Another day, another fantasy about a cabin in the woods. That sums up how I feel about my life since my trip to Colorado.
Alright, context. Once upon a time, I visited the Denver area once with my family, and have been dying to go back ever since. For months after our Colorado extravaganza, my sister and I could not stop talking about Colorado. We bothered our parents for months. What captured our imagination? Was it the wide-open spaces? The gorgeous mountains? The mystique of the old west? My eccentric Uncle sitting running around his new backyard screaming, “These are my mountains?” Whatever it was, I had the Colorado bug.
Flash forward seven years, and one of my best friends, Cecelia, is working in Aspen for the year. Alas, it is my moral obligation to visit.
So when I finally had an opportunity to fly out to Aspen and just went for it. Let’s just say- one of my best life decisions. While I stayed in nearby Glenwood Springs, Cecelia and I traveled around the entire valley around Aspen, called the Roaring Fork Valley. These are my adventures nestled between the Colorado Rockies.
If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend flying into the Aspen airport. Denver is hours away and getting to Aspen without a car can be a hassle. Also, the Aspen airport is adorable. It looks like a wooden lodge and it’s tiny. On the way back to California, I was the only person in the security line so the TSA agent and I just stood there and he told me about seeing Rush at the Red Rocks Amphitheater during a thunderstorm. Oh, yeah, and the gate was maybe 10 feet from the security checkpoint.
But the real reason to fly into Aspen is the views. My flight from Salt Lake City to Aspen was the most beautiful flight I have and probably ever will go on. There was not a cloud in the sky; the scene seemed like a dream. The plane glided over the mountains for miles, forcing me to ask whether we would actually come in contact with civilization. I even took plane pictures. I hate plane pictures, but it’s impossible for these mountains to not look good. I know flying to small airports can be expensive, but the flight into Aspen is a travel experience all in itself.
When the plane touched down, I was surprised to see snow on the ground. How magical and exciting! Cecelia lives a bit of a drive from Aspen, so we decided to go check out the town for a little. Aspen is a beautiful town, and not crowded at the beginning of November! After gawking at the small mountain town, we shared a buffalo burger at a nice pub. The buffalo burger was pretty good, and the restaurant was not too expensive. Afterward, we primarily window-shopped, ooh-ing and ah-ing at the cute little houses that were probably 2 million dollars. The Aspen Thrift Store was really cool, but most of the clothes are for winter. And lord knows I don’t need more winter clothes sitting in my apartment.
Aspen was also very walkable, which is something I’ve come to appreciate. And while probably a facade, there was a small-town feel and sense of coziness. I noticed how many events were in the area, which was nice to see. It seems like a great place to visit no matter the time of year!
I freaking loved Carbondale. It was my favorite place of the trip. Driving from Glenwood Springs to Carbondale was breath-taking, as the road winded around Mt. Sopris- an almost 14,000-foot peak that rose high above the Earth.
The first evening in town, we went to an event called First Friday, where various artists would feature certain pieces and/or exhibits. Carbondale is a very creative town, and I loved that artsy mountain vibe. And better yet, the event truly felt like it was for everyone. There were kids and parents, older couples, parents on a date, teenagers, and young adults grabbing a beer and chilling with friends. My favorite art exhibit was a small grave on the street. The tombstone read “Democracy” in cryptic, pink letters. The grave was on a small patch of faux grass and surrounded by a small white picket fence. Unfortunately, with the way the light reflected off the tombstone, you could not snap a picture.
It was also Dia de Los Muertos, so there were fun performances/exhibits celebrating the holiday. Our favorite was a fire/acrobatic performance. It was amazing to see what the performers could do with their bodies, and the fire was a really great way to add an extra punch of suspense. We then went to a few local pubs that were lively and featured great beers. My favorite of the night was a stout from Carbondale Beer Works. I haven’t had a great stout in a while. While Carbondale’s bar choices were not vast, the town lit up with excitement and cheer. People of all ages are dancing with their friends and significant others, acting like freaking dorks as they danced to rock cover bands. I wish there were more opportunities to do that.
The next day, we went into Carbondale again for an art exhibit at a fun space Launchpad Carbondale. The exhibit was an artistic critique of the digital age. While I feel like this theme is now overdone, it was fun and we had a good time. Afterward, we walked around the town, finding what fun surprises Carbondale had in store. I bought a coaster from a local photographer, who like my Grandfather, was a bald man from Brooklyn named Marty. I loved all the unique shops and small trinkets. I could have gone broke during my time in Colorado.
We then road around town, where we saw the cutest houses and an eight-point buck in someone’s front yard. Just chilling there. Riding around Carbondale was great- it felt like a nice small town that was not filled with the existential dread that pervades many American towns/suburbs.
The highlight of that day was the hot springs. While I am not going to post pictures due to other’s privacy, I really recommend checking out the area’s various hot springs. We went to some springs next to the river. Allegedly, these springs can be crowded, but we were able to find a great spot. I was pretty nervous about whether I would burn up in the springs or freeze, but the temperature was perfect. The smell is pretty interesting, but I loved being next to the river and staring up at the mountains. There was no cell/internet service for miles! After a while, I let myself float in the pool for a bit. If you’re looking to feel super Colorado, go to a hot spring by a river, look at mountains, and think about the meaning of life.
If you are visiting the area, I think Glenwood is a great place to stay. You have your basic amenities like Target and a grocery store, but there is also a separate, local downtown shopping area. Furthermore, there is accessible public transit around the valley. I loved the views from Cecelia’s apartment! I feel nestled in between two mountains.
Of course, I recommend checking out downtown. There are nice shops that are a good mix of authentic local items and kitschy souvenir shops. There is also a new pedestrian bridge connecting the downtown shops to the springs. It’s a great place for a photo op or just looking at the mountains. We did both!
And if you have the chance, I recommend taking a drive for several miles on I-70 East. The drive is breathtaking. I can’t even describe it. The mountains appear unreal. I took a picture from my window, but like most airplane pictures, it could not do the trip justice.
To sum up, I highly recommend visiting the Aspen area. It’s a beautiful place with a lot of character and events for everyone. I am hoping to visit in the winter months, so stay tuned!