On to the final leg of the family road trip recap! After the Black Hills, we drove down to Colorado to spend some time with Dan's cousin and aunt, in Golden (right outside of Denver). The drive down was only about six hours from the Black Hills, and while it wasn't very scenic it was also pretty easy driving (straight, flat, and fast). In Colorado we had a great mix of hiking and touristing, and enjoyed some great food (still dreaming about a greek-style lamb burger I had with gluten free flat bread at a local brewery....yum.) I really like hiking (like the day trip kind that ends in a hotel, not the tent-on-your-back kind that spans multiple days and doesn't include showers) and I was happy to discover on this trip that Dan and Kelly really feel the same. We drove to Evergreen, Colorado for a fun hike around Maxwell Falls (word to the wise--this trail is not well marked, and we accidentally ended up on private property and needed to turn around, but it was still a good time. Also, the "falls" are more of a small series of drops over rocks, so you might miss them if you're expecting something more raging.)
I read there was also an awesome pizza place in Evergreen with regular and gluten-free pizza, but we were there too early in the day to take advantage.
We also drove up to the peak of Mount Evans, which you can hike (if you're feeling extreme and want to devote the day to it) but you can also just drive up and have a look. The road was a little terrifying in places, so naturally I made Dan drive while I ate potato chips.
It also gets pretty cold up on the mountain (even when it's 90 degrees in the city) so packing a sweatshirt is wise. Halfway up the mountain there's a lake with a parking lot, and we were there at the perfect time to see tons of wild flowers blooming. No one in our family is real fond of heights, but the views are pretty spectacular and you don't have to climb way out to the edge to enjoy them. Also, how awesome are these mountain goats?! Don't let Dan's face fool you. He loved it.
The drive to/from Mount Evans is also super scenic, and I would recommend pulling off at some of the overlooks to take it in. We chose one that had a retaining wall, but the boys were still not very comfortable taking the picture by the edge (lesson learned: heights, not so much. We're calling this Dan's power stance.)
We also went to Red Rocks, which was a surprising highlight. I knew we had to make a stop, but none of us expected it to be as cool as it was. The amphitheater there is home to some amazing concerts, and there's a little museum where you can see who's played at the venue over the years, but the place itself is just incredibly beautiful. And, in the mornings (before setup for the night's event begins) it's open and free to the public, and you can see hoards of people working out--running the stairs, running top to bottom along each row of seating, squat jumping from bench to bench, leading yoga classes, etc. It was really cool to see, and if we'd had another day in the area we probably would have gone back to join them the next morning!
Red Rocks is a prime example, but all over Denver it was really noticeable how much the community buys in to active outdoor lifestyles. Dan and I agreed that if we weren't so tied to Minneapolis we would love to live in Denver (but no moves in our future--too many roots, and too much love for our home city! We'll just have to settle for visits.)
Kelly also got a chance to pan for gold with Dan's cousin as his guide--he had a blast, even though he didn't strike it rich.
After an awesome few days, it was time to pack up the Jeep and hit the road. We pulled in to a Whole Foods on our way out of town to grab some caffeine--if you guys haven't tried either of these beverages, I highly recommend them. The chai is spicy and not too sweet, and the coffee is perfect in every way (both dairy free--the chai is made with soy milk, which I don't drink a lot but don't avoid like the plague, either). Yes, Dan laughed at me when he saw this picture on my phone. No, there is no shame in my game.
Our next big trip is to Belize over Thanksgiving--just Dan and I for that one, and I'm already daydreaming about it.
Wishing you all wonderful weeks!