Canadians are well known across the globe for their hospitable, friendly, and apologetic nature. I’m sorry for stereotyping, but it’s generally quite true. Canadians are genuinely concerned and adept to the state of happiness of our fellow Canucks or anyone else around for that matter. With that said, I’ve found Colorado hospitality to rival that of most any Canadian experience I’ve had. We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing 5 or 6 breweries, a few restaurants, as well as a few fuel stations. At every one of which we were greeted with some of the friendliest folks we’ve ever come by. Avery Brewing Co., as well as Asher Brewing in Boulder, Colorado, have some of the best staff we’ve ever encountered. Not only was the beer fantastic, but the staff were incredibly welcoming and eager to help with anything we asked. For example at Avery Brewery, we quickly realized that their substantial menu of beer ranging from 3.something % up to 16.9% was not ideal for those that wanted to continue trying everything that looked delicious and not drive themselves home after. They did all they could to find us a way to get home (by home I mean Angela’s relatives place and the street on which our trailer was currently parked) with our dog who was waiting patiently in the truck. That’s one of the perks of having dogs vs kids. I find we aren’t judged nearly as much as a parent who goes to a bar and leaves their kids in the truck…
Unfortunately, in our experience, Boulder, Colorado has not developed quite the industry Saskatchewan and Canada have as far as designated driver services go that will drive you home in your vehicle. Note for the future – business idea. With that said, we did not stay at Avery long, opting to try out one more recommended local brewery, Asher Brewing. Back home in Saskatoon, we have a few local microbreweries, one of which has become a bit of a second home. Now this isn’t because of a serious disease known as alcoholism. No, there are better reasons. First of which is the regulars. Prairie Sun brewery became a “Cheers” sort of local pub where you would walk in the door any given day and be greeted by name with friendly faces that you could sit next to for an hour or two and shoot the shit, whether you had one beer or three. Asher Brewing had the same feeling. It is a smaller place on the scale of Colorado microbreweries. But it felt like Prairie Sun. The bartender was friendly as could be, genuinely interested in our story of where we came from and what we were up to. The Canadian I.D. tends to garner questions just about everywhere we go. Imagine you are at work one day and a talking lama comes in and asks where to find a bathroom. We feel like the lama. For some reason, bewilderment is the first reaction, more often than not, when people realize they are in the presence of a Canadian. Remember as a child when you first saw a rabbit or hare running through the streets? And remember how you wondered if someone’s pet got out or if it escaped from the zoo? We are the rabbits. We really aren’t that foreign, yet we aren’t natural to the landscape. Fortunately for us we have a common language with which to communicate and don’t simply run off scared. And thanks to that common language we and the rabbit spotters in Colorado have found that we aren’t really that different. In fact, this place feels like home. It feels like Canada. That is a compliment, Colorado. We really like it here!
Having spent a couple weeks for family time with Angela’s Aunt, Uncle and their two kids over Christmas, it was time to hit the road. The Great Sand Dunes National Park was the next target on our list. As we left Boulder we made one last stop to fill up a few growlers at another great local spot. Bob, who owned the brewery, Endo Brewing Co., came to check out the trailer and gave us a recommendation for somewhere to see on the way to the dunes. Salida, Colorado. We followed Bob’s advice and made a quick detour. Well, not much of a detour. More like a different route. All I can say is Wow! The province of Colorado just keeps on giving. After a roadside nap overnight just south of Colorado Springs we hit the road early well before the sun came up. After an hour drive South, we headed West out of Pueblo, Colorado, and wound our way into the mountains again. Along the surreal, red rock canyon drive into the hills we saw signs for Royal Gorge Park.
A place not on our radar or one that we were even aware of became our new next stop. And what a stop it was. A small tourist village made up of dinosaur exhibits, rock and gemstone stores, and even a cowboys and Indians store (a bit shocking considering the times). Through the village and up a winding road we found the parking lot just as the sun was starting to rise over the hills behind us. It was a beautiful sight watching the red peaks ahead slowly be bathed in bright orange light. We opted to hit some trails recommended by the park ranger at the gorge bridge, rather than paying the fees to walk across the bridge. Always looking down so not to trip on a rock or step on a cactus (which were everywhere) we made our way to the gorge’s edge, taking over a viewpoint occupied by a couple bighorn sheep just before we showed up. Standing a good way above the bridge, I think we had what may be the best view of it all, short of down in the steady little river that lay below, or through the windows of the train that runs along it. Sheer red walls rise straight up from the edge of the water and the edge of the tracks hundreds of feet. We didn’t venture to close to the slippery shale covered edge for fear of going over. How the bighorn sheep navigate those cliffs seems to defy physics.
On the road again, after the Royal Gorge stop, we continued West through one of the most scenic canyon drives I’ve ever had the pleasure of cruising. It’s not quite as fun in a truck with a 30 foot trailer in tow as it would be in car or on a bike, but I loved it no less. Along side the same river that snakes through the Royal Gorge, we wound through 40 miles of scenic, tight, red canyon walls all the way to Salida. And what a cool city it is. A mix of Mexican style clay wall homes, typical last 30 year North American homes, and a lot of century old brick English style architecture gave Salida a very unique vibe. And the people matched. Thought I didn’t get out for a ride here, we stopped at a local bike shop for a few tubes and advice on trails. Incredibly helpful is all I can say. Before leaving town a quick stop at a roadside winery we spotted, Vino Salida, to sample some mead (honey wine) and wine. I did a flight of mead samples. I don’t think “flight” is how you refer to wine tastings, but it’s what I know so that’s what we’ll call it. Angela sampled a “selection?” of wines, and eventually left with a bottle of red something. Maybe I’ll tell you how it gave me heartburn later, or Angela will tell of how it made her evening… we’ll see.
We didn’t stick around Salida long, heading South towards the sand dunes, but stopping at another national forest free campsite. Poncha Pass. What an incredible place. We left 3 degree Celsius weather, climbed 2500 feet, and were welcomed with a wide open plateau full of sun and 10 degree bake setting. The bike came out, shorts went on and Corona’s were opened. Let the tropical holiday begin! After a quick loop on the bike around the off-road trails up and down a few adjacent hills it was back to the campsite for a sweater, pants, and the reality that, despite the warm afternoon, we were still at 9000 feet elevation in January. The sun dropped over the mountains to the West with a glowing goodbye, followed shortly by a full, low moon rising in the East. Darkness was skipped. The whole landscape was lit by the moon to the point you could read. What a scene!
The next two days were more of the same, except for one adventure. The typical homebody, Gus, decided to try to catch something. A chase ensued, Angela on foot, and me not quite out of bed yet. Eventually, I hopped in the truck and started to look. Roughly 25 minutes later he was caught with a team effort and brought back to camp. He will be leashed from now on…