Colorado: October 2008

Our fall trip to Colorado was a blast! We started off the trip by flying into Denver, where we picked up our rental car and hit the road.

We headed north to Boulder, home of the Colorado Buffaloes. Despite its reputation for being a college town, Boulder has a lot to offer. In fact, it came in at #17 on TripAdvisor''s Top 25 US Destinations. We had lunch at the Pearl Street Mall, an open air pedestrian mall. The people watching at the mall is fantastic, especially on a beautiful day. Our only gripe is the mall is being overwhelmed by chain stores and restaurants, so the local flair once present there is quickly diminishing. After lunch, we headed to Chatagua Park for some relaxation before continuing on to Rocky Mountain National Park.

', 'Our plan of attack for Rocky Mountain National Park was to start in Estes Park and travel Trail Ridge Road through the park. Trail Ridge Road is the highest continious highway in the United States, reaching elevations of more than 12,000 feet. It also is ranked on many Top 10 Scenic Drives lists. After driving it, its clear why. We found ourselves stopping often not only for the incredibly scenic views, but also to enjoy watching the abundant wildlife that included deer and elk.

Trail Ridge Road ended with us in Grand Lake, Colorado, 130 miles from our hotel in Avon, Colorado. We stayed at the Beaver Creek Lodge, part of a mammoth sized resort in Avon. The facilities, rooms, and service were all excellent. Our suite at Beaver Creek came completely equipped with a sitting room containing leather couches, fireplace, and a flat screen television. There was even a bear skin rug. We made it there just in time for a late dinner at The Dusty Boot before collapsing into bed.

On Saturday, it was back to the mountains, this time on horseback. We headed to Bearcat Stables, where we took a half-day horse ride through the Rocky Mountain backcountry. An experience with breathtaking views and one that we''ll never forget.

Once back to the stables, we headed over to Vail, where we browsed the shops at Vail Village. Like the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Vail Village provided great people watching. We sunk in to an outdoor table at the Red Lion and enjoyed the final moments of the afternoon with a frosty beer and chicken wings.

On Sunday, it was back home, or so we thought. After arriving to check-in exactly 42 minutes before takeoff, we discovered in Denver, Delta enforces the "check-in 45 minutes before departure" rule. Next flight home: 6:00AM Monday. Since our Monday was already shot, we opted for a late afternoon flight which gave us another 24 hours in Denver.

After re-renting a car from Budget, who gets big kudos for providing us a Hyundai Sante Fe for $17.99, we headed back west from Denver to Red Rocks Park. The park, named for its towering rock formations, is home to Red Rocks Amphitheater and has great panoramic views of Denver and the surrounding area. A great place to kill a couple hours. From Red Rocks, we headed south to find a hotel.

On Monday, our second final day, we had 2 missions. See Pikes Peak and get to the airport on time. We got up early, after a surprisingly good sleep at a $39 a night Ramada. We were on the road by 8:00am and approaching Pikes Peak by 9:30. It wasn''t long after that I realized that, just like when I was growing up, I should have listened to my Dad.

Pikes Peak, nicknamed "America''s Mountain", is the 2nd most visited mountain in the world. The summit house sits at 14,110 feet above sea level and contains a gift shop, cafe, and several viewing areas with spectacular views. There are 2 ways to get there: the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and the Pikes Peak Highway. The railway takes just over 3 hours round trip, according to travel guides, with the highway route right at 2 hours. Being slightly crunched for time, we elected to drive. After all, during the annual race up Pikes Peak Highway, racers make the 19 mile trip to the top in just over 10 minutes. How long could it take us?

One hour and 25 minutes of white-knuckled, hugging the center of the road driving later, we reached the summit. Susan enjoyed amazing views of the mountaneous countryside on the drive up, while I focused on not driving off the side of the mountain. For much of the drive up, there were no shoulders, no guardrails, and no pavement. Just sharp turns and steep drop-offs.

The view at the top was something else - looking down on the clouds is not an every day thing, in Alabama or Indiana. Next time though, I''ll be on the train. And so should you.

Colorado quickly became one of our favorite, and most scenic trips. The majesty of the Rocky Mountains is something that can only be explained by being there and trying to take in the vast beauty and size of the mountains. It''s simply something that can''t be put into words.

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Category: Stabler Vacations
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