In October of 2016, Dustin and I had the opportunity to go to Colorado with his company, Reynolds & Reynolds. Every year, the top salesmen and saleswomen get treated to a 3-5 day vacation to say thanks for killing it that year. Dustin has actually gotten to go the last two years, which coincidentally has been the entire time he’s been working for them. 2016’s place was suppose to be in Puerto Rico, but with Zika running ramped in South America, they decided to change it last minute to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Although it was a little sad that we didn’t get to go to a beach, we were so very thankful that they were looking out for us. I was pregnant on this trip and I don’t think Dustin would have let me go if it had been in South America. Plus, we have always wanted to see the Rockies and roam around Colorado.
For 4 days, we were put up at the nicest hotel in Colorado, The Broadmoor. We were treated to facials, massages, games of golf, nice dinners, brand new pairs of Maui Jim sunglasses, and an excursion up Pikes Peak on the Cog Railway System. They definitely know how to make a girl feel special. Last year we were in Arizona and at the end of the 3 days, we just came back to Knoxville. SUCH a huge mistake. So this year, we extended our trip and on day 4, when everyone else is hopping their flights to go back home, Dustin and I got a rental car to drive to Breckenridge and Aspen.
As you scroll through the pictures below, I’m going to give little narrations to each one so that one day when I’m looking back at this blog post, I will remember this vacation like it happened yesterday :-).
Dustin is obsessed with the moon and stars and pretty much anything to do with outer space. He always wants me to take pictures of the moon, but I’m going to humbly admit that I suck at it. I have literally NEVER gotten a picture of the moon that truly reflects how amazing it looks in person. This might be the best one I’ve ever gotten and it still is not even that great. One night we were coming back from a super awesome fancy dinner and were driving down this huge mountain. The moon was on it’s way up in the sky and was sitting right over the horizon and it was HUGE. The bus was moving so fast and there were pine trees blocking our view, that we only caught a glimpse of it before we didn’t see it anymore. That moon would have made an awesome picture, even with my terrible skill at capturing it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t possible and by the time we got down the mountain it was up in the sky and looked like this… not the same. Our room at the Broadmoor had a balcony that overlooked the back of the property. This was our view. Their landscaping was perfectly manicured and the mountains were incredible.
Reynolds allows you to do two excursions while you’re on these trips. One of them we did a spa day and got facials, then the other we did the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak, the highest mountain in the Colorado Springs area. Colorado Springs is at 6,000 feet above sea level and Pikes Peak stands at 14,000 ft. You get on this train and it pulls you all the way up the mountain. At some points it feels like you’re going up a 60 degree slope. On the particular day that we were on it, the winds at were reaching up to 70 mph, which means they turn around at the 12,000 foot altitude because it’s too dangerous to go any further. You can imagine that on our way up the mountain it was getting colder and colder, so eventually, everyone had shut their windows just because it was so cold. When we stopped at the 12,000 foot point, we opened the windows again to get pictures and the wind whipped in there like we were cruising down the interstate at 100 mph. Some of the ladies using their phones to take pictures almost dropped their phones out the windows because it was that strong. It stunk that we had to turn around at 12,000 though because at the very top (14,000 altitude) they have a donut shop and they say that if you eat a donut at the top and bring another one back down to Colorado Springs that they taste totally different. Dustin and I were really looking forward to testing this theory lol.
The picture above is the start of our climb up Pikes Peak.
As we climbed Pikes Peak the landscaping changed at different altitudes. The first bit was huge boulders just chillin’ on the side of the mountain like the above pictures. Then it transitioned into pine trees with this golden grass. They don’t have weeds and bushes and shrubs consuming the spaces around their pine trees, I guess because the ground is so rocky that they can’t survive. So their forests look totally different than those in the Smokies. You can navigate through them so much easier without carrying an ax with you to clear a walking path.
The picture below is at the 12,000 altitude point where we turned around. This was the spot where we opened the windows and the wind and coldness literally took our breath away. And you’ll notice the terrain is completely different here too. Tons of tiny rocks and just a bald mountain.
This black and white picture above made us $100 dollars! It was on our way back down Pikes Peak and the trees were catching the light just perfectly. At every trip, Reynolds and Reynolds has a photo contest. They’ll have three categories that relate to the city we are staying in. For example, one of the categories for Colorado Springs was “getting high”. Some people sent in photos standing in front of Marijuana shops and others atop Pikes Peak… they’re always fun! Then there’s a forth category that is judge’s overall best picture. Last year in Arizona, we didn’t submit any pictures. I can’t remember why, but for whatever reason we just didn’t. This year, I was bound and determined to win the contest. Well we did. We won judge’s choice: best overall photo and got $100! I was so excited when they announced it!
Halfway back down the mountain they pull off the side of the mountain so that another Cog train can pass and go up the mountain. While they wait for the other train to pass, they let everyone off the train and explore around the forest. You can see these trees behind me here are all skinny white trees. Well these trees and the pine trees are like the only trees that survive in the Rocky Mountains. These white trees are called Aspen Trees and they grow in clusters because they’re actually all one tree. These trees will take their roots underground and sprout up another tree right next to the first one and so on and so forth. So you will never see one of these free standing by itself with no other one around it. Pretty cool!
This is what the train looked like that we rode on.
And then there’s hidden little gems like this in the middle of the mountain.
This section starts me just wanting to take pictures of the beautiful Broadmoor campus. Everything was just so pretty! Right in the middle of the property they had a pond… or what they call a lake. This sidwalk went all the way around the “lake”.
Here’s the lake. It was always full of swans and ducks.
Both the picture above and below this comment was part of the golf course that Dustin actually did not play golf on this year. In Arizona he played in the golf scramble, but this year he decided to do the spa treatment with me. Turns out that was the best choice because the morning of the golf scramble was 40 mph winds! Who likes to play golf in the wind?? no one. that’s who. not a single person lol.
Okay their hanging baskets were ridiculous. ALL over the place were perfectly filled hanging baskets like this. We saw multiple times a lady who would come with little baby scissors and cut out any buds that were not beautiful and perfect. I want baskets like this on my front porch, but lets face it, who the heck has the time to prune them daily for buds that aren’t “perfect”.
This garden above was the entrance to The Broadmoor. Can it get anymore perfectly manicured?
Below is the entrance to Seven Falls. Seven Falls is actually owned by the Broadmoor, so if you’re staying with them, you get to do this for free. They shuttle you to this gate and then you can walk 1.5 miles along this pavement back to the actual falls. This was one of the prettiest walks we took while we were in Colorado.
These wild flowers were all along our walk. Dustin kept commenting on how pretty they were so I finally took a picture of one and he said ’bout time, I’ve been hinting for you to take a picture of those on this entire walk. lol oops.
Have you ever seen a squirrel like this? If you have, it was only because you were in the Rocky Mountains. These little things are called Abert’s Squirrels. We saw these little guys all the way through the Seven Falls hike. They were super adorable but a little demonic looking lol.
This building above beside the waterfall is a restaurant called 1984. We didn’t eat there, but we heard it was delicious.
This hand painted vintage sign is my favorite. Below it was this little Seven Falls shop that I bought a little key chain out of with a geode on it.
Seven falls is only called Seven Falls because it’s made up of seven different waterfalls all with their own names. You can only see all 7 in this image but one of them is right beside the middle platform and you can barely see the top of it. There were 224 steps from the bottom to the top of the falls. There was a platform in the middle for you to take a break. I haven’t mentioned yet about how the altitude really affects your breathing. Also so does pregnancy, so I was really getting a double whammy. I felt like I was out of breath this ENTIRE trip.
The Garden of the Gods
This view of Garden of the Gods is from the upper deck of the welcome center. You can see Pikes Peak in the background, but the tip top of it is covered in clouds. This park is completely free for you to drive and walk through and the man who founded it and preserved it as a national park, made the city sign a contract stating that it would always be made free to the public. There was a sign at the entrance that told us that story, which is pretty cool!
In the Garden of the Gods major rocks, there were shapes on them that were named. This little section where the light is coming through was labeled “kissing camels” and was definitely one of the easiest to see.
Then below there was a group of guys rock climbing and it really puts into perspective how incredibly huge these mountains are. I think if we had mountains like this here, I would totally be down for a little rock climbing. As long as there was somebody to catch me if I fell.
So Dustin did his own rock climbing lol… he’s probably about 15 feet up here.
This image below is called the “balanced rock”. You can see it coming from both directions of the road, but for some reason it looks much more impressive coming from this direction!
This stretch of highway was at sunset as we traveled from Colorado Springs to Breckenridge.
We got into Breckenridge really late. After we grabbed a bite, we headed to the hotel. The next morning, we woke up and got donuts, pancakes, hot chocolate, and coffee at the cutest little donut shop. Afterwards we just walked the streets of Breckenridge. Breckenridge was definitely one of our favorite spots in Colorado. It reminded us of a prettier, less hillbilly Gatlinburg lol. Instead of there being junk food, candy, and cowboy stores the whole way, it was cool art shops, locally owned boutiques, and ski shops. The buildings all had a cabin feel and everyone was so nice and so welcoming.
After we walked through all the little shops, we drove up onto the side of the mountain through some neighborhoods. The further up we went, the snowier it got. The houses were absolutely gorgeous and the ones that were for sale were definitely out of any price range we’ll ever be looking in ha! I would love to have a little photography studio on the strip though… and make friends with all of the other small business owners! We actually met a lady who went to UT for a couple years and then moved to Breckenridge to open a little boutique. She was so sweet, and she knew I was pregnant without me saying anything, which at that point in my pregnancy, made me really happy because I think most people couldn’t tell if I was pregnant or just fat.
If you have never seen ski slopes, this is what they look like from a distance. Snowy paths cut into the pine trees on the side of the mountains. Gorgeous. If you look close enough, you can see ski lifts that take people to the start of each of these slopes.
This section starts our time in Aspen. We were absolutely not impressed with Aspen at all. We started downtown, which is where this photo below was taken. First of all, we couldn’t find any parking that you didn’t have to pay for. Once we finally parked, we started walking around and quickly found out there was not a single store that we would purchase ANYTHING in. We walked into a home decor store and there was one tiny pillow… smaller than your average throw pillow… was $950. Dustin also found a coat rack made out of deer antlers and it was $2,400. We walked into a ski shop and there was a gray sweater that said aspen in orange across the chest. I looked at the price tag and it read $2700. Without a comma I thought and slightly hoped that it was $27.00 and not $2,700, but then I looked at the a toboggan that matched to see what it’s tag read and it said $350. So clearly $2700 was $2,700.00 and $350 was $350.00. I immediately stepped back from the shelf and yelled at Dustin to get the heck out of there… afraid that we would breath wrong and break something. The next shop we went into was LuLu Lemon… again, not looking to buy, but did find a girl who was super nice and told us about Maroon Bells. Maroon Bells was supposedly one of the most famous hikes in Colorado, her exact words were it’s the most photographed view in Colorado. So we quickly got out of downtown and headed up the mountain.
Maroon Bells in Aspen
This is the start of the Maroon Bells hike in Aspen.
These images are of the famous lake that is supposedly the most photographed view in Colorado. She described it as a HUGE lake that’s SO pretty. Lake definitely means something else in this part of the country. However, the colors and clearness of their “lakes” are so much better than ours!
The entire time in Colorado I was dying to see some moose. I literally looked up areas they are likely to be in and tracks to look for, etc… We didn’t get to see any unfortunately, but we can’t say we didn’t try.
After the famous maroon bells lake, there was a sign that pointed to another hike to a different lake. There were tons of people going on it so we decided to give it a go. The sign said it was only 1.5 miles, which is nothing in the smokies, but we were not prepared for like straight up hike, in direct sunlight, and I SWEAR it was longer than 1.5 miles. Then once we got back there, the lake was super dried up and tiny. But hey, it was nice to have some exercise after all the driving that we were doing.
The lake was so dried up there was driftwood teepee’s all over the dried up areas where people had camped. These were pretty cool looking.
The one night we were in Aspen for dinner we couldn’t find anything to eat. Nothing was open because it was still “out of season”. We finally ended up coming up on this bar where all the locals went. We got some fried pickles that were absolutely DELICIOUS! I got some BBQ Pork Nachos and Dustin got some chilly. We ended up liking this meal better than almost any other meal we had on our own in Colorado. Al the locals were standing around drinking, socializing, and having such a good time. It was kind of awesome. They all knew each other and were so friendly.
That following morning we woke up at 3 am to head back to Colorado Springs airport to catch an 11 am flight. We ended up making it to the aiport in perfect timing, but driving over Independence Pass in 4 am darkness was a bit scary. This pass is so crazy that they actually close it down at a certain point in the year and not even locals can drive on it. It gets super duper narrow and is insanely curvy with a complete drop off on one side and straight up mountain on the other side. But we survived and made it home all in one piece!
Now if only we can go back during ski season so we can try out the whole ski and snowboarding thing!