Colorado Trip: Part One

Gem Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
 Get ready for lots of pictures! There are so many to go through that I'll do my recap in parts.

Here's the running recap in case you missed it.

Note: My husband Dave took most of the pictures--the good ones, anyway. He's posting his own photos on Flickr--much different than the ones I'm posting! 

We got into Denver around lunchtime, picked up our rental car, and drove to Boulder, which is about 45 minutes from the airport. We ate lunch at Native Foods Cafe, a chain vegan restaurant. WOW. I'm not big on fake meats and cheeses since they're heavily processed, but I was dazzled at the menu, which included fake meats they make from scratch. I ordered a bacon-chicken club with avocado. It was the best fake chicken I've ever eaten, hands down. I think I was moaning in pleasure the entire meal and asked Dave if we could move to Boulder just so I could always eat at that restaurant.

I changed my mind about moving there pretty soon after we started walking around Boulder. The sun was so intense, and I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeve top because I thought it was going to be cooler. I was very hot and dying. I immediately went into a hiking store and bought a wide-brim hat since I'd forgotten to bring a hat. I don't think I could move to Colorado because the sun is way too intense!

Boulder was much different than I expected. It was mostly new construction strip malls, at least, the parts we drove through. We found a few older buildings downtown and walked around the touristy Pearl Street, which also had some public art. There were a lot of young college students, a lot of hippies of all ages, and pretty much everyone was on a bike. Biking is huge in both Boulder and Denver. I wish we'd have walked around some of the historic neighborhoods, but we were eager to get to Estes Park so we picked up groceries at the Whole Foods and then headed out.

Counter tracks how many people biked by that day (620--the "20" isn't visible in
this photo) and by year.

Boulder City Hall

Old theater in Boulder's Downtown (still in use)
From Boulder, we drove an hour and 15 minutes to Estes Park. I should note that we had this tripped planned a year ago but had to cancel at the last minute because of the major flooding, which took out the road to Estes Park. We saw that the road had been completely rebuilt, and parts of it are still under construction.

We found our rental house easily in an area of Estes Park known as Lumpy Ridge.
Our rental house for the week.
The house had a nice gazebo with lounge furniture and views of the mountains where we spent a lot of time.
Behind the gazebo were our own set of rocks and boulders to climb on! There was a smaller
gazebo and hot tub behind the house.
View of the Rocky Mountains from our house (zoomed in). There were menacing storm
clouds hovering over the mountains the entire week, even though it was sunny and warm where we were.
We hiked the Gem Lake Trail, which was just a half-mile from our house. I had brought a 14-year-old pair of hiking boots that I haven't worn in forever. A little over a half-mile into the hike, I looked down and saw that the soles of both boots were completely coming off. We had to hike back down, go back to the house so I could put on my running shoes, and head back to the trail. At least we weren't too far away!
On Gem Lake Trail before my boots fell apart.
Yep, that came off my boot.

Major boot fail!
The day was sunny and very warm, and the hike was 1.8 miles uphill. The hike was rated "easy/moderate" in my trail guidebook. The trail ratings in Colorado are much different than those in Pennyslvania! Back home, that trail would easily be considered difficult. Even though it wasn't a very long hike, you had to be pretty fit to do it. We passed many people struggling to hike up and noted that they didn't make it to the top. Because we lost time to change my shoes, on our second attempt we powered up to make up for lost time. Great workout!

On Gem Lake Trail, with the Rocky Mountains in the distance and Estes Park in the valley below.

From Gem Lake Trail, the view of Estes Park and Lake Estes.
On Gem Lake Trail

Dave and me on Gem Lake Trail

The big payoff after the uphill hike was reaching Gem Lake, a beautiful little lake surrounded by high cliffs.

Approaching Gem Lake

We packed our lunches and ate at Gem Lake.
The chipmunks are used to being fed and will come right up and beg for food. I had one even jump into my lap!
Of course, it's a disservice to wild animals to feed them (not to mention illegal), so cute as they were, I resisted.

After the hike we soaked in the hot tub, ate dinner, then drove out to Lily Lake, where we went for a short walk around the lake at sunset.
Lily Lake at sunset
Part Two

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