Hello again from Denver!
So, if you didn’t notice, there was no check-in last week. In fact, as of this posting it’s been 15 days since a check-in. Why’s that you might ask? Well, I’ve been very busy. Actually, that really doesn’t cut it, I’ve been swamped, totally swamped. But the swamp hasn’t only consisted of work or classes (speaking of classes I got my first 100% on a test! Promptly followed by a 72%, but still, we won’t focus on that one, or the one I failed a bit ago 😛 ).
As I mentioned last time, Meem and Daryl 1 were on their way out here to see me. Then, right after that, I had two back-to-back work trips, so I just haven’t had much time to visit ole’ Dinosaur Bear. In fact, I’ve missed so much that it would simply be impossible to really highlight everything in detail. So, in order to catch up, I’ve decided to divide my summary of everything that happened into two posts, this one – about everything but beer, and a yet-to-be-written one about beer. Makes sense.
The downside is that like any summary post (see the Boston Pre-Game post) I really only have room for highlights. So, unfortunately, the vast majority of photos, events, details, etc. will be left out as I blaze through a ton of events. But nevertheless, it will be a “bird’s eye view” of what I’ve been up to, if nothing else.
Also, to say I spent hours getting the images for this post ready is no an exaggeration. Not only did I have to download them, organize them, upload them, and rotate most of them 90 degrees (thanks laptop) I had to pick them out of the larger batch in the first place! Either way, enjoy those that made it. This is the largest number of pictures in awhile and likely the last time I’ll do so many in a Denver check in (but I had some extra time after finishing my Business Analytics work for the day earlier than expected).
[Note: I’m waiving my 1500 check-in word limit for this post. While the goal is to keep it brief, keeping it too brief would result in a largely pointless post.]
So, after their arrival Meem, Daryl 1, and I’s first event was Afternoon Tea at the Brown Palace, undoubtedly a Denver tradition (and recommended to me by tons of people, including first and foremost, my boss).
It was quite an amazing experience! The hotel itself was a 4 Diamond Hotel, none of us thought we’d ever even been in one with that rating before, let alone dined in one.
While they were visiting we also had some time to tromp around Denver, such as when Meem and I visited the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art and had some snacks at their rooftop garden cafe.
Also on the Denver agenda was the Botanical Gardens, which I had been wanting to go to and everyone enjoyed, even Daryl 1.
Of course a lot of Daryl 1’s enjoyment came from our new buddy Griswald the Squirrel.
I want your noms. There will be blood.
Of course, even without Griswald the gardens alone would have been worth the visit.
After taking in the gardens we went and ate at the aquarium. Yes, Denver has an aquarium, and yes, you can eat there. However, unlike most of such venues, the aquarium has a full service restaurant. In fact, we didn’t even see the actual aquarium, we just had dinner. But the cool thing was that you get to dine next to large tanks complete with fish and mermaids.
Soon enough it was time for us to be off to the mountains (yay!).
Tristen was pretty much our navigator, using his dinosaur senses and all.
There’s dinosaurs in them thar’ hills.
Before too long (and without plummeting to our doom) we had arrived at our lodging.
We had a nice little cabin on a hillside, nothing fancy, but it had everything you could need (surprisingly even wi-fi, which while not the most reliable was better than what I have here, which is freaking sad on so many levels).
Tristen didn’t take long to make friends (or enemies?) with the local fauna.
It was actually the Centennial Celebration for the Rocky Mountain National Park, which none of us had realized previously, talk about timing!
Little known fact: Only 55 people are allowed in the 415 square mile park at a time.
While our big tour was the following day, we did drive into the park ourselves to do some exploring.
We eventually found our way to Bear Lake (yay Valentino!) and did hiking the loop around it.
Some of the views were magnificent!
On the way back to Estes Park (the “Gateway to the Rockies” and the town closest to our cabin) we passed by the Stanley, which was looking rather ominous.
And perhaps it was looking ominous for good reason. The Stanley is the hotel Stephen King stayed at (Room 217) right as it was closing for the season back in 1974. While there he had “the nightmare of his life” which ultimately resulted in King writing “The Shining” which of course is the best-selling horror novel of all time, spawned the 1980 film version directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson, as well as a 1997 TV version (actually filmed at the Stanley) produced by King himself, as well as a 2013 sequel novel entitled “Doctor Sleep.” And, to top it all off, the Stanley has a long, long history of paranormal activity, extending far back beyond King’s visit (some would say all the way to its opening in 1909).
So, needless to say, it might look spooky for a reason. And, in fact, it was spooky that drew us to the Stanley (in addition to Meem and I being avid King fans) and we had signed up for a ghost tour.
A lot closer, better weather, still has some spooky vibes.
Ok, little less spooky this close. Just don’t look too closely at the windows.
Prior to the tour starting however, we had some dinner in the Stanley’s restaurant (not realizing that there was a far cheaper cafe down in the basement). The food was good (if expensive) but the real highlight was Meem and I having some REⱭЯUM.
While I actually enjoyed the cocktail (which was secondary to just ordering REⱭЯUM), I’m not a liquor drinker, so by the end Meem probably drank 1/4 (or more) of mine to help me finish. And while I’m not going to go out and try to replicate it anytime soon (give me beer, thanks) it was worth it partake of some REⱭЯUM in the Stanley itself.
Soon afterwards the ghost tour started.
When it comes to ghosts, I’ve always considered myself a “Skeptic Who Wants to Believe” (so basically a Mulder-Scully Hybrid). That said, no “HOLEE SHIET” moments happened on this tour (save for a door that may or may not have closed itself). However, that being said, some officially weird stuff did happen. And I’m not talking about things that the hotel staff could have fabricated either. For the sake of brevity I’ll simply say that something odd is going on at the Stanley, and I’d be happy to discuss my thoughts and experiences more in depth if anyone is interested, possible with it’s own blog post.
Even absent those creepy-ass twins, the hall ways were odd and mostly deserted (which was really weird considering how packed the place was).
So, we all really enjoyed it, though I think it might have freaked Daryl 1 out just a bit (or more than a bit, by his own admission). I’d love to return to the Stanley during a less busy time, though my guess is that I couldn’t drag SB within a mile of the place.
Speaking of oddities, there is no filter on the above photo, I took it as we were leaving and it came out like that, scout’s honor, I have no idea why, my guess is a combination of a cell-phone quality low-light filter, my sudden motion, and an attempt of the cell-phone quality camera to focus on the porch light.
The next day we were off on our privately guided tour of the park, courtesy of Alex (a Texan who lives in Colorado in the Summer). We headed up the Old Fall River Road (which is dirt and had just opened three days prior) and the first stop was Chasm Falls.
Old Fall River Road offered up gorgeous scenery at every turn, complete with ongoing stories/commentaries/and trivia courtesy of Alex.
The larger-than-normal amount of rainfall, while being annoying, made the place very green.
As we rose higher and higher, we soon entered the tundra.
“I declare ris’ rand to berong to Tristen.”
Eventually we hit Trail Ridge Road, which is the more well-known (and thus far more busy) paved road.
Trail Ridge is on the “exposed” side of the mountain, so seeing the contrast between the densely-forested Old Fall River Road (which by the way is only uphill and one way) and the wind-swept Trail Ridge Road was pretty cool.
Those little blips are a large herd of elk.
As you descend down Trail Ridge Road, the trees and greenery begin to return as the “Mummy Mt. Range” comes into view (they were called such because they appear like a sleeping mummy – at least to some people, I don’t think Meem, Daryl 1, nor I really saw it).
The next day Daryl 1 and I hiked up to the largely popular Alberta Falls (Meem was unable to join us due to altitude issues).
No that is not Alberta Falls, well it is, but it’s just the top-most portion of what is actually a 30ft waterfall. The falls in their entirety were oddly difficult to photograph from the side of the river we were on.
A view looking outward from the top of the falls.
On our way back down (after seeing lightning in the distance) we had a Close Encounter of the Elk Kind™.
He was noming whatever that bush thing was, and fortunately didn’t block the path for too long. It was pretty cool to get so close and because we were only the 3rd and 4th people to encounter it, we were able to get away before the MASSIVE group of people (let’s be real, mostly rude people, as usual) began to blob up on the trail. Or at least I was, I ran ahead and just barely outpaced the rain, Daryl 1 caught up soon after.
That night we watched fireworks over Estes Lake. We actually watched them from the hill right in front of the Stanley (eating dinner at the much cheaper cafe this time, including a REⱭЯUM chocolate bar).
The following morning it was time to head back to Denver.
But not before we stopped from a quick hike around Lily Lake, where Tristen continued to make friends (or enemies) with the local creatures.
In addition to interacting with the locals, Tristen also tried out some of the climbing tactics Valentino had taught him (when he wasn’t busy being friends with a little girl hiking the trail who became obsessed with him).
Don’t mind the dinosaur in the tree.
Lily Lake was a beautiful area south of Estes Park, and we were all glad we stopped (plus we got there early enough that we beat the crowd).
There was a guy fly-fishing there, talk about a good spot.
On the way back I (er, I mean Tristen) routed us to a different road for a change of scenery.
When we returned to dinner I achieved my mission of convincing Meem and Daryl 1 to go to Casa Bonita.
Now, Casa Bonita has a really interesting back-story, it’s own cult-like status (seriously, it’s a historical landmark because people went batshit crazy when it was going to close). However, most prominently, it was the basis of an entire episode of South Park (as a reminder for those of who you have never seen South Park, hate it, or both, South Park was created by two natives of Colorado and is based entirely in the fictional Colorado town of South Park, which is actually based on a region of Colorado, rather than an actual town).
Really, all I will say about Casa Bonita, is that it’s so bad – so campy, it’s good. Where else can you queue up in a line theme park style to eat mediocre Mexican food (awesome sopapillas though) while watching a man dressed as gorilla run around the place, with a 30 foot waterfall, cliff-divers, (mock) gun-fights, glowing swords, and mariachis all in the background – all while siting in a gulf mansion, mine shaft, 1920s vaudeville theatre, or cliff overlook? Casa Bonita is where.
The place is freaking HUGE, and you should seriously watch the South Park episode linked above if you want to even begin to understand. It was one of the coolest/weirdest restaurant experiences I’ve ever had.
The next day we took the light rail out to Mile High Stadium for a tour (the rental car had been returned).
Although our good-luck streak with the weather had run out, the tour was still a lot of fun, especially learning about all the little cheap “home-field-advantage” tricks that are employed throughout the NFL.
After our stadium tour we headed back downtown the 16th street mall where we enjoyed some Rocky Mountain Chocolate and Starbucks (ok just me on the Starbucks, but everyone got chocolate).
Later we headed down to the Cherry Creek Shopping center so that Meem could go to a Sephora. After that we had dinner at Duffy’s Cherry Cricket, known for having amazing burgers.
I think all three of us agreed with the “amazing burgers” part.
Then for dessert we Ubered (or Lyfted, can’t remember) over to Sweet Action Ice Cream.
Salted Butterscotch and Peanut Butter Butterfinger!
If you remember from a previous check-in, I had also visited Littleman Ice Cream. Based on what I’ve been told, Sweet Action and Littleman are the heavyweight contenders for “best” ice cream in Denver. Now that I’ve had both, I’m not sure which I prefer. Littleman has more flavors on the whole, but also has ludicrous lines. Sweet Action has fewer flavors, but the flavors they do have are more unique. I think it will require more testing before I can come to any real conclusion. 🙂
After Meem and Daryl 1 departed it was back to work for a couple of boring office days, and then I started two solid days of work trips. The first was right back up to the Rocky Mountain National Park to investigate a damage site from a company being very naughty (about 12 million dollars naughty, to be exact). Unlike when I had visited the prior weekend (lots of sunshine) this time it was cold, foggy, and rainy.
“Trail Ridge Road is looking a bit different this time around.”
Of course I wasn’t complaining, I actually appreciated getting to see the mountains in two completely different weather patterns.
Of course the thing was, it was a long hike to where we were going, 20 miles (round trip) to be exact. We were so deep into the boonies that we actually had to get a permit to go there, but when you are a bunch of lawyers such things don’t pose much of an issue, especially when the lawyers that are with you are the ones who won the park 12 million dollars. We also had three people join us from the park, a Civil Engineer (A fellow Boilermaker!), a Botanist, and an Ecologist. All three of which are part of the team fixing the damage that was done to the park.
The idea was the follow the Colorado River Trail for a bit and then branch off into “backwoods” (which is a fancy way of saying there is no trail). The problem was that the snow melt, coupled with the rain (past and present) had turned the trail into this:
Yep. That “stream” is the trail, and in some places the trail was under as much as two feet of water. So most of the hike found us trekking across hills, valleys, ravines, and meadows.
Now, as you can see, the view isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was just the mud and the rain. My god the mud. I had mud up to my knees, and its not like I had hiking boots in my suitcase or anything. That said, I did really enjoy the hike, even if my legs did not.
Eventually we got to the upper-mid zone of the damage, then decided to call it a day due to lightning strikes. Oh, and in case you were wondering, that photo above is all man-caused damage. None of that was there before – and that is only a fraction of what got destroyed when the ditch broke.
Naturally, after having turned around because of weather, the sun came out.
As did some elk buddies.
Of course I was not to be deceived by the change of weather. While everyone else took off their fancy expensive rain gear, I left my 2$ poncho (e.g. basically a garbage bag with a hood) on, and sure enough the rain came a’pouring again before too long – but the brief reprieve was nice.
On the way back we saw something that made the ENTIRE muddy hike worth it, a moose and her calf!
They ended up getting really close, largely because the calf wanted to play with us (no seriously, he was actively trying to get us to play with him).
So we had to hide in some trees, because in case you didn’t know, moose are FREAKING DANGEROUS. More people are killed by moose than bears, true story. But I didn’t die, and so the experience was AWESOME. In fact, a lot of natives were pretty amazed as most people can go their entire outdoor lives without seeing a calf. Yay me! A little further down the trail we also encountered a deer, who was all of about 5 feet from us, but was too busy nomin’ stuff to care much about the humans.
The next day (and next work trip) weren’t quite as exciting, but we did get to go out with the EPA and do some field inspections on some oil and gas facilities. In other words, I was one of the “Annoying Government People Who Semi-Trespass On Your Property So They Can Fine You.”*
The coolest part was getting to use the EPA’s Infrared Camera (100,000$ – made me so nervous to even hold it) to search for vapors escaping (which can be deadly, and has killed people on multiple occasions). As these were newer facilities, we didn’t spot any active leaks, though the one older facility we checked out did have a leak – gonna be a bad day for that owner. It was crazy to see how it looked so normal to our eyes, but then the camera made it look like a field of noxious death.
I obviously can’t show you pictures of the IR feed from the 100,000$ camera, but I can give you an idea of the kinds of places we were checking out.
[*So funny note about the trespassing thing. When we first pulled up to one of the facilities, I asked “Are we trespassing” to which the lead EPA investigator chuckled and said “I dunno.” I thought he was joking, but it turns out he wasn’t. I was surprised how funny everyone found this, considering they were all government employees. That said, even if we were trespassing, you would be amazed at how much power natural resources branches of the government have – see generally the DNR]
After doing our field inspections we headed up to Fort Collins to Colorado Statute University’s (CSU) energy lab, which is ran by a former expert witness in one of my boss’s massive settlement cases.
The entire facility (which works on the pressing energy issues of our time for such clients as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Denmark, Toyota, and various other big-name public and private entities) is actually housed in an old power plant which has since been remodeled and brought up to LEED Platinum Certification, which is pretty impressive.
We saw a bunch of cool stuff while there, from clean-burning stoves for remote villages, to hydrogen powered cars, to almost entirely self-sufficient toilets (seriously, they nearly power themselves from the poo they consume), to solar panels operating at near 99% efficiency.
The roof also afforded good views of Fort Collins, which coincidentally are not shown in the above image.
After that it was off to lunch at Rio Grande (a Mexican restaurant much more normal than Casa Bonita, but which is known for amazing margaritas – I passed, went with a beer, of course). It was actually a really enjoyable lunch and I was able to get in some good conversations with my boss and fellow interns, in addition to some of the EPA and CSU people. After that it was a (sleepy) trip back to Denver.
That evening some crazy storms rolled into Denver, of which I got some cool photos.
After the storms had passed I went out with 1L Roomate and his girl friend for a drink and some oysters at a local restaurant (no not Rocky Mt. oysters – though those do exist, Denver is also known for having good normal oysters as well). He actually ended up paying for my beer and oysters, which was cool, but then again, I’m fairly positive I’m paying like 90% or more of the rent.
The next day I decided to head out to Golden, CO. The prime goal was the Coors Brewery (but that will be covered in the upcoming beer post).
Golden was a cool little mountain town. Ok, so it wasn’t super little, but it’s tiny compared to Denver – and it was historic.
It also had some gorgeous views.
Of course, what Golden did not have, was a very good engineer when it came to deciding on where to place the light rail station. In fact, the light rail is 2.7 miles from downtown Golden.
That wasn’t much of an issue on the way out, as I had road the bus (never again, there were 72 f*cking stops along the way) which goes right downtown. So, having decided not to do the bus, and with no other way to get out to the station aside from methods that would cost money, I decided to take in the gorgeous day and just walk the 2.7 miles (which somehow pretty much all ended up being uphill, go figure).
Despite the uphill nature of the walk, I passed a lot of cool stuff and pretty scenery. First up was the Colorado School of Mines.
And while I’m not sure what the school does, outside of, you know, mining, but they do have a beautiful campus and even the campus streets offer up good views of the distant foothills.
My walk quickly took me through the Grey Poupon area of town, and suddenly I envisioned myself living in Golden.
After the nice houses, then a golf course, then a country club (seriously) I found the Golden Trail, which would carry me onwards to the train station.
And even though it was nice and toasty outside, the views made the long(ish) walk worth it.
After that, I caught the light rail back to Denver (and evaded the fare for one zone, shhh) then rode a bike the rest of the way back to my apartment. After that, I chilled for the rest of the evening.
Today (Sunday) I worked on classes, and made a really dumb mistake of sitting on the balcony with my white-boy feet exposed and now they are freaking fried. The downside of a farmer’s tan is that it’s easy to forget that not all of you is actually accustomed to the sun, and yeah, my feet are burnt pretty bad (my left one is even slightly swollen). But I got some ibuprofen in me and slathered on the aloe vera, so hopefully they are at least a little better before I have to put on my dress shoes and socks in the morning (because we all know how comfortable dress clothes are).
Anyways, I’m going to wrap this post up. I hope you’ve enjoyed my whirl-wind summary of all the stuff (minus beer) that has been going on lately! As always with these summaries, I have far more photos than I have listed here and more stories to tell, so if you are curious about anything in particular, just ask!
Until next time,
P.S. The Starbucks in the building where I work gives away free coffee ground remnants for gardens, how cool is that?