A friend of mine once compared me to the outdoorsy girl in the Citi commercial who swaps beaches for boulders on her honeymoon. You probably know her better as this chick.
I know her better as crazy. For one, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to laze around on the beach during their honeymoon. I, for one, certainly plan on scheduling some serious beach time on mine.
While I can’t say that I’m anywhere near as hard core as someone who’d climb to the peak of a mountain wearing nothing but flimsy shoes and a rope, part of the whole granola lifestyle nevertheless speaks to me — loudly — so much so that I almost shed a tear as Noah and I drove to the airport late Monday afternoon on our journey back to New York. Almost.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
To start, Noah and I booked our July 4th trip to Colorado on somewhat of a whim. Being a holiday weekend, flights to practically anywhere were looking like they could cost us an arm and a leg. And I need those. Luckily, we were able to spot a couple of reasonably priced tickets to Colorado on Southwest, and within minutes, we were booked and ready to go. So far, this trip was looking a lot like our impromptu San Francisco and Sonoma adventure, which we went on at the exact same time last year.
I used to be Type A all the way, leaving nothing to the imagination, planning my next twelve lunches in advance, let alone a trip out of New York. Technology has changed me though. Everything is so accessible — and at the touch of a button (or swipe of a screen?) no less. We literally wound up choosing our daily activities hour by hour, minute by minute.
And so we were off with no more of a plan than the hotels in which we were staying and the flexible itinerary that’d allow us three nights in Vail and two nights in Estes Park, which is a small touristy town just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.
The flight to Colorado was surprisingly easy, and it took just one movie and three episodes of Parks and Recreation until we realized we were almost there. A word to the wise: Do not watch 127 hours — you know, the movie where James Franco cuts his arm off after getting stuck in a crevice while hiking — before this type of getaway. Lesson learned.
Day 1, Vail: The Arrabelle
The Arrabelle is one of those hotels I’d only wished of staying in before. During the winter months, it can cost you a pretty penny for a night, and even during the summer months, a weekend can easily run you upward of $1,000. Fortunately, Noah and I used Hotwire when booking our hotel and were able to nab this palatial accommodation for an incredibly reasonable price. Unfortunately, all we’d be doing at The Arrabelle was sleeping; anything more, and my bank account might have never recovered.
On the bright side, Noah and I didn’t go to the resort town to pamper ourselves with massages and spa treatments. The Arrabelle turned out to be an incredibly comfortable and accommodating hotel, more than we could have hoped for after a long day out on the mountain. I especially loved that they offered eco-friendly water and complementary granola bars.
Waking up on the first day in Vail was like being reborn. As I opened the curtains in my hotel room, I saw mountains in every direction — and not the tired, brown, dried up mountains that encompassed most of the drive, but lush, green, lively peaks instead. Coming from muggy, steamy, absolutely disgusting New York City summer air, I can hardly begin to describe how happy it made me to throw on a scarf, leggings and fuzzy boots as I ventured out into the morning air in search of coffee.
Gore Greek Trail
Our first adventure of the day would be along the Gore Greek Trail in Vail, which was a suggestion from one of Noah’s friends. What we didn’t realize when we asked about a good trail run was that said friend actually intended for us to run along the flat part of the course before it ascended into the woods. Instead, Noah and I started our trek in nature right where the elevation begins to climb. A lot.
The high altitude of the mountains made it incredibly difficult to breathe at first, and it took me almost a solid half-mile before I was able to comfortably inhale and exhale without feeling as though my lungs were about to explode. Once that passed, the scene unfolded right before my eyes.
Distant glaciers feeding into icy streams.
Immediately, I began to wonder what the heck I had been doing in New York my entire life. I felt as though I was made for everything I was experiencing in that moment, and I couldn’t stop smiling (except when Noah spotted a snake; I hate snakes).
We could hardly believe it, but by the time our first run/hike was over, it was hardly 11:00. Our second stop of the day took us to Hanging Lake, which, while it’s a bit of a drive, is one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve seen in the U.S. to this point.
Hanging lake is situated in Glenwood Canyon and offers a 1,000 ft. ascend in just over a mile. In laymen’s turns, that’s super steep. While touristy, the hike was incredibly stunning from start to finish. Even while trying to catch your breath, and even while maneuvering around tired, whiny children, it is absolutely, 100% beautiful. If you go on July 4th, I highly suggest wearing a sparkly red, white and blue headband.
By the time you get to the top of Hanging Lake, you get 360-degree views of whoa, from the canyon below…
…to the see-through body of water in front…
…to the waterfall just up the rock scramble above.
Two hikes and countless bottles of water later, and we were pooped.
Before heading to dinner in Vail Village, Noah and I bought tickets on a whim to ride the gondola up to the top of the mountain to enjoy a scenic pre-meal drink. Tickets are a little pricey, especially when you aren’t exploring the area, but $21 also buys you $10 worth of drink vouchers, and so it’s definitely worth it if you can spare the change.
After drinks, it was off to Vail Village, where we had dinner at a delicious (albeit slightly fancy) restaurant called Terra Bistro. Noah and I shared these amazing little quinoa and avocado lettuce wraps and a pistachio crusted goat cheese concoction to start. Then he dined on steak while I chose a stuffed portobello that was sooo yummy, yet somehow slightly heavy.
Just as we were finishing up, the fireworks started outside, and so we ran out and finished up our first day in Colorado with an explosion of colors in the sky.
Day 2, Vail: The Arrabelle
It was raining on Friday morning when Noah and I woke up. Not wanting to miss out on a single minute of the day, we set off for a short, two-mile run along the Gore Greek Trail (this time, the flat part that doesn’t require an inhaler) with the misty morning air.
We had wanted to check out The Little Diner for breakfast, but the line was super long. Apparently, you have to get there at 7:30 or earlier to nab a table, so instead, we picked up breakfast (aka spiced cookies) from the bakery below our hotel room and began getting ready for day 2: my first attempt at mountain biking.
As we left our hotel room, the sun began to peek through the clouds. Nope, there would be no turning back. I was going mountain biking whether I liked it or not.
The friendly hippie who rented us our bikes scared the living bejeezus out of me before I could even hop on the seat with all his technical mumbojumbo about “squeeze the right break for this” and “don’t touch the left break for that” and “feather in the break before you fall and crush your face.” Also, gears? What the heck are bike gears. I’m pretty sure the last time I rode a bike, all I had to do to stop was pedal backwards. Hilton Head, how you’ve spoiled me.
Needless to say, the first trip down the mountain was an epic failure, and while I didn’t fall or cry, I was very close to both. The first few hills, even on green trails, offered some of the scariest moments of my entire life. The beginning of the ride was covered in rocks and tree roots, and there were times when I was literally just facing down.
Noah definitely gets a gold star for the most patient finance ever. I probably ruined his mountain biking fun, what with all my freaking out and physical shaking, but by the time we got to the bottom about 45 minutes later, I decided I was ready to try again — even if he insisted that we return the bikes then and there. Apparently, my Jewish guilt has an effect on him.
The second time down the mountain was infinitely better than round one. Maybe it was the half a beer I split at lunch, or maybe it was the fact that I finally got the hang of the whole “lifting your butt off the seat” technique (really, it takes so much pressure off the rest of your body). Once I was able to enjoy it though, the views were totally awesome.
Also needless to say, the physical and emotional toll of mountain biking was about as much as I could handle on Friday, and so we celebrated my small victory by hitting the hot tub and pool on the top of our hotel — also with amazing 360-degree mountain views — to enjoy a little rest and relaxation with a glass of water-side wine.
In need of more alcohol to forget the mental beating incurred that day, Noah and I hit up a really cool little brewery in the town of Edwards a few miles away — Crazy Mountain Brewery. Best. Tasting. Beers. Ever.
On Friday night, Noah and I returned to Vail Village for a drink at the Red Lion — a cool and old bar — before dining at the Alpenrose, which is a delicious German restaurant right in the heart of town. After scarfing down — wait for it — baked brie and crackers, French onion soup, a garden salad and a plate full of creamy potato heaven (don’t forget about the apple strudel dessert), we rolled ourselves back to The Arrabelle, where we spent our last night in luxury before trekking on to Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park.
More on that to come!
- Have you ever been to Vail in summer? What was your favorite part?
- What’s the deal with mountain biking? Does it get easier?
- Snakes: scary of terrifying?