Colorado Trail House offers something new to the traveler in a home that rings with echoes of the past.
Steeped in history, Leadvillle’s lively past is palpable on every visit to the town, and whether a visitor cares a whit about history or not, it’s all around them.
I have been visiting Leadville for nearly a decade, and on my most recent trip, I experienced many new Leadville sites and sounds that held echoes of past visits. This is the first in several posts about my latest Leadville adventure.
The first harmonization of the past and present was my booking at Colorado Trail House, a brand new lodging destination in Leadville that’s located in a not so new building. The Victorian home at 127 E. 8th Street has stood for more than 100 years, and while researching Colorado Trail House online before my visit, I realized that I’d been there before. Continue reading
Mayor’s note: I’m going to write a three-part series on Doing Durango. Part one, published on 5/15 was all about beer. Today’s post is all about food and the last post in the series will focus on touristy, fun activities you shouldn’t miss.
In Durango you are just as likely to see a man in a cowboy hat as a guy with sleeve tattoos and ear gauges, and you can be certain that both will be more than happy to stop and help you with directions. This town is friendly and locals will eagerly give you their two cents on the best spots in town to eat and drink.
Dining options abound in Durango. From vegan and gluten free options to menus dedicated to the meat lover in all of us. Nearly every eatery has a top quality wine menu and large craft beer selection; it’s definitely a foodie sort of town.
After spending the good part of a week in Durango, here were our dining highlights, and the places I’d recommend.
Breakfast in Durango
This one is a no-brainer. No less than five people had recommended this place to me when they found out that I was going to be visiting Durango. Ryan and I are big fans of diners, and this one is authentic.
With only a few tables, most of the seating is at the long diner-style bar, and they cook and prepare the food right there in front of you. You see everything, from 12 eggs sizzling on the large flat grill to ladles full of Durango Diner’s famous green chili being generously poured over nearly every plate.
Our verdict? Continue reading
So you’ve decided to spend a weekend in Fort Collins – a very good choice, and even better if you plan your stay around Colorado Brewers’ Festival, June 22-23, 2013. In its 24th year, this is one of the first Colorado brew fests and my favorite. With multiple music stages, lots of shade and of course, lots and lots of beer, the Colorado Brewers’ Festival ticks all the right boxes on my What Makes a Great Festival list.
Instead of giving you a specific schedule, I’m going to throw out a bunch of my Fort Collins favorites and let you organize your own fabulous weekend. So without further ado, here’s my 3-day Fort Collins itinerary during Colorado’s Brewers’ Festival.
Stay in Fort Collins
As a fan of boutique, downtown hotels, The Armstrong Hotel is my recommendation for a weekend stay in Fort Collins. This historic property is within walking distance of restaurants, museums, galleries, theaters and, of course, the Colorado Brewers’ Festival.
I took my husband to The Armstrong for his birthday a number of years ago, and we were delighted to find charming rooms that really are one-of-a-kind. Our room was huge and had a bright and cheery, contemporary sort of feel. Continue reading
I love trains. If you’ve been a fan of HeidiTown for any length of time you are already aware of my train obsession. I’m not into the technical stuff, but I like the experience of train travel and the nostalgia that comes with it. Train travel forces us to slow down and look around; something we should be doing on a daily basis.
While in Durango last month, Ryan and I had an opportunity to ride the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We boarded on a brisk morning at the end of April. I was gripping my camera and probably sporting a rather silly grin, because I’d been looking forward to this ride for a very long time.
We were happy to discover that a tour group of Brits were in our car. We love the British, and they did not disappoint – proving to be a very entertaining lot.
I suppose this is where I should tell you a little bit of the history. Durango was developed as a railroad town by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1880. The railroad arrived in town the next year, and construction on the line to Silverton began that fall. By July of 1882 the tracks to Silverton were completed and the train began hauling both passengers and freight. If that seems fast, it was.
After WWII, the Silverton line was nearly shut down, but thanks in part to a slew of 1950s westerns filmed in the area that featured the train, tourist began flocking to Durango. Today, the train provides year-round service. The locomotives used to pull the train are 100% coal-fired, steam-operated, and circa 1920s.
As soon as the train left the station we moved to one of the open-gondola cars, as did most of the Brits. The open-gondola cars are excellent during warmer months, although you will be covered in a thin layer of coal soot by the end of the day, and by the end of our excursion I’d made the decisive decision never to work in a coal mine.
Do you seek out adventure? Or would you rather soak in hot springs all day? Does rappelling into a waterfall sound exhilarating? Or would you rather sit on a sun soaked, rooftop patio drinking a beer? You can do all of these things and more in Ouray, Colorado.
Ryan and I visited Ouray in March and we fell in love with the town. I hadn’t been to Ouray since my parents made the road trip from the Oregon Coast to Colorado in a Volkswagen Rabbit in 1978. The most memorable photo from the trip is of me at age two, sitting on a snow bank, surrounded by wildflowers.
Ouray is nestled between high mountain peaks, giving it the deserved nickname of Little Switzerland. The town still has many unpaved streets, adding to its unpretentious charm. Here are highlights from our March trip, and I hope that they will help you make the most out of your Ouray experience.
Does the idea of rolling out of bed and into a hot springs pool every morning sound appealing? This experience awaits you at the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings. The Wiesbaden is unique because in addition to a hot springs fed pool, they have a vapor cave, something my husband enjoyed enormously.
They also have a private hot spring called the Lorelei. It is magical, and I highly recommend booking the Lorelei when you stay at the Wiesbaden, and be sure to ask if they are running any discounts for hotel guests.
There are several different types of lodging options at the Wiesbaden. We had apartment style accommodations complete with a kitchen. Eating in is a great way to save money if you are staying somewhere for more than two days.
The Wiesbaden is retro, but has all the accoutrements of modern living such as flat screen televisions. The big bonus is that it is within walking distance of everything downtown Ouray has to offer. Continue reading
This week’s a little screwy, but that’s okay. Radio is not an exact science and neither is blogging. This post usually goes up on a Monday, but this week it’s being posted on a Friday, but that’s okay too because most of what I talk about in this segment are festivals in mid-April.
As you know, my radio segments on KRFC 88.9 FM are now recorded and aired every other week instead of weekly.
In this week’s segment I discuss great events happening in mid-April. In fact, the second week in April is so busy you’ll need a couple clones to do everything. I also share a bit about my trip to Ouray, Colorado.
As you know, Ryan and I did a lot of traveling this winter and every trip has a special place in our hearts. Grand Junction, however, has a special place in our stomachs. If you are a fan of eating and drinking, you’ll want to get out a pen and paper and take notes on this post.
We’d driven by Grand Junction and Palisade a number of times over the years, but had never stopped, so we had no idea what we’d been missing.
So without further ado, here’s a two-day Grand Junction/Palisade itinerary, influenced greatly by our March trip.
Before heading out to Grand Junction, call and make dinner reservations at Bin 707 Foodbar. Arrive Grand Junction and check into your hotel. We stayed at The Clarion. It’s a simple, freeway hotel, but they provide a free shuttle to downtown and there’s a nice little bar at the attached restaurant, Pantuso’s Ristorante.
Utilize free shuttle ride to downtown. If you are a little early, browse Art on the Corner and do a little shopping. We were impressed without how busy downtown Grand Junction gets on a Friday night – every restaurant was packed and the sidewalks were bustling with people.
Bin 707 Foodbar is a little slice of culinary heaven in the heart of Grand Junction. They serve up locally sourced food in a contemporary, yet comfortable environment. Engage your knowledgeable server to learn about the menu.
We started with an assembly of charcuterie and artisan cheese. Charcuterie is the craft of salting, curing and smoking meat. There was a rich pate made in-house with fresh herbs, prosciutto cut so thin you could see through it and headcheese made by the Chef of Bin 707. All the cheeses were from Colorado including the Ashley from MouCo Cheese Company in Fort Collins, a personal favorite.
We didn’t stop with the cheese and meat plate. We ordered up fried oysters served with aioli sauce, roasted beet salad (a customer favorite) and grilled cheese flatbread with arugula salad. I felt like I was on an episode of Top Chef and I gave everything top scores.
We paired our food with local wine and ended our meal with two unique deserts. I’m not a big desert person, but my beet ice cream was sweet and earthy at the same time, an amazing combination. Ryan ordered the Momofuku Crack pie, and they might actually spike it with an illegal substance because it’s that freakin’ good.
We got up early, had the free breakfast buffet at The Clarion and then headed to Powderhorn Resort for a morning of skiing. The resort is about 45 minutes from Grand Junction. However, if you’re making this trip during the spring or summer, head to the Colorado National Monument to some morning hiking and bighorn sheep hunting. Hunt with your camera, of course. I wrote about our experience at the Colorado National Monument in a previous post here.
After burning some calories, it’s time to start eating and drinking again. Grab a quick lunch at Pablo’s Pizza in downtown Grand Junction and now it’s time for wine.
Start with Two Rivers Winery & Chateau in Grand Junction; the Syrah and Cab were my favorite here. Afterwards, make the 20 minute drive to Palisade where you can hit multiple wineries within walking or biking distance of one another. We started at Grande River Winery, one of the original wineries on the Western Slope. Just next door is Talon Winery and St. Kathryn Cellars. Talon has traditional wines while St. Kathryn’s stirs things up a bit by offering fruity wines. They even have a lavender wine. Just down the road, we visited Plum Creek Winery where I enjoyed nearly every taster on their list.
We heard wonderful things about Colterris, but were unable to visit them on this trip. I did have one of their reds at Bin 707, and it was a well-rounded, memorable wine.
Before leaving Palisade, be sure to visit Peach Street Distillery. The cliffs of the mesa glowed pink as we pulled into the parking lot just before sunset. It was warm enough to sit on the patio, but every seat was taken, so we sat inside, sipping on sweet, fresh drinks and listening to classical guitar. It was a wonderful way to end a wonderful afternoon.
Note: If you plan to spend the afternoon drinking in Palisade on Day Two, please make someone in your group the designated driver!
For dinner we ate Irish fare at Naggy McGee’s Irish Pub in downtown Grand Junction. This is a popular place, so be prepared for a wait. On a two-day itinerary, beer drinkers may prefer dinner at Kannah Creek Brewing Company. I had a yummy sandwich there on our visit to Grand Junction. Popular with college students, the patio fills up quickly on a nice day.
So there you have it. A two-day itinerary to Grand Junction, and I promise it will not disappoint. Book you trip around one of the Western Slope’s many spring and summer festivals, like the Palisade International Honeybee Festival on April 12-13, or the Art & Jazz Fest in downtown Grand Junction on May 10-12, 2013. For the scoop on other festivals, go to VisitGrandJunction.com.
We genuinely fell in love with the Western Slope during this trip. The landscape + people + food + wine is a winning combination and we can’t wait to visit again.
This trip sponsored by Visit Grand Junction.
When I told people I was going ice climbing in Ouray, they would say, “I didn’t know you were a climber.” I’m not a climber. I had never even sat in a harness until my first zip lining experience in 2012. However, when I was offered the chance to go ice climbing with San Juan Mountain Guides, for some crazy reason I said yes.
On our third day in Ouray, Ryan and I rose early, forgoing our morning soak in the Wiesbaden’s hot spring pool. We dressed warmly and drove the two blocks to San Juan Mountain Guides. Located in Ouray and Durango this company provides guides for all sorts of outdoor adventures, from ice climbing to canyoning.
They also rent equipment, which is good because climbing gear is pricey. A pair of ice climbing boots alone will set you back $700. Our guide, professional climber Dawn Glanc, got us all geared up and we drove the short 5 minutes to the Ouray Ice Park.
This is the only ice park of its kind in the United States, so it truly fits the definition of unique. It’s a magical place, so even if you don’t intent to climb, it’s worth the short drive to see it.
Every January, the Ouray Ice Festival attracts around 1,000 ice climbers from around the world to the tiny town. More and more events are being established around the ice park, including Chicks with Picks, ice climbing clinics. Women are becoming increasingly interested in climbing, a sport primarily dominated by men.
We parked the car and walked up the muddy road to done our gear before heading into the park. The park is owned and managed by the City of Ouray and the nonprofit, Ouray Ice Park, Inc. The ice is farmed, meaning it is manmade using water pipes that are turned on to create nearly 200 ice and mixed climbs ranging from beginning to expert along a mile of canyon.
All geared up in harnesses, helmets, boots and crampons, Ryan, Dawn and I walked through the park, heading towards what’s referred to as The School Room – it’s where they train the newbies. My body grew stiff with apprehension as we traversed the metal walkway hanging high above the canyon.
This is a good time to tell you that I have a fear of heights. I’m pretty good going up a mountain, but I once sat atop a 14er and cried for a half hour when I realized I’d have to exit the peak down a slippery slope of shale. I’m not proud of this little incident, but it proves my point.
By the time we were positioned directly above The School Room I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to do this. Once Dawn told us that we’d need to crawl under the fencing and rappelling down the ice cliff face to get to the training area, I knew for sure that this wasn’t going to happen. The thin metal fence I’d been holding on to during our walk was the only thing between me and a precipice of ice that shot straight down into what I assumed was a frozen river bed and imminent death.
Once he was attached to the rope, Ryan, the athlete in our family and a guy with absolutely no fear, got the go from Dawn. He ducked under the fence and vanished. I stood quietly as Dawn fed the rope to Ryan. For a while the only sound was the soft wind whispering through the canyon and the beating of my heart, now lodged firmly in my throat.
“We can walk down,” said Dawn.
I quietly considered this new plan as Dawn continued to feed Ryan rope. It seemed like a lot of rope. Was this a 500 foot drop off?
“We can also rappel down together,” said Dawn.
And then I realized something. If I didn’t rappel down that icy canyon, the one I was supposed to learn to climb up, the rest of the day was going to be a sham. How could I claim that I attempted to ice climb if I couldn’t make myself rappel to the start of the climb?
We went together, and I’ll admit, it was a terrifying experience, but somewhere in the middle of the rappel my heart rate steadied. I focused on the task at hand, as Dawn instructed. I focused on my feet and finally I was at the bottom of the canyon.
You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for the rest of the day.
We went on to learn the basics of ice climbing. It’s all fairly straightforward and Ryan got it right way, making two climbs to the top before noon. I wasn’t quite so good, and although I did comprehend what I was supposed to be doing I couldn’t always get my muscles to respond properly.
Dawn Glanc is a gifted climbing instructor and has in incredible amount of patience and understanding. On our hike back up, which was actually another big hurdle for me because it was downright scary, she hooked up my harness so that I felt more secure.
So is this the end of my ice climbing career? Absolutely not. I would definitely try it again and perhaps I’d even advance to a solo rappel. Although before I do ice climbing, I may do some canyoning this summer, another growing sport in Ouray that involves rappelling into water falls. Sounds terrifyingly refreshing.
If I can do this sport, you can do it! If you’d like to book a guided ice climbing trek with Dawn Glanc next winter it’s not too early because she books up fast. Dawn is a pro who travels the world climbing in amazing places like Iceland, Croatia and Greece, so be sure to like her Facebook page to follow her adventures. Also, please check out San Juan Mountain Guide’s online or on Facebook. Lastly, watch for Dawn Glanc at the ice climbing demonstrations at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
This climb was sponsored by the Ouray Chamber Resort Association.
Several weeks ago, Ryan and spent a weekend in Grand Junction. This was a true adventure because we’d never been to Grand Junction before. We’d driven through, but never stopped to smell the roses, or rather, the perfume of wine.
I’m going to highlight our foodie and wine adventures in Grand Junction in another post, but here I want to concentrate on our morning at the Colorado National Monument. First, like many of you, we thought the Colorado National Monument was an actual monument, and we were a bit startled and overjoyed to discover that it is a gigantic park with rock formations that rival those we’ve seen just across the border in Utah.
We entered the park via the Fruita entrance on the recommendation of several people, including our helpful hotel shuttle driver from The Clarion in Grand Junction. Even before we entered the park, we spotted a beautiful bird hanging out in a dead tree. The lighting was such that we couldn’t identify the bird, but we treated the sighting as an omen of good things to come – and it was.
Entering the park through the Fruita entrance is an excellent choice because you are immediately surrounded by spectacular views and huge rock formations that rise unexpectedly from the ground. At first, we were stopping at every overlook to snap pictures and take in the incredible view of the mesas.
By the time we reached the visitor center we were in a cheerful mood. This place wasn’t a tourist trap with some old boring monument – this place was a gem and we felt as though we had just discovered it. Of course, we weren’t the first to discover it, and the people of the Western Slope are well aware of their treasure.
In fact, there’s a movement afoot to give the park National Park status, but there’s also a group opposed to such a move. They don’t want the crowds that come with having a National Park in your backyard, but I think that the Colorado National Monument shouldn’t be a secret. I think it should receive National Park status and be added to our state’s impressive repertoire of national parks.
Inside the visitor center we were greeted by two young female rangers who quickly pulled out photos of the park’s most recent addition; two baby big horn sheep. We knew there were bighorn sheep in the region, but we had no idea that we had come during lambing season, running February through April.
For those who do not know me, I’m a huge freak when it comes to baby animals. Puppies, ducklings, kittens, kits, calves, foals, eaglets, chicks, goslings”¦ if it’s a baby animal of any sort, I’m a fan. So when we found out about the baby bighorn sheep we were determined to find them.
We struck out on a hike with a purpose – my favorite kind of hike. We started from the visitor center down a small and easy trail with enormous views and then veered through the campground. The rangers had given us some useful tips on finding the bighorn sheep.
They like to hang out on the outcroppings above the roads around the park and one way you can tell that they’ve been in a certain location are rocks on the road. They scatter the rocks as they scramble up the mountain. You can often hear the bighorns kicking around rocks before you actually spot them.
The rangers told us we might find them on a rock outcropping we’d driven under earlier, so we backtracked, by foot. Peering through binoculars towards the specific location, at first Ryan saw nothing, but then JACK POT! We had found them. Two bighorn sheep lambs and their mothers, right where the park rangers said they might be.
They were still pretty far away from us, and couldn’t be seen without binoculars, but there they were and we marked the hike a grand success. We snapped some pictures, hoping we could zoom in later to find the little guys.
Back at the visitors center we were accosted by a juniper titmouse. The bird spotted us walking through the parking lot and fluttered over to land on a tree limb directly in front of my face – I could have reached out and touched him. When we told the park ranger of this encounter she said it’s not because people feed them, it’s because the juniper titmouse is a friendly little bird with a big attitude.
The rest of our drive through the park was uneventful. The scenery was still breathtaking but to my disappointment we had no more wildlife encounters. I was hoping to spot a male bighorn walking on the road, as they tend to do quite often.
The Colorado National Monument is a treasure and should not to be missed when visiting the Grand Junction area. Within 15 minutes of Grand Junction, it makes for an easy morning excursion, or you can make it a longer adventure by hiking, rock climbing or camping in the park.
1. Stop at the Visitor Center to see what animals have been spotted in the park recently.
2. Bring a good camera, not just your phone. This place deserves high resolution photos.
3. Bring a water bottle. The park will no longer be selling water. To reduce waste they are installing a water bottle refilling station at the visitor center.
4. Bring binoculars.
5. Pack a light coat. It can be a bit chilly atop the mesas on a spring day.
This trip sponsored by Visit Grand Junction.
I’ve been writing for the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor for 7 years, so I’ve had a long relationship with the town of Berthoud, Colorado. I’ve known about the Berthoud Inn, the only local bed and breakfast, but had never had the opportunity to stay there until I started helping out the owner, Mark Chaffee, with the Inn’s Facebook page.
Berthoud is a charming town, and a visit there is a bit like going back in time. It’s a town where everyone still comes out to high school football games and the Homecoming Parade is one of the biggest events of the year.
The Berthoud Inn & Events is located on a huge lot of land, just east of downtown. Built in 1888, the house is magnificent. In 1904, a local newspaper said of the home, “It has always been considered one of the most beautiful in the vicinity.” And more than 100 years later, it still is.
Berthoud is situated between Longmont and Loveland, about 45 minutes north of Denver and just 35 miles from Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. The Inn is within walking distance of everything the small town has to offer including restaurants, several day spas and a bit of shopping.
There’s also a brewery and that’s why we were there on a Wednesday. We were planning to defend our title as champions at Trivia Night at City Star Brewing.
We arrived at the Inn around 5:30 p.m. and a tour reveals seven themed rooms suited for a variety of guests. The Egyptian Room, in the basement, is probably the most interesting. It includes a tub the size of a small swimming pool, and some Egyptian costumes for those who may want to play a dress up.
The Inn also has a gigantic backyard that includes two stages and is home to the two tallest trees in Berthoud. Appropriate since the town’s nickname is “The Garden Spot.” Small weddings are welcome here, and the space is pretty, even in the winter. I can easily visualize sitting on the wrap around patio during the summer with a glass of wine at my elbow and a book in my hands.
After the tour we set out for City Star on foot, with a brief stop at the Brick Oven to order pizza. City Star lets visitors bring in food, and some places in downtown Berthoud will deliver your food directly to the brewery.
Trivia night has become popular and the brewery was packed. No problem for our team; we soundly beat everyone anyway. It probably helped that we had a team of nine very smart, very good looking people.
Breakfast at the Inn was a smorgasbord of culinary delights. Chaffee has owned the Berthoud Inn for 12 years, but before that he was the owner of multiple restaurants in Denver. There’s little doubt in my mind that his abilities as a chef is what truly sets the Berthoud Inn apart.
Our breakfast started with coffee and fruit in cream, and from there it just got better and better. Chaffee says he takes breakfast and “elevates it.” You may dine on strata with shrimp or poached salmon with a tropical fruit medley. He always serves eggs alongside, but your main dish may be more gourmet than you were expecting. It’s not unusual to have pork medallions with a savory sauce as your breakfast entrÃ©e – and be warned that portion sizes may have you skipping lunch.
Our breakfast concluded with cinnamon rolls served with a side of ice cream, so perhaps not surprisingly the dining experiences at the Berthoud Inn is what is most often referenced in their reviews on Trip Advisor.
The Berthoud Inn offers seven rooms in the main house, but also has a fully equipped, two bedroom apartment available for families, extended stay guests, business travelers, or those traveling with their canine companion. Since we were staying in the main house, we left our dog at Happy Tails Dog Ranch. Just five minutes from the Inn, I highly recommend Happy Tails. We’ve been utilizing their dog boarding services for a number of years. Learn more here.
To those of you who may have hesitations about staying at a bed and breakfast, please read my post, Dispelling Myths about Staying at a Bed & Breakfast. Bed and breakfasts are one of my favorite lodging options when I travel, and I think you’ll love it too if you give it a try.
Please note: I am assisting the Berthoud Inn with their new Facebook page. Therefore, I received a free stay to experience firsthand everything the Inn has to offer.