The Grand Palace
Now when we arrived in Brussels we immediately decided to go out and explore the town. Generally I have a great sense of direction but Brussels is the only city so far that I cannot figure out. I have no idea why but I just do not understand the way the city is laid out. So we immediately start off in what I believe is the right direction and we promptly get lost (and this happens for the rest of the weekend). So after getting ridiculously lost and wandering around the Red Light District at 11am (interesting comparison to the woman on display at 11am and 11pm) we finally end up where we wanted to be, Grand Place. Grand Place is the central square of Brussels and is surrounded by ornate medieval buildings. It is a great starting point to see the city and it is also where my “spidey senses” aka my sense of direction kicked back in and I was able to find a bar that I went to when I was studying abroad.
River's Inn & Swiss Cottage
The most refined place in Antonito’s has to be Ursula’s “River’s Inn.” This 1907 home was restored to its glory back in 1999, showcasing beautiful hardwood floors, wonderful craftsmanship and a porch beckoning its use. There are four rooms to choose from, each with a distinct look and feel. Ursula hails from Switzerland, and in an attempt to share some of her heritage with guests breakfast is prepared more European style.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
I arrived in Chama late afternoon and stopped by the train station to pick up my tickets for the next days’ 10am departure en route to Antonito, CO. When I arrived at the Cumbres/Toltec station, I could immediately see why my buddy was so enthralled by this railroad. For starters, there is a lot of moving (and non-moving) stock on various lines for visitors and train enthusiasts to enjoy. Secondly, this authentic, narrow gauge, steam-operated railroad is one of the last remaining remnants that showcases just how the west was won. Built in 1880, the Cumbres/Toltec was part of the San Juan extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Today, it offers visitors a spectacular scenic journey through the San Juan Mountains and Toltec Gorge. The entire 64-mile journey from Chama to Antonito will take you through a remarkably diverse landscape that consists of majestic canyons, dense forest, rolling hills, plateaus, pastures, expansive plains and arid vistas. After getting my train ticket, I made my way directly across the street to check in at the Parlor Car Bed and Breakfast. This B&B is owned/run by Bonsall and Wendy, a lovely couple who enjoy the train as much as they do the various visitors who stay with them. As a matter of fact, Bonsall is a volunteer docent and rides the train one or two times per week providing passengers with an interpretive background on the railroad’s history. As we left the Osier Depot, we soon entered a tunnel bore out of the rock-face cliffs…one of two tunnels the train would go through during its journey. The second tunnel was long enough, with just enough bend to create a few moments of complete darkness—I even tested it by putting my hand in front of my face. Sure enough, no light reflected in order for me to see my five fingers waving back at myself. The second half of the journey to Antonito offered some dramatic curves in the track that allowed us all to take pictures of the engine and steam car. It’s quite a sight, and, an engineering marvel of the day to have steam powered by coal pull the heavy loads up and over this dramatic set of passes. As a matter of fact, one section of the track has a 4% grade, which for an automobile is no problem, but for a train…it’s quite a big deal. After we crossed the New Mexico and Colorado borders eleven times, and passed by Whiplash Curve and Lava Loop, we were on the home stretch to the station in Antonito. From a peak elevation of just over 10,000 feet at Cumbres pass, to 7,888 feet at the Antonito station, the terrain changes dramatically. Instead of tall Pine and Aspen trees, the flat vista in front of us was arid, or high plains desert. As I learned the next day from the drive back to Chama, just a few miles away the terrain turns back to forest.
Crested Butte Ski & Snowboard
When I opened up the Crested Butte trail map for the first time in my hotel room I was awestruck. I had never seen so much black on a trail map. Black and double-black diamond runs appeared to occupy more than half of the resort. About one-third of the Crested Butte’s 1,547 acres was, it turned out, was in fact extreme double-black diamond terrain. “Could this be my dream hill?” I wondered. It was one of the most hardcore-looking ski resorts I’d ever seen. This was confirmed when two of the locals took me down Rambo, the steepest man-made run in North America, and when we had to skirt around several in-bounds areas that were permanently roped off because they’re simply too steep and extreme to allow public access to them. Crested Butte has called “the last great Colorado ski town” but, although it is a great ski town with all the charm and character that one could desire, I didn’t see any reason to place it above some of the other small out-of-the way ski towns. Crested Butte certainly surpasses most resorts for ski culture and authenticity, probably because of the hardcore brand of skiers and riders that it attracts. The other side of that coin is that, while Crested Butte has all the extreme terrain a guy could want, that terrain only receives 300 inches of snow on average annually, which is 200 inches less than some of the other hills we visited. So, while Crested Butte offers some of the most hardcore terrain in the country, fresh tracks are not be as easy to come by as at some other resorts. We arrived at Crested Butte at the wrong time. Crested Butte is a real big mountain rider’s paradise. The north face is a huge area with amazing cliffs, chutes, and steeps. Unfortunately, it had been a few weeks since they’d had a good dump of snow, which is pretty necessary to enjoy that kind of terrain.
This is rated as one of the difficult trails in Colorado. Navigating through this one can be a little tough, but it is one of the most memorable part of my journey. Situated at a height of 12,000 ft. this pass is located on the continental divide between the Gore range and the Rocky Mountains.
The last mountain pass of the trail (our trail) this one is no less than the others. Situated near the Lake city, this pass is furnished with a proper road. It has wonderful colours (flowers and trees) surrounding the path and marks a nice, yet sad end to your journey. It is a part of the Alpine Loop, with the Engineer Pass on the other side. Yet this pass is more used than the latter.
Kenosha Pass, situated at the height of 10,000 ft is absolutely beautiful with views of the Rocky mountains and the South Park Valley area. There are many peaks visible on the way. There are also wildflowers and butterflies in the area and the open trail along the side of the hill allows you to see views overlooking the massive plains and valley below. This road adds colour to you trail.
This is the starting point of the trail. Close to the Urban area, this place is filled with tourists on the weekends. The first six miles of trail is wider than some two lane roads. so even on the most crowded days, it’s not actually congested. This scenic canyon leads to the South Platte River.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Take a trip to a national park that has some of the tallest sand dunes on the continent. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado is not your average desert climate. It boasts much cooler summer temperatures which are perfect for climbing the dunes. If you are not much of a climber, look at the areas of black sand or enjoy the forests and lakes. The preserve with more than 41,000 acres is worth a visit. If you feel creative, build a sand castle at Medano Creek.
Marshall Pass Road
Sometimes smooth, sometimes rocky, this pass is situated on the Continental Divide between the Sawatch Range to the north and the Cochetopa Hills to the south. It is a steady climb for the first half and gets narrower as you go upwards. The whole route is scenic and beautiful to ride along.
When we enter the Fagosa forrest silence envelopes us. Thousands of beech trees keep us company for more than an hour. In this quietude our hike is starting to feel like a spiritual pilgrimage to a sacred temple. The path is growing steeper with every step, the air is getting colder: we are ascending. I feel the strain of the climb.
South Platte River Trail
The South Platte River Trail is without doubts one of the most beautiful trails in Colorado. This is one of the major rivers of American Midwest. The river trail is hilly and challenging to ride along, but the flowing river makes the travel worth, with exquisite scenery. You can also stop to enjoy kayaking in the river, but that is possible only in the summers.
Olympic Training Center
US Olympic Training Center - FREETake a free guided tour and see where Olympians train. There are Olympic-hopeful residents here as well as training camps. This center focuses on the summer Olympics and you may catch a glimpse of them working out, practicing, or even competing.
Seven Falls – Reopens Spring 2015This is a very popular hike in the area, but it was partially destroyed in the fall of 2013 from flooding. We tried to go but there is no access until the road is rebuilt and it reopens, which is scheduled for Spring of 2015.Trip first published on Life Riding Shotgun
Wolf Creek Ski Area
Statistically Wolf Creek appears to be a fairly average ski area. It’s 1600 acres, which places it solidly in the middle of the pack for ride able terrain. It has seven lifts to serve that terrain and a vertical of just over 1,600 feet. There’s no terrain park at all. There is one statistic, however, that sets Wolf Creek apart from other resorts: an average annual snowfall of 465 inches, which gives it more snow than any other ski area in Colorado. Although that doesn’t top some other hills, like Jackson Hole or Snowbird, it’s still quite impressive. Wolf Creek also has some qualities that set it apart from other ski areas. There’s the hill’s dedication environmental stewardship, which has resulted in a very low proportion of cut runs and a very natural-feeling on-hill experience. Wolf Creek is also quite community-oriented, and that is reflected in the friendly atmosphere. Then there are the proposed Wolf Creek expansion plans, which would open up 1000 acres of new, powder-covered terrain — and 700 of those acres would be all-natural black and double-black diamond chutes, gullies, and cliffs.
Loveland Pass Rd
Before the Eisenhower Tunnel was completed, Loveland Pass was one of the only ways over the Continental Divide. At times you will be driving along a sheer drop of 1000 feet or more. The payoff is that the pass is breathtakingly gorgeous. Sitting at an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet, you can look down on the valleys below. In the summer time you go hiking above treeline and take in the bizarre flora and fauna of the alpine zone. If you head up before June or July, there will likely still be massive drifts along the side of the road--some as deep as 30 feet. Another benefit to Loveland Pass is that you can get to the resorts of A-Basin and Keystone much fast than driving all the way to Breckenridge.
Pikes Peak, looking over Colorado Springs from an elevation of 14,115 feet, has the reputation of being one the United States' most famous landmarks for the spectacular views from its summit. This attraction offers trails of varying experience levels and is open year-round depending on weather conditions. Barr Trail (at 13 miles) long, that begins in Manitou Springs and ends at the summit, is the longest trail in the Colorado. This landmark has gained additional recognition as being known as the inspiration for the song "America the Beautiful," written by Katherine Lee Bates.The view is beyond incredible--it's like being in an airplane. You can see the hundreds of miles of the continental divide as well as the towns of Colorado Springs and Denver, which appear miniature from that far up.
Spreading through 500 miles, this journey is a great adventure and any hikers dream Trail. It is exhausting, exhilarating, and thrilling. Starting at Denver and ending at Durango, this trail passes through the rugged Rocky Mountains, some of the most beautiful rivers and canyons and some historic mining towns.
Ward is essentially a village along the Peak to Peak Highway. The Millsite Inn, however, is an institution among the communities of the foothills. Popular with locals, bikers, travelers and sports fans, the Millsite is one of those wonderful downhome places that feels like a long cabin with beer, a pool table and bar food. The calzones and stromboli, however, are uncommonly delicious and during a Bronco game the whole place comes to life.
Gregory Canyon, located between the first Flatiron and Gregory Canyon, is one of the best hiking areas in Boulder. The approximately 5 mile trail ascends over 1500 feet and offers astounding views of the Front Range, Continental Divide and the town of Boulder below. The initial ascent is steep and rocky but after awhile the trail gives way to rolling hills and heavily forested areas that are a riot of wildflowers in the summer time
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods – FREEThis place should be a National Monument, but there's a reason why it's not. The land was donated to the city with the contractual understanding that it would be designated as a city park and an entrance fee would never be charged. You can drive around the loop and choose to hike as many trails as you wish, if you can find a parking space. It is free, that is true, but if you go to the visitor center, you will be charged to watch their 15-minute film, eat at their café, or buy something from the gift shop. I'm just waiting for them to start charging for parking.