Tag Archives: love

Overlooking Estes Park and the surrounding peaks on Kruger Rock Trail.

Westward Bound: Two Amazing Years of Colorado Living

There are so many places to explore in this amazing state that I decided to write another post on our second year of Colorado living (Read about our first-year of exploration in Colorado).

If you are an outdoors fanatic, then this state is for you. Since living here, I’ve lost almost 30 pounds, which I attribute to the active community, numerous, fun trails and areas to explore, and healthier eating. Nevertheless, living in CO for two years this September has truly opened our eyes to the different colors, shapes, smells, sites, etc. that can form in nature.

I’ve also created an Instagram account for all of our hiking and traveling adventures!

It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since we made the 1,500 mile move westward. We’ve had no regrets in our move and hope to continue our exploration of, not only Colorado, but the West in its entirety!

Colorado Living: Here are 17 more places we explored:

  1. Red Feather Lakes: Elkhorn Creek Trail
  2. Colorado living: Hiking on Elkhorn Lake Trail proved to be more difficult due to lack of trail indicators and forks.
    Elkhorn Lake Trail photos. This trail in the Red Feathers Lake area lacks trail indicators and has multiple forks in the road, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

    This 7.5-mile trail sits right outside Red Feather Lakes and proved be to a hike of pure chaos yet beauty. The chaos was produced as there were NO trail markers on this trail, yet multiple trails that forked off into your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine. Despite getting turned around a few times, this adventure was still enjoyable with color-changing aspens lining the trail, small creeks and meadows, and tons of interesting rock formations. Despite the Blair Witch feeling we got when we traveled on what we thought was the right trail that ended up in the back of a rancher’s property filled with ‘No Trespassing’ signs on it, it was an fun experienced during a heat-spell in September.

  3. Benson Sculpture Garden
  4. Taking a step away from hiking, one of the most intriguing and unique places we explored is located right down the road from us! Loveland is known for its artists, especially sculptors, and the Sculpture Park goes above and beyond to highlight some of the best of the best! Of course most of the sculptures represent something in Colorado’s culture and history, such as wildlife to cowboys and Native Americans. Situated near a small pond with hundreds of sculptures to explore, it’s a fun place to bring your family and see Colorado art first hand! Here are a few photos I took while visiting:

  5. Greyrock Mountain
  6. greyrock mountain trail in Colorado.
    Greyrock Mountain summit and surrounding areas in Colorado.Greyrock Trail was one of the best trails we hiked in Colorado thus far. The trail was both the perfect challenge as well as the perfect length with beautiful sites. Alongside hiking near the summit of Greyrock Mountain, we also came upon expansive meadows, wildlife and woodlands. All-in-all we hiked around nine to 10 miles this beautiful area and got to see the changing leaves of aspens and other trees. After reaching the top of the summit over 7,600 feet, we could see as far as the eye could see, as seen in the collage to the right.

  7. Wild Basin
  8. First time snowshoeing on Wild Basin Trail!
    Our first time snowshoeing occurred in Wild Basin Trail!
    Moose in Wild Basin Natural Area Colorado.
    Big mama moose right off of the trail in Wild Basin!
    This trail held a ton of firsts for us: first time snowshoeing, first time getting up close and personal with a Stellar’s Jay bird, and first time seeing MOOSE! Snowshoeing is a huge part of Colorado living as everyone takes pride in doing it! Snowshoeing is such a fun, exhausting, challenging, and overall smart exercise to get around on top of densely packed snow! Snowshoeing for around nine miles in the Wild Basin area way up in the Rockies was an amazing experience where, not only did we learn the art of snowshoeing, but we saw amazing sites including a mother moose and her calf right off of the trail! Amazing sites await you on this trail as well as a lack of people on it especially during the winter (who said winter hiking was dull and not fun??)

  9. Bear Lake from Sprague Lake Trail
  10. Standing on top of a very frozen Bear Lake after snowshoeing to it!
    Standing on top of Bear Lake after snowshoeing to it from Sprague Lake!

    Our second snowshoeing adventure occurred when we hiked eight miles from Sprague Lake to Bear Lake in very cold and windy conditions. Despite it being winter, we saw a different type of frozen beauty in the Rockies, and it was very silent, which was welcoming after being in the city all the time. This was both of our first times standing on top of a frozen lake with no fear! Snowshoeing was a bit more difficult this go-around versus our first snowshoeing adventure due to the trail being more narrow and the weather conditions a bit more challenging. Nonetheless, the views are amazing with all of the different lakes to visit!

  11. Loveland Fire and Ice Festival
  12. Fire owl sculpture at Loveland Fire and Ice Festival 2017.
    This festival held in Loveland around Valentine’s Day is a very fun and different type of festival where there are both ice-related events and fire-related events in terms of art and activities. We watched ice sculptors create magnificent pieces of ice art as well as sculptures literally emitting fire (What’s Colorado living without ice sculpting?!). Alongside the random booths, beer and wine, and other entertaining things, such as Star Wars characters, it was well worth the visit!

  13. Fern Falls and Lake
  14. Frozen Fern Lake, our destination!
    Frozen Fern Falls in Colorado.This trail was packed with snow and mud since we experienced quite a warm spell in February. What makes Fern Falls and Lake Trail so interesting is that there are so many different types of landscapes to experience, such as mystically placed boulders scattered around the trail, snow-capped peaks, rivers flowing with freshly melted snow under ice, valleys and dense woods. We hiked eight miles to Fern Lake and experienced another frozen lake trail experience, which was really fun! Winter hiking is both exhilarating and surprising because you don’t know exactly what to expect both trail-wise and site-wise as it looks completely different versus during other times of the year!

  15. Arthur’s Rock
  16. On our way to the summit of Arthur's Rock in the background in Fort Collins.
    This was such a fun trail to explore in Lory State Park, Fort Collins! Right next to Horsetooth Mountain, this specific trail is rated as moderate-difficult due to quick elevation rise and rockiness of the trail. We walked around four-and-a-half miles total, and made it up the steep inclines to the amazing views from the top of the rock:
    View from the summit of Arthur's Rock.

  17. Hall Ranch (Bitterbrush Trail and Nelson Loop)
  18. View of Long's Peak from Nelson Loop in Hall Ranch.
    Awesome flora and fauna including prairie dogs and mule deer.We hiked 11 miles in the Hall Ranch open space area on the Bitterbrush trail and Nelson Loop. This was one of the most beautiful and diverse hikes we’ve been on yet! We saw mule deer, prairie dogs, tons of birds, and we heard a wild turkey (we didn’t see it unfortunately).

    The sites will strike you with awe. There was an amazing view of Long’s Peak in the distance along Nelson Loop, the last part of the hike, as well as magnificent rock formations and structures. We made the mistake of not wearing sunscreen and our skins were screaming! The trails themselves weren’t busy at all with other hikes, but you definitely have to keep an eye and ear open to the numerous bikers along the trail.

    Awesome sites as we hiked the Hall Ranch trails Bitterbrush and Nelson Loop!

  19. West Valley Trail & Soldier Canyon Falls
  20. Beautiful waterfalls of Soldier Valley Falls in Lory State Park, Fort Collins!My friend and I hiked five to six miles in Lory State Park, Fort Collins, on the West Valley Trail to the beautiful and hidden gem Soldier Valley Falls. This hike stayed around the contingent mountains where Arthur’s Rock lies, but it takes you through picnic areas, other trail heads and the beautiful waterfalls!

    The Soldier Valley Falls area is similar to entering another ecosystem. Instead of the grassy and bushy plains and mountains, you enter into a shady, moist area with dense trees, flowers and water! It’s only 0.1 miles long, so it’s more so a viewing point versus a hike. You get to see lots of snow runoff coming down the rocks into a clear and cool creek. This is a great site to take visitors and justifies the need to see it!
    West Valley Trail in Lory State Park, Fort Collins, CO.

  21. Hermit Park’s Kruger Rock Trail
  22. This moderately rated hike in Estes Park’s Hermit Park is worth the effort. The views of the Rockies, especially Long’s Peak, is absolutely stunning. We’ve never before had such a view of the local peaks in northern Colorado!

    View of Long's Peak at the top of Kruger Rock in Estes Park.
    View of Long’s Peak at the top of Kruger Rock.

    The gradual incline going up the mountain was somewhat intense mainly due to the high altitude. The last step prior to reaching the peak involves climbing up a narrow, rocky path, but once you get past that, you can see absolutely everything! After trekking up to the top of Kruger Rock, we hiked back down the mountain and camped in the Hermit Hollow’s campsite where we saw lots of mule deer, chipmunks and birds. Camping at Hermit Hollow's campground!

  23. Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail
  24. Sundance trail views around Carter Lake!This is one of the few trails that we’ve done so far that encompasses a vast body of water. This trail is around six-and-a-half miles long and is rated as easy. We decided to hike it right after a huge, wet spring snow, so most of it was flooded—we tested our ability to leap great distances! The slabs of rock layering the shore of the lake are absolutely beautiful—I wish I had such rocks decorating our yard!—and the bird species vary.

  25. Lily Mountain Trail
  26. This may have been one of the most strenuous trails we’ve done—or because we hadn’t hiked for a few weeks prior!—as the inclines were quite gradual but intense up to the top of Lily Mountain. The views are absolutely beautiful on the way up as well as from the top at 9,789 feet and were well worth the effort!
    View from the top of Lily Mountain Colorado!

  27. Twin Sisters Peak Trail
  28. This was such a fun hike and not too strenuous either! The inclines were spaced out well and not too strenuous compared to our hike up Lily Mountain. Being able to see different types of ecosystems as we hiked up to the 11,500 feet summit was very interesting especially once we breached the treeline (note to self: bring bug spray next time because the mosquitos at the top were hungry!). This was definitely on our favorite hikes with amazing views of the surrounding area!
    Beautiful views from Twin Sisters!Trail leading out of the treeline to the top of Twins SistersMark and Katie on top of the Twin Sisters Peak!

  29. Fossil Creek Reservoir
  30. Fossil Creek Reservoir Open Space area.We started to hike around lots of Larimer County open spaces as part of the Larimer County Passport to the Open Spaces initiative where you collect penciled badges from selected trails. This was a beautiful open space filled with tons of bird species from birds that prefer water, such as pelicans and raptors. Great for bird watchers and not strenuous at all!

  31. Red Mountain Open Space
  32. Geological time seen through layered rocks at Red Mountain
    This open space accurately defines the phrase, “Colorful Colorado” due to its variety of colored and layered rocks from a rusty red to pale pink, chalk white to silver grey. Not only was this trail gorgeous in all respects, but the birds and wildlife were abundant especially being right next to the Soapstone Prairie land. It was very dry and hot when we hiked it in July, and this was also part of the passport initiative! Watch out for hordes of biting flies!
    Katie standing in front of red rock in Red Mountain Open Space

  33. Eagle’s Nest Open Space
  34. Another passport trail, this trail was abundant in a variety of grasses! The sites are beautiful especially of the rocky sides of the facing mountains. We also saw cows since it was an open range area. The creek that flowed near the end of the trail was gorgeous with crystal clear water.
    View across Eagle's Nest Open Space

  35. Blue Lake Trail
  36. This trail was worth the long, long hike! At the end is an absolutely beautiful, clear lake at around 11,000 feet up with nearby mountain peaks adorned with glaciers! Moose scat and tracks were all we saw, but it’s fairly obvious that moose reign free and numerous in such country. We hiked a total of 12 miles that day even though the trail to and from the lake is a total of 11.1 miles. Half the trail was easy and the other half was somewhat strenuous merely due to its length and the amount of rocks on the trail itself.
    View of Blue Lake at the end of the trail outside of Walden, COI'm standing on front of Blue Lake in Colorado that has a ton of moose!

From exploring the various trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park to our first snowshoeing experience, I look forward to the many other places we’ll see in the coming year along this growing list! Colorado living is the only way to truly live and explore if you enjoy nature!

The Joys (and Hell) of Owning Our First Home for a Year

When Mark and I decided to purchase our first home in the ever-growing area of Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado, we knew it would be a stressful venture. Regardless of the stress, it’s been a rewarding one, too.

Originally, we didn’t plan on buying our first home within the first year of living in CO, but lo’ and behold, everything was increasing with no end in sight: rent and mortgage payments, competition among buyers, interest rates, down payments, my anxiety and blood pressure, etc.

This sums up the competition in CO when you're a buyer in a competitive market especially when looking for your first home.

Prior to talking to a loan officer of real-estate agent, the first thing I did was purchase this first-time homebuyer book.

Home Buying Kit for Dummies

After taking many notes from this helpful resource, we talked with two real estate agents and three loan officers based on online ratings, websites and word-of-mouth; we asked questions suggested from the book. We went with Remax’s Nathan Weinland and Cornerstone Lending’s Brad Dusek—both amazing experts in real estate, so if you’re looking for an agent or loan officer in this area, we highly recommend them!

Afterwards, we toured multiple—over 15 houses—properties in the Fort Collins-Loveland area. We visited a haunted house (I kid you not), a house with three different types of wallpaper in the basement, a house that easily needed $50K+ in repairs, amazing mansions, and more … until we found a house that met our price range and was in fairly good condition in Loveland. We made an offer on it seven hours after it was posted and wa-la!

First time home owners in Loveland!
The day we signed all of our documents and were officially homeowners on April 29, 2016!

After the technicalities of signing (our souls away) the papers and experiencing one hell of an empty bank account after the down payment, we experienced the joys and surprises of our first home:

Here’s a fun list of everything that went wrong within the first few months:

  • Our cat decided that the house was too big for her; therefore, she developed stress, which then turned into a UTI infection causing her to vomit and urinate around 20 times on the lower-level carpet.
  • The refrigerator’s water line cracked causing a semi-flooded kitchen floor. Home warranty wouldn’t cover it, and it was turning into a costly repair … so no more ice machine or water dispenser!
  • I picked up—and continue to pick up—trash in our backyard from previous owners. The soil here works where, after a windy, snowy and/or rainy day, things that are buried below the surface start to emerge like seedlings. From tiny pieces of broken plastic to cigarette butts, chewed up dog toys to metal spoons, shards of glass to army soldiers, I found some interesting ‘treasures’ so far!
  • Dead, embalmed rat carcass in our crawl space … ’nuff said.
  • Every single label in our fuse box is mislabeled. The one labeled ‘outside lights’ turns on/off the bedroom in the lower-level!
  • The chimney wasn’t cleaned in multiple years causing an inch-thick layer of soot to form, which was a big hazard! Apparently, chimney fires can heat up to a whopping 2,000 degrees!
  • The water pipes under the kitchen had legit cracks in them … CRACKS! Over time, the moisture that escaped formed a strange moldy substance in the crawl space.
  • The garage…ooooh the garage! There were two fire wall breaches—down to one—and the walls are slowly stripping away and is home to numerous spiders.

Our initial thoughts after repairing or having numerous items repaired and seeing the money flow to our first home:

Buy a house they said, it'll be fun they said!
Luckily we have yet to experience a flooded basement! *knocks on wood*

However, as we reach our one-year homeownership mark, we can truly say that we do love our home despite the insanity this first year brought both financial- and work-wise!

We made/had the following repairs and upgrades to our first home:

  • Installed New Flooring to the Lower-Level

    Many ‘thanks’ to our furbaby for instigating us to re-do the lower-level flooring a good three years sooner than intended! The (original) vinyl flooring in the downstairs bathroom was replaced with beautiful, natural stone, slate tiles:

    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone slate tile in our bathroom area.
    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone, slate tiles in our bathroom area.

    The tiles were also installed around our wood-burning fireplace (both projects completed by Tiles Make Smiles):

    New slate tile around our fireplace downstairs.
    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone slate around the fireplace.

    Lastly, we ripped up the carpet and padding from the den and had a nice, wood vinyl flooring installed (completed by Mic’s Tile):

    New vinyl wood flooring installed!
    New vinyl wood flooring by Mic’s Tile.
  • Removed Popcorn Ceiling

    Covered in the particles and material in the popcorn ceiling
    Myself covered in the particles and materials from the popcorn ceiling!

    If ever there was a task so tedious that it would make you not only feel like burning down your house, but simultaneously fill your lungs and eyes with more-than-likely horrible substances it is the process of removing popcorn ceiling.

    This process involves spraying warm water on the ceiling, scraping off the popcorn, sanding the remnenants to a flat surface, spackling any scratches and dents from the removal process, vacuuming the floor and wiping down the walls, windows and doors, and then priming/painting the ceiling!

    Before and after the removal of popcorn from the ceiling.
    Before and after the removal of popcorn from the ceiling.

    We have one more room to go: our master bedroom. There is still a ton of popcorn ceiling throughout the house, but to those rooms I say, “Adieu!”

  • Radon Mitigation System

    Our radon mitigation system installed when we first moved into our first home.

    Radon
     was tested in our home with results showing levels above 7 pCi/L, which is above the recommended levels. We added this to one of the fixes we wanted the sellers to fix, which they obliged. After the system was installed in the crawl space, the radon levels are now at 0 pCi/L! (We had BWise Radon install it, and they were amazing!)

  • New Kitchen Pipes Installed

    Another concerning issue that we asked the sellers to take care of involved replacing kitchen pipes in the crawl space because they were leaking and causing mold. This was completed in a day, and it was a good thing since the original pipes had legit cracks in them!

  • Painted Three Rooms and Upgraded Outlets and Covers

    I never painted a room before and was really psyched when we were prepping to paint after removing the popcorn ceilings! We painted Mark’s room—aka man cave—a medium green. Then, we added curtains, and Mark replaced all of the antiquated outlets and covers:
    We painted a room in our home and it became my husband's 'mancave.'

    Next, we painted my ‘lady’s lair’ a retro pink color that turned out better than expected:
    My 'lady's lair' room completed after painting!

    Lastly, prior to the floor installation, we painted the bedroom in the lower level a bright yellow to add more light in what was once a dark and uninviting room:
    Lower level bedroom post-painting.

    We plan on painting the master bedroom a nice silver-grey color after removing the popcorn ceiling in the future.

  • Upgraded the Outdoor Firepit

    This was my first, personal project, and I love working outdoors. The outdoor fire pit was a complete and utter mess prior to upgrading it as it was literally a big pile of rocks with a vast insect ecosystem in it with no fire control or container. After a few months of placing slabs of rocks and gravel from around the yard, I added bricks, sand and lava rocks to the middle to really give it a nice decor:

    Different stages of the fire pit being redone.
    Different stages of the fire pit being redone.
  • Installed a Catio

    One of the joys of being a cat owner is doing anything and everything to make your cat happy! When my family visited, my dad and Mark built a legit, screened-in catio for Squeaky that has become a conversation-starter!
    Squeaky cat in her catio!

  • Replaced the Kitchen Sink and Underlying Cabinet

    The kitchen sink was replaced by Mark, and my dad fixed the cabinet area underneath it since it was water stained and slightly moldy. He completed that part with scrap wood he found around the lot:

    My dad and Mark fixing up various items in the house.
    My dad and Mark fixing various areas in the house. They cut wood in the top photo for the catio and replaced the kitchen sink and a doorknob.
  • Installed an Outdoor Solar Lamp

    Installed an outdoor solar lamp to replace our broken electric one.The original, outdoor lamp that ran off of electricity wouldn’t turn on due to a cut cable 18+” below ground. Instead of paying thousands to fix it, we removed the original lamp head and installed a $90 solar lamp that works just as well!

  • Attic Fan Installed

    We had an attic fan installed by Colorado Heating and Cooling and we've already feel the difference!
    It gets ‘hotter than 40 hells’ in the summertime in Colorado. Despite having the air ducts cleaned, the master bedroom is an oven day and night. We had an attic fan installed for around $600 to mitigate the heat this coming summer.

These are the larger projects that we completed/had completed during our first year. Not bad for our first home if I do say so myself! The number one thing to remember is to pace yourself and your wallet as well as to prioritize first home projects in terms of urgency and home value increases.

Do you have any first home stories (or nightmares)? Share them in the comments!

View of the Rocky Mountains on the way to Gem Lake

Westward Bound: A Year Living in Colorful Colorado

It astonishes me how time goes by faster the older you get. One such realization is that it’s been a year since Mark and I moved from our native state of North Carolina to out west to northern Colorado (NoCo).

We didn’t know what to expect with such a big life change away from friends, family, familiarity, and the ocean (well at least for me…Mark doesn’t care for it much haha); however, what subdues the fears of the unknown is that I’m not alone or without a plan!

We’ve grown so much over this past year: starting new jobs, meeting new people, experiencing a new cultural and political mindset, buying a home and learning the hard way of financial burdens that unconditionally come with home ownership, and growing wiser while exploring new places.

We experienced some really cool, awesome places, and here are 12 that stick out in my mind:

  1. Rocky Mountain National Park
  2. rocky-mountain-national-park-campground
    Never before did I have the chance to experience the beauty, intimidation, and awestruck feeling that one gets from exploring the Rockies. It was mind-boggling to see different ecosystems from almost-barren landscapes to lush woods, prairie grasses and more. I was familiar with thick pines, oaks, swamps, and the coast, so I was in a 180-degree, non-humid world.

    Me in front of Bierstadt Lake in the Rocky Mountain Park!Nature comes in various, amazing forms, and I grew to love an area that was drier and more expansive than what I was familiar with…and it’s been wonderful. We saw new wildlife and plant life and experienced fluctuating temperatures from hot, dry and intense to frigid, dry and … also intense haha.

    The view if you're driving to the Rocky Mountain National Park from NoCo. This is Theodore Roosevelt National Forest.If you’re driving towards the RMNP from the east, then you’ll drive through Roosevelt National Forest that has spectacular rock formations and wildlife (bighorn sheep!)

  3. Horsetooth Mountain
  4. A the very top of Horsetooth Rock in Fort Collins!
    Point blank: You haven’t experienced Fort Collins if you haven’t explored and climbed around Horsetooth Mountain. Within two weeks of moving to Fort Collins, we hiked up (the very steep side of) Horsetooth Mountain and experienced the glory of low oxygen and short breaths, but we made it to the top! We saw our first Prairie Rattler on the way up, and since then, we made numerous hikes around the park and consider it one of the best places to take visitors who love to hike (and who don’t mind being somewhat out-of-breath during it.)

  5. Coyote Ridge
  6. Watching the sunset at one of the high ridges on the Coyote Ridge trail.
    Talk about seeing the majestic side of prairies and the wildlife, just head over to Coyote Ridge! We saw prairie dogs, mule deer, and coyote traces while hiking across the open space to the nearby rocky hills that open up to some spectacular views!

  7. Devil’s Backbone
  8. The rocks emerging from the ground at Devil's Backbone really do live up to their name!
    If you really want to see the ‘youth’ and roughness of the Rockies without ascending to higher elevation, check out Devil’s Backbone in Loveland. The open space and rock formations live up to their name as they literally look like a backbone emerging from the ground.

    Keyhole Rock on the Devil's Backbone Trail in Loveland!The rock formations are amazing with the mystifying holes and balancing of structures. The keyhole rock is a huge attraction, and I was surprised to find a wild honeybee hive in a gap there!

  9. Bridal Veil Falls
  10. Mark and I in front of Bridal Veil Falls!
    You don’t have to pay the (somewhat high) fee to enter the Rocky Mountain State Park to enjoy hikes. Right outside the gate in Estes Park lies a few trails including Bridal Veil Falls. This easy hike takes you through a prairie area and then up lots of inclines where you even have to climb some rocks to get to the end of this trail—the Falls, which really do look like a bridal veil. This a very fun hike with lots of gorgeous scenery, such as dense elm trees and other species as well as lots of streams traveling downhill from the Falls themselves.

  11. Gem Lake
  12. Exploring Gem Lake!
    This intriguing trail is filled with amazing views of the Rockies (see the main photo at the very top of this post), and when my cousin Samantha visited, we hiked this trail—no altitude sickness for the most part! The intriguing part of this trail is when you arrive at Gem Lake, which isn’t the not the prettiest lake around, the rock formations and sights around it are utterly breathtaking. I researched the lake beforehand and read that there were leeches in the lake itself…because of this, we didn’t trod through the waters and avoided those pesky (creepy as hell) organisms…others around us weren’t so well-prepared!

  13. Soapstone Prairie
  14. The prairie goes as far as the eyes can see at Soapstone Prairie!
    A herd of buffalo was released in the wild last Fall about 25 minutes from where we live. The prairie is filled with rabbits, antelope, mule deer and other types of wildlife. When we traveled there to hike it one (extremely windy) day, we unfortunately didn’t see any buffalo roaming about, but we completed a fairly long hike around the prairie itself and got to know the meaning behind the word ‘open space.’

  15. Denver
  16. Denver skyline
    Changing direction from the hikes and open spaces we explored, let’s chat about the amazing and well-known city of Denver. This is one of the most chill cities we’ve yet to visit and includes lots of art, lots of culture, and lots of beer and weed (in the truest sense). If you’re into unique music or shows, then you’ll be very happy to visit this city. Alongside that, the Broncos stadium and other big-time sports teams can be found here. It is very fun to explore this city, and I hope we get to explore it more as we continue to get more and more settled in this amazing state.

  17. Garden of the Gods
  18. Garden of the Gods has spectacular views of red-orange rocks!
    One place you have to hit up in Colorado is the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. You will be awestruck at the majestic view of the rock formations as well as the vibrant red-orange colors. From watching thousands of sparrows, other birds, and bats fly in and out of the gaps within the rocks as well as contemplating how certain rocks formed the way they did and inspired interesting names (kissing camels for one), this was definitely a fun place to explore.

  19. Pike’s Peak Highway
  20. At the top of a 14er in Colorado Springs, Pike's Peak!
    We have yet to physically hike a 14er (mountains that peak at or above 14,000 feet above sea level) as it takes lots of training as well as waking up in the wee hours of the morning to climb one so as to avoid afternoon lightning storms.

    The one 14er you can drive up is Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs. It took a VERY long time to reach the summit due to the high number of vehicles, but the highway itself was filled with eye-popping cliffs right next to your car, hardcore turns, and a lack of oxygen that can create a tingling sensation in your fingers and toes as well as lack of breath. We made it to the top, and it started to snow (IN JULY). The lack of life up there was very noticeable as well as lots of loose pebbles and rocks due to the intense weather that occurs. We are planning to hike up an easy 14er next spring/summer!

  21. Estes Park & The Stanley Hotel
  22. The Stanley Hotel
    If you visit northern Colorado (NoCo), one of the places you’ll visit is Estes Park and its famous Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s The Shining—it wasn’t filmed here though but is still equally haunted! Along with an amazing whisky bar and restaurant, you can go (sneak) upstairs and walk around the historic hotel and try to capture a ghost! The town is very quaint especially if you manage to visit here outside of tourist season. Expect to find a TON of candy and ice cream shops as well as your typical tourist shops. This is a must-see.

  23. Great Sand Dunes
  24. Great Sand Dunes view from backcountry campsite
    Our last Colorado adventures right before our one-year anniversary living here included the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. Oh. My. God. This place was mystical and beyond anything we expected it to be. Our first night involved car camping in the nearby campground, Pinyon Flats, where we saw mule deer, mountain lion prints, and experienced the intriguing ecosystem of shrubs right next to the Dunes and the huge mountains with alpine tundras at their peaks.

    Hiking around the Great Sand Dunes.The second day we journeyed into the Dunes themselves for our first backcountry camping experience, and, of course, we ‘chose’ a hard route over some of the taller dunes, which was the hardest physical activity either of us have done. With 40-50 pounds on our backs as well as carrying a vital 2.5-gallon jug of water, we were very winded and strained. We found our camping spot about 2 miles in the dunes next to wild flowers that are home to numerous circus beetles, wasps, crickets, kangaroo mice, etc.

    How small our tent looks from the top of a dune!
    Can you spot our tent?

    Our tent looks like a dot after we climbed to the top of the dune next to it. It was easily one of the quietest and darkest places we’ve camped, and we saw every speck of light in the Milky Way as well as satellites (no UFOs though!) The wind was violent when night approached, and temperatures dropped from the 70s to low 40s. Exploring the Dunes was definitely a fun way to celebrate our one-year of calling this amazing state home!

Looking over this list of sites and places we’ve seen and hiked, it amazes me what we’ve accomplished thus far in the year we’ve lived here alongside buying a home and starting new careers. We plan to see many other places in this great state as we continue our lives here…so many more destinations planned that it would take me a great long while to list them all!

katie-and-mark-coloradoThe old saying, “home is where the heart is” emerges in my mind at times, but I remember that my heart is wherever Mark and I are happy at, and most importantly, my heart is with Mark. Wherever he is, then I am happy and at peace. It is just an added perk that we’re living in one of the best states in terms of politics, economy, schools, and things-to-do!

Here’s to many more years in this awesome and adventurous state! Cheers.