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Month Eighty-Eight was a pretty great one. I spent half the month traveling and the other half between the Gorge and Denver.
I started the month working Jack Johnson at the Gorge which was my favorite show of the year, and then in the four days between Jack Johnson and the last event of the season I traveled to the cute Wild West town of Winthrop where I stayed in a cozy hostel and did some hiking around North Cascades National Park.
The last event of the season was Rufus Du Sol then after a day spent decompressing and packing, I hit the road for the long drive back to Colorado.
I took the scenic route visiting Boise, Great Basin National Park, and Mystic Hot Springs, before arriving in Telluride just in time for peak fall color. I ended up spending four nights in and around Telluride and it was just as fabulous as it always is – I love this part of Colorado!
I stopped for a night in Crested Butte on the way back to Denver to see one of my Kiwi besties and meet her American boyfriend, then I’ve been back in Denver ever since, catching up with family and friends, hiking in Golden, and ticking some Denver restaurants off my must-eat list.
Countries Visited: USA
- Washington: George, Twisp, Winthrop
- Oregon: Baker City
- Idaho: Boise
- Nevada: Ely
- Utah: Monroe
- Colorado: Telluride, Placerville, Ridgway, Ouray, Crested Butte, Aurora, Parker, Denver, Golden
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: North Cascades National Park, Great Basin National Park.
Islands Visited: No Islands this month.
Days on the Road:14 days
Best Meals: Tequila garlic shrimp tostadas from La Fonda Lopez in Twisp; Liege waffle with biscoff spread, fresh cream, strawberries and raspberries from Waffle Love in Boise; Blueberry bagel with honey walnut schmear from Blue Sky Bagels in Boise; Purple potato fries with black and blue salt and spicy ketchup from Boise Fry Company; Sweetie Pie Detroit-style pizza with pineapple, ricotta and jalapenos from Brown Dog in Telluride; Margherita pizza with Bufala mozzarella from Marco’s Coal Fired in Denver.
Worst Meals: Tacos from D&J Taco Shop in Baker City. When I was asked if I wanted olives on my taco and there was no choice to get corn tortillas I should have immediately run. Soggy, bland, and very inauthentic.
Best Craft Beer: All the sours from Barbarian Brewing in Boise – Gose Bang Bang, Lemon Meringue Pie and Danger Sunset. Peach Crumble sour by Prairie Artisan Ales based in Oklahoma.
- Blue Lake Trail near Winthrop, WA 5 miles
- Rainy Lake Trail near Winthrop, WA 2.1 miles
- Maple Pass Loop trail near Winthrop, WA 7.2 miles
- Owls Roost and Red Cliff loop in Boise, Idaho 3.5 miles
- Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail in Great Basin National Park, Nevada 4.6 miles
- Alpine Lakes Loop in Great Basin National Park, Nevada 3 miles
- Section of Baker Creek Trail in Great Basin National Park 2 miles
- Bear Creek Trail in Telluride, CO 5 miles
- Ouray Perimeter Trail in Ouray, CO 5.5 miles
- Bridal Veil Falls and Power House trail in Telluride, CO 4.5 miles
- Peak to Plains and Welch Ditch trails in Golden, CO 4.5 miles
Watching: True Story, Uncoupled, The Midnight Club, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Watcher, Where the Crawdads Sing
Listening: We album by Arcade Fire – I LOVE this album, The Black Tapes Podcast – so addictive even if it is fictional.
Reading: The Last Rose of Shanghai by Weina Dai Randel
I wrote one new post this month about the 6 best offbeat places to add to your Yucatan Itinerary.
Seeing Jack Johnson and Ben Harper at the Gorge
I was been pretty disappointed with the lineup at the Gorge this year but one act I had been looking forward to all summer was Jack Johnson. Although I am not a massive Jack Johnson fan, I enjoy his music and I think he is a stand up human who has managed to stay humble and live a relatively normal life.
My friends from Vancouver attended this event so once I got off work, I got to hang out with them and I watched the whole show except the last song. My highlight was when he played Flake with Ben Harper – incredible.
Hiking Around Winthrop
I based myself in the cute town of Winthrop, just outside of North Cascades National Park to do some hiking, and although I didn’t end up getting to do any hikes inside the park because of bad wildfire smoke, I did do a couple of excellent hikes just outside of the park – Blue Lakes trail and the Maple Loop Pass trail.
Both hikes weren’t super long but had excellent views, beautiful lakes, and the early signs of fall color – I even got to see lots of one of my favorite trees, the larch, which is one of the only conifers (needled trees) that changes color and loses its needles in fall.
The Maple Pass Loop was lined with hundreds of huckleberry bushes that were turning red and orange which was a beautiful sight, and I gorged myself on huckleberries. I also saw a large black bear in the distance!
Hanging Out in the Hostel in Winthrop
I loved the cozy North Cascades Mountain Hostel in Winthrop where I stayed for three nights. The first two nights there was a big group staying there from River Time Brewing in Darrington, they were on a staff weekend away.
These people were amazing and so welcoming, they invited me to hang out with them by the fire outside the first night and the second night the owner invited me to have dinner with all of them at a local pizza place.
I hadn’t even heard of Darrington before meeting them but now I know I want to visit next year to hike and visit River Time Brewing, of course.
I really enjoyed visiting Boise for the first time in 2020 so I knew I wanted to stay there for a night on my road trip from Washington to Colorado.
I spent an afternoon and morning walking the river path and around town, drinking sours at Barbarian Brewing, eating delicious food including the best bagel I have had outside of New York, awesome fries and a liege waffle, exploring Hyde Park Historic District, watching the sunset at Camel’s Back Park, and hiking Hulls Gulch – I fit a lot in!
Hiking and Caving in Great Basin National Park
One of my travel goals is to visit every National Park in the U.S. and Great Basin National Park had always evaded me because of its remoteness. I decided to do a detour on my road trip back to Colorado so I could visit and it was 100% worth it!
This under-visited National Park is very beautiful, especially when I visited because the fall colors were peaking. My highlights other than leaf peeping were driving the breathtaking Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, hiking to see a glacial cirque and the oldest living trees in the world – the Bristlecone Pine, and doing a ranger-led tour of the remarkable Lehman Caves.
Soaking at Mystic Hot Springs
I always love a hot spring and I have been wanting to visit Mystic Hot Springs for a while, but the last time I was passing through middle of nowhere Utah where it is located, the soaking passes were sold out.
This time I booked a couple of weeks in advance and stayed overnight at their camping ground before soaking during the first time slot in the morning.
It is rustic but I love that. I soaked in a couple of tubs that are embedded in calcium mineral mound waterfalls (!) and in the larger pool which has an arch. There is little noise pollution other than some roosters cockadoodling and the quiet chatter of the few other soakers.
I met a really nice couple from Oakland that I chatted with for about an hour, it’s always nice to meet like-minded travelers – especially when you are traveling alone.
Fall Colors in Washington, Nevada, and Colorado
After pretty much missing fall last year because I was based in seasonless LA, I gorged myself on fall colors this year.
I hiked to see the larches and huckleberry bushes changing in the mountains around Winthrop in Washington, I had fabulous fall colors driving and hiking in North Cascades National Park, and I caught the peak of fall colors in Telluride where I rode the gondola, did a number of hikes, and did a half day tour up to Imogene Pass.
I was even back in Denver in time to see the fall colors in Golden and I should be able to catch them in Santa Fe next month too. It’s been a really great fall this year.
Loving my Hostel in Telluride
Another incredible hostel I stayed at this month was the Bivvi in Telluride – well, in Placerville which is about 20 minute’s drive from Telluride. This hostel is pure luxury with luxe ski resort decor, hot tubs, and a very decent breakfast.
I met some really lovely people there and it was a cozy and peaceful spot to come back to after a day of adventuring. I couldn’t believe how affordable it was either – only $35 a night for a dorm bed.
4WD Tour To the Top of Imogene Pass in Telluride
One of the reasons I want my next vehicle to be a four-wheel drive is so we can drive the many mining roads and passes in Colorado where you have to have a high clearance 4WD to access. I got a taste of this in Telluride when I did a half-day 4WD tour to the top of the perilous Imogene Pass.
It was one of my favorite tours ever – the spectacular fall colors, the incredible mountain views, the rugged wilderness of snow at the top of the 13,000-foot pass, and the interesting stops we made at the remains of the ghost town of Tomboy, and the Smuggler Union mine. I loved it all.
Exploring a Ghost Town Near Ouray
I love ghost towns and I got to visit two this month! I visited Tomboy on the way up to Imogene Pass which was great but there wasn’t much left of it. I also visited Ironton just outside of Ouray and that is a great one with three two-storey buildings still standing and a few other buildings that have fallen down.
It was just off the Million Dollar Highway and easy to access and I enjoyed my 30-minutes of walking around everything that is left.
A Night Out in Crested Butte
I had planned to spend a couple of hours in Crested Butte, one of my favorite Colorado Mountain Towns, on the way back to Denver from Telluride but when my friend called and said they had canceled the New York portion of their trip to spend longer in Crested Butte, I ended up spending the afternoon and night there, drinking, playing shuffleboard, walking around town and meeting some locals.
Even though we had to be up early the next morning to drive to the airport in Denver, it was a fun night.
Seeing Friends and Family in Denver
Although my life in Denver is pretty boring, it has been so nice to chill out and relax as well as finally seeing friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen since last year.
Smoke In and Around North Cascades National Park
After a summer with no smoke, it finally settled in around Washington during September, and the time I spent hiking around Winthrop and in North Cascades National Park, it got really bad.
I drove all the way to Diablo Lake in the park to see the beautiful view and do a hike but the smoke was so thick you couldn’t see anything and I didn’t want to hike in that so I had to just turn around and drive the 70-minutes back to Winthrop.
I’m definitely planning to return to North Cascades National Park next year to do some hiking and backpacking because this trip was a bust.
Shitty Motel in Ely
I have a soft spot for dive motels but they have to be clean and I need to feel safe – at the shitty motel I stayed in at Ely I didn’t feel safe, the room had a weird smell and it was dirty. I got a bad vibe from the place – actually the whole town – and I couldn’t wait to leave.
Debit Card Issues
My debit card stopped working when I was in Ely which was super stressful because I don’t have a backup card and I was in the middle of nowhere with not much cash. Luckily everywhere I tried to use it after that I didn’t have any trouble but I’m replacing it now just in case.
Now that I have finally stopped after a very busy summer of work and adventure, my energy levels have been pretty low. I probably need the rest and I have a massive operations manual I need to write for the Gorge in the next couple of weeks so I’m going to lean into it.
A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.
Gas was my biggest expense this month as I drove over 2000 miles by myself and if you didn’t get the memo, gas ain’t cheap right now. I’ll hardly have any accommodation costs next month and won’t be traveling a lot so it should be cheaper.
My 11 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of three nights at a hostel in Winthrop, one night at a motel in Baker City, one night in a motel in Ely, one night camping at Great Basin National Park, one night camping at Mystic Hot Springs, and four nights at a hostel in Telluride.
My 19 nights of unpaid accommodation for the month consisted of eight nights onsite at the Gorge, one night free camping in the van in Boise, one night staying with a new friend in Crested Butte, one night with family in Denver, and eight nights housesitting in Denver.
Food and Drink $753
Pretty standard spend for me these days for food and beverages. I had a few expensive dinners out but also cooked a lot this month.
- Silk sock liners x 2 $28
- Compression socks $27
- Gas $481
- Lehman Caves Tour at Great Basin National Park $12
- Mystic Hot Springs in Utah $27
- Half-Day Tour of Imogene Pass and Tomboy Ghost Town in Telluride $115 with tip
- Hulu $8.50
- Phone plan $35
- Spotify $10.50
- Toiletries $124
- Trusted Housesitters Yearly Membership Fees $50
- Books $40
- Halloween costume $65
- REI Day Pack $40
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van/RV Costs $64
- Van Insurance $37
- Oil change for Casper $27
What’s in Store for Next Month
The first couple of weeks of month eighty-nine will be spent in Denver where I’ll be catching up on work, seeing friends and family, heading back to Golden to hike, checking out some new and favorite breweries and restaurants, and celebrating Halloween at a big family party.
We have another housesit for the first nine days where we’ll be looking after one dog then we’ll be staying with a couple of different family members in Aurora before driving down to New Mexico to visit my father-in-law for four nights.
We may even try to fit a night up in Estes Park into the schedule – I haven’t been to Rocky Mountain National Park since before COVID.
In New Mexico, I’m planning on Santa Fe adventures, finally soaking at Ojo Caliente again after a long closure, and maybe a hike in the Santa Fe National Forest or Bandelier National Monument. Fall colors should be around the peak in Santa Fe in early November so I’m looking forward to that too – I can’t get enough of this season!
From New Mexico we will be heading to the annual Outlaw Party weekend – this time we rented a house in Leadville – then I’ll have a couple of nights back in Denver. It’s my 40th so we’ll be celebrating with friends and family and have booked a cute apartment in LoHi, one of my favorite Denver suburbs, for my last couple of nights in Denver this year.
And then I am flying home to New Zealand! The last week of the month I will be spending in Auckland, catching up with family and friends, doing some hiking, and having some beers at Eagle Bar. I can’t wait!
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here