Colorado, here we go

It was hard to grasp my head around the idea of Colorado being at high-altitude.

top of vail

It didn't really feel any different. One morning I decided to make pancakes because Qiao (my little sister) wanted them. So we went about making pancakes (recipe coming soon). I usually sour the milk with extra vinegar because I think it makes them more fluffy. Note: this is only something I've noticed, I've yet to actually experiment with it. When the batter came together, I noticed small bubbles were coming to the surface in more abundance than usual. Naturally, I thought that would mean the pancakes would be fluffier than usual. They were delicious mind you, but I was slightly disappointed that they turned out more dense than I thought they would. It wasn't until I was stumbled upon this series from Hummingbird High did I remembered that high-altitude really does affect baking. Then I felt grateful to live in places at sea level where this invisible force doesn't exist.

What does exist is the type of scenery. When we landed in Denver, the daily afternoon thunderstorm had just passed. We chased a double rainbow down to Colorado Springs for a good 15 minutes before it finally disappeared. I'm always in awe with anything weather-related so it was a real treat to follow the most vibrant rainbow I've come across (the above photo is a different rainbow from another afternoon). Compared to dry California where everything is currently brown, the greenery was refreshing. It was a reminder that it does actually rain in other states. And the mountains were another thing. Sure, there are mountains in California but these ones were more lush and so close by. It was hard not to think of Europe or Lord of the Rings. 

I want to see mountains again, Gandalf — mountains.
— Bilbo Baggins //J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

These are the important things that pop into my head.

Colorado Springs is full of lots of places to go. And why wouldn't you with all the nearby scenery? Just keep in mind of the afternoon thunderstorms and if anything, find a good place with a view to wait for it to pass.

Garden of the Gods // The name truly lives up to these rock formations. This is a free attraction so be sure to get there early if you want to find parking. We went to the visitor's center first so we didn't get to the actual park until late morning. It's a nice drive if you want to stay in the car as the summer heat radiates from the surrounding rock. Balanced Rock is a neat stop for goofy pictures, though. 

Manitou Springs // A quaint little historic town right next to Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak. It's full of tons of shops with artsy things and souvenirs. 

Cave of the Winds //  This is an hour tour that takes you through the maze of the caves showing both the highlights and the historical background. At one point, the guide turns the lights completely off. It's as black as deep space and you can't see anything directly in front of you until the guide plays a funny little trick of waving your hand in front of your face. The caves were a pretty neat tour but I wouldn't want to live in those conditions. 

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo //  A small zoo at 6,800 feet above sea level but the backdrop and view of Colorado Springs makes the zoo seem larger than it actually is especially with the steady uphill climb to the various sections. Be sure to see the giraffes although at some points the chipmunks were more exciting than the actual animals at the zoo.  

My aunt, uncle, and cousin are frequent skiers at Vail during the winter but the summer is equally comparable in beauty and things to do. Colorado received an abundance of rain this season so everything was more green than usual. We took the three hour drive to Vail from Colorado Springs using the back route to avoid traffic. I can't do anything in the car except look out the window but it was worth it to see the landscapes and drive through the different ski villages. 

We spent a beautiful blue-sky Saturday up on the summit and took the Eagle's Nest gondola up, up, up to the top. The view up there was like the beginning scene from The Sound of Music where Maria is singing The Hills are AliveAnd so many wildflowers in bloom, especially on our short hike to Mid Vail Village where we stopped for lunch before taking the gondola back down to the bottom. We dodged the rain in the shops around the village before making our way to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens where I took way too many photos of flowers. 

A gloomy Sunday was spent milling around the farmer's market in search for breakfast and lunch all wrapped up in one. There were more food stands than actual produce standsbut a full market all the same. The way back consisted of rain, cloudy skies, sunny and hot, and then rain again. Also a speculation on the dangers of having a bike race downhill in the rain on the same road as cars. Luckily, the race was finished by the time we made it up the pass.

Java Moose // A local bakery and coffee shop on the way to Vail in Fairplay. We stopped here for a late lunch and got their breakfast burritos, coffees, and hot chocolate. Fortunately, we got there right before they closed at 3 pm. This place must be a big hit because people were begging to come in even after they were closed. 

Vail Zip Line Colorado Adventures // My first zip lining experience and Qiao's too. We weren't able to get a time slot until later that afternoon right after the rain cleared out. It was a lot slower than I expected but I guess they did that so you could enjoy the scenery. It was a little pricey though, my family timed it and the whole journey took about 30 seconds. We figured we paid a dollar per second per person.

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens // If you love flowers like I do, oh boy, this is the place to be. The flowers are extra vibrant up in Vail due to the lack of oxygen and cooler temperatures. So many columbines and other flowers I don't know the names of but more pictures for me. We even saw a baby chipmunk who promptly ran away once he found out he was being watched.

Vail Farmer's Market // So many food stands, so many delicious things to try. We all tried a little bit of everything; the gyros, the mini maple bacon donuts, the crepes, the lobster roll, the huge chocolate macaron (which I want to remake), and the polish sausage with sauerkraut. All very tasty.

I like your weather Colorado, but I'm sure I wouldn't in the winter.