My family visited Ouray a couple years ago while on a trip in the south-western corner of Colorado. While I have never been to Europe, as we entered Ouray, I could have sworn we were transported to the Swiss Alps. The mountains in Ouray look almost nothing like the normal Rockies in the rest of the state. Highly pointed and jagged, the mountain views in Ouray are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Not only is this town picturesque, it also has a rich history and countless activities for all four seasons.
Well, the seasons are most certainty changing here in the Centennial State. I am blessed to be able to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder and last week, we had a major change in the scenery on campus. Stay tuned for a later post to come on my favorite parts of Boulder!
One of my favorite memories from this past summer was exploring the Rampart Range area just west of Sedalia, Colorado with my closest friends and family. Located in Pike National Forest, this area of Colorado is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast (like most parts of our state) but also very convenient because of its relative closeness to the Denver metro and Colorado Springs area.
Take a drive up Rampart Range Road and your outdoor activity choices are limitless. Devils Head is a beautiful and relatively easy, beginners trail for hikers of all background and age. Once you get to the top, you will be able to see Pikes Peak to the South, Rocky Mountains to the West, the Front Range to the North and practically all the way to Kansas looking East.
Just a few miles past the Rampart Range Road turn-out, you will begin to fall in elevation and start approaching the South Platte River. This area is just as beautiful as any popular mountain river area except NO ONE knows about it! It is almost complete seclusion among the pine trees and cliffs of Devils Head and Long Scraggly Peak. Fly-fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing...anything you could ask for. One of the most memorable ways to see and experience this beautiful area however is simply by tubing it! Grab a heavy-duty intertube, a stick to push off rocks with, and a floating cooler and you, my friend, have the ultimate Colorado summer day. Check out some pictures from my amazing trip with one of my best friends! (Sorry for the poor quality, couldn't take my nice camera down the river with me!)
One of my family's favorite weekend getaway spots is in Salida, Colorado. Located in central Colorado in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, Salida is nicknamed the "Heart of the Rockies". From a very young age, I can remember coming to this beautiful part of the state and falling in love with it's rugged, undeveloped beauty. Unlike many other mountain towns, this area is not yet very well known to tourists and has consequently held on to that perfectly Western, natural mountain-town charm.
Whenever we visit Salida, my family stays at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Sounds fancy, huh? I'll bet you are picturing rejuvenating spa treatments, soothing massages, plush bath robes and all the luxurious amenities you can imagine, right? ....WRONG. Unlike many other hot springs resorts which pump the water into man-made concrete pools, Mt. Princeton offers a completely different experience. The hot springs create gallons and gallons of naturally boiling water which is then naturally fed directly into the Chalk River. When the hot water meets the freezing mountain river, clouds of steam roll up out of the riverbed. There are about 15-20 little pools within the river (that are naturally heated by the hot springs) which guests lay and swim in. That's right, you are literally sitting in the middle of a wide mountain river, being heated by the natural hot springs and steam. My sister and I used to love making our own little pools in the river by moving the rocks and sand around, and seeing how long each of us could last sitting in the un-heated, freezing part of the river. This experience is unbelievable at really any time of the year, but there is nothing more special than being in the hot springs surrounded by pristine nature when winter snowflakes are coming down.
The amount of activities around Salida are limitless: skiing at nearby Monarch Mountain, exploring a genuine Western ghost-town (St. Elmo), browsing the art galleries in downtown Salida, fly fishing or white-water rafting on the Arkansas River, horseback riding, hiking, four-wheeling, camping...the list goes on and on. Don't forget to stop by Amicas...best pizza and homemade brews in central Colorado.
This part of the state is truly amazing so I'm sure it is soon to be discovered and turned into a tourist trap like so many of our other Colorado towns. Go explore this part of the state and act like a native...if only for a couple days :)
"Country roads, take me home,
To the place, I belong..."
John Denver never came to my hometown, but his lyrics sure do describe the town I grew up in: Elizabeth, Colorado. Nestled among the pine trees on the High Plains of Eastern Colorado, Elizabeth may not have the celebrity appeal of Aspen, Cherry Creek, or Vail, but man it sure does have some character. Looking for an authentic Western rodeo experience? Look no further than Elizabeth's annual summer Stampede, an annual rodeo and country fair that draws genuine cowboys with shiny belt buckles attached to their Wranglers, spurs on their Justin boots and dirt all over their hands. Take a good look around and you will begin to see the charm and appeal of small-town, country life.