the-big-trip-month-fifteen-round-upThis month was one for the books! I was fully back in the swing of things in regards to travel, with loads of new experiences in new places.

Month fifteen kicked off in Ogden where we were house sitting for another one and half weeks in a lovely home with a stunning view of the Wasatch Mountains from the back patio, a massive vegetable garden and a very sweet black lab, Lexxi, who we were looking after.

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Despite me being sick with a toothache, sore throat and ear ache for a week, we still managed to do a lot of exploring with a couple of day trips to Salt Lake City, a day hiking and swimming in the Great Salt Lake on Antelope Island, scrambling into Willard Canyon, visiting the 25th Street Farmers Market in Ogden, visiting super cute Park City and hiking in the surrounding mountains, and going to my first ever drive-in movie. Phew – it was a busy ten days!

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My friend Sarah, whom I met in Alaska when I was travelling there last summer, came to stay for the last few days of the sit in Utah just as Toby flew out to work an event for a week.

After cleaning the house and saying goodbye to Lexxi the dog, Sarah and I left Utah for the long drive to Glenwood Springs in Colorado, where we were spending a night before arriving at the next housesit in Sedalia, a small mountain village south of Denver.

On the way to Glenwood Springs we discovered the cutest little town nestled in the mountains just over the Colorado border with Utah: Palisade. We stopped to get petrol but ended up staying to explore the charming main street before hitting the road again.

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We both ended up loving Glenwood Springs with its vibrant community, gorgeous setting, eclectic shopping, soothing hot springs and delicious food. I could have happily stayed there for days, or for ever.

Then, after a couple of hours drive and a grocery stop, we arrived at our home for the next two weeks, a spacious cabin surrounded by mountains in the Pike National Forest near Sedalia.

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The two weeks spent in the mountains was a real treat with daily soaks in the jacuzzi, star-gazing, lots of hiking on the nearby trails, home-cooked meals, reading, and relaxing. Sarah was with me for another five nights and Toby came back from his event. We even had an impromptu visit from my friend Colleen for a night. I also met Colleen in Alaska, she was managing the hostel I stayed at in Talkeetna.

I escaped the mountains on a couple of occasions, to attend the crazy fun bike festival, Tour de Fat, in Denver. To attend my friends Venessa and Pete’s wedding in Littleton. To look around Castle Rock. And to explore Garden of the Gods and the hippy enclave of Manitou Springs.

Being so isolated wasn’t all good, there was one big downside which you can read about in the lowlights. But generally, it was pretty damn amazing.

We had a couple of days crossover with our Sedalia sit and our next sit in Denver so Toby stayed up in the mountains and I started the new housesit. It was back to civilisation!

The first weekend back involved lots of family time with Toby’s family (and too much drinking) and over the last week we have been hanging out in Denver, running errands, chilling with the three cutie-pie kitties we are sitting, catching up with friends, eating awesome food at the food trucks at Civic Centre Eats, and working a job for the Photo Booth that Toby and his brothers own.

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I even made it up to Boulder to hike for a day followed by craft beer and dinner in the cute town of Louisville with new friends.

It’s been a really awesome month.

Now onto the Stats:

Countries visited: USA

Places visited:

  • Colorado: Palisade, Glenwood Springs, Sedalia, Denver, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Boulder, Louisville
  • Utah: Ogden, Price, Logan, Salt Lake City, Park City, Antelope Island

Islands visited: Antelope Island, Utah

National Parks and Monuments visited: None this month

Best meal: Lots of awesome meals this month including a lot of home cooking – one of the definite perks of house sitting is having access to a fully equipped kitchen! My favourite meal this month was the Chicken Georgia with rum peach chutney, goats cheese and candied pecans with rice pilaf and sweet potato tater tots at the Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub in Glenwood Springs. Holy CRAP that meal was so damn delicious in every way. Peach and chicken are a match made in heaven, and goats cheese is always good. Shout out to the Strawberry French Toast donut at Peace, Love and Little Donuts in Park City – best donut in a long time – and the perfect potato and cheese pierogies from the Polish Food Truck at City Centre Eats in Denver.

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Worst meal: Nothing really bad this month. At a stretch, I would say I wasn’t that impressed by the poke at a Japanese Restaurant that Toby and I went to in Wheat Ridge but you can’t really expect super fresh tuna and salmon when you are so far from the ocean.

Best craft beer: As per usual I am loving my infused and inventive beers and I may have been going a bit crazy now that we are back in Colorado, land of all the amazing beer. There have been two that have particularly stood out as exceptional this month: Wine ’em Dine ‘em Ginger Lime ‘em by Manitou Brewing Company and Raspberry Beret by 12 Degree Brewing. Both subtle and flavourful with a sour note. Not for everyone but I personally adore sour beers and these two beers would be a great introduction for someone who hasn’t tried sour beer before. Shout out to the Huckleberry Cream Ale from Laughing Dog Brewing in Idaho – so smooth and berry-flavourful.

Hikes:

  • Willard Canyon, Utah 1.5 miles/2.4km
  • Silver Lake trail and Ontario trail loop to summit of Bald Mountain, Utah 4.5 miles/7.25km
  • White Rock trail, Junction trail and Bone Road trail loop, Antelope Island, Utah 8 miles/12.85km
  • Cheesman Canyon, Deckers CO 2.5 miles/4km
  • Devil’s Head from overflow parking, Sedalia CO 3.8 miles/6km
  • Section of Colorado Trail from South Platte Trailhead, Sedalia CO 4.5 miles/7.25km
  • Garden of the Gods loop, Colorado Springs CO 1.5 miles/2.4km
  • Section of Colorado Trail from South Platte Trailhead, Sedalia CO 5 miles/8km
  • Devil’s Head, Sedalia CO 2.8 miles/4.5km
  • Flatirons Loop and half of Royal Arch trail in Chautauqua Park, Boulder CO 3 miles/4.8km
  • Section of Clear Creek trail in Denver CO 2 miles/3.2km

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Reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. I love Barbara Kingsolver’s works of fiction and this non-fiction memoir about her and her family growing their own food and committing to only eating local for a year was very interesting. I feel I have learnt a lot about the food I eat after reading this and it has definitely inspired me to try focusing more on eating local food – to support local farmers and to be more eco-conscious.

Watching: I have watched a couple of movies this month that are based on memoirs about the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The Big Short was so impressive in the fact that it really got into the nitty-gritty around why the financial crisis happened, explaining the complexities in an easy to follow manner while still keeping it light and entertaining. Waffle Street was equally entertaining and told the true story about a man who is laid off from his high-flying finance position who ends up working at a chain restaurant because no one else would hire him and, of course, learning lessons about honest hard work along the way. Both great films.

Listening to: Shooting Stars – Bag Raiders.

Highlights

Computer fixed for free

So after all the issues I was having with my Macbook Air last month, I took it to the Genius Bar in Salt Lake City and within 15 minutes, it was all fixed and running perfectly again. Yay! No more pop-ups or connection issues anymore! We don’t have Genius Bars for Apple in New Zealand and I had never realised that the service was free. Here I was thinking the worst, that I might have to pay loads to get it fixed or that I may have to buy a new hard drive but it ended up being such a ridiculously easy and painless fix. Winning!

Hiking and floating in the Great Salt Lake on Antelope Island

Wow, did Antelope Island impress the socks off me. I never knew much about this island, the largest in the Great Salt Lake, but I thought it would be a nice spot to visit to see the lake up close. The surreal and spell-binding landscapes of bright white salt flats, various green and red vegetation and bleached blond grasslands was not what I was expecting. My friend Sarah and I visited on a week day so there was nary another person and we did a stunning eight-mile hike that took us to a high point on the island overlooking the lake, and past beautiful and unusual pronghorns and roaming buffalo. After the hike we went for a refreshing dip in the super salinated waters of the Great Salt Lake which was a fun experience, you literally couldn’t sink because of all the salt. Such a great day out.

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Park City and hiking the Wasatch Mountains

It was love at first sight when I set foot in the super cute mountain town of Park City. I love me a vibrant and gorgeous mountain town and Park City fit the bill – it is definitely on the list of future towns to live in. Sarah and I wandered the main street, ate at a fantastic cafe, window-shopped the numerous galleries, and just generally soaked up the mountain sun and vistas. We also did a hike from the nearby mountain resort, Silver Lake, to the top of Bald Mountain, where there were incredible views over the surrounding mountains and Jordanelle Reservoir below. Oh, and to top it all off, there were donuts, really damn delicious ones. Park City: You had me at hello but then you really nailed it with the donuts.

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Attending the Ogden Farmer’s Market

Damn, I love Farmer’s Markets. Pretty sure I have touched on this in past posts, probably numerous times. The Ogden Farmer’s Market is held weekly in the warmer months along historic 25th street, which is closed to traffic for the market. A line of stalls selling local produce, inventive gift ideas (Toby and I got rings made from coins: pretty cool), live music and delicious food stretched down the street creating a vibrant and fun atmosphere. I think that attending farmer’s markets is important to support local businesses and to really get a feel for the local community and the Ogden market showed me what a fun and tight-knit community Ogden is. I wish we had been able to attend more than one.

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Exploring Salt Lake City

I didn’t really know what to expect from the Mormon stronghold of Salt Lake City. Maybe something bland and sterile? What I found was anything but. The architecture is one of the things that caught my attention first, there were so many beautiful historic buildings. Temple Square is a bright and inviting space with hundreds of colourful flower beds set in its grounds along with a Disney-esque temple and other gorgeous buildings. The State Capitol sits atop a hill with a great vantage point over the surrounding mountains and the city. A shaded creek runs into a canyon with active locals walking and running along the creekside trail. Salt Lake City turned out to be a lot more beautiful and interesting than I thought it would be.

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My first drive-in movie

As a Kiwi, I had never been to a drive in movie, despite growing up watching movies and TV shows with characters going to the drive-in (Grease is one of my favourites). When I found out there was a drive-in in Ogden, I knew we had to go. We went to see ‘Suicide Squad’ and I just loved the whole experience. It is one of those quintessential American experiences that I finally got to experience for myself, and it won’t the last time I go to one.

Wandering Glenwood Springs and soaking in the hot pools

I had driven through Glenwood Springs before, on the way to somewhere else, and I remember thinking that it looked like a cute town. When I was looking at a map to plot our route between Ogden in northern Utah to Sedalia in Colorado, it looked like a great place to split up the journey and stay the night. Turns out I couldn’t have been more right: Glenwood Springs is simply awesome. There is such a fun little community here and the charming main street is full of great places to eat and shop – I especially loved the Elizabeth Dean Boutique, a funky, retro inspired store where I wanted to buy practically everything. I had the best meal of the month at the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub and we had a relaxing soak in the Glenwood Hot Springs once it got dark. Glenwood Canyon is home to some great hikes and I would love to go back to explore more of this pretty little town and the surrounding beauty of the area. Another town on my list of possible places to live for sure.

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Revelling in the mountain life in Sedalia

I love the mountains, so when a two-week housesit came up in a gorgeous mountain house, replete with mountain views and a jacuzzi built into the deck, I jumped at the chance to stay there. Luckily we got it and the two weeks living in the mountains was something special. The stars were incredible during our nightly soak in the jacuzzi and the views never got old. It was a great spot to chill out and get some work done and we even had the chance to host a couple of friends, along with Toby’s brother and Fo and his wife Afor. There were downsides to being so remote too (see lowlights) but overall, I am so glad that we got to experience real Colorado Rocky Mountain living.

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Hiking in the Pike National Forest around Sedalia

Our mountain housesit in the Pike National Forest near the village of Sedalia was definitely remote in regards to civilisation, but there were lots of hiking trails nearby so we got out hiking as much as possible. During our time in the area I did the Devil’s Head hike up to a Fire Tower twice, two sections of the Colorado Trail, and a hike into Cheesman Canyon. Apart from hiking Devil’s Head the first time on Labor Day (BIG mistake) the trails were almost always deserted, perfect for a peaceful communion with nature.

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A day trip to Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs

When two separate friends that I met travelling in Alaska last summer were visiting me, we decided to spend the day in and around the Colorado Springs area, not too far south of the Sedalia housesit. First stop was Garden of the Gods. It may be touristy but the Garden of the Gods is still an impressive sight with its jagged red rock cliffs and spires, interlaced with pathways. For lunch we ventured up the road to Manitou Springs. I hadn’t heard about this small town before but I instantly fell in love with its hippy character and beautiful main street. We walked by the shaded river, window shopped the eclectic stores and dropped in for a beer and lunch at the Manitou Brewing Company. Great day with great company.

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Fun at the Tour de Fat in Denver

An impromptu day out to the Tour de Fat Bike Festival in Denver with Fo and Afor and one of their friends turned out to be one of the funnest days I have had in a while. With costume wearing, day drinking, bike lovers everywhere, the festival really represented the awesome, outdoorsy weirdos that inhabit Denver – and I fit right in! We drunk New Belgium beers, met loads of cool people and had a big ole dance. The end of the afternoon is pretty blurry and my hangover the next day was a bit rough but it was 100% worth it. I can’t wait to go again next year.

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Celebrating love at a friend’s Wedding in Littleton

When I was invited to my friends Venessa and Pete’s wedding this month, I made every effort to make sure we would be in town for it. Obtaining our mountain housesit made it possible to attend, although it was still a 45 minute drive each way. I met Venessa, a Denver native, when I was travelling in Hawaii last year and got to know Pete, an Englishman, when I stayed with them for a week back in May. Their love story is very similar to mine and Toby’s, with them meeting while travelling and hanging out as friends before it developed into something more. It was a beautiful day for a wedding with lots of sunshine and only scattered clouds. The ceremony was short but sweet, outside in the Chatfield Botanic Gardens, followed by a casual reception with local craft beer, cocktails, and delicious food in an open venue on site. Toby and I met lots of cool people and even had a little dance before we had to head back to the dogs. It was such a fun and beautiful day.

Family fun in Denver

This past weekend was all about family: Toby’s family that is. On Friday night Toby’s brother Fo and sister-in-law Afor held a full moon party at their place and man, was that a fun and debaucherous night! A few of Toby’s cousins, aunts and his Mum all came and we generally just had a really fun night of drinking and dancing. Saturday was all about nursing my massive hangover and watching many, many episodes of ‘Once Upon a Time’ on Netflix. Then Sunday, it was family time again, with a gathering around at Toby’s Aunt and Uncle’s house in Brighton to watch the Broncos game. I met a few family members I hadn’t yet met, we ate loads of great food and even did a few shots. Toby’s family is dangerously fun. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving although I am sure I will see a lot of them before then with a few events coming up in the next couple of months.

Hiking in Boulder and beer with new friends

I reconnected with a couple of Venessa’s friends at her wedding, Ari and Neera, who I had previously met a few months ago. Ari has Mondays and Tuesdays off, and as I am only a casually employed person, I was able to meet up with her one Tuesday afternoon to hike Chautauqua Park in Boulder. It felt great to be out and about in the mountains. After hiking we picked Neera up from work and headed to the nearby small town of Louisville, where Toby also met us, for incredible beer and food at 12 Degrees Brewing. There was even the cutest kitty hanging out in a big leather bag with its owners. I always love meeting new friends and I hope to see these two ladies again soon.

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Lowlights

Sick for a week

The beginning of the month saw me with a bad jaw ache, sore throat, ear ache and a lack of energy. After a few days the jaw ache developed into bad wisdom tooth pain. It wasn’t looking good. I decided to do thyme gargles (it worked for me with a wisdom tooth infection a year ago) and to give it a few more days before seeing a doctor or dentist. If it got worse or wasn’t getting any better, I would bite the bullet and see someone, despite knowing it would cost a bomb. Luckily I slowly got better over the week.

Multiple injuries

Two infected fingers, painful cat and dog scratches, blisters, tearing my foot on a carpet nail, hamster bites, stab wounds from ferns and prickly plants while hiking – this has been the month for superficial injuries. I have literally had some part of my body hurting every day of the last month. I’m not usually this accident prone and I’m hoping that the next month I will be back to my usually injury-resistant self because, like any normal person, I am not a fan of pain.

Prescription sunglasses broke

This was more annoying than anything. My prescription sunglasses broke on the day I was driving to a the Sedalia mountain housesit – nowhere near any shops. My prescription isn’t current so it meant that I would have to go and get another eye test before then trying to find glasses I liked and having my prescription put in them. Urgh. Not cheap either.

One very scary night in the mountains

All of my other lowlights of the month pale in comparison to this one: it’s a doozy. After being at the Sedalia sit for five nights with no issues, on night six, the first of two nights by myself at the house, I was awoken around 1am by the sound of heavy footsteps in the gravel outside my window, followed by the sound of something like a spade being dragged along the ground. I lay frozen for a while in bed, while the sound continued intermittently for about an hour. Then it started to come closer to the door and the intervals between noises shorter. I could hear bursts of fast running through the gravel. I felt isolated and terrified. I didn’t know what to do.

I ended up calling 911 and a couple of cops from Castle Rock, 40 minutes drive away, drove out to assist me. The operator stayed on the line with me the whole time which I was incredibly thankful for as the noises only got louder. When they finally arrived they had a look around and said they couldn’t find any sign of a person walking around outside but they did find an unusual drag mark in the gravel and when they walked further into the woods, something was moving away from them through the trees. They were convinced it was a mountain lion, and that it could have been dragging the chain of a dog it had eaten. Seriously. Then they left. Needless to say I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night, and I did hear it briefly again a couple of times about an hour after they left, then luckily after that it stopped. Fo and Afor came and stayed with me so I wouldn’t have to be alone a second night – thank God.

I’m not convinced it was a mountain lion, it sounded so much like a person, and I had trouble sleeping the rest of my time at the house, and actually, I am still having trouble sleeping now. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life and as I am a bad sleeper and scared of the dark anyway, it may take me a while to fully get over it.

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Spending:

Total: USD$955

Much too high this month with my US budget being around $750 per month. The glasses and eye test and the oil change were both unexpected expenses and if you subtract them I would have only been a bit over budget. I am hoping this will be lower next month.

Accommodation $42

We have been house sitting all month so the only accommodation cost I had was splitting a motel room for the night in Glenwood Springs with my friend Sarah, our stop for the night between our northern Utah sit and our sit in the mountains south of Denver.

Food and Drink $406.50

Yep, ate out a lot and drunk all the craft beer this month. As usual, worth every penny.

Clothing $37

  • Sarong $12
  • Exercise shorts $5.50
  • Sports bra $19.50

Transport $88.50

  • Petrol $80
  • Parking $6
  • Bus $2.50

With Toby working for ten days over the last month, and with a long drive from Utah to Colorado, I was left to pay for petrol a lot more than I usually would. This would have been almost double if my friend Sarah wasn’t staying and pitching in to.

Activities $33

  • Drive In Movies $16
  • Antelope Island State Park entry fee $5
  • Glenwood Springs Hot Springs $12

Other $348

  • Toiletries $38
  • US Monthly Phone Plan $30
  • New glasses and eye test $155
  • Oil Change and Signature check $57
  • Wedding Present $47
  • Dog food $9
  • Camera lens $12

Ouch, it has been an expensive month for random expenses. Next month should definitely be a lot lower with the only big-ticket expense coming up is a Halloween costume.

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What’s in store for next month:

Month sixteen is kicking off in Denver where we will have a couple of days left at our Wheat Ridge housesit, with a visit to Golden to hike and drink beer on the cards, and dinner with friends in the fairy-lit Larimer Square downtown.

And from there, we will be heading north for a few days, taking in the beauty of the fall colours in Rocky Mountain National Park, then possibly travelling via Breckenridge and Aspen on the way back to Denver.

We will be working the Photo Booth back in Denver for a family wedding before hitting the road again, travelling in southern Colorado for a week with stops hopefully including Mesa Verde National Park, Durango, Ouray, Pagosa Springs and Great Sand Dunes National Park.

It will be back to the Denver area again after that for about a week with a family birthday party and a possible housesit in Loveland for a few days.

The last week of the month I will be flying to one of my favourite cities in the US: Seattle!

My friend and boss Dani is house sitting a tiny home and I’ll be staying with her there for a couple of nights, catching up and going over work stuff, before covering her for the sit while she does a press trip for five days. Heading back to Fremont and Ballard, Discovery Park and Capitol Hill is definitely in my plans, along with checking out some new spots and eating everything in sight. I can’t wait to explore more of Seattle!

I will also be heading up to Vancouver for a few days and seeing friends there as well as visiting some of my favourite haunts and eating all the sushi, pizza and donuts. I didn’t think I would get back to Canada until next year so I’m really excited about this.

Next month is already shaping up really nicely.

To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here

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