in a distinctly un-heather move, i took a trip to a nature-y destination with a nature-inclined friend. i didn't train enough for this trip (altitude + lack of aerobic endurance aside from a handful of work fitness reimbursement-funded spin classes = woohoo), but it was beautiful. denver in the summer (okay, and boulder and the rocky mountain national park), let's go.
denver in the summer
probably best to set expectations: denver looks like a big city, with a bunch of skyscrapers and lights and such, but it's very mellow compared to san francisco, the city i'm most familiar with. this is doubly true if you (like us) don't drink beer, and pass up all the patio pubs. most certainly a denver in the summer phenomenon, so i'm just imagining how much more of a ghost town denver must be when it's blustery and snow drift-y...
we did have some good times checking out the capitol, with all its architecture and its detail-oriented house and senate rooms.
the botanic gardens felt deliciously endless when we wandered through at dusk, from the bonsai gardens to the tropic greenhouse to the endless gazebos. i'm sure winter-y denver is fun too, but denver in the summer is understandably prime botanic gardens time.
if i ever came back, i'd definitely line up my trip with a red rocks show. i saw christina perri / colbie calliat / rachel platton at mountain winery 4 years ago and that was a cool venue, but red rocks also looks cool. we got to check it out during the day, when all these fitties were sprinting up and down this massive ampitheatre. i'm more into the screaming-lyrics-at-my-favorite-artist vibe, instead of the huff-and-puff-from-the-lower-to-the-upper-parking-lot type.
my favorite part of boulder was the celestial seasonings tea factory tour. there's free tea samples (admittedly, liked exactly 0 of them but i'm not a herbal/fruit tea person) and tea-themed art. entertainingly overzealous merchandise (ie a magnet that proclaims that you have "survived the mint room", aka sniffed the room where they keep all the peppermint for a few seconds) and they're located on sleepytime drive, named after their most famous tea, and of which the sleepytime tea latte i posted last year is a derivative of. their's has chamomile, spearmint, lemongrass, tilia flowers, blackberry leaves, orange blossoms, hawthorn and rosebuds, mine just has chamomile and peppermint.
the downtown was really cute, and i was definitely more partial to downtown boulder compared to downtown denver. both areas have street art, but boulder's had better shops to peruse, more fried plantains (topped with salsa verde, poached eggs and avo) to eat, more people around to make you feel like you and a handful of people aren't the only ones left in colorado after an apocalypse. my only regret is that we didn't meander longer on these streets.
another memorable part of our trip, and the most physically strenuous for our sea level bodies: the 2.5 mile flatirons hike. everything started off pretty innocuously: i was in touch with my inner grandma post-teat tour, the sun was out but the afternoon had started to cool gently, and our first hour was spent having mini photo shoots in the wheat fields, tree alcoves and sloping trail. we weren't intending on doing the full hike, only the quickest 0.3 mile loop and then getting dinner. somehow my friend convinced me to instead start the trek, and turn around at 7pm (a timeline stipulated by me, since i wanted to make sure we were done before dark since we had no maps, headlamps, food or other precautions and we had never done this hike before). of course, by 7pm we were tantalizingly close to the summit, and we forged on (one of us very grumbily, one of us positively peppy and scrambling up the rocks like they were part mountain goat) for the remaining 30 minutes until we came to the highest point. thank goodness going down was a much faster feat, in spite of copious phone flashlight use and some unintentional offroading, and you can bet i was quite relieved when we reached the car.
more entertainment came from one of many of my friend's smoothie cravings this trip. we ended up at a raw, vegan and organic place, where we both had kale smoothies with chlorella and spirulina, and i chased it with a kale salad. the kale salad fulfilled my craving (why can't i crave kale salads all the time?), though it did smell like rabbit food. we were the only ones there sans dreadlocks, and i was thoroughly amused by the crystals and tarrot cards present in the cafe.
post-kale pho was a disappointing affair, since we are spoiled by the quality and inexpensiveness of orange county pho. i do think keeping the broth hotter would have made a difference, as the bean sprouts in my bowl only softened slightly towards the end when i was finishing the last noodles.
rocky mountain national park (adams falls)
we took a very scenic drive from denver to the rocky mountain national park, since my friend was insistent that a trip to colorado without seeing the rockies would be incomplete. (i begged to differ, and probably would have been fine being more of a potato). the drive itself was really nice, and we saw so many different kinds of terrain. the walk to adams falls was thankfully mellow, and the falls were plentiful (so strange to 2 california girls in the summer). there was a meadow a little beyond the waterfall that was so picturesque, when i remember it, i almost feel like i saw it in a kid's book and not real life. 10/10 views for 1/10 effort, which is exactly what i wanted after the productive flatirons hike the previous day.
food wasn't a priority for me this trip. it was more strenuous than i had expected, which always makes me less hungry. while i had a list of recs (from my cousin as well as pickings from different media sites and blogs), i had no must go's, not like delancey in seattle (orangette was the og blog for me), or supermoon bakehouse in nyc (mr. holmes is delicious, plus there was so much hype from both family and respected influencers in the food space).
avanti f&b, the most crowded place we went to in denver, had a gorgeous rooftop bar, but honestly, the view was better than the chicken rice bowl i had or the free ice cream i scored or the prickly pear margarita i sipped to give us an excuse to stay longer and gaze at the view of coors arena and the rest of downtown. a+ for denver in the summer when you just want to be outside. if i ever go again, i'll have to give denver food more of a chance.