Adventure, beauty make Colorado memorable

The Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver

The Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver

By John Farley, Staff Writer

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It was my first time on a plane, my family decided to visit somewhere farther away than the usual Rivers Edge Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. I had mixed feelings about trekking out into the west at first because although I always found myself becoming very bored at the resort, it has always produced a strong nostalgic feeling every time we visit and few things compare to nostalgia. This vacation was going to be different and I was sure of it. We were going to a place very unfamiliar to us Illinois residents, us “flatlanders” as we called ourselves. We were going to mountain country, we were heading for Colorado.

Originally an idea to visit family out in the west, we didn’t schedule anything besides for the fourth of July hoping our local family Coloradans would be our tour guides. We wanted to just roll with the punches this time around as opposed to planning every second of every day like we did in the Dells. Excited and curious of what was to come we filed onto the plane on our way from the plains and into the mountains.

After a 21/2 hour plane ride we were there and right away I could see the mountains. Looking out from where we were to a mountain so far in the distance and so high up, I could have never imagined we would be on top of one of them days later. This land is full of opportunities and with an open schedule we were looking to make the best of it. We first traveled to our hotel the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado located a few minutes from Boulder. The views from the hotel of the mountainsides were amazing. Nothing quite matches the beauty of a sunrise cascading on the snow-tipped mountains. Across from the hotel you can find Flatiron Crossing, a shopping center littered with hundreds of stores and restaurants.

Just around the corner lies the city of Boulder, a college town with plenty to do. Boulder was established as a gold seekers town in 1858. Being a tourist town as well as a college town Boulder is always bustling. From the farmers market street sales on 13th Street to rafting down the Boulder Creek, many experiences lie for any type of traveler.

While on my visit to the city we went to the elegant Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse located on 13th Street. The building’s architecture and detail is astonishing by itself. Bright painted tiles contrast with the off white shade of the building. When you walk inside you first notice The Fountain of the Seven Beauties inside the central pool. These copper hammered seven statues were created by Ivan Milosovich based on a 12th century poem titled The Seven Beauties. The artistry that went into this building is immaculate but the menu is also. With literally hundreds of teas to choose from and appetizers to snack on it may be hard to decide just what you want. As you sip tea if you are seated outside you will be right next to a small stream from the Boulder Creek that runs straight from the mountains and all the way through Boulder. Farther up the stream, rafts are available for rental so you can ride down the creek in style for the more adventurous. Although the malls, markets and restaurants call to your inner shopaholics, if you love wildlife, the great outdoors, and adventure Colorado may be the destination for you. The best sights and parts of a vacation to Colorado may be free of cost.

Our first experience to the great outdoors of Colorado came to us via a trip through the mountain roads on the first night we arrived. We met up with my cousin Matt for a night drive. Matt has been living out in the mountains since 2003 and he knows the roads like the back of his hand but that doesn’t mean you need a seasoned Coloradan to guide you through the mountain roads. On a whim after losing his job and being sick of Illinois, my cousin made the move. He told me that his favorite thing about Colorado is the “ accessibility to the wilderness” and “the open space.”

Just like you may envision the roads are narrow, winding, and exciting. It may not be for the acrophobic but the sights you see are unmatched by anything in Illinois. Many of the majestic views can be seen from the sides of the road. Just pull over and take out your camera and shoot away. Also many side streets from the main roads lead to many different trails all waiting to be explored. Driving through the mountains you can find various towns nestled tightly in the valleys. One town that stands out in particular is Estes Park. Located an hour’s drive within the mountains, this tourist town is home to many shops and restaurants. Past Estes Park the roads lead deeper into the mountains. Just a drive through may satisfy the average Joe but the real adventures lie within four-wheeling through the mountains off the beaten path.

“It’s like we are standing in a postcard.” I remember saying. From the top of this mountain I could see all of the greatness of the mountains from the top. Everything from the snow-tipped tops to the tree filled inclines. We took Mammoth Gulch to reach our summit. The trail led to the top of an 11,000 foot mountain. Fortunately we were chauffeured by Matt in his Jeep Cherokee. Matt didn’t tell us what specific mountain we were going up or how high it was as we definitely would have chickened out if we knew. Starting up the hill we followed Matt’s girlfriend Janielle. She was lifetime Coloradan with the gusto to show for it, driving another newer Jeep Cherokee with only two wheel drive. Trekking up the mountain was the most intense experience I had on the trip. Look to the left, mountain, shrubbery and rocks; Look to the right, see the intense drops, get the chills, feel your stomach drop and almost faint. At least that’s how my father and mother felt about it. My dad admitted that he had a queasy stomach the whole ride up. My mother said she couldn’t look down and lucky for me that meant I got the window seat. It took us at least an hour to get up this treacherous trail, passing other thrill seekers as we road up but the wait was all worth it between the sights and our final destination. Our final destination was a lot cooler than on the ground as a matter of fact it was 25 degrees cooler at 70 degrees compared to the high 90s in Boulder. The view as I said was like a postcard. While upon the mountain I even found snow, in July. After spending an hour or so up there we began our trek down and it was just as exciting as on the way up. Back on the ground we could only imagine just what all the other mountain tops would be like. We all agreed that we have to do that again even though it was pretty nerve wracking. My mom summed it all up in a few words “breathtaking” and “aw- inspiring”.

The whole time I was there I was looking forward to what we had planned for our country’s Independence Day. If you are a music lover as I am Colorado may be the place visit. Colorado is home to one of the most iconic amphitheatres of all time, Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It not only satisfies the music lover it also satisfies the nature lover as well. Concerts first started in the early 1900s and years later in 1936 the finishing touches of the amphitheatre were completed. Its official opening date was June 15th, 1941 and its capacity holds 9,525 people. Red Rocks is a one of a kind amphitheatre. Its open-air, geologically formed architecture was designed by mother nature and amazingly enough it offers acoustic perfection. Denver architect Burnham Hoyt was the designer of the man-made parts of the amphitheatre. His main goal was to keep the natural beauty of the area the main priority. Next to each side of the seating areas lies the two giant monolith rocks named Ship and Creation Rock. These are the stars of the amphitheatre. Both well over 300 feet, the two rocks are both taller than the Niagara Falls. Although these rocks are breathtaking the best view that you can get from Red Rocks is of all of the city of Denver. From a seat the whole of Denver can be seen in its bustling brightness. It’s not only an amphitheatre too, it is a park as well. There are 738 acres of land to explore before your concert starts. The land is a unique transition zone between the plains and mountains of Colorado. It’s no wonder this place was added to the list of National Historic Landmarks in 2015.

Red Rocks has been the venue for all sorts of artists. From Bjork to the Beatles, to opera singers to the band I saw perform that night I visited the rocks, Blues Traveler. Blues Traveler has a history with this magical amphitheatre and my family and I were witnesses to it.  Every Fourth of July this band performs and has been doing so for 30 years and the day we went was their thirtieth anniversary. It was a magical night. We went to the concert at dusk with my parents, my cousin Tanya and her boyfriend Jack, Matt and Tanya’s roommates. Also from my hometown, my cousin Tanya moved out to Colorado in 2014.   As the wonderful show begin, I noticed something in the skyline, fireworks. Denver had been hosting a couple firework shows as the concert was happening. As I listened to the band play I watched at least six different firework shows at once, something I never thought I would see. As I watched Blues Travelers singer and multi-instrumentalist John Popper play the Star Spangled Banner on harmonica it was the most interesting thing I’ve ever heard. It was an emotional and raw display of skill. The breathtaking sight and sounds from our seats really paid.

As someone who comes from a land very different from mountain country, the “flatlands” I can say this “flatlander” was very surprised by just what Colorado has to offer and I only spent 6 days there. I didn’t visit Denver, I didn’t visit Rocky Mountain National Park, I didn’t go to Mesa Verde, but what I did go to and experience was fantastic. There are so many different attractions in Colorado I barely got to scratch the surface. Maybe we will go in the winter next time “so we can hit the slopes” my mom suggested. Or maybe in the summer so my dad can get some fishing in.  So it looks like my family and I will be heading back there soon and possibly get that same nostalgic feeling. No matter what the season we will still only scratch the surface again.