Category Archives: U.S. Travel

Hiking Beaver Brook Trail & Chavez Loop – Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado

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:

Hiking Beaver Brook Trail & Chavez Loop – Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado from Cara Lopez Lee on Vimeo.

Climbing Mount Pisgah and Creating Suspense: An Author’s Adventure – by Guest Trekker Karen McCullough

Please welcome my guest today, Karen McCullough, an author of mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy novels who will share how a personal adventure played a part in one of her books. Karen is one of my fellow authors from the new e-book 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror, 52 Authors Look Back. I hope you’ll also check out our stories in that essay anthology, a collection gathered to warm your heart, raise your spirits, and compel you to examine your own life. But first, here’s how Karen’s hike up Mount Pisgah helped her create suspense:

Climbing Mount Pisgah
by Karen McCullough

When our kids were younger, our finances were tight. Not desperately so, but we just barely paid the bills and there was no money for fancy vacations or even much traveling. Still, we wanted to give the kids the experience of different places and interesting adventures, so we looked for things we could do at low cost. We were fortunate that a relative owned a summer cabin in Asheville, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and she was happy to let our family use it. We live within easy driving distance of Asheville, so we took her up on it often.

Our most adventurous outing occurred the day we decided to climb 5700-foot Mount Pisgah.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is magnificent in spring and fall, but wonderful even in summer, and there are lots of things you can do with an adventurous family for little money. Fortunately we all liked walking and hiking. (Still do.) We set out from the cabin every day with a cooler full of drinks, sandwiches for a picnic, a first aid kit, and a map of the parkway. Our most adventurous outing occurred the day we decided to climb 5700-foot Mount Pisgah.

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Getting Kicked by Route 66: Part 11 – Conquering the Gateway Arch Alone

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I’m alone again, as I often end up when I travel – which might bear closer examination. Am I bad at selecting travel partners? Are they wrong to select me? Or is it just that, at one time or another, we must all face the world alone and the road is the likeliest place to discover that? After all, neither of us could have foreseen that my friend Stephanie would get bronchitis.

Now that my ailing partner is gone, I’m determined to conquer the tallest manmade monument in the United States, the Gateway Arch.

Although I feel bad for Steph, who flew home yesterday, my solitude has lent me an unexpected buoyancy. Maybe that’s only because I, too, am packing it in. I’m eager to go home, another unexpected feeling. Instead of finishing Route 66 in Los Angeles, I’m going to take a detour from Saint Louis to Denver, where my husband waits, and make a stop near Kansas City to visit my mother. But first, now that my ailing partner has left, I’m determined to conquer the tallest manmade monument in the United States, the Gateway Arch.

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Getting Kicked by Route 66: Part 10 – No Getting Sick in the Gateway Arch

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Last night, Steph and I were more lost than we’ve been yet on this road trip, when our car tripped over the brick and mortar of Saint Louis, Missouri’s oldest district: Laclede’s Landing, perched on the Mississippi River. As sunset bathed the brick in yore, olden, and ago, Steph used her cell phone to call her husband in Utah and asked him to book us a room for the night on He booked us at the WS Hotel and Spa, just three blocks from us, more cheaply and easily than we could have in person.

“No one could have done that on the original Route 66,” I said.

Steph passed this on to her husband, then relayed his response, “He said ‘That’s right, you guys are cheating, and he’s hanging up now.’”

Our car tripped over the brick and mortar of Saint Louis, Missouri’s oldest district.

We ate dinner at Hannegan’s Restaurant and Pub, where I had a delicious Irish stew with puff pastry topping, while Steph ate soups and salads in hopes of fending off the ongoing ailment that seems determined to choke the breath from her lungs.

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Rain-drenched Locks: Sailing Eerie Canal & The Trent-Severn Waterway – By Guest Trekker Norma Huss

My guest trekker today is the Grandma Moses of Mystery, and an adventurous woman in her own right, Norma Huss. Norma is one of my fellow contributors to the new anthology, 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror: 52 Authors Look Back, a collection of funny, poignant, uplifting essays about the pasts of either the authors or their characters. Norma’s visit to Girls Trek Too is part of a blog tour to introduce the 52 contributors to readers. I hope you find Norma as engaging as I do!

Rain-Drenched Locks
by Norma Huss

Weather is a big deal when you’re on a small boat. My husband and I knew that, for we had sailed on the Intracoastal Waterway and into the Pacific Ocean. Storms can come up suddenly. We had weathered wicked storms in shallow lakes and rivers. We knew that there would be times when we battened down the hatches the summer we headed north from Chesapeake Bay all the way to Canada’s Trent-Severn Waterway System.

Weather is a big deal when you’re on a small boat.

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THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FREE CANDY – But That’s Not the Candy Factory’s Fault

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.

Here’s a quick peek to show you what I mean:

Free Candy Factory Tour – Hammond’s Candies from Cara Lopez Lee on Vimeo.

GETTING KICKED BY ROUTE 66: Part 9 – The Roadhouse Less Traveled…for Good Reason

Heading south on Route 66 from Springfield, Illinois, Stephanie and I take a detour at Glenarm to see an old covered bridge to nowhere. The red, wooden, barnlike structure with the white-fenced ramp was built in 1880. If you’ve watched The Bridges of Madison County, you get the idea. The bridge crosses Sugar Creek, a peaceful spot bordered by trees, where wagons once rolled through to continue down the dirt road on the other side. Now it’s like one of those haunted houses with doors that open onto walls: I walk across the bridge to a dead end. This is no longer a path to someplace else, just a scenic backdrop for picnics. So it is that past gives way to present: forgotten but not gone.

This covered bridge in Glenarm, Illinois was built in 1880.

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