Month Forty Nine was mostly spent in Denver, although I did manage to escape to New Mexico for a week, and I did a solo weekend road trip through the Colorado mountains on the way back up to Denver.
I started the month still at my housesit in Golden, where I was looking after two cute black kitties, an asshole bunny (he headbutted me OK!), and a very needy dog.
I enjoyed my last week living in Golden, going to a couple of meetups – hiking Red Rocks with the Denver Marketing Mavens and hiking Independence Mountain with Denver Hiking Club – and hanging out downtown.
It was sad to say goodbye to the pets when I had to leave, especially Xenia the kitty. I know she loves me too because she I woke up on the last morning with a little present at the end of the bed – a dead bird!
After leaving the housesit, I had a couple of nights at an Airbnb in Golden, then moved into our first paid housesit in Westminster just as Toby got back into town, which was for six nights.
We were looking after two dogs – Riot and Indy – and they were very sweet. We took them walking every day on the trails near the house, and around the beautiful Lake Arbor.
It was Independence Day during our time there so we went to the event in Civic Center Park on the evening of the 3rd, then did a mini brewery crawl with friends on the day itself – it was a fun time!
After the housesit ended, we took an Uber to our Airbnb for three nights in Platt Park – Casper the van broke down and we had no vehicle for a few days.
Toby organized a big family nerf gun war with all the kids for our last night in town, which was held at his cousin Ticia’s in Littleton. I don’t like guns – even fake ones – so I didn’t participate, but it was fun to see everyone and have a few drinks.
And then we were on our way to New Mexico!
We spend our weekend there between the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow and the small village of Cochiti – who were having their yearly fiesta. We also stopped at my father-in-law’s colleague’s place in the small village of Dixon to pick cherries from a tree that was absolutely overflowing with them. We brought home quite the haul.
There was a community party going on to celebrate the completion of the patio at the local store/café and it was fun to check that out too.
Week days I needed to work, so I spent three days at a co-working space in Santa Fe which was fantastic (it’s called Co-Fe and you should definitely use it if you are looking to do some remote work in Santa Fe). On these days, I ate out at a different restaurant for lunch every day, went for an hour walk along the river, Canyon Road and through the Plaza, and visited the local Railyard District Farmers Market.
I had to drop Toby at the airport to fly out to work a festival in Philly on the Wednesday so I worked from a couple of different cafes that day, had lunch at an awesomely kitschy Route 66 Diner, and drove part of Route 66 and the scenic Turquoise Trail back to Espanola. It was wonderful.
We also spent one evening at one of my favorite hot springs – Ojo Caliente, and I went out for pizza and beer with my Father-in-law and his roommate Dennis on my last night in Espanola.
After a great visit to New Mexico, I set off for a solo road trip through Colorado – slowly making my way back to Denver over the weekend.
I stopped a night at Great Sand Dunes National Park where I camped in the van by myself for the first time (it wasn’t scary at all!), and hiked to the tallest sand dune, then I stopped at one of the best preserved ghost towns in the American West – St Elmo, soaked in Cottonwood Hot Springs, did a gorgeous mountain hike to an alpine lake, and visited one of my favorite little mountain towns: Buena Vista.
The last couple of days of the month I spent back in Denver, back at work.
Now onto the stats!
Countries Visited: USA
- Colorado: Denver, Evergreen, Alamosa, St Elmo, Poncha Springs, Buena Vista
- New Mexico: Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Madrid, Cerrillos, Cochiti, Ojo Caliente
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado
Islands Visited: No islands this month
Best Meal: Highlights this month included my King of the Forest burger from The Royal in Denver, with goat cheese and fig jam; the Cajun Benedict with potato casserole and beignets from Sassafras in Denver (one of the best breakfasts I have EVER had); all the donuts from Habit Donut Dispensary in Denver; my Australian style rotisserie chicken, roast potatoes and Mexican corn from Chook in Denver; the vegan Indian taco I had at the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow; my Vegetarian Mexican Plate with a vegetable enchilada, pinto beans, Mexican rice and red and green chile, with honey covered sopapillas for dessert from Tomasita’s in Santa Fe; Green chile cheeseburger and fries from 66 Diner in Albuquerque; and my Valhalla veggie burger from the Buena Viking Food Truck in Buena Vista.
Worst Meal: The gloopy and tasteless chicken cashew nut stir-fry I had at Woody’s Wings and Things in Westminster – really horrible.
Best Craft Beer: Sour BombadAle from Zuni Brewing Company in Denver, with hints of strawberry and rhubarb.
- South Mountain/Castle Rock loop in Golden, Colorado 3 miles/4.8km
- Sloans Lake loop trail in Edgewater, Colorado 2.6 miles/4.2km
- Berkeley Lake loop trail in Berkeley, Colorado 1.1 mile/1.7km loop
- Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks, Colorado 1.4 miles/2.3km loop
- Independence Mountain in Evergreen, Colorado 2.3 miles/3.7km return
- Mount Galbraith Loop trail via Cedar Gulch in Golden, Colorado 4 miles/6.5km loop
- Lake Arbor Trail in Westminster, Colorado 1.2 miles/1.9km loop
- Tallest Sand Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado 3 miles/4.8km loop
- Hartenstein Lake trail near Buena Vista, Colorado 5.8 miles/9.3km
Reading: I read three books this month – having a routine and mostly staying in one place has been great for reading! Two of them were really good, and are based on true events in history, although the characters are fictional.
Before we Were Yours by Lisa Wingate moves between a rich and prominent family in the present, and a poor family who lives on a riverboat in the 1930s. The children of the poor family are kidnapped and sent to an orphanage where they endure unspeakable horrors before being adopted out, or having something worse happen to them – this really happened to hundreds of children over the first few decades of the 20th century, which makes the story even more shocking.
The more you read, the more you want to figure out the connection between the two very different families the story is set around. A very engrossing but sad read.
Molokai by Alan Brennert is set in Hawaii at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century and follows the life of Rachel Kalama, from the age of seven when she catches leprosy, until her death. She is banished to the leper colony of Molokai, and the book beautifully captures the lives of Rachel and the other lepers that live and die in the colony. It is a stunning book that is both exceptionally sad and beautiful at the same time. Read this book!
Watching: Stranger Things Season Three was the massive viewing highlight of the month by far – one of the best shows in existence! The third season of this Sci-Fi thriller was just as good as the first two seasons and I watched the whole of season three in two days – I have no self-control. The third season involves Russians infiltrating the small town of Hawkins, young romance and a terrifying monster that is coming for them all.
Posts Published This Month:
The Ultimate Big Island 7 Day Itinerary – An epic guide to a week on Hawaii’s Big Island
Highlights of One Week in Cape Town – I rejigged and updated this older post about the highlights from my last visit to Cape Town, South Africa
Meeting New People Through Meetup Groups
I have been actively making an effort to meet new people over the last month and have been to a couple of fun meetups. One Friday I took a three-hour lunch break (thanks flexible work schedule!) and met up with the Denver Marketing Mavens to hike Red Rocks then have lunch in Morrison, then I joined the Denver Hiking Club to hike Independence Mountain near Evergreen one Saturday morning – taking Odesza, the dog I was sitting.
I don’t know if any of the people I met will end up becoming friends but it was great to meet new people any way.
Celebrating Independence Day in Denver
Last year for Independence Day I had only been back in the US for a couple of days and I was jetlagged as all hell, so this year’s celebrations were much more enjoyable. On Independence Eve we headed to Civic Center Park in the city to listen to live music, eat at the food trucks then watch a light show projected on the Civic Center, followed by fireworks – it was a fun night.
Then on Independence Day itself, Toby and I went for an incredible brunch at Sassafras – my new favorite brunch restaurant in Denver – then met friends in the Lower Highlands to do a brewery crawl. We managed to hit up Denver Beer Company, Zuni Brewing and Avanti although we didn’t last till the fireworks in the evening. It was a fun afternoon of sunshine, good company and good beer.
Biking Denver’s Riverside Trails with Friends
On a sunny and super-hot Sunday, we went for lunch with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law then hired city bikes to spend the afternoon biking Denver’s riverside paths and through different neighborhoods, with a few more friends joining along the way. We stopped a few times, to paddle in the river, drink beer and have some snacks – a great way to spend a day out in the city.
Experiencing Native American Culture in New Mexico
I felt so lucky that our weekend in New Mexico coincided with not one, but two important events in the New Mexico Native American calendar. On Saturday we visited the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow which also included tribes from other parts of the US. It was incredible to see the chanting, drumming and dancing, as well as the beautiful traditional clothing and body paint. I actually got really emotional because it was just so hauntingly beautiful. I got a mean vegan Indian frybread taco too so my tummy was also happy.
On Sunday we were planning on hiking Tent Rocks but it was closed as Cochiti, the town that owns the land that Tent Rocks is on, were having their yearly Fiesta. This turned out to be absolutely incredible and much less touristy than the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow. It seemed like the whole tiny town was taking part in the chanting and dancing that lead in long lines to the main square.
We weren’t allowed to take any photos in Cochiti so you will just have to take my word for how amazing it was – it was actually really nice to see people just absorbed in the moment, not behind their phone screens trying to capture something that they are not truly taking part in because of their phones.
After sweating our butts of at the Cochiti Fiesta, we went to Cochiti Lake to cool off.
Visiting Old Favorites in New Mexico
I love revisiting New Mexico – it’s one of my favorite states and its massively underrated – and this visit was no different. I worked out of Santa Fe for a few days, allowing me to wander Canyon Road, along the river, through the Railyard District and to the Plaza and the surrounding streets.
We also soaked at Ojo Caliente – a must for any New Mexico trip for me. We re-visited the mountain town of Taos. Everything was just as awesome as I remembered it from my last trip in December.
A Route 66 and Turquoise Trail Road Trip
As well as revisiting my New Mexico faves, I also added a couple of new things onto my New Mexico repertoire for this trip. I had to drive to Albuquerque one day to drop Toby at the airport, so I got to check out a couple of cool cafes and we went for lunch at a retro Route 66 diner.
Once I had finished work for the day, I drove along Route 66 for around 15 miles, loving all the throw-back architecture and old motels, then I hit the scenic Turquoise Trail that parallels the main highway back towards Santa Fe. This drive was through the mountains and spectacular!
Along the Turquoise Trail I stopped at two very cute little towns – Madrid and Cerillos – and wandered down their main streets, taking lots of photos.
It was a great way to end the day.
Solo Camping in Casper the Van
I have been apprehensive about camping by myself after a bad experience a few years ago, but I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone as it has been a while since I have done that – so I decided to spend a night camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park on the way back up to Denver.
I cooked my meal, made up my bed, watched the sunset then went to bed to read. I slept really well and had no anxiety whatsoever.
It turned out to be a great experience, and I was surprised how non-plussed I was about it in the end, and how much fun I had – I am planning my next solo camping road trip as we speak.
The Perfect Colorado Solo Road Trip
My solo weekend road trip kicked off with a great night of camping by Great Sand Dunes National Park, and it only got better!
I spent Saturday morning hiking through the tallest sand dunes in North America and was wowed by the incredible scenery. Medano Creek was even still running – it has usually dried up by the beginning of July.
From the Sand Dunes, my next stop was St Elmo – one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the west. Even though it was raining while I was there, I absolutely loved it, not least because there were more hummingbirds than I have seen in my entire life, as well as a shit ton of chipmunks. Just amazing, and the buildings were really well-preserved too – most of them anyway.
I finished the day soaking at Cottonwood Hot Springs which was also my home for the night – I stayed in their luxurious mixed dorm and ended up having it to myself.
Sunday morning I went on a wonderful alpine hike to Hartenstein Lake, seeing loads of marmots once I got there, then had another soak at the hot springs, and capped off my weekend with a fantastic vegetarian burger at the Buena Viking food truck in Buena Vista.
Unfortunately, traffic was terrible coming back, but if you don’t count that my weekend was pretty much perfect. I can’t wait to take myself on another solo Colorado road trip soon!
Van Break Down
So frustrating to have to spend a load on Casper yet again – we only had to shell out for a bearing and hub to be replaced in April. This time Casper’s water pump broke and stranded Toby on the side of the road. It was going to cost $1300 to fix at the nearest mechanic but luckily the price was much cheaper at the Ford dealership and we got Casper towed over there for free through AAA.
I think it might be time to get a new vehicle – we are thinking a 4WD that we could sleep in the back of, then eventually getting a small trailer we can take for longer trips.
The heat this month in Denver and in New Mexico has been crazy, but it still hasn’t been as bad as some places out east. A couple of the Airbnbs I stayed in didn’t have aircon, just a fan, and that really didn’t cut it.
I nearly melted when we were in Cochiti for their fiesta as there was no shade and we sat around waiting for things to start for over an hour. Luckily, we had umbrellas to block the sun but it was still so hot. Luckily it has cooled down a bit in Denver now, but I don’t know how long that will last.
After the perfect weekend roadtripping in Colorado, I ended up stuck in traffic for two hours trying to get back to Denver. I ended up being late for a family dinner which was stressful, and my Airbnb host was unsympathetic, not allowing me to check in after the dinner which meant I had to drive all the way north to check in, then back south again for the dinner.
Oh well, I only ended up being a half hour late in the end so it could have been worse, and I got to meet my brother-in-law’s new girlfriend who is lovely.
Not too bad considering nearly $500 of this was spent on Casper the van who really shat the bed this month. As long as there are no unforeseen costs next month, my monthly total should be somewhere between $1000 – $1300 which I am fine with.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of one night camping just outside Great Sand Dunes National Park, and one night in the dorm of Cottonwood Hot Springs Resort (this included hot springs entry too).
For the rest of the month, I spent 14 nights housesitting at two different places, seven nights staying with my father-in-law in Espanola, New Mexico, and seven nights in three different Airbnbs in Denver – I didn’t include the costs for these as they were covered by the money we made for our paid housesit.
Food and Drink $661
Eating out a lot during my week in New Mexico pushed this up a bit, as did July 4th celebrations and an expensive brunch for two of us at Sassafras. As usual, it was worth it.
- Gas $84.50
- Denver Lightrail $12
- Uber $43
Gas would have been higher but Toby got paid out $200 for gas for events he worked last month, so we used some of that money to get down to New Mexico.
- Bike Hire $14
- Taos Pow Wow entry fee $15
- Cochiti Lake entry fee $5
- Entry to Ojo Caliente Hot Springs $27
- Toiletries $11
- Golden, Colorado sticker $4.50
- Phone $40
- 40L Osprey Backpack $129
- Books $7
- Co-working for three days $60
- One month of Hulu $6
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van Costs $459
- Van Registration (my half) $76
- Van fixed – (my half) $383
What’s in Store for Next Month
The first three weeks of month fifty will be spent in Denver, where I will be working during the week, then exploring more of the city and the front range in the weekends.
I have plans to hike a 14er with my cousin Lauren – Mount Bierstadt – which I am both excited and nervous about. I also want to do some hiking in Roxborough State Park which is known for its red rock formations, re-visit my beloved Golden for the Buffalo Bill Days Festival and to go tubing, and I have a few family events including a baby shower, a 90th birthday and a baby cousin’s birthday at Dillon Reservoir.
The last week of the month we will be spending a weekend exploring a few places in eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota, including Devil’s Tower and Fort Laramie in Wyoming, and Deadwood, Lead and the Black Hills in South Dakota.
We will then be spending the last five nights of month fifty in Rapid City, using it as our base for me to work remotely. We will definitely head out one day after I finish work to visit Mount Rushmore and see the light show there after dark, and we will visit the city itself while we are staying there, trying different restaurants and breweries.
I’m excited to visit a new to me state (South Dakota) – number 42!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here