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Easter in Colorado

I spent this past Easter visiting some my family in Colorado. They live in Denver, but we crammed a lot of others places in while I was there- as we tend to do when I go visit. Maria and Micah were not able to come home for Turkey or Santa and knowing Easter is Maria's favorite holiday, I wanted to be there. I booked travel for Wed pm to Monday pm.

Being excited about arriving in time for a late dinner on Wednesday was an understatement. I was not even letting the thought of delays and what if's enter into my mind. All was well until I arrived in DC. What was supposed to be a 45 min layover turned into a 4 hour delay/ layover, in, to be sure, the crappiest terminal in the entire airport. With 65 middle school students all from Denver, trying to get home from their week long field trip (please insert: LOTS of DC attire with monuments, very loud talking, dance parties, and more luggage than you can imagine). I had two choices here, ok three. 1: Get upset. 2. Sit there with them, head phones on loudest # volume 3. Take Gone Girl and head to the closest bar. Clearly, option three was the best choice. Several bourbons later, Gone Girl was even intense than I anticipated. Finally it was time to board. I knew my chances of being with non middle school kids was slim, but I did not think I would be thrown in the smack dab middle of them. I was at least on the aisle, but all surrounding seats in front, behind and beside were full of very sugar high 6th graders; and they were not sleeping, despite the fact it's now 9:30 pm. To be clear, I was not making it to Denver for that late evening dinner.

11:50 pm was my new arrival time. I'm so thankful for my sweet cuz who did not mind staying up extra late and driving 30 min to come and scoop me. I rewarded her by enjoying two bottles of red and having two hours of convo with music in the back ground. 2 am rolled around and I realized it was 4 am time at home, so this wonderful fellowship would have to continue in the morning.

Ahhhh, don't you just love waking up to a new place?! It is even more exhilarating when you wake up in a new place with the sweetest old yellow lab licking you, your loved ones are making coffee and breakfast casseroles and you look out the window to mountains and snow. That is when you know it is going to be a great day! Thursday was Georgetown, Guanella Pass and Idaho Springs exploring day. We packed snacks, lots of water and Hazel's gear and headed out after dropping Micah off at school. The snow was beginning to melt, but the mountains were still covered which made for sunshine days, cool afternoons and chilly nights. Georgetown is a darling little mining town nestled in the valley between mountains. We stopped at the visitor's center, drove through town and then headed up Guanella Pass, a scenic by way. We were only allowed to go about 10 miles in, but it was worth it. Iced over lakes- with ice fishermen!, snow capped mountains, evergreens providing splashes of color, Aspen's trying to burst out their yellow leaves, fresh crisp air, frozen waterfalls, clear blue skies and one happy Hazel. On the way down you could really see Georgetown and the Rockies that filled up the sky.

Georgetown from Guanella Pass

Downtown Georgetown

Ahhh the Aspens

From here we head to Idaho Springs and stop in for lunch at Buffalo. We had a local beer and burgers. We wandered the main street in and out of art galleries, coffee shops and herb/ spice stores. I bought cards from a local pre teen who had baskets of colorful cards in the coffee shop,and I bought more cards from a local painter running the gallery and Maria surprised ( I mean the Easter Bunny surprised me ) me with lavender lip balm from a store we visited. Before leaving the gallery we asked the nice lady if there was an alternate route back to Denver for a scenic ride home, she told us to 'go through the canyons'... I'm so glad we did. On our way out of town, Maria points out the name of the local gas station. Kum & Go...  Before we exit for the canyons I saw a hyw sign light lit up telling us to be cautious of wildlife. I naturally got excited about this, obviously this meant someone has seen wildlife, called it in to DOT and they were warning us so we would not run over them... I was so certain this was the case I even voiced it out loud. Maria then told me "that sign is always flashing". Dammit.

Before we knew it, we were on the canyon's exit. Not 1 min after we stop, we see people pulled over on the side of the road with cameras. From my previous trips to Denver I knew this meant there was something to see! The Big Horn Sheep blended in very well but after we pulled over, we spotted about 8 of them, just hanging out on the side of the mountain. I was surprised how close they let us get. 

This sighting put us in a natural high... the high continues as we drove. No more wildlife was seen but within seconds of the Big Horn Sheep were were surrounded by stunning sights of reaching- the- sky canyons, a water stream / baby river that flowed with the the entire drive, tunnels, people fly fishing, people hiking, people rock climbing, burst of greens, blues, oranges throughout all against the big blue sky. It was one of those moments where you think  "This is Colorado". 

We soon arrive back to the casa. Micah had band practice which meant Maria and I got a girls night. The boys dropped us at Caveau, the  perfect spot for a little date night. Za and Vino were ordered and very much enjoyed. From here we walk a couple blocks and hop in a rickshaw. We stopped by what we thought would be a cool live jazz bar, but turns out it was a tourist trap and not our scene, moving right along we went to Green Russell, this was most def our scene. When the logo is "chef driven cocktail drinks" you know good things are about to happen. Green Russell is in the basement of a restaurant. You are looked up and down and then decided if you are allowed in, thankfully Maria and I had our cute outfits on :) The bar would hold about 50 people. The lights were dim. The AC non existent. The staff all good looking and dressed in old western bar keep attire, let me provide you with a visual:

The drinks were some of the strongest I've had. Only top of the top shelf liquor was used. They were potent and they were getting the job done, as they should at $12 a piece.

Thank you Google Images for the Green Russell images below 

We take the party to a friend's house once the boys wrap up band practice. The fun continued out back  with a fire pit, harmonicas, guitars and conversations. Couple hours into the yard party, we said our see you laters. Pikes Peak day was going to demand a well rested body.

We waited to do PP on Friday for two reason: Micah was out of class.  Micah could drive us. Luckily the roads were properly groomed so they were not bad and the snow had melted ( at ground level )! This was going to be an all day adventure and we were ready. Pikes Peak offers a lot of activities from hiking, camping, fishing, sight seeing, etc. All of those things are attractions for Spring, Summer, Fall. Not, Winter. As we approached Colorado Springs, we could see it hugging the sky along the background of the landscape. It was massive, even from the 8,000 or so feet down from Co Springs we were looked up in ahhh at her. PP sits just over 14,000 feet above sea level and is one of 54 "fourteeners" that Co offers.

I really had no idea what to expect. I did know we were not hiking it as with out doubt, we were not prepared for that. So we grabbed coffee from Mildred's Cafe and continue driving up, up, up.

Side Note: Mildred is the name of the owner's grandmother, Maria's grandmother AND Micah's grandmother!

Thank you Google Images
Once we get to the entrance of 'America's Mountain', we are greeted by a guard telling us we can go 14 of the 20 miles up. Conditions at the summit were not conducive for travel. The temp was 16 degrees, Winds were 35 plus mph and Wind Chill was 5 degrees.

Going to PP was a special day for me. A couple years ago I found a box of my dad's old clothes that my mom had packed up in the attic. Ha, why she never got them down for us, is beyond me but I'm glad I found them. My dad died in 1990 so finding huge tubs of his clothes was like finding treasure at the end of a beautiful rainbow. There were things I'd never seen before, things I'd seen in pics, things I remember him wearing and things I can't imagine him ever wearing (purple Corduroy shirt with gingham sleeve liners) and lastly things I can't see how he fit in! Nonetheless it warmed my heart to go through this things. Among these boxes was a Rocky Mountain High Pikes Peak T- shirt! I snagged up a bunch of things I knew I'd wear. I also grabbed things I thought my brother would enjoy. Of all the things I found, his old T-shirts and a blanket my great grandmother Mollie Belle Ballard made were my most favorite.

Blanket great grandmother Ballard made (what an awesome eye for color and patterns she had many years ago!) 

Mom and Dad at Prom

Dad's T-shirt

Since Maria and I had discussed going to PP, I knew Dad's shirt was getting packed to head to CO with me. Even though we did not make it to the summit, the summit was in sight and I knew Dad had gotten at least that far too... which was pretty cool.

It was amazing how fast and drastic conditions changed from the entry gate to the 14 mile marker. it dropped about 40 degrees and and got really windy! The roads were dry (thankfully) but still we drove slow and steady. Most of the roads did not have guard rails so accidents were not ideal. Once we reached our stopping point we parked and hiked around for about an hour then headed back down.

We stopped at local brewery in Colorado Springs for lunch.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to stop at Garden of the Gods but if you are there, I hear it is worth the check out.

face rock
Maria checking things out

Frozen lake at bottom of PP, PP in background

The crew 6 miles from summit
6 miles from summit

Once we got back to town, we rushed to freshen up and headed out for the night. The boys hand band practice again and we were to met at a friend's apartment for pre gaming drinks before going to see a Talking Heads cover band, Stop Making Sense, at a local favorite music hall, Cervantes. We had a group of about 15 and we dance the night a way to classics such as: Pyscho Killer, Burning Down the House, Girlfriend is Better and Take me to the River. If you don't know these tunes, get to know them.

There is a tea house in Boulder, Boulder Dushanbe Tea House that I ran across in an article after my last trip and sent it to Maria. She instantly responded and said she'd been dying to get there too! By Saturday we were in need of some healthy choices. We drove over to Boulder got a perfect spot outside in their beautiful terrace. The building was painted with multiple vibrant colors. The shapes/ pointed angles like you see in Asia, just like a tea house would look. We ordered homemade soups, salads, hummus, and tea that provided instant stratification.

From here we head back to Denver, as the boys had practice before their gig that evening. Maria had organized a girls dinner at Interstate. The space was filled with neat local artwork and photography and the designer gave it a diner feel with a modern yet vintage twist. The food was great and the drinks were plenty. They even provided a photo prop for us, an old red rusty truck!

 With comfortably full bellies we head to Moe's BBQ to see Brock, Jeff and Micah play their hearts out :) This was their first or second gig as a group and they sounded wonderful! We had a crew of about 20 people that came out to see them, plus the folks that were already at Moe's.

Mr. Jeff Lane
Mr. Micah Gunn
Mr. Brock Elam
Special Guest, Mr. Zack Gaskin

Music for all ages!
The after party was at the Fun Gunn's casa. We sketched drawings, had dance parties, make cocktails,  bellied laughed, admired the talent currently in the house and talked about the Easter Bunny. 

We left the house at 4:45 am and headed to Red Rocks. Each year the City of Denver puts on an Easter Sunrise Service. I'd been told it is a moving experience and well, I'm all about a moving experience.. actually, who is not!? Spence, Jenny, Maria and I put our game faces on and just did it. I was sooo excited to use my new camera. Sadly, she had so much fun earlier in the evening and she died as we walked up to RR. It's times like that that I'm thankful for the great camera on the iphone and the ability to capture memories and images like what I saw in my mind. Around 10,000 people gathering before sunrise- that alone is impressive. 10,000 people got up (or stayed up) til 4 am and drove (or somehow got) to this service.

The service is probably a little over an hour. We stayed for the releasing of the doves at surrise, the opening speeches and prayers and the musical solos so about 45 min. We left shortly after, well to be honest- the delirium had caught up with us and slight panic set in when looking down at all the cars that would have to exit the service with two only two one lane roads leading out.

Despite being tired, it was really moving to be singing This Little Light of Mine with 10,0000 others as the sunrises in front of you, standing between nature's powerful landscape of the rocks, and watching the peacefulness of white doves fly around the orange and blue sky.

There was not even a discussion as to what we would do when we got back to the house at 9 am- we Thanked Spence for driving and with out words Maria and I got into our beds. We rose up around noon and tackled Easter. Lunch was at the Denver Art Museum in their stylish, sleek & modern cafe, Palettes. From here we wandered to the actual museum to check out the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit. We admired her New Mexico inspired collection then continued exploring. We saw a hands-on craft room for children where they were allowed to paint all over the walls and windows, learned about shadows, woodwork and viewed masterpieces of The Rocky Mountains.

We needed a nap after all this. Washington Park was calling out name. In our "Sunday Best" we walked barefoot with Hazel's hairy blanket and napped in the sun for about an hour.

In the South we believe in Sunday Suppers. With our Aunt Wanda, there doesn't even really need to be a 'holiday'. We just grew up with big Southern meals after church. We decided just because we were not with our entire family back at home, Easter Supper still needed to happen and it did. Ham, greens, beets, roasted taters, mac n cheese, etc.. with can't-move full bellies we tried to watch a movie but by 8:30 we were all snoring.

Departure Day is always a somber day, for many reasons: not ready to leave, sad, hungover, etc.. This DD was no different. After having some yummy breakfast casserole and juice I hugged Micah and Hazel then Maria and I were off.

The flight home was sans 65 middle school kids, so I slept until touchdown.

Colorado surprised me, welcomed me, inspired me all over again. I can't wait to go back.

Plus, I gotta get back to see this sweet girl.
Meet Hazel.

Written By: Emily Ballard


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