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Trip Report Boulder, Denver trip report

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A friend offered us the use of an apartment in Boulder so my husband and I flew from NY to Denver on 10/8. We met our friend at the airport in Denver and took a car service to Boulder. It was lightly snowing but the roads were just wet. The apartment was on Pearl Street and 7th so the location was great. That night we walked over to Jax for an early dinner. We didn't have reservations and we got the last available table. If you eat early in Boulder, you can walk in to most places. If you want to eat at about 7PM or later, you need reservations. Jax is a seafood restaurant and the food was very tasty. It seems to be a very popular restaurant and, like many in Boulder, becomes very crowded and noisy. After dinner we drove to one of three Whole Foods Markets (we have just one for our entire county here just north of NYC!) and stocked up for the next two weeks.

Friday was sort of sunny but quite chilly. I was glad I brought along my silk long underwear and my fleece-lined jacket. My husband and his friend went in to the office to do some work so I followed the walking tours I had printed off the internet from the Historic Boulder website. I walked through the Mapleton, Whittier and Downtown areas. Just walking up and down some of the streets, particularly in the Mapleton area, and looking at all the different architecture and the beautiful homes was a treat. I don't know much about architecture but even I could tell there were so many different styles represented. I walked in to the Hotel Boulderado to check out the beautiful lobby with the stained-glass ceiling. I cut over to Pearl St. at about 20th and walked back down Pearl Street window shopping, stopping in many stores, eating a quick and tasty lunch at Falaffel King and reading the many historic interpretive panels along the street. Some of the trees had already changed in the area so it made for a lovely walk. For dinner we brought in excellent, very fresh sushi from Sushi Zannai and watched the baseball playoffs. It started snowing by the time we went to bed.

Saturday we woke up to temperatures in the low 20s and 3 inches of snow on the ground. It was still snowing when we walked down to the end of Pearl Street to Settler's Park and hiked the easy (although mostly uphill) Red Rocks Trail. It was a very interesting experience to hike in heavy snow and I'm sure the view from the top is usually beautiful, but we couldn't see it. Rather than come back down the way we went up, we went over the ridge and down the back which led us to the Mt. Sanitas trailhead and back to Boulder through the Mapleton district. It was very quiet and very few people were out and about in the snow. We got in the car and ate lunch (egg salad on a bagel) at Moe's Broadway Bagels where the sandwiches were very tasty and very large. We drove out to take the Celestial Seasonings tour but discovered that the weekends have what they call "quiet tours" which means that the factory isn't working. We decided to come back during the week. We drove to NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) and spent about one hour or so checking out the indoor exhibits (since it was still snowing) which were very interesting. My husband and his friend were particularly interested in the view you get of the super computers. We had a delicious Indian dinner at Bombay Bistro. The menu had many Indian dishes I had never had before (short ribs and salmon don't usually appear on the menus at our Indian restaurants).

Sunday we were able to get a last-minute reservation for brunch at Brasserie Ten Ten. The food was delicious and I thought, for what they give you, the brunch prices were quite reasonable. They get very crowded and you definitely need a reservation unless you are willing to wait. This restaurant seems very popular and you need a reservation for dinner no matter what time you want to come. The weather was a bit warmer but very overcast. I knew there were lovely foothills surrounding Boulder but we couldn't see a thing. We ended up spending most of the day watching various sporting events and brought in dinner from Pasta Jays. Again, the food was very tasty. Their portions are very large. We ordered salads for two and they could have served 4. You get garlic bread and pasta with entrees and the entrees are large enough to share. We got an extra meal just out of our leftovers.

Monday was a bit warmer and a bit clearer but the foothills were still mostly clouded over. My husband and friend went back to the office for the morning so I decided to walk the famous Boulder Creek Path. I walked from about 6th St. in the direction of the University. It was fine until I came to a group of drunken men sprawled across the pathway. I could go past them but then the Path went into an area that was totally deserted with high fences on either side and there were some less than reputable looking guys just standing around that area. My city instincts told me not to continue along by myself so I left the Path and walked around Civic Park, Pearl St., etc. I came upon the Dushanbe Teahouse and I went in and had a pot of tea. I was overwhelmed by the choices and my server made a recommendation. The tea was delicious and the Teahouse is just beautiful. Just looking at all the wall and ceiling decoration was a pleasure. The tables were beautiful mosaics. I ended up ordering lunch and had a Persian chickpea dish called Kufteh which was very tasty and perfect for a lighter lunch. Service was a bit slow but I wasn't in any rush. My husband arrived at the apartment with the SUV we had rented and we drove out to take the Celestial Seasonings tour. It was very interesting. The stop in the mint room helped to clear out my sinuses and I enjoyed tasting different teas at the free tasting bar. I ended up buying two teas I had never had before. We came back to Boulder and walked two blocks for dinner at The Kitchen. Fabulous food. We ordered the famous garlic fries for the table and they were delicious. We enjoyed it so much, we made reservations for the community dinner the next Monday night.

Tuesday was very chilly and still totally overcast so we drove to Fort Collins. I'm sure that, in clear weather, the drive there gives lovely views of the mountains but we saw nothing. We stopped at the visitors center and picked up a map and some information from the very helpful people there. We drove to College Avenue and parked along the street. We walked along College Avenue, through Old Town Square (just a block or so with some shops including one worth visiting to see the photos) and then back to our car. We drove to the Odell Brewery and took the tour which was interesting since they are a very small, family run brewery. Then we drove to New Belgium Brewery but their tour takes 90 minutes and we couldn't imagine needing to know that much information about brewing beer (plus we didn't have that much time) so we walked around the bewery exhibits and tasted two of their beers. We drove to the Swetsville Zoo on our way back to the highway. This is a free attraction (you can leave a donation) consisting of many wonderful creatures built out of scrap metal by a farmer. What a wonderful imagination and sense of humor! Definitely worth a stop if you are in the Fort Collins area and it is right by the highway so it is easy to get to. This evening we had dinner reservations at Frasca in Boulder. It was the fanciest place we ate at (no jeans and hiking boots here) and I had to get the reservations 3-4 weeks in advance and, even then, we had to settle for an earlier dining time than we wanted but it was well worth it. The service and food were excellent and the surroundings were very classy. I understand that Frasca is supposed to move down Pearl St. to about 9th at some point but the building they are to move into is way behind schedule. For a special evening, this is the place.

Wednesday was warmer but still cloudy and foggy so we decided to spend the day in Denver. We parked at the garage in the Cultural Center at 12th and Broadway which cost about $8 for the entire day. We walked over to the State Capitol which was worth a visit although we didn't want to take the 45 minute tour. The inside of the building is beautiful. We then walked a few blocks to the Molly Brown House and took the tour which isn't too long but gives you a lot of history both about Molly and about life in Colorado in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The house was decorated for Halloween using decorations popular during Molly's life. I never realized Halloween was such a popular holiday back then although people did not go trick or treating. We walked over to the 16th St. Mall and hopped on to the free shuttle bus. We ate a very good lunch (soup and 1/2 sandwich) at the Corner Baker at the Tabor Center. The food was very tasty and fresh and the soups had a homemade flavor. We walked through Writers Square (just buildings and shops) and along Larimer Square (a one block area of shops and restaurants) and then over to Coors Field because my husband really wanted to take the tour of the stadium. The tour last 1 1/2 hours and was really fun. The only disappointment was that we didn't get to go in to the visitor's locker room because they were still cleaning it up after the Phillies had clinched two days before. We got to go on the warning track surrounding the field and in to the dugout. After the tour of Coors Field, we walked down to Union Station but there was nothing to see there. It is a very stark and plain building. We stopped in at the Oxford Hotel (nice bathrooms in the lower level) and then walked back along the 16th St. Mall. The Mall is mostly chain stores and fast food places that you can find in any city. We stopped in at the Brown Palace Hotel where my husband stayed once as a kid with his dad. What a beautiful lobby with delicate ironwork and other decorative items. We drove back to Boulder at had dinner at Q's Restaurant in the Hotel Boulderado using a discount I had found in the Hot Deals section of the Colorado website. We got 3 courses for only $33 and the food was delicious. We even took some home to have as leftovers.

Thursday was finally a sunny day but very windy. We could actually see the foothills around Boulder so we decided to drive up Flagstaff Mountain buying our $3 parking at Panorama Point where we got a view overlooking Boulder and areas to the east. We drove all the way up past Realization Point to the Summit. First we parked at the large lot but realized that the trails were off the small parking lot which was a bit farther up. So we drove there and decided to walk the Boy Scout Trail. It was easy, quiet and empty and we had been told to keep an eye out for bears and mountain lions. Apparently, Boulder was having a lot of problems with bears and some were even coming into people's yards particularly in the Mapleton District of the city. On the trail we got a little confused on how to get to May's Point Overlook but my husband figured out that we had to climb over a rocky area. The view from the Overlook would have been great except the mountains out west in the Rockies were covered by clouds. This was very frustrating and we even considered flying home early but the weather reports for the east coast were predicting two noreasters in a row and we didn't want to take the risk of being stuck in some airport between Denver and New York for a few days. So we decided to stay. The Boy Scout Trail let out at the lower, larger parking lot and we had to walk back up to the lot where we had left our car. I had information on some other trails in the area which were supposed to give us beautiful views out west of the mountains but we decided to skip those since there wouldn't be views of the mountains. We are not big on hiking just for the sake of hiking. We like to hike if there is some sort of payoff such as a lovely view or something else my photography-loving husband can take photos of. He took fewer photos on this trip than on any other two-week vacation we've ever taken. After deciding it wouldn't make sense to try to reschedule our flights home, we decided to drive to Golden and take the Coors tour. The drive along Route 93 was pretty dull. At Coors, you park in their very large lot and a shuttle bus takes you to the brewery. The tour is free and self-guided using a hand-held device. It was interesting to see this after going on the Odell tour and seeing how a very small brewery makes beer. At the end of the tour, you can get three free glasses of beer. Since the weather had gotten more overcast, we drove to Dinosaur Ridge to see the dinosaur tracks. We decided to take the bus out to the end of the route and, for $6/person, we got the ride and a full tour stopping at two or three spots where the driver explained what we were seeing. We even got the added attraction of watching him catch a very small rattlesnake which was in the middle of the road. We walked back down to the visitor's center stopping at the various points of interest along the way. We drove to Red Rocks Park but it was getting late and the area was in shadow so not particularly photogenic although the view from the top of the amphitheater was amazing. I had read about The Fort restaurant and realized that we were very close. My husband and I both like buffalo and, since the restaurant seems to specialize in buffalo, we had dinner there. The portions were huge so we shared an appetizer of buffalo quesadillas and our buffalo NY strip steak and buffalo prime rib both came with bread and salad. We had no room for dessert. The buffalo dishes were quite expensive but very good quality and very large portions.

Friday was sunny in Boulder so we drove along Colorado 36 to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. We hadn't been in the park in about 17 years. That time we had our young son with us and I think all we did was drive the Trail Ridge Road. This time, the Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road were closed. We stopped at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and asked the ranger to put on the orientation film which they show downstairs in the auditorium. There are also nice restrooms down in that area. We drove the part of the Trail Ridge Road which was open. The views were lovely and the mountains (yes, we could actually see mountains for the first time) were snow covered. You had to be careful walking at the overlooks because there was still a lot of ice on the paths. We then drove down toward Horseshoe Park and the Alluvial Fan where we walked along the short trail to the water falls. Very pretty area. Very windy and chilly and we saw the first of the three weddings we saw going on in the park. We drove out toward the Fall River entrance and then turned around and drove back along the same route heading south along Bear Lake Road. The weather began getting cloudy and the mountains became cloud covered again. It also began getting much colder. Along Bear Lake Road we saw one solitary old elk and some mule deer. We stopped at Moraine Park to take some photos and then drove to Sprague Lake and walked the trail around the lake. It was a lovely walk and this is where we saw our second wedding of the day. There was no parking available at the Glacier Gorge trailhead so we continued on to the Bear Lake parking area. We started to do the trail around Bear Lake but it was very icy, cold, windy and cloudy so we decided to leave and try to come back another day. As we drove out of the park toward the Peak to Peak Highway, we saw two large herds of elk near the road. The males were bugling at each other. We pulled off the road and watched for a while. We took the Peak to Peak Highway back to Boulder to Rt. 119 and through Boulder Canyon. We ate leftovers for dinner.

Saturday was a beautiful, warmer and clear day. We drove out Canyon Boulevard (Rt. 119) to Boulder Canyon Falls. I had read that the Falls have been closed for months because of rock slides but I had read that you can see the Falls from the road. You can't. You can't see anything from the road so it wasn't worth stopping. The Peak to Peak Highway was a very pretty drive in the morning and we stopped often to look at the views and take photos. We stopped at Lily Lake and walked a bit down by the lake but not all the way around. We drove back in to Rocky Mountain Park and headed right to Bear Lake Road. Even though the elk rut was mostly over and the fall foliage was all gone, the park was still pretty crowded. We drove down to Moraine Park where we could see some elk herds in the distance. We found a parking spot at the Bear Lake trailhead and took our walking sticks to help on the icy trail. This trail was very busy. We walked most of the way around but the far side of the trail was totally ice covered and, since there weren't really special views from over there, we decided not to risk a fall and came back. We hiked to Alberta Falls from the Bear Lake trailhead. It is longer than from Glacier Gorge (where there was no available parking) and the last part of the hike coming back to the parking lot is all uphill. This was a pretty trail, icy in parts and we were glad we had our sticks for those sections but the Falls were nothing special and, because they are around a curve in the rocks, a bit hard to see. My husband climbed up the rocks but said there was no view from up there and it wasn't worth the climb. The trail is lined with aspens and I'm sure it was especially spectacular during the fall foliage season. All the leaves were gone by the time we got there. We got back to the Bear Lake trailhead and did the hike from Bear Lake to the first lake you come to which I think is Nymph. People along the trail said it is well worth the hike even if you only go to the first lake. The trail is an uphill incline most of the way to the lake but is otherwise easy. However, our hiking poles came in handy to get over the many icy patches. We finally reached the lake and neither of us thought it was worth the hike. It was just a small lake surrounded by trees. No mountain views. Nothing particularly special. We decided to eat in the Estes Park area. The town was very crowded and parking at a premium. We finally found a spot in one of the lots and decided to eat in The Wild Rose which got a good recommendation in the Moon Travel Guide. Some of the better restaurants I had read about weren't open yet since it was about 3:45 and they didn't open until dinner. We both ordered onion soup (very ordinary made with canned soup) and buffalo burgers (awful thin overcooked patties with frozen fries which were cold and soggy). A terrible meal.

I had reserved a balloon ride for Sunday morning but they called and canceled because it was too windy. The same thing happened to us in Sedona. My husband has always wanted to go on a balloon ride so we'll have to keep trying. We were up really early (getting ready for the balloon ride which they canceled at almost 7am) so we went to Q's Restaurant for a delicious breakfast. My husband loved his French toast and I had an excellent omelette. We walked back along the Boulder Creek Path heading in the direction of the foothills. Lovely fall foliage. Then we drove back to NCAR and took the nature trail which gave some lovely views, lots of nice people out to greet and the panels along the trail gave interesting information. We then drove over to Chautauqua and luckily found a parking spot. We walked around the area looking at the various buildings and the hiking trails. It was so busy with everyone enjoying the record high temperature of 84 degrees. Quite a change from one week before when they had record lows of 15 in Boulder. We then drove over to the Colorado University campus and walked around there. It's a very pretty campus especially this time of year with the beautiful fall leaves. We had dinner at Centro which was not as good as the other restaurants we had eaten in in Boulder. We were able to eat outside but the blaring music made it hard to hear each other. The portions are large. We shared a chipotle chicken appetizer which was the best dish we had.. The pork and blue marlin main courses were fine.

Monday dawned a bit overcast. Naturally. We drove to Eldorado Canyon State Park which is not far from Boulder. We parked at the Visitor's Center and then walked back to the Fowler Trail which is easy but beautiful. We saw fresh bear scat on the trail but no bears (thank goodness). The views of the Canyon were lovely and probably even better if we had had some sunshine but this trail was worth the hike just for the hike. We could see a number of pairs of rock climbers on the routes up the Canyon walls. After walking the Fowler Trail, we drove to a parking area and walked The Streamside Trail which is very short. We spent the very cloudy afternoon watching the baseball playoff game and then went to The Kitchen for the community dinner which they have every Monday. We sat at a long table with other people. They served us four courses and each course had multiple dishes. How they do this for only $35/person I don't know. The food was delicious, the company was interesting and it was a really fun evening. The chef even shared his recipe for the apple crisp topping.

Tuesday was our last full day. The day started off sunny but hazy (no views of the mountains today) and rain was predicted so, after breakfast at Starbucks and Einstein Bagels, we drove to Denver to the Museum of Nature and Science to see the special exhibit about Genghis Khan. The Museum has free parking in the lots surrounding the building. The exhibit was excellent. We spent the rest of the day wandering the museum seeing other exhibits. The only disappointing area was the Space Odyssey which is probably best for kids. Note that the cafe closes pretty early (I think 2:30 or something like that) and after that they only have premade items. The premade sandwiches were pretty good, however. When we came out of the Museum, it was raining. That night we ordered in from Pasta Jays again but this time ordered salad for one and shared an entree and the pasta and bread which came with it. It was plenty.

Wednesday we were flying out. We cleaned the apartment, had breakfast at Q's again and drove to DIA and returned our car to Avis. The weather was chily, rainy, snowy, sleeting and hailing. That seemed appropriate.

The weather was the big disappointment. I know that it was very unusual for this area of Colorado which, more often than not, has clear blue skies and sun and beautiful views. We were just unlucky. We did have wonderful food. In case anyone is interested, Sunflower, a restaurant I had read many recommendations for, seems to have closed. Unfortunately, we didn't do as many hikes as I had planned so my jeans were a bit tight by the time we flew home. There were places I researched that, because of the weather, we never went to. Another trip, another time.

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