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During our visit earlier this year in March, we mostly explored things in the downtown Denver area. On this trip, we allotted a little additional time, so that we could tour other parts of Colorado and even revisit some of the places we had seen years earlier.
Even though we had visited the Denver Botanic Garden back in March, we were anxious to visit again this trip, now that many more things were in bloom. A vast difference. As around other parts of Denver, we saw plenty of Painted Lady butterflies, since they were passing thru on the annual migration.
In March, we experienced snow, 70+ mph wind gusts, and 9 degree temperatures in Rocky Mountain National Park. This visit was much more pleasant with bright, sunny skies and shirt sleeve temperatures. The changing of the aspens and rutting of the elk were the main attractions on our visit. We were lucky enough to see plenty of both.
After spending a few days with Matthew, Sonia and I picked up a rental car in town [significantly cheaper than at the Denver airport] and headed out on a circle tour that included the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and stops in Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Canyon, Aspen, and the Maroon Bells.
We spent two nights in Steamboat Springs. The condo we stayed at was between downtown and the big ski area. We didn't have the best weather, a bit of drizzle and overcast, but we made the best of it, taking in a local waterfall/nature area, visiting a botanic garden and then driving about 30 miles up a local country road. We turned around near the Wyoming border where the road reverted to dirt. However, we did have an pleasant unplanned reward -- a beautiful fox hunting right next to the road.
We had no trouble finding good places to eat in town. We left Steamboat Springs after two nights and headed down the road to link back up to I-70 and drive on to Glenwood Springs.
Our stay in Glenwood Springs was short. But long enough to curse the route 82 detour exiting from I-70, find a brewery for a late lunch, and walk across the new pedestrian overpass to see the Glenwood Springs Spa.
Apsen was a next base of operations. We got in late in the afternoon, opting for a light snack at the hotel bar.
But when the sunrise came, it was worth it!! Except for the cold, we had a perfect sunrise! Nearly cloudless skies and a mirror still lake for reflections.
With arriving late in the afternoon and spending a good part of the next day at Maroon Bells, we had only a short time to walk around downtown Aspen. We combined our walk with a search for a place to have dinner. We were happy with our selection of the Red Onion, a place with a lot of old west atmosphere.
Driving south on route 82 from Aspen, we climbed through Independence Pass. Several people we met in the previous days had highly recommended it. After a few miles, it became clear why we saw all those road sign warning that 'big rigs' were prohibited. The 4 miles before and 4 miles after the pass were very scenic and the road narrow. We made many stops along the way to get out of the car and take pictures and hike around a little. We even had a picnic lunch next to the proverbial babbling brook.
After our western circle trip, we spent the rest of our time with Matthew, mostly in Denver, but with a couple of day trips. One day trip was to Breckenridge, with a stop in Georgetown, a drive thru scenic Loveland Pass, and then some walking around in downtown Breckenridge, after fueling up at the Breckenridge Brewery. Sonia & I spent the morning and afternoon of her birthday with a trip to Union Station and environs, including a tour of the Wynkoop Brewery. Then in the evening we went out with Matthew to a local Italian restaurant, Odyssey, to celebrate Sonia's birthday. Sonia liked the place so much that we went back one more time before leaving Denver.
The birthday girl was very happy!
A truly fantastic place. We stopped on our way down to Great Sand Dunes, spending about 3 hours hiking and having a picnic lunch.
The Great Sand Dunes is a bit off the beaten path, but definitely worth the trip. The last time I was there was back in 1996 and many of my memories of it had faded.
We did drink a lot of beer on this trip! In total we took three brewery tours. And we learned a lot about the craft brewing process. Here'e a bit of esoteric trivia, something I learned after our return. Martin Luther's '95 Theses' had a major influence on the current beer that we drink. There were pictures earlier of the Wynkoop Brewery, which is in downtown Denver, across from Union Station. John Hickenlooper, the current governor of Colorado, was one of the four founders of this small local brewery. And when Barack Obama was in town a few years ago, they toured the brewery as well!
Coors and New Belgium below are national and more well known. Both had excellent tours. And of course free samples!
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Matthew and the touring of Colorado that we did!