My mother-in-law gave me a funny look when I rattled off the activities my solo weekend in Colorado entailed.
"I thought you might...sleep in or something?" she said. But seriously. Who could sleep in when there are kid-free mountain adventures awaiting? Certainly not I.
After catching sunrise from Red Rocks Amphitheatre, my sister and I headed to the patio at Highlands Cork & Coffee for mochas and bagel sandwiches that were so good we have yet to stop talking about them. Then we took my ginger-haired niece and nephew dogs for a walk around this lovely reservoir at Denver's Crown Hill Park (below).
By the time my brother-in-law rolled up from work, we had all our camping gear piled by the door and were lacing up our boots. We drove several hours south through two of my favorite areas: South Park (the grassland basin, not the show) and the Upper Arkansas River Valley. The views here are BIG. From the back seat, my ginger seatmates and I enjoyed watching the storms broiling over distant mountains and not-so-distant cattle ranches.
Our destination? The Angel of Shavano Campground in the Sawatch Range, which greeted us with a double rainbow and a camp host who tipped us off to the best site to catch first light creeping over the mountains.
The night was quiet and clear, and we did indeed have the best view of sunrise.
From here we hopped on the Colorado Trail, which took us up along the valley of the North Fork of the South Arkansas River (confused yet?). If I have my bearings right, the Sangre de Christo Range is in the distance, with Hunts Peak on the left.
The trail also took us through a massive stand of aspen and a glorious, wildflower-filled alpine meadow.
You may recognize my fantastic hosts from the engagement session I posted here earlier this year. (You can also check out the posts from my previous Colorado trip for their February mountain wedding here, here and here.)
I had passed by Salida a few times over the years but never stopped to visit its historic downtown. I almost regret stopping on our way home...because now I'm obsessing over it. Salida is mountain biking country. And rafting country. And skiing country. And art country. Okay, most Colorado is, but I really liked Salida. It's a tiny, cash-or-check-only-please kind of town with a lot of character. We grabbed a post-hike lunch at Ploughboy, then stopped for coffee at Cafe Dawn before walking around town.
The sky during our drive back up to Denver was at least as stunning as on the way down.
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.