Riding the public art in downtown Grand Junction, Colorado. There are over 100 sculpture in downtown GJ.
It’s that time again, time for another installment of HeidiTown on the radio.
Every two weeks I have a show on KRFC 88.9 FM, community public radio. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling this winter, so in this week’s segment I share a little from our trip to Grand Junction and the surrounding area. I will be writing some blog posts about this trip as well, so stay tuned!
Also included, a preview of the Fort Collins St. Patrick’s Day Parade – a very popular and very green event in Northern Colorado.
Without further ado, listen to this week’s segment HERE.
We arrived in Grand Lake on a snowy Friday. The area had received three straight days of heavy snow, which made our first stop at On the Trail Rentals, even more fantastic. I previously wrote about this experience.
We were booked at the Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging & Events, soon to be world famous because on March 25, they will be featured on the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible. Much to my delight, because I’m a fan, the crew of Hotel Impossible was filming on the weekend we were in town.
We were staying in The Tree House, a huge two bedroom apartment overlooking the lake and just a short distance from the Western Riveria’s lake front property. It has a full kitchen, a living room and dining area with a fireplace. The master suite features a walk in closet the size of my first apartment, and the bathroom has Jack & Jill sinks.
We thoroughly enjoy the purple and pink sunrises from our big front window each morning, and we had a front row seat to the fireworks show on Saturday night. I was in town covering Grand Lake Winter Carnival, one of the best little winter festivals I’ve attended in Colorado.
Scheduled for a guided snowshoe trek in Rocky Mountain National Park, we got up early on Saturday. The Fat Cat had been recommended to us by the bartender at The Lariat. They serve a $12 breakfast buffet on the weekend and the selection included Scotch eggs, a personal favorite. A table heavy laden with desserts caught our eye. It looked like something right off the pages of Bon Appetit Magazine.
My husband, Ryan, is a big fan of desserts. Big. He looked at me, eyes full of excitement and asked, “Do you think that’s part of the buffet?”
It was. The Fat Cat will now always hold a special place in my Ryan’s heart, and mine too. We ended up there twice during our stay. We met and chatted with Sally, the owner, and felt like we’d discovered a home away from home. That’s how I feel about Grand Lake in general – it is genuinely comfortable.
At 9 a.m. we arrived at the Kawuneeche Visitors Center for our ranger led snow shoe outing with Ranger Barb. This was one of the best mornings ever, in part because Barb’s husband cut the trail for us. The scenery was breathtaking and it felt like we were snowshoers in a postcard. Barb is a gifted guide and amusing storyteller. Ranger led hikes at RMNP are free, but you must make reservations by calling 970-586-1223.
After our hike we sped back to Grand Lake to enjoy Winter Carnival activities. During winter carnival the businesses along Grand Avenue sponsor snow sculptures and this year’s theme was Alice in Winterland, resulting in especially whimsical creations.
The bed races are the Carnival’s most famous event. Eager festival goers were already lining the streets when we arrived and I noticed right way that Grand Lake is probably one of the most dog friendly towns in a state full of dog friendly towns.
The bed races lived up to the hype. It was a seriously entertaining event and since Hotel Impossible was in town they entered a team complete with their own camera crew caught here in our video of the races.
After the events were complete we made a quick trip out to Grand Lake Brewing which had moved out of town since our first visit. Their taster trays are huge and the staff is really nice. Back in town, we walked from The Tree House to Pancho & Lefty’s, another one of our favorite places in Grand Lake. It’s a super fun place that I mentioned in previous posts here on HeidiTown.
After a rather impressive fireworks show that we watched from our porch, we dined on delicious handmade pizza at the Grand Lake Bowling Alley.
The next morning, after filling up at The Fat Cat once more, we headed out to the picturesque Grand Lake Nordic Center for a morning of cross country skiing. The club house is beautiful and with 35 kilometers of groomed trails, you could easily spend a day here.
Sadly, we couldn’t. We had to head back home, but we’ll miss Grand Lake, and can’t wait to go back.
Author’s Note: Don’t miss the historic Daven Haven Lodge while you’re in town. It’s been open since the 1930s, and has had just three owners over the years. For a delicious steak, or all you can eat shrimp on Friday nights, make a reservation at the Daven Haven.
See more photos from this trip on Instagram at @TheMayorofHeidiTown.
HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE featuring the Western Riviera airs Monday, March 25 on the Travel Channel.
Throughout childhood I watched the Iditarod with pure excitement. I remember watching the late Susan Butcher dominate the race during the late 80s and early 90s. It was a sport that crossed gender lines and pitted human nature against Mother Nature, and Mother Nature sometimes won.
I was also a fan of the Iditarod because growing up in the Pacific Northwest I had several connections to people who ran the race; not close associations, but close enough to make me feel connected in a small way.
After reading the book “The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs & Men in a Race Against an Epidemic” by Gay Salisbury, I developed a renewed interest in this race that had mesmerized me as a child. The book, published in 2005, is a nonfiction account of the 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. Unable to reach the town by plane, sled dogs were used to race lifesaving serum to the people of Nome. At the time, this event captivated the nation and inspired the annual Iditarod Dog Sled Race.
This long intro illustrates just how much I’ve always wanted to try dog sledding, so when I got the opportunity at Sled Dog Rides of Winter Park this past weekend, I jumped at it. I was in town covering the Grand Park Dog Days of Winter, a sanction sled dog race, so it was the perfect fit.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park is located just three minutes outside of Fraser, or 12 minutes from Winter Park Resort. My husband, Ryan, and I arrived on a snowy and blustery Friday afternoon. Ryan’s uncle, Dean, joined us as well.
As we were guided to the area where the dogs are tied, all was quiet, but not for long. When the dogs realized that sleds were being set up the howls began. It was as if they were all saying, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!”
Ryan and I were bundled onto one sled, while Dean rode alone. Because our combined weight was significant, our team consisted of 12 excited dogs.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park has around 80 dogs, mostly Alaskan huskies. An Alaskan husky is a husky that has been bred with a variety of other breeds, so they all look a little different. Our team had one crazy Siberian husky named Yukon, while the rest were Alaskan huskies. Yukon is the dog in the video below that seems to be bouncing around and looking everywhere except forward.
Snuggled into a large blanket aboard our sled, we watched as our team was hooked up. This is quite a process and I kept thinking of the phrase, “herding snakes.” When the team was ready our musher, Laura, hopped on the back of the sled and we were off. The fast start was somewhat unexpected, and I was startled and tingly with delight all at the same time.
Laura informed us that we were sledding in less than ideal conditions. With fresh snow and wind, the groomed trail was constantly being covered with snow, making the dogs’ job more difficult.
Even with a heavy sled and deep snow in places, our team ran their hearts out. As we flew through Grand County’s beautiful countryside Laura kept us entertained with stories and answered our many questions; her knowledge made this ride not only fun, but educational.
While going through a deep drift our sled slowly turned over and we had to bail. Ryan was especially excited about this little incident because he felt it made a better “dog sled ride story.” However, it’s not nearly as dramatic as it sounds. Once the sled was good and stuck, Laura had us roll off the side so the dogs would be able to pull the sled out of the drift. After that we got back on and were off again.
The ride took about 45 minutes and we covered around 3 miles. Dog sledding is exhilarating, and for dog lovers like me, there’s the added bonus of getting to meet the dogs after the outing.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park operates winter and summer. During the summer the dogs pull visitors in modified golf carts or on specialized scooters. You can visit Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park at DogSledRidesofWinterPark.com or check them out on Facebook here.
See more photos of this dog sledding trip here. My husband took the following video or our dog sled adventure at Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park.
(NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: You’ll need to go to HeidiTown.com to see video)
Below is one of my favorite Instagram from this dog sledding experience. This was one of our “wheel dogs” (meaning he was directly in front of our sled). I love that face! Follow me on Instagram @TheMayorofHeidiTown.
On a trip to Grand Lake, Colorado, primarily to attend Winter Carnival, we had the opportunity go snowmobiling thanks to On the Trail Rentals. My first and only snowmobiling experience up until this point had been riding behind my husband on an old sled over some less than ideal terrain. The snowmobile didn’t have any shocks and it left a terrible trail of environmental pollution.
Thankfully, On the Trail Rentals is known for buying brand new snowmobiles every season, and I found out that riding a brand new snowmobile rocks.
I was a bit apprehensive about driving my own snowmobile, but after Ryan and I went over the map and safety regulations with owner, Nick, and geared up in a helmet and goggles, I started to feel a little more confident.
I felt even better when I saw my yellow snowmobile. Yellow was the color of my first car, and I’m rather fond it, so I liked my sled immediately and we were soon best friends.
It turns out that snowmobiles are super easy to operate. I was a little worried about this, but the machines are fully automatic and they operate like a jet ski – just squeeze and go. After taking a few spins around the field at On the Trail Rentals, we ventured out onto the 33 miles of groomed trail (that’s not counting the play areas along the route).
We were riding through six inches of fresh snow – in fact, it had been snowing bucket loads for three days straight before we arrived in Grand Lake.
“Perfect for snowmobilers,” said Nick at On the Trail.
And it was. We were in pure snowmobile bliss.
If you read my article about Ski School, you’ll know I’m not a braggart and I am always honest with you about my abilities or lack thereof when it comes to any type of sport. It just so happens that I was born to ride a snowmobile. My natural skills even impressed my husband, and that’s hard to do because he’s naturally good at just about everything, and I am not.
Driving a snowmobile is exhilarating and the 33 mile loop was scenic and diverse. We first traveled through miles of open area that looks over the snowy landscape of beautiful and rugged Grand County. We took our sleds for a quick spin in the first play area, where we practiced turns and took great photographs.
I just had to share my favorite Instagram from this snowmobiling adventure in Grand County. You can follow me on Instagram at TheMayorofHeidiTown.
Back out on the main trail it started to snow as we climbed. There weren’t a lot of other snowmobilers on the trail, so despite the noise of our machines, it felt like we were really out in back country. We climbed and climbed and the road grew a bit narrower as we found ourselves surrounded by a forested area heavy with snow.
I enjoyed being able to drive through different types of scenery and terrain. It was good practice for a newbie and I could work on things like turning and navigating deep snow. I’ll admit, in one of the play areas I got stuck and Ryan had to spend 20 minutes dragging out my sled – a good reason to bring a strong guy or gal along when you go snowmobiling.
Other than getting stuck once, I’d give myself an A for the day and On the Trail Rentals gets an A+ for their phenomenal snowmobiles.
After this experience, my number one recommendation to my female readers out there: Don’t ride behind your man, ladies. Get your own sled! You won’t regret it. If I can drive one of these machines, anyone can!
Here is a fun video my husband took on our snowmobile adventure at On the Trail Rentals.
Skijoring competition during in Leadville, Colorado. Photo by Steve Sunday. (www.sundayphotography.com)
One of my favorite memories is waking up to six inches of fresh snow on my birthday, October 10, 2007. We were staying in Leadville, Colorado the highest town in the United States at 10,000 feet above sea level.
This small town provides a uniquely Colorado experience for several reasons. First, there’s no place like Leadville and when I say it’s one-of-a-kind, I mean it. Colorful characters, both past and present and colorful stories, both historical and modern day, plus lots of snow – that’s Leadville in a nutshell.
Leadville Ski Joring Weekend is March 2-3, 2012. Ski joring is the Scandinavian word for ski driving, and in Scandinavia individuals would ski behind reindeer as a method of transportation. More than a half century ago, two men from Leadville witnesses ski joring in Steamboat Springs and brought it back to Leadville where, in 1948, it became a serious competition.
Today, the Leadville Ski Joring completion is considered the preeminent event in the sport and has a $1,000 purse. If you’ve never watched skijoring, you in for a treat – watch the video from PLUM TV at the bottom of this post to get a taste of what it involves.
The event poster gives all the details on the ski joring events taking place in downtown Leadville. Click image to enlarge.
For families that choose to make a weekend out of the event, Leadville has much to offer in the way of wintertime fun. There’s the groomed, free Dutch Henri Sledding Hill where families can either bring their own sleds (no metal allowed) or rent tubes for $7 on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hill is open every day from dawn to dusk.
There is also the 30,000 square foot outdoor Leiter Ice Skating Rink, an affordable way to spend the afternoon. Skate rentals plus skate time is just $3.25 for children and $4.25 for adults. Ice rink is open 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sunday and includes a warming hut, snack bar and sound system.
The Mineral Belt Trail is free, and is 12 miles of groomed trail for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In fact, Leadville has a total of 50 miles of cross country skiing trails, including 12 kilometers of groomed trails on the golf course.
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. This is the only federally chartered non-profit museum and if mining sounds boring to you, it did to me too. However, this museum is really impressive. My husband wanted to go and I tagged along, and I was so glad that I did. Find them online at MiningHallofFame.org.
I’ve been a fan of dog sled racing since I was just a little girl. Growing up in the far northern reaches of Washington State – let’s face it, it was practically Canada – there were quite a few Alaska connections around my community. This meant that throughout my childhood I had roundabout connections to the Iditerod, and therefore I never missed the race on television.
Since moving to Colorado in 2000, it’s been on my bucket list to make it to one of the many sled dog festivals that are held in the Rocky Mountains. This February I finally get my chance, not only to fulfill my childhood dream of riding in a dog sled with Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park, but also to witnesses sanctioned sled dog races.
I’ll be attending the Grand Park Dog Days of Winter over Presidents Day weekend in Grand Park, Colorado, just outside of Winter Park.
This is a two-day event, sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association. Races will offer slots for sled teams of four, six and eight dogs, a three-dog junior division and one and two-dog skijoring, where the mushers, wearing cross-country skis, are pulled by their dogs.
A skijoring clinic will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m. and people are encouraged to bring their dogs and give it a try. Harnesses and gear will be provided, but you need skis and a willing dog. In addition to the races there will be vendors and other entertainment at the race site.
In addition to the spectacle of the dog sled races, the area will be bustling with activity over Presidents Day Weekend. On Saturday night, visitors can experience Winter Park Comedy Night at Winter Park Resort. Learn more about winterparkcomedynight.com.
On our trip to Breckenridge for Ullr Festival earlier this month, Ryan and I were invited to go ziplining at Top of the Rockies Zip Line. Up until this point my one zipline experience involved zipping across the small lake at the village in Copper, so the thought of a fast, long zip was exhilarating and rather frightening.
We took the free shuttle from Breckenridge along with a group of men who were going to the same place for a day of ziplining and snowmobiling from White Mountain Tours, the sister company of Top of the Rockies. Our van driver, who lives in Fraser, was an entertaining source of information as we drove through the beautiful, snowy scenery.
Snow cat tracks at Top of the Rockies Zip Lines.
When we arrived at Top of the Rockies I was delighted to find out that I was going to get to ride in a snow cat. Here’s a little insider info about me – I have an obsession with Antarctica. I have read a lot of books about this ice covered continent where they drive around in snow cats instead of cars. Therefore, I’ve always wanted to ride in a snow cat and this was going to be my first opportunity to do so.
First, we had to put on our ziplining gear that hung down and hit my knees throughout the day, but it was worth it. Then, we loaded up into the snow cat with Ty, the manager of Top of the Rockies at the wheel and Oz, our ziplining guide for the day.
Ty let me ride shotgun as we barreled up the mountain. We were soon well above treeline and the view at the top is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The panoramic cannot be described in words.
The Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
After gaping at the view for an appropriate amount of time, we loaded back into the snow cat and rolled back down to the first of five ziplines at Top of the Rockies. The first one is at 11,000 feet and flies out over the side of the snowy mountain.
First we did a little briefing with Ty and Oz in the “practice” area. This helps riders familiarize themselves with terminology and with how it feels to be hooked to the line. Once we were ready, my heart was beating pretty fast as I got on the wooden platform, still very shiny and new because Top of the Rockies only opened this past summer.
Oz zipped out to the other side to act as brake–man and then Ty hooked up Ryan who didn’t even hesitate when he got the GO. The line hummed as his 200 lbs went flying out over the precipice. I don’t think he even screamed, but when it was my turn to zip I let out some whoops and hollers that they probably heard in Leadville.
Ty, left and Oz, right. Top of the Rockies Zip Lines near Leadville, Colorado.
I might have been scared in the beginning, but after the first zip I learned to trust my equipment and my guides. As we worked our way through the five zips, the smile on my face grew and grew. I’ve described the experience of ziplining as a true natural high. For a control freak like me, throwing myself off a platform and flying through the air is more than fun – it is freedom – it’s letting go and truly living in the moment.
Top of the Rockies is one of very few Colorado ziplines that stays open year-round. Nearly everyone can zip, and while there is some hiking between zipline platforms, it is light weight. There are all sorts of packages to choose from including a ziplining and snowmobiling day that include lunch. In exciting news, Top of the Rockies already has plans to add to more ziplines this summer, making the total number of zips 7.
As a reminder, I’ve decided to cut down on these radio shows because I create entirely new content for each segment and it’s too much to keep up with on a weekly basis. So, the HeidiTown show can be heard now twice a month on the radio.
This week’s show includes a preview of a couple upcoming winter carnivals and a look at some Colorado winter sports you should try out this season. Some of these “sports” require little more than sitting down and hanging on, as you can see by this photo.
Next weekend, we’ll be heading down the rabbit’s hole and it will lead us to the Grand Lake Winter Carnival.
I love small town festivals. There’s just something so real and so special about a town coming together to enjoy the company of friends, new and old. And while I love the big Colorado ski towns, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the glitz of a resort and simply bask in the glow of Americana.
Grand Lake has an abundance of Americana. It’s like turning back the clock to a different era when people borrowed eggs from their neighbors and didn’t think twice about letting their kids bicycle around town.
However, Grand Lake’s quaintness shouldn’t be mistaken for boring. Case in point? Grand Lake Winter Carnival, and this year’s theme, Alice in Winterland, should prove to be very entertaining.
The party gets started on Friday evening with live music at Grumpy’s Saloon from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday is when the real event takes place. All of the crazy activities will happen in downtown, along Grand Avenue, and everyone is encouraged to participate.
The bed races are the highlight, and chamber executive director, Lisa Jenkins, tells me that they make extra beds so that people can decide to put together a team and participate on the spot.
Bed Sled Races! Courtesy photo from Grand Lake Chamber.
“This is a small town snow festival that is quiant and very family-fun oriented. It will make you laugh and smile,” says Jenkins.
Events like human bowling will surely get the crowds giggling along with tea pot curling, snow golf and the parent/child sled pull. In addition to all the games, there’s also a Winterland Parade, snow sculptures, a movie, the crowing of a king and queen, fireworks over the lake and even a Winterland Snow Dance.