A Cigar and Hot Chocolate on the Mayflower Gulch Trail
Different couples celebrate momentous occasions differently. My boyfriend and I happened to meet five years ago on an incredibly epic New Years Eve in Taipei (its just impossible to have had more fun!), but each year we succeed in making New Years an amazing night out with friends. However, for our 5-year, we really wanted to do something that spoke to our needs and values, and our future together. We decided that we wanted to ring in 2017 in The Rockies of Colorado.
For several years now, we have been daydreaming about leaving (for good) the dry deserts of California from which we were raised and have spent (most) of our adult lives, to a mountainous region that actually gets four seasons and provides, in many ways, a totally different culture than we're used to! We already spend nearly every weekend outdoors, hiking, cycling, rock climbing, snowboarding or just straight road-tripping (as long as we can avoid L.A. traffic)... And although it would be nearly impossible to explore all of California, our curiosity for the world is unquenchable, and we are anxious to live an enriched quality of life that we don't believe will continue to be available for us-- or most Californians-- unless we move.
Colorado has been at the top of our short list (Thailand is also a serious contender), but neither one of us had ever visited. That is exactly why we decided to activate 2017 together on the snowy slopes of The Rockies and explore the state that could very well become our future home.
We launched our week-long adventure in Denver, staying at Meghan's Airbnb, "a cute Victorian condo," tucked into City Park West, a neighborhood within a comfortable walking distance from the bars and shops of downtown Denver. Comfortable-- to us this can mean 1-2 miles, which we were able to achieve even in the 14 degree late December winter weather! There was actual snow and ice on the ground! Have I mentioned I'm from Palm Springs?
Marcyzk Fine Foods, a market just around the corner from our Airbnb, serves the most phenomenal avocado toast I've ever had to pleasure of devouring in seconds! (Hence why there's no photo) Do not deny yourself the luxury of eating this simple breakfast! Marcyzk's is known for providing "sustainably raised beef, pork and lamb from family farms, unique and interesting Italian imports, old fashioned sodas, milk in glass bottles, amazing Colorado-made products, and so much more." We made out with our toast, a deli-fresh sandwich, and a bottle of champaign to toast on New Year's Eve in Steamboat Springs.
♥ New Years Eve fireworks from our hotel room balcony ♥
I can't talk about Steamboat Springs without the romantic overtones-- we checked into The Steamboat Grand on our anniversary with reservations for Strawberry Park Hot Springs that night! This is absolutely the best winter date a girl could go on! He is an amazing boyfriend like that!
Sean at the second floor lobby of The Steamboat Grand Hotel, enjoying the fireplace,
located right next to the outdoor jacuzzis.
The Steamboat Grand is the most picturesque winter resort you can imagine, with oversized fireplaces in the lobbies, two jacuzzis, a pool, fireplaces and jet bathtubs in every guest's room, a balcony overlooking the slopes, and the most courteous staff.
Plus a complimentary shuttle to anywhere you want in town! We were dropped off at the top of a hill, and followed the sidewalk down to the Hot Springs.
Surrounded by snowy aspen forest, Strawberry Park has several pools of various heat directly from natural hot springs. Although no alcohol is allowed on the premises, it certainly felt like a bar with an upbeat crowd mingling and sharing stories of their runs. The sky took on a magical pink glow as the sun set over the treetops with the contrast of the white snow glistening, and moon rising, giving us a Cheshire smile. It was the exact place I wanted to be in the world with the love of my life on our anniversary, but I definitely see us coming back with friends and causing a scene.
View of the stars through Aspen trees surrounding the hot springs at Strawberry Park.
It was New Year's Eve and we hadn't made reservations, but that didn't stop us from beelining to Laundry for a chance to dine there. We were lucky, and we got two seats at the bar (always the best seats in the house) -- Our neighbors at the bar were gracious and friendly, and they bought us a plate of the shishito peppers just so we could make some room for one of their group (definitely worth the trade!). Talk about a great vibe! Over a dish of pumpernickel served with pate, pow pow, pork cheeks and kimchi, plus the mac n cheese, we made friends with another neighbor at the bar who told us about his move to Colorado from California several years earlier, and how we has never looked back.
In fact, we met a lot of former Californians on this trip who migrated to Colorado decades prior and have never looked back. Seriously-- who could blame them??
The R.E.I. daypack and base layer by Sweaty Betty (which it was so soft and warm!!) were
Christmas presents in anticipation of our trip!
Inspired by friends in Denver who were spending their New Years Day snowshoeing in another part of the state, we decided to head straight to Breck and check out the Nordic Center to rent snowshoes. The people at the Nordic Center really know their trails and what's needed for them. I got outfitted with snow boots that kept my feet warm and dry, and snowshoes that, although at times not staying strapped (I was well-warned of their cumbersome design), kept me swift on the snow. Not really knowing any trails ahead of our trip, we took their recommendation and followed the well-marked trails to Hallelujah Hut.
The expansiveness of The Rockies felt like a completely different universe to me. Snowshoeing on an unknown trail in the snowy forest is everything this desert girl dreams of!.. Like I've stepped through the Wardrobe into a Winter Wonderland.
Our Spirit Hoods Actually Keep up Very Warm!
Loving our Mavic Pro!
Hallelujah Hut was empty when we arrived, and unfortunately, the furnace was already off (we were the last guests before closing). We called ahead to let the Nordic Center we would be late getting back, and they so graciously waited for us to return, promising hot chocolate for us the next day if we came back.
New Years Day Kiss at Hallelujah Hut!
And we would have! But we took the next day to road trip and find a trail off the side of the highway. We stumbled on Mayflower Gulch Trail, and are so happy that we did! Sharing the trail with snowshoers and cross-country skiers, we hiked on the snow-packed trail towards more huts, though we never reached them. Instead, we followed some ways up the hill, overlooking the huts, until our boots sank too deep in the snow to go any further.
This colorful daypack by R.E.I. is perfect for little excursions like these! I love the zipper pockets everywhere, and the compartments inside. It even has the perfect space for my CamelBak bladder!
Sorry everyone, but we're in love! Plus that view! Who could resist?
Back to Denver
I'm a little sad we didn't see any elk on this trip!
We had one more night to wrap up our Colorado vacation, and that was back to Denver. Don't worry though! We have plans to return in June and visit Boulder, and I can't wait to climb, bike, or raft through the Rockies with the sun on my skin and the breeze in my hair!
A bit of paté? "Oh! I drink it all day!...Just some dried-out toast in a sliver,
On the top a little chopped liver." --Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl.
But for our final night in Colorado, we hit up Acorn for dinner, a restaurant located at The Source, a shared venue for several restaurants, a bar, a butcher, a florist, an arts & gifts shop. The space employs a combination of corrugated metal and graffitied red brick for an industrialized-yet-sleek warehouse look, serving gourmet fare and crafted drinks. Our dinner at Acorn could stand on its own in L.A., and is part of the revitalized culinary scene in Denver. The scallops served with mandarins, pistachios and green olives was lively, and we followed it with house-made chicken pate on rustic bread, finishing it all off with a beautiful local ale. I absolutely have to mention the freshly baked pretzel which tempted me from the Chef's counter, perfectly salted and paired with a house-made honey mustard.
That pretty much concludes our trip! Well, we did get to meet up with our Denver friends on the morning we flew back to L.A., which was so awesome! I met Amy, Alec, and Brett through Race2Adventure, the group I went to Peru with. Read about MY Race2Adventure here.