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Five ways to enjoy a week in Colorado.

Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s December now?! Between family, holidays, and roadtrips, I’ve barely had a moment’s peace since arriving in the USA. It’s been that good. Jamie and I arrived in Phoenix, and from there we headed to Denver for Thanksgiving, met up with his sister Kylie, and then drove back south, stopping at Santa Fe, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon along the way. WHEW.

Colorado was amazing, by the way. My aunt and uncle well and truly spoiled us with their swanky remodeled basement digs and A+ homestyle cooking. New Mexico-style pork chili, smoked brisket, homemade biscuits and gravy. What a great place to camp out for a few days.

Do: Enjoy Thanksgiving (if you are me, or one of my relatives, or if we just like you)

My family and I drove from Phoenix to Denver, 13 hours one way, for a big ol’ Griswold Family Thanksgiving get-together. Worth it. My springtime quasi-Thanksgivings that I put on back in Australia just aren’t the same. I can take or leave the cutesy decorations — gourds, fake autumn leaves, scarecrow dolls — but the cornerstones of Thanksgiving are the people and the food, obviously, and you can’t beat those. We had relatives arrive from out of state, along with those of us who live an entire hemisphere away from everyone else (me, my partner, my sister-in-law). Not a bad effort.

My aunt’s kitchen was a busy place in the week leading up to the big day. I didn’t contribute to the spread AT ALL because it was so enthusiastically covered by everyone else. I just got to grab a plate, fill ‘er up and dig in. Thanks, family. You’re the best.

Do: Visit Boulder

Boulder has a reputation for being full of pot-smoking mountaineers, because it is. I like it there. We found ourselves at the Pearl Street Mall on the day after Thanksgiving. It was Black Friday but we weren’t out for DOORBUSTER DEALZ, we just wanted to wander around interesting city streets and grab some coffee. I did get books from the Boulder Bookstore, though. Because books.

They’d already strung up Christmas lights, so everything was feeling festive. They’d also turned on the good weather for us; 70 F on Thanksgiving day. Fantastic.

Do: Go to Rocky Mountain National Park (Bear Lake in particular)

Purple mountain majesty for days. The road to the summit was closed due to weather, so we (the twenty-somethings) piled into a car and headed to Bear Lake, which still sits at a cool 9500ft elevation. Snow! SNOW. If you’re from southern Arizona, or from anywhere in Australia, that cold powdery white stuff is straight up otherworldly.

Hiking through snow was a fun, sometimes startling novelty. Startling when you discover that A) the snow-packed trail is a good 18 inches above the soil and B) you can and will sink calf-high into the snow once you stumble off the trail.

It’d be such a different experience in summer, but equally beautiful.

Do: Spend time in Denver (downtown)

Downtown Denver is all right. It feels vaguely like Any City, USA, but with a mountain backdrop. Just like a can of Coors.

We hit up the Great Divide Brewery downtown, because of course we’re gonna visit the local breweries. (We also went to Boulder Brewing Co and Oskar Blues.) Their Colette Saison Ale tasted even better right from the source. I like my Belgians.

Do: Spend time in Denver (inner-city)

We happened to be in town at the same time as two of my ex-roommates, Kim and Eva (hi guys!) so we all met up for a Creole-style brunch on Sunday and wandered around these cute neighbourhoods, Baker and Highlands. Some of these little houses were so adorable I could hardly stand it. There’s so much character detail! I’d happily create my own lush little garden paradise in one of them, although I also liked this one yard that just had veggie beds out front.

The mercury dropped very abruptly and the chill began to sink through our coats and beanies, so that was our opportunity to hit the road and make it to Santa Fe before nightfall.

We’re all back in Phoenix now, taking a breather before going cross-country to New York for a few days. Jamie and I will then go to Mexico, and then come back to Phoenix for Christmas. I miss Casa Saltbush, and I hope my cat isn’t being too shy around our house-sitter, but it’s great to be home.

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