Posted by Brandi in Guest Book, Happy Summer: Colorado on May 25, 2014
On our first Sunday in Denver, we woke up and decided we wanted to see the mountains. Actually see them, not just take in the beautiful silhouette that hangs out at the end of our street. That’s one of the perks of being here, being able to just take off on a whim to explore. Those peaks called, so we called our resident tour guides and they suggested a trip to Guanella Pass.
I went to college with Jeremy and Sarah and count them amongst our closest friends. Lucky for us, they only live about five blocks west of the house we’re renting. Friends became neighbors, and we’re lucky to have them near enough to blaze a trail for us and our actual Trailblazer. Jeremy said this particular route is one they take every year when it opens for the season; and it had done so that very weekend. Wagons, ho!
We loaded up and headed out. We rolled down the windows and let the fresh air blow through the car. I let it fill my lungs. And we laughed. We all oohed and ahhed and giggled over our pure excitement at what we’d see ahead of us. Hayley may have been the most excited and it was a joy to watch her take it all in. A quick grab of an elevation app made the ascent more fun for we sea level dwellers. Slowly but surely, the sights and sounds of the city faded and soon all we could see was a vertical sea of pines and more snow caps with each passing mile.
We had no plan other than to follow the Sanchez’s Jeep, and that we’d eat “small mountain town food” at some point. All the day necessitated was that we enjoy it. That we be present. Other than a few snaps, I tucked away my phone. Think of all I’d miss around me if my nose were in Twitter. (Note to self: every day.)
We drove southwest through Grant, Colorado from where we entered the route up in to the mountains and in to Guanella Pass. It was still too early to eat, but at our last “point of no return” there was a spot that I regret not pulling in to. Al’s Pits. That’s the name. It sits in Grant at the foot of the road that leads in to the mountain. There’s a mud pit, a few smokers, and some scattered benches made of pine. Al’s Pits looked like the kind of place that is far off the radar of any health code inspector and that’s probably for the best because it’s bound to be the best barbecue any of us have ever eaten.
We started the day with sunny blue skies and a windows-down temp of about 75 and by the time we reached the peak we were driving through snow, hail, rain, and freezing in our inadequate hoodies. We made our first scenic turnout at a small waterfall; snow melt that looked so crisp, pure, and refreshing that it was worth standing on the side of the road getting pummeled with pea-sized hail to take a look and a picture.
The higher we drove the more snow we encountered, mostly piled up between the pines and on the hills alongside the road. Every few minutes a tiny voice from the backseat would shout, “I want to get out and make a snow angel!” Over and over again Paisley asked to make a snow angel, and we promised that when we got to the top she could. After all, skinny two lane mountain roads weren’t made for pulling over for snow play antics.
As soon as Paisley bounded out of the car, she looked for a clear patch of snow. We had to hold her off. We wanted to take in the view. And if she started with a snow angel she’d be damp and cold. We convinced her to wait until just before we got back in the car so she could be warm immediately after. Then, a snow angel she did make. She giggled, flapped her arms, and left her mark at the top of Guanella Pass.
The drive down lead us to a few more scenic turnouts, each as picturesque as the last and well worth the day spent mostly in the car. It really felt like the moment that Shelton had been waiting months for. He looked right at home.
Guanella Pass ends (or begins) in Georgetown, Colorado. The town was quaint and adorable, but we passed through and ended in Idaho Springs. It was an equally adorable tiny mountain town with a rich mining history. We saddled up at the Tommyknocker Brewery. With a tagline like “Colorado Mountain Town Craft Beer” how could we not stop? The portions on our macaroni and cheese, philly cheesesteak, taco salad, and classic cheeseburger felt as large as the ridges we’d just driven through. Tasty, too! And the beer? Not bad! The Tundrabeary Summer Ale was a bit too sweet and fruity for me, but still drinkable. The Pick Axe IPA lived up to the variety.
We were home by 5:00 where the sun was shining and a big pile of Meineckes were waiting for us at “home.” It felt slightly unreal that we’d made it to 12,000 feet that day. Living with your head in the clouds, even if for a few hours, is worth the trip.