One time, a pretty long time ago, famous outdoor enthusiast John Muir wrote a letter to his sister and said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” My high school classmate/college roommate/travel buddy/bff, Kristen, must have heard the same call last year when she decided to move to Colorado in January of this year. Since then, she has shared her adventures exploring the west on her blog and filled her Instagram with beautiful images of her time there.
So, naturally, I had to visit her. We planned my trip around one very important life event:
Seeing The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks.
Where do I even begin to explain the excitement?! I bought my plane tickets six weeks out, new hiking shoes four weeks out, and then anxiously awaited my departure.
Reuniting with an old friend in a new place seems to make that new place feel familiar. For the first half of my trip, Kristen and I drove to Estes Park, CO, for an afternoon of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and as we traveled down long stretches of road under big, blue skies, we were simultaneously driving down memory lane. Even though nostalgia was a not-so-quiet passenger, the mountains in our view were still waiting to make our acquaintance.
Our first hike included a walk around Sprague Lake where the view of the mountains was truly astounding, followed by a stroll down a different trail where we found baby Aspen trees and stumbled upon another glorious view.
That evening, we met Kristen’s parents (who were also visiting) for dinner at the cutest restaurant filled with classic western decor (ie. a wooden sign that says, “No dancin’ on the table with spurs on”). After we finished our meal, Kristen and I moseyed on over to the Rooftop Rodeo to witness some mutton bustin’ and bull ridin’.
As first-time rodeo attendees, we really had no idea what to expect beyond the bull riding and that there would probably be horses. Much to our surprise, there were seven very specific events with an extra special round of “mutton bustin'” in which children, wearing helmets, climbed on the backs of sheep and rode them until they fell off (or the sheep toppled over). This video provides an excellent visual.
The next morning, we awoke to another beautiful Colorado day and set out for our second hiking adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park. We tied up our shoes, gathered our water bottles and snacks, and hit the trail toward Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades.
Throughout the hike, and the whole trip, I was constantly floored by the vibrant colors within each setting we came across. I noticed, more than ever, how perfectly God chose a specific color for each part of his creation and how it so wonderfully comes together for our eyes to behold. The rich blue of the sky and its bright white clouds; the deep green of the trees and the shadows they cast; the smooth gray of the rocks and the crisp rushing water — it is a brilliant work of art.
We made it back to the car with plenty of time to spare before we would be on the Road to Red Rocks (yes, I know, that’s a Mumford & Sons reference, but I couldn’t help myself).
We made a pit stop in Boulder at a lovely place called Bohemian Biergarten for a beer and some excellent German/Czech cuisine (including the amazing jumbo pretzel pictured below). I adored downtown Boulder and its charm that glowed even in the rain.
Driving toward Red Rocks with the storm in our rearview and bright skies ahead, we could barely contain our excitement. The whole experience was a dream come true, especially the insane view from our seats looking out over miles of land with a rainbow overhead and Denver standing in the distance.
We danced from the second the Avett Bros took the stage to the last note of the last song. The set-list was killer, and they played some of my faves including “Laundry Room,” “The Once and Future Carpenter,” “Murder in the City,” “Ten Thousand Words,” and “The Perfect Space.” What a show.
Kristen and I have traveled to many places together (London, Paris, Spain, Portugal), we both grew up in the same area, and graduated from the same university. Throughout all the years and travels, the best thing I’ve learned from her is to never become apathetic to the beauty in this world. Kristen is always in awe of the world around her, whether she’s expressing love for our hometown or basking in the sunlight of Sevilla or simply acknowledging the gorgeous landscape as she’s driving. Traveling with her and witnessing her excitement and fervor reminds me of the gift and responsibility God has given us as good stewards of the Earth. Each time we are filled with awe and gratitude for the scene before us, we are experiencing a small taste of heaven.
My long weekend in Colorado concluded with a delicious breakfast in Denver and a short driving tour around the city before Kristen dropped me off at the airport. I have a newfound love for CO thanks to Kristen, and I plan to return the very next chance I get. It’s true that when someone you know and trust shows you around their new home that they clearly love, you can’t help but love that place, too.