I was so excited to finally get into the heart of Colorado. We spent our first few days around the edges, but finally dove deep into the center of the state to immerse ourselves in mountain life.
No visit to the Centennial State would be complete without a stop in its capital, Denver, but except for a brief overnight stop, we decided to forego the Mile High City to spend more time in its little sidekick, Golden.
We met my aunt bright and early at her ranch up in the hills outside of Golden.
(Finally, an answer to “Where did your hair come from?!”)
The last time I’d seen her was almost three years previously, when she visited the Outer Banks. I think my face at my first true glimpse of the Rocky Mountains was similar to my aunt’s when she saw the ocean!
We stopped on a highway overpass that provided a perfectly-framed view of the Rockies, before traveling on to find some fuzzy friends.
Before you start singing “Oh give me a hooome, where the buffalo roooam…” – a brief lesson in proper terminology: it took me a long time, but I now know that these are, in fact, American bison.
HOWEVER, I’m not gonna kick the habit just yet. According to the trustiest of all sources (Wikipedia)… The name “buffalo” is listed in many dictionaries as an acceptable name for American buffalo or bison. In reference to this animal, the term “buffalo”, dates to 1625 in North American usage when the term was first recorded for the American mammal. It thus has a much longer history than the term “bison”, which was first recorded in 1774.
This calls for a close up.
Speaking of Buffalo, our next stop was Bill.
My dad and aunt grew up on Lookout Mountain, which is the site of Buffalo Bill’s grave (a semi-controversial claim if you ask Cody, Wyoming, but I’ll side with the Coloradans).
We tipped our imaginary Stetsons to the man himself, had a little fun with the cut-outs, and saddled up again.
As rad as Buffalo Bill is, the most special stop on Lookout was when my aunt took us to see the house that she, my dad, and their family had grown up in. It was really cool to visit a place that had been such a formative part of my dad’s life.
After my aunt gave us a tour of their childhood haunts and elementary school, we started the drive down, but pulled over once or twice to get a glimpse of North and South Table Mountain.
You can also get a great view of Denver from Lookout, rising up out of the completely flat surroundings.
We ventured into the heart of downtown Golden for lunch at my aunt and uncle’s favorite pub, and followed with a little walk along Clear Creek.
I love this welcome arch that stretches over the main street through town! Signs like this used to be common in small towns set along railroad lines in the early 1900s, and Golden’s is one of the few remaining.
This one was built in 1949 and has been renovated a few times since then (it was originally lit with actual neon letters).
Even though the western states are the youngest ones in the country, they still have a lot of heritage!
What’s that you say? You’d like to see the creepiest Coors advert ever made? Why, sure!
“But Julie, you hate Coors Light!” That’s true, I do. It’s a scourge upon the earth. As it turns out, though, Coors Banquet is not bad at all, and comes in a delightfully vintage-looking pale yellow can.
If you visit Golden, don’t skip this tour. It’s free… and you get free beer at the end. ALL FREE. It’s a no-brainer!
In a final race against the darkening sky, we scooted over to Morrison, Colorado – the home of Red Rocks – to take in the views from the famous amphitheatre just as the sun was setting.
While I would LOVE to see a concert here someday, it was also incredible to take in the spectacle when it was quiet, still, and nearly empty.
Golden felt like a bit of a turning point – the day where we really started getting into the heart of our roadtrip.
The scenic drives, beautiful vistas, and exciting stops of the previous week were all amazing, but adding a dash of roots and family into the mix while taking it a bit slower made for a really meaningful stop along the road.
Colorado was winning me over pretty quickly!