

 

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!

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.

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!