Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver has one of the top-ranked botanical gardens in the US – as our flight wasn’t until the evening, we were able to spend several happy hours there on the day we went home from last summer’s road trip.

My botanical knowledge is rudimentary to say the least, so I haven’t attempted to caption any of the photos in the next two galleries. Click on anything you like the look of to enlarge or start a slide-show.

Possibly my favourite part was the Monet Pool: water lilies galore.

While we were there, the gardens were hosting Stories in Sculpture – 13 pieces from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. If you are observant, you will count 14 sculptures below – the gardens have their own collection and I’ve included one example from it (Dale Chihuly’s Colorado, the first image). If you click on this gallery you’ll find it is, unlike the others, labelled – the sculptor as the title, and the name of the piece in the caption.

There is a bistro in the gardens, which we didn’t try, and a café which we visited for morning coffee and lunch, both good, so you could easily spend all day in there. We had a short time left before we needed to leave for the airport and popped into the neighbouring Cheesman Park.

Then we had to go home after three wonderful weeks touring Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. My first post about it was published on September 29, 2016, so it has been seven months in the writing. I’ll need to speed up, because I certainly don’t want to do any less travelling!

Next – Budapest.

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Pikes Peak with Claudia and Scott

Have you met Claudia at The Bookwright? No? Pop over to have a look, I’ll wait…

Claudia and her husband, Scott, live near Denver and very kindly offered to pick us up and take us to Pikes Peak for the day. Colorado has 54 “Fourteeners” and at 14,115 feet Pikes Peak is only the 31st highest! But don’t worry, there’s a road all the way up (or a cog railway) so no climbing was involved. Not only that, you can eat donuts at the top – it’s amazing that they cook at such high altitudes.

It was, as you might expect, a tad chilly – but as you can see below, we all look very happy to be there.

Not far from Pikes Peak is Garden of the Gods, a park with magnificent red sandstone rock formations, many of which are over 300 million years old. We stopped off there on the way back to Denver.

We must have behaved ourselves, because next day Claudia and Scott offered to take us out again! This time, we visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The gems and minerals section was particularly impressive.

As was the Sky Terrace with its views over City Park towards the Rocky Mountains.

What an amazing two days! This was the fourth time that we have met up with fellow bloggers, and all have turned out to be lovely people. Many thanks to the wonderful Claudia and Scott for giving so generously of their time to show us around.

That’s almost it for our Summer 2016 road trip – we flew home the next day. However, we didn’t have to be at the airport until early evening so there was plenty of time for one last visit – Denver Botanic Gardens. Coming up next!

A walk around Denver

Colorado State Capitol and Civic Center Park

We found Denver to be a compact and walkable city. As our guidebook included a walking route which ended up at the State Capitol, very close to our B&B, we set off to do it in reverse.

The Capitol (1890s) wasn’t looking its very best with a bit of scaffolding round about, but we could still admire the ornate golden dome (1908) – 200 ounces of gold leaf went into that to celebrate the Colorado Gold Rush. Denver is also known as Mile High City and the 13th step up to the Capitol marks the exact point where that becomes true.

Across the road Is Civic Center Park. I liked the idea of using part of it to grow produce for food-banks.

Two Old West sculptures sit in the park, both by Alexander Phimister Proctor: Bronco Buster (1920) and On the War Trail (1922). Apparently, the model for the cowboy was arrested for murder before the statue was finished, but Proctor insisted that he should be allowed to continue posing for as long as he needed him.

To one side of the park are the public library and Denver Art Museum (DAM), both interesting buildings. The latter has one of the largest Native American art collections in the USA, which I can easily believe as we spent hours in there (including having lunch in their very fine restaurant, Palettes). Unfortunately, even though I still have the floor plan, I have not been able to caption much in the gallery below. I remember being fascinated by the video about creating the woman sitting with several infants between her legs, and could have told you its significance at the time, but now? No idea! That will teach me to leave things six months before writing them up.

Back on the street, we found plenty more art including this  40-foot-tall blue bear peeking through the window of the Convention Center (I See What You Mean by Lawrence Argent) and Jonathan Borofsky’s Dancers, two giant white figures prancing towards the Performing Arts Complex.

Our next stop was the Tattered Cover Book Store where we took the weight off our feet over a coffee. Friends had told us about this place: it was huge when they visited, but competition from Amazon and the like has reduced it to one floor. The little scene on the stairs commemorates Charlie Shugarts (1918-2007), Friend of Tattered Cover.

Our route then took us down Cherry Creek to the South Platte River. Here, in Commons Park, we found the sculptures below. I think, checking online, that these were temporary, part of an exhibition of nine sculptures by Jorge Marín called Wings of the City. I also realise I should have stood between the giant wings before John took the photo. Well, he knows I’m an angel anyway 😉

Just beyond Commons Park is the dramatic Millennium Bridge which marks the beginning of the walking tour – or, in our case, the end. We were tired after being on our feet all day and decided, rather than going back to the B&B to come out again for dinner, we would eat earlier than normal so that we could go home to relax.

This also meant we could re-admire by night some of the buildings we had walked past earlier in the day, such as this one – the Daniels and Fisher Tower. Modelled after St Mark’s Bell Tower in Venice, it originally formed part of a department store, long since demolished. Since the 1980s it has been residential and office space. Wow, I’d love to live there!

Our vacation was rapidly drawing to a close – but the next day was a highlight: a meeting with a fellow blogger. Who could that be? More soon!

Rocky Mountain to Denver

Lily Lake

On our way out of Rocky Mountain National Park we stopped for a walk round the delightful Lily Lake. Our stay had been all too short.

From here we drove to Nederland where we had a coffee on the balcony of Happy Trails and people-watched for a while.

Our guidebook described Nederland as a lively, ramshackle mountain-town magnet for hippies – and we had to agree, even though we were there at the wrong time of year for either Nedfest or Frozen Dead Guy Days. Yes, really. The term Ned has other connotations for us anyway – in Scotland it’s a derogatory term meaning a non-educated delinquent!

After a stroll round town and down the creek to the reservoir, we returned to our car which was parked opposite the library. That looked the best building in the place to me – how wonderful to have a reading area on a balcony over a stream! Unfortunately, it was closed or I’d have dragged John in for a visit.

Our final stop was Boulder, somewhere which would repay a much longer visit. We had a picnic lunch in Chautauqua Park near the Flatirons before stopping off in town where we particularly admired the Court House.

After that it was straight on to Denver and the beautiful Capitol Hill Mansion B&B. The Bluebell Room was gorgeous ….

…. we even had a sun-porch which gave us our own private entrance to the house ….

…. the exterior of which was equally spectacular ….

…. and to cap it all, there was a delightful garden in which to have breakfast.

So this was our luxury home for the next four nights! Only three more posts and then I will finally have finished blogging about our Summer 2016 road trip.

Deer Mountain

View from Deer Mountain
View from Deer Mountain

Rocky Mountain is a very busy park! By the time we got ourselves out in the morning, and that wasn’t very late, the signs for the car parks at the popular Bear Lake Trailhead were already indicating full. We headed for the Deer Mountain Trailhead instead.

Climbing Deer Mountain is a 6 mile round trip and you end up at over 10,000 feet. Before you get too impressed, I’ll confess that you actually start around 8,900 – but some of it is very steep, especially at the end. My knees didn’t like that section one little bit.

Here are some views from the way up.

Just before the summit we stopped to get our (well, my) breath back and I made the acquaintance of this little guy. I think he was begging, but I didn’t give him anything. Too many titbits is probably what made him so bold, and animals should not be encouraged to become dependent on humans for food. But he was cute.

On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain

Pressing on to the summit, we could see right back down to our hotel on the edge of Estes Park.

Then it was time to retrace our steps, stopping for a quick picnic on the way.

In the afternoon, we took the one-way gravel Old Fall River Road which winds uphill for 11 miles and 3000 feet to Fall River Pass. The short trail at Chasm Falls made a pleasant stop on the way.

At the pass, we had a very welcome hot coffee at the Alpine Visitor Centre – it was cold up there and still had pockets of snow. Information boards told us more about the road which opened in 1920, and until 1932 was the only motor route across the park. Then it was replaced by Trail Ridge Road, our route back down.

The views from Trail Ridge were stunning.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

We were really sorry to have only one full day in Rocky Mountain, but the next day we were off to Denver  – and we were really excited about that.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks where this week she takes us on a stroll around Lucca.

Red Lodge to Estes Park

Smith Mine Disaster, Montana

Smith Mine
Smith Mine
Not long after leaving Red Lodge, we spotted a ghost mine on a hillside. The Smith Mine is the site of the worst underground coal mine disaster in Montana where 74 men were lost in February 1943. Some died as a result of a violent explosion, but most fell victim to the methane released by the blast. It’s a very poignant site. The information board quotes a note left by Walter and Johnny as they waited for the gas to catch up with them: “Good-bye wives and daughters. We died an easy death. Love from us both. Be good.” The mine finally closed in 1953 and has been left as a memorial.

Cody, Wyoming

Our next stop was back over the border in Wyoming: Cody, founded in 1895 by William F “Buffalo Bill” Cody. I must admit to being rather disappointed – it didn’t look that different to many of the other western towns we passed through, just more touristy. We admired the Irma Hotel (opened and named after Bill’s daughter in 1902), had a quick coffee and left.

Thermopolis, Wyoming

After coffee, we pressed on to Thermopolis. The statue is From this soil come the riches of the world by Carl Jensen (1999) and depicts a cowboy sifting dirt through his hands in 1897 when Thermopolis was founded. The Black Bear Café provided a good lunch, then it was back on the road again.

Hell’s Half Acre, Wyoming

Hell's Half Acre
Hell’s Half Acre
Our last stop of the day was Hell’s Half Acre, a sort of mini Bryce Canyon which, despite the name, covered about 320 acres. It was fenced off, so you couldn’t get down amongst the hoodoos, but there was a good view from above.

This was close to Casper, our overnight stop. It looked an interesting place to stay with lots of pioneer history to explore. I wish I could tell you about it – but we’d been on the road for two weeks and still had another week to go. Reader, rather than sight-see I’m afraid we took advantage of a hotel with a laundry to wash out our smalls.

Estes Park, Colorado

Alpine Trail Ridge Inn
Alpine Trail Ridge Inn
The next day was all about reaching Rocky Mountain National Park. We only made one stop, in Laramie, the very first destination on our road trip which I’ve already written about (here) way back in October. Estes Park is the main town on the edge of Rocky Mountain and we agreed with our Lonely Planet Guide that “there’s no small irony in the fact that the proximity to one of the most pristine outdoor escapes in the USA has made Estes Park the kind of place you’ll need to escape from”. As we crawled through it bumper-to-bumper our hearts sank. Fortunately, however, my planning had been good. Our hotel, the excellent Alpine Trail Ridge Inn, was on the far side of town near the park entrance and had its own restaurant next door.  When we left in two days time we could take a different road which meant we would never need to go back into Estes Park. Not only that, we had something of a room with a view (see above). Result!

Next time: we climb Deer Mountain.

Travels with #WoolleyLamb


In August / September we took a US road trip during which I added four new states to my tally – Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. One of those was unexpected. We also gained a new travelling companion – meet Woolley Lamb! Our first night was spent near Denver International Airport in Woolley’s Classic Suites (highly recommended) where we met Woolley. Staff suggest you take him with you, then post photos of where he’s been. While his friends played about pretending they were at the Olympics…

… Woolley came with us to:

The Snowy Range, WY:


The Wind River Range, WY:


Grand Teton National Park, WY, where he needed a bit of help not to blow away:


Mesa Nature Trail, ID:


Yellowstone National Park, WY:

Woolley Lamb

The Montana State Line. This is claimed to be the highest State welcome sign in the US – and it marks the 45th Parallel too, so we were exactly half way between the North Pole and the Equator:

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Rocky Mountain National Park, CO:

Mile High City – Denver, CO, where, on the thirteenth step of the State Capitol, Woolley was exactly one mile above sea-level:

What now? I have been frantically sorting through hundreds of photographs and a huge pile of  information leaflets so that I can blog about our road-trip. Woolley, on the other hand, has been relaxing in a corner of the sofa.

However, he needn’t get too comfortable! We have plans for him – maybe he will meet some of his Scottish cousins on a country walk and we can send the pictures back to the hotel. In the meantime, blogging proper on our trip begins next week.

Hope to see you then!