Trip Recap: Denver, Colorado
This is the second part of our road trip review. To see part one, visit the Santa Fe, New Mexico post.
After three days of sunshine and mid-70 degree weather, we woke up to chillier morning air and overcast skies on our last day in Santa Fe. With a restocked cooler full of LaCroix and our Airbnb packed up, we hopped in the car to head for Colorado. Ignoring Google maps, we opted to add an extra 30 minutes to our drive in order to pass through Taos on our way out of New Mexico and stop at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
As usual, pictures don’t do justice to the terrifying vastness of the gorge, its deep rock walls worshiping the power of the river that cuts through it.
The temperature continued to drop as we moved from New Mexico into Colorado and we quickly realized that our time in Denver would look quite a bit different than we had planned.
On Wednesday morning, as rain drizzled over the city and the temperature kept falling, an unexpected winter storm warning was issued for Denver and surrounding towns, stretching all the way into the following day. But we, with a true-to-form Midwestern can-do attitude, thought surely we can still get up into the mountains and hike. So we set off, ponchos in hand.
About 45 minutes into our drive, we rounded a curve in the highway and within seconds the rain turned to ice, then suddenly to snow, and visibility dropped almost instantly as the incline increased. Picture us, previously lost in blissful naivety, inching up the mountain through blowing snow in small little rental car. We looked at each other, made a U-turn at the next exit, and settled for a hike in the foothills where the precipitation returned to rain.
Heavy clouds of fog hung over the hills and as we climbed higher, the curtains of mist blended with our breathing. Despite the disappointment of forgoing the mountains, we were still in awe. Just six hours of driving had placed us in a landscape and a weather that looked and felt almost nothing like New Mexico.
Right here in our own backyard is a deep well of beauty and goodness—forests, deserts, mountains, waters—all gifts that we’ve been given to honor by relishing and taking care of them. And yet we fail, almost daily. We hack away at the earth, stripping resources for the sake of speed, convenience, cheapness, all at the sacrifice of the land as it groans under the weight of our greed.
We’ve lost the art of paying attention, of tending to, of listening. Or, perhaps we’ve never possessed this art, perhaps we killed it alongside our slaughter of the people who first forged these paths, called this place home, honored these lands.
On our second day, we visited a different state park, still in the foothills, now covered in snow.
These things have a way of appearing deceptively simple with their slight inclines, presenting themselves to the untrained eye as easily accessible summits.
Of course, this one wasn’t—not for us.
This short trail was ever up, up, up with seemingly no end in sight. Many moments found me bent over, once again, heaving as J and Jack stopped, many steps ahead, showing almost no signs of exhaustion. But as soon as we reached the top with its aerial view, the difficulty of the trail faded instantly. Even with the clouds handing low, the beauty was undeniable.
During our time in Denver, we also drank a lot of coffee and sought out the best pastries, beer, and dinners in Denver. Among the highlights was this little Japanese bakery with one of the best danish pastries I’ve ever had. By the time we got there around 10:00 in the morning on a weekday, most of their items were gone.
On our last full day in Colorado, we stopped in for a cup of coffee from Amethyst at the recommendation of a local we’d met at a different coffee shop the day before. It was the surprise highlight of our time in Denver with all its revelry in color and warmth. In a time when minimalist design seems to be all the rage and a marker of trendy shops, this shop was the complete opposite—a reminder that vibrancy is still beautiful even as some trend run from it.
After getting caffeinated and picking up some biscuit sandwiches at Rise & Shine, we headed up toward Idaho Springs for a hike out to St. Mary’s Glacier.
There, finally up in the mountains, the snow lay thick and heavy, even as more fell, hiding the surrounding mountains from our view.
In the summer, this trail opens up to a beautiful lake at the base of the glacier, but that day, the land and trees and waters lay silent under the layers of snow, still hiding in their winter coat.
While we stopped to take it all in, a lone man on skies passed us, heading up toward the top of the glacier.
Again, stunned and silenced into beauty. Again, sweaty and tired with sweatshirts and hats peeled off mid-hike as our bodies tried to push through the altitude change, catch breath, and continue forward.
On the way back down toward Denver, we stopped in at the Red Rocks.
These things, even that which bears the mark of humanity on it, has a way of making a body feel small and insignificant in an entirely meaningful way.
We stopped for some lunch on the way back to the Airbnb, peeled off our wet socks, and tried to rest a little bit before our final night of vacation. A few hours later, after hot showers and a nap, we drove to Boulder to cap off our trip with some ice cream, a walk around downtown, and the Liturgists’ first Tabs and Wafers event of their 2019 tour.
On a trip where we spent almost all of our time discussing God, exploring and re-exploring what we believe, and trying to connect intentionally and authentically with the divine, it seemed only fitting to end the trip by hearing, in person, the two people who’ve made the most impact on our current season of faith share their own stories of faith deconstruction and reconstruction.
And then it all comes to an end.
Saturday morning we got into the car, eager to get started on our 15-hour drive home to Wisconsin as vacation moved from present reality to memory. With that, I’d like to leave you with a depiction of the emotions one can experience in the span of 15 hours in a car.
What started with cheery morning happiness as the sun rose quickly moved to mid-day angst at still being in the car, eventually ending with exhausted resignation as evening set in and the sun began disappearing.
So it goes.
Until next time,