Faith flew all the way here to visit the southwest! We had been talking about a trip to Colorado for some time now, and we finally made it happen! The two of us took one week: first in New Mexico visiting Ladder Ranch and Santa Fe, then we headed to Colorado in Crested Butte and Denver, with a quick stop in Breckenridge! Check out Faith’s awesome blog, Navigation By Faith 🙂
We spent one day on the ranch where Faith assisted me with VES (visual encounter surveys) at the frog ponds, and got to see the stunning desert environment and wildlife. That evening, she tasted green chili elk burgers for the first time! (A quintessential New Mexican meal).
We headed north to Santa Fe for a day, as a halfway point between Ladder and our stops in Colorado. We walked around town, poking in shops and bookstores, AND made the necessary visit to the highly recommended Meow Wolf – a warehouse bursting with immersive art: an artist-created dreamworld with a mysterious backstory… I don’t know how else to describe it, but if you are in the area, it is essential you stop here ($20 per person). Give yourself a few hours too; we spent over 3 hours wandering through the house, room after room, space after space, without realizing how much time had passed.
The next morning we headed to Aspen Vista to hike through the beautiful aspen trees!
We heard that the best time to visit CO, especially Crested Butte, was just at the turn of fall – and we were not disappointed! What is usually a bustling ski town in the winter was a calm, crisp late fall destination; not too many people, beautiful foliage, and the perfect weather, with just a bite of winter cold that encourages hot apple cider and a crackling fire place. We went in the first week of October, and some of the aspen trees were already looking quite bare, so we recommend a mid-September trip if you want to hike or bike around the changing leaves! We stayed at the wonderful and highly recommended International Lodge & Hostel in Crested Butte. It was just two blocks walking distance from the main area on Elk Street. That first week of October seemed to be the close of many shops until the busy winter ski season started up again. We caught the last Sunday market on Elk Street, and we saw many signs for stores and restaurants that were closing that weekend until the winter season. So, keep this in mind if you plan on visiting!
We picked a hiking trail, rather at random, because they all looked beautiful. But the one we chose turned out not to be a hike at all, but the scenery was stunning!! We went to Emerald Lake, which was a drive into the mountains nearby, then a short walk because my car was not 4WD and could not go any further. Here is the list of hikes we chose from.
Emerald Lake, Crested Butte
We also did a short drive on the Scenic Byway and stopped at these golden aspen trees. I couldn’t help but feel like we were in a wonderland.
On our stops on a scenic drive in Crested Butte
I officially tried mountain biking for the first time, a long time love of Faith’s . We rented bikes at Big Al’s for about $24-32 depending on the bike. Helmets included, we opted for a half day (4 hours) of riding. The staff were kind, relaxed, and super helpful. I certainly recommend this shop. We chose the Lower Loop trail for it’s length and ease (green), since it was my first time riding on rocky trails and narrow paths. It also had the option of returning on a slightly harder route (blue), if we felt up to it.
Mountain biking on the Lower Loop trail, Crested Butte
I really did enjoy mountain biking, as frustrated as a may have looked at the end. It was a great way to get outside, feel the crisp fresh air, and see the surrounding mountains, all while getting exercise and working up a well deserved sweat. (I have not exercised in a while, so it was a welcome challenge). We chose to take the blue trail back, and my frustration was most likely fueled by my tiredness. Faith’s most useful advice to me was to look where you want to go, not what you want to avoid – aka, don’t look at that rock you don’t want to hit: look at the narrow gap between the edge of the path and the side of the rock. Also, try not to hit trees with your handle bars. Trees are stronger. You will fall.
When we arrived in Denver late at night, it was raining an icy rain as we rushed into Hostel Fish, our bed for the next two nights. I highly recommend this hostel. It was inexpensive, clean, colorful, and relaxed. There are shared bathrooms and a kitchen area that hosts a bar in the evenings. The next day was snowy and cold. We didn’t have much of a plan for Denver, but we wandered around the windy streets, rushing from bookstore, to restaurant, to shop to thaw our faces. The Tattered Cover was an amazing bookstore we easily could’ve spent all day in. Honestly, we did feel a little cooped up after spending this past week outdoors in sunny, agreeable weather.
Denver was very very cold. And snowy and windy.
Then the day finally came, when Faith made her way to the Denver airport, and I packed up the car to drive back to New Mexico. We spent the week reminiscing, exploring, hiking, and biking, and eating a lot of peanut butter, bread, and apples out of my car to save money. Faith and I have known each other since I moved to Connecticut in middle school, but this is the first time we’ve traveled together. It is such a comfort to be able to talk to someone you’ve known for nearly 15 years. Especially when I move around so much, everyone I’m surrounded by knows a rather shallow slice of my life – and I know so little of theirs. Faith and I share a birthday, a love of the outdoors and independent bookstores, the need to fill journal after journal, and the agreement that it’s okay if our entire vacation is spent low-key house hunting… We will turn 25 in eleven days, on opposite sides of the country. So, cheers twin! To many more adventures and almost 25 years of existence! Xoxo,