I spent much of 2020 thinking about travel, reminiscing fondly on my past trips and daydreaming about places I wanted to see. Texas was our first post-vax trip, and I eagerly spent my late spring planning catch-up trips for our summer. Denver is one of those cities that I could return to, over and over. My first visit there was in March 2015, and I promptly fell head over heels in love with it. I would have happily left Austin to live in Denver (which says a lot – y’all know how much I love Austin, since it’s been two years since I lived there and I still can’t shut up about it).
Since I had spent so much time reminiscing about my Denver trip, it was my obvious next destination. I decided to use the trip as a late birthday celebration for me and as a make-up trip for any canceled plans in 2020.
Settle in because I have a lot of photos to share, if travel photos are your jam (I promise to share only the interesting ones!) Part one of my journal dives into our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park (NP).
Thursday, July 8
We flew out bright and early from Indianapolis at 6 am and had a quick layover in Dallas. I suppose I could have grabbed some Whataburger while we were at the airport, but my internal organs were still recovering from the steady diet of TexMex and Whataburger I had sustained during our Texas trip in June. Sorry Whataburger, it’s not you – it’s me.
As we touched down in Denver, I couldn’t sustain my excitement. I was still adjusting to “normalcy” post-vaccine, and my brain was in enrichment overload.
We spent our first afternoon in Denver exploring downtown. I had one destination on my mind – Fancy Tiger Crafts! I didn’t start following them on Instagram until after my first trip to Denver, so I was really eager to visit. I walked out with a skein and a cross-stitch project – I’d show a picture of said purchases, but I’m still in the “all of my belongings are strewn everywhere and my house looks like a nightmare” phase of settling in.
We spent the next several hours exploring downtown, jet-lagged. After checking into our hotel for a much-needed nap, we met up with an old childhood friend of mine, her son, and her mom, who I haven’t seen since I was single digits. It was a happy reunion. They took us to The Post Chicken and Beer, which was fantastic.
After dinner, we returned to our hotel to rest for our adventures Friday!
Friday, July 9
Think back on some trips you’ve taken – was there just one wonderful day where you got to see and experience everything you wanted? Where you had adventures that sustained your soul for months and years to come? The kind where you look back on photos and think, did I really do this?
That was Friday for us.
We started our morning with a cozy brunch at Snooze before traveling down to Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, an outdoor dinosaur and geology museum where guests can view dinosaur fossils! We did the standard hike, a 4-mile out and back, but there are additional trails if you want to spend your day there. (This is also not far from Red Rocks, which we’d visited back in 2015).
Next it was time to drive up to Estes Park for Rocky Mountain NP! I tried to take photos during our trip because it was so beautiful, but none of my car photos can do the scenery justice.
Like any kind of travel during COVID, you need to plan ahead if you’re planning on a trip to Rocky Mountain NP (which I didn’t do very well). Tickets are released a month in advance, which I missed out on – but never fear, a smaller pool of tickets are released 5 pm daily for spots the next day. I snagged a ticket for entry between 4-6 pm to the popular Bear Lake corridor. If you are looking to spend some time at the park but don’t have a lot of time in your itinerary, this won’t disappoint.
I won’t lie, I was hesitant about coming here because I’d heard the drive to the Park was a little rough. Fortunately, that ended up not being true (Husband drove us to the Park and I drove us from it). If you’re like me and lack any kind of mountain driving experience, the drive to/from Rocky Mountain NP is not scary at all. Apparently it’s Trail Ridge Road within the Park that is more of an adventurous drive. Both Husband and I grew up in South Texas, which is very flat and right at sea level, so neither of us were clamoring to do any mountain driving. We didn’t even have time to do this loop, but maybe next time (if someone else drives us. HAH).
Once we got to the Park, we found a line to enter since the rangers had to check your permits. I was practically bouncing out of my seat at this moment from excitement.
Once we made it inside, we parked at the Park and Ride and took a shuttle to Bear Lake. My coworker had recommended Dream Lake, which is a little over a mile from Bear Lake. We wanted to leave the park before dark, so we had just enough time to hike out to Dream Lake and back.
I took loads of photos during this hike. It’s hard to pick just a handful of photos since the views are so stunning. I found a lot of solace with hiking in 2020, so being able to hike in the Rocky Mountains in 2021 seemed like a pretty good reward for staying at home all year.
On the way to Dream Lake, we first stopped at Nymph Lake and enjoyed the views there.
Dream Lake was incredible – we crossed picturesque streams on the way to lake and marveled at the trees adorning the lakeside.
A couple of personal photos – I look pretty silly in this photo, but I like it because you can see how happy I was to be there.
And Husband took this picture of me, which is probably the most epic-looking picture of me ever. I told Husband that if I were still single, this photo would be what I’d use for my online dating profile to look ~outdoorsy~ and ~adventurous~
While we didn’t have a lot of time to spend at Rocky Mountain NP, we made the most of our time there and now have incredible memories.
Part Two of my Denver journal will talk about my train ride to Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods!