the-big-trip-month-sixteenMonth Sixteen was a month full of travel and eating – and man did I pay for it!

With so many highlights for this month and very little lowlights, it has been one of my favourite travel months to date. I wish every month was like this one (well, except for blowing my budget).

I started the month in Wheat Ridge, a suburb of Denver, where we were housesitting three kitties. We had three nights left at our sit and we managed to fit in a visit to Golden, dinner with friends in the city, and Sunday football and BBQ at one of Toby’s old friend’s places.

After finishing the sit, and a night at Toby’s Mum’s place in Brighton, we set off for a four-day road trip to experience the fall colours in north-western and central Colorado.

First stop was Rocky Mountain National Park where the elk were in full-on mating mode, allowing us to hear them calling to each other – it sounded like a lady screaming. Coming through the park, the aspens were spectacularly golden and we drove Trail Ridge road, which already had some snow on it. We also did one hike on the western side of the park to the lovely Cascade Falls.

rocky-mountain-national-park-from-trail-ridge-road

From the park we checked out the cute town of Grand Lake, soaked in the hot springs at Hot Sulphur Springs, wandered the wild west town of Leadville, saw a moose (Toby’s first!), drove Independence Pass to chichi Aspen, did shots with one of Toby’s cousins and his wife who kindly put us up for a night, and hiked to Hanging Lake, one of the most well-known hikes in Colorado.

It was such an amazing road trip and it made me fall in love with this incredible state even more.

We arrived back in Denver for the weekend to work the Photo Booth at a big family wedding which was really fun and two after parties that involved 3am shots and a hangover the next day. Did I mention that Toby’s family like doing shots?

Then we hit the road again for part two of our Colorado road trip: South Western Colorado.

We hit up the cute town of Buena Vista, finally got to beautiful Ouray and drove the Million dollar highway to Silverton, my new favourite mountain town in Colorado.

gorgeous-aspen-trees-near-aspen-colorado

After lunch in the pleasant College Town of Durango, we finally arrived in Mesa Verde National Park, a place I have been wanting to go for years.

We hiked, checked out spectacular cliff dwelling ruins, and drove through desert landscapes – our time in Mesa Verde was a definite Colorado highlight and I loved learning about the history of this incredible site.

On the way back to Denver we stopped in the town of Pagosa Springs for a night and visited the Overlook Hot Springs which were endlessly relaxing. Then we were back in Denver.

Without any house sits lined up, we stayed with a selection of Toby’s family members including his Mum, his Aunt, and his brother. Toby’s brother Flip who lives in Salt Lake was in town for a couple of nights so it was cool to hang out with him (more shots) as well as checking out some new restaurants and breweries – something that Denver excels at – and getting our costumes sorted for Halloween.

The last week of the month was spent in two of my favourite cities in the world: Seattle and Vancouver.

city-view-of-seattle

After a bumpy landing into Seattle, my friend Dani picked me up and we started as we planned to go on: drinking beer in Georgetown then eating some amazing pho in South Seattle.

Dani was house sitting a tiny house in Renton, just south of the city, and looking after two adorable kitties. I loved that I was able to actually visit a tiny house as Toby and I want to build our own one day.

For the four nights I was in Seattle we crammed in so much: eating and drinking our way through Fremont, Ballard, Belltown and Capitol Hill, hiking in Discovery Park, beach combing at Alki Beach and Golden Gardens, capturing great city views from Kerry Park and West Seattle, and visiting some great breweries.

I came away from Seattle loving it even more.

The love-fest continued in Vancouver. This city has my heart more than any other in the world and every visit here is amazing.

false-creek-in-vancouver

As well as doing my favourite Vancouver things such as eating in Mount Pleasant, walking around Kits and along the beaches, catching up with my friends here, and visiting the Granville Island market, I also managed to do a couple of things I haven’t done before including hiking part of the foreshore trail in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, visiting the Anthropology Museum, and hiking the Chief in Squamish.

Same goes with food – I ate at some old favourites but also tried a number of new places. And it was pretty much all good.

And that was my month: exhausting and expensive but delicious and just freaken full of fun and happy moments.

Now onto the Stats:

Countries visited: USA, Canada

Places visited:

  • Colorado: Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake, Hot Sulphur Springs, Silverthorne, Leadville, Basalt, Aspen, Buena Vista, Ouray, Silverton, Durango, Mesa Verde National Park, Pagosa Springs
  • Washington: Seattle
  • Canada: Vancouver, Squamish

Islands visited: No islands this month unless you count Granville Island in Vancouver. OK I’m gonna count it – One island visited this month.

National Parks and Monuments visited:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Best meal: This month of eating has been one for the books! I know that I pretty much say this every month but month sixteen was all about eating, especially because I revisited two of my favourite cities in the world – Seattle and Vancouver – both of which have crazy good food. I can’t possibly narrow it down. OK, I’ll try – Nepalese/Indian buffet at Sherpa House in Golden, crispy garlic smashed potatoes from Next Door Union in Denver, Pho Ga from Pho 95 in Denver, fried chicken at Dam Brewery in Silverthorne, the Halibut sandwich from Nosh Food Truck in Seattle, hash browns with a pile of vegetables and guac at Glo’s Cafe in Seattle, vegetable Penang curry at Jhanjay in Seattle, Pho Ga at Rainier Restaurant and BBQ in Seattle, pear and maple pie at Pie in Seattle, blueberry and white chocolate bread from Terra Breads in Vancouver, and the lemongrass chicken bao from Bao Down in Vancouver. Phew!

delicious-food-in-seattle

Worst meal: I can’t think of a single bad meal that I had this month.

Best craft beer: Lions Winter Ale – Granville Island Brewery. This dark ale is so chocolatey and smooth. I wasn’t into dark beer when I first tried it a few years ago but this time around I LOVED it.

Hikes:

  • Section of Clear Creek trail in Denver CO 3.6miles/5.8km return
  • Lubahn Trail in Golden CO 2.5miles/4km loop
  • Cascade Falls on North Inlet Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park CO 6.8miles/11km return
  • Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon CO 3miles/4.8km return
  • Point Lookout trail from campsite, Mesa Verde National Park CO 3.7miles/6km return
  • Spruce Canyon trail, Mesa Verde National Park CO 2.4miles/3.9km loop
  • Long House guided trail, Mesa Verde National Park CO 2.25miles/3.6km return
  • Section of Platte River trail, Denver CO 2 miles/3.2km return
  • Section of loop trail in Discovery Park, Seattle WA 3miles/4.8km loop
  • Section of Foreshore trail Pacific Spirit Regional Park, Vancouver 2.8miles/4.5km return
  • Stawamus Chief trail – Peak one summit and most of Peak two, Squamish 5miles/8km return

Reading: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. Basically a year of observations and descriptions of life in a small Provencal village as told by the author, an expat Brit. An easy and pleasant read that definitely made me long for France, one of my favourite countries.

Watching: American Horror Story: Hotel. After not really enjoying Freak show, I wasn’t intending on watching Hotel but I am so glad I did because it ended up being one of my favourite seasons. I thought Gaga was brilliant in it and the storyline was great. Looking forward to the next instalment.

Highlights

A day in Golden

I love the small mountain town of Golden, part of the greater Denver area, and at the beginning of the month we had a perfect day there, exploring the shops, eating at the Nepalese/Indian buffet at Sherpa House, and hiking the Lubahn trail to the peak of Castle Rock on South Table Mountain. I am crossing my fingers we can get a house sit in Golden at some stage.

view-over-golden-colorado

Experiencing incredible fall colours around Colorado

I am a sucker for fall, and Colorado does fall in a big way. The mountains turn golden at this time of year and I wanted to get out and experience it. We did two road trips through Colorado’s mountains this month to do just that. It was even more beautiful than I could have imagined, particularly driving over Independence Pass into Aspen, and driving the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton. The sheer amount of aspens was just incredible and we stopped countless times to take photos along the way. It was definitely worth camping in the cold for.

fall-colours-near-ouray

Finally getting to Aspen

Aspen is probably the first place I ever heard of in Colorado (Dumb and Dumber), and I have wanted to go to this glitzy ski resort town ever since. It ain’t a cheap place to stay so we just spent a half day there walking around, and I was so pleased that I saved seeing it until fall because it was alive with colour. I loved just wandering around the immaculate streets, checking out the shops, and Rio Grande park was stunning with a mix of fall colours and gorgeous wildflowers everywhere. There are a lot of great hikes in this area so we will definitely be back in spring and summer to see more.

aspen-colorado

Hiking to Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake is possibly the most famous hike in Colorado and the car park fills up fast, especially in summer as we found out when we first tried to do this hike. Luckily in autumn it doesn’t fill up quite so quickly and we ended up getting a park easily when we arrived at 10am on a weekday. The way up is reasonably steep, but once you reach the lake it is absolutely worth it. It is so clear and has a few trickling waterfalls running into it – you can definitely see why it is so popular. We hiked a bit further up to Spouting Rock as well, which is a waterfall coming out of a crevice in the rock, also very cool.

hanging-lake-colorado

Falling in love with Silverton

A couple of months ago I professed my love for Telluride, and I still adore this picture-perfect mountain town, but on this trip we found somewhere that we love even more, well equally at least: Silverton. Silverton is less developed than Telluride and has more of a wild west feel to it. Despite this, there are still so many amazing restaurants and cafes, and the mountains surrounding the town are rugged and awe-inspiring. We stayed at a great little hostel and I even sung Karaoke for the first time, which was a lot of fun. The best bit is that you can still buy land relatively cheap here, which is vastly different from Telluride where you must have a lot of money even to rent. I can’t wait to go back!

silverton-in-colorado

Exploring Mesa Verde National Park

After planning to visit Mesa Verde last spring, then again in early summer, we never quite made it there for one reason or the other, until now. I really wanted to get down there before the weather gets too cold, so we added two nights there as part of our southern Colorado road trip. It turned out to be even more amazing than I thought it would be, with truly spectacular cliff dwelling ruins high up in natural alcoves in the cliffs. We visited three different cliff dwellings, two on tours, as well as driving between viewpoints and hiking a couple of trails in the park. It was a great experience and it was so interesting to learn about the Pueblo people who lived there up until about 800 years ago.

cliff-palace-at-mesa-verde-national-park

Soaking in hot springs

I love a good hot spring, pretty standard for someone from New Zealand, and Colorado is home to a bunch of them. We visited two while road tripping around – Hot Sulphur Springs and Overlook Hot Springs in Pagosa Springs – and both were really awesome. The Hot Sulphur Springs in the town of the same name is home to over twenty pools of varying heat and with different minerals, I particularly loved the waterfall pool which had a small cliff alcove and a waterfall falling into it. The Overlook Hot Springs was a classy affair with various pools inside, in a courtyard area, and on the roof overlooking the river. We visited at night and found it so luxurious and relaxing. I would definitely go back to both.

More family fun in Denver

This month we went to the wedding of one of Toby’s cousins, the birthday party of Toby’s cousin and aunty, dinner and drinks with Toby’s brother Flip, his Mum and another aunty, and then stayed with yet another aunty out in Aurora, as well as seeing Toby’s other brother Fo, and his wife Afor loads. As I have said before, I love Toby’s family and feel very privileged to get to be a part of it.

Discovering RiNo in Denver

I have explored a lot of Denver’s neighbourhoods since I first set foot there in March, but I was yet to make it to the River North Arts District (RiNo for short), just north of the city. It still looks pretty industrial up there but there are so many fantastic breweries, restaurants and galleries, housed in converted warehouses. We visited Biju’s Little Curry Shop for delicious curry chicken bowls then did some beer sampling at Great Divide Barrel Bar. I also loved The Source, an old iron foundry that has been converted and now houses a butcher, cheese shop, sour beer brew bar and a handful of restaurants – so cool!

Visiting Seattle oversights

Despite visiting Seattle four times, there were still a few places that I hadn’t made it to, largely because I haven’t had access to a car in the past and it can take such a long time to get across the city on public transport. This visit I managed to tick some off my list – Alki Beach, Kerry Park, Georgetown, Lake Washington, and Golden Gardens Park – and I loved them all.

golden-gardens-park-in-seattle

Amazing food in Seattle and Vancouver

I have already gone on and on about how much I love the food in this part of the world so I won’t rehash it except to say – if you love delicious, diverse, inventive food made with fresh, local ingredients and lots of love – do yourself a favour and get over to these cities! The food is worth the trip alone.

Being back in Vancouver

Ah Vancouver, you will always hold a very special place in my heart. I have lived there twice (both times, way too briefly), and visited about another six times, and I still can’t get this incredible city out of my system. It is my favourite city in the world and I love the friendly and outdoorsy locals, the amazing food and beer scene, the huge focus on eco-consciousness, the beautiful buildings, the diverse neighbourhoods, but most of all – I love the natural beauty and the incredible access to said natural beauty, with the mountains and the sea right on your doorstep here. Vancouver is home to numerous parks, beaches, walking and biking trails, hiking trails through coastal rainforest and alpine mountains, and so much more. I will love it forever.

vancouver-views-from-kitsilano

Hiking the Chief

The trail to the top of the rocky mountain known as the Chief in Squamish, north of Vancouver, is possibly the most famous trail on the Sea to Sky highway and I have wanted to hike it for years. This visit I got the chance as my friend Megan was heading up there with a work mate to hike it and I eagerly joined them. I was a bit hungover and it was tough but we made it to the top of Peak one after much scrambling and ladder climbing – it was pretty crazy! The view from the top was stunning, looking out over Howe Sound, Squamish, and the surrounding coastal mountains. We attempted Peak two but unfortunately with Megan’s dogs, it just wasn’t feasible and we gave up and turned back when it got too technical. No matter, it gives me something to go back for next time.

view-from-peak-one-of-the-chief-hike-in-squamish

Scaring the crap out of people at a haunted house in Vancouver

When a friend of a friend said he needed volunteers to work in a haunted house for a couple of hours on Friday night, I jumped at the chance. I hate going to haunted houses because I am a big scaredy cat, but I thought that being the scarer would be pretty cool – and it was. I dressed up as a super scary baby and scared the crap out of some people. We were in the last room and were given free rein to terrorise people as we saw fit, without touching them. I found that getting real close and saying ‘Mama’ in a creepy voice did the trick. Unfortunately it was short-lived as one of the guys I was with was caught slacking off and drinking so we all got kicked out for being drunk. Oh well – fun while it lasted and we were still given our $15 Brewery vouchers which was our payment for the night.

Lowlights

Car issues on our road trip

More car issues with Kermit the car, this time we got a hole in the radiator hose which was causing the car to overheat. We were about 20 miles from the nearest town, Buena Vista, but had to keep stopping every few miles to let the car cool down. Once we got there, everything was closed so we had to spend the night. Luckily it was a cool town and it was an easy fix the next day, but we had been hoping to get further south and it put us behind for the rest of the trip, meaning we had to cut out the balloon festival in Albuquerque which was a shame.

Bombing at Karaoke

After a successful first time singing Karaoke, I did it again a couple of weeks later. I sung ‘Locked out of Heaven’ by Bruno Mars, a song I sing in the car all the time and can usually hit the notes for, but my voice kept breaking, due to a cold, and I sounded terrible. Embarrassing for sure.

Scary descent into Seattle

So the day I was due to fly into Seattle was also the day that a massive storm was going to hit – needless to say, as a nervous flyer I was scared. The night before I was leaving I didn’t sleep well and on the day, I kept expecting my flight to be cancelled. When it wasn’t, I was nervous the whole flight about having to land in the storm. Well, the storm ended up being just a bit of rain and a complete non-event, but the wind was still pretty strong which made for a scary initial descent into the city. There was about 5-10 minutes when it was really rough and I started fearing for my life but luckily it died down after that.

Lots of rain in Seattle and Vancouver

This wasn’t too much of a bummer because I was expecting lots of rain and grey skies at this time of year in the Pacific North West but still – clear skies and no rain is always more appreciated. I did get some sunshine in Seattle, and for a couple of half days in Vancouver, but I also got rained on biking around Vancouver a couple of times, and walking in Seattle which made the temperature drop and left me shivering.

Overspending by A LOT

I overspent by almost $400 this month which stresses me out. See below for more details.

Spending:

Total: USD$1130

SO much worse than I thought – I knew this was an expensive month but I didn’t realise that I had overspent by almost $400! I was travelling most of the month so expenses always go up when I’m on the move, and all of the new clothes and shoes I needed to get for winter also pushed me over the edge. I am going to try extra hard to stick to my budget next month.

Accommodation $128

A couple of nights camping and a night in a private room in a hostel in Silverton make up the accommodation for this month. The rest of the time we were house sitting and staying with friends and family.

Food and Drink $570

Oh shit. Damn all the good food and drink in Seattle and Vancouver – it was too hard to say no when I knew I was only in each city for a short amount of time. I will be better next month.

Clothing $234

  • 2 x Jumper $44.50
  • Boots $86
  • Walking Shoes $50
  • Fake Ugg boots $30
  • Hat $23.50

This makes me feel a bit sick but I really did need some warm clothes and boots – winter is coming after all.

Transport $70

  • Petrol $15
  • Flight taxes for Denver – Seattle return $28
  • Bus Seattle to Vancouver $18
  • Parking $2.50
  • Public Transport – Vancouver $6.50

Thanks to the credit I was given by Southwest for hopping on a later flight back in June, I only had to pay the taxes on my return flight to Seattle – winning! Toby paid for most of our petrol as usual, because he is incredibly generous (thanks baby!).

Activities $11.50

  • Anthropology Museum in Vancouver $11.50

As you can see by the food and drink total above, this month’s activities basically involved me stuffing my face. I did do a lot of hiking too, and biked around Vancouver on my friend’s bike and luckily that’s free.

Other $116.50

  • Toiletries $4
  • US Monthly Phone Plan $30
  • Books $4
  • Maple treats in Vancouver $4
  • Wood for campfire $12
  • Showers and Ice $5
  • Halloween Costume $48.50
  • Hair cut $9

Not too bad this month. We pieced our Halloween costumes together from different thrift stores and only bought a few accessories from the costume shop so we definitely saved money there.

What’s in store for next month:

Month Seventeen begins in Vancouver where I still have a couple of nights, then I will be heading back into Seattle for a night before flying back home to Denver to be reunited with Toby.

We have a week in Denver staying with Toby’s cousin, getting our Halloween costumes ready and carving pumpkins (will be a first for me!) then we will be attending a big Halloween Party at Fo and Afor’s – I can’t wait!!

From Denver it looks like we will be driving down to Phoenix for a week. In Phoenix, Toby will be getting trained for a new job with his best friend Mike, who we will be staying with.

I haven’t met Mike yet so I am excited to meet him and his wife Rima. My friend Sarah lives there too so I am also looking forward to catching up with her and exploring the city more during our time there. Maybe even a day trip to Sedona will be on the cards.

Then we will be in New Mexico, visiting Toby’s Dad, working an event and hopefully doing some exploring – I want to hit up Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Bandelier National Monument, and Taos. Not sure if all that will be possible but we will give it a try.

It will also be my 34th birthday while we are in New Mexico so will definitely be celebrating that – possibly in Santa Fe.

The last week of month seventeen will see us house sitting in the mountains west of Colorado Springs in the small town of Green Mountain Falls, looking after three dogs and a cat. We will definitely have our hands full but I am hoping for some chill out time where I can do some cooking and baking, watch movies, read and generally just lounge around. We will probably see some snow which is exciting too.

It’s already shaping up to be another great month.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *