Cute Critters and Mountain Views: Our Second Colorado Vacation

by on August 10, 2012
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Wildflowers at Kite Lake

Wildflowers at Kite Lake

It started out with altitude sickness and ended with food poisoning, but my family and I still had a great time on our trip to Colorado. Here, in mostly photos, are the highlights:

Our "Cabin"

We arrived at our rental “cabin,” a three-bathroom house on Mt. Lincoln above Alma, Colorado (the highest town in the U.S.), at around 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. We’d gotten up at 4:00, flown out of Jackson at 6:00, and arrived and rented a car in Denver at 11:00. Our first stop was at WaterCourse Foods for lunch, where we went crazy and ordered two appetizers, Nachos and Seitan Buffalo Wings, that came in such huge portions that none of us had any appetite for our main courses, even though we managed to stop ourselves halfway through the wings (which were delicious but not remotely low-fat) and have them put in a to-go box. The rest of the food was good but didn’t make much of an impression since we were already stuffed. We waddled out the door and headed to the nearby Whole Foods where we stocked up for a week of cooking for ourselves.

View from Cabin

We’d been warned about altitude sickness, but I still wasn’t prepared for all of us to feel as bad as we did. Coming from under 300 feet to over 10,000 feet, it’s to be expected, but if I hadn’t read up about it ahead of time, I would have thought that my pounding heart, shortness of breath, and exploding headache were signs of a heart attack. We decided to take it easy and rest the first afternoon and morning at the cabin, which gave us lots of time to enjoy the view of the mountains and the animals that came to the feeder on our deck for birdseed.

Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

The chipmunks were hard to photograph, but the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels, which look like large chipmunks without stripes on their heads, let us get fairly close to them as they stuffed their cheeks full of seeds. And one of the “regular” tree squirrels was so bold that I actually managed to touch its tail as it stared me down. The most surprising animal encounter came from this fox:

Colorado Fox

My husband spotted it as we were backing our car out of the driveway. I jumped out of the car to get a good photo of it, thinking that it would run away, but it came around the back of the car and headed toward me. I dove back into the safety of the car and got some great photos of it panting, “smiling,” and basically looking like a skinny red-furred dog.

Deer

We saw only three deer during our week in the mountains, but this one posed for us at the edge of “our” yard for a while.

Stormy Mountains

As much as we enjoyed the antics of the animals (and I have a whole CF card full of squirrels and chipmunks), even more impressive was the ever-changing view of the mountains. Every day but one, afternoon thunderstorms–sometimes several of them, from different directions–rolled in, changing the light and the look of the mountains. The photo above is of the storm clouds in the distance, while the one below is of the same view just after the storm:

After Storm

We finally felt well enough to do a little sight-seeing on Monday afternoon. We drove to nearby Fairplay, whose current claim to fame is that the setting of the TV show South Park is loosely based on it. This, of course, was enough to make it the highlight of the vacation for my South Park-loving daughter (she’d even bought a florescent-orange hoodie like one of the characters wears, which turned out to be perfect for locating her in a crowd or up a mountain). I’m not sure she completely understood that the museum we were going to see in Fairplay, South Park City, was actually a recreation of a Colorado mining town.

South Park City

Still, she enjoyed checking out the restored buildings, each of which was filled with artifacts from everyday life during the 1800′s.

South Park City

And, of course, there was the obligatory stop at the South Park photo op:

South Park

The next day, Tuesday, we were all feeling better, so we took a trip up a long dirt road to Kite Lake.

Kite Lake

Kite Lake is the starting point of a trail that leads up to three 14,000 foot mountains (14ers) that people often climb in one day. We weren’t quite up to making that hike, and besides, we’d lazed around the cabin too long and gotten such a late start that thunderstorms were already gathering (and you don’t want to be at the top of a bald mountain during a storm). Still, it was a beautiful place for a picnic, and afterward, E took off on her own for a hike around the lake.

Kite Lake, Colorado--look for the orange dot!

This is where that orange hoodie E bought came in very handy! The lake is bigger than it looks, but I was able to keep an eye on her because of the glow of her orange jacket. In the photo above, look for a tiny orange dot just below and to the right of center. That’s E! And that’s how huge these mountains were. E and D managed to walk right up to a waterfall while I stayed behind taking photos of wildflowers.

Wildflowers

On Wednesday we took an all-day trip to Colorado Springs. Along the way we stopped at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, where I didn’t get good photos, and at the Wilkerson Pass visitor’s center, where we were treated to a gorgeous view of the mountains across the South Park Basin:

View of the 14ers across the South Park basin

We had a good lunch at Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Manitou Springs (since this is a food blog, I feel compelled to note that I had curried red lentil soup and a falafel wrap, even though I didn’t feel compelled to take photos of them), and then we headed for the main attraction, the Garden of the Gods:

E and D in the Garden of the Gods

Once again, we’d taken a little too long to get to the great outdoors, and about halfway through our walk around the park, dark clouds began to appear:

Garden of the Gods

Even though the paths were wide and there were maps (though none with a helpful “You Are Here” arrow), we managed to get turned around a couple of times and just barely made it back to the car without getting drenched.

Outside Leadville, CO

The final two full days are a blur. On Thursday, we took a drive to Leadville, an old mining town, stopping on the way at Twin Lakes for a picnic. If I had it to do over again, I would skip the picnic and look for vegan food in Leadville because the next morning I woke up in gastrointestinal agony (I suspect I touched something I shouldn’t have before eating my sandwich). I’ll skip the gory details, but after spending the day (which turned out to be the only one it didn’t rain) in bed, I wasn’t getting better, and because we had to travel all the next day, we decided to see the doctor at South Park Medical Clinic in Fairplay. I can’t praise the doctor enough: She agreed to see me though there were no openings in her schedule and stayed two hours after closing, alone, to give me IV fluids and anti-nausea meds. By the next day, I was feeling well enough to travel 12 hours by car and plane, and I owe it all to her.

And yes, some of you will remember that last year’s family vacation involved a trip to the emergency room when E broke her foot. Let’s hope doctor’s visits aren’t a new family vacation tradition!

As you may suspect, I’m sharing these photos with you because after a week away and several days recovering at home, I don’t have a new recipe to post just yet. Give me a few days and I’ll be cooking again!

Cabin View

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christina August 10, 2012 at 11:47 am

The pictures are just as exciting as any recipe. So beautiful! I have tons of family in Leadville–probably the whole town!

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2 veganamericanprincess August 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm

What do you think was in the sandwich that could have given you food poisoning? Awesome photos. I especially love the one of the fox!

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3 Michelle August 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Good luck finding vegan food in Leadville! There is an Italian place that is excellent, and the decor is incredible. I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s right next to Wasatch Outfitters on Main street.

How ironic that i’m from New Orleans (like you) and I live in Colorado just over the pass from Alma!

Bummer that you got sick, next time I can give you some suggestions on how to avoid that. hope you feel better soon!

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4 Michelle @ Eat Move Balance August 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm

The pictures are beautiful! I just returned from vacation in Colorado. It’s my favorite place!

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5 Chessie August 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Thanks for the stunning photos! Except for the altitude sickness, I’d be ready to book my vacation to Colorado. Are you sure you didn’t get a little something from the Chamber of Commerce? ;)

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6 Jean Mayo August 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Thank you for the lovely photos! Almost as good as going (no, not really) but thanks!

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7 moonwatcher August 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Hi Susan,

Well, bless that doctor for taking such good care of you. Like you, I certainly hope the need for emergency medical attention won’t become a tradition on your family vacations.

Thanks for sharing so much about the trip with us. The photos gorgeous, and even though I don’t live in the high mountains, I live near them, and can see a not real high one from town, which is surrounded by rolling hills, so you reminded me anew how much I like seeing those big weather fronts move through with their light and shadow across the land. It’s truly beautiful, isn’t it? Your photos really capture the magic of that. The diversity in scale of tone of all the photos really shows the richness of your trip.

I hope you are all recovered, and feeling energetic enough to share a new recipe with us soon. I am still drinking E’s version of the hibiscus drink (and loving it) since the hibiscus pods are still out of stock here. And I made the red lentil hummus, which was really good too. I didn’t/forgot to drain the little bit of excess water left in the lentils, and next time I might be more strict about that for texture’s sake. But taste was great anyway. :)

xo

moonwatcher

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8 Susan Voisin August 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Thanks! My stomach is almost back to normal now, so I should be creating some new dishes soon. I’m glad to hear that you liked the hummus and that the hibiscus tea continues to satisfy. :-)

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9 Lin August 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Thank you for sharing these beautiful pics. They are awesome. So sorry you were sick and glad you are better.

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10 Laura August 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Incredible photos! I have never been to Colorado but seeing your photos makes we want to book a holiday there!

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11 Susan Voisin August 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm

You should! It’s one of my favorite states. There’s a different view around every corner.

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12 Helyn August 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Beautiful pics, Susan… thanks for sharing!
P.S. I always carry activated charcoal when I travel. It kicks butt when it comes to food poisoning!

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13 Molly August 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm

You take gorgeous photos! We adore Colorado and were just there last month, in Boulder & Estes Park. :)

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14 Lynne August 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos! Some of my fondest Colorado memories ( from July 1996) are of the incredibly beautiful, vast fields of wildflowers. Glad to hear you are feeling better. Love your Blog!

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15 Ninufar August 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Wow, those photos are a feast for the eyes, for sure!

Keep mending… even w/o added discomforts, I often need several days after a trip to feel oriented back home again. If I’m desperate for a recipe I’ll go figure out your “family favorites” list and work through those or something. :-)

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16 Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy August 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm

what gorgeous photos! I love colorado. the views are just breathtaking!

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17 Liz August 10, 2012 at 11:51 pm

STUN-ING! You have single handedly convinced me to travel to Colorado and experience that beauty (altitude sickness and all)!

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18 Judy Mitchell August 11, 2012 at 7:27 am

Oh, thanks for the photos! I used to live in Colorado and now in the midwest. I miss the mountains.

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19 Laloofah August 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Goodness, you and your poor family have more than your fair share of travel travails! But wasn’t it wonderful to bask in the arid, high-altitude air for awhile? (The climate is one of my favorite things about living in the northern Rockies!) Bummer about the altitude sickness, never have had it but hear it’s brutal. Next time maybe you can hang out in wonderful, vegan-friendly Boulder or Fort Collins first and enjoy a few days of acclimating – going from basically sea level to 10,000′ was pretty daring!

Your photos are really beautiful. Foxes have been my favorite critter since I was a tot, so that’s my favorite photo and story. The photos of Kite Lake are favorites too.

I’m glad you’re recovered and that you enjoyed the parts of your vacation that didn’t have you bedridden (!!), and it sounds from several of the comments here that the Colorado Dept of Tourism is going to owe you a big commission! :-)

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20 Laloofah August 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Oops, I didn’t mean for my comment to appear as a reply to Judy’s! (But since I’m here – I’d sure miss the mountains too, Judy! Don’t know what it is, but seeing those big bumps in the landscape is instantly soothing to me!) :-)

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21 Almiel August 11, 2012 at 11:54 am

I enjoy your photos as much as your recipes! Colorado is a beautiful state. You should consider going to Glacier NP (Montana) some time. We went there a couple years ago and it’s incredible.

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22 Gemma August 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Great pics. That’s my kind of vacation. I was enjoying the pics and imagining being there. The squirrel is very cute.

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23 Rebecca August 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I’m sitting here looking at your beautiful pictures and eating red lentil hummus…sort of. Not sure how you are supposed to drain the lentils because mine were just mush after cooking. Did I give up? Not a chance! Just added all the other ingredients and made soup! Yummy! I love that spice mixture. It’s the kind that makes you not want to brush your teeth after dinner because your mouth tastes so good – LOL!

As for your next recipe, how about your version of those seitan buffalo wings? I already love your BBQ ribs!

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24 JL August 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I’m so glad that you made it to Adam’s Mountain Cafe! I’m so in love with that place.

Your photos are stunning. I’m so happy you had some time away from creating recipes for us – everyone deserves some time off!

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25 Susan Voisin August 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm

JL, thank you for mentioning Adam’s Mountain on your blog. That’s where I got the idea to go! I should have mentioned that my daughter had the best burrito of her life there, covered with red chile sauce and a huge pile of guacamole. She ate every bite! My husband had the Senegalese Vegetable dish, and we both thought it was outstanding. I had a hard time deciding what to get, but in the end I went with my craving for falafel, and it was delicious.

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26 Catherine August 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Beautiful photos, if it wasn’t quite so far away I’d be on a plane right now!

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27 Tina August 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Susan, thanks for sharing your CO vacay pictures. I’ve always wanted to go there and also have some romantic notions about living there one day! Sometimes the humidity & mosquitos of the Southeast are enough to make you want to run towards the west.

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28 Stef August 12, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Your photos are STUNNING. Beautiful.
Blessings to that fantastic doctor, and I hope you are feeling better soon.

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29 Vivian August 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

Enjoyed reading your Rocky Mountain vacation happenings. Glad you were able to enjoy our beautiful state in spite of your unfortunate health issues. My husband and I appreciate your wonderful recipes since we’ve only been vegans (mostly for health reasons) for 6 mos. Your postings of local restaurants were helpful since we are always on the look out for vegan friendly places. Hope you are feeling better!

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30 Susan Voisin August 13, 2012 at 10:54 am

Thanks, Vivian! I keep forgetting to mention that we ate at Sushi Sasa in Denver on our way home. I still wasn’t eating much, but my husband and daughter loved the veggie sushi. The only disappointment was that their miso soup wasn’t vegetarian–and that was what I was planning to get! It was also disappointing that it was listed as part of the vegetarian meal, but when I asked about it, the waitress offered to bring us bigger salads instead.

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31 Lauren T August 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Colorado is one of the most beautiful places in the summer I think. I went to the Vail, CO last summer, and we even took a trip up to Leadville too. Glad you had a good time minus the altitude sickness and food poisoning. I loved all the pictures!

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32 Kati August 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I live in Denver – it looks like you hit some really great spots on your CO trip! I love Watercourse..the food is heavy but really delicious. Also, just wanted to tell you – next time you come don’t touch any squirrels, even if they seem friendly! Squirrels bite people all the time, and it’s not pretty – I’ve seen it happen with my own two eyes! Just FYI.

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33 Nick August 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm

So beautiful! I love Colorado.

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34 Deb August 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Beautiful pictures! It looks like y’all had an amazing time, minus the tummy problem. We live in Denver and also really love WaterCourse Foods. Next time y’all are in the area, WaterCourse Foods has a sister restaurant, City O’ City-http://www.cityocitydenver.com, which is also very good. Breakfasts, soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas etc. They are vegetarian and vegan, with many of the vegetarian meals made vegan optional. The best is their bakery, all vegan and all delicious!

Thanks so much for sharing about your vacation. I also really love the Colorado mountains and spend a bit of time up there, simply gorgeous!

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35 Melissa August 18, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Beautiful photos! They are making me homesick. Watercourse Foods is amazing!!! The last time we went out to visit my parents I dragged my husband, mom and dad there. None of them are vegetarians, let alone vegan, but they loved it too. The country fried seitan was wonderful!

I’m glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully next time you won’t get sick. If you haven’t hiked it already Hanging Lake trail is a good one. It’s less crowded during the week. Another excellent hike is up to Lake Isabelle above Boulder in the Brainerd Recreation Area.

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36 Martha August 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Susan – your pictures are so beautiful! My husband and I are planning a trip west next year – the “cabin” you rented looks wonderful – right up our alley. I am currently preparing meals to freeze for my husband to have to eat while I am in the hospital having knee surgery and going to a rehab facility afterwards for a couple of weeks. In Kentucky, there are very few restaurants that have vegan meals and of those almost none are low-fat. My husband follows a low-fat (10% cal from fat) vegan diet (has for the past six years) and I know at 60 years old when we began, I could have never have learned how and what to cook for him without your blog. Thank you so much for all you do.

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37 Reia@TheCrueltyFreeReview August 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I’m so jealous of your fox pic! I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life and of all the hiking I’ve done I’ve not seen anything more exotic than a bunny :) Beautiful pictures, and aside from your being sick I’m glad you had a nice time.

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38 Jacky August 22, 2012 at 9:18 am

I just found your facebook page and had to come read your blog about Colorado – I LOVE CO and hope to someday live there (just need to find a job or win the lottery :)) Just starting the plant-based, E2 food and I can see that your recipes will be very helpful.

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39 Susan Voisin August 22, 2012 at 10:35 am

I know what you mean. I’d love to live there too, but at this rate, I will have to wait until I’m retired!

Congratulations on going plant-based. I know your body will love it!

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40 jamie August 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Even though I live in Alaska, there is something about Colorado that really speaks to me. I think it’s the many days of sunshine and beauty, which is really so similar to AK. I really need to take a trip there!

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41 John September 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Thank you for this post, Susan! I love that area where you rented the cabin. I used to own property near there, though on the other side of the valley. I used to hang out in Alma a bit on my trips to the mountains (I lived in Denver). I lost ownership of that property (long story) 13 years ago. I am craving a vacation back there and the cabin you rented is perfect! Would you be willing to share the name of the rental agent and the address of the cabin? My goal is to move back to Colorado and this trip is the first step! Thank you! ~jb

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42 Susan Voisin September 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I used the website VRBO. Here’s a direct link to the cabin: http://www.vrbo.com/199715

Hope you enjoy your trip. I would love to live in that area!

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43 Jenny @ Savour the Senses September 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Great photos! I am from Colorado, it is exciting to see how other people like it =)

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