lost, for a little while


travel advice: Bethany
September 25, 2010, 12:19 pm
Filed under: advice, ideas, inspiration
Weston and Bethany

Playtime in Mountain Village

I met Bethany when I was living in Santa Fe for–you guessed it–another internship. She had also just moved to the city, and was loving it out West almost as much as I was. Actually, since she met her boyfriend, Weston, in Santa Fe, she probably loved it more.

Bethany’s in NYC right now, working at the United Nations, but Weston’s still back in Santa Fe, so for a recent week together, they did a road trip through Colorado, with Santa Fe as home base. No surprise, Colorado gets rave reviews again. Maybe I need to add some further detours to my route?

Here’s how it went down:

Where all did you go?

  • Great Sand Dunes National Park: This was really cool! We went in the afternoon, but I would recommend going in the morning (before the winds whip up). Although it was only about a 3-mile hike to the highest dune, it was no walk on the beach. The sand makes the hike pretty challenging, but fun. Be sure to wear good hiking boots so the sand doesn’t get in your shoes as fast as it does with, say, trail running shoes. (I wore the latter and was stopping every 10 minutes to empty out an entire sand dune.)
  • Durango: We stopped in town at one of the local bike shops to find out where to go mountain biking and ended up on the Horse Gulch trails. There are several trails in this system ranging from easy to hard, and they’re fairly well-marked so you can find your way around with no trouble. Durango also has a nice paved river trail that meanders through town, so we hit that up after Horse Gulch and ate lunch on the riverbank.  After more biking we grabbed a beer at the Steamworks Brewery.
  • Telluride: This is one of my favorite mountain towns. I’ve been through here a few times, but Weston had only visited once when he was a kid. We took a leisurely walk through town and stopped for coffee at my favorite Telluride coffee shop, Steaming Bean. We also took a gondola ride to neighboring Mountain Village, which, not surprisingly, is pretty dead during the non-ski season. What we both liked the best about Telluride was the laid-back atmosphere against a gorgeous mountain backdrop.  Definitely on our list of “places we’d love to live.”
  • Leadville: On the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, we briefly stopped in Leadville to check out the 10,430-foot elevation town that’s been called a “well-kept secret.” Leadville is pretty cool, and I wish we would have gone mountain biking or hiking here. We walked around for a bit, and had we stayed longer I definitely would have wanted to check out one of the town’s legendary bars (like the Silver Dollar Saloon).
  • Rocky Mountain National Park: Take the road through the park, where the road curves and twists its way up past the tree line. Rocky Mountain is one of the most beautiful national parks, in my book. Besides the amazing landscape there are animals galore in this park–we saw quite a few Elk during our visit. There are also plenty of options for camping, hiking, and backpacking, and with five visitor centers in the park you can easily get backcountry permits, maps, etc. We camped in the park at Longs Peak Campground and then went hiking the next day.  With so many amazing hikes to choose from it was hard to pick just one, but I let the birthday boy decide. Weston chose an 8-mile hike that went by waterfalls and ended at a gorgeous lake. The best part? We were far away from work, regular life, and most other people.
  • Aspen: We got a bit of a late start leaving RMNP and heading to Aspen. If you don’t like driving on narrow, winding and steep mountain passes at night, I do not recommend driving over Independence Pass once the sun goes down (we did). When we drove back over in daylight I was awestruck by the amazing views, but then realized Holy shit, I drove on this last night. One wrong move and we would have ended up going over a cliff! Needless to say, I enjoyed the drive much more in the daytime when my job was to take pictures of the mountains and simply be awestruck, while Weston manned the wheel. But back to Aspen: we spent our one day in Aspen exploring the town and hiked some of the ski trails. I liked Aspen just as much as Telluride, even though they’re very different–Aspen is much glitzier.

6 ½ hours after we left Aspen we arrived back in Santa Fe. We were grubby (and loving it!), the car was filthy, I’m pretty sure we brought home some kind of wild creature along with our gear, and we were out of food. But damn, we were grinning from ear to ear, relaxed and happy as could be. And there was one last PBR in the cooler.

How long was the trip?

6.5 days

What prompted this trip?

This trip was (desperately) needed for several reasons: First, we’ve both been working a lot and our jobs and lives as of late have been really stressful. Second, due to said jobs, we are currently in a long-distance relationship and only get to see each other once every 4-6 weeks, so the idea of being together for entire week on vacation was pretty friggin’ amazing. Third, we both love the outdoors, the mountains, and the open road. Fourth, we didn’t have the money to fly anywhere else besides me flying from NYC to New Mexico. Fifth, we didn’t have a lot of time to go anywhere that wouldn’t entail spending half the trip just getting to the destination. Sixth…well you get the picture.

How long did you plan the trip?

We started planning the trip about a week before departure, but part of the beauty of this trip was that we decided a lot of things on the fly. We wanted this to be a relaxed, laid-back trip, one where we didn’t feel any pressure to get from A to B in X amount of time, etc.

What’s your previous travel experience like?

Weston has visited over 36 national parks in his lifetime and has taken many long road trips. He’s gone on numerous thru hikes and loves exploring new places. I’ve traveled to roughly 30 countries (for both work and pleasure) and lived abroad in Southeast Asia for a year. Although I haven’t had the chance to explore as much of the U.S. as I would have liked, I’m working on it! Last year I drove across the country, and while living in New Mexico I took a lot of road trips.

What was the method of transportation for the trips?
Car (my 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe AWD SUV)

Where did you stay? (friends, hotels, hostels, camp)

To keep costs down, we camped every night and stayed with friends in Montrose and Aspen. We chose the campgrounds, uh, by looking at a map.  Quite scientific. We’d definitely recommend the Matterhorn campground south of Telluride, where we camped under a canopy of aspens and were far from any of the other campsites.

What sort of tools or sources of information did you consult before the trip?

We basically consulted a map of Colorado and a few friends who had done a road trip through Colorado before. Our destinations were chosen because of previous visits to the area (Telluride for me, Rocky Mountain Park for Weston, for example), or because it was a place we’d always wanted to check out.

How did you budget for the trips?

Food: $100 (bought at Trader Joe’s before we left)
Beer: $50 (PBR is cheap!)
Fuel: $200
Camping: $90 (roughly $20/night for campsite fees, and the one night we had to buy firewood because you weren’t allowed to collect any where we were staying)
Misc: $60 (this included park fees, fuel for the camp stove, etc.)

In the end, we did spend around our budgeted amount of $500. We didn’t eat out at all, but we did stop at a brewery (or two…) during the trip.

What do you wish you had packed?

Even though this was a “loose plan” kind of trip, I did make a gear list beforehand so when we packed the car all we had to do was check it off the list. Because of this, we really only took what we needed, no more, no less.

What do you wish you had left behind?

See above.

What would you have done differently?

If we could have allotted more time for the trip we would have. There is so much to see and do in each of the places we stopped that we could have easily spent the whole trip in one location.

Any mishaps?

Luckily (and strangely) enough, no real mishaps! But as I said before, we were pretty laid-back about the whole thing, so if something didn’t go according to plan we didn’t stress.

Any other advice or things to note?

Skip the Colorado travel books—you just need a detailed map of the State, insider info from locals and the like, and a sense of adventure. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—whether you want off-the-beaten path or tourist must-dos. Your best sources of info are town locals (think coffee shops, bike shops, park rangers, etc.) and friends who have previous experience with the area.

What’s next? (in life and travels)

The million dollar question! Life: we will be relocating and there are two cities up as possible contenders. We should know more about where we’ll be going very soon. Since we likely won’t be traveling again until sometime next year (at least on a long trip), I’ve been scouting out the outdoor activity potentials in each of the two cities where we might move. It’s important for us–a prerequisite, you could say–that the city we move to has forests/hiking/mountain biking/trails in relatively close proximity. No more concrete jungles for me!

As far as major travel adventures go, our dream trip is to sail around the world for a year, right after we climb Kilimanjaro.

If you’ve been on a major road trip and want to share your advice, let me know!

1. Where all did you go? (please include cities, parks, national monuments, etc. Include as much detail as you’d like)

Great Sand Dunes National Park—this was really cool!  We went in the afternoon, but I would recommend going in the morning (before the winds whip up).  Although it was only about a 3 mile hike to the highest dune, it was no walk on the beach.  The sand makes the hike quite challenging and fun.  Be sure to wear good hiking boots so that the sand doesn’t get into your shoes as fast as, say trail running shoes.  I wore the latter and was stopping every 10 minutes to empty an entire sand dune out of my shoes.

Durango—We stopped in town at one of the local bike shops to find out where to go mountain biking and ended up on the Horse Gulch trails.  There are several trails in this system ranging from easy to hard, and they are fairly well-marked so you can find your way around.  Durango also has a nice paved river trail that meanders through town, so we hit that up after Horse Gulch and ate lunch on the riverbank.  After more biking we grabbed a beer at the Steamworks Brewery.

Telluride—This is one of my favourite mountain towns.  I’ve been through here a few times, but Weston had only visited once when we was a kid.  We leisurely walked through town, stopping for coffee at my favourite Telluride coffee shop, Steaming Bean.  We also took a gondola ride to neighboring Mountain Village, which not surprisingly is pretty dead during the non-ski season. What we both liked the best about Telluride was the laid-back atmosphere against a gorgeous mountain backdrop.  Definitely on our list of “places we’d love to live.”

Leadville—On the way to Rocky Mountain National Park we briefly stopped in Leadville to check out the 10,430 foot elevation town and what’s been called a “well-kept secret.”  Leadville is pretty cool and I wish we would have gone mountain biking or hiking here.  We walked around for a bit, and had we stayed longer I definitely would have wanted to check out one of the town’s legendary bars (like the Silver Dollar Saloon).

Rocky Mountain National Park—Take the road through the park, where you’ll drive fun-to-drive roads through curves and turns on your way up past the tree line.  Rocky Mountain is one of the most beautiful national parks in my book.  Besides the amazing landscape there are animals galore in this park.  We saw quite a few Elk during our visit.  There are also numerous options for camping, hiking and backpacking, and with five visitor centers in the park you can get easily get backcountry permits, maps, etc.  We camped in the park at Longs Peak Campground and then went hiking the next day.  With so many amazing hikes to choose from it was hard to pick just one, but I let the birthday boy decide. Weston chose an 8 mile hike that went by waterfalls and ended at a gorgeous lake.  Along the way we scampered down to a creekside to have lunch.  The best part was we were far away from work, from regular life and most other people.  It was incredibly relaxing and the scenery was gorgeous.

Aspen—We got a bit of a late start leaving RMNP and heading to Aspen.  If you don’t like driving on narrow, winding and steep mountain passes at night, I do not recommend driving over Independence Pass at night—which we did.  When we drove back over Independence Pass in daylight I was awestruck by the amazing views, but then realized that I drove this in the dark the night before and holy shit, one wrong move and we would have ended up going over a cliff.  Needless to say I enjoyed the drive much more in the daytime, when my job was to take pictures of the mountains and be awestruck, and Weston’s job was to actually drive the car!  But back to Aspen:  we spent our one day in Aspen exploring the town and hiked some of the ski trails.  I liked Aspen just as much as Telluride, even though they are very different.  Aspen is glitzier, sort of like the girl that is always decked out from head to toe in a coordinating outfit without a hair in place but can still play on the slopes with the best of them, whereas Telluride is like the girl that doesn’t care what she’s wearing and can out drink and out ski the boys next door on any given day.

6 ½ hours after we left Aspen we arrived back in Santa Fe.  We were grubby (and loving it!), the car was filthy, I’m pretty sure we brought home some kind of wild creature in our dirty gear (like the mouse we unknowingly brought home from winter camping in the Pecos, but that’s another story), and we were out of food.  But damn, we were grinning from ear to ear, relaxed and happy as could be!  And there was one last PBR in the cooler.

2. How long was the trip?

6.5 days

3. What prompted this trip?

This trip was (desperately) needed for several reasons.  First, we’ve both been working a lot and our jobs and lives as of late have been really stressful.  Second, due to these said jobs, which are located in separate cities, we are currently in a long-distance relationship and only get to see each other once every 4-6 weeks, so the idea of being together for entire week on vacation was pretty friggin’ amazing.  Third, we both love the outdoors, the mountains and the open road.  Fourth, we didn’t have the money to fly anywhere else besides me flying from NYC to New Mexico.  Fifth, we didn’t have a lot of time to go anywhere that would entail spending half the trip just getting to the destination.  Sixth…well you get the picture.

4. How long did you plan your routes/stops?

We started planning the trip about a week before departure, but part of the beauty of this trip was that we decided a lot of things on the fly.  We wanted this to be a relaxed, laid-back trip, one where we didn’t feel any pressure to get from A to B in X amount of time, etc.

5. What’s your previous travel experience like? A lot of these long road trips? Do you travel a lot? Etc. etc.

Weston has visited over 36 national parks in his lifetime and has taken many long road trips.  He’s gone on numerous thru hikes and loves exploring new places.  I have travelled to roughly 30 countries (work and pleasure) and lived abroad in Southeast Asia for a year.  Although I haven’t had the chance to explore as much of the US as I would have liked, I’m working on it!  Last year I drove across the country and while living in New Mexico I took a lot of road trips.

6. What was the method of transportation for the trips?

Car, mountain bike, and by foot.  Translation: we drove from one place to another, and mountain biked, hiked or walked around the town in each location.

7. Where did you stay? (friends, hotels, hostels, camp)

To keep costs down, we camped every night and stayed with friends in Montrose and Aspen.  We chose the campgrounds, uh, by looking at a map.  Quite scientific.  We’d definitely recommend the Matterhorn campground south of Telluride, where we camped under a canopy of aspens and were far from any of the other campsites.

8. What sort of tools or sources of information did you consult before the trip? What made you choose these stops?

We basically consulted a map of Colorado and a few friends who had done a road trip through Colorado before.  Our destinations were chosen because of previous visits to the area (Telluride for me, Rocky Mountain Park for Weston, for example) or because it was a place we’d always wanted to check out.

9. How did you budget for the trips?

Food: $100 (bought at Trader Joe’s before we left)
Beer: $50 (PBR is cheap!)
Fuel: $200
Camping: $90 (roughly $20/night for campsite fees, and the one night we had to buy firewood because you weren’t allowed to collect any where we were staying)
Misc: $60 (this included park fees, fuel for the camp stove, etc.)

In the end, we did spend around our budgeted amount of $500.  We didn’t eat out at all, but we did stop at a brewery (or two…) during the trip.  I didn’t include my roundtrip flight from NYC to New Mexico ($270) because we plan for that separately in our monthly budgets.

10. What do you wish you had packed?

Even though this was a “loose plan” kind of trip, I did make a gear list beforehand so when we packed the car all we had to do was check it off the list.  Because of this, we really only took what we needed, no more, no less.

11. What do you wish you had left behind?

See above.

12. What would you have done differently?

If we could have allotted more time for the trip we would have.  There is so much to see and do in each of the places we stopped that we could have easily spent the whole trip in one location.

13. Any mishaps?

Luckily (and strangely) enough, no real mishaps!  But as I said before, we were pretty laid-back about the whole thing, so if something didn’t go according to plan we didn’t stress because our plan was to only have loose plans.

14. Any other advice or things to note?

Skip the Colorado travel books—you just need a detailed map of the State, insider info from locals and the like, and a sense of adventure.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions—whether you want off-the-beaten path or tourist must-dos, your best source of info is town locals (coffee shops, bike shops, park rangers, etc.) and friends who have previous experience with the area.

15. What’s next? (in life and travels)

Ah, the million dollar question!  Life: we will be relocating and there are two cities up as possible contenders.  We should know more about where we’ll be going very soon.  Since we likely won’t be travelling again until sometime next year (at least on a long trip), I’ve been scouting out the outdoor activity potentials in each of the two cities where we might move.  It’s important for us, a prerequisite you could say, that the city we move to has forests/hiking/mountain biking/trails in relatively close proximity.  No more concrete jungles for me!

As far as major travel adventures go, our dream trip is to sail around the world for a year, right after we climb Kilimanjaro.

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[…] Buffalo, which is about an hour north of Forestville. Before starting my trip, I was assured by Bethany that the Anchor Bar in Buffalo is, indeed, the place to get the eponymous wings the city is known […]

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