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.

 

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!

Back to it…and Things that Make Denver Great

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I’m not much into resolutions. I’m more into the idea of always trying to better myself, year round whether it be financially, physically, emotionally, etc. 2015 was pretty hard to top. I had a lot of amazing things happen last year and I’m only ready to try and top last years goals and manifestations.

It was a stressful start to 2016. It’s always hard when I am not able to go see my family for the holidays, the upside is I was able to put in a lot of hours at work. Plus, there’s always the “holiday hangover” as I like to call it. I got pretty lazy and had my fair share in snacks and LOTS of libations.

Being in the business I’m in, drinking beer is my job. Beer is not a low calorie food, so I have to find ways to help myself feel healthy. I had a couple days off this week and the weather in Denver happened to be beautiful! Definitely an improvement from the high of 16 we had a couple weeks ago.

I live really close to the Cherry Creek Trail and decided to take Lucy on a run. I am not really a runner by any means, but I have found that I really enjoy it and it’s a great way to clear your head. I turned on my workout playlist and just went for it. As soon as I knew it I was at 2.5 miles on MapMyRun. It felt amazing to be outside in the Colorado air and I’m constantly reminded of why I live here. My goal is to have more of these moments this year.

Denver is a great runners city, it’s also great for bikes. The Cherry Creek Trail runs through the city and beyond. The trail starts downtown near R.E.I and runs 40 miles through Cherry Creek State Park and beyond. The trail is also a great way to get downtown for brews, a baseball game in the summer, or anything else that suits your fancy. The Cherry Creek Trail is going on my “Things that Make Denver Great” list for 2016.

I’m starting my list today with this entry. Along with other random posts, I will be adding my favorite things about Denver regularly. Stay tuned for more . 🙂

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