Archive | 8:28 am

Hiked & Fed

29 May

Please do not scroll down to the bottom of this post, especially not to the fourth picture from the bottom.

Too late you say? All you want to do now is learn why I have a picture of the world’s cutest baby goats?

Patience my friends… There’s more to Colorado than baby goats. There’s mountains and snow and hiking and wildflowers and snow and farmers and cheese and beer. Yeah, let’s start with the beer.

No Fresher Coors

Golden, Colorado is the birthplace of Coors. The plant dominates the town and the air smells wonderfully malty and yeasty in places. The liquor store above is directly across the street from the plant. I chose not to test out their assertion. I’ve had plenty of Coors beers in my life, but not a lot of Colorado microbrews from “the second largest brewery in Golden.”

Dove Inn, Golden, Colorado

But there’s more to Golden than just beer. There’s also the School of Mines (for all you aspiring geologists out there) and an awesome kayak park. And they put honey on their pizza crusts. Go figure…

Colorado

If you’re a flatlander like me who’s lived at sea-level for most of her 30-odd years, you’d be smart to take it easy the first few days at altitude, drink lots of water, and if the idea of laying around and being inactive bothers you, go out for a drive. The scenery is stunning.

Colorado

I love how sometimes it feels like the mountains are playing peek-a-boo with you, using the clouds as their hands. One minute they’re there, the next, hidden behind a scrim of clouds.

Garden Of The Gods

Just outside (or possibly inside) Colorado Springs is a nature park called Garden Of The Gods. You can drive through the strange rock formations if the altitude has really gotten to you, but getting out and scampering about is a much better way to feel their monstrous size.

Garden Of The Gods

They’re nestled below Pike’s Peak, and if the day is especially unsettled, as it was when we were there, you can hear and watch the weather rumbling down off the mountains. The paths are paved and very easy to walk on, and there’s a surprising amount of nature despite the huge crowds.

We saw a peregrine falcon out hunting and a baby rabbit. Not concurrently, thank god. That might have ruined the lives of a few little girls forever!

Weather

When Colorado travel guides tell you to be prepared for any weather at any time, they are not kidding. We were en route to the world’s stupidest, most expensive tourist trap (we didn’t know these things at the time) when we drove into this hail storm. Seriously, it was so bad. We had to pull off the road and just let it pass by.

Colorado

And then it was glorious again. Colorado can be one strange state. Giant mountains and then flat, flat, flat. The San Luis Valley, home of the Great Sand Dunes National Park (which we didn’t go to because, yep, it was raining again), is one of the flatest, scrubbiest places on earth I’ve ever been, and I’ve been to Kansas.

San Luis Valley Brewing Company

It’s also home to the San Luis Valley Brewing Company in Alamosa. We didn’t eat here, but we sure did sample the wares. I gathered from chatting with our super-nice bartender the following: the brewpub is located in an old bank (hence the vault door above the taps), the brewmaster is a woman named Angie and she and her husband started the place up after years volunteering at the local animal shelter.

My favorite beer was the Mexican-style Cerveza while the boy enjoyed his Amber Ale quite a bit. The bartender was also kind enough to let us sample the pub’s first anniversary Barley Wine. It packed quite the punch but was nicely balanced for a beer of such high alcohol. While Monte Vista may be prettier, the Brewing Company places Alamosa quite high on the list of towns to stay in for any San Luis Valley bound foodie/beerie.

Colorado

The next day it was up and over the Wolf Creek Pass. It’s a very high pass, with a long approach and not one I would recommend to anyone feeling the altitude. While the vistas are incredible, it can be a painful experience.

Colorado

We stopped in Durango for lunch. Unfortunately, it was Taste of Durango day. Bad. Bad idea. Do not go to Durango if you’ve just experienced altitude sickness and are not prepared for the famished hordes that descend upon Durango for cheap eats.

Regardless of whether or not you arrive in Durango on a festival day, do not trust your guidebook (and inexplicably it seems to be all guidebooks) when it tells you to go to the Olde Tymer’s Cafe. Just don’t. That place is nasty. It smells like my high school cafeteria on sloppy joe day. The meat is all ground and seems to have come from a can. My dog can make better chicken soup than that place (and he’s passed on to the great bunny chasing meadow in the sky). Just stay away.

Happily we finally landed in a glorious place, Ridgway. It’s a teeny tiny town, with one paved road and a bar who’s claim to fame was that one of it’s walls was used in the opening sequence of the John Wayne movie True Grit years before the bar was even opened (I’ll give you one guess as to the name of the bar). It also has one of the best antique/junque shops I’ve been in in years. It’s called Magpie Antiques, and it’s what Anthropologie wishes it was, minus the clothes of course.

We both loved that mountain above and christened it Mt. Palapa because it looks a bit like a beach hut.  If anyone knows it’s real name I’d be eternally grateful.

Ouray, Colorado

Ridgway is a great alternative to the much trendier (if there are trends in the San Juan Mountains), tonier town of Ouray. The drive from Ridgway to Ouray is an easy, scenic 15 minutes, and if you stay in Ridgway you can stay at the Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa. They do great massages there and have an awesome restaurant called Ashe. The chef uses local and organic ingredients to great effect.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

I can say firsthand that the hiking outside of Ouray is spectacular.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

We did a trail called the Baby Bath Tubs. I am utterly embarrassed that the Ouray folk call this an “easy trail,” excellent for “youngsters” as it very nearly killed me.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

There’s that guy that’s always walking through my pictures again.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

It rained constantly. But that’s really good for the wildflowers.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

The Baby Bath Tubs are located in the Uncompahgre National Forest. Uncompahgre is hands down my new favorite word in the whole world. It’s possibly also one of my new favorite places in the whole world. I’d go back there in a heartbeat.

Snow! Ridgway, Colorado

Alas our time in paradise came to an end. A snowy end no less. I really thought I was done with the white stuff for the summer.

Snow! Lizard Head Pass, Colorado

But no. It followed us up and over.

Mountain Wildflowers, Chataqua, Boulder, Colorado

After another bout with altitude, passes and the Eisenhower Tunnel, we landed in Boulder.

Flowers, Boulder, Colorado

The flowers.

Old Main, University of Colorado, Boulder

The campus.

Wednesday Farmer's Market, Boulder, Colorado

The farmer’s market! It’s such a tease to be a traveling foodie when you come across a farmer’s market like the Wednesday one in Boulder. The produce was amazing, and, the breads! They were at least twice as big as my head. Thankfully, I didn’t leave empty handed. I left with a pound of Yellow Indian Woman beans. Not the radishes and lettuces I had my eyes on, but enough to sate the need to support local farmers.

Eating in Boulder is wonderful. We scored reservations at possibly the coolest restaurant I’ve ever been to, The Kitchen. The Kitchen’s kitchen is powered entirely by wind and all their cooking oil is converted to biodiesel. Their menu is farmer-driven and they have an extraordinary wine list. I could have happily eaten every meal there.

But then I would have missed Salvaggio’s awesome sandwiches and Illegal Pete’s near illegal sized burritos. No trip to Boulder is complete without lunch at both places.

Baby Goats! Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy

And you know what else no trip to Boulder would be complete without?

Oh yes, a trip to meet the goats!

These amazing kids are the future cheesemakers of Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy. Try and plan your trip so that you’re in Boulder on a Tuesday or Saturday, the days the dairy is open to the public. It’s an easy drive and oh, oh so worth it.

And it’s not just about the goats either. These folks are making some seriously good cheese. It was on every menu in every restaurant we ate at, and with good reason. The pyramid tastes exactly like the dairy smells. Herby, fresh, clean and just ever so goaty. Perfect.

So, I implore you. Go visit the goats. They’ll nibble on your fingers. And then you can eat and buy cheese. What could possibly be better than that?

Museum, Denver, Colorado

Sadly we had to leave Boulder and Colorado to head back to New York. But it was okay. I was ready to get back to sea level.

Haystack Mountain Goat Cheeses

And plus, we brought back cheese!

Haystack Mountain Goat Cheeses

The perfect end to a wonderful trip.

Head below the jump for Ann’s highly subjective list of where to sleep and eat and drink in Colorado.

Continue reading