Fun in Colo

Its been a little more than 4 months we have been married and I have hardly shown my wife around in USA barring for a trip to SoCal and of course the bay area. It was a couple of months before September and I was constantly being reminded that I have never seen fall colors in the country. I started researching a bit about the best places to see fall colors. The obvious contenders were a lot of states from the East like Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont etc. I did not wanna travel that distance for a weekend trip. One of my buddies mentioned about Colorado being a beautiful place and from my research, budget, time to travel and places to see, hell it was a winner. Colo it was!

 
The worst part about visiting Colorado was the flight. I hate US Airways. The leg room is petite and the service always sucks. Rented a SUV and drove to Hyatt Place in Lone Tree, CO after making a chow stop at Dennys. I seemed to be developing a sore throat. The bug had been around in the office for a while and it was only time before I bowed to it. Anywho, digressing into the boring parts. Next day, we were on our way to Aspen, CO. The drive from Denver to Aspen is amazingly beautiful. We drove into the foothills of the Rocky mountains and then through them. The drive through Leadville, Vail to Aspen quenched our thirst to see fall colors. We saw mountains covered in yellow, green, red and all shades between them. 

Fall Colors

 

 
When we reached Aspen, we went straight to the RFTA bus station from where they have a bus service to the Maroon Bells. We reached there a bit late 3ish and the last bus to return from Maroon Bells was at 5. We managed to grab a bite and get to Maroon Bells by 3:30. I was half wondering if it really was worth driving around 4.5 hours to Aspen but all my concerns and doubts were put to rest when I saw the Maroon Bells. 
 
 

Maroon Bells

It had snowed a lil the day before and the snow capped mountains were like an artiste who got powdered for the limelight. Only enough to look great before an audience. The stage was decorated with colorfully leaved Aspen trees that looked extra beautiful when the Sun smiled on them. Though we had only a little more than an hour, we had a great time hiking around a little bit around and just sitting there watching the glory of the mountains.
 

Quick fact: At least one person dies every year trying to scale the Maroon Bells. Info from the bus operator. One year 5 people had died. Supposed to be one of the most tricky mountains to scale.

We then proceeded to the town of Aspen. It is a cute town with a lot of restaurants and not much more. We got some dinner there and started towards Pikes’ Peak. We had a reservation for the cograil ride the next day, first thing in the morning. The duration of the drive was around 4 hours and I was very tired already. But what we saw en route did kick my groggy nuts. We saw a ghost town. YES. It was marked as a ‘Point of Interest’ on the state highway.

Ghost Town



I wasn’t able to capture the whole town but those little homes down there (there were around 50 more) comprised of a ghost town which was probably abandoned after the ‘Silver Rush’ to Aspen and surrounding areas. Fascinating. I had never seen a ghost town before. We also saw elk on the state highway. The drive itself was really awesome with a lot of vista points. One specific spot that we remember vividly was called “Top of the Rockies” which literally was. We could see a panoramic view of the capped rocky mountains. It was very beautiful and we did spend a good amount of time just hanging out there undeterred by the cold winds.

Top of the Rockies

I started to realize how things that you don’t expect make your trip special. It was a full moon night and at that altitude we felt a lot more closer to the sky and clouds.

Another view from Top of the Rockies


Extremely hungry by around 10:30, we were looking for a diner to get some dinner but were not able to find any good place apart from the usual Taco Bell and McD. We found this little town called Woodlands Park on our way to Colorado Springs where there was a Mexican place open at that time called Fiesta Mexicana. They served huge portions of Chile Relleno and Super Enchilada with hot chips and salsa on the side. Pretty good dinner on the drive at that time of the night and that place on the map.

Next day, we woke up early, made our customary breakfast trip to the nearest Starbucks and then to the cograil in Manitou Springs. The train had huge glass windows to allow for better viewing and we did not get very good seats. But we did get great neighbors, a couple of elderly white women who were out to have fun 🙂

The CogRail

TripAdvisor had already warned me of the big delta in temperatures with the mounting altitude on this trip. We were armed with 2 extra layers and some pipping hot coffee. The views from the cograil are good but not as they showed on their website. Once you reach the summit, we were allowed to loaf around for some time. The views from the top are pretty neat though. I was amazed that a few bikers actually biked their way to the top of 14k foot mountain.

Bikers at the summit of Pikes Peak



This time of the year (Sept last week and Oct first week), you are extra lucky if you take the cograil because you can see a flurry of fall colors on the way. Take a look:

En Route to Pikes Peak

View from the train


More views from the train


More views from the train

 
After this train ride, we headed to Royal Gorge Bridge in Canon City, CO. BTW, there are other places to check out around Manitou Springs like Garden of the Gods, Cave of the Winds if you are interested. We just did not have enough time there and wanted to pander to our adventurous side. No time to waste and made a Taco Bell togo stop on the way. 
 
We arrived 330ish at the bridge. The bridge hung on a gorge of depth around a thousand feet. 
 

Royal Gorge Bridge, Canon City

 
There are a bunch of activities around this bridge like an inclined elevator down to the bottom of the gorge where Arkansas river flows, zip liners, sky coaster that swings over the gorge, tramway across the gorge etc.  We did most of them including the sky coaster. I had done a sky coaster earlier in Old town close to Orlando, FL and this sky coaster pales in comparison to the one in FL. But I have to admit, when you are over the gorge, you will feel the rush. I had to coerce my wife to do it and was successful. She felt great after the sky coaster ride and was raving about it later on. We walked back on the bridge to our car and left to Boulder which was our next destination aka pit stop for the night. 
 

Arkansas River from the bridge

 
BTW, look what I found at the ‘foot’ of the gorge. 


Fear Google

Threw our stuff into our room at the Hilton at Westminster, CO and rushed to see my wife’s cousins in Boulder at around 8:30 ish. Family always makes you feel warm. We had a good time and more importantly a great dinner at their place that included eats from Gobi Manchurian to Gulab Jamun. We indulged in merry conversation and bid adieu to them a little after midnight. Crashed at the hotel and woke up very late than what we had planned. 
 
It was a Sunday and that too a sunny one. By this time, Colorado had already beaten all my expectations and I did not expect anything more from it. We had a great time, drove some scenic routes (including Independence Pass) and seen enough fall colors. Little did I know that there was more in store today at the Rocky Mountain National Park. First of all, let me tell you that the Trail Ridge Road in the park is supposed to be one of the most scenic routes in the USA. Just google images for it or see here. The drive is nothing less than amazing. This road closes during off season (a little into October to end of Jan) due to snow which makes this route very perilous. There are a bunch of vista points in the park along this route where you are bound to be cloyed by the scenic beauty. I ain’t no good photographer but you have to be there to see how beautiful it is.
 

Views at Rocky Mountain National Park


More views at Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Snow capped mountains


Scenic drive – Trail Ridge road


Close to Alpine visitors center


Vista points – Trail Ridge Road


Trail Ridge road winding around Longs Peak


Another vista point on the road

Driving away from RMNP

From the above pictures, I am hoping you get an inert sense of how beautiful the drive is. If you love exploring scenic routes with loads of vista points, please do consider Trail Ridge Road. Oh and that was the closest I ever got to Wyoming.

The closest I ever got to Wyoming


The crazies. You always can find one here. This lady was ‘performing’ this balancing act on that fence next to a pond to friends who were cheering her. She liked the picture I took but wasn’t able to share it 😦

The Crazies

Elk grazing


Elk gazing

We headed to the Denver International airport next to catch our flight back home. We did stop in downtown Denver at the 16th street pedestrian shopping mall where we spent some time.

We put a little less than 1200 miles on the car we rented over a period of 3 days to visit all these places. Impending was the one thing I abhor, taking a US Airways plane back home.

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