Life / Travel

Denver (Castle Rock): Highs & Lows

For the start of 2021, we headed west! It took us three days to drive from Memphis to Colorado, stopping in Oklahoma City and Albuquerque on the way. Our ultimate month-long destination was a suburb 30 minutes south of Denver called Castle Rock, but we added a little ski trip on the front end in Telluride (our first time there and it was AMAZING).

Nathan and I both grew up traveling to Colorado for family vacations – mostly for skiing – but we had also been in the summer and fall once. Because of this, we’d spent more time there prior to our nomad travels than any of the other places we’ve been. After being sick for so long in the fall, and having a much-needed slow December in Memphis with family, it felt good to have a full and adventuresome January. So here we go – Highs & Lows!


The Views – It’s hard to know where to start, but this one basically undergirds everything about Colorado. It’s just beautiful. Pretty much everywhere you look. Have to drive a ways to get somewhere? Who cares, you’ll be looking at mountains the whole time. Leaving the grocery store or getting an oil change? Again with the mountains. Feeling sad? Look out the window. Better yet, go outside. You get the idea.

The House – After 5 months of being on the road, our rental house in Castle Rock was definitely the best one so far. It had an open floor plan, a fully stocked kitchen, space for Nathan to have a separate office, a fenced in back yard and deck for Juneau (which she never wanted to leave), and a pretty great view. On top of that, we got a chance to have lunch with the couple who owns the house! They used to be overseas missionaries and are now in the residential real estate world and run a house church in Castle Rock. Really neat couple and they were kind enough to offer us a free night in one of their other rentals in Breckenridge so we could ski there!

The Food – Between Castle Rock’s historic downtown and downtown Denver, we found some great places to eat. One of our favorite local spots was Romo’s Tacos – they had AMAZING fish and carnitas tacos, nachos, and this crazy enchiladas-turned-taco dish. I think we probably ate there 3 or 4 times during that month! There was a fun local Italian place in Castle Rock called Scileppi’s that had its home in an old church building that we also enjoyed. For a nicer dinner, we ventured to a delicious little place in Denver called Root Down. Most of the menu was GF and they had great cocktails plus a vibey fire-tower laden patio for all your covid concerns. There were lots of fun coffee shops, breweries (even GF ones!), and a local bakeries to top it off.

I also have to say, the food at some of the ski towns was incredible. We had hands-down the best GF pizza of all time at Brown Dog‘s in Telluride, a delightful fancy dinner at Ember in Breckenridge (the dessert was LEGIT), and even found a GF fried chicken place in Vail! Needless to say all our activities were very well-fueled.

The Weather – Being a southern girl, I was a bit nervous about this one. Colorado in January, were we crazy?? I was actually SO surprised at how pleasant it was. Now, obviously it got cold. But it was a dry cold, and the vast majority of the time it was sunny – so you’d look at the weather and see highs in the 30s or 40s, but it felt so much warmer than that. If there was precipitation, it was a few inches of snow, which is just fun, and they’re so prepared for it that driving around was not an issue. The temperature vacillated a lot (much like Atlanta)…it’d be snowing one day, and almost 60 the next. I never thought I’d be able to wear short sleeves while hiking in Colorado in January, but alas, I was *quite thankfully* wrong.

The Green SpaceColoradans clearly LOVE their outdoors, green spaces, and dog parks. So much so that they’re very intentional about both incorporating them almost everywhere you look and making sure they stay clean and maintained. Just in a 10-15 minute radius of Castle Rock, there are miles of paved paths, countless hiking/biking trails, and several huge dog parks. Pretty cool if you’re into the nature-loving life. Or if you’re a dog. I wasn’t sure how much we’d get to enjoy all of these perks in January, but like I said, the weather was surprisingly good!

The Proximity – Somewhat tied to the previous High, as Nathan put it: you can walk out your door and be on a green space, drive an hour (or less) to hike a mountain or mesa, and drive two hours an be on the ski slopes. It felt like we had so many options of things to choose from based on how much time we had. Colorado definitely seems to be filled with lovers of outdoor recreation, so the culture just revolves around it, making it easy to access many different types of activities.

The People – During our stay, we got a chance to connect with some friends who live in Colorado Springs, as well as meet some new friends in the Denver and Springs areas. In general, the people in Colorado seem very laid back, fun, and friendly. We definitely interacted with more locals during this month than we had in other places, I think partially because covid numbers have been on the decline. We even visited a church while we were there – our first time in an indoor service since covid hit, and our first time at any kind of service in 6 months. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.


The Weekend Traffic/Crowds – So we learned pretty quickly (albeit the hard way), that trying to drive out to the ski mountains west of Denver on a weekend or holiday is JUST NOT WORTH IT. Everyone and their mom, and maybe their grandma, aunt, and uncle too, wants to use their days off work to go ski or board. We tried to go out to Keystone for the day on MLK, and 2 hours into the drive gave up and turned around because the time on the GPS just kept getting longer and longer (the entire drive would take 2 hours on a normal day). Another week, we went to Vail on a Friday/Saturday, and the lift lines and mountain restaurants on Saturday were way to crowded for covid comfort…and honestly too annoying just for normal times. Thankfully, Nathan’s job is flexible enough that he started scheduling days off during the week and working on weekend days so we could avoid this issue.

The Unprepared Tourists – Yea, by that I mean us. Not for everything, but definitely for the whole hiking on ice situation we encountered. Let’s just say even good hiking shoes leave you unprepared when there’s a 60-lb husky pulling you down an ice-covered hill (up the hill, however, pretty great). Turns out we needed crampons. Yes, that’s right. That’s a thing: proof. Thankfully we ordered some just in time to leave, so we have yet to try them out. I’m quite sure Utah in February will afford us this opportunity, however.

The High & Dry Air – This wasn’t ALL bad. I mean my hair loved it. I could go like 3 days without washing it, which is a really special combination of pretty awesome and kinda gross. My skin, however, required more convincing. I literally had to go buy all new skincare products because what I was using just wasn’t cutting it. Thankfully after a few weeks, it started to get better, but lotion just has to be an investment for anyone living there I guess. And a humidifier. Also it was hard to breathe while on jogs, but I know that’s normal at first for such high elevation, plus the whole asthma thing. Adapting to it probably takes longer than the one month we had.

The Dirty Car – I’m wondering if this is mostly a winter thing, but every time it snowed, our car looked hilarious with slushy grime splattered all over it. Thankfully everyone else’s did too, so no judgement. Just dirty hands. And if we took Juneau hiking in it, she’d end up with it all over her legs and belly, so keeping a towel in the car was a must. I guess this is just something people there get used too, but thankfully there are tons of drive-through car washes with like $30 monthly memberships for unlimited exterior washes!

The Wildlife *Almost* Incident This could have been a really bad low, but actually just ended up being a pretty good story. You already know Juneau loved hanging out in the back yard. Well, one morning Nathan heard her barking incessantly – something she NEVER does – and when he went to check it out, he found Juneau face to face with a freaking bobcat. Literally. In our back yard. The bobcat had a recently-killed, headless squirrel in its mouth, which Juneau apparently thought she deserved seeing that it was her back yard. Nathan went outside and yelled at the bobcat, which was enough to make it drop the squirrel (which J promptly picked up) and jump over the fence. Nathan eventually convinced Juneau to give HIM the headless squirrel so he could throw it over the fence to/at the bobcat. The bobcat, however, apparently did not like flying squirrels, so we ended up with a headless squirrel just over the fence. Awesome. At least Juneau didn’t have it, and she still had a face, even though the bobcat was as big as her and pretty darn fierce looking. This might all sound crazy, but I do in fact have photo evidence.


All in all, we loved our time in Colorado. That wasn’t surprising to us since we had been there a decent amount before, but it was nice validation. It was actually the first place we all felt sad to leave – and I include Juneau in that. For a couple days, she was sluggish and wouldn’t even eat one morning. She’s since bounced back, but we hadn’t seen her act like that before on this trip.

We also crossed the 6-month mark of traveling while in Colorado! In some ways I can’t believe it’s been that long since we left Atlanta, but it also feels like we’ve been doing this forever. It has been nice for me to take a break from work and have the time to pursue some other things I’ve wanted to for a while, but we’re also definitely missing community and relationships that are really only sustainable by being in once place. We haven’t decided yet exactly how long we’ll keep traveling, but right now we have at least another 2 months booked.

Thankfully our next location – Utah – wasn’t too far of a drive and still offers plenty of skiing and snow to enjoy. We’ll be in a suburb of Salt Lake City called Ogden until March 20, and then we’ll head to South Lake Tahoe until the end of April.

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