Monday, July 14, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

Last week, John and I enjoyed a second family vacation with the Gilberts to Colorado (there has to be some benefit to being married and having to share every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthday with two families...two vacations! Wahoo!). We had a GREAT time, and I definitely recommend everyone visit this state at least once.

Day 1
We left Dulles International Airport at 8:35 and arrived in Dallas Fort Worth a couple hours later for our 20 minute layover. at 12:15 mountain time, we were in Denver, Colorado! Our first stop was to the Budget Rent-A-Car where John's parents were set up with a Cadillac! The Cadillac became the butt of many of our (John's) jokes through the week.

After we got our bags loaded, we headed out in search of lunch. AAA did a wonderful job recommending the Wynkoop Brewing Company--I think I could eat there every day! I had a dish of mouth-watering sausages atop a bed of perfect mashed potatoes, and John had some of the most yummy fried chicken in chicken gravy I had ever tasted. Once we had finished our meal, we took the hour and a half drive to Colorado Springs and rested for the remainder of the day.

Day 2
We began our day with a hike through the Garden of the Gods park a mile or two from our hotel. My father always told me that Colorado was named so because of the big red rocks, and I never believed him--it was more along the lines of an "Ok dad, whatever!" type thing. Well, not only was I facing larger-than-life red rocks to prove his theory to me, but this sign sure made me feel like a fool:

I can't even describe how beautiful and unreal the big red boulders and rock formations were. Half the time I felt like I was on a Hollywood movie set, surrounded by concrete set props and fake mountain backdrops. We hiked a total of 3-3.5 miles through a few trails, and this city girl got to see things she had never seen before, like young mule deer bucks munching away on grass, or a real life cactus growing in the wild!

Lunch time quickly approached, and John's sister and dad found a neat little Buffalo BBQ Festival in Manitou Springs (20 or so minutes from Colorado Springs). We dined on buffalo brisket, burgers, and brats, which honestly tasted just like beef, spiced a little differently. After lunch, we strolled around the downtown area of Manitou Springs (which is very adorable) until our reservation time for the train ride on the Cog Railway at Pike's Peak came around. The views on the way up to Pike's Peak were INCREDIBLE.

At 14,110 feet in altitude, we passed a layer of clouds on the way up to the top.

Unfortunately, weather was not on our side, so we remained in the layer of clouds while at the summit.

Things cleared for a brief two minutes, and I was able to get this sliver of a view:

Day 3
So, a note to people with asthma and other pulmonary problems: going to Colorado during their allergy season and pushing yourself to walk around at the summit of Pike's Peak are probably not a good idea:

I woke up with severe chest pain and shortness of breath, and promptly went to the ER as I had been having the same symptoms since the night before. My doctor today was not very apt at treating me, and though I was not admitted, I stayed in the hospital for about 4 1/2 hours getting x-rays, nebulizer treatments, and bloodwork done. Once we got out of the hospital (I still wasn't feeling much better), we went to a pleasant dinner at John's mom's cousin's mountain home. Even though we had been eating interesting food for the past few days, a home-cooked meal is always welcome!

Day 4
I wasn't feeling too much better still, so I went to the ER again, this time to a more competent doctor. He felt that I was having lung irritation from the allergens in the air which would have been manageable by themselves, but the addition of going to Pike's Peak pushed me over the edge. My chest pain was explained as severe bronchial spasms, and I was given a treatment plan and sent on my way. The doctor even cleared me for our white water rafting trip on Thursday!

Finally starting to feel better, we drove a couple hours to Canon City for a relaxing train ride through the Royal Gorge. This ride also offered beautiful views (I don't know what in Colorado doesn't though) and we even got to enjoy a top-notch lunch on the ride.

After the ride, we headed toward our river house in Buena Vista, but not before taking an accidental 30-mile detour to the Continental divide:

We finally reached our rental home later that evening, and were all pleased to see that the house was indeed on the Arkansas river, and contained even more of that Rocky Mountain scenery.

For dinner, we went to this weird Mexican place called Casa del Sol. The food was ok, but they served the strangest meatball soup which consisted of beef broth and two tiny meatballs. As with the Cadillac, the meatball soup became the butt of many more of our jokes for the week.

Day 5
Because of my two ER jaunts and because John's mom wasn't feeling too hot herself, we decided to take it easy and relax today. John's father and sister went hiking for half the day, while I worked on my thesis a little bit and read one of the books I brought on the trip. Today, I made it my project to capture a decent of this ruby-throated little guy:

Of course, he remained elusive and I never got a great picture, but it was great to be in his company nonetheless! I was able to get a couple photos of other hummingbird friends and a little chipmunk too:

We stayed in for dinner today. John's dad made a great steak dinner, while his sister and I chopped and roasted some veggies. Mmm.

Day 6
Whitewater rafting day! We'd all been looking forward to this since the beginning of the week. Unfortunately, we have no photos to show for it because the professional shots were selling from $30-$50!! Outrageous! John's sister bought a waterproof camera, but we haven't developed the film yet. Hopefully, decent photos are forthcoming.

The trip was absolutely amazing though! John's dad and sister fell overboard (they were sitting up front) but made it through and got back on the raft like champs. The views, as always, were fantastic, and my only complaint was that the day was too short. John and I took a short walk in the surrounding area of our rental home when we got back, and we found the biggest dandelion-like puff thing we had ever seen!

And, in case you were wondering, these were the views we got to see from our house, every day for three days:

Day 7
Time to head back to Denver for our flight back the next day. We stayed at a Hyatt Place, which was really comfy and cozy. For lunch, we went to this great sushi place called Bara Sushi and all had the generous bento box. I had some of the best salmon sashimi I have ever had! Definitely drop on in if you're ever in the Denver area. We kicked back until dinner, and again ate fabulously at Rock Bottom Brewery. John's sister got a whole beer sampler (all brewed at the restaurant, much like Sweetwater Tavern) and I scarfed down an awesome meatloaf with a gravy made with the on-site brewed ale. Not too much sightseeing, but good eating today!

Day 8
Our flight was delayed, but we had a rather uneventful trip back home (aside from the babbling child sitting behind me). Though we had a great stay in Colorado, I think all of us were pretty happy to be back in Virginia again.


John said...

Wow!! What a cute post. I could not put it better myself! The pictures are great!

a sunlit dreaming tree said...

Your pictures are beautiful! I hope you had a wonderful trip (which it sounds like you did), and I hope you're enjoying your summer!! :)

Love you!

s. wells said...

what an adventure! i think the chipmunk wants to be my friend.