A Long Weekend in the Mountains

This past week I took some time off work to spend time in the mountains. The boyfriend, who [rightly so] values his privacy, offered up his mountain home as our base of operations. From here on out this guy shall be referred to as The Man, or TM. We were treated to some stunning sunrises and sunsets, some crazy high winds, and plenty of warm winter sunshine. The stars were out in full force up there since there only a handful of neighbors and no city light pollution. I have to admit that I was so much of a wuss about the cold nighttime temperatures that I pretty much ruined every attempt we made at stargazing by dashing back inside the house after only a minute or two.

The sunrises were visible from the big picture windows in the main living room of the house, which also looks out over a valley. It’s a pretty good spot for sipping coffee in the early mornings. To observe sunset we followed a trail that led up and away from the house and over the remains of an old mine. The elevation is right about 9,000 feet so even this short trek left me out of breath.

We did plenty of hiking during the day, and we even explored some of the old mines in the area. TM has sworn to do more research on the area to find out more about these slightly-creepy-yet-fascinating ruins. This area was one of the original gold rush towns, and the hills surrounding the main city are scarred and dotted with heaps of mine refuse, old tunnels, and mysterious pits that have been somewhat filled in. Curiously, we also noticed that many of the pits have had a tree planted (or maybe it just grew?) right in the middle.

The wind gusted up to 70 mph during our last few days, and although the sun was out and warming up the air, it was still nastily cold outside. We made a few forays outside to check the big wood-burning boiler (which was responsible for heating the house and all the hot water) and enjoyed some companionable drinks around the fire. Mostly though we stayed inside and watched the olympics in PyeongChang, or experimented in the kitchen to create more and more potato themed meals…

Coming back to the city on Sunday required some adjustment. While I was happy to be back in my own little studio apartment, and happy to see my kitties and bunny, it was bittersweet to leave the valleys and trees and see instead the traffic and hear the ambulances rushing by. We enjoyed a delicious lunch in the sunny nearly-70-degree weather with my brother, who had flown into town for the weekend. Then it was back to business as usual. Back to work. Goodbye to the mountains, the bracing hikes (yikes, breathing and exercising at 9000 feet is no joke!), the lazy afternoons with a glass of wine, the potato hash for breakfast, and the exciting rounds of hike-n-go-seek in a big house. That’s the thing about living in Colorado: you can love the city life, but travel even just one hour away from home and you find yourself in a landscape so exciting you can’t help but get lost in it.

Advertisements

Postcards from San Francisco

I’m borrowing an idea from my favorite blogger (Rebecca of A Clothes Horse) and taking some of my favorite photos from my trip to San Francisco and posting them as “postcards”. Enjoy!

There’s nothing like Ocean Beach on a sunny day

It was a short trip to my favorite city, but a fabulous way to ring in my 28th birthday and catch up with old friends. Not to mention take a brake from the cold weather in Colorado and soak up some sunshine!

If You’re Going to San Francisco…

Yep, I’m heading back to one of my favorite places in the world, San Francisco. I leave Saturday morning from my home in Denver. Between now (Thursday night) and then I have one twelve hour shift, two cats to deliver, one rabbit to transport, and a bag to pack. If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know my usual last-minute scramble. If you’ve ever been to San Francisco you’ll know that while the weather is generally the same, you can fluctuate between bitter damp cold and fog and sunny sunny blue skies at any given moment- meaning it’s hard to pack for.

It’s a short trip, and as I discovered last time, the fewer articles of clothing I bring the more I can find at thrift stores and consignment shops as I explore the city! I’m keeping my plans fairly loose, but I have my usual list of favorite places tumbling along in my head.

1) City Lights and Green Apple Books

2) Ocean Beach

3) Golden Gate Park

And this time I am determined to set wheel against track in the house-of-worship-turned-roller-rink called the Church of Eight Wheels. I can’t wait!

Finally, this is a birthday present from me to me. I know I’ll be working through Christmas and New Year’s, just like I worked through Thanksgiving, so I thought I would at least treat myself for my birthday. I guess that’s one hell of a birthday party? Oh, and since I started typing this I’ve already packed 60% of my suitcase, so I’m ahead of the game!

The Last Minute Road Trip

Recently one of my oldest friends, Kelsey, flew into Colorado to attend a wedding.  Now the airport is in Denver (where I live) and the wedding was in a tiny mountain town three to four hours west of Denver.  Her ride fell through and I had the day off.  I offered to take her- after all, a drive through the mountains can be glorious- but I needed to be back in time for my shift at work the next day.  I originally wanted to take the quickest route to drop her off and then turn right around…That didn’t happen.  Something way better did.  We took the day and turned it into one of those feels-like-you’re-in-a-movie adventures.  I was exhausted by time I got home, sometime after 12 am, but I am so glad we went.  

Just one of the places we stopped on our way up through the mountains.

I mean, is this place even real?
The top of the pass! It was eerily quiet up there and a bit hard to catch our breath since the air was so thin.



There were a handful of other intrepid travelers walking around the top of the pass.  It was above the tree line and the landscape was tundra, so the colors were all muted brown and greens.  There was almost no sound except for the wind and the murmur of voices.  A few people had dogs, all of whom seemed unconcerned about the altitude.  Most of the people, myself included, ended up huffing and puffing in the thin air as we walked around and explored.  It was quite cold!



As we left the pass the road wound down through the forest which was splattered with vibrant yellow trees among all the green. There was a river careening through the rocks off to our our left, so we stopped to get out and explore for a bit.




It was a whirlwind trip.  I got to spend time catching up with one of my oldest friends and we had a fabulous time exploring and take in the mountain air.  I don’t get away from the city as often as I like and I guess sometimes it takes something like a friend in need to take you out of the humdrum of your regular routine.  Between stress at work and a busy schedule I was starting to lose my mind a bit, but this trip was exactly what I needed to recenter myself and find some peace of mind.  

The Best Things About Being Home (Briefly)

As summer winds down it turns out a lot of people are taking trips.  I guess I was always under the assumption that as September rolls around and fall starts to settle in people hunker down.  I was wrong!  I have been delightfully busy house sitting for some of my favorite Colorado dog owners.  While this means that I get to cuddle and play with some wonderful pups, it also means that I haven’t been home much.  My cats are feeling a bit neglected!  While I was home for a few days this week I feel back into my Capitol Hill routine.  There are some great things to do if you ever find yourself in this part of Denver, so here are a few of my favorites.

The street art around here never fails to disappoint

Pizza at Benny Blancos.  This is truly a hole in the wall establishment, as it is a narrow shop nestled in between bigger and louder buildings.  I literally walked right past it twice!  Different people had recommended this place for a slice of New York style pizza and they knew what they were talking about!  For $2.50 you can get an enormous slice of pizza. You can add just about any topping your heart desires for a little more (something like .50).  Be warned, only about three or four people can fit inside at any given time, so you might end up standing on the sidewalk outside while you wait!

Drinks at City O City.  This place is mainly known for it’s tasty vegetarian fare (wohoo!) but I actually end up coming here more often to grab a cup of coffee or to take advantage of their great Happy Hour specials.  Happy Hour takes place for several hours at a time, two times a day!  They serve craft cocktails, a selection of beer and cider, great coffee, and even house made kombucha.  Not to mention the artwork you can take in inside the building is gorgeous, OR you can sit outside and sip your libation in few of the golden capitol building.
Relaxing at Cheeseman Park or City Park.  I know I’ve written about the parks in this neighborhood before, but I just can’t praise them enough.  As if the colorful history weren’t enough (haunted parks!) both feature plenty of shady space to relax, open grass for dogs to play, and playgrounds for kids or adults-who-just-want-to-swing.  I like to bring a blanket, thermos of beer or coffee, and my ipad or a book to kick back for a few hours.

The Denver Art Museum Is just down the street from me.  You can’t miss the iconic chrome structure gleaming in the sun!  Not to mention all the crazy sculptures out front.  This place has plenty of cool exhibits on display, plus the architecture itself makes for a very trippy experience just walking around.  Plus, the first Saturday of every month is a free day!

Voodoo Doughnut Is another place I write/talk about frequently.  Yes it is a bit of a tourist attraction, but for a good reason.  This place has the perfect quirky downtown vibe that I love and the donut selection is pretty magical.  I have my favorites, but whenever I bring friends here I try to think outside the box and try a new creation!  Creation, not flavor, is the right word since some of these donuts looks like pieces of delicious art piles high with peanut butter, cereal, marshmallows, coconut flakes, frostings- you get the picture.  There are even vegan donuts available! Plus, since this joint is open 24 hours, there is no wrong time for dessert.

So yeah…those are a few of my favorite things.  I have could go on- there are tons of tiny cafes, restaurants, and bars around here but I think I would run out of battery life before I got done trying to type it all up!  If you ever find yourself in Denver head towards the golden dome of the capitol building and spend some time in Capitol Hill.

People To Watch

I take it as a sign of an active mind when I see someone or something that sends me into fits of excitement.  Finding inspiration is thrilling!  Inspiration doesn’t necessarily need to relate to one specific subject; in fact I just enjoy other people’s zeal and zest for life.  Inevitable that spices my up own day to day.  Here are some people to watch if you are looking for a little (or quite a bit) of extra color in your life.

Tim Bengel– this young German guy who, it turns out, can do some pretty amazing thing with a creative eye and some sand.  You might have seen some of his YouTube videos floating around of the process he goes through to create each piece.  I have no way of getting to New York to see his upcoming exhibit, and no way of flying to Stuttgart any time soon to see his other work, but one can dream, right?
The Travelettes, and especially Katja.  These woman have made a career of exploring the world and telling people about it!  Katja is the founder and seems to have just a fountain of good ideas about life, travel, art, and fashion.  Not to mention she does it all with her adorable little toddler by her side.
Rebecca of A Clothes Horse is a blogger I have avidly followed for a year and half now.  I stumbled across an interview with her on Modcloth’s blog and fell in love with her style right off the bat.  Not only that, though, her blog is tastefully refreshingly and full of gorgeous photos that she takes herself.  She posts fun lists of old movies to watch at Christmas time, and even involves her husband in some of her sillier photo shoots.  I just never seem to get tired of her posts.
It’s a short list, but trust me, these people have enough content to keep you gazing at their pages, slack jawed, for quite some time.  Enjoy!

Top Things to See and Do in Duluth, MN

Okay, so you’ve made it to the great white North, only to find that it’s very green and there’s that great big expanse of silvery blue that people keep talking about… This is Northern Minnesota and you’re looking at one of the biggest, deepest, coldest lakes in the world.  It’s the biggest of all the Great Lakes, and, thanks to all the shipwrecks and that famous Edmund Fitzgerald song, is pretty infamous.  It’s Lake Superior.  Here are my top recommendations for things to do in Duluth, MN and the surrounding north shore.

1) Go to Canal Park.  It’s touristy, but the view of the Aerial Bridge when it goes up and down to accommodate ships in the harbor can’t be beat.  There are some cute little food and ice cream stands to keep you fed while you gaze at the icy cold water and contemplate going in the retrieve that one really cool rock out there…There’s also the Maritime Museum, which is free, educational, and really interesting.  It’s also a good place to escape to when it gets too cold outside!

2) The Portland Malt Shoppe.  Not only is it the cutest ice cream shop OF ALL TIME but the sweets are delicious and it boasts access to the fabulous lake walk so you can enjoy your treat with a stunning view of the lake and the Aerial Bridge.  This place can get busy on summer evenings, so plan your visit accordingly.

Visiting the malt shoppe back in 2011 (and many times since)

3) The old Congdon Mansion.  This place is now called the Glensheen Estate and is the turn-of-the-last century home of a very wealthy family.  They built their dream home as fancy and forward thinking as possible.  It’s a glorious example of early twentieth century innovation and architecture…and bonus!  There was an infamous and bloody murder in the 1970’s so you just know that that place is haunted.  The estate offers all kinds of interesting tours for curious visitors, and while somewhat expensive, is well worth the cost.  Check out the website Here.

4) Brighton Beach is a small rocky beach that sits on the outskirts of the city of Duluth in a more residential area.  It is not too busy and is consequently a very good place to look for agates, enjoy the brisk wind coming off the water, and relax in a beautiful setting.  Some people are brave enough to actually get in the water and go swimming, but I’ve always found it much too cold.  My favorite part of the beach is all the old graffiti carved into the rocks by couples over the years.  Some of it is dated to the 1930’s!

5) The Mocha Moose in Two Harbors is my favorite little coffee shop to visit whenever I’m in the area.  It’s cute, somewhat hidden (you need to drive on the old highway to get there) and it always relaxed and welcoming.  If you’re lucky you can catch a live music session, and if not, you can sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous garden while sipping and munching.  I have a tradition of ordering the house drink- a mocha- and purchasing the hand crafted mug it comes in.  There is a potter who lives nearby who sells his mugs to the cafe for purchase, but I always just buy whichever one the barista makes my drink in!  

Mom and Auntie (and Max the dog) enjoying their goodies at the Mocha Moose

6)If you are headed up the north shore just continue on until you get to Gooseberry Falls State Park.  We’ve been coming here on our family vacations for as long as I can remember and it never gets old!  Park entrance is free and you can spend the day hiking, swimming, or just strolling along the trails.  There are a series of waterfalls that lead to a river, which leads out into Lake Superior.  Along the way are plenty of places to get in the water if you so choose.  I spent years climbing up and down just about every inch of this place.  It’s beautiful pretty much year round!  

7) Take a drive along Skyline Parkway.  This scenic drive will take you up the hill over the city and smack you across the face with stunning views of the city below.  There are multiple places to pull of the main road and get out of your car to take it all in.  At night the city looks especially magical with  all the lights shining off the lake.  Be aware though- since this area is densely wooded there is a very good chance that you will come across some wildlife!

There are so many wonderful things to do and see in Duluth it was hard to come up with just a few favorites!  I didn’t even get to the local roller derby team- Harbor City Roller Dames -, or my favorite spot for local brews (Fitger’s), but there are just some things that you will have to discover for yourself.  I have tried to list a good combination of off-the-beaten-track spots and some good old fashioned sightseeing musts.  Duluth is gorgeous in the summer and autumn, in my opinion, so most of my adventures take place in those seasons.  In any case, Minnesota is a pretty top notch destination for outdoor adventuring with the added bonus of the relaxed midwestern attitude. They don’t get the Minnesota Nice reputation for nothing!

Cafe Life: Duluth, MN

If you spend some time driving up and down the [very steep] streets of Duluth, MN to find free parking, you will no doubt then spend some time walking up and down those same [steep] streets in order to find a cup of coffee. I did that, and I ended up sitting here at Duluth Coffee Company.  There is a sunny bench when you walk in, but to get to the coffee you venture into a dim and delicious-smelling back part of the shop where there is a counter to order at, a wall of guitars made out of what looks like drift wood, and Duluth-themed gear to bring back home.  The menu is straightforward and to the point: actual coffee drinks that promise a caffeine rush and plenty of flavor without making your teeth ache from a bunch of unnecessary sugary syrup.  Excellent.  I have ordered my usual, a cappuccino, and it’s excellent.  I also enjoyed not paying an arm and a leg for it (lookin’ at you, Colorado).  

There are a few locals chatting with the barista, and a mix of what I assume are other visitors.  I can tell that they are visitors because, like me, they pause to peruse all the Duluth-themed gifts for sale.  My friends back home would like that stuff, right?  It’s pretty quiet overall, with just a bit of conversation and some music.  It is a Sunday morning, and unlike some cities, this one seems to actually sleep in on Sundays.  The street outside- which is a main drag of the downtown area- has minimal traffic.  The temperature outside is somewhere around 68 degrees, and with the sun shining it’s a perfect morning to lounge around outside with coffee.  

Between the guitars made out of driftwood (and I see one made out of an old aluminum tin!), the collection of old coffee pots on the wall, and the handful of attractive people in here, I am definitely happy to set up camp and enjoy my drink.   This place could easily fall into the trope of tourist trap if it weren’t for the good coffee, interesting people, and comfortable feel that attracts regulars as well as visitors.  I don’t recognize any of the bands that are playing softly in the background, but I know that I like them.  My cappuccino is almost gone and it’s time for me to pack up and continue on my journey, so I will hurry up and post this now.  Cheers!

City Places: Cheeseman Park

I want to write about city places, by which I mean particular places of interest within the city. I don’t mean tourist traps, and I don’t mean entire neighborhoods. Right now I am sitting in Cheeseman Park in Denver, Co, with a thermos of cold beer, a book, this tablet, and a Turkish towel to sit on. The light is fading and somewhere nearby someone is lighting off intermittent fireworks. I can hear a fountain some ways behind me, but more immediately I hear dogs, people having picnics, and laughter from from friends sunning themselves on their towels as they trade stories. There are plenty of people in Cheeseman Park tonight, which isn’t surprising as this sprawling green space in the middle of the city is a popular escape for those in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.  Cheeseman Park used to be a cemetery. That fact is interesting enough on it’s own, but coupled with the fact that when the city officially moved it’s cemetery somewhere else around 2,000 bodies were left unclaimed is even more interesting. This park is beautiful, but I think part of the draw is also all the ghost stories. Plenty of locals who have lived in the area for years will talk about “the regulars”, or ghosts that everybody talks about. Other people report feeling negative [read: bitchy] for no reason. I can’t speak for any of that, although my friends and I did detect a funny smell when we visited one afternoon…
This park seems to be a hub for twenty-somethings to play frisbee or have a cookout, or for people to let their dogs run free for some sunny exercise. The people/dog watching opportunities are excellent. Bordering this park is the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood and it’s hard not to walk along the streets with your mouth hanging open over all of the big brick mansions. A city hotspot, Voodoo Doughnuts, is less than a ten minute walk away. In my book that’s a major bonus.
If you find yourself in Denver, or in Colorado for that matter, this park deserves some attention. Sure it’s not a mountain to climb, or a canyon to raft through, but there’s more to Colorado than just geology!

Denver Pride Fest 2017 

So I am loving this city so much lately (if you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll know that I just moved into a turn-of the-last-century apartment in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver) and this weekend Denver just knocked it out of the park.  Work was tedious and stressful yesterday, but my wonderful friends drove all the way from Boulder to come and see my new place.  We drank wine, played board games, admired the cats, and then headed out to enjoy some nightlife.  Drinks and pizza at City O’ City (my new favorite place), and then some fried confection at Voodoo Doughnuts.  Needless to say, I slept in this morning.  It was the first time in a looooong time that I had no obligations to get up for, and the temperature was cool enough that sleeping was comfortable.  When I did finally get up I heard crowds.  Cheering.  And honking.  And more cheering.

Denver Pride Fest 2017 was happening right in Cap Hill and my apartment was at the epicenter.  I had seen plenty of flags and colorfully dressed people the night before but figured most of the festivities must have happened Saturday while I was at work in Louisville.  I was wrong!  I threw on my lemon tree dress- a colorful summer print seemed very appropriate for the occasion- grabbed my Nikon, and headed out into the festivities.  I happened to catch most of the pride parade as it passed by on Colfax Ave.  The cheering, the glee, the colors, the emotions were all running high today.  Here are some of my favorite photos.