United States of Colorado
There is a perfect place in Colorado for a person from every state in the union.
Alabama – Fort Collins, Colorado
Best Day Trip: Fort Collins
At 5,280 feet above sea level, Denver is 2,873 feet above the 2,407 foot Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in the Heart of Dixie. Alabamans will already be gasping for air when they take in the beauty of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains during an afternoon drive up Interstate 25 to Fort Collins.
But the sight of the bold letter “A,” seen on the hogback above Colorado State University’s Hughes Stadium against the crimson-colored Colorado sunset, will seem like a vision from home and may just take their breath away.
Alaska – Black Hawk, Colorado
The cost of living in Alaska is sky-high, and so are the paychecks. Alaskans’ money may not go very far back home, but in Colorado, they’ll feel like tycoons with money to throw away. What better place to unload cabin-fever cash than a trip to Black Hawk?
Colorado and Alaska share a few similar state-building histories. The Pikes Peak and Yukon gold rushes were the population-generators that propelled the two territories to statehood. Alaskans are still used to funding state projects with dividends from the extraction of Prudhoe Bay; they should be interested in seeing how Colorado has learned to raise state coffer chump change by scraping away all historical remnants of its gold-extraction heyday and replacing them with modern-day penny-, nickel- and quarter-extracting casinos.
American Samoa – Pikes Peak
American Samoa consists of seven tropical islands and two atolls. The steep volcanic slopes of the islands drop into the flat, vast blue of the South Pacific. The trip up to the top of Pikes Peak may seem oddly similar, only the visible flat, vast blue is land, not ocean, and it is teeming with cows and corn, not tuna and coral reefs. The drive up to the top can be made in two hours; however, American Samoans may want to take the cog railway. The advantage of taking the rail over an automobile is that it may be done in “Samoan time” -- meaning it will take twice as long as driving. However, be warned, conductors make sure that the train will run on time, and they aren’t allowed to make unscheduled stops to visit relatives or take naps.
Arizona – Highland neighborhood of Denver, Colorado
Arizonans live in a state of spectacular scenery and urban sprawl. A day trip outside the city of Denver would only be more of both. The one thing that an Arizonan will never see in Arizona is a vibrant, historic neighborhood that can be accessed on foot. A stroll down the 16th Street Mall, through Commons Park and over the Highland Pedestrian Bridge will be a revelation to a resident from the Grand Canyon State. From their comfy sidewalk seats at any Highland cafe, they can watch the local hipsters go about their trendy lives of fusion cuisine and shagged-pixie hairstyles in turn-of-the-(previous)-century buildings.
Arkansas – Royal Gorge
The tie that binds the state of Arkansas to the state of Colorado is the Arkansas River. At 1,469 miles, it is the sixth-longest river in the United States. A pilgrimage to the headwaters is a must for Arkansans. While the residents of both states may use the river for boating and fishing, the rafts and brown trout in Colorado will bear no resemblance to the barges and catfish of Arkansas. The river falls an average of 65 feet per mile through this steep-walled granite canyon of the Royal Gorge, and provides as much in scenery as it does in sensation. Overhead, the Royal Gorge bridge, the world’s highest suspension bridge, spans the gorge fully two times higher than the Metropolitan National Bank Tower, the tallest building in Arkansas.
California – Boulder, Colorado
California visitors to Colorado will be amazed at the hospitality of Denver citizens. Outside the city limits, Coloradans aren’t quite as friendly, but they’re still accepting -- of other people’s credit cards, at least.
“Don’t Californicate Colorado” bumperstickers proliferate from Greeley to Grand Junction -- but not in Boulder. This university town is a little bit of Santa Barbara, Berkeley and Venice Beach all rolled into one. The city of Boulder butts up to the Rocky Mountains against the backdrop of the Flatirons, those dynamic sedimentary rock formations arched up like the edges of a shuffled deck of cards.
Within this astounding landscape, Boulderites welcome Californians with open wallets and wild didgeridoo solos all along the Pearl Street Mall. Californians can cool their heels in street fountains and frolic with footbaggers in front of the beautiful art deco Boulder County Courthouse.
Connecticut – Beaver Creek
Most Americans probably think that the vast mountain scenery in Colorado is free for the viewing, but it’s not true. The Colorado Rockies have all been aesthetically ranked, economically apportioned and offered by price points. Luckily, Connecticut has the highest per capita income of all the states in the union, and Nutmeggers will get to see and enjoy the best of what Colorado has to offer with some fly fishing up in Beaver Creek, just outside of Vail.
It’ll cost plenty, but the nice thing is that this day trip just keeps getting better with the amount of money that gets spent. Add-ons include an hour-and-a-half family horseback ride along a rushing stream to a remote meadow, a personal fly-fishing guide and a sommelier. Not to mention a post-catch massage that exfoliates the skin with the essential oils pressed from nearby wildflowers while a celebrity chef prepares trout in a blend of wild herbs infused in fresh-churned mule deer butter – obtained locally from the animals grazing on tender Aspen shoots. This is the kind of Colorado experience that used to be enjoyed by natives but now only a Nutmegger can afford!
Delaware – Grand Lake, Colorado
No resident of Delaware is more than thirty miles from the shore, but none of them has ever seen a hill. The highest natural point in Delaware, Ebright Azimuth, has an elevation of 447.85 feet above sea level. Clearly, it is important for every Delaware visitor to make a trip up into the Colorado Rockies. An excursion up to Grand Lake will allow Delawareans to be close to the water they love.
The spectacular Cascade Falls and Shadow Mountain hiking trails that lead into Rocky Mountain National Park can be accessed from the shores of Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake. Private lodges ring the lake with expansive porches teeming with easy chairs. These are the perfect places for Delawareans to read their favorite mystery novels – which they love.
After an exhilarating day in the thin air at water’s edge, a visit to the ice cream parlors and taffy shops in Grand Lake Village will seem like a déjà vu visit to Rehoboth Beach.
Washington, D.C. – Red Rocks Mountain Park
From the reflecting pools between the Lincoln and Washington monuments to the nineteen-foot Duncan Phyfe chair at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and V Street in Anacostia, D.C.’s many landmarks are highlighted in the broad vistas of the city's street plan.
DCers who have grown accustomed to living in a landscape of monuments will be amazed to see that in Colorado, the natural landscape is the monument.
Red Rocks Park Amphitheatre is owned and operated by the City of Denver and is, without a doubt, the most important piece of architecture in the state of Colorado. This magnificent structure was designed by Denver native Burnham Hoyt and was built by the workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1936 and 1941 with funds provided by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program.
The amphitheatre houses a Visitor Center, where DCers can vote to induct their favorite musicians into the Red Rocks Performers’ Hall of Fame. And to prove to friends back in D.C. that life does exist outside the Beltway, the neighboring Red Rocks Trading Post carries the best Denver souvenirs in the state.
Florida – Tiny Town, Colorado
Florida, the flattest state in the union, is 50% water. The rest of the state is predominantly decaying sawgrass and cypress trees on top of which America’s largest amusement parks and tourist attractions have been built. Sunshine Staters will quickly see that Colorado, the highest state in the union, is truly everything that Florida is not.
South of Denver on U.S. 285, the rolling hills of suburbia quickly erupt into hogbacks filled with dinosaur fossils. Tiny Town is nestled in a small canyon just about where the foothills turn into the Rocky Mountains. Turkey Creek Canyon leaves little room to build a real town or tourist attraction, so a miniature version of one disguised as the other has been built.
Tiny Town is filled with replicas of Colorado’s most famous buildings. The diminutive dwellings vary in size and degrees of craftsmanship and are spread out far enough not to be able to see the difference. Floridians who are not in peak hiking condition can still see everything from the seats of a miniature train. And while baking away in the punishing Colorado summer sun, without a glut of tourist-y souvenir shops around, they can fully savor the flavor of a tourist attraction that can’t be found in Florida.
Georgia – Russel Gulch, Colorado
If states could be related, Georgia would be Colorado’s closest next of kin. Colorado’s written history is lousy with Georgians, from expeditious John C. Fremont, who surveyed the Arkansas River Valley, to Lewis Ralston, William Greeneberry Russell and John H. Gregory, who discovered gold and created thousands of jobs.
Without Georgians, Colorado would still be Kansas. The clearest way to illustrate this point is with a quick trip west on U.S. Highway 6. In the middle of Clear Creek Canyon, follow the casino buses up Colorado 119 for another six miles and turn left on Gregory Street. The road traverses Gregory Gulch, the site of Colorado’s first gold strike and location of the historic mining towns of Black Hawk and Central City. At Spring Street, follow Colorado 279 up over Quartz Hill into Russell Gulch. Here sits the ghost town named for the Georgian prospector who panned more than $20,000 worth of gold in 1859. It is pure Colorado, with a Georgia twist. Surrounded by windswept hills scarred with ore dumps, this is the perfect place to contemplate how Georgians have helped define Colorado — and how the state remains haunted by their ghosts.
Hawaii – Longmont, Colorado
The Civil War was very good for Hawaii. Southern sugar was no longer available to satisfy America’s sweet tooth, and the incredible demand created the Hawaiian sugar industry. Profits remained high for one hundred years, and virtually all of the roads, railroads and ports were built by the state’s leading industry.
Land, labor and water costs are now so high that Hawaii’s agrarian economy has changed into a tourism and service economy. The sugarcane fields are being developed into strip malls and condos – just like Colorado. Hawaiians will feel right at home in Longmont, just 37 miles north of Denver on Interstate 25. The town is built around the site of the (now abandoned) Great Western sugar-beet refinery, and both are surrounded by the rolling farmlands that sit in the shadow of the 14,255-foot granite mass of Longs Peak.
The landscape and agricultural history of Hawaii’s coastal plain has the look and feel of Colorado’s rural front range. (See them quick before they’re both covered with Wal-Marts.) A visit to the Longmont Museum, at 400 Quail Road, will provide further information on the short, sweet life of Colorado’s own sugar history.
Idaho – Idaho Springs, Colorado
The word “Idaho” was invented by eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing as a name for a new territory in the Rocky Mountains that was being organized by Congress in 1861. When word got out, the residents of Jackson’s Diggings (at the confluence of Clear Creek and Chicago Creek west of Golden) quickly changed the name of their town to Idaho Springs and waited to cash in on the notoriety. The town’s name stuck, even after the new territory was named Colorado. The "Idaho hoax" was perpetrated on another territory carved out of eastern Washington State in 1863.
Today, Idaho Springs, Colorado, will immediately appeal to all Idahoans. Not only do they share some history, but the demographics of the town and the state are remarkably similar. Idahoans will feel right at home in this small town where every resident is a bit of an oddball, men still wear those ’70s mustaches and all services are delayed so the locals in the line can gossip. Don’t hurry them! Remember, they’re handling your food and cleaning your motel room, both of which Idahoans will need after an invigorating swim at the Indian Hot Springs Pool. Relax and enjoy. This is the best place to take the healing waters and absorb all that Colorado has to offer without getting soaked.
Illinois – Chicago Creek
Illinois is home to the tallest building in North America. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Illinois visitors drive to the top of Mount Evans on the highest paved road in North America. Illinoisans won’t be able to see their Sears Tower, but they will be able to follow the place names of their own home state. Travel west on I-70 to exit 240, where the interchange virtually covers the site of the Chicago Mining Company, the state’s first large-scale mining operation.
From there, follow Colorado Highway 103 south along Chicago Creek as it climbs up to Echo Lake Park. The 617-acre park sits at 10,600 feet above sea level. Picnic shelters of the Denver Mountain Park system were designed by Illinois native Jacques Benedict. The 1920s-era stone and timber lodge offers restaurant services, souvenirs and restrooms.
Just past the park is the Mount Evans road. Colorado Highway 5 climbs to Summit Lake Park, which, at 13,001 feet, is the City of Denver’s highest park. The road ends at the parking lot of the Crest House, a restaurant that burned down on September 1, 1979, and was never rebuilt. A short path skirts the stone remains and leads to the 14,264-foot summit of Mount Evans, named for Colorado’s second territorial governor as appointed by President Abraham Lincoln. John Evans was also the namesake for Evanston, Illinois, and is known for being one of the founders of both Northwestern University and the University of Denver.
Indiana – Victor, Colorado
Despite their wide array of eccentricities, the one thing that all Indianans share is the conservative belief in the Golden Rule. They are the Americans who are the most willing to share the bounty of their earthly pleasures with the less fortunate. America’s finest example of Hoosier hospitality can be found near Victor, in the Cripple Creek Gold district some fifty miles west of Colorado Springs, off U.S. Highway 24. This is where Jeffersonville, Indiana, native Winfield Scott Stratton struck gold on July 4, 1891. His Independence Mine made him very rich — and incomprehensibly generous. Examples of his charity include buying delivery bikes for every washerwoman, whole trolley systems for Colorado towns, and homes for the needy.
Stratton gave away nearly all of his fortune. And as much as he liked to help people, the socially awkward millionaire preferred his solitude. There’s plenty of that in Victor today. Most of the Independence Mine was hauled away for scrap metal in 1928, and the site of the mine and mill were off-limits to law-abiding citizens until 2005, when it was opened as part of an interpretive hiking trail. Indiana visitors can access the trail from downtown Victor. Maps and information about the Indianan heart of gold, in the heart of Colorado, can be found at the Lowell Thomas Museum as well as Victor City Hall.
Iowa – Buffalo Bill's Grave, Lookout Mountain
As all Iowa teenagers know, life in the midwest can be totally boring. In a world full of attractions, it’s hard to keep the kids down on the farm. Back in 1857, a farmer’s life of toil from sunup to sundown held little interest for William Frederick Cody. So at the age of eleven, the Iowa native hired on as a scout for the railroad. In short order, he earned the nickname “Buffalo” Bill for the sharpshooting skills he employed to clear the rails of those magnificent beasts of his namesake.
Later, as a frontiersman, he led wealthy businessmen and European royalty on hunting trips throughout the West. He was a natural showman and decided to create his own spectacular, called “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.” The theatrical re-enactments included battles, hunts, shooting displays, trick roping and races between people and animals. The show was as much entertainment as it was an effort to preserve the disappearing myth of the West as it brought it to life.
In 1894, Denver newspaperman Henry Tammen tricked Cody into signing a contract that handed over complete control of the Wild West Show and kept Cody on as a mere employee and salaried attraction. As bad as that sounds, in 1917 Tammen strong-armed Cody’s widow into burying her husband’s remains in a park west of Denver, against his wishes to be laid to rest in Cody, Wyoming. Iowans can visit the site of their native son on Lookout Mountain. The grave overlooks the city that forces him in death, as in life, to toil from sunup to sundown as a tourist attraction.
Kansas – Mount Democrat
The state of Kansas entered the union at a time of chaos. It is the only state in which the citizens were allowed to vote for a pro-slavery or free state constitution. The territory of "Bleeding Kansas" was then infiltrated by free-state abolitionists and pro-slavery border ruffians and pre-Civil War skirmishes were common and catastrophic.
Miners trying to strike it rich at the far western edge of Kansas territory (in present day Park County Colorado) were not immune from the conflict and bickered over the naming of new landmarks honoring old heroes and events from home. The Mosquito Range formed the western boundary of the Kansas Territory. The peaks in this group are all named for Civil War Republican heroes, with the rebellious Mount Democrat renamed as an act of restitution.
Since they love a good challenge, Kansans are ideally suited to ascend to the summit of the 14,148-foot Mount Democrat. From Denver, take U.S. Highway 285 south to Fairplay. Turn north on Colorado Highway 9 and drive six miles to downtown Alma, then follow the sign to Kite Lake. The trail starts at the lake and climbs the northeast face of Mount Democrat with a series of well-worn switchbacks. From Mount Democrat, a Kansas delegate can easily “bag” the nearby “Republican” peaks of Mount Lincoln (14,238 feet) and Mount Bross (14,172 feet). Happy trails.
Kentucky – Breckenridge, Colorado
In November 1859, General George E. Spencer platted an ambitious 320-acre site in Colorado’s Blue River Valley. He named it after President James Buchanan’s vice president, John Cabell Breckinridge, a lawyer and politician from the state of Kentucky, in hopes that the flattery would win the community the first post office in western Colorado. The plan was a huge success — and a big mistake. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Breckinridge received a commission as a Confederate Brigadier General and was promptly expelled from the U.S. Senate for treason. The embarrassed little town quickly changed the spelling of its name to Breckenridge, changing the first “i” to an “e.”
And the changes to Breckenridge didn't stop there. Between 1898 and 1942, the two-story-tall Tiger #1 gold dredge pontoon boat tore its way through the town, digging up all vegetation and Victorian structures in its path. What remains of the gold rush town has been developed into a ski town that is home to 33,000 people at the peak of the ski season.
Visiting Kentuckians will find that the 3,126 permanent residents live in a stunningly beautiful landscape and fill their days with extreme bike stunts choreographed to bluegrass chamber music. That may sound like bourbon-fueled fantasy, but Breckenridge is the Colorado town that best captures the spirit of an old Kentucky home.
Louisiana – Vail, Colorado
We know from news stories that the rich creolization of Louisiana’s Spanish, French, African and Caribbean cultures is celebrated around the state with frequent all-night dancing and jazz festivals. We also know that Louisiana ranks last in the nation for everything from school funding to physical fitness, and first in per capita production of toxic waste. We know from watching the TV coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the Jena Six trial that the broadcast media is incapable of explaining the cultural complexities of Louisiana. And, we know from watching movies that when left in their own homes, Louisianans prefer to sit and sweat in their underwear while being yelled at by loved ones from the rain-greased streets below.
While in Colorado, Louisianans can cool their heated passions in Vail. Unlike the nearly 500-year-old Louisianan culture, steeped in a stew of voodoo and Catholicism, the trendy ski town is only fifty years old and has no past. Since its founding, Vail has been rebuilt three times, to add the latest in comfort technology and remove any hint of outdated style. Nothing is left to chance. Everything has been calculated by corporate professionals to relax visitors into comfortably paying a lot of money for the little things in life, like cool air and dry pavement. In the big picture, Vail is the antidote to Louisiana. Stella!
Maine – Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
For the last century, Maine has been known as “Vacationland.” It’s only fitting, then, that automobile tourism was introduced to Colorado by a native of Kingfield, Maine. In 1903, inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley arrived at the Lyons, Colorado, train depot. Stanley suffered from tuberculosis and had come out west at the suggestion of his doctor. He brought along his latest invention, the Stanley Steamer automobile. The 53-year-old, 118-pound invalid was hoping to hire a young man to assist him in fetching stream water during the drive up the dusty little stage road to Estes Park, but he met only resistance. He made the trip alone, and did it in one hour and fifty minutes. He stayed for the next 37 years. He fell in love with the area, and it’s easy to see why. Estes Park is an expansive upland meadow ringed by a remarkable group of mountains that are split and gouged by gulches and canyons and dotted with glacial lakes. Overlooking the spectacular variety of scenery is the historic Stanley Hotel.
Starting in 1909, the first guests arrived by a fleet of Stanley Steamer automobiles dispatched from the train station in Loveland, some 31 miles east of Estes Park. The vehicles are still on display, but today’s guests are often more interested in the ghosts of room 217, which were immortalized in (Portland, Maine, native) Stephen King’s novel The Shining. Employees have also seen apparitions and heard children’s voices in room 418. The sounds of piano-playing coming from the empty music room are said to be songs played by the ghost of Stanley himself, welcoming guests to his Vacationland in Colorado.
Massachusetts – Logan County Courthouse in Sterling, Colorado
For the first 350 years of our history, Massachusetts set the standard for American educational and political thought. Not anymore. Today’s school students, who are increasingly being educated in charter schools, have little interest in learning about the Boston Tea Party. Meanshile, today’s Tea Party pundits continue to compare the “liberal” nature of Massachusetts public policy to mental illness. What better way for Massachusetts visitors to see the "real" America than with a drive through northeastern Colorado?
Interstate 76 north out of Denver runs right through Fort Morgan, the heart of Colorado Tea Party politics. There is nothing to fear out here in Colorado’s fourth congressional district; these Coloradans are actually the friendliest residents in the state. Bay Staters will quickly learn that the scary politics of the area add up to little more than a love of guns, a hate of Denver, a fear of God and His smiting of generous farm subsidies.
The highlight of the trip is a visit to the Logan County Courthouse in Sterling. In the hallways of the main floor, local history is interpreted in the lacquer-happy paintings of outsider artist Eugene Carara. Collectively, the pictures illustrate the people’s progress through perseverance in the face of prairie hardships. For Massachusettsans, these historic vignettes will be like taking a look back into their own future.
Michigan – Rambler Ranch in Elizabeth, Colorado
Don’t expect to see cattle: The herd here consists of over 600 restored AMC classic cars. The American Motors Corporation began as a merger between independent automakers Nash and Hudson and was based in Southfield, Michigan. Company president George Romney, father of 2008 Republican presidential candidate
Mitt Romney, also served as 43rd governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969. The manufacturing plant was located in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and turned out Ramblers, Gremlins, Pacers and Eagles. The “wrangler” at Rambler Ranch, Terry Gale, rounds up each of these models and displays them as fine art. Gale's museum includes an 18,000-square-foot Hall of Ramblers situated in chronological order from 1958 to 1988. The collection is the largest in the world and is enhanced by a mouthwatering array of motoring memorabilia from the golden age of American gas stations.
To see this private collection, which is equally important to Michigan and Wisconsin history, delegates need to plan their visit now. Start with Internet searches to find the Rambler Ranch’s museum contact info, then arrange your “stampede” to this spectacular spread on the high plains south of Denver. To review: Rambler Ranch is not open to the public. Entry is granted only to members of groups who have scheduled their visit in advance.
Minnesota – Twin Sisters Peaks near Allenspark, Colorado
This day trip pays homage to the Minnesotan personality in every detail. It’s dull at the start, a challenge in the middle, and spectacular in the end. The hike up Twin Sisters Peaks also honors the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Located on Colorado Highway 7 near Allenspark, the large sign for the turnoff for the Twin Sisters trailhead is located on the east side of the highway.
Much like a Minnesotan, the hike starts out rather stoically, making its way through a uniform lodgepole-pine forest that rarely varies for the first three miles. However, the elevation change in this distance exceeds the entire 1,700-foot difference between the highest and lowest points in the state of Minnesota! Near the four-mile mark, the trail starts a rugged ascension above timberline, where the Twin Sisters start to reveal themselves. Well-worn switchbacks lead to a small rocky saddle between the summits. From here, the west peak (much like Minneapolis) is more accessible and easily reached, while the east peak route (like St. Paul) is less traveled. From either location, the 360-degree views of nearby Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker and the entire Estes Park valley are simply unparalleled. The keen eye can see into the upper reaches of Mill’s Moraine in Rocky Mountain National Park to the west and watch the Great Plains fade into the eastern horizon.
Mississippi – Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Religious belief is not a private matter in Mississippi. Every resident must belong to a church and publicly identify its name and denomination and state the frequency of his or her weekly visits. This information is required on everything from job applications, loan forms and gym memberships to business cards, social networking websites and political campaign materials.
To the Mississippian accustomed to the fervent folk-art-covered Margaret’s Grocery in Vicksburg and the transcendent solos of the Mississippi Mass Choir’s Mother Burke, Denver may seem like a town without Jesus. But fear not. Just raise your heads and drive your cars south on Interstate 25 toward Colorado Springs. Colorado’s second-largest city is home to dozens of evangelical organizations and mega-churches — not that any visitor would ever know it. This is not a city of personal expression. Devotion to the Lord is shown through the size of glass-covered office buildings and acreage of parking lots.
Mississippians should instead take exit 146, turn right onto Garden of the Gods Road and head toward the mountains for 2.5 miles. Turn left at 30th Street. The road will take you to the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center. By all means, park the car, get out and go forth, raise your eyes and rejoice unto the power and the glory. In this strange garden of "colossal monstrosities, all motionless and silent, with the strange look of having been stopped and held back at the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe," parishioners can contemplate the pale-pink joke of pious pursuit. But it’s a lot more fun if you bring a picnic.
Just ask fellow Mississippi natives, Elvis and Oprah.
Missouri – Estes Park, Colorado
Missouri is known as the Show-Me State, presumably because notoriously skeptical residents want visual proof. On this day trip you will get your fill. U.S. Route 36 runs through Missouri, from Hannibal in the east to St. Joseph in the west. After its mad dash through Kansas and the high plains of Colorado, the highway makes a glorious entrance into the Colorado Rockies at Lyons, then comes to an abrupt end on the western shore of Lake Estes. It’s a fitting end, because it was here, underneath the waters of this man-made reservoir, that Missourian Joel Estes built his log cabin and in 1860 became the first permanent resident of what would come to be known as Estes Park, Colorado.
Joel Estes thought he was going to be a rancher, but the brutally cold winters and the non-stop stream of summer tourists changed all that. This is no Branson, though, and he didn’t give up ranching to raise a barn and put on a show. Colorado’s longest-running tourist attraction has never been famous for staged entertainment; the scenery has always been the star here. And today the best seats for the show are on pontoon boats rented from the Lake Estes Marina. While floating above the original Estes family homestead, fellow Show-Me staters can see the rugged peaks of the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park, the distant wildflower meadows and the vast expanse of the ever-changing Colorado sky. A sunset boat ride is more spectacular even than a Branson grand finale with all eight Duttons playing each other’s fiddles. Estes Park’s encore performance takes place at dusk, when the elk come down to drink water and bugle at the blood-red sky. That’ll show you.
Central City, Colorado
Teller Hotel and Opera House.
Arrowhead Golf Course
Devil's Head Fire Lookout
Eldorado Springs Pool
Montana – South Platte River bike trail to downtown Littleton, Colorado
Colorado’s landscape is almost the same as Montana’s, only with seven times the number of people. Any Montanan taking a summer day trip into Colorado’s Front Range will only be annoyed by all the Justin Timberlake and Faith Hill clones driving their Lexus SUVs while yakking on cell phones in high-country gridlock traffic. For a more civilized excursion, and a chance to enjoy things that are not even available in Montana, take a bike-n-ride light-rail trip to historic downtown Littleton.
The most enjoyable trip starts at B-station in downtown Denver, there are dozens. A B-cycle can be rented for an $8.00 access fee and $1.00 per hour rental rate. With the bike, hop aboard the “D Line” and enjoy a scenic ride to Littleton. Detrain at the historic downtown Littleton station. Littleton got its start in 1862, when New Hampshirite Richard S. Little built his farm and flour mill and platted out his town. A rich rural history guarantees that everything in Littleton was built with loving hands. And since that time, loving pocketbooks have kept the place alive and in great condition. It’s a great spot to eat, drink (try McKinner’s Pizza Bar at 2389 West Main Street), shop for Kenny Be postcards at Williow - An Artisan's Market at 2400 W. Main St.
To head back to Denver, head your bikes over to the intersection of W. Alamo Ave. and South Prince St, (across the parking lot from the train station), and follow S. Prince St. past the Arapahoe Community College building to the trail head of Little's Creek Trail. This is the trail that leads to the Mary Carter Greenway Trail that follows the South Platte River both downstream and back through history.
Once lined with industry, the banks of the South Platte are now being redeveloped into parks and mixed-use housing. The Evans Street Station sits directly over what was once Montana City, the first Anglo settlement in Colorado. It was founded by a group of Kansans in 1857, a year before Denver was established, and quickly abandoned thereafter. The bike path goes through urban landscapes that are both surprisingly tranquil and painfully shocking in their treatment of the riparian environment. At points the river seems to disappear into gravel extraction ponds and concrete sluices and then reappear as a flat, tree-lined river that is no more than two inches deep. This great variety of scenery can be enjoyed with an easy effort on a bike because it is all downhill to Denver. After returning to Denver (exit the bike path at the 16th Street pedestrian Bridge in Commons Park) you'll never look at Colorado the same again.
Fossil Trace Golf Course
Lost Creek Wilderness Area
Continental Divide, Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Manitou Springs, Colorado
The Dam Store
West of Loveland, Colorado – at the mouth of the Big Thompson River Canyon.
Mother Cabrini Shrine
St. Elmo and Mount Princeton
Great Sand Dunes National Park
World's Wonder View Tower