When I was 36, I spent a month in Spain, and I never regretted that I missed running with the bulls in Pamplona. But today I heard the below interview with travel blogger Jeannie Mark, known as the Nomadic Chick, and began to wonder if I’ve spent my life being too careful. Jeannie plans to run during the next Fiesta de San Fermin. If I were not now fifty with a slight neuropathy (or nerve weakness) in my left foot, her enthusiasm might tempt me to join her.
My favorite moment in her interview, other than Jeannie’s infectious laugh, is when she talks about her philosophical take on the risks, such as getting caught in a pileup. She says: “In some crazy way, maybe I believe that is also how life works, that sometimes you just go along the path and things happen.” This may be at the core of every traveler’s philosophy about the risks we take when we step outside the comfort zone of home and seek new experiences in a wider world.
First, here’s a correction Jeannie also makes on her own blog: in the interview, she says the run is 860 meters, but it’s actually 825 meters. And now, I highly recommend giving her a listen. Her laugh alone may inspire you to actively seek to create more joy in your life:
Autumn is my favorite time to head into Colorado’s high country. Though wildflowers depart, quivering gold Aspen leaves arrive. The trails are quieter, air cooler, lightning gone. Late last September, my husband, Dale, and I drove up gorgeous Guanella Pass to hike Mount Bierstadt. Though I usually covet the showy palette of spring wildflowers, the rich rose-gold of sun on plants and rocks was a revelation.
Another revelation: how much I huffed and puffed on this, my second, visit to what’s supposed to be Colorado’s easiest Fourteener. If you’ve never hiked a 14,000-foot peak before, Bierstadt is a great introduction. But don’t let the word “easiest” fool you. It’s still high altitude, which means less oxygen and more work. It’s only about seven miles, but clear your whole day, pack a lunch, and bring plenty of warm layers. Even when it’s hot at the bottom, it’s always shockingly cold at the top – with winds as fierce as the teeth of Sawtooth Ridge, which links Bierstadt to Mount Evans. (If you’re a daring hiker, you can scramble across the ridge and bag two peaks in one day.)
Driving to Bierstadt is easy. Take I-70 to the Georgetown exit and follow signs through town for Guanella Pass Road. Take that road 11.8 miles up from town. You’ll see parking lots on both sides of the road. The trail starts on the east (left) side. The drive alone is worth it, as you’ll see at the beginning of this short video of the trail:
Nederland boasts some of Colorado’s prettiest hikes, with waterways, wildflowers (or fall colors), and views of the Continental Divide. Around this time last year, my husband Dale and I hiked the three-mile round trip to Lost Lake – more like four miles since part of the road leading to Hessie Trailhead was under water, forcing us to park the car below that and hoof it. Hessie is busy on weekends, but since Dale has Mondays off and I set my own schedule, we hike on Mondays so we can enjoy some solitude. If weekends are your only option, I suggest waiting until after Labor Day. Even if it’s still a bit busy, the scenery is worth it, as you can see in the video below.
If you head to Hessie from Denver, take U.S. Highway 36 West to Boulder, turn left on Canyon Blvd/Colorado 119, and drive through the canyon to Nederland. At Nederland’s traffic circle, take Highway 72 north through town for about half a mile, and turn right on County Road 130. Pass the turnoff for the Eldora Ski Resort and drive through the town of Eldora to a dirt road. About three-quarters of a mile down that road, you’ll see the area where most people park for the walk to the trailhead. From there, here’s what your hike will look like…if it’s really windy:
Every year I think I’m going to stop discovering more hiking trails near Denver, and every year proves me wrong. Late last summer I discovered the Eldorado Canyon Trail in Eldorado Canyon State Park. This gem lies tucked away just past the Old West resort town of Eldorado Springs, five miles southwest of Boulder. The trail is about 8.5 miles roundtrip, but rumbling thunderheads warned my husband, Dale, and me to turn around early. We stopped at the ridge overlooking Walker Ranch and the distant Continental Divide, making the trip feel complete at a pleasant 5 miles.
Eldorado Canyon is also a great place for rock climbing, fishing, picnicking, or just listening to the peaceful rush of South Boulder Creek. To get to Eldorado Canyon from Denver, take I-25 to Highway 36 toward Boulder. Exit at Louisville-Superior, turn left at the light, and follow the signs for Eldorado Springs/Highway 170. Highway 170 will take you about 7.4 miles to the town of Eldorado Springs, where it becomes a dirt road that dead-ends at the park. The visitor’s center is one mile past the entrance, and you’ll find the trailhead there. Parking costs $8. Here’s a brief look at the creek and the trail, which are separate, but both worth a visit:
After spending several weeks out of town this summer, and adding a few new activities to my life – such as learning Tai Chi, and writing part two of my novel – I’ve been keeping my hikes relatively low-key this season. I’ve been focused on trails that are closer to Denver and less strenuous – though still challenging. That’s what recently took me to the Beaver Brook Trail and Chavez Loop, a hike that offers the feel of peaceful backcountry just a half-hour from the city. This hike through Clear Creek Canyon features plenty of my favorite natural feature: flowing water. It’s about 4 miles, with enough steep spots to work out the body and enough flowers to soothe the soul. If you want a quick getaway that leaves you plenty of time to have fun in town – maybe catch a farmers’ market before or a movie after – this is a perfect hike for you.
It’s really easy to get to the Beaver Brook Trailhead: just head west on I-70 for about 20 miles, get off at the Chief Hosa exit, turn right, and immediately turn right again onto the bumpy dirt road. That’s Stapleton Drive. Follow that road for about a mile to the trailhead. The hike starts at the short Braille Nature Center Trail, which has a guide rope and Braille interpretive signs for the blind. That leads to the Beaver Brook Trail, which meets the Chavez Loop. For the sighted, here’s a preview of what it all looks like:
To me, late September means it’s time to hit Colorado’s high country to see the Aspen turn the Rocky Mountains into shimmering gold. I love to drive the Peak-to-Peak Highway to see the show, and that makes a hike at Mount Audubon convenient. I’ve hiked this particular thirteener before (for non-Coloradans, that just means a peak over 13,000 feet). But the first time I didn’t have a video camera, so I thought I’d treat you to a brief video of my second visit.
If you want to visit Mount Audubon and throw in a good fall-foliage drive on the way, I recommend taking Coal Creek Canyon Road to Nederland, then taking the Peak-to-Peak Highway to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. You’ll need to pay $9 for a pass. The hike starts at the Mitchell Lake Trailhead. It’s about 8 miles round trip, but relatively easy as high-altitude hikes go, and the views of the Continental Divide are a spectacular reward for the effort. If you’d like a bit more information, check out my post on Indian Summer at Indian Peaks. But if you just want to see what makes this hike worth it, check out this video:
When my sixteen-year-old sister comes to visit, it’s a challenge figuring out what we might enjoy together without breaking my bank, because her favorite thing to do and my least favorite thing to do – is shop. This time, I was sure I had a winner: a free tour at one of America’s oldest candy factories.
In 1920 candy-making apprentice Carl T. Hammond, Sr. created his first original recipe: Honey KoKos, chocolate candies topped with coconut. With that, he founded Hammond’s Candy Company. At first, Carl did it all: developing candy recipes, making candy, and selling candy.
His business flourished in the Roaring Twenties and survived the Great Depression. In fact, the 1930’s is when a friend of Carls’ invented Hammond’s signature candy: a bite-sized marshmallow covered in caramel. Carl named it after his friend: the Mitchell Sweet, and it’s still Hammond’s most popular sweet today. Today Hammond’s Candies is a wholesaler that sells to such retailers as Nordstrom’s, Dean & Deluca, and William Sonoma.
Miraya and I enjoyed watching candy makers pull, twist, and shape by hand the hot confections that would become candy canes and lollipops. When I saw a packager pulling chocolates off a conveyor belt, it reminded me of the I Love Lucy episode when Lucy and Ethel worked in the candy factory and the manager yelled, “Speed it up a little!”
I was disappointed that we could only watch from afar through glass windows. But it was still entertaining, and even educational. For example, I didn’t know:
–The longer hot candy spins on a mechanized candy puller, the lighter the color.
–Hard candy is made primarily from sugar, corn syrup and water.
–Hammond’s Candies goes through 30,000 pounds of corn syrup a month.
–Candy-makers work in a kitchen that reaches up to 110 degrees.
–Hammond’s cooks train from 1 ½ to 3 years before they take charge of making candy batches, because they have to learn to roll and pull it just right.
I learned something else: there’s no such thing as a free candy factory tour. This one has an old-fashioned candy shop at the end, where Miraya finally hit on the kind of shopping I do like: buying chocolate. We bought a half-pound, plus souvenirs. How’s the candy? As Miraya put it, “It’s good, but it’s not as good as See’s.” But then See’s doesn’t have a Denver factory and doesn’t offer free tours.
So if you’re a candy lover whose looking for some lazy fun in Denver, I’d say the Hammond’s Factory Tour is an interesting, tasty way to while away an hour. You can always hike it off tomorrow.