So — summer is over. I won’t make empty promises and say I’m going to recap that lovely period (because, honestly, it wasn’t that exciting anyway! I spent nearly all my time lying around, with nothing to do and loving every malaised moment of it).
It is now undeniably fall, and I am halfway through the second semester of my second year of graduate school… and I am struggling to stay afloat. The downside of making progress in your career is that people actually start pressuring you to be productive. And that sucks.
Naturally, because I am stressed out beyond belief and have insane deadlines on the horizon, I’ve decided now is the perfect time to revisit my trip to Denver. If not now, then when, right? (Nobody ever said grad students were smart.)
(Really, though, I’ve been meaning to start documenting life more often. I’m especially inspired by this recent post by a blogger I’ve followed for a long time. I, too, am feeling the siren call of travel. As much as I’ve grown to love Houston [eek! the L-word], I’m acutely, intensely missing being in nature — and that found in the Pacific Northwest, most of all. I miss the salty breezes of the ocean and climbing over the feet of enormous, ancient trees. I miss traipsing through fields of wildflowers, hiking up peak summits, and smelling the fresh air and dirt underneath my shoes. I even miss my daily commutes to my workplace in San Francisco — feeling the fog hit my cheeks as I walked past the many colors of the city: the gray of Ocean Beach, the greenery of Golden Gate Park, the pastel of outer Richmond’s ticky-tacky houses, stacked on top of hills and each other.)
… and, now that I’m thoroughly homesick, I think it’s time to think about another place that pressed all those nature-loving buttons for me. In April, we spontaneously found cheap airfare and, a few weeks later, ourselves in Denver.
We didn’t find Denver super walkable, but that might’ve had to do with our AirBnB’s location in a strange little pocket downtown. Still, our apartment was super sweet, perfect for cozy, post-adventure evenings in.
Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs was, legitimately, breathtaking. We hiked a few trails to see some awe-inspiring rock formations. The forecast threatened rain, so we couldn’t do as much exploring as we would’ve liked — but it was still lovely. We also swung by the Seven Sisters Falls nearby, which was less impressive (definitely more built up for tourists), but pretty regardless.
The next day, we headed north to visit the Rockies, making an early-morning pit stop in Boulder to fuel up. Funny story: I made it a mission to brunch at the Colorado institution Snooze A.M. Eatery — but, after I returned home to Houston, found out that they were opening up a branch less than a mile away from my house. If only I’d known…
Being that it was April, the majority of the Rockies were caught in unpredictable, intermittent snowstorms. We called the super helpful rangers at the National Park and, upon their suggestion, headed to Gem Lake: located at the outskirts of the park and a safer bet for weather. Feeling adventurous after the steep hike, we continued onward to Balanced Rock. Then, three hours into the wilderness, with snow gently starting to fall on our heads, it seemed we might’ve lost the trail… But alas! We made it out alive. I mean, I did, at least. 🙂
After hiking the Rockies, we retired to Boulder where we ate at Dushanbe Teahouse, a charming building gifted to the city by the mayor of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Honestly, I can’t remember what we ordered (food blogger no more! I am now but a frazzled, intermittently-posting procrastinator!) — but it was a pleasant dining experience.
We spent one day exploring Denver, too, including the Museum of Nature and Science. We were definitely older than the target demographic, but I shan’t forget this fabulous exchange when, at an exhibit on animal brains, the docent was asked which animal was the “dumbest.” Her wonderfully patient response: “Well, dumb literally means being unable to speak… So I wouldn’t know how to answer that question.”
After that inspirational burn, we felt ready to educate ourselves further, so we stopped by Tattered Cover Bookstore and got lost in the aisles for a good while. We concluded with tea and Netflix back at our abode, resting our tired feet: a nice way to end a very active few days in the mountains.
- Shuga’s, Colorado Springs. Be forewarned that Colorado Springs isn’t flush with dining options. We trekked around a few places (including a promising, but closed, Hungarian restaurant that serves one of my favorite dishes, paprikash), before finding this little cafe serving pretty excellent Mediterranean fare.
- Denver Biscuit Company, Denver. Biscuits as big as your face and stuffed with fried chicken, drowning in honey, spread with butter, whatever you want. A+!
- Tocabe, Denver. I’d heard of Native American fry bread, but hadn’t expected it to be so dang good. This fast-casual joint serves up fried dough stuffed with delicious things. A must-try.