by Kyler Wesp
During Spring Break, you can usually find me chilling at the beach or lounging in my bed. But this time around, I decided to change it up with a little bit of snow. I’m talking about the Mile High City: Denver, Colorado — the city of snow skiers and businessmen alike.
During my weeklong immersion into Denver lifestyle, I became enlightened to all things Colorado, from the snowy trails of the Rocky Mountains to the bustling residential culture of 16th Street… Denver is Colorado’s capital, a city filled with rich historical brick buildings, modernly renovated homes, and a quick getaway to the mountains. Unlike any major city I’ve ever been to, there is an overwhelming feeling of the past reflected in the structure of the buildings and the turns of the streets. A hint of modern America comes through with a peek at the tall glass-windowed buildings rising high above the others.
After asking the locals about places to experience around Denver, one destination was always mentioned: Red Rocks Amphitheater. Located about 20 minutes outside of downtown Denver, Red Rock Amphitheater is an outdoor music venue that has held legends from U2 to the Beatles, all playing without amps as the structure of the amphitheater allows for perfect acoustics heard all the way up to the farthest seat. As we drove up into the park, we realized the name was correct. Towering hundreds of feet above us were these beautiful orange/red shards of rock that had seemed to just burst out of the ground.
The inside of the theater is nestled between two of these ginormous red rocks, with the rock-made seats traversed by both the local workout clubs and tourists. Walking to the top of the rows, where the last seat stands, I looked around and realized I could see everything: downtown Denver, all the rock structures in the park, the suburbs surrounding Denver, the Rocky Mountains. I felt like I was seeing Colorado for the first time, and I was astonished at its beauty and sheer size.
After sweating in the 80º weather on top of a literal red rock, we decided to take a trip down to Idaho Springs, a little mining town about 15 minutes away from Red Rock Amphitheater. Here is where they claim to have the first instance of gold found in the Colorado Gold Rush, of which can be seen in the many mines surround the tiny town. For only having 2000 residents, Mainstreet was bustling with both tourists and locals, either wandering into the local boutiques, the candy shop, or the plethora of restaurants located all the way up and down the block. With the mountains surrounding us on all sides, Idaho Springs truly felt like a magical place, a town that had changed only a little from its creation during the Gold Rush. Truly a treasure among the mountains. We ate and laughed in the town brewery and then proceeded on our way, thanking the town for briefly taking us back in time.
Having to take a detour due to a blocked road, we stumbled upon one of the most beautiful views (or as my dad likes to call it “vista vista”) that I have ever seen in my nineteen years of existence. I still have no clue what road we took or what way we were heading, but we somehow ended up at the Loveland Pass Continental Divide. The continental divide is the line that divides the watersheds, with one side of the mountain routing the water to the Atlantic and the other side routing it’s water to the Pacific. Driving up to the spot of the Divide, the temperature dropped to a nice 23º, the mountains surrounding us became completely covered in snow, and a large group of people gathered around a sign. A sign up here in the middle of nowhere? After finding out it was, in fact, a big deal, I squealed a bit (it isn’t every day you get to see something called the Continental Divide) and ran to secure my spot in the picture-taking line. Never again will I have that moment of pure luck leading me to see one of the most beautiful “vista vistas” in my life and because of that, Colorado, I thank you.
The next day was spent traversing through Downtown Denver itself and man, was there a lot to do! Historical museums, busy street shops, high rise buildings — it was like I was in a whole different world than just the day before. We took a stroll down 16th Street, a busy shopping and restaurant district that is known for its eclectic market days where vendor’s tents dot the street and the bustle of local commerce can be heard all around. Sadly, we were not there to see the market but the street was still teeming with people shopping and eating at the local places that make 16th street what it is. I would recommend going once in the day and once at night because the feel of the street changes from chic to magical when the string lights wrapped around the trees and buildings light up after dark.
To get a feel of nature like we had in our previous adventure, our next stop was destined to be the Denver Botanical Gardens. We thought little of the weather (winter is still here!?) and the fact that the gardens are outside, so we eventually came upon dead trees, dead grass, dead everything. But don’t get me wrong, the massive greenhouse was a beautiful oasis of colorful jungle plants, sprawling exotic trees, and a spiraling treehouse staircase; and I saw from pictures that the gardens are exquisite during normal the hotter seasons. I would just recommend going during the blooming season to get the full effect if you know what I mean.
About an hour and a half from Denver are the famous Rocky Mountain National Park and while it might have been far from our hotel, we had to make the trek because they are the Rocky Mountains. Now hiking in the winter might not seem like the best decision due to obstacles (such as: IT’S COLD), but I would highly highly recommend going to the Rocky Mountains during the end of winter months when it is still snowy but more like 50-60º than a biting 20º.
We went on the Cub Lake Trail, solely because we came unprepared to hike in the snow and it was the least snowy trail. Despite the limited amount of trails we could physically walk on, the four-hour hike turned out to be one of the most fun things we did on the trip! Rocky Mountain National Park has both mountains and plains, which really enriched the experience because we got to stare out at the snow-capped mountain range as we leisurely strolled through the forest of tall Christmas trees, thankful we didn’t have to hike up those mountains. The trail went from muddy dirt, giant granite rocks, and flat land to fluffy snow, birchwood forests, and mountains, making it feel as though our 4.8-mile hike was broken into different sections of beauty. The uphill/downhill hike was filled with slipping and sliding as we realized we were extremely unprepared for snow, but we laughed the whole way because what were we to do about that? Again, I highly recommend hiking in the snow in the Rocky Mountains but come prepared with proper hiking equipment (unlike us).
After this spring break trip, I conclude that Denver is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been in the United States. The downtown area is filled with historical richness and industrial culture, contrasting the beautiful nature and small towns that surround Denver, creating a unique sense of “I can really do anything here” that isn’t seen in many other places. From snow-tipped mountains to 16th Street, you really can have it all, as long as you are willing to immerse yourself totally in the uniqueness that is Denver. •
Kyler Wesp is a first-year Psychology Major. In her spare time, she can be found reading a book at the Austin Public Library, sipping coffee with her friends or finding hidden local spots within the city. This is her first semester working for Spark.