A Return to Colorado: The Broadmoor Edition

The perfect end to the perfect week in Colorado was three days of perfection at The Broadmor. And there’s no better way to kick off Said Perfection by dining in the 5-star Penrose Room after a grubby week of getting dirty in the backcountry. Fortunately, we clean up nicely.

I loooove Bode’s cultured conversation starters when he’s trying to act proper. Last time as he surveyed the menu, he observed “I hear the salad is quite good here” and this time, it was, “Sooooooo, taxes these days.”

Early the next morning, I went for my traditional solo hike up North Cheyenne Canon and raced back to get ready to The Broadmoor’s fabulous brunch.  Bananas foster. Shrimp diablo. Plum Calvados Crepes. We take our brunching very seriously and Hadley went into panic mode after round 3. “I don’t know what to get now….I feel so empty inside…oh wait, I’m rather full.” These are true First World Problems, people.

One of the highlights of visiting in the summer is renting a cabana by the pool and almost without fail, rain always interferes with our plans. Fortunately, we were able to soak it all in for 1.5 hours before calling it quits and taking a nap in our rooms. 

We are all obsessed with The Broadmoor but no one more than this guy. Every other restaurant or hotel pales in comparison as he sputters out “This would never happen at The Broadmoor,” which means 99.9 perent of his life is a disappointment. I found him napping like this in his luxurious robe that afternoon. At least 0.1 percent of his life is bliss.

That evening, we dined at our favorite restaurant, The Summit, followed by bowling at Play at The Broadmoor. I was worried how Hadley would do with her broken arm but she bowled her first strike ever, thereby proving that maybe having a handicap can actually be helpful. 

The next day, we had one of Colorado’s most epic experiences via the Pikes Peak Cog Reailway! I’ve climbed several 14,000-foot peaks but nothing can quite prepare you for arriving at the summit of 14,114-foot Pikes Peak via the world’s highest Cog Train and being greeted by an onslaught of out-of-shape tourists. If you can’t beat ‘em, you’d better believe we joined ‘em by eating fresh doughnuts and relishing the views from the summit.

Later that evening, 10 days of beautiful Colorado scenery overload was capped off by  Seven Falls and delicious dinner at The Broadmoor’s 1858 restaurant. As I looked across the table at these exhausted, happy people, my heart was so full. We may not always be at our best at home but when adventuring, we shine as our best selves. And it makes all those painful road trips when they were younger to see the avid travelers they have become.

Leaving The Broadmoor always feels like I’m leaving a part of me behind. As we pulled into our neighborhood after the long drive home Jamie observed, “Arvada no longer feels like home and Midway has yet to feel like home. The only place I feel at home is at The Broadmoor.”

We couldn’t agree with you more.

One Year Ago

I’m really not one to celebrate random anniversaries but this one is tough to forget: One year ago last Saturday was when I received that life-changing impression to uproot our happy life and “look for real estate in Soldier Hollow.”

I remembered even before my Colorado friends flooded their social media accounts with details of the ward Christmas party on Saturday. A year ago, I got that prompting a few hours before and somehow in those early stages, I knew. I proceeded to cry through most of the party because I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving such an amazing ward family.

We’ve been in our house for almost two months now and though those early days were pretty ugly, the last few weeks have been good ones. We celebrated Thanksgiving with Jamie’s family. I hiked the Living Room with my college bestie, Lori. I learned how to make macarons with Jamie’s sisters and mom. I had friends over for dinner before we went to Midway’s annual Christmas tree lighting (which landed Bode on the front page of the local paper). I joined a book club with some awesome ladies. We had a memorable VIP experience with new friends at BYU’s football game. I volunteered at our own’s annual Interfaith Creche exhibit. I joined a new private Facebook group of moms who love to X-Country Ski and Snowshoe and went on my first snowy adventure with them. During our hike, we discussed the lack of online communities for outdoor families so I created a private Facebook group. We’re already planning our first adventure–a moonlight snowshoe in January.

New friends Dawnelle and Heather

It all sounds pretty great, right?

It really is until I’m gobsmacked with What I Left Behind. Last Saturday night, I was missing all my friends who were at our old ward’s party. It was dark and cold, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a blanket and go to bed early but my neighbor Stacie was having a girl’s night out. So, I put my big girl panties on and forced myself to go–because you can’t complain about missing your old friends if you never put yourself out there to make new ones.

I’m so grateful I went. Our new ward is truly a blessing with a mix of “old-timers” and two brand new neighborhoods, many of whom are eager to mingle. I was having a great time chatting with a few ladies when I saw someone out of the corner of my eye. I introduced myself to “Yessica,” and learned she was originally from the Netherlands.

We chatted animatedly for a few minutes. She looked really outdoorsy and I was excited to learn we love many of the same activities.

Me: “You should really join this private Facebook group for women who love to cross-country ski and snowshoe!”

She looked at me dumbfoundedly.”I started that group!”

I gazed back at her, closer this time. “Wait, you’re Jessica? I just friended you on Facebook yesterday!”

She replied, “I just friended you back…and joined your Heber Valley Outdoor Families group.”

It was more than just a small world: it was downright serendipitous. We not only had so much in common but had so many ideas for growing an outdoor-loving community in Midway and beyond. I’m certain she is going to become a good friend and maybe we’ll even build out some projects together.

I walked away from that evening still missing my friends but with more resolve than ever that we’re supposed to be here.

And I can’t wait to discover the many reasons why.

Top 15 Park City Adventures in the Fall

I’ve long skied Park City in the winter, cruised down the alpine coaster in the summer but have never been there in the off-season.  Park City’s fall has unfolded like a gorgeous wave, starting with the crimsons and burnt oranges of the oaks and maples, and ending with the pure liquid aspen gold.

Though I’ve wanted to adventure daily, I’ve been limited on time between chauffeuring kids, household chores and work but I’ve made a point to get out at least a few times a week. Near the end of our stay, I stopped in to White Pine Touring for a map of area trails and was pleased to discover I’d managed to hit all the major hubs. Not bad for a rookie!

Here’s a recap of my Park City adventures:

1) Biking around the base of Park City Canyons Village did not suck. Their $21 hamburgers did. 

2) Biking the Millennium Trail from the townhome to Gorgoza Park. This paved trail system provides connectivity throughout the Snyderville Basin and Park City and goes for miles.

3) Willow Creek Trail. This was a fun one to unearth. I was planning to explore the trail that winds down to Historic Main Street when I discovered the Willow Creek trail system that winds around 66 acres of undeveloped open space under a conservation easement with Utah Open Lands. Willow Creek Park is one of the best in Park City.

4) No worries, I took the trail to downtown Park City another day and was not disappointed.

5) Nighttime strolls up to the base of Canyons Village and fun photo filters. This was taken literally right outside our door.

6) Shoe Tree Park. This one was a delight to uncover during my bike ride along the McCleod Trail/ Willow Creek/Hwy 224 Connector  that extends from Kimball Junction to Downtown Park City. You know a town is cool when it has a funky park with shoes, cowboy boots and even ski boots in the trees.

And strange red moss nearby.

7) Deer Valley is a splurge but for girl’s night, we had a glorious time exploring the trails adjacent to the St. Regis. Luxury ain’t free but these fall colors were.

8) If you’re going to do just one exploration in Park City, I highly recommend following the paved trail to the picturesque white barn known as the “McPolin Farm.” Heaped in history, this 100-year-old barn received national status as an Historic Landmark.

Launching kids in the air en route: highly recommended.

9) Most of my mountain biking expeditions had been on paved or easy trails but this was my foray into singletrack and it might be my favorite fall ride ever! Skid Row: I highly recommend it. #ThingsINeverWould HaveSaidBeforeMovingtoParkCity

10) One of my longtime bloggers connected me with her sister Sheri who moved to Park City last year. You’ll never find me in her hot yoga class but a friendship was borne as we climbed Ecker Hill.

11) Trailside Park. I took a different route home from dropping off the kids and stumbled upon an irresistible network of trails and bike park. When I got out of the car to explore in the rain (without the proper gear, of course), the song “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder” played on the radio. No chance of that with wonders around every corner in Park City.

12) My friend Kristen lives in my dream home in Jeremy Ranch. Literally right at her fingertips is the Glenwild Area’s expansive network of trails. She, Lexi and I had so much fun exploring one day…

…that I had to return a few days later to explore the Flying Dog Trail. 

13) Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway connects Heber to Park City to Salt Lake City. I have only three words for this view of the Heber Valley: Oh. My. Gosh.

14) Round Valley wasn’t particularly scenic (unless you like sage brush and scrub oak) but for the novice mountain biker, it’s a pretty amazing place. I tackled a couple of different trailheads: hiked from The Cove (and got a bit lost before meeting Jamie for lunch) and mountain biked Silver Quinn–the paved trail from Quinn’s Junction–to City Park and then hopped on the adjacent singletrack for a wild ride on Rambler. 

14) The Rail Trail is a highly-touted abandoned railroad corridor-turned-non-motorized path that travels 28 miles out of town. I biked 6 miles from the White Pine Touring trailhead to Prospector and it was so underwhelming (unless you like cows that run in front of you) that I did a big loop by biking along the Old Highway 40, crossing to the other side, following Silver Quinn through City Park and then reconnecting with the Rail Trail. At least the ride back was considerably more scenic. Sorry, bovines. You needed to MOOOOVE over.

15) Mid-Mountain. My friend Dave has been raving about his love for mountain biking the famed Mid-Mountain trail at Park City resort for years. An intimate and spectacular trail that sits at about 8,000 feet, it spans 28 miles. There are many options for places to start, one of the most popular being Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley. Since we lived at the “finish line” a.k.a. Canyons Village, I planned to do it backwards…but didn’t realize it’s quite a trek just to reach mid-mountain. And so I did a couple of mini-treks that started right in our Sun Peak neighborhood at Rob’s Trail. The problem: I was always short on time so could only hike a couple of miles. 

On another day, I set out to walk around the Sun Peak neighborhood when I discovered a higher access point for Rob’s trail so did a big loop but was frustrated not to have time to reach Mid-Mountain. I came home and ranted to Jamie [without taking a breath]: “I started to take a neighbor walk but then discovered even more trails and I had to take them even though I didn’t have any time, water or supplies and there are even more trails I have to go back and explore because I couldn’t hike them all today and I’ll NEVER be able to hike them all and…curse you, Park City!”

Jamie [without flinching]: “I don’t know if you’re lying to me or you’re lying to yourself.”#TheEntireDynamicOfOurMarriageSummedUp

A week later, I set out to hike that higher access point for Rob’s Trail off Bear Hollow Drive. I was pressed for time: we had our house’s walk-through that afternoon so I needed to make it quick. From the very beginning, it was absolutely my favorite hike in Park City.

I was having a grand ol’ time minding my own business when, for the first time, I saw the turnoff for Mid-Mountain. Could the Holy Grail of Park City backcountry be near? I checked my watch; I was running out of time. I was determined to get as far as I could and, if needs be, turn around. I ran into two women who’d just returned from Mid-Mountain and I breathlessly asked how much farther. They checked their altimeter. “You have about 1 mile to go.” I kicked it into high-gear with a faster hiking pace and nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for what awaited me when I turned the last bend to see the very cradle of the mountain in a pathway of golds and greens.


Mid-Mountain was everything I’d dreamed of…and so much more. I could have explored for hours but I was on deadline. For the first time in over a year, I ran. At first, I was tentative to spare my knee but after a few minutes, the familiar rhythm returned to me and I blissfully raced down the mountain, rejoicing how much I missed this freedom of flight and I NEEDED to get back into it.

Until I woke up the next morning and realized I had twisted my uninjured knee and it took me a full week to recover. But you’d better believe Mid-Mountain was worth it.

Serendipitous Deer Valley

ser·en·dip·i·ty
ˌserənˈdipədē/
noun
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
“a fortunate stroke of serendipity”

Have you ever had an evening of happy little coincidences? Welcome to our first Girl’s Night Out since moving to Utah!

Let me back up a bit. I was in a bit of a funk. Fall is usually my favorite time of the year and that very week was usually our big pumpkin party and weigh-off when we were surrounded by fun and friends. I was missing our wonderful life in Colorado.

The boys had a father-son campout with our new ward so I determined I was going to invite some of the ladies and Hadley’s new friends over to our Park City townhome for swimming and dinner. The problem: I only got around to inviting Sarah, who has been my lifesaver with watching Bode in the mornings before school. So we decided rather than staying in, we would go out! The week prior, my Kristen (the wonderful gal from whom we’re renting the townhome) took me on a tour of Park City and included in that tour was Deer Valley. I determined that was where we would go.

Deer Valley is the Aspen of Utah, tucked amongst forested slopes with luxe accommodations. Hadley, Sarah and I had dinner lakeside at the Deer Valley Grocery~Café, a casual yet delicious eatery (the turkey panini with roasted rhubarb chutney, Cabot white cheddar, tarragon aioli, fresh arugula, housemade wild rice harvest bread was delicious).

From there, we rode up the free funicular (mountain rail-car) to four-star St. Regis Hotel, nestled above Snow Park in Deer Valley, and hit the trails. Lo, did we hit the trails.

As we marveled at the gorgeous fall colors, Sarah (an ace photographer) gave Hadley some tips as gawked northward towards Park City and Deer Valley and eastward to the Jordanelle Valley.

We continued our explorations back to the hotel and saw a glowing firepit in the distance. We headed toward the light and settled by the fire and acknowledged a young woman selling s’mores but we were still full from dinner. When some hotel guests arrived (with whom Sarah had common friends in Chicago), we gave into the temptation and that is when our lives changed forever. The staffer, Michelle, was a s’mores sommelier who taught us the art form of stuffed chocolate s’mores. Dripping peanut butter cup smores. And s’mores cakepops.

All this while our boys were at the father-son campout eating half-cooked hot dogs.

Nothing like girl’s night out for the win!

The Colorado Sisterhood

When I first moved to Colorado 13.5 years ago, it took me a while to adjust. I’d left a thriving career and fun social circle in Salt Lake City to a place where I knew no one apart from my new husband, whom I was still getting to know. I didn’t fit in with the women my age in the ward who all had children, it took me a few months to find a job and I spent a lot of time on my own hiking and [sad confession] watching the entire series of Dawson’s Creek. I don’t really mind being alone–in fact, I quite enjoy it–but I definitely felt lonely as I struggled to carve out my existence here.

Six months after getting married, I got pregnant with Hadley. It wasn’t until after I become a mom that I finally started making friends, the first of whom was my dear friend Tina through our hiking group, Colorado Mountain Mamas. When we moved into our house, I hated the Arvada 2nd Ward–it was the smallest in the stake and struggled a lot. My now-friend Lisa decided to do something about it and formed a dinner group with couples who have now become our very closest friends.

As the years have passed, that circle of friends has grown. I have gone from feeling like an outsider to being the includer–organizing events and gatherings for anyone who will come. I love that this group of people we are blessed to call friends are so involved in each other’s lives. My children have grown up with their children, I thought they’d be teenagers together and maybe even date and marry. I envisioned going to lunch as old ladies with Lisa, Eva and Jenn, sharing all the minute details of our grandchildren’s lives.  These friends have become part of our DNA and that has been, hands down, the most difficult part of leaving.

I started an informal hiking group a while back and it has become a come-if-you-can weekly adventure.  In May, I vowed I would finally do a hike that has been on my bucket list for years: we would hike the entirety of the Mesa Trail in Boulder. It’s a 14-mile round-trip trek and, though I’ve hiked numerous portions of it, I’ve never hiked it straight through. And as much as I love hiking, 14 miles is a beast so I decided to cut it in half by parking a car at the end of the hike and then circling back and planting another car at the beginning, the South Mesa Trailhead.

I put a call out to friends to see who would be interested and six answered the call on that Thursday: Debbie, Jenn, Lisa, Sheree, Tina and a new friend, Melissa. It wasn’t an easy hike and by the end, I was limping but the time flew by during those 3.5 hours as we hiked, chatted and marveled at the sheer majesty along the trail that day. Chautauqua Park has been a special place for me since my early days in Colorado and I’ll never forget my first hike there with my hiking group as I was blown away by the stunning terrain and historic cottages and Dining Hall heaped in history.

We laughed at the memory of when, earlier in the year, we’d hiked a portion of the trail when it ran into an unnavigable river. Or so we thought until Debbie insisted we bushwhack downstream, find a rickety log to cross, and it was Debbie who ended up falling in.

Fortunately this time, there was a new passage in place across the creek.

When we finally arrived at Chautauqua nearly 8 miles later, we were tired, dirty and sweaty but that didn’t stop us from eating lunch on the Dining Hall’s gorgeous patio overlooking the Flatiron Mountains and a torrent of flowers on the expansive lawn. For two hours, we laughed, ate and certainly didn’t disagree when Debbie strongly suggested topping off the day with peach and huckleberry cobbler. When we weren’t looking,  she covertly slipped the waiter her credit card to cover the bill and I felt like smooching her right there if I hadn’t been covered in dirt and berries.

Sitting on that deck in the most gorgeous settings with women who are numbered among my dearest friends (and knowing there are so many more who couldn’t join us), I just felt gratitude for this life I have been blessed to live for 13 years. I know new friendships will develop in Utah but I need to remember it will take time and that what I have here will never, ever be replaced.

I couldn’t help but think how far I’ve come…and how far I still have to go.

And how darn grateful I am to have shared this journey with so many wonderful people along the way.

My love affair with Evergreen, Colorado

The prospect of leaving Colorado physically hurts me sometimes. I’ve loved on this place hard and while there are still so many things on my bucket list, I have zero regrets that I’ve left any major stones unturned.

One of my favorite places in Colorado is Evergreen. Just 30 minutes from our house, this gorgeous mountain hamlet is tucked away in Colorado’s mountains.  Evergreen Lake was named one of the top ten most scenic places for ice skating in the world and is bordered by mountain parks with miles of trails.

Lo, do I know those trails. I’ve spent countless hours exploring them and have only one major item left to conquer, Bergen Peak, which I vowed to do when I picked up Hadley from Mount Evans Outdoor Lab. But my irascible knee was not cooperating with this 10-mile hike so I had to resort to something different; a trail I’d never hiked. I first called the chamber for advice, then the ranger’s station, then the open space and no one could help me. I finally found some luck when I talked to a woman from the Evergreen Recreation District. I described all the hikes I’ve done in the area –from the extensive network of trails at Alderfer/Three Sisters to Dedisse Mountain Park to Elk Meadow Park to Evergreen Lake.

She responded, “I have to tell you that you’ve done more exploring here than most of our locals.”

I’ll wear that observation like a badge of honor.

She recommended the Beaver Brook Watershed, a little-known trail that is part of a 20-mile wildlife corridor between Elk Meadow and Mount Evans. I was in!

Early that morning, I took my friend Amy biking along Ralston Creek Trail and then my friend Lisa and I drove up to Evergreen together. We were limited on time so only did the 1.8-mile round-trip hike to the reservoir but I was blown away by this gorgeous, easy hike dotted with aspens and a dense forest.

There’s nothing like saving [one of] the best for last.

A Final Colorado Father’s Day to Remember

I heard Jamie on the phone raving that he got the best Father’s Day present ever and I wondered what he was talking about. Was it the new North Face boots? (We lost one of his winter boots on a trip last season.) The Broncos camping chair? The new THEATER sign to hang outside of his home theater in our new basement?

Nope, none of that. “Our house is under finally under contract!”

Oh yeah, THAT!

Yes, we’re under contract for a second time. It feels right and I’m cautiously optimistic all will go according to plan. This literally came to fruition in the 11th hour, right before we would need to make some big changes to our timeline (and finances) and after my near nervous breakdown. Our buyers are a cute family from North Carolina and they offered us our full asking price. The second one, not the first. It’s a wee bit painful it’s $15,000 less than our original offer but I’m so over the whole process that I’m ready to take it and run.

Jamie first told me they were submitting an offer on Friday when I was volunteering at Bode’s Cub Scout Twilight Camp. In the hot sun. With poorly planned activities that required us to entertain them for hours on end (my definition of hell). I was happy with the news but not that happy until after I’d downed a Slurpee, taken a cold shower and had a full night of sleep.

Once I was refreshed and in air-conditioning, I promised Jamie I’d make him his favorite apple pie for Father’s Day. Our ward has an awesome tradition of eating pie for Mother’s and Father’s Day so after stuffing our faces at church, we escaped Denver’s 99-degree day and headed for the hills.

The day after Jamie and I got engaged, he took me hiking to St. Mary’s Glacier and it has been an annual tradition ever since. I get a bit misty-eyed thinking about all our adventures there–from when we carried baby Hadley in her backpack to when she hiked it herself when she was 3, to Bode’s arrival on the scene, to hiking it with friends and carsickness (puking) on the trail, to when Hadley scaled the entire glacier two years in a row, to the time Jamie ran over her foot in the parking lot and we decided to forgo the hike. Memories, I tell ya!

St. Mary’s Glacier truly has some of the most beautiful vistas just outside of Denver.

When Hadley is enraptured with her surroundings, she steals my phone to take pictures. She has an eye for photography and I’d love to get her a real camera.

A trip to a glacier wouldn’t be complete without an old-fashioned snowball fight. (Note Jamie’s snowball mid-flight.)

We came back exhausted, much cooler and made a big spread of grilled burgers, veggies and, of course, more apple pie while we curled up in our cool basement to watch a movie in our home theater room.

The perfect Father’s Day? Pretty much. And I couldn’t ask for a better husband, father and father-in-law to celebrate.

Devil’s Head Tower Lookout’s Cut of Fall Heaven

I’ve wanted to do the 2.8-mile round-trip hike to Devil’s Head Tower Lookout for several years. As one of the last of the seven original Front Range Lookout towers still in service, this hike is a popular one but it’s a 1.5 hour drive from our house. Finding time and willing participants have been issues so 1) we raced over late afternoon after church and 2) I bribed my family to go.

I loved everything about this hike and one advantage of leaving later in the day was we almost had this hike to ourselves. This hike was a new favorite.

From the views of the Rampart Range along the way.

To the fall colors.

To the fascinating tornado takedown.

To the 143 steps to get to heaven.

To the 103-year-old lookout tower that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you’re in the Denver area, this hike is a must. And worth the bribes to get there.

September Adventuring

I know, I know. I still haven’t posted about summer in Canada and here I am sharing about our fall adventures? Getting caught up is still at the top of my to-do list but my laptop problems persist. After Jamie downloaded Windows 10 (DON’T DO IT), my computer starting having major problems. Then it caught a virus. And  now I can barely use it at all because I can’t upload photos and am having a myriad of other issues. So, I’m back to using my trusty OLD laptop I won from Microsoft Office when I went to the 2010 Vancouver Games.

I’ll be honest that September 2015 hasn’t been my favorite ever, mostly due to my relentless allergies and the persisting 90 degree temperatures. Last week it dropped down to the 80s but if I wanted this kind of climate in fall, I’d move to Arizona. One of Jamie’s top clients pressured him about moving our family down to the Phoenix area and I said “even if he offered you a half a million dollars, there’s no way in hell.”  I’m assuming he phrased it a bit nicer to the client. That said, I’m still obsessed with doing a home exchange abroad. Just  not in the devil’s summer home.

We haven’t been on as many fall adventures as I’d prefer but a couple of weeks ago, we drove to Kenosha Pass (about an hour from Denver) for some quality leaf-peeping. We’ve had the strangest weather in Denver. May was a deluge, which caused a lot of problems with the trees and now that we’re in a drought (September was one of the driest on record), the colors aren’t as brilliant.  Regardless, those shimmering golden aspen leaves still stun.





Now that school is back in session, I’ve also been trying to hike with friends on Thursdays if I’m a good girl and get my work done (at least that’s what I tell Jamie). Last week, we went to Golden Gate Canyon State Park and I regretted that it’s been years since I’ve taken my family because it really impressed.

In my defense, the only two times I’ve been to Golden Gate have been for not-so memorable camping trips so I have some pent-up angst.

Two weeks before that, we conquered Chief Mountain and it has become my favorite hike on the Front Range with gorgeous 360-degree views at the summit.

And took these newbies to Country Road Cafe.

A few other adventures included our annual hike to St. Mary’s Glacier. 

Jamie wasn’t feeling well so Bode hung out with Jamie at the base of the glacier while Hadley and I summited, no small feat. Next time, I’m playing sick.

October is my favorite month of the year with sweater weather (Denver, consider that a threat), cozy soups and pumpkin weigh-offs galore. This weekend, we’ll be juggling the Ringling Bros. Xtreme Circus, Elitch Garden’s Fright Fest, our school’s carnival fundraiser and General Conference.

October, we’re so ready for you.

The Colorado Bucket List

I complained to Jamie last year how we rarely get visitors. We live in Colorado, for heaven’s sake, not Kansas. People should be lining up to discover our state’s glory!

As it turns out, we’ve finally had a steady stream of friends and family staying with us and I couldn’t be more delighted. Our most recent were my brother Pat and his wife Jane, who have not been to Denver since my wedding 12 years ago. Jane surprised Pat with an item on his bucket list: to attend a Broncos game and spend a couple of days with us. Clarification: The Broncos game was the bucket list; hanging Chez Johnson was a huge bonus.

I was initially at a loss how to entertain them. Though they live near the Canadian Rockies, every spare moment is spent on the water but Jane soothed my concerns and told me they wanted to experience “My Colorado,” which is another way of saying they value near-death experiences.

Day 1

So, on Day 1, I took them to Chautauqua Park in Boulder. They’re not hikers so we did a moderate one-hour loop but when Pat smack-talked me “Is that all you’ve got?” it made me vow to kill them off next time around with a more strenuous trek. At least him; Jane is much more accommodating.


We spent the afternoon strolling and lunching along Pearl Street Mall.

The real highlight (for Jane at least) was to treat the whole family to Casa Bonita that evening! When she was doing her research on Colorado haunts, this Mexican restaurant was listed as one of the nation’s Top 10 Roadside Attractions, evidence that list had a very low standard. Don’t get me wrong. Casa Bonita’s pageantry–divers plunging into a pool below a 30-ft. waterfall,  fire jugglers, strolling mariachi bands, a pirate cave, magicians, puppet shows, skee-ball machine, puppet show and arcade games–are fun but the food is terrible, with the exception of their sopapillas.  But if you drown enough of them in honey, you start enjoying yourself in that cheesy Mexican funhouse!

This picture is blurry due to my sheer terror in Black Bart’s Cave.

Day 2

Boulder’s Flatirons are the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. For Pat and Jane’s second day in Colorado, I wanted to expose them to Colorado’s extremes.

We started at Red Rocks, which is known nationally for its famous music venue. For athletes, it is a haven for pushing the limits. From active.com: “Red Rocks is known nationally for its famous music venue. For athletes, it is a haven for pushing the limits in the altitude. Sitting at 6,000 feet high, Red Rocks has two staircases on either side of the amphitheater that rise from the lower parking lot to the upper concession level, each with about 380 steps. There are two interior stairways on either side of the bleachers each with 138 steps from the stage to the top. Red Rocks features 69 rows of seats in the venue, which equates to running approximately three miles on an ascent or descent of the bleachers. Add in 21 planter boxes for plyo jumps, side stairways that climb from the stage to the upper parking lot with 83 steps, which then connect by way of an ascending quarter-mile ramp to 62 steps straight up to the upper concession area; you have a challenging workout amidst some of the best scenery in the Rocky Mountains.”

Sounds fun, right? I didn’t want to kill us off so we hiked the amphitheater loop and then did a few rounds up Red Rocks’ stairs. Believe me, that was plenty!

We felt a bit less guilty about indulging at my beloved Country Road Cafe. Jamie always orders the Breakfast Burrito but I like to test out new menu items and fell in love with the Berry Bush, potato pancakes topped with cream cheese, sausage patties, two eggs, hollandaise and blackberry-sage drizzle. It was delicious but the real show-stopper was Jane’s “Holy Cow,” a heap of mashed potatoes topped with a scramble of eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, country fried steak, sausage gravy and crispy onions surrounded by french toast. 

Aptly-named “Holy Cow!”

I kid you not: her plate was triple the size of our already-huge portions and her leftovers fed my entire family for dinner. And a small nation.

From there, we were 14er-bound to drive to the top of Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. We popped some Tylenol to battle altitude-induced headaches during the circuitous drive but it wasn’t until we got out of the car to hike a few hundred feet to the summit that the elevation started to wreak havoc, particularly with Jane. 

Pat had another issue: he’s deathly afraid of heights and there was something about looming 14,000 feet above the valley floor that was unsettling for him. Go figure. Regardless, the views stunned but poor Jane passed out driving down and upon arriving home, this is how I found them.

If this isn’t a raving endorsement for “Come to Colorado and I’ll show you a good time,” I don’t know what is.

In my defense, this is what I look like after spending a day on the boat with them.