North America,  Self Love,  Travel

Hiking My Way Into 25 – In Denver

“How does it feel to be a quarter of the way to 100?” I asked my friend Shipley, who is a mere 4 days older than me.

“I feel just like a quarter does whenever sitting next to the other change – large and in charge.”

Goals & Garbage - A photo of the author in the Eldorado Canyon State Park in the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado

A lot of hullabaloo has surrounded my birthday in my latest blog posts – obviously, given that I am a huge celebrator.

Originally I had intended on going to New Orleans. Warm weather, Hand Grenades, and vegan po’boys were all calling my name. But as the month approached, I became weirdly introspective. Did I want to drive 10 hours to hammer boozy slushies, just to forget my 25th birthday? Don’t get me wrong, a weekend of day drinking in the warm sun sounds wonderful. But I felt that celebrating my birthday in this manner would be more anxiety-inducing than fulfilling.

So instead we swapped our plan to Denver and drove right into its unanticipated, sunny weather. My Weather app had been foreboding clouds and rain, but instead we were able to see the mountains undress from the haze and get a great view of the Rockies (thank you, birthday gods).

Goals & Garbage - A photo of Roxborough State Park in the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado

When we went to Denver last year, we stayed close to the downtown. We thought it would be a better fit for us, as we are both city people. When we arrived, however, our Airbnb ended up being in an unsafe feeling area. And when we made it to the downtown to explore, it was pretty empty feeling with not too terribly much to do – in fact, it reminded us a lot of St. Louis’s downtown.

(Side note: If not from St. Louis, our downtown area is filled with corporations and ordinances against noise. There is no real shopping to be had, no nightlife, and it’s one draw are a handful of tasty restaurants… And sports, if you’re into that sort of thing. STL’s real goodness is spread throughout it’s surrounding neighborhoods, such as the Loop, the Grove, the CWE, Maplewood, etc.)

This time around, we chose an Airbnb in the suburb of Glendale, which ended up being cheaper, cleaner, and largely more safe feeling. We realized that location was of less importance this time, because no matter where we stayed we would be far away from at least one hike we wanted to do.

During our first day in, after driving through the night, we popped into Watercourse, our favorite veg-friendly burger joint, and ate our weight in happy hour vegan mac n’ cheese.

Afterwards, we decided to explore Red Rocks Amphitheater. We had wanted to do this last year when we visited but didn’t quite make it on time, as they close their doors to tourists on an event night. This visit, I researched what day they didn’t have an event and Thursday was our only option. Because there was an event the next night, however, the band was doing a sound check when we arrived, so we were able to sort of experience the magic that I am sure Red Rocks concerts are.

On Friday, AKA birthday day, we woke up to beautiful weather (again, not predicted accurately) and grabbed some vegan brunch from the same place we had dinner. I got tipsy on mimosas, and then we went to hike in Eldorado Canyon State Park. Hiking a mile above sea level while fuzzy on breakfast drinks is an experience I’d say you should try at least once, and then never again.

Later, we drove an hour south to Roxborough State Park, where my weather app said it was predicted to be sunny – which it was until we got halfway through the hike, and an afternoon thunderstorm gurgled above us. It was both parts magical and terrifying.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of Red Rocks Ampitheater in the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado

On our last day in beautiful Colorado, we explored another area that we’d meant visit the last time we came, but ran out of time: Estes Park. We went on National Public Lands Day which is one of the handful of free days to explore a national park. I, of course, planned this ahead of time to ensure we saved the $20 it costs to enter because being a cheapskate takes no days off.

The park was exceptionally crowded since it was both a Saturday and free, and the park rangers were closing off sections of hikes due to the volume of people. The hikes we wanted to go on were to Dream & Emerald Lake, but they were unfortunately closed too.

In a sort of cranky and defeated fashion, I decided to go to the gift shop to pee before we tried to figure out where instead that we could hike. When I came out of the bathroom, we spotted that they had removed the traffic cones to let just a few people by – and we promptly got in the car and zoomed on through, making it just in the nick of time to be one of the allowed hikers! The luckiest pee of my life (cuz if I hadn’t, we’d have driven away – thanks coffee!).

Goals & Garbage - A photo of the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado

Both the town of Estes and the hikes themselves were beautiful. It felt like I was back in the Alps or Taos, being surrounded by mountains on every side.

Following our hike, we drove to Longmont, which was somewhat on the way back to the Airbnb, to pop into Lefthand Brewery. I am a huge fan of Lefthand’s milk stout which is sold in STL. The staff was meh but the beer was great.

On Sunday, after supplying the car with a dozen Voodoo Donuts, we took off, sadly, back home and waved goodbye as the mountains disappeared behind us.

In conclusion:

Denver is a place I see myself attempting to visit annually. Last year we had wanted to visit to get to know the city, and it didn’t work out in our favor. This time we knew that our goal was to spend time together and get to know one another more deeply.

The entire trip was jam-packed and exhausting, but every ounce was filled with what we wanted to do: eat heaps of vegetarian fare, hike our past favorite hikes and also explore new trails, and spend a lot of time staring lovingly into one another’s eyes (jk… sort of). It made for the perfect way to ring in being 24*,

* Not actually my 24th.

Stay tuned for more articles I will be writing, including a list of hikes we enjoyed and a Garbage Gobbles: Denver Ed.


Getting there: We rented a car. I am a believer that if you live close enough to the mountains that you should just drive, because flights are more expensive and when you arrive you’ll need to rent a car to drive to all of the hikes you want to partake in anyway. David and I split the rental and it only set us back $100 each (not including gas), whereas a flight would have been over $300 per person. Plus if you have a good enough car, you can save money on both the rental and flight.
Staying there: Last year when we visited Denver, we stayed in an Airbnb downtown and weren’t so impressed with it. This time we stayed in the suburb of Glendale which ended up being cheaper and felt a lot safer. Everything in Colorado will be far away from each other and you should anticipate long commutes to the mountains regardless of where you stay, so unless you have big city plans, I would recommend seeking a place in the suburbs to save!
Wearing there: I found my simple, slouchy beanie on Amazon. And if looking for some bling to spice up your denim jacket, almost all of my pins and patches are found on either Amazon (specifically my pizza pin) or Etsy. If you are particularly interested in my adorable black bear patch or floppy-eared dog pin, check out Natelle Draws Stuff. She is an artist based in Florida who donates portions of the proceeds she receives to several charitable organizations.
Shooting there: Images are all captured on my Nikon D750 with either my 18-250mm lens or my 35mm lens, or were shot on my iPhone 6.
Etc., etc.: Don’t believe the weather app! Mountain weather will vary all day long, so don’t let a chance of rain deter you from your desired hike!

Note: Nothing in this blog post was sponsored and all thoughts are my own. Post contains affiliate links – click on them and do your Amazon shopping to support me! 

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