Month Sixty was the first month in a while that I (slowly and cautiously) started traveling again. And it felt so great, despite the restrictions.
I spent the first half of the month in the Denver area, catching up with friends and family, doing some hiking in Boulder and Golden Gate Canyon State Park, camping at Chatfield Reservoir, cycling along the Clear Creek bike path to Golden, and drinking at a couple of my favorite breweries as they reopened.
To start with, it was a bit of struggle being back as I hadn’t been ready to leave New Zealand yet – while everything was getting back to normal there, Colorado was still reporting new cases everyday and there were lots of rules in place to keep everyone as safe as possible.
But slowly, I started to feel happier about being back, and the fact that the temperatures were rising and summer was well on its way definitely helped.
The second half of the month we hit the road for a Colorado/New Mexico Road Trip!
One of my goals this year, now that the only travel we are likely to be doing is roadtripping in Colorado and the surrounding states, is to visit lots of places in Colorado and beyond that have been on my bucket list for a while.
As we worked our way down to Toby’s Dad’s place in Espanola over a couple of days, we visited five places that were on my Colorado and New Mexico Bucket Lists: Cañon City, Royal Gorge, Westcliffe, Trinidad, and Capulin Volcano National Monument.
We spent four days in Espanola, visiting Santa Fe and Chimayo, then hit the road again for the remainder of the month.
In New Mexico we visited the pre-Columbian ruins in Chaco Canyon and got fairly close to iconic Ship Rock, before heading north into Utah briefly to visit more ruins at Hovenweep National Monument, then we headed back into Colorado for the rest of the trip.
In the Telluride area we hiked to the top of Bridal Veil Falls, celebrated Toby’s birthday at Smuggler Union, checked out Ouray and Ridgway, soaked at Orvis and Rico Hot Springs, hiked to gorgeous Blue Lakes, and then spent a couple of nights at Toby’s cousin’s place in Rico.
After a brief visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, we headed to Buena Vista via the long scenic route through Lake City and Creede for a few days of rafting, hiking, and ghost town hopping, then we finished our month at a relaxing Airbnb in Leadville with a jacuzzi.
Now onto the stats.
Countries Visited: USA
- Colorado: Denver, Boulder, Cañon City, Westcliffe, Trinidad, Rico, Telluride, Ridgway, Ouray, Montrose, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Lake City, Creede, Buena Vista, Winfield, Victor, Leadville
- New Mexico: Espanola, Taos, Eagle Nest, Cimarron, Santa Fe, Chimayo, Ship Rock, Chaco Canyon, Capulin Volcano National Monument
- Utah: Hovenweep National Monument
National Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Capulin Volcano National Monument, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Browns Canyon National Monument
Islands Visited: No islands this month
Best Meals: Beignets from Lucile’s Creole Cafe in Denver; Green chile cheeseburger and fries at Kaw Liya’s in Eagle Nest; Chile Rellenos at Rancho de Chimayo in Chimayo; Blue cheese and mushroom burger at Smuggler Union Restaurant and Brewery in Telluride; Seared chicken with olive tapenade, harissa romesco sauce, asparagus, parmesan polenta, and ramp pesto from Brickhouse 737 in Ouray; Everything bagel with scallion cream cheese from Crumb Bakery and Cafe in Ridgway; Artichoke and blue cheese pizza from Colorado Boy in Montrose.
Worst Meals: Well I didn’t actually get to eat there in the end, but I am putting Timberline Deli in Ouray on the list because our experience there was shockingly bad. The owner who served us completely lost the plot when we wanted our money back after they lost our food ticket and we waited for 40 minutes, he told us to get the fuck out and that he was going to beat Toby down. Absolutely terrible customer service and he ruined our morning.
Best Craft Beer: All the beers at Strange Craft and New Terrain Breweries in Denver, love these breweries!
- Clear Creek trail in Wheat Ridge, Colorado 8km/5 miles
- Sloan Lake loop walk in Denver, Colorado 4.2km/2.6 miles
- Mount Sanitas loop trail in Boulder, Colorado 4.8km/3 miles
- Coyote Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Colorado 6km/3.8 miles
- Crater Rim trail at Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico 2.3km/1.4 miles
- Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Kin Kletso and Mesa Top at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico 4km/2.5 miles
- Square Tower Loop Trail in Hovenweep National Monument in Utah 3.2km/2 miles
- Bridal Veil Falls and Power Station trail in Telluride, Colorado 7.2km/4.5miles
- Blue Lakes trail near Ridgway, Colorado 14.5km/9 miles
- Warner Point, Devil’s Lookout and Dragon’s Point in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado 3.9km/2.4 miles
- Barbara Whipple loop trail in Buena Vista, Colorado 5.6km/3.5 miles
- Inter Laken Resort trail in Twin Lakes, Colorado 8km/5 miles
Watching: Bless This Mess, Free Solo, Brittany Runs a Marathon, McFarland, USA, all the episodes of Reunited Apart on You Tube (one of the best things to come out of this whole mess)
Reading: Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen
Posts Published on The World on my Necklace This Month:
One Week Koh Lanta Guide: The Imperfect Island of my Dreams – I completely reworked this old post into a more cohesive and informative guide to one of my favorite Thai islands – Koh Lanta.
Bike Ride to Golden
I have always wanted to do the 20 mile return bike ride along Clear Creek from Wheat Ridge to Golden, and Toby and I found the time to do it this month. Late Spring/Early Summer in Denver is my favorite time of year because it is when everything is at its greenest, so it was a joy to do the bike ride now.
It got tough in places – especially the endless hill before getting into Golden – but it was worth it, and we rewarded ourselves with takeout pizza in the park from Woody’s for lunch.
Reunited with my American Friends and Family
Even though I didn’t get to see all my friends and family in New Zealand as I left so suddenly, it has been great to see my American friends and family since I got back.
I managed to see a number of people during my two weeks in Denver, then we visited Toby’s Dad in New Mexico and Toby’s cousin Louie and his lovely wife Lynne in Rico, Colorado for a couple of nights too. Seeing everyone helped me adjust to being back at this crazy time.
Getting Reacquainted with Colorado Beer
Oh, how I missed inventive, exciting, delicious Colorado beer over the past seven months I was away! I didn’t find anything close during my four months in Asia (well, not until I got to Hong Kong) and although New Zealand does have some good beer, sour beer isn’t really a big thing yet and that’s my absolute favorite.
Colorado really is the best place in the world for beer in my opinion, with the kind of crazy beer I like anyway.
Visiting Some New Ancient Historic Sites in the Southwest
As a history lover, I was excited to visit some of the other Ancestral Puebloan sites in the Four Corners Region. We visited Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with ruins dating back to 850 to 1250 A.D., and to Hovenweep National Monument where we checked out the Square House group of ruins that stretch along a rocky canyon.
We also drove through Canyons of the Ancients National Monument but didn’t see anywhere to stop and we didn’t see any ruins off the road, turns out all the cool stuff was on the other road through the park that we didn’t take, so we will definitely go back next time we are in the area.
Finding Some Fantastic Free Camping Spots
We really got into our groove with free-camping this trip, and stumbled across some incredible free camping spots. As well as just parking up on residential streets in Ouray and Trinidad, we found a very scenic spot over-looking Angel Peak Scenic Area in New Mexico, dispersed camping at pretty Priest Lake near Telluride, near downtown Telluride up a steep mountain road with mountain views, and the large dispersed camping ground by Clear Creek Reservoir near Buena Vista.
It was so nice to be allowed to camp for free in most of these places, and it allowed us to set up our tables and chairs, cook dinner and breakfast, and enjoy the scenery without worrying that we might get moved on.
Ticking Some Places off my Southwest Bucket List
As I mentioned earlier, a big focus of this trip was to go to some new to me places in Colorado and the Southwest, and I definitely succeeded on my road trip this month. My favorite new Colorado adventures were hiking to the Blue Lakes near Ridgway, visiting Rico Hot Springs, exploring the historic towns of Creede and Trinidad, white water rafting Browns Canyon, hiking to the ruins of the old Inter Laken Resort at Twin Lakes, and visiting the ghost towns of Clear Creek Canyon near Buena Vista.
In New Mexico, exploring the history of Chaco Canyon and the small but impressive cone of Capulin Volcano National Monument were definite highlights.
Hopefully I will hit up even more places on my bucket list this summer.
Hiking to Blue Lakes in Mount Sneffels Wilderness
I have been wanting to hike to the Blue Lakes since I first read about them a couple of years ago, and the hike definitely didn’t disappoint! The scenery in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness is breathtaking, definitely some of the most gorgeous mountain scenery in Colorado, and the lakes themselves were picture-perfect and the bluest I have seen in Colorado.
It was a bit tough at the beginning of the hike as it was mostly uphill and it’s at a pretty high altitude, but we pretty quickly got used to it and really enjoyed it.
Soaking in Some New to me Hot Springs
I love a good hot springs, and I visited two this month – both of them new to me. After doing our beautiful but tiring hike to the Blue Lakes, we spent the afternoon at the peaceful Orvis Hot Springs to unwind and ease our stiff muscles. It is a clothing optional spot with numerous pools outside in a lush garden setting, they even have private pools inside that you don’t have to pay extra for.
We also visited the mostly natural Rico Hot Springs, just down the road from Toby’s cousin Louie’s place. There are a couple of different pools, starting with a very hot one that is constantly bubbling hot water into the pool, and a perfect temperature pool right on the river.
Whitewater Rafting for the First Time in 15 Years
The last time I went whitewater rafting was in Slovenia in 2005 so I was well overdue another trip. Buena Vista is one of the best spots in the nation to go whitewater rafting so it seemed like there was no better time and we booked to do the half day Browns Canyon trip.
I was nervous but excited and it turned out to be an exhilarating and fun day out, with only one rapid that was really scary (I jumped onto the floor of the boat because I was so scared of falling out!)
The scenery was beautiful, we had a great guide and bunch of people, and it was just a fantastic experience, definitely something I won’t wait 15 years to do again.
Checking out Some Scenic Ghost Towns
Colorado has so many ghost towns, and I would love to see every single one of them. I managed to visit two new ones on this trip – Victor and Winfield – and although we couldn’t go into any of the buildings, we looked in the windows of a couple, and I enjoyed walking around exploring as the setting of both the towns was lovely.
All the Friction Around COVID Rules and Beliefs in the US
I have really struggled with a lot of people’s refusal to wear masks or take the virus seriously since I got back to the US. Even a few people close to me have very different beliefs than I do around this crisis and it has been hard for me to come to terms with this.
Although I do choose to leave the house rather than staying at home all the time, I respect the mask-wearing and social distancing rules, because even though I would probably be OK if I got the virus, so many others that are over 70 or have health conditions may very well not be, and it is incredibly privileged to only think about the inconvenience to yourself when there are people out there who could easily die from COVID, and painfully so.
It’s not hard to wear a mask and I don’t think it infringes on anyone’s freedoms, so I wish people would just suck it up and do it for others, whether they believe it is effective or not. The selfishness of some Americans is just mind-boggling to me.
A Crazy Person has my Old Phone Number
So when I left the US for nearly seven months, I didn’t want to be paying for my phone as I like getting local SIMs in each country I visit instead. I was told that I could put my phone account on hold, but what T Mobile didn’t tell me was that you can only do that for 30 days – then they give your phone number away.
When I got back my SIM was invalid and once I got a new one, I tried to get my old number back but unfortunately someone else already had it. And that person turned out to be a bit of a psycho.
I didn’t realise that I needed to change my number on the Rover dogsitting app and that when I was corresponding with new clients, my old number was being texted the conversation. Well, the new holder of my old number got pissed off that he/she was getting these messages and rather than sending a polite text, they sent a message to one of my clients telling her to fuck off and stop texting them among other things. Luckily I realised what was happening and quickly changed my number on Rover but it wasn’t the best thing to happen with a new client!
A Crazy Person Swore and Threatened Us
As mentioned under our worst meal earlier, the owner of the Timberline Deli is a right psychopath and for just questioning where our meal was after waiting for 40 minutes, he told us to get the fuck out and threatened Toby that he was going to ‘beat him down’. Wow – worst customer service ever, don’t go there.
Definitely more than I was hoping to spend this month. My biggest unexpected spend this month was on the van with various issues cropping up. I also overspent on food and drinks this month and I am hoping to cut back on those costs in the coming months.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of 13 nights renting the spare room at my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s place in Wheat Ridge, one night at a cheap motel in Montrose, and one night at an Airbnb in Leadville.
We also housesat for two nights at my friend’s place at Washington Park, spent four nights at my father-in-law’s place in Espanola, eight nights free camping in New Mexico and Colorado, and two nights at Toby’s cousin’s place in Rico.
Food and Drink $782
Ouch. I didn’t realise that I spent so much on food and drinks this month. I ate out more than last month but still cooked a lot so I am surprised this is so high. I did drink a lot of beer so that definitely contributed to my overspend. I want to try getting this down to around $600 or less next month.
- Gas $72.50
- America the Beautiful National Parks Pass $40 (my half)
- Orvis Hot Springs entry $22
- Half Day Browns Canyon Rafting and Tip $98
- Toiletries $34.50
- Hulu $6
- Kindle Unlimited $11
- Donations $175
- Propane Hose for camp stove $11
- Camping Cooler Bag and ice packs $20.50
- Scented candles $28
- Sunglasses strap $4
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van Costs $284
- Van fixed $225
- Part for van $46.50
- Mattress for van $12.50 (my half)
Lots of issues with the van this month unfortunately, firstly with the alignment then with the control arms (I think – I’m not very savvy with this stuff).
What’s in Store for Next Month
Month Sixty One will mostly be spent back in Denver, where I will be drinking beers, hiking and spending more time with friends and family. I will start actively looking for more clients too, or maybe look at doing some temping again as I will have a lot of free time on my hands.
We have our first housesit of the year lined up for Fourth of July Weekend in LoDo so I am looking forward to visiting a couple of restaurants and breweries I have been wanting to try around there, and there is a pool and jacuzzi so we will be all over that!
I will also be doing one further Colorado road trip with a friend for a week, and we are planning to head to Crested Butte, Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Telluride area so I’m sure it will be a fun week of camping and hiking.
To read additional Monthly Round ups, you can find them here