I can't believe it is the last week of August already and I'm first finishing up my Spring Vacation Posts now. It seems the month of May was only yesterday, and now were moving into Fall. Why is summer always over in a breath, and winter lasts forever?
For those of you new to my blog, or who just happened upon this post, I've been doing a series of travel posts of our adventure to Colorado that we took at the end of May. They begin HERE
if you care to read them all. Today is the very last post of that adventure, for it was our last day in Colorado.
I broke Day Five into two separate posts, or it would have gotten way too long. The morning was spent at Pearl St. and you can read about that experience HERE
After we were done exploring Pearl St., we decided to head to Chautauqua Park, which is located only two miles from the downtown shopping district. I know, unbelievable heh? That a big city park with rugged hiking and mountain views would be located right in town?
I first heard about the park from my niece. It was one of her suggestions to hike the trail to the top of the bluffs and see gorgeous views of downtown Boulder. I then researched it on TripAdvisor and time and time again I read that one must climb to the top, to the "Royal Arch", to see magnificent views, for although it was quite a difficult hike, it was well worth it.
We found the park no problem, but parking was another issue. Even though there is plenty of flat land available, the park has the tiniest parking lot you could imagine…I don't even know if it can hold twenty five cars. It is a very popular park, and cars were driving around in circles looking for a place to park. We finally gave up and found parking on a side street and had to walk quite a distance in to get to the Ranger's Office. Not a good thing, to be exhausted before you even start a hike. It looked like creating more parking would be no problem whatsoever with all the land (pictured below and even more the other direction as far as the eye could see) available. But I'm sure the Naturalists in the area did not want to pave over the grass lands.
We first stopped in at the Ranger's Office and I asked for directions on how to get to the Royal Arch. She then informed me that it was quite a difficult hike and asked if I had food and water with me. I assured her I did, though she scared me half to death with that question. I mean, I know those reviews on TripAdvisor weren't easy, but for a Park Ranger to ask me if I had food and water with me was another thing. She then proceeded to outline the trail on the map and concluded by saying 'On your way back down, you can come this way'. I thought her last sentence was slightly odd, but I didn't think much about it. So, off we went.
From the minute we stepped on the gravel path, it was just up, and up, and up. You can't tell by this picture, but the trail is going straight up. This picture was taken about half way up the open prairie of the trail, and I was almost immediately out of breath. I feigned wanting to stop and take a picture because I didn't want my husband to know I needed a break already. I looked past him, at that peak, knowing that's where we were headed and I started to wonder if I would ever make it.
Once we made it to the foothill of the mountain, we entered a wooded area and finally had some shelter from the hot sun. This made hiking a bit easier, although we were still constantly climbing up.
The hiking trail was quite beautiful, with a mix of open prairies and woodlands.
It was not a well-paved or well-marked trail however. And any of my regular readers would know that's a big beef with me. On almost every vacation, my husband and I have gone hiking, so we have a lot of experience with trails. This one, was probably one of the worst ones I've ever seen. The paths were so rugged, it was hard to tell if you were on the correct path or not. And it wasn't just us. We never ran into more confused hikers in our lives….everyone seemed lost and they were looking at maps trying to figure out which direction to go. So many hikers were asking advice from other hiking groups, it was ridiculous.
They did occasionally have sign posts stating which trail you were on, and arrows pointing to other trails, but the confusion came because there seemed to be two different names for each trail. Some time's it would say 'Royal Arch' and other times it would use the words' Second or Third FlatIron' and you didn't know what you were on or which direction to go.
But onward we pressed. We figured, even if we on the wrong trail, we were still going up. There was that strange peak still in the distance…that was our goal….to the get to the top and see the view!
This rocky slope was quite the challenge. If your afraid of heights, you wouldn't like this too much. You are quite 'up there' at this spot, but it has an incredible view if you can overcome your fears as I did.
The rocks were tumbled together so much, I didn't even know if I was still on the trail. I just kept trying to follow what looked more 'like it was put there' and 'not just fallen there'.
The view from the rocky cliff side.
Once we got passed the rocky cliff side we entered a beautiful tree and rock filled area. It was so peaceful (and cool) inside this little forest area.
The height of the rock formations was absolutely amazing!
There were huge boulders everywhere, and now, we were definitely lost. There was no clear path or markings anywhere. The sandy paths seemed to weave in all directions in and out and around all the rocks. Really? The park rangers can't even paint an X on a rock every now and then so we know were headed in the right direction?
We ran into another hiker who was coming down from up above. We asked him if he knew where the Royal Arch was. He said he didn't, and there was nothing up there, just a sign for mountain climbers.
We then ran into another group of hikers and asked them if they knew where the Royal Arch was. Of course they didn't, but they think the trail goes down and suggested we go that way. My husband thought they were nuts. Why would we go down when the view is from the top. So we took the mountain climber trail instead.
After a few minutes on this trail, we ran into another hiker coming down. We asked her if the Royal Arch was up ahead. She said 'no', that there was nothing up there, and she came back down because the trail is really hard to follow and she couldn't figure out which was an actual trail and which wasn't. She said she was a resident of Boulder and came to the park often for exercise and has never been able to find the Royal Arch.
Well, with that shocking and sad news, we decided to turn around and take the trail back down like the second group of hikers suggested.
As we proceeded down the trail, a cold front moved in and the temperature dropped about twenty degrees. It also started to thunder in the distance. We didn't have any extra clothes with us, and went very quickly from being hot to very cold.
Eventually we hit a fork in the trail and there it was, a sign that pointed to the Royal Arch…still over a mile away. We now knew, that it really existed, and yes, the hiker was right….you had to go down, to get back up. We stopped another group of hikers and asked them if they had just come from the Royal Arch. They said they did. Yes! It truly does exist! Someone actually found it! But they also said 'I'm not going to lie to you. It's quite a distance away yet and it isn't an easy hike because it is straight up'.
By now, we had already been hiking for a couple of hours. I was tired, no I was beyond tired, I was exhausted. And now I was freezing, and the sky was going to open up and drop buckets of rain any second. My husband said he was so determined to find this STUPID ROYAL ARCH that part of him wanted to continue, but the other part of him was ready to just turn around and go home.
With heavy hearts, we gave up on our quest to find the Royal Arch, and headed back down the mountain. It was a good thing we did, because the winds really picked up and it got bitter, bitter cold very fast. We made it to our car safely before the first drop of rain.
Once inside our car we looked at our map and realized that the Forest Ranger sent us on 'The scenic route'. If we would have taken the way she told us to 'come back down' on the way up, we would have been there in half the time. I have no idea why she told us to the go the route we did. I never once told her I was interested in a long, strenuous, scenic hike. I only asked her for directions to the Royal Arch.
It was kinda sad really. I will probably never get back to Boulder or Chautauqua Park in this lifetime. I really lamented not seeing the magnificent view everyone raved about on TripAdvisor. However, even though it was quite the strenuous hike, it was still a beautiful nature hike. It's hard to believe that this rugged, outdoor adventure is right in the middle of a big city.
Well, you can imagine that after shopping all morning and hiking all afternoon that we had worked up quite the appetite. So when we saw this Buca di Beppo restaurant, we were ecstatic. We go to Buca's whenever we are in Minneapolis, but I never knew it was a chain. This one was quite different than the little restaurant I'm used to. I also have a funny story to share about our experience here.
We walked into the restaurant and the hostess asked us if we had a reservation (the place was completely empty). We said 'no', and then she proceeded to walk us THROUGH THE KITCHEN! The cooks all said hello to us as we walked through. My husband and I looked at each other and he muttered under his breath 'What, do we have to eat in the kitchen because we don't have a reservation?". I started laughing, and couldn't stop. She then walked us through the rest of this huge restaurant and eventually seated us at a table which was right inside a doorway where the hostess stand was…and where we first came in. My husband and I looked at each other and said 'What was that all about?' and burst out laughing and couldn't stop. I don't think we stopped joking and laughing about it until the meal was over.
After the bill was paid and we got up to leave, my husband said 'Let's leave the way we came in!' I said 'no, that's too embarrassing'. He said 'Oh, come on. It'll be fun.'. I still couldn't do it, so I exited through the small doorway next to our table. He, on the other hand, walked all the way through the restaurant and the kitchen, and said goodbye to all the cooks telling them what a wonderful time he had. They all looked at him like he was nuts, and I was so embarrassed. Thank God we were not in our hometown and I would never have to see any of these people again. However, I found it so funny, I think I giggled all the way back to our hotel.
The next morning we got up early to have our last breakfast on the road before the long drive home. We stopped at a truck stop and I ordered biscuits and gravy, two sunny side up eggs, hash browns….and gobbled everything up!
Before getting back into the car, I headed to the potty and look what I found: a bidet! In a truck stop! I've seen them in Italy, but never in America. I never used one before, not even when I was in Italy, so curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give it a try.
All the bathrooms had their own private enclosures which included the bidet and the sink. The bidet had an electronic push-button feature on the side where you could select water temperature and flow, and also air flow and temperature. Well now, this could be fun, I thought! So I gave it a whirl, and it was, quite interesting. I personally don't see the necessity of it, but it's fun trying something new!
And that concludes my Colorado Adventure series. Who would have thought it would have ended with a toilet? So funny!
Have a great day! Amy