Vegas/Tucson Adult Spring Break 2019

Thanks to Ironman training, I haven’t really traveled much this year. I’d had a couple trips tentatively penciled in (tagging along with the husband), but none managed to pan out.

Then, B and his dad were planning on going to the Wild/Knights game in Las Vegas in late March. I was thinking, hey, I want to go too … why don’t I drive down and bring the bikes? And maybe we can go to Tucson after? Well, the game didn’t pan out, but the trip did.

Thursday, March 28

Since the game didn’t work out, B decided to go up to visit his parents in Minnesota for a few days while I made the drive out to the desert. Instead of doing Denver to Las Vegas in one shot, I decided to split the drive and spend the night in Page, Ariz., hoping for Horseshoe Bend at both sunset and sunrise.

I left Denver pretty early Thursday morning and trucked on through to Fruita. My first planned stop was Colorado National Monument. I was ideally hoping to run there, but the massive death plague (… allergies? bronchitis? still a mystery …) that hit me put the kibosh on that. However, I still stopped in to see it.

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Totally worth the detour.

I also saw a sign for a Dinosaur Hill and I wasn’t not stopping there, either … so I did the small hike at the site.

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From there, I cut down at Crescent Junction/Moab in Utah and moseyed on down that way toward Page. I almost stopped at Arches, but decided to hold off.

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Driving.

I honestly don’t remember what I ended up doing for lunch this day – I think random snacks at a 7-11 somewhere – but dinner was a sushi place in Page that ended up being pretty tasty. Horseshoe Bend was ridiculously busy at sunset, but it was pretty.

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Didn’t get a picture of the dinos last time through.

Friday, March 29

Dawn at Horseshoe Bend was much better. And much quieter as things tend to be.

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After getting some photos, I headed back on the road to Las Vegas. I almost timed it perfectly to get in the same time B’s flight did, but not quite. I picked him up, we grabbed a simple and quick lunch at Chipotle, and then checked in to the Bellagio. Dinner ended up being at the buffet because we couldn’t really think of anything else and it’s an easy way to eat a lot of salad.

From there, we split up – B dropped me off at the Neon Museum, as I was FINALLY going back at night (… thinking that I’d need something to do while he was watching hockey) and he had a few errands to run.

The Neon Museum is awesome regardless of when you go, but I would suggest going both day parts, especially as they continue to restore more signs.

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I also got tickets to see Brilliant!, an art installation in the north gallery (a gallery I didn’t get to see last time I visited back in … 2014?). Brilliant! was AWESOME. In the next few photos, the lights you see are NOT restored; it just looks that way.

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Saturday, March 30

The original plan for this day was wake up, go for an early run, hang out in the spa, maybe by the pool, and gamble. A very low key, chill day.

Actual plan was a bit different. As I was still pretty sick – and coughing to the point that I was sleeping on the bathroom floor away from B so we could both get some z’s – I got forced to urgent care that morning in order for some definitive answers. I had puzzled out bronchitis with a nurse friend of ours … but urgent care people said allergies. I’m still unsure as to which it actually is/was.

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Bellagio conservatory earlier that morning.

Breakfast prior to urgent care was at Blueberry Hill off strip. Coffee post urgent care was, to no one’s surprise, at Cafe Lola.

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The cappuccino was probably the worst I’ve ever had there (booooo) but still pretty good. The pasteis de nada (Portuguese egg pastry) was delicious as always.

Post-coffee, off to pick up my medication, get a car wash, and back to the hotel. B still wanted to run, so he hit up the fitness center while I grabbed a book and hung out by the pool. He joined me after and we both decided against the spa. We ate lunch at the Pool Cafe and then decided to gamble some.

Most all gambling for me was TERRIBLE this trip, btw. After a couple good trips, I finally had another bad one. Booooooo.

Dinner was at In-N-Out, as it is.

Sunday, March 31

We left Las Vegas pretty early to get to Tucson as we had an important detour along the way. Breakfast was just crap at Starbucks, as it’s easy. And stupid.

Our detour was Grand Canyon National Park – somewhere neither of us had ever been to. We didn’t have/take the time to hike, but we will definitely be returning at some point.

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Such well traveled little dinosaurs.

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Lunch was at a KFC at some Route 66 town nearby (I forget which one) and then we continued the drive down to Tucson. Neither of us were all that hungry, so dinner was Cold Stone and french fries.

Monday, April 1

Since we were staying at the Doubletree Reid Park, we got free breakfast every day at the hotel, so that was food every day.

I think B made me do a virtual visit with another doctor this morning since I was still dying, but I don’t 100% remember.

We tried a new lunch place in Baggins Gourmet Sandwiches and it was really good. Have never tried them in Tucson before but we will definitely return. I tried running at Reid Park – got about a fifth of a mile in before hacking and dying. B continued on … but not me.

Dinner that night was an old Tucson standard – eegee’s and Lucky Wishbone.

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B wanted a bit of pool time so he did that and we both decided on a drink by the fire pit – beer for him and a glass of wine for me.

Tuesday, April 2

After breakfast at the hotel, we decided to forgo Starbucks for coffee (like we did the previous morning) and headed to Le Buzz over by Mt. Lemmon. I had hoped to get some time on the mountain this trip, but alas, that was not to be.

Post-coffee, we spent some time at Bookman’s buying books before heading to Choice Greens for salad for lunch. B got on the bike today while I attempted to blow up my giant T. rex tail pool float I bought the previous year. It took forever, but I was successful!

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I am also ridiculous, but you knew that.

After a couple hours in the pool, we headed off to dinner at our favorite Tucson Mexican food spot, Casa Molina … and ate a ridiculous amount of food. Oops.

Wednesday, April 3

Wednesday was hike around cacti day … which we are realizing needs to be way earlier in the trip. Like first night. It’s where we’re both the happiest.

The first stop of the day was at Saguaro National Park West over by Gates Pass … which we had never actually been to – we always hit up SNP East.

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We saw a snek! I’m pretty well zoomed in on this rattlesnake – they were off trail and still pretty calm. No rattling out of them!

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The desert was nicely in bloom.

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Saguaro blossom!

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Petroglyphs.

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We stopped back by the visitor’s center again after hiking to let them know about the snake and then got lunch since we were both starving. Food ended up being a lot of repeats – lunch at In-N-Out and yes, dinner was at Casa Molina again. Regrets we have? Zero.

I forget what we did most of that afternoon post-lunch – probably mostly packed – but I did want to get some sunset pictures over at SNP East so we did go do that before dinner.

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Desert skies are amazing, man.

Thursday, April 4

We were up super early to drive back home, since we’re in the time of year where Tucson/Arizona is an hour different (silly daylight saving time). Breakfast was at Waffle House since not much else is open that early.

The drive was mostly uneventful, which is nice, but we did get a killer sunrise.

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Lunch was at a Jimmy John’s in Albuquerque (that was highly obnoxious to get to) and dinner was pizza of fail when we got back home … since we didn’t have much food in the house.

*****

I would argue this was one of our worst Las Vegas and worst Tucson trips. Partially because I was sick and partially because we didn’t have the best plan going in. Or the plan got shifted so terribly because I was sick. Still, time in the desert is a good thing and I know I needed to get out of town.

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Shinedown at the Budweiser Events Center

Yes, also known as Shinedown show number 9 for me. I wasn’t originally going to go to this show – we hopped on VIP too late (that is, it was sold out) and so decided to maybe not go to this show. Plus they were touring with Papa Roach and the last time I saw PR was when my cousin Mike was doing sound for them … and Mike passed away this past July so I knew that was going to be hard for me.

However, as it got closer to the show date (and we knew B was going to be out of town), I decided I really wanted to go so I bought myself a ticket. I’m glad that I did – not only because the show was AWESOME, but also because I apparently always see Shinedown the March of an Ironman year. Crazy, right?

Anyway, the show was held last night at the Budweiser Events Center up in Loveland. I mostly know the building as the home of the AHL’s (formerly CHL’s and ECHL’s) Colorado Eagles. Who I still haven’t managed to see in action. Doors were at 6 and I got there a bit before 4. I brought some books to read, but didn’t actually end up reading them – I was on my phone chatting with B a bit and just observing humanity.

Despite being a bit back in the line when I arrived, I managed to be one of the very first people into the venue. I popped down to the merch table by the floor entrance … but they told me that the guitar pick packs (like I bought at the last Pepsi Center show) were upstairs … so I bolted up to that table. Pick packs and a new shirt (because it had “It’s my day to be brilliant” on the back and that’s my IM anthem this year and I’m totally wearing it race morning) and then a stop to the bathroom since I had to pee. I almost went to find food … but decided I’d be okay (reader, this was not a good decision) and went to find a spot on the floor instead.

There was a weird stage setup – the regular stage and then a long runway protruding from the middle that ended in a little square. Well great, where do I go? I ended up going on the right side of the runway more toward the little square which ended up not being a bad spot, but not ideal for guitar picks, sadly. I wasn’t right on the rail, but only one to two people back (there was a mom in front of her kids) so not bad.

First up was Asking Alexandria. I’d heard of them before, but none of their actual music (or if I had, I didn’t know it was them). They weren’t bad, but it wasn’t quite my style of music. Lead singer was hysterical, though, and they did have a song or two that I enjoyed.

I almost had a pick at this show, but the woman in front of me (the one with kids) snagged it off the floor like two seconds before me, so whatever.

The worst part of this show was the drunk couple that barreled in in front of me right as the set started, kept causing chaos (they ended up a bit further to my right by the time Papa Roach went on and I have no idea where they went for Shinedown) and had oodles of sloppy make outs. Learned that it was apparently their engagement concert which, yay, congrats, good for you … but ain’t nobody wants to see that much fucking PDA.

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(You can also get a sense to the stage set up here; the mini square is behind me, for reference.)

Next up was Papa Roach. They were high energy back when I saw them six years ago and that hasn’t changed at all.

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I really need to check the set list from this show and download some more of their music, because damn are they good. Really. Lead singer Jacoby Shaddix is still wandering into the crowd and around the arena and I’m sure he’s still making his sound guy shake his head with exasperation (Mike told me that yeah, it’s great that Shaddix does that, but it’s hard on him to keep the sound good).

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See? Wandering.

I also almost had a pick – felt it go off my forearm, but a woman next to me was right on it as it hit the ground.

I wasn’t expecting to cry much during Papa Roach – except when I thought of Mike – but damn Jacoby hit me with a small bit of Linkin Park’s “In the End” at the end of “Scars” as a tribute to their late lead singer, Chester Bennington, as it was his birthday. That got me right in the feels.

The wonderful thing about this show is I swear Mike was with me. I didn’t feel his ~presence~, per se, but all during the show there was always space for a person next to me. That wasn’t the case during Asking Alexandria and certainly wasn’t the case during Shinedown, but during Papa Roach? Always a (fairly decent-sized person) hole next to me.

I miss you, Mike, and thank you for being there.

As for Shinedown … they brought it, as always. Brent Smith’s voice sounded a little different at times, but I think that was due to some new vocal arrangements for a few of the songs.

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I think I cried through about 50% of this show … but that’s pretty standard for Shinedown shows these days.

There was a bit more downtime between songs … and almost an intermission as they went to the little square … which ended up being a second stage.

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Apparently when they were doing set design for this tour, Zach Myers thought, “why not a second stage?”, so they did it. I enjoyed it as it made a large arena show feel a lot more intimate. Plus it was a great way for them to go off the cuff and be less scripted like they usually are with their large venue shows. Yeah, the tight, clean show is nice, but y’all ARE HILARIOUS. USE IT. And in this, they finally did.

In the small stage set, I guess they’ve been having a band member pick a song for the night for different shows … and, Barry Kerch I love you forever for this (and not only for your coffee), but it was his night and he chose “Call Me.” So I got to hear that for a second time.

(Setlist.fm LIES – we did not see “Misfits” at this show we saw “Call Me” and it was GLORIOUS.)

Shinedown also did something I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do in six years of going to shows – they actually announced the band members. Whaaaat?

Also: while “45” was still just Smith and Myers … Kerch and Eric Bass actually joined them (back on the main stage) for the end of “Simple Man.” Will wonders never cease?

No picks (other than the ones I bought) and none really came towards me. Would have had to have been a lot closer to the main stage for that.

Still, all in all an amazing show and I’m so glad I ended up biting the bullet and going on my own.

Even if I am fucking destroyed today as a result. Concert hangover? Is a thing.

On Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel

Although I really haven’t blogged about it much, we’re still doing our monthly date nights. Not all of them have been super exciting (a lot of times it’s just dinner … and even if it’s a new place I haven’t always wanted to write about it). However, this month we decided to really change it up and do tea at the Brown Palace Hotel.

The Brown is one of the oldest hotels in Denver (if not the oldest), built in 1892. They also do a high tea during the afternoons from 12-4. I’ve done it a few times, but the last time was over a decade ago for a friend’s birthday.

I’ve talked about it, and B wanted to do it … but it was hard for us to commit to as you typically have to make your reservation for tea months out and with his schedule, that isn’t easy. However, once he got his March schedule, we chatted about it, and they had spots open. So, we went yesterday.

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We just did the signature tea, as neither of us wanted alcohol. You get to choose your type of tea; I chose a black while B chose a green. Unfortunately, I can’t recall which flavors we got and the menu online doesn’t match yesterday’s. Both, however, were delicious.

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The treat tower.

Bottom level: scones. We had a buttermilk and a coconut and we loved both of them. The Brown imports their Devonshire cream from England and it is very tasty.

Middle level: sandwiches. Your typical cucumber sandwich (yum), a chicken salad on rye (okay), and a curry egg salad (not bad, but you definitely taste the curry).

Top level: desserts. A mini almond madeleine (tasty), some mint petit four (gross), a chocolate thing (highly disappointing), and some raspberry pastry that was surprisingly good – reminded me of a tarter Starbucks Raspberry Swirl Loaf.

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B is excited.

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You can get extra sandwiches, so we just got more of the cucumber ones.

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A close up of the raspberry dessert. It was pretty.

Tea at the Brown is definitely a fun experience, albeit a pricey one. I wouldn’t recommend it as something to do super frequently, but it is worth doing.

Colorado State Parks Project, Part Two

I made it a goal of mine last year to visit all of the Colorado State Parks. I’m not sure if it was a combination of me wanting to just explore the state more, or give myself something to do since I was no longer working or what … but it was an awesomely fun project. This is the second of two posts on the quest.

July 13, State Forest State Park

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This one was a bit of a drive to get to and we almost got lost … but it was actually really gorgeous. And huge.

Will I return?: I definitely want to. We only did a few short hikes due to time constraints but the longer ones looked awesome. Plus there are apparently a ton of moose in this park and while we heard their calls … we saw no moose. I want to see moose!

July 19, Elkhead Reservoir State Park

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I was a little cranky at this one. This was a long day trip to hit up all five parks in the Steamboat Springs area. I got up early, stopped on the side of the road to catch the absolutely gorgeous sunrise that morning … and somehow got my first speeding ticket in a decade (and first in the state of Colorado). I was not entirely happy. I don’t speed these days! I was getting passed all the time! Oh well. Such is life.

Will I return?: Not to this one. The parks that are mostly just reservoirs/lakes (this, Harvey Gap, Jackson Lake, etc.) aren’t entirely for me right now. I don’t boat and I don’t fish. I do swim, but not all of these inspire a want for open water swimming.

July 19, Yampa River State Park

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Easy peasy to find, right off the main highway going through town.

Will I return?: No reason to, really. Unless I’m driving up there and B wants to see it.

July 19, Steamboat Lake State Park

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This and the next park were basically across the street from each other. A little buggy, but I guess that’s to be expected.

Will I return?: I was initially thinking not – really no reason to – but there’s a tri I’m tossing around doing at the end of July that will be held here so maybe?

July 19, Pearl Lake State Park

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This park was a bit confusing. Not to find, but to access what I might want to access.

Will I return:? Weirdly enough, I think I’d like to. I saw some people stand-up paddleboarding and was insanely jealous (totally something I want to learn). Also, I’m betting that park has some great hiking. I just have to find it …

July 19, Stagecoach State Park

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Final stop of the day. Needed to hike, so chose to here (even though the path I found was easy peasy). I was drooling over the roads on the drive, thinking I may need to haul my bike up to train on the rolling hills for IMoo.

Will I return?: I’d like to! This park captured me in some way and I would love to explore it some more. And obviously ride my bike on the roads outside it.

August 14, Highline Lake State Park

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Another day where the fire haze was awful. Also another day that I hit up multiple parks. But when I need to drive to the other side of the state … Highline Lake is on the western slope, probably like 8 miles from the Utah border.

Will I return?: Probably not. See: Elkhead Reservoir.

August 14, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park

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So this park actually has five “outposts” if you will, which makes sense because the Colorado River is huge. I stopped at two of them – the one in Fruita, where this photo was taken, and the Island Acres section just off I-70 (where I got evacuated thanks to a fire just off the highway).

Will I return?: Maybe, if only to hit up the other three sections. I’ve driven past one of the others, but still have yet to spot the other two …

August 14, Vega State Park

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Another park where it was totally more about the journey. The drive to Vega (on main roads) was fairly outstanding. When it came time to leave, I could go back from whence I came (and technically backtrack in direction), or go the road less traveled. I chose the latter … and ended up on bumpy, washboard dirt roads. All about the adventure, right?

I also didn’t stay long because fire haze. Air quality was shit.

Will I return?: Most likely not, no.

September 3, Trinidad Lake State Park

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Okay, technically I was first here on the first. B had a long(ish) layover in Tucson on the 2nd and you know me – I am all about the desert – so I dropped him off at the airport early in the morning and then drove on down. I hoped to try to catch the sunrise at the park, but that was not to be. Instead, I stopped again on my drive home. That drive home was a miserable rainy mess (okay, both directions were in a lot of ways) and the park was gloomy and I think the picture captured that well.

Will I return?: Probably not. Unless I find myself in Trinidad for some reason and need to run …

September 3, Lake Pueblo State Park

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Where Trinidad was gloomy and rainy, Pueblo was not. I stopped here to run and it was pretty awesome (the park, not my run). The trail system in the park actually goes all the way to downtown Pueblo which is really cool. If there is one actual main lake in Lake Pueblo State Park, I didn’t see it.

Will I return?: I would definitely consider it. I enjoyed my time here. Except for the times I’ve played hockey, probably the best time I’ve had in Pueblo.

September 14, Crawford State Park

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Another park where the drive to get there was more fun than the park itself. Although to be honest I don’t think I saw Crawford at its full glory – the water levels here looked to be pretty freaking low …

Will I return:? Doubtful. It’s way out of the way and doesn’t have a truly compelling reason for me to want to go back.

September 14, Paonia State Park

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This was the only park on my list that had a time constraint, as it’s only open May-October. One of the most gorgeous drives to get there. I also got to pull off and see a roadside waterfall on the way, so bonus points there.

Will I return?: Mostly a camping park, so probably not. Unless I start that up.

September 23, Navajo State Park

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This was one of the parks I was stressing about hitting the most as it’s not the easiest to get to (and Colorado technically shares it with New Mexico as it straddles the border). I figured it was just going to end up being one long 14-15 hour day to get there, take some pictures, and go back home. Thankfully, my wonderful husband decided to indulge me on going to Las Vegas for our anniversary trip the long way … so we got to see Navajo that way (and the next park and Mesa Verde and then Horseshoe Bend the next day …)

Will I return?: Most likely not. I don’t camp and I don’t boat and it is REALLY out of the way.

September 23, Mancos State Park

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As you can see, we decided to do a trail run in Mancos. The trail was a lot more difficult than we expected, but it was still super awesome.

Will I return?: I’d like to! I enjoyed the run and would love to hike around more. I actually passed the turn off for this park on my next parks trip, but the schedule didn’t allow for a return.

October 16, San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area

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A.K.A. The state park that wasn’t.

San Luis Lakes is (or at least was when I first decided on this project) on the CPW site, the signs on the way to it all say “San Luis Lakes State Park” on them … but as I found out later, this has actually been changed to a state wildlife area. Oops. Whatever, I marked it off and, as you can kind of see in the background, it’s right near the Great Sand Dunes … which I visited right before.

Will I return?: As it’s not actually a state park … no. No reason to.

October 16, Lone Mesa

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Ugh, Lone Mesa. Lone Mesa is state land that hasn’t officially reached State Park designation … but since I accidentally kinda wrote it down in the bullet journal … I went off to find it. I followed the directions for it, but saw no signage. To this day I’m still not entirely sure I found it. But, as a friend commented on my insta post of the above picture, “Looks like a lonely mesa. #nailedit”.

Will I return?: If it ever freaking gets designated as an actual state park … yes. On principle.

October 17, Ridgway State Park

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I knew I would have to do an overnight trip (or two) to get parks at one point, and this was the designated trip for that. After the Lone Mesa debacle, I stayed the night just outside of Telluride (more at the ski resort, not in town) before hitting up the other two parks on the agenda. Ridgway was the first. The drive? Oh, so amazing. The park? Well, I could stop at the river or drive into the park. I just stopped at the river. Apparently I should have done both.

Will I return?: I initially thought no, but a friend says that’s her favorite state park and apparently the inside of the park is super awesome, so I’m thinking that’s a yes, I will have to go back. Honestly I’m totally cool doing that drive again so …

October 17, Sweitzer Lake State Park

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This would normally not be a park that I would be interested in (really no hiking, kinda small, really just a lake), but for some reason, it captured me. Maybe it was the tire swing at the playground. Who knows.

Will I return?: Hopefully! This lake just screamed out to me to swim in it. So I will.

October 20, John Martin Reservoir State Park

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The last of the eastern parks, this one in SE Colorado. Go to Pueblo, hang a left on 50, keep driving past La Junta and Rocky Ford to a town called Hasty. That’s where you’ll find this park. The main plus about this one (besides seeing more of the state) was that it was only a short (30-45 minutes?) detour to the state border with Oklahoma and as OK was a state I still needed to hit … I did that. Had my phone change time zones and everything.

Will I return?: I don’t boat, so probably no need.

October 20, Lathrop State Park

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At this point, I had actually had several opportunities to knock this park off (at least three), but I wanted to save it for last as it was actually Colorado’s first designated state park. I thought it would be cool to see Colorado’s first as my personal last. So I did.

Will I return?: I’d like to. B was along for this final park venture (all in all, he went to 13 with me on the actual day, and two others on different occasions) and he really liked Lathrop. I also would have liked to explore it more.

*****

This project was awesome. I got a Parks Passport too late in the project to actually get it stamped everywhere (and a good chunk of them I visited beyond visitor center hours), but I don’t need that to know that I DID IT.

The best part of the project was exploring parts of Colorado I’d never seen before. The biggest reason I would advise others to do something like this is it takes you to parts of the state you may have never seen. You’ll see farming communities, small towns.

As it was finished before Election Day … I think it influenced my vote some. Too often do we choose to vote for something that would only benefit US, without thinking of how it will impact others. There is a lot more to Colorado than just Denver/Boulder/ski resort towns. So much more. The needs of someone in Rocky Ford, or Olathe, or Julesburg, or Telluride, or Cortez, or wherever else are a lot different than what mine are here in Denver. It made me think … what helps me most while simultaneously NOT causing harm to others? A tax on x might help me, but it might cripple someone in one of those other places. Well that’s no good. A tax on y, however, might aid both. Or aid me without harming the other.

Colorado is a wonderful state, and it is so much more than just the mountains. Get out and explore it.

Colorado State Parks Project, Part One

I made it a goal of mine last year to visit all of the Colorado State Parks. I’m not sure if it was a combination of me wanting to just explore the state more, or give myself something to do since I was no longer working or what … but it was an awesomely fun project. This is the first of two posts on the quest.

January 1, Cherry Creek State Park

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CCSP is also my “home” park. It’s about a six mile bike ride away. I raced my first triathlon there. I often run and ride there. It’s also where I go and catch a lot of sunrises. I figured there was no better way than to welcome in the new year by heading over and catching the sunrise.

Will I return?: Yes. I have often, and will continue to do so.

January 3, Barr Lake State Park

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Barr Lake isn’t too far away from DIA (although it’s actually kind of an annoying drive from Denver), and I went and caught the sunrise there. Wasn’t the best place to see the actual sun rise, but if you like watching airplanes, it’s not a bad place to go.

Will I return?: I’d like to. I guess there’s a seven mile long trail that circles the lake and I think it would be great for running.

January 12, St. Vrain State Park

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Most of the early state parks I tried to catch the sunrise at … because as we know, I’m a sunrise chaser. There was too much ambient light from the businesses by the interstate to get a good one here.

Will I return?: Probably not. I know there’s camping and fishing here, but not a lot of hiking, and that’s generally what I like to do at parks.

January 17, Boyd Lake State Park

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A makeshift hockey rink had been set up on Boyd Lake, which automatically endeared myself to it.

Will I return?: … unless I can be guaranteed some outside pond hockey, probably not.

January 29, Chatfield State Park

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I have ridden my bike into Chatfield more than I have ever driven into Chatfield … but I did see some good sunrises there last year. Less than I would have liked since it’s actually probably more of a drive than it’s worth to get there from the house and half the park is (was?) under construction.

Will I return?: Most likely. I really should try to hit up a few more sunrises there. I’ll also inevitably end up there on my bike at some point again, too.

February 24, Eldorado Canyon State Park

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Terrible place to catch the sunrise. I actually didn’t explore too much here, as I went there before a morning engagement in Boulder. Also the road was snow-covered and venturing too far into the park didn’t seem like a wise idea.

Will I return?: Yes. I’d love to go back and actually explore the park some more. I meant to in the summer, but it never happened.

March 2, Cheyenne Mountain State Park

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A sunrise trip where I left my poor sick husband in bed. Not a good place to catch the sunrise, but I got to hear morning reveille at Ft. Carson which was pretty cool.

Will I return?: Yes! So many trails I’d love to explore.

March 22, Golden Gate Canyon State Park

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I so hoped to get a good sunrise shot here, but by where the lake is in the park … it didn’t work out. Which was a total bummer, too, because the sky looked awesome on my drive back down into Golden.

Will I return?: Yes! I’d actually already technically been here before. However, I still haven’t managed to go hiking here. Next time. I promise.

May 2, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

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Stopped by to take a photo for this one on the drive back from renewing my National Parks pass. I love this area, so it was no sacrifice on my end. Also of note: first park I didn’t attempt at sunrise.

Will I return?: Absolutely. I love Salida, and I love rafting, and I’ve been rafting on this river/in this area before. I also would love to learn how to kayak one of these days …

May 9, Lory State Park

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The above is the shot that made the Instagrams, but I had an absolutely awesome golden hour shot (literally golden toned) that I still kind of regret not using. Made an extra early trip up to essentially Fort Collins before heading to pick up B at the airport.

Will I return?: I’d love to. So many fun trails to explore …

May 17, Roxborough State Park

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This was an insanely warm day in May … and I’m sometimes terribly unprepared for hiking (I was in Birks) … but this was a fun one. One of the close parks in the Denver metro area (not too terribly far from Chatfield, actually) but one that I had somehow missed and never gone to before.

Will I return?: Yes. In fact, I went back later that summer with B and hiked the same trail. Would love to go back and do some of the more advanced trails.

May 23, Castlewood Canyon State Park

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Another park that I’ve actually been to before, but one that I always enjoy hiking around.

Will I return?: Yes. And ideally I’ll actually head to the other end of the park and hike around there instead.

June 7, Staunton State Park

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Clearly by now you notice that I ideally like hiking to water … and I do whenever possible. This was one of the shortest hikes in the park, but it was pretty.

Will I return?: I would love to, especially for some of the longer hikes.

June 14, Mueller State Park

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Lost Pond, found. I had some adventure at this park – finding an open bathroom before I even started hiking, and then finding a trail that sounded interesting … it was a morning.

Will I return?: I would like to, yes. I enjoyed the small hike I did and would love to do some longer hiking as well.

June 14, Eleven Mile State Park

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From here on out, you’ll notice that I actually hit up quite a few parks on the same day. Some are grouped closely enough (and far enough away from home) that it made more sense to just knock out a whole bunch in one day. Mueller, Eleven Mile, and Spinney Mountain made sense to hit together, though I spent the most time at Mueller.

Will I return?: Unless I feel like renting a canoe/kayak … probably not. Although I could get in some nice OWS …

June 14, Spinney Mountain State Park

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You literally had to drive through Eleven Mile to get to Spinney Mountain, so obviously those two were getting clumped together. The drive to get to all of these was pretty awesome, and on my back through to the Springs (you head out on US 24 to access these parks), I actually saw a bear run across the road, so that was cool.

Will I return?: See above for Eleven Mile. Unless the husband wants to fish … probably not.

June 23, Jackson Lake State Park

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One of two state parks in the northeast corner of the state. There aren’t many on the eastern plains, which is a shame, because I feel like it’s an under-visited (read: boring) part of Colorado. Which it’s not – well, compared to mountains, I get it – but it has its own beauty.

Will I return?: Probably not. Not only was it a pain to get to (fun adventure, but still a pain), it didn’t really have the things in it that I’m interested in (hiking, mainly).

June 24, North Sterling State Park

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In theory, I was supposed to race a tri here, but I ended up not feeling it. That definitely wasn’t the park’s fault, though.

Will I return?: I’d actually like to. Whether to try the same race again, or just to visit, I actually liked this one more than Jackson Lake. Although hopefully there will be fewer gnats swarming next time …

June 26, Sylvan Lake State Park

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The last on the list that I had visited before. Sylvan Lake is just outside of Vail and therefore somewhat accessible. I had previously visited the prior October, before the lake went under construction, and did a nice hike around it.

Will I return?: I’d like to. I’m sure there are more trails than just the one around the lake, and I’d like to find them.

July 5, Rifle Falls State Park

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For my birthday, I wanted to hit up a few more parks, and there’s a cluster of three just outside of Rifle. As I love waterfalls … that was the plan. I got to do a nice hike to the falls (although you could park at a much closer lot and just walk to them). There are also some fun little caves around the falls that were fun to explore.

Will I return?: I’d like to! This was definitely one of my favorite parks … but that could be just because I’m a sucker for waterfalls.

July 5, Harvey Gap State Park

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(forgive the fact that I’m in pretty much all of the July photos and in different outfits; #31daysofSkirtSports is a thing in my world and I did a lot of outfit changes …)

The lake here was super low, possibly because of drought, or because of usage. Or both.

Will I return?: Doubtful. Looked kind of boring and also looked like it didn’t get a lot of funding in general.

July 5, Rifle Gap State Park

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I would have actually considered swimming here had not the air quality been so bad due to fires. Also technically should have been the first park visited as you pass by its entrance prior to both Rifle Falls and Harvey Gap, but we went to the furthest park first and then worked our way back out (opposite of how I did Mueller/Eleven Mile/Spinney Mountain).

Will I return?: Probably not, but I can’t say for sure.

On Ultimate Dinosaurs at DMNS

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has an exhibit on Ultimate Dinosaurs (that is, newer dinosaurs unearthed in recent years) that’s actually ending in a few days – Monday is the final day – and we had been delaying forever on going. So, on January 4, we finally went.

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Entrance.

We all know the usual suspects – Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Velociraptor, our personal favorite T. rex – but this exhibit had other, lesser-known dinosaurs (as mentioned above, because they’re fairly new discoveries). Pretty cool to learn about.

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Three smaller new ones. They also had the fossils/casts of the fossils.

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Husband and dinosaur.

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Nigersaurus head. It has a funny mouth.

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Love the fin-type spines on this one.

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This leg bone is a lot taller than I.

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Our three dinosaurs got in on the diorama action.

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Gigantosaurus, a theropod relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

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SO COOL.

If you’re in Denver and like dinosaurs (and need something to do this weekend), check it out!

On the Latest DMNS Exhibits

We’ve been a little lazy in using our Denver Museum of Nature and Science membership … lazy in that we hadn’t gone in a while AND we were getting notifications that it was going to expire SOON. So, since there are two current exhibits that we hadn’t checked out … we decided to just go and do it.

The first one is Vikings: Beyond the Legend, which, clearly, talked about the Vikings. And how horns on the helmet? Not a thing (thanks, Wagner). How “viking” is more of a term like “farmer” or “explorer” rather than an actual ethnic group. In any case, cool exhibit, but both B and I agreed that it wasn’t quite as cool as the Maya exhibit.

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Entrance.

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Badass Viking jewelry.

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Closest I could get my name in runes.

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B’s name was a bit easier.

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Awesome Viking glass.

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LEGO Vikings!

If you’re interested, Vikings: Beyond the Legend goes through August 13.

If you go, you’ll also be able to see Nature’s Amazing Machines, which is on display through the end of the year. I didn’t take too many photos, but it was a cool exhibit on the way animals are awesome, basically – how the dome shape is around so much in nature and how well it protects various species, how amazingly the cheetah is designed, why giraffe hearts are so cool … you get the picture. Probably better for kids, but still fun for adults.

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Exhibit entrance.

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Electronic majestic flap flap (sorry, funny term I found online for rays) that was able to trick real rays.

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Because when one sees a cast of part of SUE, one takes a photo. ESPECIALLY if one has a thing for dinosaurs (ahem).