I have a serious fear of heights; a knee shaking, nausea inducing fear. I once nearly hiked seven miles in order to avoid having to descend the shale rock face of a 14er that I’d just climbed. I sat at the top for 30 minutes crying like a baby until my husband helped me down, step by terrifying step.

Top of the Rockies Ziplines. Photos by Lauren Lunder, Photography with Altitude. HeidiTown.com (14)

Lauren Lunder, Photography with Altitude

So why do I make myself do stuff like ice climbing and zip lining? For the story. I do it for the story – and, it’s SUPER FUN!

Here’s my story of zip lining at Top of the Rockies earlier this month. This was our second trip to this zip line adventure that’s located just an hour and a half from Denver.

Since our winter visit in 2013, Top of the Rockies has added a couple more lines to their excursion, so of course we had to go again.

This time around we took my father-in-law, Kurt, who hadn’t been zip lining before. We figured taking him to the zip line with the best views in Colorado was a good place to start.

A family of three from Denver joined us making a group of six. After the practice area we loaded into the van for a bumpy ride up the hill to the first zip.

Practice area at Top of the Rockiees zip lines. HeidiTown.com

My father-in-law in the practice area. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

Halfway up the mountain we were stopped by a train. That’s right, a train. The Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad runs right through the zip line property and on this day it was delivering a large party of zipliners. One of the packages offered by Top of the Rockies is a train and zip line excursion that includes lunch.

Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad. Top of the Rockies Zip Lines. HeidiTown.com

Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad at Top of the Rockies. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

Once at the top my legs began their predictable tremble. The first couple zips are always the scariest for me, but as I gazed out at the fantastic view I felt a tiny bit better. I did the first zip as I always do; screaming my head off all the way.

Top of the World zip line at Top of the Rockies. HeidiTown.com

Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

Top of the Rockies Ziplines. Photos by Lauren Lunder, Photography with Altitude. HeidiTown.com (4)

Lauren Lunder, Photography with Altitude

The wildflowers are off the hook in the Colorado mountains this year, so our short hikes between zip lines were sprinkled with yellow, orange, red, white and purple.

The grin never left my father-in-laws face the entire time on the mountain.

Top of the Rockies Ziplines. Photos by Lauren Lunder, Photography with Altitude. HeidiTown.com (11)

Lauren Lunder, Photography with Altitude

I love Top of the Rockies because each zip line has its own character. Some glide you gently over streams, while others whip you wildly through stands of evergreens.

Sometimes you hold hands with your sweetheart.

Top of the Rockies Ziplines. Photos by Lauren Lunder, Photography with Altitude. HeidiTown.com (9)

Lauren Lunder, Photography with Altitude

The last zip, officially called The Big Nugget, is incredibly long and frightening. There are four side-by-side zip lines all leading to an enormous tower. Once again my knees were knocking and my palms were sweaty. Thankfully, Leann, the mom of the Denver family, gave me a pep talk and then we raced across, running down the ramp and leaping into the thinly oxygenated air.

Photo bombed by Top of the Rockies Zip Line guides. HeidiTown.com

Photo bombed by Top of the Rockies Zip Line guides. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer.

I made to the platform in one piece. I’d made it through anther zip line experience and I was exhilarated because despite my fear of heights, I love flying through the air like a bird (a very loud bird).

Check out this video of me and The Big Nugget:

Thank you to Top of the Rockies Zip Line for hosting us on this excursion. And thank you to the awesome guides who make this fun experience even more fun!

 

As we turned off of US 40 towards Lagito Ranch, civilization began to melt away. As we drove higher the trees thickened and fields of columbines turned their purple and white heads towards us. We had the sense that we going to a very place special and we were right.

Latigo Ranch welcome sign. HeidiTown.com

As we pulled into Latigo, a Colorado dude ranch, a bell was ringing, an honest-to-goodness dinner bell that clanged merrily – lunch was being served. It was a Thursday and most of the guests of the ranch had been there since Sunday, but we had no problem fitting in.

Homemade pizza was on the menu, along with a stunning salad bar that was available at every meal. We tucked into our food and started making friends at the community style dining tables. At that first meal we met Liz from Minnesota, Willie and Kathy from Kentucky and Jim Yost, one of the owners of Latigo.

After a delicious lunch and great conversation, we headed up the hill to settle in to our cabin. We felt right at home immediately, despite the lack of a television, and do you know what? We never missed television.

We were scheduled for our first ride at 2 p.m. As we sat in the barn going over mandatory pre-ride paperwork with Renee, Latigo’s head wrangler, we were entertained by Buddy, the ranch cat. A cat that apparently does the work of 20 cats, killing more mice in a single day than anyone thought possible.

Buddy, the barn cat at Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado. HeidiTown.com

Meet Buddy, she makes mince meat of Latigo Ranch barn mice!

We were assigned horses, Lady for me, Shadowfax for Ryan. As a Lord of the Rings nerd, Ryan was overjoyed about his white horse. At Latigo you ride the same horse for the duration of your stay.

Our first ride took us along a ditch with fast running water. The scenery eventually opened up and we rode along the edge of a cliff, enjoying expansive views and wildflowers. Wildflowers were everywhere, including hundreds of columbines. Jim told us that in his nearly 30 years at Latigo, he’s never seen a columbine season like this one.

The diversity of landscape at Latigo makes this a fantastic place to ride. Every day you can set out on a different trail with its own diverse scenery and obstacles.

Horseback riding along the ridge at Latigo Ranch. HeidiTown.com

Ryan and I posing, along with a ghost that happened to get into this shot!

Near the end of our ride thunder began to roll in the distance, but we lucked out and the storm only sprinkled a few drops on us as we arrived back at the barn.

Smelling of horses – I love that smell – we took drinks out to the ranch’s large fish pond to wait for dinner. As we sat on the shore the peacefulness of this place began to sink deeply into us; permeating our skin and burrowing deep within our souls. I know it sounds “woo woo,” but this place really does have a way of getting under your skin (in a good way). It’s a sort of Latigo magic.

The storm passes. At Latigo Ranch. HeidiTown.com

A storm lingers on the edge of Latigo Ranch.

Dinner was a full Christmas style meal of ham and turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and sweet potatoes. Jim regaled us with stories about his experience as an anthropologist living in Ecuador for a decade during the seventies. This inspired both Ryan and I to read an excellent book he recommended, “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.” I highly recommend it.

We chatted with Jim and our table mates long after our plates had all be whisked away, and the dancing was just getting underway when we made our way to the community building. Thursday is Western Dance night at Latigo and everyone participates – guests and staff.

Jim’s wife, Kathie, was leading a large group in a rousing line dance. We jumped in and by the end of the first dance we were laughing and sweating.

Line dancing at Latigo Ranch. HeidiTown.com

Line dancing at Latigo Ranch.

After several more dances including some square dancing and polka, we made our way to the porch where we engaged in a fascinating conversation with Jo and Ian, a couple from England, who also have a home in Greece. You will meet the most interesting people at Latigo.

Back in our cabin we crashed, too tired to even dream about the exciting days to come.

This is the first post in a three-part series about Latigo Ranch located in Kremmling, Colorado.

Read my pre-series post, “Six reasons to love Latigo.”

 Thank you to Latigo Ranch for hosting us on this trip.

Loveland, Colorado has long been known as an art town. In fact, it was listed as #8 in the book, “100 Small Best Art Towns in American,” and author, John Villani, says that a visit to Loveland inspired him to write the book.

Art in the Park poster logo 2015

Sculptures line the downtown streets and galleries polka dot the landscape of the city. While it was a mecca for sculptors in the seventies, today, artists of all kinds flock to Loveland looking for comradeship and a supportive art community.

Thompson Valley Art League, a nonprofit organization more than a half a century old, has been there through it all. Their biggest event of the year is Art in the Park, an art show/festival that’s been taking place for nearly as long as the organization has been in existence.

action shot Art in the Park, photo by Lucky Brake, Ltd. HeidiTown.com

Held under the giant trees of North Lake Park, the festival attracts hundreds of artists of all kinds. I’ve had the pleasure of profiling a few of these artists for TVAL, and each is as unique as the art they create.

For instance, Jim Digby’s photography has been exhibited around the world and his images have appeared on television as well as in “National Geographic” and “Life.” He will exhibit at Art in the Park with fellow Loveland photographers, Gordon Middleton and Mike Wilcox.

Art in the Park 2013, photo by Lucky Brake Ltd. HeidiTown.com

Ramon A. Velasquez is a metal artist from Arizona whose art is distinctively influenced by his desert surroundings. He loves coming to Art in the Park because, “It’s a very nice park and there are very nice customers too.”

Amelia Furman is a young artist who works in a mix media style that consists of a three part process and combines impressionism and text. A mother of two small children, Furman finds inspiration when and where she can including through the frosted window pane in her bathroom.

Little children painting at Art in the Park, photo by Lucky Brake Ltd. HeidiTown.com

In addition to the variety of artists who will display their work at Art in the Park, the event includes a beer, wine and mead garden, glass blowing demonstrations, a silent auction, music throughout the event and children’s activities. In addition, the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, a former HeidiTown Gives Back recipient, will be onsite with their birds of prey.

Art in the Park

August 8-9, 2015

Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

North Lake Park, 2800 N. Taft

Free admission

ArtintheParkLoveland.com

Join this fest on Facebook

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Featured Festival spots on HeidiTown.com are paid advertisements. Interested in having your festival or event considered for a feature? Email TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.

Watching the Tour de France always puts me in the mood for bike racing, and while watching the Tour, I realized that I haven’t written about the USA Pro Challenge since 2012, so I think it’s high time I wrote another post.

The inaugural USA Pro Challenge was in 2011, and since then the race has become the largest spectator event in Colorado. New additions to the this year’s race include Arapahoe Basin, Loveland Pass, Copper Mountain and a time trial in Breckenridge.

Without further ado, here are the charming towns along this year’s USA Pro Challenge Route.

Stage 1 – Steamboat Springs Circuit, August 17

Stage one is a 49 mile circuit which will be completed twice by the peloton, creating great spectator opportunities in Steamboat Springs. It’s like a holiday in Steamboat with the Pro Challenge comes to town, but it’s always sort of always like a holiday in Steamboat.

Steamboat All Arts Festival 2013 (60)

The Yampa River flowing through Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

The town is well-removed from the hustle and bustle of Colorado’s Front Range and quite frankly, it’s far removed from hustle and bustle of any kind. “The good life” is what people live in Steamboat and you can live it too when you visit. The Steamboat All Arts Festival takes place during the week leading up to the Pro Challenge, and it’s the perfect time to experience the good life in the Boat.

Stage 2 – Steamboat Springs to Arapahoe Basin, August 18

Arapaho Basin is a newcomer to the Pro Challenge route. Better known as A-Basin to locals, this ski resort is a go-to for many Front Rangers who look for a challenging and yet less crowded mountain. Continue Reading…

toes at Hot Springs Pool HeidiTown

Glenwood Hot Springs

I field more Colorado travel questions about hot springs than any other topic. I get all sorts of questions such as which hot spring is the closest to the Front Range (Indian Hot Springs), which is the most the most family friendly and which would be perfect for a romantic getaway.

It’s ironic, because I didn’t even know that Colorado had any hot springs before I moved here in 2000. There are many hot springs in Colorado and this weekend one more will be added to the list – Iron Mountain Hot Springs opens in Glenwood Springs this Saturday.

In this post I will attempt to answer some of the questions that are frequently posed to me and hopefully this will help you discover which Colorado hot spring is right for you.

And, by the way, I do not have a favorite because it depends entirely on the type of experience that I want to have; each hot spring is very different.

Case in point, the Buena Vista area has two hot springs that are very, very different. Mt. Princeton Hot Springs is perfect for a romantic getaway because of the “Spa Side” pools. These beautiful pools are secluded and include a 16 and older policy for soakers. Continue Reading…

We spent three nights at Latigo Ranch outside of Kremmling, Colorado this past June, and we fell madly in love with the place.

Here are six reason to love Latigo Ranch.

1. Horse smell. I love the smell of horses. I didn’t grow up with horses, but I grew up around horses. In my area of the country it seemed like everyone owned one except for me. It’s weird to be nostalgic for something you never owned, but I am. The moment I walk into a barn or am close to a horse I inhale deeply. It’s like coming home. Perhaps I was a cowgirl in a previous life.

Horseback riding at Latigo Ranch. Six reasons to love Latigo Ranch. HeidiTown.com

A horseback ride with a view. Every ride at Latigo comes with a fantastic view.

2. Amazing food. It seemed like we were eating all of the time. We got up and ate breakfast and then went for a horseback ride and then ate lunch. After lunch we’d take another ride followed by a dip in the pool and then it was dinner time. Everything we ate was homemade and delicious, plus, there were always healthy snacks available in the dining room and of course, cookies. Cookies are healthy, right?

Cook out at Latigo Ranch. Six reason to love Latigo Ranch. HeidiTown.com

This photo turned out kind of blurry, but trust me, the food is amazing!

3. Swim with Hummingbirds. The hummingbirds weren’t exactly swimming, but they were buzzing our heads as we swam. This has to be one of the only swimming pools with a view of a large herd of horses. Continue Reading…

Why am I writing about New Mexico, you ask? This is the third installment in a three-part series I have written about my experience on the Cumbres Toltec Scenic Railroad, a train that runs on 64 miles of track between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico. My photographer friend, Alanna Brake, and I boarded in Antonito and rode to Chama (read about our train ride experience here).

Cumbres Toltec Scenic Railroad, Charmed by Chama, engine 492 sitting in the rail yard at Chama. Photo by Lucky Brake, Ltd.

The rail yard in Chama, New Mexico. Photo by Lucky Brake, Ltd.

By the time our train pulled into Chama, a woodland town tucked into the Rocky Mountains just 8 miles south of the Colorado border, a thunderstorm was in full swing. Lanna and I grabbed our backpacks and made a sprint for our ride in the parking lot.

Lee Bates, owner of the Gandy Dancer Inn, was hosting us for the evening and drove us the short distance to the bed and breakfast. Lee is also the marketing director for the Cumbres & Toltec and had been on the train with us that day. At the inn we were greeted by his wife, Dee, who gave us a tour of the Victorian house that was built in 1902. Continue Reading…

This is the third time that National Mill Dog Rescue has been a recipient of HeidiTown Gives Back and that’s because every July there’s an NMDR fundraiser held in Berthoud, Colorado that I help out with. Therefore, I choose to give NMDR the July “Gives Back” ad space so that I can also give some love to Hops & Harley.

As a NMDR benefit, 100% of the proceeds of Hops & Harley go to NMDR. Last year’s festival raised an impressive $11,740 dollars.

Hops & Harley, a fundraiser for National Mill Dog Rescue, #NOPuppyMills

Hops & Harley is hosted by the good folks at City Star Brewery. I’ve known City Star owners John and Whitney Way since before they opened the brewery doors and I have an enormous amount of respect for both of them. The work they’ve put into making Hops & Harley a success it truly amazing. Plus, they make outstanding beer.

The 3rd Annual Hops & Harley is July 11 and takes place Fickel Park in Berthoud. This is the perfect location for this fun-filled, dog-filled, family-filled festival that includes City Star beer (try the Bandit Brown, it’s my favorite), music by the Franklin Taggart Trio and the Aaron McCloskey Band, food trucks, kids activities, dog events, a silent auction and a chance to meet Harley.

Hops & Harley 2014, Fickel Park, Colorado. HeidiTown Gives Back

Who is Harley? Harley is a NMDR rescue dog, a spokesdog against puppy mills and an online celebrity. He even has his own Facebook page.

National Mill Dog Rescue is a Colorado Springs based nonprofit that that has pledged to put an end to the cruelty of the commercial dog breeding industry, more commonly known as puppy milling. They rescue dogs and work to educate the public on the horrors of puppy mills.

Harley, the name sake of Hops & Harley in Berthoud, Colorado. HeidiTown Gives Back

Volunteers with NMDR have rescued and placed nearly 10,000 dogs since their founding in 2007, not to mention that they have educated hundreds of thousands of people on what puppy mills are all about. I am thrilled and honored each July to do my small part in shedding light on this amazing organization.

Hops & Harley

Saturday, July 11, 2015 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

FREE ADMISSION

Fickel Park, Berthoud, Colorado (get directions)

CityStarBrewing.com

MillDogRescue.org

Hops & Harley on Facebook

Harley on Facebook

National Mill Dog Rescue on Facebook

Colorado high country beer festivals

Two weeks ago I wrote a post entitled, “Colorado wine festivals not to miss,” so I decided I’d better follow that up with some love for craft beer.

During the summer there are two to four beer festivals happening every weekend here in Colorado and I can’t list them all, therefore, I am going to highlight the ones I am most looking forward to this summer.

Colorado Brewers Rendezvous, Salida, July 11, 2015

ColoradoBeer.org

Colorado Brewers Rendezvous 2015 poster

This is the beer festivals that brewers look forward to. Unfortunately, I have not attended, but I have it on very good authority from a handful of brewers that if you make one beer festival this July, this should be the one.

Hosted by the Colorado Brewers Guild on the banks of the Arkansas River, festival goers will enjoy unlimited beer tasting from more than 70 Colorado breweries. In addition there will be live music and food vendors.

Need a place to stay? Check out my write-up on the Mountain Goat Lodge in Salida.

Winter Park Beer Festival, Winter Park, August 8, 2015

AlwaysMountainTime.com

This was my favorite beer festival last summer and I’m planning to be there again this year.

Located in Hideaway Park, Winter Park Beer Festival is one of the few fests that I heartily encourage you to purchase the VIP package. If you buy early it’s only $70 to go VIP and that includes a catered lunch, VIP tent with private seating area and access to limited edition beers, plus a full size glass tasting mug. It’s awesome!

Colorado beer festivls not to miss. Winter Park Beer Festival. HeidiTown.com

Going VIP at Winter Park Beer Festival is the only way to go!

This festival also includes more than 30 breweries (many I hadn’t seen at festivals before) and a great musical lineup on a big stage. This year’s headliner is Trout Steak Revival.

Need lodging? We loved our Hi Country Haus condo through Vacations, Inc. It was within walking distance of the festival and our favorite Winter Park hangout, Hernandos Pizza Pub.

San Juan Brewfest, Durango, August 29, 2015

SanJuanBrewfest.com

I am trying very hard to work this event into my schedule this year because 1) I love Durango and 2) the beer lineup is fantastic. There are a number of breweries that will attend this event that do not come to beer festivals on Colorado’s Front Range such as Western Slope breweries and a few from Utah and New Mexico.

Colorado beer festivals not to miss. San Juan Brewfest, Durango. HeidiTown.com

San Juan Brewfest 2014. PHOTO CREDIT: Tyler Richardfedlhaus

I would encourage you to check out this VIP package as well, however, it’s already sold out.

In addition to the 51 breweries in attendance this year, a few new regional distilleries will be on hand as well. There’s also music and of course, you’ll be in Durango, one of my favorite spots on the planet.

Need lodging? Visit Durango.org.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED

It’s summertime and that means the Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur is in full swing. Ladies, lords, swordsman, wenches and peasants are gathering under the trees to celebrate all things medieval at one of Colorado’s best and longest produced festivals. Win tickets to Colorado Renaissance Festival 1 It’s the 39th season of Colorado Renaissance Festival, an event that employs hundreds of talented folks who are there to make sure that YOU have the best experience possible while visiting the realm.

There are eight themed weekends planned, three of which are already in the history books. Upcoming weekends include Children’s Weekend (July 4-5), Wine Revelry (July 11-12), Love & Romance (July 18-19), Music & Dance Festival (July 25-26) and Fare Thee Well & Mardi Gras Style Carnivale (August 1-2). Continue Reading…