Mt. Falcon: Morrison, CO

Naturally Denver has no shortage of hiking trails, and I’m excited to try them all out. Much to the horror or skiers and people worried about summertime droughts there wasn’t a lot of snow this year, so trails are clearing up earlier than usual.

My mom (who was in town for the weekend) and I started out the season easy yesterday with a quick morning hike up at Mt. Falcon. Forty minutes west of Denver, this is a great hike if you want to sleep in, hike, and be back in the city for lunch.

What I like most about Mt. Falcon were the options. This well maintained, not-too-rocky and not-too-steep trail is perfect for an easy hike, a trail run, and those who prefer to tackle trails on mountain bikes or horses. There are enough people around during the weekends that I would feel comfortable hiking solo here, but the trails are easy enough to take friends of varying fitness levels.

There are also plenty of trail options.

Make your decision before you head out though (or print out this map to take with you), because the only map I saw was the one near the parking lot. We opted for the three mile Parmalee/Meadow loop. I hope to head back in a couple weeks and try running the Castle Trail, so there may be an addendum to this post soon. The loop was a nice rolling trail with great views of the Front Range foothills (although where in Denver do you NOT have great views of the Front Range foothills?) towards the west and the Mile High skyline to the east. I hear this is a gorgeous place for sunrise pictures. (Again: addendum coming up!)

The GPS on my phone pretty much got me to Mt. Falcon, but directions are as follows:

  • Head west on I-70
  • Go south on 470 (just past 6th Ave)
  • Turn onto 285, again heading west

If you are following directions on a GPS, once you turn off highway 285 turn it off and just follow the signs. My GPS wanted me to turn down various private drives and dirt roads which was not necessary. The signs were plentiful and obvious.

History Colorado Center

We’ve not exactly been experiencing a financial climate that encourages the opening of new city museums, but luckily the History Colorado Center was forced to move to a new building. Taking advantage of the move, the museum completely re-thought it’s vision, audience testing all of their exhibits and pulling out all the stop necessary to make the museum as fun as possible. I recently got a chance to explore this soon-to-open museum, and I can’t wait to come back on April 28th when it’s completed and ready for the public.

This will be one cool museum. A coal mining simulation, a 4D car-ride, games to play, and even a SouthPark reference help museum patrons better understand Colorado stories and history. On the main floor of History Colorado there is a huge map of the state, made interactive by two “time machines” that can be pushed around the floor. Depending on their locations, the machines fire up mini-movies (3-5 minutes) about the spot they’ve been situated on. I learned about Leadville’s ice palace, how the Olympics never happened in Denver, and about the first African American woman to practice medicine in Colorado.

The second floor has an exhibit on ‘Colorado for Locals,’ scheduled to be very strange – featuring situations like ‘what if the big blue bear and the big blue horse got in a fight?’ (the azure animals are well known pieces of public art here). The other exhibit opening upstairs has spaces for several different groups that showcase the concept of community in Colorado. These include Steamboat Springs (home to more Olympic athletes than anywhere in the nation), a Japanese internment camp, Lincoln Hills (the go-to African American mountain retreat), and the site of the Ludlow Massacre. Museum curators have successfully gotten away from the “plaques on the wall,” method of presenting information. In the Steamboat Springs exhibit you can participate in a simulated ski jump. Step into the Ludlow Massacre exhibit and you are surrounding by the sounds of battle before conflicting primary source quotes appear on the walls, still arguing about what happened here.

The History Colorado Center opens on April 28th. It will be open Monday – Saturday from 10am – 5pm, Sundays from noon until 5. Only a few exhibits (the ones mentioned above) will open in April. Over the next five years more wings will open. Next up will be an exhibit focused on people and their environment, particularly the importance of water in the region. The museum will also have a temporary exhibit space so traveling collections will be able to enjoy a stint at History Colorado. The museum will be charging $10 for adults, with discounts for seniors, students, children, and groups of 10 or more. The museum just behind Denver Art Museum at 1200 Broadway. You can park in the parking garage on 12th. There is also plenty of metered street parking.

The Molly Brown House Museum

I’m going to add to the 100th-Anniversary-of-the Sinking-of-the-Titanic hype today by posting my review of the Molly Brown House Museum in Denver. I’d give it a B. Maybe a B-. The only other dead rich lady’s residence I’ve been to was the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. That one is a lot cooler because Sarah Winchester believed that the ghosts of all Winchester rifle victims would haunt her if she ever stopped building her home. Molly Brown had no such crazy notions, making for a less interesting residence.

But it was interesting to learn about Molly (or Margaret, as they call her here. Apparently she was dubbed Molly only after her death) and her life in Colorado. She followed her brother to Leadville where she met her husband who later struck gold. The family and all their riches moved to Denver. Her home is right downtown, with a second story porch overlooking the capitol – still a prime real estate location. Most of the pieces in the home where purchased by Historic Denver when they bought and refurbished the home. The original furnishing where auctioned off in 1932 when Molly died in New York. There is a bit of Titanic memorabilia in the home, mostly pictures of the ship and her unfulfilled insurance claim to White Star Lines. Her extravagant trucks apparently held a $700 sealskin coat, 300 dollars of lingerie and a $20,000 necklace.

The twenty minute documentary of the unsinkable lady that I watched in the gift shop prior to my tour painted a much more “humanitarian” picture of Molly Brown. When she wasn’t traveling to Europe, Asia and Africa, she was using her influence to better Denver’s public spaces, build a juvenile justice system (which would become the model for the rest of the country), and champion the rights of minorities and women. She ran for Senate a few times before women had the right to vote. She was actively involved with other Titanic survivors, putting her language skills to use helping immigrants navigate life United States following (often) the loss of their husbands. In the days after the Titanic sunk Molly was already cajoling rich ladies to donate money to those less fortunate by publishing lists of who had given how much money to her survivors fund.

If you are in Denver for a few days, a trip to the Molly Brown House Museum is worth the $8. A $10 Titanic tour is also available through August of 2012. The museum is located on 13th and Pennsylvania. They are open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am until 4:30, with the last tour leaving at 3:30. Sunday hours are noon – 4:30. You must sign up for a tour to see the interior of the home. Tours are about 45 minutes. I showed up on a Saturday at 1:30 and got into the 3:00 tour, so be ready to kill some time. There are a couple casual restaurants right next to the museum if you are hungry.

Oh, and there was NO Celine Dion music piped into the gift shop or house – just so ya know. Although you can buy a fake version of that blue diamond necklace Kate Winslet wore in the film.

Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland, CO

So once upon a time a Norwegian expat died, his body was frozen in a cryonics facility, and then send to reside in his grandson’s backyard in Nederland, Colorado. When Trygve Bauge (that would be the grandson) was forced back to Norway, his mother informed that community that there was dead body on ice in the yard. This provoked a few responses:

  • A law was passed prohibiting the storage of dead bodies within the town of Nederland. However, Trygve’s grandfather was grandfathered in, since he was already dead and stored before the law was written.
  • Dozens of TV trucks and tourists flocked to Nederland to check out grandpa. Employees of the local newspaper was getting sick of giving direction, so they put up a sign (complete with map) in the window entitled “Directions to the Frozen Dead Guy’s house.”
  • In 2001 Teresa Warren, Nederland’s Chamber of Commerce president a the time, suggested that the town capitalize on the frozen situation and the first “Frozen Dead Guy Days” took place in 2002.
  • After heading about FDGD’s a few years ago, and moving to Denver a few months ago, I have been anxiously awaiting to attend the festivities.

When you show up for an international event in a tiny mountain town, it’s a bad sign when you easily find a parking spot. Yes, I was there on the right day. Unfortunately. The reason for the amble parking was the weather. I parked the car and took a look around me. People were miserable shuffling around, hands deep in their parkas and heads bent to the ground to avoid getting a face-full of wind. Those standing still were making a conscious effort to remain upright. I surveyed this scene from the comfort of my car as I buttoned up my coat and held a fruitless search of the front seat for my gloves.

My glove-less hands I and I got out of the car. My mouth immediately filled with the sand and snow that was furiously blowing around. The hood of my coat was incapable of staying on my head. I watched a porta-pottie tip lose a battle with the wind and tip over. I hope nobody was occupying it.

Fighting the urge to get back in my car and head back home, I made my way to the nearest indoor space and entered. Much to my happiness it was a thrift store wherein a purchased a woolen hat with ear flaps and gloves. The thrift store, full of clothes, shoes, and baby gear is right above “Off Her Rocker Mercantile.” This furniture/art/novelty shop was really cute. I especially liked all paintings of local scenes and funky furniture. This was also one of many places to buy Frozen Dead Guy Days ornaments and chocolate bars.

I ventured outside and kept heading down First street, poking my head inside packed deli shops, coffee houses, and stores as I made my way towards where some activities were scheduled to be. Frozen Dead Guy days activities for the weekend included a hears parade, frozen turkey bowling (once thawed and no longer useful, the turkey meat was scheduled to go to Ed’s dog), a frozen salmon toss (Ed’s dog apparently has some competition, because retired salmon goes to Hillary’s cat), a frozen T-shirt contest, a brain freeze contest, coffin races, and a scheduled plunge into the icy Chipeta Park pond.

By the time I got the Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery, the activity tent across the street was being hastily disassembled, and freezing-looking guys were packing gear into a van. Activities were cancelled for the day due to wind.

 

I suppose I should have been annoyed that I’d driven all the way to Nederland for nothing, but I the news of the cancellation was a huge relief. Now I could go home.

On the way out of town, I stopped at Backcountry Pizza (avoiding the $20 event fee that was being charged for parking in the Caribou Shopping Center parking lot by simply parking for free up by the Black Forest Restaurant and taking the quick walk down and around the shopping complex) in hopes of warming up a bit. Naturally, everyone else in town had the same idea and the place was a crowded disaster. Camera-men were huddled with their gear and beer on stools by the bathrooms, discussing other occasions wherein they had nearly froze to death (“…yeah, man, once I was out with this guy from National Geographic and we were camped up above the tree line when a snow storm came in and ripped our tent off the ground…”) Families sat tucked under the soda fountain machines. I surveyed the scene and (feeling like a complete wimp) got the hell out of Nederland.

No Cars Allowed: Pearl Street and 16th Street were Made for Walking

If you are in Denver during a warm summer evening, be sure to traverse 16th Ave. This downtown “pedestrian mall” will be filled with happy diners sitting outside restaurants, tourists banging out tunes on the colorful pianos and photographing painted pigs that sometimes fill the brick streets, and groups of friends laughing from bar to bar. 16th street is capped by the capitol building on the south end and LoDo to the north. To be honest, both of these areas are more exciting than 16th street itself. Free “pedestrian mall” shuttles will help you get from one end of the walkway to the other.

These shuttles will come in handy if you are walking down 16th street on a cold winter day, because you will probably be much less enchanted with the place. There is more than one place to buy tacky “Colorado” souvenirs and the majority of the restaurants are chains, from nice chains (Earls, Yard House) to not so nice ones (Chile’s and, of course, McDonalds). There are also at least three Starbucks along 16th Street, whereas the rest of Denver seems to embrace the “chains are for bikes, not coffee houses” philosophy.

Boulder, sitting 45 minutes northwest of Denver, does a much better job on it’s pedestrian-only Pearl Street. There are cute clothing stores, specialty shops, in the beautiful Boulderado Hotel, tons of restaurants (chains and otherwise) and a plethora of bars, ranging from gritty pool halls to DJ’d dance floors, to upscale wine rooms. Pearl Street is the most interesting at 2am, after all the bars close and groups of twenty and thirtysomethings try to find their friends and cars with varying degrees of success.

Running Clubs in Denver

People that aren’t me seem to think that running and beer go together. I first discovered this at 18 when I ran my first marathon. Instead of a water station at mile 23, it was a beer station. Although this would have been a golden opportunity for my under-aged self to score some free alcohol, I was not remotely interested in drinking warm beer when I still had 3.2 more miles to run.

Several years later I discovered the international Hash House Harriers, aka “Drinkers with a Running Problem.” The international club is known for bestowing it’s member with (extremely) inappropriate nicknames and partaking in drunken singalongs after running through mud and ditches. Again, not interested.

I just can’t build up a strong desire for beer after a run, no matter how hot the run or how cold the beer. I’d seriously rather have a warm Diet Pepsi. Or water. Call me boring.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a sobriety lifestyle. Drinking alcohol is fabulous. I love wine at Italian restaurants, especially if cheese is involved. Amaretto sours are my go-to-drink when I need to stay alert throughout the night. I don’t think I could play bingo without two shots of tequila and a bag of Doritos, and  I can totally get behind drinking beer at bars and baseball games and camping trips and whenever I’m having a hamburger.

But after running? I’m sorry, but how can anything beat a water?

So here in Denver people love running clubs and drinking beer. Again, these two activities are intertwined. It is quite typical here for running clubs to meet at bars, go off and run, and then return and drink. I love the concept and don’t want to miss out, so I just eat instead of drink after the run. Here are a group-runs-at-bars that I’ve been frequenting:

Snug Run

A large group of runners meet at the Irish Snug every Thursday for a run. To get in on the action, sign up online to join the “official” list. Around 6ish, meet underneath the Snug (at the entrance on Marion, not Colfax), sign in again (because once you’ve reached a certain amount of runs you get a free t-shirt), and find some people to run with. Snug Runners do not start off as one group, so you have to make friends there to go running with. (Like me! Leave a comment if you want to join me and my group.)

The 3.5 mile loop is an easy one, through Cheeseman Park and past the Denver Botanical Gardens before heading back to Colfax and the Snug. After the race you can join the masses for free spaghetti or grab a table with friends. The food is nothing special, but the salads and burgers are acceptable.

Highland Tap Run

Meet your fellow runners at the very back of this bar on Wednesday nights to sign in. Then head outside to stand by the fire to warm up before the start. At 6:30 everyone starts off at once, but the pack does tend to thin out after the first mile. This run goes through Confluence Park, LoDo, past Coors Field, and back up 32nd to the bar. The word UP is used purposefully. The last mile is basically a LOOOONG hill. It’s not too steep, but it is never-ending.

The bar gets pretty crowded after the run, but I hear the beer here is top notch. I’m all about their macaroni and cheese though. It is creamy and so delicious that you can tell you are ingesting approximately 200 calories per bite – more if you get it with the bacon. I think you would have to do the 3.5 mile run several times over to cancel out the macaroni and cheese. But it’s worth it.

The only problem with attending these runs that meet in bars occurs if you happen to get your days mixed up. On Wednesday I accidentally headed to my Thursday night bar. Naturally I was in full-on running getup and paraded though the bar looking like a complete dork before I realized that I was there on the wrong day. However, Denver’s ultra-casual dress code standards made this mix-up only embarrassing as opposed to mortifying. I don’t even want to think about showing up at a bar on the Vegas Strip in running clothes.

Rocky Mountain Road Runners Club

The last running club I’ve joined up with is the Rocky Mountain Road Runners. I was thinking that this club would not meet the beer theme, but alas, the post race hangout was at Platte River Bar and Grill. Wherein people were drinking with gusto at 10am on a Sunday morning.

This is not a meet-up-and-run club, rather they sponsor monthly races as a club. Each race is $10, or you could join the club for a $35 yearly fee. (Discounts are available for households joining together, student runners, and those who are willing to volunteer during races). However, the group does also meet up and group for fun on Wednesday nights.

The races put on by RMRR are a little different. They all have staggered starts, so the slowest runners begin first, and others begin according to their estimated finish time. The idea is that everyone finishes together and anyone (even the slowest runner) has a chance at winning the race. Prizes are given out to winners over food and drinks after each race, and the camaraderie here is infectious.

So even for though I don’t enjoy a post-run-beer, I am loving Denver’s group bar runs. Provided I show up to the right bar on the right night.

Cheers! And Happy Running!

Denver Art Museum

I’m not really an art museum person, but I do like free stuff, and the Denver Art Museum is free on first Saturdays for Colorado residents. So I went. Plus I got to say things like “DAM! That’s where I’m going today!” It’s much cooler to verbalize the above sentence then to write it out because when spoken nobody can tell I’m omitting the “N.” You can also become a “DAM Good Friend” of the museum. Hehe.

Based on my extremely limited knowledge and experience with art museums, the Denver Art Museum is better than the Seattle Art Museum, but I prefer New York’s Met to the Denver Art Museum. This may be because I went to the Met with two other anti-art people and we spent our time making fun of modern art. Plus the Met is always free.

I liked the Denver Art Museum because it was not too big, exhibits are easy to walk through without getting lost, there were interactive exhibits on every floor (make your own postcard! Design patterns with beads! Dress up like you belong in a Clint Eastwood movie!), and there were lots of loud people there. (Probably because it was a free day, but still) I don’t like being quiet in museums. Also, some exhibits (like the creepy red dining scene with all the wolves) are enhanced by the wearing of 3D glasses. I like gimmicks with my art. Anything to keep me entertained.

The layout of the museum is far superior to the two other art museums I’ve been to recently. The Seattle Art Museum and the Met were all about having lots of small rooms with paintings hung up on the four walls of the rooms. The Denver Art Museum has huge rooms, and with displays are placed all throughout the space, not just on permanent walls. The lack of tons of tiny rooms is what aids in the not-getting-lost-department.

My favorite exhibits to not get lost in where the “Western America” and the “Western American Photography” exhibits on the 2nd floor of the Hamilton Building and the 7th floor of the North Building, respectively. This was probably because I recognized many of the scenes and landscapes due to my frequent car trips between Las Vegas, Seattle, and Denver. Art, like everything in life, is more enjoyable if you have some prior knowledge you can call on. For the same reason, the American Indian exhibits on the 2nd and 3rd floors were cool too. I liked that I recognized the Acoma pottery and Navajo rugs due to my last trip through Northern New Mexico.

This “prior knowledge” theory went out the window as I raced through the Asian and European exhibits though. I’ve already seen an insufferable amount of Asian art in China because whenever it was raining in Shanghai, I’d duck into a museum. I was in China during monsoon season. There is only so much blue and white lacquered pottery that you can appreciate. I’ve likewise seen my fair share of European art because whenever my toes started freezing in Germany and Scandinavia I’d seek warmth in the confines of a museum. I was in Europe during January. I’d had my fill of Madonna’s holding fat babies wearing halos as headgear.

My least favorite exhibit was the only one I was specifically looking forward to. Of course. Artist Ed Ruscha has a special temporary exhibit at DAM that was inspired by Jack Kerouac’s Great American Novel. I’d been eager to check it out because I’d just finished reading “On The Road.” The exhibit was beyond disappointing. Ed created his “art” by putting Kerouac quotes on a canvas and adding a really ugly looking mountain underneath the quote. I wish I could put a picture of these monstrosities below this paragraph, but I was not allowed to photograph the “artwork.” This exhibit will be up until April 22nd should you care to check it out for yourself.

The Denver Art Museum is located at 13th and Broadway in downtown Denver. It is open Tuesdays – Sundays from 10am – 5pm. On Fridays the museum stays open until 8pm. The museum is closed on Mondays. Museum admission starts at $10 for adult Colorado residents ($13 for non-residents) with discounts for seniors, students, and children.

New Mexican Food in Denver

The first time I was in a New Mexican restaurant in Baltimore. I warily looked at the menu and ordered the not-so-southwestern brie and apple cheeseburger. Much to the additional horror of my foodie-friend, I added a liberal amount of ketchup to my meal.

“You have got to get it together,” she said to me, shaking her head in a mixture of disgust and pity.

She was right. I was due to be in New Mexico for a press trip soon and this type of behavior would probably not acceptable. I’d better learn to eat chiles (green, red, and both) stat.

So I did. While in New Mexico I fell in love with Southwestern cuisine. I gobbled up green chile cheeseburgers, posole, lamb stew with cilantro, and Navajo tacos with the best of them.

Then I had to leave. I had to spend two months in Seattle and Las Vegas, pining for frito pies and those cheeseburgers. Luckily I’m in Colorado now, and cuisine from the state next door is readily available at several places around Denver.

Julia Blackbird’s New Mexican Restaurant

There is something different about people who love New Mexico: Their speech is peppered with words like “Earth and Spirit, global connections, beautiful soul” and especially the word “spiritual.” The earthy/new-age feel can be felt as soon as you get five feet off any interstate in New Mexico or as soon as you enter Julia’s restaurant in Denver’s West Highlands. Although the exposed ceilings of her restaurant fit in with Denver style, the rest of the place is all New Mexico. Mexican, Southwestern and Native art decorate the walls (which are painted to look adobe). On the menu is a note from Julia that closes by stating “…feasting and exchange of food reflect the depth of common ideals of reciprocity, community, and the relationship to all life…” It wasn’t just the language and decor that was New Mexico, the food was too. 

For dinner I had Taos style tacos: beef, lettuce, pico and queso on blue fried corn tacos. Delicious. Although the taco shells were just a tad on the soft side.  The Ancho Chili BBQ ribs, chicken cordon green and pecan stuffed acorn squash all sound interesting too, so I’ll have to go back. For desert I probably should have had the pastel de chocolate Diablo, but I went with the not-so-southwestern key lime pie instead.

Julia Blackbirds is open weekdays for lunch from 11 – 2. Dinner hours on Tuesday – Thursday are 5-9, Fridays they are open until 10. Dinner is not served Monday. The restaurant is open from 11-10 on Saturdays and noon – 2 on Sundays.

Jack-N-Grill

This is one of those “if you eat this million calorie gross thing, your picture goes on the wall” kind of places. Don’t come here if you are on a diet. I got one of their more modest burgers (aka it only had one patty) and could only finish half of it. And I can eat a lot. The vibe here is very “family roadhouse.” All the burgers and meals are named after the owners kid and grandkids. Apparently the family came from Albuquerque, started selling burgers, and the rest is history. Although the place doesn’t look particularly New Mexican (no adobe anywhere), the menu has the requisite sopapillas, posole, and green chile menu items.

I’m in the minority here, but I didn’t really like Jack N Grill. They’ve won tons of local and national awards, so go ahead and give them a whirl, but I wasn’t feeling it. I had a Jaxx burger, complete with onions, guacamole, bacon, cheese and green chiles. For some terrible reason, the bacon was infused with maple syrup, making the whole burger taste faintly of a pancake breakfast. The bun was a little weird too, too soft and sweet for me, although maybe I’m still reacting to the bacon.

My house

I made my first posole the other day, which was a little intimidating because my roommate is one kick-ass soup chef. I’m more of a baker, but armed with hominy corn and a recipe from, I was ready to go.

Even though the recipe was definitely on the “easy” side, I think I used like ten pots and pans to make this. I also splattered everything within a ten foot radius of the stove when I was frying up the lamb. The posole turned out great though. I mostly stuck to the recipe, but I did add half an onion to the recipe, and garnished with radishes. I also made cute little cornbread muffins to go with the posole (see above). Good stuff.

I still haven’t found a good place for Navajo tacos (open faced tacos on fry bread), but now whenever I need posole, green chile cheeseburgers, or a chance to ‘feast while reflecting on the common ideals of humanity,’ I don’t have to go all the way down to New Mexico.

Urban Trails around Denver’s Lake and Rivers

When I moved from Seattle to Las Vegas six years ago, I thought I would miss the color green. I didn’t. Southwestern sunsets over brown mountains totally fulfilled my ‘color’ requirement. But I did miss lakes, rivers, oceans, inlets, sounds, bays, and islands. Now in Denver, I’m still missing oceans and islands, but there are some aquatic features here to enjoy. Since it’s January and not exactly swimming season, the only thing to do with these rivers and lakes is to run around them. Here are a few I’ve explored:

Sloans Lake:
Much like Seattle’s Green Lake, this is a go-to spot for runners in need of a quick urban workout. A glance to the east of the lake reveals the Denver skyline. Swivel your head in the opposite direction for a view of the mountains. The path around Sloans Lake is paved and well used. The city clears off the path after a snow, for which I am grateful. I’m still a bit scared of slipping on ice. This fear seems to be rare. Other runners don’t even slow down when crossing sheets of the slippery stuff. My runner friend here made fun of me when I skipped our Wednesday night run due to the fact that it had recently snowed 12 inches and then froze. “You’ll have shoes on, right?” He asked, baffled. Obviously I’m going to have to figure out how to run in the snow, but maybe that can wait until next year.

Anyways, the non-icy path around Sloans Lake isn’t even two miles, but I’ve observed runners doing a few loops in order to get in a good workout. The area to the north of Sloan Lake is also nice to run around, and provides an uphill for training purposes and pretty house to run past for aesthetic purposes. This is currently my favorite run in Denver. Sloans Lake is west of Denver, on the northeast corner of Sheridan and 17th

Standley Lake:

This lake is way bigger than Sloans Lake, and despite three visits to the park, I’ve yet to run even halfway around the lake. It would take hours (well, it would take me hours anyways. Perhaps a Kenyan could do it in mere minutes). You can’t run all the way around the lake. The northwest corner is off-limits because it’s a bald eagle nesting area. There are tons of dirt and/or gravel trails around Standley Lake. It is much quieter here than Sloans Lake, in all three of my runs here I haven’t seen another soul – although there are always footprints and dog-paw prints to follow, so that’s comforting. Standley Lake is pretty close to the mountains, so the scenery is nice. During the summer, boating and fishing is permitted on Standley Lake, but swimming is not.

Standley Lake is a ways northwest of Denver, just east of Wadsworth and W 100th Ave in the city of Westminster. It’s actually an official “regional park,” which means that you can be charged to drive around the lake. To avoid the fee, park at 86th Parkway and Simms St or 100th Ave and Owens St, and walk (or bike) into the park for free.

The Platte River:

There are tons of nice places to enjoy a run along the Platte River in the Denver area, from Commons Park in LoDo to a long network of trails in Littleton. This morning I ran a seven mile race along the Platte in Littleton with the Rocky Mountain Road Runners club. It was freezing. Really, really freezing. One runner literally finished with two long icicles hanging off his baseball cap. The trail along the river was great. It was paved and mostly de-iced. There were tons of mile markers (permanent ones I mean, although there were also mile markers put up by the race coordinators – I hate it when races don’t have mile markers!) along the trail that also pointed out other trails and points of interest that were nearby. The Platte River is pretty low here, but is still fairly scenic for an urban river. Water cascades over rocks, there are sections of tiny rapids, and lots of geese hanging out.

There are tons of parking places around here to access the trail. I parked behind the Platte River Bar and Grill (cute restaurant: lodge-ish with wooden floors and walls of glass windows) at 5995 S. Santa Fe Dr, Littleton, CO.

Although I love my lake and river runs, I’d better get up into the mountains pretty soon. Downtown water-side runs tend to be very flat courses. I need to start hill training eventually!

32nd Ave

When I was in Las Vegas there were some shops around me. I could technically walk to a Kohls, Smith’s, CVS, Jack ‘n the Box and other extremely boring stores. I’m not a huge “GO LOCAL!” person, so it didn’t really bother me, but I am continually amazed at the sheer number options here in Denver. A mile down the road from my new home is a bustling section of 32nd Ave full of local restaurants, bars, coffeehouses, book and clothing stores, pilates/spas/wellness centers, and (my favorite) a cheese shop. I’ve been frequenting some of these places regularly, but a recent surprise day off (they cancel school for snow here! Yay!) gave me an excuse to spend some quality time here. I walked down to Lowell and 32nd from my house. Since I’m the only person in Colorado without waterproof boots, I was employing the plastic-bags-between-my-socks method of keeping my feet dry. This quest was aided by all the Denverites who graciously shoveled snow from their sidewalks, making my winter jaunt much more enjoyable.

If you are heading east, cute houses with “no highrises in the highlands” signs in their yards turn into businesses around Perry Street. The Asian Highland Grill here is pretty good (though I’ve only had the Kung Pao Chicken, which admittedly isn’t too exciting), but don’t count on the free WiFi working.

Since it was snowing and all, I stopped in at Highlands Cork and Coffee for some hot chocolate. This coffee house/wine bar/tapas bar/happy hour hangout is very cozy. A repurposed house, the whole downstairs area contains warm rooms in which you can enjoy your free WiFi, hummus and chai tea. A few blocks down, Common Grounds is another fun coffeehouse. For later in the day, Three Dog Tavern and Mead Street Station are good places to drink and hang out.

Shopping wise, there is an overpriced baby boutique store and a surprisingly not overpriced women’s clothing store. Especially check out the sale section at Starlet, but even the new stuff isn’t too expensive. Usually a mere tank top at a boutique store would be upwards of $40, but things are about half that price here. It was hard to look at their new spring line with a foot of snow outside though. The jewelry and accessories store Kismet was pretty cute, as was Wordshop, the stationary store behind Kismet. Of course my favorite place was 32nd West Side Books. This (mostly) used bookstore had rows of stuffed shelves and the *interestingly* organized shelves that one would expect from a local book store.

In addition to coffeehouses and restaurants (Bang!, Julia Blackbird’s New Mexican Café, and Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill are some to try), there is also Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli, St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop, and Mondo Vino if you want to get some meats, cheeses, and/or wine to bring back home. The English sharp cheddar from St. Kilian’s was great on pasta and I’m very much looking forward to having Valdeon Spanish Bleu Cheese on my spinach salad tonight.

It seems like 32nd Ave peters out when it crosses Speer Blvd, but just past Highland Park and the newly renovated North High, things pick up again. Mexican joints, pizza places, and Highland Tap and Burger (try the macaroni with bacon!) keeps 32nd exciting as it leads you to LoDo and downtown.