My journey this time begins with a bittersweet goodbye, the details of which I can’t say and the likes of which I haven’t felt in a rather long time. Luckily, it didn’t set a tone for the trip, as but all paths, this one ended in similar fashion.
Heading to the airport filled me with a pitted sense of wonder. With little plans and very little lead time, I was going to visit my friend, Taylor, in Denver, Colorado. We had several mini trips planned over the next four-ish days, some of which happened and others that didn’t pan out. Nonetheless, by the end of my time there, I’d received most of what I was looking for; a break from life, some much needed mother nature, and a lost energy found.
Arrival and Cheesman Park
Taylor lives in a quaint little neighborhood just outside of Downtown Denver and near an expansive Cheesman Park. Laying low our first day, we grabbed lunch, drank some beer and headed to Cheesman for a sunset, thus starting a pattern of random that would occur throughout the trip. First hit: ballroom dancers enjoying a balmy Denver evening.
Sweeping vistas at Rocky Mountain National Park
When thinking about what I might see or shoot, I certainly didn’t expect anything as big as the Rockies. Sure, California has our own impressive mountain ranges, just in totally different ways. Needless to say, I brought the wrong lens.
Driving northeast from Denver, we headed through Estes Park, a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. After waiting in line for what seemed like forever, we finally made it… into a tourist trap, though one with many smiles.
Sweeping, panoramic views abound, driving through and across the highest paved road in any national park, Trail Ridge Road, was a treat for the eyes. Snow, rock, road, and grass, as far as the eye could see. Ups and downs, curvy roads, it was practically a drivers’ dream, save for the crowds.
Coming off the mountain saw more of the same as we headed for a short hike. We landed on a shorter jaunt from the Green Mountain Trailhead to aptly named Big Meadows. I would have loved to camp at this spot, as a secluded grove gave way to a giant meadow, complete with log bridge and rushing creek.
Since daylight was of the essence, we frolicked a bit then headed back. I didn’t mind as there was plenty to see on the way to town. More awesome views, more layers of mountain and trees and skies that rise up to the heavens. The views were pretty consistent the two hours back and I had a grin on my face the whole time.
Six miles of Castlewood Canyon
Just south about 45 minutes from Denver is Castlewood Canyon State Park, a diverse and lush (at least when we went) little adventure park. Hiking, babbling brooks, rock climbing, and plenty of vistas greeted us almost immediately. Ironically, I didn’t take many photos here, mainly because of a high afternoon sun and the fact that we were deftly on the move for the most part.
Castlewood was a neat spot because it offered a mix of desert feels, pine, arid creek bed and anything in between. One could hardly get bored as you trot along what seemed like five or six different ‘climates’. One thing is for sure, don’t forget sunscreen in the Summer. Most of this area is exposed and the sun at that can be brutal.
Flatirons, the Royal Arch via Chautauqua Trail
Hands down my favorite part of the trip, the Flatirons are a set of protruding rock formations that jut out at a wacky angle. Apparently, somewhat a symbol of adjacent Boulder, CO, I found them fascinating and they proved to have some great hiking.
We set out on the Chautauqua Trailhead towards what’s called the Royal Arch. You go up and up, ascending about 1,600 feet before reaching the Arch itself. Views along the way included screen fields, beautiful meadows reminiscent of mountainous alps, and pine-laden hillside.
Once you reach the Arch, there’s the typical gaggle of hikers, taking a much needed rest and enjoying the view. We stopped for a few photos then made our easy descent down into the valley’s heat.
That night was a perfect ending to a great trip. Taylor and I headed to Vine Street Pub, a charming brewery/pub with great beers. The night was a balmy 75 degrees with a crystalline pink sunset and a slight breeze.
After a couple, I was happy and content, on the beer, of course, but also the trip in general. I’m extremely thankful to Taylor for showing me a bit of her part of the world and I can’t wait for the next visit.