Rocky Mountain High

September 9, 2015
Pike's Peak

Pike’s Peak

We escaped the Texas this August by traveling to Colorado. Our first stop was Amarillo for the night where we visited with old friends. The next day we drove to Colorado Springs via Dalhart and Clayton New Mexico. I always enjoy this drive in a twisted sort of way – the heart of the Dust Bowl.

Colorado Springs

That evening we dined at the Caspian Cafe Mediterranean. I’d come back to Colorado Springs just to eat here again.

This was our first trip to Colorado Springs and it won’t be our last. We really enjoyed both Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods. The restaurants were a more than pleasant surprise. Every meal was delicious and unique. The temperatures were much cooler than August in Texas and the humidity was much lower than August in Texas. A welcome break to the long, hot Texas Summer.

Pike’s Peak

The next morning at 8AM sharp we boarded the Cog Railway at the foot of Pike’s Peak for the trip to the summit. The railway is definitely the way to go. Sweeping vistas and plenty of wildlife keep you from becoming bored during the trip to the summit. If you go take a jacket. Its pretty darn chilly up there. You have about 45 minutes to explore the summit before boarding the railway for the trip back down.

The cog railway is in the village of Manitou Springs. The hippies never left this village when the 60s disappeared. Its full of nifty little shops and off-beat restaurants. Next trip I’d like to spend some time exploring the village

Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is a municipal park with plenty of paved walking paths winding through unusual rock formations. Its good exercise and the scenery is out of this World.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Great Restaurants

  • Paravicini’s – Reminded me of a Chicago Italian restaurant in my old neighborhood in the 60’s. Authentic
  • The Caspian Cafe Mediterranean – Middle Eastern – best lamb dish I’ve ever had
  • Over Easy – Must stop breakfast place – we detour and stay overnight in Colorado Springs just to eat there

Overall, Great restaurants!

Good and mediocre hotels

  • The good – Hampton Inn on far North Side of City – Excellent, friendly, helpful staff and good clean rooms
  • The bad – Hilton Garden Inn on far North Side of the City – Flippant, not helpful, sarcastic staff, dirty room, A/C not working in exercise room. We we told the front desk employee he replied back “Your supposed to sweat when you exercise” and went back to talking to a friend on the phone.

They were only one exit apart but there was a world of difference. It pays to read the reviews in the travel sites. The reviews reflected our experiences.

Steamboat Springs

The journey to Steamboat Springs was interesting to say the least.  We experienced 3 major delays:

  • Highway 9 under construction and not like anything I’ve seen before. They have torn the whole road up. Giant earth movers go back and forth on the now dirt road with regular traffic. There were also several one way sections with traffic alternating
  • Pro cycle challenge: bike race shut US 40 down due to pro bicycle race. Today’s route was from Steamboat Springs to somewhere else. We were stopped for 30 minutes. However, it was worth the wait. First time I’ve witnessed a peloton live.
  • Truck hauling giant earth mover 10 mph on US 40
Pro Cycle Challenge

Pro Cycle Challenge

We stayed at our condo in Steamboat Springs. We’ve been here before and had an idea where we wanted to eat and what we wanted to do. Unfortunately on our first full day I fell while hiking down the mountain. The fall left me with pretty deep scrapes on my elbow and knee, strained knee ligaments, sprained ankle, and broken big toe (diagnosis by nurse wife and myself). Also our youngest daughter called because she had a Super-Virus and a 104 degree temperature. Therefore, we decided to cancel the remainder of our trip and head home. I couldn’t do much anyway except sit and we were anxious to help out our sick daughter and her family.

Gondola Ride

Steamboat has the longest, I believe, gondola in the World. We decided to ride the gondola to the top of the ski area and then hike down. Actually we decided to hike down after the ride up the mountain. The ride up is very long if your holding your breath as we were. We were glad we rode the gondola up the mountain and very glad when it was over.

We ate lunch on the summit. Surprisingly the lunch was very good.

Hike down the mountain

Down the Mountain

Down the Mountain

We hiked around the summit and then started down. Most of the hike down is fairly easy. However, it is a long hike so be sure and take enough water. We drank two bottles each. The hike down took us three hours.

About 2/3rds of the way down I slipped on some loose small stones, bent my leg, ankle, and big toe back under my body. The pain was 10 on a level of 1 to 10. After a few minutes I had recovered enough to resume the hike down the mountain. Then almost at the bottom I fell again. This time I only tore up my elbow.

At the bottom of the mountain we found a restroom and washed most of the blood off my knee, leg, and elbow and then drank a couple of well deserved beers at the local pub.

The end result:

  • Gash on my knee that became infected after a few days. Still treating it two weeks later
  • Strained knee ligaments
  • Sprained ankle
  • Probably broken big toe
  • Gash on my elbow

Good Restaurants

  • Creekside Cafe – We ate breakfast here. Last trip we had lunch. Both were delicious.
  • Mahogany Ridge Brewery – We dined here in the evening. Go for the food, not the beer. The beer was average.

The drive home

As I said earlier, we cut the trip and drove home to help care for my youngest daughter and her family as well as for me to rest while healing my injuries.

The first day we drove to Colorado Springs and spent the night at a Hampton Inn. It was a terrific place. I’d highly recommend it if your ever in Colorado Springs.

The next day we, I should say Gwen, drove 11 hours straight from Colorado Springs to our daughter’s home in Southlake Texas.

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Our Colorado Summer Trip 2013

August 21, 2013
Barn on the Blanco Basin Road

Barn on the Blanco Basin Road

Click here for more photos:

SInce I’ve retired I have noticed the blogosphere is chocked full of blogs with “5 reasons…”, “10 Apps..”, 7 things…”. I guess the rationale is a numbered list in the blog will catch your eye and you’ll be more likely to read the blog.  So I thought I better join the crowd. Now, no one has ever asked my why I write blogs that probably no one ever reads. That is probably why no one ever asks me.  But in case they do here are three reasons I blog our vacation trips:

  1. In case we ever go back there we can review what we liked.
  2. Writing is supposed to exercise your mind and keep it young – wish I could remember where I read this?
  3. Kinda stretches the vacation out a little longer.

I am penning this vacation blog a little differently than past vacation blogs.  In the past I wrote in a chronological style with a day by day diary of our vacation.  This time I am posting the places we visited and the highlights from each location. Note, I don’t post the low-lights unless I am really ticked off about that particular experience.

Amarillo:  first stop and last stop. On the way to Colorado we had dinner at Sava! Italiano  with old friends from Dallas, Mike and Jackie, who have moved there. After dinner they treated us to a glass of wine at the Crush Wine Bar and Deli in downtown Amarillo. Now Amarillo is one of those towns you don’t expect to find a wine bar but this one is very good.

On the return trip we visited them again. Also had great visit with Mike’s dad LeRoy. He had loads of great reminiscences of growing up in Oak Cliff and WWII in the Pacific.

Santa Fe: We just stopped their for lunch at our favorite Santa Fe restaurant ( Tomasita’s.) The cuisine is Northern New Mexico and is delicious. Warning: the chile stew is very hot!! It’s definitely not Texas Chili.

Pagosa Springs:

The Springs

The Springs

  • We spent a morning at the hot springs. There are around 20 pools. The temperatures range from 93 to 110 degrees. The pools are downtown on the banks of the San Juan River. That evening I resembled a lobster. Apparently, even on a cloudy day at 7800 feet above sea level you can get a sunburn in a couple of hours.
  • Blanco Basin Road: if your in the mood for a scenic drive while you are in Pagosa the Blanco Basin Road is a can’t miss option.  Round trip is 40-50 miles depending on how far you go on an all weather road (aka: gravel). There are lots of scenic views and photo opportunities along the way.
  • Spamalot: Musical by the Pagosa Springs Performing Arts Center was quite good considering the size of the town. However, either Spamalot has changed quite a bit since we saw it in Dallas or this group added quite a bit more sexual content. Hint, don’t take your kids to Spamalot in Pagosa Springs.
Gwen Hiking

Gwen Hiking

  • Pierdra Trail:  This is an easy hike along the banks of the Piedra River (what a coincidence). As with everything else in Pagosa Springs the hike is very scenic. Also, the drive out from the town to the trail is as well.
  • Alley House Grill: The best restaurant n Pagosa Springs. If you only eat one meal in Pagosa Springs this is place to have it.
  • Riff-raff Brewery: Good beer and some unique menu items. I recommend the cabrito burger. If you have two meals in Pagosa the 2nd should be here.
  • Backroom Wine Bar: Wine bars seem to be sprouting up everywhere from at least Monmouth Illinois to Pagosa Springs Colorado. FYI: my son-in-law is opening a winery in Murphy Texas this fall. Please stop by and partake of a glass or two of vino there. Back to the Backroom Wine Bar. It’s small but the wine is good and the staff is friendly. What more could you ask for?
  • Higher Grounds: coffee shop walking distance from the condo and very good. If I had a choice between Higher Grounds and Starbucks I would choose Higher Grounds. My friends know this is quite a compliment because I practically live at Starbucks in Dallas.
  • Farrago Market Cafe: Farrago is a good lunch venue. Most of the seating is outside which is where you want to sit. The Alley House, the Back Door Wine Bar, and Farrago’s are all owned by the same chef and are all top notch. We met the chef who owns all three. She was very personable and obviously a great chef.
High Mountain Pies

High Mountain Pies

Pagosa Springs to Steamboat Springs: The most direct route from Pagosa to Steamboat is up the spine of Colorado. It’s a beautiful and often breathtaking drive. The highlight for me was Leadville. I’ve read about the Leadville ultra marathon and in that story Leadville comes across as a desolate, dying, small burg on the top of Colorado. It’s dying because the local mines closed. Well, Leadville is actually a good size community (2600) and seems to be thriving at least in the Summer.  It is also the highest (in elevation) incorporated City in the U.S. at 10,152 feet above sea level.  Furthermore, Leadville is the home of  High Mountain Pies Restaurant. They served the best pizza I’ve had since I left Chicago in 1968!  I considering going back next Summer and staying in Leadville just to eat more of their pizza.

Steamboat Springs:

Steamboat Springs Barn

Steamboat Springs Barn

  • Tubing the Yampa River: We rented tubes from Backdoor Sports. It was great fun and it’s the first thing I will do the next time we visit Steamboat Springs (if it is not Winter)
  • Fish Creek Falls: The falls was in a Coors commercial is the local advertisement. I never saw the commercial but I believe them.  Anyway, it’s a short drive on a paved road to the falls.  The fee to park is $5 but otherwise the park is free. There are trails to both the base of the falls and a scenic lookout. We did both because they are short. We enjoyed the scenic lookout more.  If I return I’ll go in the middle to late afternoon. The photo opportunities should be better in the afternoon. The Sun rises right over the falls in the morning. There are also picnic areas in the park. An afternoon picnic and short walk to the scenic overlook for photos would be very enjoyable and relaxing.

    Yampa Botanical Gardens

    Yampa Botanical Gardens

  • Yampa River Botanical Park: It’s small (6 acres) but contains thousands of flowers and is well worth visiting. SInce it is free you will definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Strings Music FestivalWe enjoyed a night of classical music at the Strings Music Festival venue. As with the Spamalot musical in Pagosa Springs the facility and quality of the concert was very, very impressive.
  • Highway 129 to Columbine, Co:  This is a scenic drive north of Steamboat and on the way to Columbine we passed through the towns of Clark and Hahn’s Corner. Stopped at general store in Clark on the return trip for snacks.  It’s worth the stop just for the ice cream but they don’t start selling it until 11AM. I had salt and vinegar chips for the first time in ages. My how salty they tasted!
Clark General Store

Clark General Store

  • Creekside Cafe and Grill: We ate lunch here. It’s another good place to eat. Steamboat Springs seems to be overflowing with good, decent restaurants. As least compared with Pagosa Springs. Don’t go there for dinner – they serve breakfast and lunch only and close the doors at 2PM.
  • Mambo Italiano: Mambo’s was my favorite restaurant in Steamboat.  The best seats are outside if you visit in the Summer.  I had my first mojito at Mambo’s. It was good. Hint – don’t eat the leaves in the drink.
  • Ore House at the Pine Grove:  The Ore House is a steak place pure and simple. Go here for the steaks and not the scenery. The restaurant was constructed to resemble a mine and has no great views of the mountains. The steaks and baked potatoes are great!
  • Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill: We stopped here after our long drive from Pagosa Springs through Leadville. My head was still spinning from the Leadville pizza so I don’t remember the food. However, the beer was most excellent dude!.

The drive home: The route from Steamboat Springs to Denver is very scenic. The Denver to Trinidad segment is Interstate Highway East of the Front Range and is pretty boring. The segment from Trinidad to Clayton New Mexico to Dalhart Texas to Amarillo is simply amazing because it’s true – there is nothing there. Miles and miles of nothing! So, be sure you purchase gas before turning off the Interstate!  I was fascinated by the landscape on this segment because it is the setting for one of my favorite books – The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. Driving through the land today I can’t imagine why people believed they could homestead this wind swept segment of the Great Plains. However the book chronicles the true story of some of the hardy settlers who survived (and some who did not) the Dust Bowl. It’s not a happy tale but often the really true stories are not all peaches and ice cream.  I still have a copy of the book. If you want to read it I’ll be glad to pass it along.

Well, that’s all there is because there isn’t anymore until the next trip.  Leaving you with a photo from the Blanco Basin road outside of Pagosa Springs.

Mountain Corral

Mountain Corral


Southern Colorado Mountain Scene

July 14, 2012

Pencil Sketch of Southern Colorado mountain side for a change of pace from the normal photos I usually post.

 

I took this photo Summer 2008 and messed around with it using Paint.Net.  I really like the trees but the sky and the clouds are still too bright.  I suppose I will have to get into layers to dull down the sky without doing likewise to the trees.


Mesa Verde National Park

August 19, 2011

Anasazi Pueblo from a distance

We visited Mesa Verde National Park in early July, 2011.  The Anasazi really did not like company!  Recommend visiting at least once even though it is really out of the way.

Plan on the visit taking the entire day.  The park is about 1.5 hours west of Durango which is a great place to spend the night the day before launching your visit.  While you are there you might as well spend another day and ride the train to Silverton

Riding on the train to Silverton


Alley House Restaurant

September 8, 2010

Best restaurant in Pagosa Springs

The reason I can talk Gwen into coming back to this town is the Alley House restaurant.  Tonight she ordered the most exotic meal I have ever seen her order.  Ask her about it.


Mountain Road

September 7, 2010

not typical mountain road

This is not a typical mountain road – it is straight for about 50 yards and level.  However I thought the warning signs were interesting because in 30 miles of traveling today out to a water fall with sheer drop-offs sometimes 1000 feet down this is the only warning signs we encountered.

The waterfall was really cool but I have not mastered the art of waterfall photos.


Grove of Aspen Trees

September 6, 2010

Aspen Grove

Today was our 1st full day in Pagosa Springs.  We walked around the town, ate lunch at a restaurant called Farrago’s, and took a long hike to Opal Lake.  Later that night after a great dinner in the cabin of pork chops, and veggies.  Finally, we had a pleasant conversation with our neighbors who are from Grand Junction.

The highlight of the day for me was the hike to Opal Lake.  We encountered this grove of Aspen’s one the hike up to the lake.