Adventure is Good for the Soul: Hiking, Exploring, and Enjoying Colorado

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been doing A LOT of traveling lately.

It’s been super fun, and I’ve got even more coming up that I’m really excited to share with you!

One of the reasons I’ve been doing so much travel is that I recently earned the Companion Pass with Southwest Airlines. (I’m a bit of a credit card points junkie…) That means that I get to name someone as my companion and they get to fly on any Southwest flights with me for free for the remainder of this year, as well as all of next year. It also means that I have a ton of Southwest points to use for free flights for myself. Pretty sweet deal, so I’ve been trying to get the most out of it!

My mom has been dying to go on a trip with my sisterns and I, so I thought flying us out to Colorado for a girls hiking trip would be a lot of fun. Sadly, my middle sister couldn’t make it out with us, but it was a great trip for me, my mom, and my youngest sister.

Colorado is simply stunning. I couldn’t get enough of those evergreens, man! So, so gorgeous.

So let’s get to the pictures already, right??

While we flew into Denver, we actually didn’t end up spending all that much time there except for a few hours before we left to go back home. Instead, as our first stop, we headed from the Denver airport to Boulder, CO.

Boulder is soooooo cute! Tons of great little restaurants, a nice pedestrian shopping area, a beautiful bike path…really a great town.

When we got to Boulder, we were all pretty hungry and we were lucky to find that the Organic Sandwich Company was right around the corner from our AirBnb.

O.M.G — these sandwiches were so frickin’ good. They source their gluten-free bread from a company called Eatalia (also based in Boulder)…I’ve honestly never had better gluten-free bread. This stuff is INCREDIBLE. (We later went to find it at Natural Grocers in Boulder so we could have it as toast in the morning. 😋)

Turkey with lettuce, tomato, and bacon jam.

I also tried Upstart Kombucha (a local Boulder company as well) while here…man, do I wish I could find this stuff in NY! This berry black flavor was so yummy – had hints of vanilla, and it all just blended so well. Even my sister (who isn’t a huge fan of a lot of kombuchas) was a convert. Really well-made product. We ended up buying it everywhere we saw it and stocked up on it for our AirBnb. …I drank a lot of kombucha on this trip!

Once we fueled up, it was time for a bike ride! We rented bikes and headed out on the Boulder Creek Path.

What a great path to have right in your city! Though at the very end, it went slowly and steadily uphill…I thought my bike had a flat tire it was so hard! (I’m going to blame it on the altitude change. 😉)

After biking around, we went to the pedestrian area of Pearl Street Mall to walk around, check out the shops, and eventually eat dinner.

After doing a bit of yelping, we decided on BrasserieTenTen for dinner which was really good! I had the steak frites. Sadly it was very dark in the restaurant so I couldn’t get any good photos to share. My mom ordered the risotto as a side to her trout and it was seriously SO GOOD. Some of the best risotto I’ve ever had – extremely flavorful!

Next up, we headed to Boulder Baked for some freshly baked gluten-free cookies. This place reminded me so much of Insomnia Cookies which is essentially the same concept and was a hallmark of my undergraduate career at NYU.

Full from dinner and dessert, we headed back to our AirBnb for a good night’s rest – we had some hiking to do the next day!

We were originally going to do the 1st and 2nd Flatirons hike, but when we got to the park ranger’s office, we were told that those trails are closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays (we were there on Wednesday). Boo!

So we decided to do the Royal Arch hike instead, which was great! But man, this was a tough one! Granted, I haven’t exercised in 2.5 months since my car accident so to be fair I was a little out of shape. But this is essentially all uphill, so it was quite strenuous.

By the time we got to the Royal Arch, I was veeerrrryy ready for a break (and a sandwich)!

Due to the fires on the West coast, our view was a bit hazy. I don’t know what it normally looks like, but I was still pretty happy with it! (I think you’re normally able to see all the way to Denver, though.) We took our time eating our sandwiches and taking in the view.

We took the easy way back to save us some time and energy and then went to the Boulder Farmer’s Market.

Such a cute little farmer’s market with lots of ready-made foods as well. We decided to eat a bit of dinner here (a few tacos), but let’s be honest, you know we went to Boulder Baked again after this…

How can you pass up a freshly-baked, WARM gluten-free cookie?!

Called it an early night so that we could get up early to drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, do some hiking, and get to our next AirBnb near Grand Lake at a reasonable hour.

This was my favorite day of our trip. Driving through RMNP was AMAZING – so many great views and overlooks. I had to drive the whole way since the rest of my party was a little scared of mountain roads and/or under 25 (and therefore a fortune to add to a rental car policy). Wish I could’ve taken more pics for you, but I’ll share what I was able to take at all our stops!

We even saw a moose!

Our hike this day was incredible and I’m still kicking myself for not bringing my real camera. I was thinking it would be the same difficulty as our previous day’s hike, and I didn’t want to lug around a big camera. But I was wrong – definitely could’ve brought my camera on this one and I would’ve had so many more beautiful photos!

But even with an iPhone, this place did not disappoint. At practically every turn, we were gasping at the beauty.

After finishing this hike, we drove through RMNP (stopping all the way through for almost every overlook, of course!), on our way to Grand Lake. By the time we were nearing our destination it was dusk, and we realized we were there during the elk rut (the mating season), which meant we saw herds of elk hanging around. Very cool to see!

A little after dark, we arrived in Grand Lake and wanted to pick up some dinner to bring to our AirBnb. Almost everything was closed, so we went to the one spot that was open — a Mexican restaurant. Surprisingly pretty good food!

Our next AirBnb was a cute little spot right on Lake Granby. It also had a hot tub, so we jumped in after we finished dinner to relax after a long day of hiking and traveling.

We woke up the next morning to realize our view was quite beautiful!

It was our second-to-last day in Colorado, and we decided to take it easy since we had such a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy.

We picked out a super easy hike (still gorgeous, though!) to give our legs a bit of a break.

Like…how is this gorgeousness even possible?!

For the rest of the day, we hung out on the lake, went in the hot tub and relaxed!

Alas, our last day arrived and we made our way toward Denver. But first, we stopped at Red Rocks Amphitheater which was so cool to see!

Sadly, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend in Denver before our flight, so we ate lunch and walked around a bit to round out our trip!

Traveling so much lately has made me realize how much experiencing new things nourishes me. It’s one of my favorite things to do, especially when I get to be in so much nature the whole time!

At the end of this week, I’m going to Saõ Miguel island off of Portugal with my husband as a kind of anniversary trip (do we get 2 anniversaries?! We married in June, but had our wedding party in October so….).

It’ll be a lot of hiking and nature yet again, so I can’t wait! For my last two trips to North Carolina and Colorado I was working, but this time I’m shutting down the computer (but don’t worry, I’ll still be sharing plenty on Instagram!).

It’s been nonstop travel for the last month, but boy, does it fill my soul with happiness 🙂

Visiting Asheville, NC & Hunting the 2017 Eclipse

I’ve had Asheville, NC on my travel list for a while…and I finally made it out there!

I had heard the food scene was incredible, the hiking fantastic, and there’s about a gazillion breweries and funky shops — what more could you ask for?

My husband and I decided last-minute that we were going to head down to my family’s house on Lake Norman because my family had decided they were going eclipse-hunting…and we wanted to join in!

Since it was only about 2 hours away from Asheville, I figured we should sneak in a weekend getaway to Asheville while we were there, too. 😉

So first we flew down to Charlotte, NC and drove to Lake Norman to spend the night. We were up bright and early the next morning to head to Asheville, but this is what we woke up to:

Why don’t I live on a lake?

Next, we were off to Asheville. We decided to do some hiking on our drive there off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and settled on the short-but-sweet Craggy Pinnacle hike. Not really much of a hike if you ask me (an easy 15 minute walk each way), but the views are fantastic!!

Normally we’d do something a bit longer and more taxing but we wanted to get to Asheville itself by a decent hour and we couldn’t stop pulling over at the overlooks all along the Blue Ridge Parkway! (Note: If you plan to drive at all along the Blue Ridge Parkway, factor in some extra time for those sweet, sweet views.)

Here’s me stopped at one of the overlooks:

I mean…how can you NOT stop every 5 seconds when there’s views like this all around you??

So we did our short Craggy Pinnacle hike…through the tunnels of nature (pictured below)…

…to get to this beautiful 360-degree view:

Wow…

So really, if you’re in the Asheville area…don’t miss out on the beauty that is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even if you don’t have time for a hike, simply driving through it is magical (and is kind of liking hiking in your car anyway).

Next up we headed into Asheville itself!

By the time we got there, it was later in the afternoon. We checked into the Hyatt Place Asheville/Downtown, which did the job just right! As you can imagine, with the eclipse just around the corner, tons of places were sold out but we lucked out and snagged a room here.

Some early morning light and mountain views from the top floor.

We walked around the downtown area and explored the funky shops (ohhhh my, the shops — I was in heaven). Cool clothes, jewelry, art, and more. Such a fun place to shop around!

Then, of course, came dinner! I polled Instagram for suggestions and lots of you recommended Posana and you DID NOT DISAPPOINT. Probably one of the best meals I’ve had in my life.

We started off with some great cocktails (of course).

My husband had the steak with chimichurri (so delicious), and while I had originally intended to go for the duck, I decided to do two appetizers instead since they sounded so good. I went for the smoked pork belly which was amazing…it had fresh blackberries and peaches with it and was just to die for. I also got the scallops which were perfectly cooked (sorry, no pic of this one because it didn’t come out great — we were too excited to eat!).

After dinner, we walked down the street to Wicked Weed brewery and had a drink before we headed to a show at The Orange Peel next door.

The next day, we went to the River Arts District in Asheville because we had heard there was some cool graffiti and we LOVE checking out the graffiti in different cities. Here’s a smattering of some of my favorites.

An Asheville graffiti tour would simply not be complete without a trip to the Good Vibes water tower!

Since our time on the Blue Ridge Parkway was so amazing the day before, we decided we needed to fit in a bit more hiking before we left Asheville! Thankfully, it’s a pretty small city, so we felt like walking around Saturday and a bit of Sunday was a perfect amount of time.

We decided on Graveyard Fields for our hike of the day — not too strenuous, but definitely longer than Saturday’s hike at about 3.5 miles.

I was kicking myself for not coming back a few weeks later for this one because this trail was FULL of blueberry and blackberry bushes. Sadly, we were a little early in the season so we could only get little handfuls of berries here and there. I can only imagine going when they’re prime for the picking! I could see myself spending hours in there just picking berries and stuffing my face…

We hiked to the Upper Falls where there is a huge waterfall. To give us our exercise for the day, we went all the way up to the top of the waterfall for this (slightly terrifying) view.

By the time we were done it was nearing dark, but since we were only a couple of miles away from another recommended spot to check out (psst…thanks for the rec, Kendall!), we had to do it! We drove over to Skinny Dip Falls to rinse off.

WOW that water is cold, you guys! It was nature’s ice bath. But once I was in for a minute or two, my body started to get used to the temperature (or maybe my whole body just went numb – who knows…). Once I got used to it, it was really nice! And luckily, we were there at the end of the day so there weren’t too many people around which made it a really relaxing experience. Highly, highly recommend checking it out if you’re nearby!

We said goodbye to the Blue Ridge Parkway just as the sun set…so, utterly gorgeous.

They don’t call it the Blue Ridge Parkway for no reason…check out that hue!

As a final goodbye to Asheville, we had to stop by Farm Burger for a quick bite before we headed back to Lake Norman. Super yummy burgers (and gluten-free buns, too!), and they carried Buchi kombucha which I wanted to try while I was here, so it was perfect!

I would’ve loved to spend more time in Asheville, but it was time to find the eclipse!

We considered spending another night in Asheville and going to the mountains to watch the eclipse the next day since the weather was supposed to be good there, but we had to be at a birthday party the evening of the eclipse. We just wouldn’t have made it if we were coming back from the mountains!

So we headed back to Lake Norman for the night and left at 5 a.m. the next morning to go to South Carolina to see what we came for!

We had NO idea how the traffic was going to be, but heard it would likely be terrible…hence the 5 a.m. wakeup call. Totally not necessary! We got to South Carolina in no time, hitting practically zero traffic. And other folks we were meeting headed out a lot later than us and also didn’t hit much traffic. So…we had plenty of time to figure out where we wanted to be for the perfect eclipse viewing spot.

None of us had done any research on where we wanted to be other than right off the highway (to make for an easy exit) and somewhere in the Greenville area. Luckily, I ended up finding a great spot that wasn’t well-advertised so we parked and started the wait!

Setting up camp for the day

See that empty parking lot? By the time the eclipse started, it was full of people all sporting their fun eclipse glasses waiting to see this spectacular event.

I’m not going to post any of the photos I attempted to take of the eclipse because, well…they all turned out terrible. I don’t know how people got these great photos of it — mine sucked!

What I can show you is what the surrounding area looked like during totality. A dark sky, with an eternal sunset all around you. Pretty fantastical.

The eclipse itself was really magical to see. I honestly wasn’t too sure what to expect…sure, the moon is going in front of the sun for a minute or two, but so what? Was it really going to be that cool?

YES, yes it was. The crowd starting cheering as the moon fully eclipsed the sun and the beautiful ring of light peeked out from behind the moon… it was just so beautiful.

Knowing what it looks like at 90% totality and 100% totality — there’s just such a massive difference. It’s the kind of event that seems to make time stop.

It was such an amazing experience, I’m already planning to see the one in 2024 when it crosses the New England area. If you didn’t get to see this one, make sure you see that one!

We spent the next few days working from Lake Norman…paddle-boarding, swimming, relaxing, and spending time with family. It was great!

But eventually, it was time to head back to New York City. We drove back this time with my brother and went up through the mountains of Virginia. A beautiful (but long) drive.

When we got hungry, I found us some BBQ at Bonnie Blue. Seriously some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had! I’m dreaming of the day I can go back…

If you’re ever going through the Winchester, VA area…you’d be remiss not to stop by.

 

That’s all for now! Next I’m off to Denver, then after that it’s off to the Azores in Portugal…stay tuned for some more travel posts!