It’s been a while since we had an update…but it was for good reason! Nik and I have been traveling for the past couple weeks, and we’re finally back and ready to finish up our bathroom. But since we have no progress to show from the last few weeks, I’ll show vacation pictures instead!
Nik attended the American Society of Microbiology conference for undergraduate microbiology teachers in Denver (to prepare him for his job search for a tenure-track professorship at a smaller liberal arts school where he’ll get to do teaching and research). I met him out there the last day of the conference, and this is where our trip began. We essentially road-tripped from Denver to Vegas (~1000 miles!) and stopped at numerous national parks in between, including Colorado ski country (Beaver Creek, specifically), Grand Mesa National Forest, Moab/Castle Valley Utah which was near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and finally Vegas.
While planning this trip, I was worried that the busy itinerary might kill Nik…he likes activity, but he also enjoys relaxing, which I have a particularly difficult time doing. But by the end of the trip, he was the one that was asking if we could fit one more hike into a busy day – I think he caught the hiking bug! Also, we were in an insanely beautiful area of the country, and I think even a person who loathed hiking would have wanted more!
I had rough plans of where we were going each day, and was armed with a guidebook I bought that highlighted the best hikes at each park, but other than that things were flexible. Our hotels ranged from very nice resorts (still at reasonable prices, with the off season rates) to extremely spartan lodgings to save some extra money, but all of them worked out perfectly with our route, and at the end of each day we would probably have slept just fine on a hard floor, we were so tired! I’ll show some snippets from each day of our trip – I’ll do the first week in this post, and our last few days in another post (too many pictures for one post!).
To start, here’s a map of our whole trip route, with some of the stops highlighted. We did this in ~10-11 days, but the travel really wasn’t too bad. Most days we didn’t drive more than 3 hours in the car, and it was all unbelievably scenic.
Day 1/2 – I met Nik in Denver, and we had some good food and beer, and caught up with some of my good friends from college, their fluffy malamute Yeti, and their sweet little boy Logan. Then we headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens, (which were amazing!) and ended with a beer at the Vine Street Cafe before heading out to the mountains.
Day 3: Headed out to Beaver Creek, Colorado, and did a short detour off route 70 to the Loveland Pass (passing by Arapahoe Basin and a few other ski resorts) to really test out the rental car! The views were spectacular – the pictures really don’t do it justice! And there was quite a bit of snow still visible on the mountain tops. When we got to Beaver Creek in the afternoon, we decided to do a quick hike up one of the ski trails before dinner and found ourselves in beautiful lupine fields and aspen groves (which we mistakenly thought were birches at first). A good first hike!
Day 4: We headed out bright and early (6:30am!) from Beaver Creek to get to the Hanging Lake trail head about an hour west. We were warned the parking lot for this popular hike fills up early – and this was true! It was grueling though – my altitude-naive lungs were quite winded after the 1.4 mile uphill hike (think stairmaster nonstop at 10,000 ft elevation) to the falls, but they were so worth it! The water was so clear, I even got a good picture of a lurking trout – which my dad promised to identify for me, so here’s the pic, Dad!
After the morning hike, it was onward Palisades, CO which is famous for its peaches and distilleries and breweries. We had great pitstops at the Palisade Brewing Company, Talbott’s Cider Company (we got delicious “Grow a Pear Cider”), and the Peach Street Distillers. That afternoon, we headed to Grand Mesa National Forest. We passed isolated alpine lakes, and saw numerous yellow bellied marmots. And at our destination, we stayed in this teeny cabin, which was a little sketchy, but ended up being a comfortable evening.
Day 5: We woke up bright and early in our tiny cabin, and set out for a couple short hikes. Grand Mesa is a high, flat mountain, so it was all alpine forests and lakes, and beautiful wild flowers. It was so empty here – it felt like no one was around for miles, just very peaceful and serene. And it was cold – probably in the 50s when we woke up. After our morning hikes, it was on to Utah that afternoon! We stopped at The Colorado National Monument which is right on the border of Utah and saw some impressive canyons and rock formations (and wild bighorn sheep!):
After touring the Colorado National Monument, we headed on to Moab/Castle Valley Utah where we stayed for 2 nights, passing through the infamous Professor Valley, which made us feel so tiny. We got to Moab early enough in the afternoon that we did a quick evening hike through a beautiful wash in Arches national park, called Park Avenue.
Day 6: This day was devoted to the rest of Arches National Park, starting with a 3 mile crowded and strenuous hike to Delicate Arch early in the morning, then views of Skyline Arch and Balanced Rock, and ending with a quick hike through the Devil’s Garden area of the park to see the super-wide Landscape Arch (305 feet across!). We ended the day with a late afternoon kayaking trip through the Colorado River, and dinner with a stunning sunset at the beautiful Red Cliffs Lodge.
Day 7: We woke up to our second morning in Castle Valley (we were staying about 30 min outside of Moab, UT) and I took an early stroll around our beautiful bed and breakfast, with views of the red cliffs and the famous Castle Rock. Then we headed to Canyonlands National Park, and did a few short hikes to see views of Schaffer Trail Road, White Rim, Mesa Arch, and Grand View.
Alright, so that’s just about the first week of the trip so I’ll stop there for now. Still to come is Gobin Valley, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante Park, Bryce, and Zion! I’ll try to post before the end of the week, with a promise to make more bathroom progress this coming weekend to show next week!