Colorful Colorado

The drive from Lincoln to Colorado (Estes to be exact) wasn’t that big of a deal and we did it all on Saturday.  It’s amazing how flat the eastern part of Colorado is (it seems like no one ever mentions it)- then all of the sudden the mountains pop up out of nowhere and Colorado looks like all the pictures we’ve seen. Seeing the mountains in the distance was awesome- especially since we had been driving on a flat, unchanging landscape for hours, it finally felt like we were getting somewhere.  The first half of our trip was, of course, amazing, but Adam and I both couldn’t help looking at Colorado as sort of a beginning- the start of mountains and hiking and landscape that looks totally foreign to us.

We were completely unprepared for our first night in the beautiful state.  We figured we could easily find a campsite- since there are hundreds- it turns out, however, we completely underestimated Coloradans’ love of the mountains.  Every single campsite was full and we were beginning to worry that we’d have to just pull off to the side of the road and sleep in our car until a cop told us to move- this is made worse by the fact that our car is Completely Full and our seats will in no way recline.  Adam took the reigns and went into the ranger station near Longs Peak and asked the advice of some of the nicest park rangers that ever lived.  They told us about free dispersed camping just down the road- which also happened to be some of the best campsites Adam and I had ever been to (at least without having to sling backpacks on our backs and hike miles to seclusion- this site we drove right up to). We also got to use our hammock for the first time! IMG_3161I’m not sure Vera likes it as much as we do…  It was such a great night- the weather was perfect, we saw millions of stars (a cute little kiddo near us exclaimed that there were “30 stars!”), and we didn’t have to pay a dime for our stay.  It was actually hard to pack up camp the next morning and move on to our cabin in Raymond.

We did our first official Colorado Mountain Hike on Sunday morning.  It was a fairly steep incline that lead to a summit with breathtaking views of the Rockies.  IMG_5875 IMG_3165After our hike, we drove out to our tiny, cute little cabin, where we would spend the next couple of days.  IMG_3210We spent the week hiking, sitting by rivers, running, seeing amazing wildlife (like the giant elk that was 1 foot in front of our car!) and hanging out in Kind Coffee Shop (well, Adam wasn’t exactly hanging out, he was working).   FullSizeRender(6) FullSizeRender(5) On Thursday and Friday night we camped inside of Rocky Mountain National Park (at Glacier Basin)- it was beautiful, but we were so spoiled from the dispersed camping the first night- this didn’t really compare.  We decided to hike in the park on Saturday so we dropped Vera off at daycare (no dogs allowed in the National Parks)- which, though we missed her, was totally worth it.  The hike that day was amazing, and of course surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  IMG_6046 IMG_3221We hiked up Deer Mountain because we knew we wouldn’t have time for any of the bigger hikes since we couldn’t drop Vera off until 8 (one day we’ll come back and do a 14er!)- the afternoon thunderstorms are the real deal and we didn’t want to risk being on an exposed mountain top when one rolled in.

That night we stayed in Boulder and got to eat at Salt thanks to Mom and Dad G.!  It was such a nice treat after cooking on a camp stove for the past week.  On Sunday morning we woke up for a hike in El Dorado that was gorgeous before heading onward to Denver.  IMG_3224Our week in Denver was wonderful! It was, honestly, so, so nice to be back in a city- it definitely helped that we stayed in one of the best houses we’ve ever been in.  Adam went to the 360 idev conference for most of the week, while I cooked, ran through city streets, relished in the number of different languages I heard, took great yoga classes, and enjoyed our awesome little pretend home.   IMG_3227 Denver (and being back in a city) would have been awesome on its own, but it was made even better by seeing one of the best people I know- Laura!  It was so nice to see her and hear all about her new life in Colorado.  It’s going to be a strange year not teaching with all of my favorite CCAA people- I miss everyone so much already!  IMG_6066(1)We ended our stint in Colorado by camping in our all-time favorite Colorado Campsite along the Guanella Pass near Georgetown (an old and beautiful gold mining town).  IMG_3233 IMG_6084 IMG_3239Because of the spill in the Animas River, we had to change our original plans to visit the Grand Canyon and Escalante for the next week.  We decided that since Moab, Utah treated us so well the first time we visited, it wouldn’t be so bad to return- onward to the desert heat!

NoLa: The Land of Highs and Lows

Before we get into our week in New Orleans, we must first describe the drive from the tippy top of Alabama, all the way down to the bottom.  Recently I reread To Kill a Mockingbird and became slightly obsessed with small, sleepy southern towns.  At one point we were planning on doing a road trip that covered only the back roads of the south, but life got in the way.  So when I found out that Harper Lee was from Monroeville, Alabama- which was sort of on our way from Chattanoonga to New Orleans, I knew I wanted to stop.  Besides, after reading the town’s tourist information, how could we not want to go (I mean there is a painted birdhouse walking tour?!).  IMG_5800

As with any sleepy southern town, there wasn’t very much going on when we got there- but really that’s what I was most interested in seeing: people sitting the day away on porches, little stores shut up and closed for the weekend, and empty streets to walk along.  FullSizeRender(2)From Monroeville, we drove to Mobile Alabama and stayed the night- incidentally we also had some of the best Mexican food we’ve ever had in our lives (the best being in Chattanooga of all places).  Sunday we headed through the southern, coastal portion of Mississippi and onward towards New Orleans!IMG_4355Vera is loving spending so much time all together.  We were so happy that she was starting to act like herself, because at the end of our stay in New Orleans we experienced our first, and only NoLa low.  A woman we met there told us that New Orleans is the land of ‘high highs and low lows’- but up until Thursday, we experienced nothing that could be classified as a low.  That morning, however, when Adam was walking Vera, another dog ran up and bit her- the laceration was really bad and we had to take her to an emergency vet.  She stayed there all day for surgery and to be stapled back up.  IMG_5859She’s been doing much better since Thursday (as the former picture suggests) and has moments where we think even she forgets that she has such a huge cut in her side.

The beginning of our week in New Orleans was a totally different story- we love that city!  It might, of course have had something to do with the fact that we missed the city life- but the houses! How can you not fall in love with all the adorable, colorful, tiny houses?  We spent the week choosing our favorite and landed on the following house:  IMG_5779Of course we can’t really be sure.  Though we walked around endlessly, exploring as many of the neighborhoods and backstreets as we could, there’s no way of really knowing if this was the best- but it would definitely end up in the top five.

Aside from choosing our favorite houses, we also used the walks to see as much of New Orleans as possible- checking off as many recommendations and obligatory tourist stops as we could.

First, we ate beignets (which we could eat every day forever.)IMG_5819We walked along the Mississippi River.  We went to Siberia, a metal bar, and ate a beet burger (it was the best food we’ve eaten at a bar, ever.) We walked on Bourbon Street for one block and took this picture, then promptly exited.  IMG_5855 We rode our bikes in City Park and walked all the way from the 7th ward down to the Lower 9th to check out how far the development has come along since Katrina.  IMG_5839We ate gumbo and po’boys and even saw Uncle Dave!  We checked out the street art and found Adam’s favorite.  IMG_5815 We got to stay in a super cute, awesome house in the 7th ward and met the neighbors (the people in New Orleans are so much friendlier than anyone else- we had conversations with neighbors that lasted multiple hours).  FullSizeRender(3)We didn’t really get to see any parades (just one tiny one that was more like a bunch of people from some company walking the same way on the street than a parade).  I found out that it was because parades happen every month of the year except July when I went to the Backstreet Museum in Treme.  We definitely need to go back to New Orleans, but we’re happy to move on to the open country of West Texas.