It’s been two weeks since I returned home from my latest Colorado trip. And yes, I miss it greatly! (And I promise, this is my final re-cap of that trip.) This was my sixth time visiting the “Centennial State” and my third one this year! One of the things that I fell in love with immediately when I first landed in Colorado back in 2009 were the mountains. It was the first time that I had ever seen actual snow-capped mountains in my life, where are very different than what we have here in Maryland. Over the years, I’ve hiked several of those mountains in Colorado, including not one but TWO 14ers. If I had to choose a favorite hiking destination, it would be a tie between the trails at the Flat Irons (in Boulder) or Loveland Pass (in Summit County). There are several other trails and destinations that I also love, but these are two spots that I come back to over and over again. And, I was lucky enough to visit both during my most recent trip!
I also did something that I have never done before in any of my visits to Colorado: I worked out in a gym! Our hotel happened to have a pretty incredible fitness center- definitely in the top 5 that I’ve seen! There were even motivational quotes on the walls:
I basically just used the gym to go through my Bodypump routine (just to stay fresh!) 3 different days, and lifted with Greg one other time. We pretty much only ever work out together when we travel- but really should more because it’s so much fun!
Since Greg was working almost every day that we were there, I rented a car so that I could drive to wherever I wanted to go. I planned on hiking every day either by myself or with a few friends. Before I even went out to Colorado, I knew exactly where I wanted to hike on my first full day there (Thursday): Chautauqua! Chautauqua is very near and dear to my heart. I hiked there during my very first trip to CO and just fell in love with Boulder. And, as fate would have it, it was also the site of the 2012 Blend Retreat. It was a cold morning, but I layered up and drove out to Boulder. I grabbed some breakfast on the way, and also picked up this snazzy ear warmer/wrap. (Who forgets to bring a hat to Colorado?!)
The parking lot at Chautauqua was pretty empty, which was something that I had never seen before! We usually have to park further down along the street, but I had my choice of spots on this day. I am familiar with several of the trails, and decided to hike the Royal Arch trail. I passed just a few people near the beginning, but when the trail split, I was all alone. And the higher I got, the more snow (and mud!) I saw.
There were portions of the trail that were covered in packed-down snow, which made finding traction pretty difficult (I just had my trail-running shoes on). After about 45 minutes of not passing a single person, my mind started to wander a bit: what if I slip and fall? What if I run into a bear? Or even worse, a mountain lion?!? Kind of silly and irrational, I know, but when you’re all by yourself in the woods, you can start to have some crazy thoughts! Even though I hadn’t reached the arch (I was close!), I decided to turn around. I carefully made my way down (and amazingly, managed not to slip the whole way down). I hooked up with another (lower) trail on the way back down and felt a lot safer. I even passed a few people! And, I recognized some of my favorite views.
As I made my way closer to the bottom, it was super muddy. My shoes felt like they weighed 10 lbs. each!
But eventually, I made my way back down. Success! Elation!
(I look a little warmer than I did at the start, right?)
Heidi had scouted out the trail at Elk Meadow beforehand and figured that it would be a good choice. This was a new trail for me, and also my first time in Evergreen (other than just passing through). I loved it! The trail itself was easy to hike and be great for running or mountain biking. Having the three girls (plus Kelly’s little girl!) made it even better. We talked and laughed the entire way and stopped a few times to just enjoy the beautiful views.
Don’t let the snow fool you- the weather was mild and perfect!
I got up on Saturday morning and headed out to Golden to meet up with Heather, Kirk (Heather’s husband) and Laura for some more hiking! We met up at Matthew Winters Park, which is right next door to Red Rocks. Again, it was a pretty easy trail and absolutely perfect for that morning. We were able to chat away the entire time, but also stopped for various photo opportunities along the way.
I think we hiked for about 2 hours? I’m not really sure- the time flew right by!
My original plan on Sunday was to hike in Boulder with Greg’s best friend’s (John) wife Tiffany, but that crazy girl had injured herself mountain biking the day before! I sent a text the night before to my wonderful friend Lena to see if she’d want to meet up to hike somewhere else. Lucky for me, she said yes! We met up and hiked at Mt. Galbraith, which is in Golden. I had hiked this trail once before (back in May) and felt confident that I wouldn’t get us lost.
The weather was gorgeous and perfect, and it was so nice to be out and have lots of time to catch up with Lena.
Later on that day, I also swung by REI and picked up some spikes to put around my shoes.
I knew that the place that I wanted to hike a that following day was probably covered in snow, and didn’t want to be unprepared like I had been at the Flat Irons. I sure am glad that I bought them, because the trail that I hiked on Monday was most definitely covered in snow!
Before I left Colorado, I knew that I had to hike at Loveland Pass. This was the first hike that I ever did on my very first trip ever to Colorado, and it (literally) took my breath away. (The drive out on 70 west is also worth it on its own- SO beautiful!). The trail starts just below 12,000′ feet elevation and gains about 1,000 feet by the point that I usually turn around. It’s above treeline, so it’s completely different than most other hikes I usually do. It’s pretty amazing to be out in the open when you’re that high up and see some incredible 360˚ views!
It was about 25˚ outside that morning and windy, but I actually wasn’t cold at all! That was probably due to the super bright sun (and reflection from the snow) and the incredible incline. To say that it’s steep is an understatement.
The point where I always turn around to go back down is right by this wind shelter (Greg and I call it the “rock bowl”), which was completely filled with snow!
I even broke out the panoramic feature on my iPhone at the top.
Even though I was alone on this hike (and only passed one other person!), I didn’t feel nervous about it all. The only nerves that I had were actually driving up the road to the trailhead. It’s super curvy and steep- and there’s no barrier for most of it! And to add to the fun, part of it was covered with snow! Luckily, I made it up (and back down) with no casualties.
On my very last morning in Colorado, I decided to go back to Matthew Winters Park. I had loved the Red Rocks trail so much during my hike on Saturday and kept thinking about how much fun it would be to run on it. So, that’s exactly what I did! I got out there around 9:30 in the morning and it was already close to 70˚, which was perfect! There were a few other people running or hiking on the trail, and almost every single one of them had a dog.
The trail has a few ups and downs, but nothing overly challenging or crazy. Absolutely perfect for running.
Knowing that it was my last day in Colorado, I just tried to savor every moment.
I even made a little video of a little part of my run (sorry for the vertical orientation!):
I had a little bit of time to kill after my run, so I drove over to Red Rocks for one quick run up and down the stairs.
This place is AWESOME. Not only is it one of the most incredible locations for live concerts, but it also seems to be the best outdoor gym ever! It was also the site of one of the most fun group fitness experiences I’ve ever had. They have FREE organized boot camps on Saturdays (where I saw the guy squatting the great dane a few days before!), but people seem to go there every day to work out regardless. There were all kinds of people doing all different exercises there that morning. Some were running the stairs, others were doing pull-ups…
or using equipment that they had brought from home.
I even saw a group of women practicing yoga! It’s so cool to see so many people passionate about fitness everywhere you turn.
I can’t wait to get out to Colorado again… the next trip might even involve a little more snow activity…. maybe.
What’s your favorite way to get exercise outdoors? Do you ever work out with your friends or significant other?