27 May 2012

Vacation: Part One - Carbondale, Colorado

We're not in the prairies anymore, Toto!

It's not a surprise that when Dave and I travel, we often find ourselves amidst great pieces of earth jutting into the sky.  Between Chicago and Moose Jaw, the terrain isn't exactly what you would call...rugged, rolling or anything in between.

To celebrate our second anniversary, we decided to try out someplace new - a place neither of us had been before.  While we have both traveled to Colorado a number of times, we never found ourselves to the West of Denver.  I've spent my time in Estes Park and Denver and Dave has traveled around Boulder (more on that to come in Part Two).

So, Carbondale it was.  Nestled below Glenwood Springs and Aspen, but without the pomp and circumstance that comes with it being a mega-draw for tourists.  Carbondale is the perfect blend of small town and outdoor haven with Mount Sopris rising just the south, a great main street to peruse and the Rio Grande Trail cutting right through the center of town.

We met in Denver following our respective flights.  It's one of my favourite things about seeing Dave after being apart - that anticipation as the plane is landing...the tears well up, my heart starts beating a little faster and I just can't wait to be in his arms again (a little shmoopy?  You betcha!)

From there we jumped into our rental car and began the drive over to Carbondale.  We passed through amazing red rock, watched the landscape change and talked about what we would do on our trip.

We knew we wanted to take it easy.
We knew we didn't want packed out days.
We knew we wanted to be outside enjoying the sun as much as possible.

We rented a great space through VRBO and immediately took a nap.  Did I mention our flights were super-early?  They were.  We took a walk down Main Street right after and stopped in a great liquor store to see what local brews they had available.  We walked out stocked up for the week!

The next day, we found ourselves driving toward Snowmass Village to take advantage of the Maroon Bells area.  We followed a trail along a creek, made our way through some snowy banks and then landed upon Maroon Lake.  It was an absolutely gorgeous way to spend the day!

Our anniversary was spent - where else?! - outside!  We rented bikes from AJAX Bike and Sport and headed out along the great Rio Grande Trail (part of the rails-to-trails network).  We stopped in at Bonfire Coffee to take a break before returning the bikes.  The maintenance on the trail was superb, the scenery was breathtaking and the biking was easy.  What was not so easy was the sun.  While Dave and I were good about sunscreening-up our necks and faces we neglected our arms.  Big oops!  That afternoon was spent comparing the varying shades of red and pink on our arms, cursing ourselves for not remembering to protect them, carefully applying aloe and hoping beyond all hope that the burning would soon end (needless to say, it is now almost two weeks later and I am still peeling - yeeeaaah....not so smart!).

Biking along the trail.
View from the Rio Grande Trail.
So burned!

For dinner to celebrate two years, we headed over to Aspen for some Japanese deliciousness at Matsuhisa and then to the original Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for dessert.

The next morning we had to try one of the local favourites, the Village Smithy for breakfast.  Everyone we met was raving about this place and their brunch so we decided to check it out ourselves before heading out on the trails for some hiking.  Smithy did not disappoint!  The patio was lovely, the food was great and the service was top-notch.  We sat for quite a while just enjoying the cool breezes on our burnt out arms!

Best sign ever in the Smithy!
The previous day, we asked about good hikes in the area and were told that the hike up to Thomas Lakes was spectacular.  We were sold!  We drove toward Mount Sopris and up some dirt paths, passing much more fit and brave souls on bikes winding their way up the steep terrain.  Because time was short, we were only able to do half the hike, but the views were incredible enough that we decided to come back and do the whole hike the next day!  And so we did, making it all the way up through sun, rain, wind and a little bit of snow as well!  The hike was so worth it!

To celebrate the trek, we decided to enjoy some of the local flavour and ate our way through veggie burgers at Fatbelly Burgers.  From there, we made our way over to Carbondale Beer Works where we played several games of chess while enjoying the darkest of the local brews.  The space was great, I learned a few new moves on the game board and the service - as we found everywhere in Carbondale - was again top-notch.  

The Lake!
Sealing the deal with a kiss!
I'll save some more for Parts Two and Three...

If you get a chance to visit Carbondale, do it.  Just go.  Trust me.  You'll love it!

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