When I Went: Aug. 17-Aug. 20, 2012
Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? For the purpose of our trip, yes. Colorado in the summer is beautiful. It is still cold in the morning and evenings, but rarely gets above 85 degrees during the day. The sun is out, but as you climb, the air gets so thin that you still need appropriate layers. I couldn’t imagine hiking that far/high in the cold and snow. It’s also important when doing these hikes to be aware of any impending storms, and the summer months greatly reduce the chance of getting caught in one.
Why I Went There: To hike my first fourteener! Mt. Holy Cross (14,000 feet, 12 miles total from the trail head, 10 hours). Also to bike and walk around the towns and enjoy beautiful Colorado in the summer.
Who Went With Me? I went with my college roommate and a group of her co-workers. They work at a boutique investment banking firm in Houston and send out an annual company-wide invitation to conquer a 12,000-14,000-footer. The group is always pretty small–not for the faint of heart.
We Stayed Here: At an adorable, rustic yet charming bed and breakfast called The Minturn Inn. It is comprised of a “main-house,” where the breakfast happens, and a couple of “out-houses,” where the bed happens. A portion of our group basically had one of these out-houses to ourselves, and it was fabulous. A beautiful, two-story cabin equipped with a kitchen, living/dining room, and back deck where you can enjoy the peaceful sounds of the flowing river that runs behind it. The rooms were clean and comfortable, and each had its own fireplace (in addition to the common fireplace). Bonus. The host actually lived in the “basement” of our cabin. She was very nice and helpful, and you really had no idea she was there. She also makes an excellent breakfast: coffee, eggs any style, bacon,sausage, fresh fruit and locally made jam for toast. MMM.
You Won’t Want to Miss: Anyone traveling here should definitely have their mind set on being out in nature. Whether it is hiking, camping, biking or horse-back riding, the true takeaway here is the surroundings. So whatever your fancy, you should plan ahead to ensure you do something that truly celebrates the gorgeous blue mountains sprinkled with gold aspens, the winding rivers, white with foam, or the beautiful wildlife. There are also quaint towns with cute shops and restaurants, farmers markets and local art shows that are great opportunities for enjoying the community.
Eat Here: Eating here in the summer is great because this time of year is considered their off-season. This means a lot of restaurants that are normally pretty pricey in the winter have great deals going on, making it much easier for the average foodie to get a good meal. In Minturn, The Saloon offers a wide array of food from Tex-Mex classics, to Southern-style cooking, to wild game. The vibe of the place is equally diverse, as it could serve as a lodge, a sports bar or al-fresco dining spot. It is also walking distance from Minturn Inn. As a native Texan, I would stay away from the Mexican fare (it is good, but why waste your money when you can eat the real thing at home?), but their quail is to die for. Their duck is also highly recommended. After our hike we wanted a delicious victory meal, and ended up at Up the Creek in Vail Village. This is where those savings come in. Normally this restaurant averages $30 to $40 a plate, but in the summer, they charge a flat rate of $10 for appetizers/soups/salads, and $20 for entrees. This restaurant was great because it served quality, high-end food without the stuffiness that is normally associated with that kind of dining experience. It was very casual, and the staff was very nice and attentive. Everything here was delicious, but the highlights of the meal were the truffle frites, arugula salad with pears, walnuts and goat cheese, braised short ribs and lobster mac and cheese. They also had a great selection of affordable wines–the cabernet is never a bad choice.
Play Here: Vail Village always has something going on, day or night. The weekend is definitely more lively, but it’s a great strolling spot for leisurely window shopping during the week. There are large walkways and plazas that accommodate street vendors and live music. On Sundays, you can pretty much count on their being some sort of craft fair or farmers market going on.
If I Went Again: Spend more time there. This was a short weekend trip that went by way too fast. There is so much to see and do it makes it hard to feel like you have taken advantage of your time. But, in reality I wouldn’t change much about my experience. The hike, the people, the food and the scenery were all great. You can always try to fit more in, or be smarter about the logistics of getting and leaving there, but you also want to relax and go with the flow.
How Did You Get There From Dallas? Fly to Denver (Denver International Airport) from Love Field or DFW, and rent a car for the two hour drive into the mountains. Or you can be fancy and fly into Vail, and drive 20 minutes to Minturn. Or you can be adventurous (slow) and drive the whole way, approximately 14 hours.
Other Tips For Fellow Travelers: This being my first fourteener, there were many challenges I was not aware of. Not only are you battling altitude and hydration, but your own physical endurance and mental preparedness. It was one of the most physically challenging things I have done, and there were times I thought I was not going to make it to the top. I was using a lot of energy to go really short distances and, after we passed the tree-line, would have to make frequent stops. Once we reached the false summit (1,000 feet below the real summit), I was sure I would have to stop, but that’s when I ditched water and switched to Gatorade and Pedialyte. The difference was almost immediate. The electrolytes took hold and it was literally like super-food. I scrambled to the top, and even beat some of the people I had been trailing all day. It was a great feeling and a great lesson about my body and what I am able to accomplish with the right “tools.” Needless to say I was extremely sore the next day. Stairs were my worst enemy. My knees felt like they were going to buckle with every step, and I acquired a nice nebula-like bruise on my leg from a falling loose rock. I was in a lot of pain, but I never felt better. I can’t wait for the one in September.