Friday, July 29, 2016

Denver/ Geowoodstock 14er Trip

Brandon and I took a small 3-day trip to Denver, Colorado to participate in America's largest Geocaching Event.  GeoWoodstock is a geocaching Mega Event that attracts people from all over the world.  Last year, Brandon and I had the opportunity to attend the event in Boonsboro, Maryland. We had a great time that we decided to go again this year; however, the event this year took place in Denver!

This would be my second time in Colorado.  When we took our roadtrip out West during our move, we drove straight through Colorado on I-25 South.  Yes, I thought it was beautiful, but didn't actually see its beauty until this trip.

We left Flagstaff on July 1, since I booked a three-night campsite at Cherry Creek State Park on the Southeast part of Denver. I wanted to leave around 6am, but we didn't actually hit the road until 7:30am.  Which meant, that we probably won't get to the state park until 8:30 or 9pm.  This can be a problem sometimes because parks and even other campgrounds sometimes lock the gates around 10pm or 11pm.

The Four Corners

Well, since we were making the 11 - 12 hour trek to Denver, we decided to add an extra 45 minutes to check out the ever famous Four Corners National Monument!  This has been on my bucket list ever since I learned about it in the 5th grade.  At this location, you have the opportunity to be in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado at the same time!  I guess if you want to get technical, you are actually in the Navajo Nation the entire time...but hey, it's still pretty cool!
So, this place is your typical tourist trap.  I think we ended up paying $5 a person, which is actually pretty expensive.  The weather was very overcast, but that didn't stop us from checking out this unique location.  We parked and used the disgusting toilets.  Then, we walked up to the monument and stood in line for almost twenty minutes to get our picture taken.  Luckily, the people in line were courteous and even took pictures for each other.  Once we took our pictures, we walked around to each of the different states.  As we were walking back to the car, it began to pour!

The Road Less Traveled? 

Foggy in Pagosa Springs, CO
Instead of jumping on I-25 North, we decided to take the longer, but scenic route to Denver.  We first drove through Mancos and then Durango.  Unfortunately, it was raining during this trip, but seeing the beautiful mountains was nice.  We drove through the San Juan National Forest, and stopped in Pagosa Springs to check out the awesome fog.  We continued North and went through the Rio Grande National Forest and eventually the San Isabel National Forest.  We reached an elevation of almost 11,000 feet and experienced temperatures in the 40s! 
We ended up arriving at Cherry Creek State Park around 8:30ish.  The office was open until 9pm, but there was not locked gate, so we could of came in later that night.  The State Park was really nice and was weird because it was in the city, but not in the city.  It w was definitely cheaper than a hotel room, though. 

Pikes Peak

On Saturday, the plan was to explore America's most famous mountain-- Pikes Peak!  This would be my first 14er, which was exciting for me.  However, we received a notification saying that the road was closed at 11,000 ft because the fog was too intense to drive up.  We were in a pickle!  I had planned our whole Saturday on doing Pikes, and didn't have a back up plan.  I suggested to Brandon that we could try to do Mt. Evans, another 14er, but we had no idea what the road conditions were like.  I also suggested checking out Rocky Mountain National Park.  Brandon decided for us to just go ahead and drive to Colorado Springs.  I said that we could do the Garden of the Gods if the road was still closed when we got there.  Well, we ended up getting there around 12:30pm, and they were letting people up the mountain.  When it was our turn to pay our admission, the ranger said that they had just opened the road back up so we could get to the top!
Clouds rolling away on Pikes Peak
The drive up the 16-18 miles was beautiful.  It was very similar to our drive yesterday.  It took us right around 45 minutes to get up the mountain.  When we go up there, the temperature was 34 degrees! We came prepared with our winter jackets, beanies, and gloves.  We were already wearing pants.  I was surprised of the amount of people who were in shorts with no jackets.  I remember seeing some people walking around with blankets on.  
We took our picture with the summit sign, and checked out the highest gift store in America.  We bought some cute souvenirs and then walked around to grab some of the geocaches. We probably walked around for a good hour taking some pictures.  It was really cloudy from all of the rain that was in the system.  In fact, it started to snow at one point!  
There was a brief moment when the clouds disappeared, and we were able to get some awesome pictures.  Before we went down the mountain, we went back into the store to get the world famous donuts.  Apparently, yeast cannot rise at 14,000 ft, so they have to use special ingredients to make the donuts rise.  I thought that they were good, but nothing too special. 
This was probably the highlight of my trip. Although we drove up, it was still beautiful and should be on everyone's bucket list.  Maybe one day i'll hike up it! 

The Oldest Geocache in Colorado

So as we got off the mountain, we quickly parked at the admission gate to use the restroom before heading back North to Denver.  As Brandon was getting out, a strange white vehicle parked directly behind us, and it was our friends Pat and David from Georgia!  They were trying to get up the mountain, but the had closed the gates already.  They said that that were now on their way to get the oldest geocaching in Colorado, so we decided to join them since it was only 30 miles away.  We got within 500 feet of the cache and hiked into the woods.  Apparently, the cache-owner had a birthday party at ground zero for the cache since it  was the 16 anniversary of its placement date.  The owner had cake and everything.  However, we missed the owner and the cake but still found the geocache in the woods.  This marks as the 7th state that we found the oldest cache in.  We spent the rest of our evening with Pat and David finding caches until we hit Colorado Springs.  We ate dinner at this BBQ place called Rudy's.  The BBQ sure did hit the spot! I got a baked potato with smoked turkey, since it was suggested by the police officer that was in line ahead of us. 

GeoWoodstock Mega Event

Geocache at the mega event
Brandon and I had a nice time at the event.  We spent the entire day there socializing and learning tips and tricks with our favorite hobby.  We saw some friends from Georgia, and I got a elk burger from a food truck! It was really hot and humid out, but we enjoyed ourselves. The same event will happen again next year, but this time in North Carolina, so we might have to make a trip out there! :)

Breweries Galore!

Jagged Moutain Flight
Colorado is known for craft breweries, and this year, the GeoWoodstock team did the lab caches based on a craft beer tour!  So, you go to the breweries and you get the password to claim a find for the lab cache.  On Friday, we stopped at Denver Beer Co. and enjoyed some pints.  This brewery had this "hipster" vibe, but it was still cool.  I ended up getting a raspberry wheat beer, which reminded me of a beer from Prescott Brewery in Arizona.  On Sunday, we stopped at Jagged Mountain Brew for a flight.  They had a lot of interesting beer choices.  My favorite for that brewery was the Cherry Wheat beer! Yum!  There are soooo many breweries in Denver; I would definitely like to go back someday.
After we were done at Jagged Mountain, we walked a few blocks over to the Mile High Spirits Distillery.  The bartender at Jagged said that they have the best Moscow Mules.  Well, they did!  They make their own vodka and ginger beer mix.  It was delicious!  We only had one drink there because we were getting tired.  So many good drinks in the city! 

The Trip Back Home

Colorado River at Glenwood Springs Rest Area
I looked at the map and saw that there was yet another way to get back to Flagstaff that wasn't I-25/I-40 bound.  We jumped on I-70 West and went through the Arapaho National Forest.  It was once again beautiful!  We also stopped at a rest area in Glenwood Springs, and IT WAS THE BEST REST AREA EVER!  I had to use the restroom, but this rest area gave you access to the Colorado River, and a bike trail.  It was so beautiful and just awesome.  
We ate lunch in Grand Junction at a Wendy's because the local burger joint that we wanted to try was closed on the July 4th.  We drove through Utah, and headed South to Moab.  The drive back wasn't that bad, but once we hit Moab, I was ready to be back home.

Overall, this was a great trip, and it made me fall in love with Colorado.  I have several friends that love Colorado, and now I understand why!  I wouldn't mind finding a job in that state! :) 

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