This past weekend we took our first camping trip of the summer. Well, we thought we would be camping, and we thought it would be warm, summer-like weather. We were wrong, in more ways than even those things.
Denver, Colorado was our destination. None of us had ever been there, and have only heard nothing but good things about it. The Rocky Mountains, the food, the weather, the skateparks, the people, were all supposedly really cool. Everybody we came in contact with was pretty nice, along with the weather and skateparks. But the traffic, whoa, no thank you!
So we set out of Salt Lake on Friday morning at 5am and headed towards Vernal, Utah to check out the Dinosaur National Monument, scouting out the area for a possible future camping trip. The two hour drive was pretty and the park looks interesting, so maybe we’ll camp there some day. Vernal is a neat little town that totally embraces their local national monument. After leaving Vernal and crossing over into Colorado, Google maps put us on a dirt highway through Western Colorado, it was a well maintained road, we just weren’t expecting it. About 20 minutes later we were back on pavement and headed towards the town of Meeker.
J came down with a case of tummy trouble after our Meeker gas stop. We all think that the tap drink she bought at the gas station was the cause (maybe dirty lines?). So on through the city of Rifle, on to Interstate 70 and East towards Denver we went. A lunch stop in Glenwood Springs was next, we had some sandwiches at Chomps Deli and checked out the hot springs before getting back on the road. The canyon drive through the area was amazing. So pretty with the Colorado River flowing along the freeway, with a bike path the whole way, looked pretty fun to maybe try some day.
Further into the Rockies we climbed, which is where it started snowing a tiny bit. We pulled off the freeway and spent almost an hour walking around Vail Village and having some ice cream. On down the road from there, we took a side drive down to the town of Breckenridge. It was full-on winter snowing by this point. The season was over, but the snow was pretty and we’re glad we visited with fresh snowfall and no crowds. So we continued on through the mountains and went through the mile and a half long Eisenhower tunnel through the continental divide, and down into Denver.
First thoughts on Denver; big, crowded and a desert…? I think we were expecting green. Green forest, green farms or something. Nope, just a desert. And also, the Rocky Mountains feel very small from Denver. I guess it’s the elevation and the distance from the mountain range.
Our campground for two nights would be Jellystone in Larkspur. It’s a cool family oriented spot with lots to do for little kids it seems. They have plenty of tent, cabin and trailer spots to choose from, along with clean bathrooms and showers. We left our tent packed and upgraded to a basic cabin since there was half a foot of snow in the ground and or a muddy mess. After setting up for the night we drove about 25 minutes south to Colorado Springs to eat at a German restaurant named Edelweiss. This place was legit and had delicious food. It was a bit pricey for us, but totally worth it! After dinner we drove back to camp and got a good night’s sleep.
Saturday morning we woke up and wished V a happy 15th birthday! Then headed 30 minutes north in Denver for the day. First stop was in Castle Rock (about 5 minutes from camp) for some coffee from Dazbog. Their coffee is pretty tasty, give it a try. After the coffee break we entered Denver, and hit traffic. If you look up suburban sprawl in the dictionary, it will say Denver, LOL. This place it totally Los Angeles in the mountain time zone. Since it was still early, we headed to Stapleton skatepark for a short sesh before our other spots opened. The little bowl at Stapleton rates up there on my list of favorite bowls to skate, a total high point on this trip for me.
We then hit a handful of video game shops in the area, chains and local spots. V had fun browsing around, but didn’t end up picking anything up. Then we went to Hyperspace Arcade, this place was great! $12 for an all day pass, totally worth it if you’re into arcade games and pinball. They have the sit down restaurant table games, stand up cabinets, pinball machines and even a few ancient consoles. All the while 80’s music is blasting from the stereo system! You play way more than $12 worth of games, so the entry price is way worth the money!
We took a break from the arcade and browsed a local Barnes and Noble and checked out the new Golden skatepark for a bit, then drove through downtown Denver a bit and checked out Larimer Square. Just getting to those last three destinations was a hot mess of multiple freeways and traffic, ugh! Total bummer, but it was coming up on early dinner time so we decided to head to Casa Bonita before the crowds. Whew, barely made it, the place was already getting packed. This place is nuts, glad we tried it. I could go on and on about the craziness, but I will just say that the food was fine (but pricey) and the atmosphere is totally cheesy in a themed, action packed way. After dinner it was back to Hyperspace Arcade again to finish off the evening. We didn’t stay too long this time, J was still under the weather and V was tired from waking up early and traveling a lot. Back to camp we went, very tired and over Denver.
Sunday came and we broke down camp, ready to head home to Salt Lake City. This trip home would not be a short one though…
First stop, Castle Rock again for a breakfast of yummy Dazbog coffee. Then more (9am Sunday) traffic through Denver to get to Arvada skatepark. The snake run at this newer skatepark is massive and very smooth. The rest of the skatepark is just as impressive. I was gonna checkout the Milliken skatepark too, but after google maps put us on to a toll road, with us not having a toll transponder (we better not get fined or ticketed Google!!), I was just over it and didn’t want to drive off the interstate another 7 miles. So we headed north into Wyoming and East briefly to the Nebraska state line, just to say we’ve been to Nebraska, LOL.
Heading back West towards Salt Lake, we drove through downtown Cheyenne, which was really neat and old still. Between Cheyenne and Laramie we hit a blizzard, didn’t see that coming! Laramie was a cool, old railroad/cowboy/university town with a great old downtown as well. Now, from Laramie to home, there isn’t much as far as town or cities. We did eat dinner in Rock Springs, very tasty Mexican food, at the one of three places open on a Sunday evening. But afterwards, Wyoming decided to shine, a huge thunderstorm before, during and after sunset entertained us for a hundred miles. If Wyoming has anything, it’s sky, beautiful cloudy sky that makes you feel like you’re in a movie. That was a great way to end a so-so road trip, it took us in to the night and back home to Salt Lake City.
So, Denver isn’t for us and we won’t be returning. But, we all agreed that a trip to Glenwood Springs, Vail and Breckenridge would be cool. So we will visit Colorado again, but next time we’ll stay in the Rockies and not go beyond.