Scenes from Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park was a stop that was on the books since we decided to go to Colorado.  I mean, how could we not?

Of all the hikes we could’ve done, we decided to try the hike to Mills Lake, which is about 7 miles round trip.  I picked this one solely because less than a mile in, you’re at Alberta Falls.  I figured, if we were exhausted by this point (okay, mostly me), we’d at least get to see something.  There are points of the hike that are on rougher ground, but the trails are well maintained.  The hardest part is going up- you gain 700 feet in elevation during it.

Alberta Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Alberta Falls

Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Mills Lake

Our second trip to Rocky Mountain National Park was a bit less strenuous.  We drove the Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grandby, and then back around.  I don’t recommend the whole loop if you don’t like driving.  I honestly fell asleep during part of it once we got out of the park.

Drive Trail Ridge Road, the oldest continuous paved road in the country, up to the Alpine Visitor Center.  At one point along the road, I noticed a sign that stated we were two miles above sea level.  And still climbing.  That’s quite a switch, coming from Florida, where we’re AT sea level!

There are a number of turn outs along the road for you to stop and take pictures.  My favorite is after we got above the trees, to the tundra.  There were still patches of snow, and the wildflowers up there only have an average of six weeks to bloom and reproduce before it gets too cold.

One of the biggest tips I have if you visit, is to make sure to bring a jacket.  While the temperature in Estes Park was around 90 degrees.  At the Alpine Visitor Center, it was 54!

Chipmunk at Rocky Mountain National Park
At an overlook on Trail Ridge Road

Elk next to Trail Ridge Road
An Elk. Not at a turnout on Trail Ridge Road.
It’s blurry because I managed to get this while Scott was driving!

Lake at Milner Pass
Milner Pass, shortly after the Continental Divide

Rocky Mountain National Park in July
A view of a mountain lake on Trail Ridge Road.  Snow still on the ground in July!

Explore Colorado’s Western Slope

If you follow me on instagram, you’ve probably seen a few of my shots from our vacation.  Let me start out by saying.  Every place I visited in Colorado was amazing.  I could have also spent many days in each spot.  While I got the impression that it’s all skiing all the time during the Wintertime, Summer on the western slope is nothing to miss!  In the course of 3 days, we visited Rifle, Glenwood Springs, and Snowmass Village.  These are all within 45 minutes (at most) of each other, which made it easy to travel between if we wanted to go back to any of these towns.

Hike Rifle Falls State Park.  Fee to enter: $7.00 for a day pass, good until noon the next day at any Colorado state park.   The parking area at Rifle Falls fills up early, but you are allowed to park in between campsites as long as you’re not blocking anyone from exiting their spot.  You can hear the falls from the parking lot, and it’s just a short walk to view them.  An easy to moderate (there are some tight areas, and some slick spots) 1.5 mile hike will not disappoint.  The Coyote Trail will send you up to the caverns next to the falls, which you are free to explore, and then up some more to look at them from the top.  Winding back downhill, you are actually able to step behind behind the falls (specifically the one on the right), for a unique view.

Triple waterfalls at Rifle Falls State Park

Lay on the beach at Rifle Gap State Park.  Rifle Falls and Rifle Gap state parks are (not surprisingly) located about 4 miles apart.  It is home to a 350 acre reservoir that you can fish and boat on.  They sell licenses at the Visitor Center to make it super easy.  And if you’re wanting to camp, it has almost 90 sites that are open year round.  Rifle Falls only has about a dozen, but the proximity makes it possible- even a requirement to check both out.

Reservoir at Rifle Gap State Park

Take an Evening Stroll through Snowmass Village.  The side roads shooting off the one winding road up the mountain is where all the hotels, ski resorts, eating, and shopping are.  We decided to walk around one evening before dark and were quick to discover that the town shut down at 5pm during the Summer.  We did enjoy a ride on the gondola, which was free and still open when we were there.  The next morning I was up by 6:30 to see the sunrise over the mountains.  I witnessed one girl walking her dog down the middle of the road.  Off leash.  I’m not sure what our beasts would do with that kind of freedom in public.


From the Gondola at Snowmass Village in the the Summer



Take a dip in the hot springs.  Look into package deals that include the hot springs for extra savings.  Ours included admission to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, but I’m sure there are others.  A soak in the springs, with temperatures ranging from a low of 99 degrees to a high of 108, are perfect after a day of hiking.  There are 16 individual pools at Iron Mountain to choose from, and we had our own the entire time we were there!

Ride the Alpine Slide at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.  NOTHING like Disney and there is really no way to compare the two.  No bags were searched upon entering, and we had to sign a disclosure in case we got injured within the park.  All of the rides we went on, we had to leave all loose objects at the ride entrance- and I just left my phone in my bag.  The alpine slide is only big enough for one person, though if you have a child under a certain age, they can go with you.  This slide is on tracks, so there are no chances of falling off, and you control the speed with levers.

Alpine Coaster looking up the track

The only two rides that we had a wait on were the Alpine Slide and the Soarin’ Eagle Zip Ride.  The zip ride was by far the longest at 45 minutes, because they only had one side of the ride open.  It offers you a spectacular view of the Rockies, though.  Other rides include the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster and the Canyon Flyer.  While not the tallest coaster in North America, it is highest elevation.  There are points on both rides (pretty much the ENTIRE Canyon Flyer ride) where you look down, and there is just.  Nothing under you.  So maybe don’t do these- any of these, really, if you get queasy at heights!

Glenwood Caverns Alpine Slide overlooking the valley
I’m told he gets royalties from this post….


Bonus:

Take a drive to the Grottos at White River National Forest.  This little trip was one that the ride is as impressive as the the destination.  We drove up, up, up Colorado Highway 82, which went to one lane in places.  We had no GPS, and no service on our phones to even know where the road ended, or if there was a quick way to get back to the hotel.  There are bunches of turn offs on the way up, and finally, trails to hike and a stream to splash in when you get to the grottos.  Be aware- even in the Summer the water is COLD.  We also thought we were the first to discover this area, and it was our dumb luck that we stumbled on to it.  We were wrong- it’s apparently a pretty popular place to check out!

What are some of your favorite spots in the Western Slope of Colorado?  I’m curious, during the Winter, are there other activities to do aside from snowboard or ski?  I do neither of those!

Linking with Bright on a Budget /Cup of Tea / Della DevotedSeptember Farm / The Farmer’s Wife, and Meet @ the Barre

Colorado Dreamin’ | A Week Itinerary

Colorado Travel Itinerary

When I tell someone about our trip to Colorado, I usually wind up with a bewildered look.  It seems that we were able to pack a lot of adventure into the 8 days that we were out there.  To kick off my recommendations and snaps (that are sure to be different from the scenes I’ve shared on Instagram), I thought an overall look at our week would be a good place to start…

Day 1  

Red-eye flight from Orlando to Denver.  We chose this because it would maximize our time in Colorado without taking extra days off work.  Also, after two flights with Frontier, it’s safe to say we won’t be flying with them again.

Drive to Rifle, CO (approx. 3 hours).  Maybe not the best idea after work all day and a three hour flight that was an hour late.  But, with a two-hour time change and the excitement of being somewhere new, it worked.

Day 2

Rife Falls State Park
Rifle Gap State Park
Drive to Glenwood Springs (approx. 30 minutes)
Iron Mountain Hot Springs

Day 3

Drive to Snowmass, CO (approx. 45 minutes)
White River National Forest
Aspen

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Day 4

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Drive to Boulder, CO (approx. 3 hours)

Read about Days 2-4 here!

Day 5

Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park

See some snaps from RMNP, Day 5 and 8!

Day 6

Cheyenne
Laramie
Wyoming Territorial Prison
Vedauwoo

Pictures from Wyoming!



Day 7

Colorado Springs
Garden of the Gods
Cripple Creek
Victor Mine

Scenes from the Mine!

Day 8

Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Lake
Granby

See some snaps from RMNP, Day 5 and 8!

Day 9

Downtown Boulder
Denver
Red Eye Flight back to Orlando.  1.5 hours late.  Making the last day of vacation / Sunday before work starts pretty much useless!

Red Rocks at Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Check soon, as I’ll have more to share about our trip!

Make Your Own Flat Lay Backgrounds for Less than $5 | How-to

When you scroll through instagram, are you tired of seeing all of those stark white backgrounds for flat lays?  Me neither, as they look so clean, and a good white background really makes things pop.  But, sometimes photos can use a little more pop of color.  This weekend, I figured out two ways to make a flat lay backdrop for under $5.  Of course, these can also be propped up to use as a background as well.

Flat Lay Backdrop #1.

DIY Flat Lay Back Drop
What you’ll need:
  • Poster board- .97 cents from Target 
  • Drawer liner- $3 from the Dollar Spot at Target
  • Scissors or X-acto knife
  • Credit Card or Starbucks Card
The theory behind this is super easy.  The execution may take some practice.  I made three back drops this way, and truthfully, they all have good and bad spots.  That may or may not be noticed in pictures.
Starting at one corner of the poster board, carefully unroll the backing of the drawer liner and press firmly to the poster board. 
Use a credit card (I used my trusty Starbucks card!) to eliminate any bubbles as you go.  The hardest part about this is getting the liner started.
Once you get to the end of the board, use the X-acto knife or a pair of scissors to cut the paper.  The $3 rolls from Target should have enough left over to finish covering the last four inches or so of the poster board.  I learned some patterns are a little harder than others to match up and keep even.  For instance, a herringbone patter was nearly impossible for me to line up, while the polka dots were definitely the easiest.
DIY Flat Lay Back Drop
Now, flip that .97 cent poster board over for…

Flat Lay Backdrop #2

DIY Flat Lay Back Drop with Wrapping Paper
What you’ll need:
  • Poster board (if you didn’t flip it over) 
  • Pretty wrapping paper –  $1.50 from Michaels
  • Modpodge – $1 from the Dollar Spot at Target
  • Sponge or paint brush
  • Scissors or X-acto knife
Again, super easy theory, and the execution was actually much easier than the contact paper.
Smear some Modpodge glue onto the poster board, and spread it out with a paint brush or sponge.  Work in sections because it dries quickly!
Lay the wrapping paper evenly onto the board and smooth out.  You’re probably going to have a lot of wrinkling unless you get super thick paper.  I learned that having a print that is a little more “busy” should mask the wrinkling.
Once the paper is attached to the poster board, slather another couple layers of Modpodge on top.  It’ll look white and streaky, but dries clear.  This is an especially important step if you had to cut another piece of paper and apply- the glue on top will seal it.
DIY Flat Lay Back Drop with Wrapping Paper
If you notice with each of these options, I decided to use prints that only used two colors.  I think anything more of that (especially with a more wild pattern!) would distract too much from the items you’re displaying.
For under $10, you can get TWO different flat lay backdrops!  Some day, I’ll actually take some [other] photos actually using them!
Linking with Biana!