Welcome Autumn: Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California

Multi-colored aspens in Colorado near Lake Granby and Rocky Mountain National Park

We just returned from a fantastic Fall getaway – where we flew from Oakland to Denver, and then drove back home – staying in Denver, Fort Collins, Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction in Colorado, and then Park City Utah, Reno, Nevada, and then back home.

Copper and Bronze colored Aspens in Park City, Utah

The fall colors are only just starting to turn in Colorado – this is about 2 weeks later than what we have experienced in the past. The locals said that due to their weather this year, they were expecting a less than usual spectacular year – and that it won’t last long. We were very lucky to find one awesome stand of all colors that aspens can turn – right around Lake Granby just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Orange and Yellow Aspens right next to the bronze and copper colored ones

The colors were a little bit better in Park City, Utah, and we found some colors I have never found in an aspen – Copper and Bronze! However, you would never see this from the road – so our hikes paid off big time. In fact, these colors were spied in a campground that was closed for the season – but we were able to hike into it from the road – where the gate was closed.

The Historic Brown Palace Hotel in Denver

I picked up this ghost story at The Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. It was a great read – especially since the Brown Palace felt like it could be haunted (it had the look and feel) . . . 

We started our adventure in Denver a week ago Saturday, and stayed at this grande hotel for 2 nights.

Cool art deco features in the hotel . . . 

We had a great walk around the park and then visited the Museum of Natural History

The Denver Museum of Natural History has a fantastic Dinosaur collection as well as gemstone and mining exhibit. We also attended a very good planetarium show. One of the most impressive prehistoric creatures was this menacing half – boar, half – pig monstrocity:

Not something I’d ever want to run into out in a field . . . 

The fine city of Boulder, as seen from the Flatirons that overlook the area

We just stopped in Boulder and walked up and down Pearl Street (a nice pedestrian mall). We drove up the hills above Boulder, took some photos, and then were on our way to our next overnight stop – Fort Collins.

An old stone church outside of Estes Park, Colorado

The Great Divide pretty much goes almost through this church – or at least “side saddles” it. It was built on 1935 on a big man made knoll – a little “Church on the Mount” I guess.

The Stone Church

More Stone Church detail . . . 

Next stop – Fort Collins, another nice college town (like Boulder).

New Belgium Brewery in action

We were driving around and stumbled on New Belgium, and found out there was room for us on the next brewery tour, so we “partook”.

The barrel aging section of New Belgium

I don’t care for the “sour” beers that New Belgium brews, but they had a couple of beers that were quite good – a Barrel Aged strong British Ale – that had nice hints of whisky. They also had a decent new Double IPA that hasn’t been released yet – Voodoo Ranger.

New Belgium “Thunderdome” – where they bottle and can their beer . . . 

One of the things that was a nice surprise was taking a nice hike in what was a “high plains” area just between Ft. Collins and the Rockies:

Big Cottonwood near Horsetooth Reservoir in Ft. Collins

A subtle, quiet beauty on the prairie

Prairie Meadow outside of Ft. Collins

Ft. Collins was more interesting than I had expected – especially the “Old Town” and the surrounding fields and Rocky Mountains. I did check to see if I could visit WWV – but it was closed to the public.

Rocky Mountain National Park

We left Fort Collins after 2 nights and went back through Estes Park and then through Rocky Mountain National Park. While I could fill an entire blog with photos just from this park – all I can say – is if you ever get a chance to check it out – please do – its something you have to experience. You are driving right on the knifes edges of some of the highest mountains in the Rocky Mountains.

Leaving Rocky Mountain National Park on the way to Granby Lake

The next stop was Steamboat Springs – a ski area, but also one that has some really great sulfuric hot springs right in town in the parks.

Black Sulphur Spring in Steamboat Springs

This fellow aught quite a few nice sized trout – right in town in Steamboat

Lots of fishing in Steamboat

Next stop? Grand Junction, Colorado – on the border of Colorado and Utah.

Colorado Monuments National Park outside Grand Junction – photo from our hotel room

One of my new favorite towns – Grand Junction, Colorado offers a lot and has some of the same things Bend, Oregon has – which is something we are looking for when we retire and move from Orinda ( 7 – 10 years).

Colorado Monuments National Park in Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction is in the Grand Valley and is surrounded by awesome geographic features. Moab, Utah is also about an hour or so away, and you could even ride a mountain bike on trails that connect the two towns. We saw many geographic features that reminded us of Bryce Canyon in Utah and other Utah such geology and geography. Grand Junction also has the confluence of the Colorado River and the Gunnison River. After a fabulous day in the Monument, we drove out the park and into a neat little town called Fruita – which is a cycling mecca and which has several decent brewpubs. We had great beers at “The Copper Club”.

Park City, Utah

Next up was Park City Utah. We were scheduled to return via Denver International Airport on Saturday, but decided to just keep driving – and drive all the way home from Grand Junction – and extend our vacation by 3 days. It was a great decision. Anyway, Park City was great – a skiing resort town, but with great hiking and over 600 miles of mountain biking trails. Plus, it did snow while we were there, which is the first we have seen this Fall – going into Winter soon. You could tell the season has changed – (unlike the “Indian Summer” we are having now – 97 degrees in Orinda) as I write this! I am ready for the cooler weather for sure.

Forget about skiing in Park City – hiking or mountain biking are just as awesome!

Our little last minute punt on flying home and driving to Park City and then Reno really added a little more adventure than planned and it was well worth it. On the Utah / Nevada border – near Wendover, we stopped at a rest stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats:

The salt flats are as white as snow – and even have a crunchy feel – like hard packed ice and snow

Mt. Pilot in far Northeastern Nevada – seen from Route 80

I love driving across Nevada – on 80 or (especially) 50. It is one of the most “surreal” states – and has a hidden beauty that some mistake as “boring”. The sky is always interesting, and the mountains do not look as tall as they are – because the expanse is so great – the sky so big that the mountains look almost like construction paper cutouts that you might have made as a kid. I always wondered why Montana got the “Big Sky” moniker – Nevada has Montana beat in this regard in my books.

There are so many more scenes and places and photos that I’d love to share, but then this blog would get way too long. I was able to use decent gyms in 4 hotels and also go on 2 or 3 mile hikes almost daily. That helped me maintain my weight while eating in restaurants – and we did very well finding excellent food – and excellent beer. That alone is an accomplishment – heh heh.

I haven’t had such a relaxing fun trip in over a year. I left work with everything set up just right, with no “hanging chads”, and so I was able to “get lost” on our little adventure.


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