I’m just going to say it; Colorado is the best place in the world. Ok, so technically I haven’t been everywhere. But I gotta tell ya, after my last weekend adventure, I know I don’t need to see anywhere else to know this is, and always will be, my favorite. Let me tell you a little more about that trip.
We went to Paonia, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Vail – 2 hours flat if you drive straight there without stopping along the way. But I’m not sure why you wouldn’t stop along the way, at least on one leg of your trip, because there are so many delightful little towns and sights to see between here and there.
It was the cloudy, drizzly Sunday of Memorial Day weekend so we decided to take our time on that leg of the journey. We first stopped in Carbondale for lunch. We thought we’d visit the acclaimed (by our friends) restaurant Town. But it was closed. Which turned out to be a great thing since we stumbled upon Fat Belly Burgers instead and enjoyed the best loaded grilled cheese sandwiches ever.
From there we headed up and over McClure Pass, stopping along the way to snap photos of raging waterfalls and wander through tiny towns like Redstone. The colors of the landscape were especially vibrant against the grey sky and the low-hanging clouds produced a dramatic effect; it was all a little surreal, like we had been transported to another country. Somewhere lush, misty and green, and where time had sort of stalled so the locals could forever enjoy the good ol’ days.
When we arrived at our destination, Delicious Orchards in Paonia, where we had a camping reservation for the evening, it had started to drizzle a little, dampening the already-soggy ground. We considered checking into a hotel while we sipped hard cider in the tasting room, but after a couple Big B’s Orchard Original’s – one of the orchard’s signature products – and a good long conversation with the guy who owns the place, we weren’t going anywhere.
We camped out in the orchard, in a clearing next to a teepee and a pen containing two yaks. The night ended up being perfect for camping, the rain ceased and the air was a just-right temperature. I woke up early the next morning to sunshine and clear skies and coaxed myself out of my toasty sleeping bag to snap a few photos and revel in the calm.
We dined on huevos rancheros and big mugs of strong coffee in the orchard’s café before heading out to hit the mountain bike trails, which were as much fun and scenic as we’d been promised. After biking, we wrapped up our adventure with a tour of the local wineries and a late-afternoon snack next to the river. In all, it was the perfect weekend trip.
I felt like we were gone for a week, rather than just a quick couple of days. And I’m pretty sure I was grinning the entire time. I just love exploring new places and I love that Colorado seems to be full of hidden gems like Paonia. Sometimes I think I’ll never run out of new places to discover and marvel at as long as I live here. This place is literally full of constantly changing mountain landscapes, fantastic local beverages and produce, and good conversation with friendly locals. And I get to call it home.
This post is dedicated to my dad, whose birthday is today and who is responsible for instilling in me a passion for both words and strong coffee.