A Day of Discovery in Denver

Denver is surprisingly close to the Rocky Mountains, which means you’re never short of mountain views while in the city. We only had one day in Denver at the tail end of our Colorado adventure (which you can read about here,  here, and with amazing sand dunes here) before our two days of driving back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

Since we only had one day we wanted to get a bit of an early start, and probably started our self-made walking tour of downtown around 10:00am. Let’s just say that we were definitely not impressed the first few hours in the city. There seemed to be camps of people (quite literally camps, with tents, chairs and everything) around every second corner with many of them giving an all new meaning to the ‘mile high city.’ It overall gave us a bit of an uneasy feeling while walking around. We did, however, find time for a few quick shots around the Colorado State Capitol building and loved the view from one mile above sea level.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

We ventured over to the LoDo neighbourhood and found Urban Farmer, a modern yet rustic steakhouse with delicious brunch options and outdoor seating. Things were starting to turn around.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

Our brunch was excellent, the sun was shining, and my mimosa and Bettina's bloody mary bar were on point.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

We can definitely recommend Urban Farmer if you're looking for a great Sunday brunch spot!

No sooner had we finished eating were we looking for even more food. Bettina had been talking to a few locals on Instagram and received a large list of places to go to. The Milk Market at Dairy Block came highly recommend to us, and we can only pass along the recommendations.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

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Customizable Disk Necklace by GLDN

Earrings by Coco Loves Rome

 

This bumping market hall was full of modern restaurants and bars all with delicious looking and (smelling!) food. Since we had just eaten brunch, we weren’t that hungry but that has never stopped us in the past from indulging in more food!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

As we strolled around the market, we stumbled upon Morning Jones and just could not resist their decorate your own doughnut station. You basically got six fresh doughnuts on a plate and were free to add as much Oreo crumble, sprinkles, bacon, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, or caramel as you could fit.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

For better or worse, we finished it all and were thoroughly stuffed the rest of the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along 16th Street doing some shopping before heading back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

On our way to leave the city, we drove through the RiNo neighborhood, a trendy and artsy neighborhood too cool for us to be let in. We didn’t have time to stop, but it is definitely at the top of our list when back in Denver. Our drive back to Chicago took us through Nebraska and of course, Bettina had to capture the essence of the state by taking some sunset pictures in corn fields!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

 

Have you been to Denver for the day? If so, have you been to the Milk Market?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

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Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

After a restful sleep, we took our time getting packed up, cleaned up, and walking along the river. This was the first time on our trip we put our fancy new camping shower and with pop-up tent to use. Despite pouring a pot of boiling water into mix with the “room temperature” (ie. freezing cold) water we had with us, the water flowing out of the shower head was frighteningly cold, causing fits of giggles to laugh off the pain. It was probably one of the least enjoyable, yet most satisfying showers I have ever had. After camping for a number days it felt great to have a fresh start to the day.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We used this Green Elephant outdoor shower tent, the Nemo Helio outdoor shower, and this cute Nemo Helio green floor mat.

 

                                       

 

All products we link are the actual products we use and we would not recommend them if we didn't truly like them. We are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program which is designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

 


Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Not far from our campsite was Animas Forks, a ghost town and relic of the heydays of mining in the San Juans. The first buildings were constructed in the 1870’s, and by the early 1880’s the town was home to 450 people, complete with a post office, general store, saloon and a telephone.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

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The great thing about exploring Animas Forks is that you can walk inside all of the buildings to get a real sense of how it might have been to live here back in the day. Some buildings still had preserved wallpaper or ornate woodwork, but most had substantially succumbed to the elements.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

The crown jewel of the town is the grand, two-storey Duncan Residence, built in 1879 to withstand the long cold winters. Previously, most residents of Animas Forks spent the winters a bit further south in Silverton (which you can read about here). The Duncans were one of the first families to brave the full winter in Animas Forks where the snow would easily bury the first floor of the house!

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We enjoyed exploring the town, though didn’t see any ghosts, and were soon headed towards our final, and highest offroad pass of the trip: Engineer Pass. We zig-zagged our way up the shelf roads with plenty of multi-point turns to get around the corners.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop - View of Animas Forks

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We own a Toyota Tacoma and were extremely happy with its performance throughout the trip. This post is not sponsored by Toyota but we can highly recommend them.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We came to a breathtaking viewpoint, “Oh Point”, with an almost 360 degree view of the mountains and valleys around us. We must have taken hundreds of pictures trying to capture the moment and the beauty of our surroundings.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

After what felt like an eternity, we reached the 12,800 ft (3,901 m) summit of Engineer Pass and stopped for a ceremonial picture before quickly jumping back into the car to escape the wind and the cold and head down the other side.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

No sooner had we started our decent and there were a few locals blocking the road and getting in our way!

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

It took us a couple of days and with a few detours, but we finally completed the famous Alpine Loop. This was something I had on my bucket list for a number of years and I was glad to have successfully completed the loop, taking in all the magnificent views along the way.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

It wasn’t the end of our driving day though as we had a few hours of highway driving to reach our next campsite! However, compared to the last days of offroading, highway driving was a welcomed change. We arrived in the dark at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was a beautiful warm summer night and we enjoyed sitting in front of the stars and taking it all in.

Not knowing what to expect of the Canyon because we arrived in the dark, we set off the next day and enjoyed our coffee with some prime canyon views.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is famous for its dramatic views, as it is especially deep, narrow and steep compared to some of the more famous canyons around. Why is it called the Black Canyon you wonder? It's because some parts of the canyon are so narrow and deep they receive only 33 minutes of sunlight each day.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

 

As we were having coffee, we made friends with this little guy who was hoping for some breakfast.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

The Canyon was our last stop before going back to civilization and at this point, we were both looking forward to a real bed. We had camped for five days in a row which was certainly pushing our limits. (Did you read about our nights in the Sand Dunes, in Silverton, and Ouray?) I'm not sure I'll be able to convince Bettina to go on another camping trip anytime soon but the trip was a dream of mine for years and the entire adventure made it all worthwhile.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Have you completed your dream road trip yet? What was your longest camping trip?

 


 

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Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

Ouray is a beautiful mountain town tucked away in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado. We arrived at camp with plenty of time to set up our tent in full daylight which was a nice change.  Once again we were warned of bears in the area, but at least this time it was a proper campground with other people all around, for better or worse. Read about our bear scare during our first night here.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Sometimes our laziness gets the best of us and since we were so close to downtown Ouray we decided to head into town for dinner. The charming town really just has one main street, but it is bursting with places to eat and drink. We chose Ouray Brewing Company for the great rooftop patio views!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

The food and beer also lived up to expectations and were delicious! With full stomachs we settled in for an excellent night’s sleep, but not before some stargazing! The wilderness of Colorado provides an amazing opportunity to see more stars than you have ever seen before! It has been quite some time since Bettina and I have seen the Milky Way, but it was back in force under a clear Colorado night.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Milky Way

 

The next day we arose early as we had a full day of driving ahead of us with three main passes on the agenda. Bettina couldn't resist posing next to the 'Switzerland of America' sign!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

First up was Corkscrew Pass, living up to its name by twisting uphill between the creatively named Red Mountain 1 and Red Mountain 2. The road was steep and surprisingly busy as we encountered a number of modified Jeeps and ATV’s, making our stock Toyota Tacoma from Illinois look slightly out of place.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

At 12,257 ft (3,736 m) high, the top offered expansive views of the surrounding alpine area.  We didn’t hang around for long though as the wind negated all the warming effects of the sun. We continued on climbing slightly higher to Hurricane Pass at 12,730 ft (3,880 m) and then climbed further still across the laid-back California Pass at 12,963 ft (3,951 m).

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Hurricane Pass

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - California Pass

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Unfortunately, even though the road was relatively flat, it was very rough with a lot of large rocks, so our progress was slow.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

As we noted in our Silverton post (which you can read about here) this area experienced a mining boom in the late 1800s and you could see remnants of old mines scattered amongst the mountains, even at seemingly impossible locations.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

We came across the impressively preserved Sound Democrat Mill which has been maintained and preserved as good as possible in a remote area like this.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

The mill was built in 1905 to process the mineral-rich ore mined from the surrounding hills.  The ore was transported by a network of aerial trams and then processed through this gravity-fed mill to be crushed, stamped, and stripped of all the valuable minerals.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

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Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

The mill ceased operations in 1914, having never turned a profit. Being able to walk inside the mill and climb to the various levels on rickety ladders was a humbling experience. Even though the massive old machinery has been sitting here for over 100 years, you definitely get a sense of the difficulty and hard-work involved to keep this mill operating.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Soon we were back on the road, or the vague imitation of a road, that was California Pass. It was incredibly rough, and we were driving at less than a walking pace. Luckily we didn’t have much further to go before setting up camp along the Animas River.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

There was a truck parked nearby with an older woman sitting in the cab the whole time we were setting up our tent and preparing dinner. Curious to hear her story, we walked over to talk to her as it was getting dark and she appeared to have no tent or other items with her. Chatting for a few minutes, we learned that she was waiting for her husband to arrive who was hiking to this point and had set off from Ouray that morning. We were confused – we left Ouray that morning as well and had spent over eight hours driving to get his far. Surely we misunderstood?

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Animas River

 

We went back to preparing and then eating our dinner. Another hour passed and there was still no sign of her husband. The sun was long gone, the sky was getting darker, and the air colder by the minute. Then off in the distance, there was a man walking along the road, with a stick in hand, making his way towards our group. Sure enough, it was her husband who she was very happy to see arriving with a smile and all in one piece.  Eager to get the full story, we went back to chat with them and confirmed that he had in fact left Ouray that morning just before sunrise and had hiked over a handful of almost 13,000 ft mountain passes to get to the same point it took us all day to drive to! The man was very cheerful and seemed to have enjoyed every minute of it – so much so that he was going to do it all over again the next day. Oh, and he was well over twice our age – definitely putting us to shame!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Milky Way

 

Would you rather hike across a pass or offroad like we did? Let us know in the comments below!

 


 

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Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

After a fairly rocky first night to our trip (which you can read about here), we were eager to get back into the rhythm of things and prove to ourselves that we could actually do this whole camping thing for days on end. After all, there is nothing more motivating than waking up with views of cheerful flowers for days.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Our next destination was near Silverton, Colorado, but to get there we first had to conquer Cinnamon Pass.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

The views heading up the pass were breathtaking as we got our first glimpse of the high alpine area of the San Juan Mountains.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Cinnamon Pass is on the southern portion of the famous Alpine Loop. This 65 mile (105km) “loop” is not to be taken lightly though as it is 4x4 only, far from civilization, and crosses two high mountain passes.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

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Earlier in the summer, these alpine basins are overflowing with alpine wildflowers, however, we were a few weeks too late to experience them.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

The road was rough and bumpy, but worth the drive when you can conquer the pass and are rewarded with views like this. At least it was worth it for me, Bettina may have other ideas. Our Toyota Tacoma performed extremely well again and we had no issues getting up the steep and rocky roads.

This post is not sponsored by Toyota in any way but we can highly recommend Toyota as we didn't have any problems with the truck throughout the trip.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Clearly, I'm overwhelmed with excitement that we managed to make it to the top.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

We reached the top of Cinnamon Pass at 12,640 ft above sea level (3,853 metres) in the early evening, and so we had the whole place to ourselves! We couldn't resist stopping to take in the view and to make sure we remained hydrated. Voss was so kind as to provide us with their flavoured water for our trip, which are incredibly refreshing! My favorite flavour is Lime Mint but Bettina swears by their Lemon Cucumber water.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Voss Water

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Voss Water

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Voss Water

 

The road downhill on the other side was even rockier, but we were soon setting up camp again hoping for a better nights sleep. This was our second night camping remotely in an area with nobody else around (except for perhaps the odd deer and bear). Luckily we had a much better sleep that night, and with the sun warming up our campsite we packed up our tent and were headed into town.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Silverton is a town that appears to be stuck way back in the past, but in a good way. The town was founded back in the 1870’s as a center for the numerous silver mines that were operating in the area. Back in the day, this town was booming, with thousands of prospectors scouring the hills for gold, silver, and everything in between.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

The town has managed to preserve most of its architecture and feel from that era.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

We enjoyed walking the streets, feeling like we were on a film set, window-shopping, and also having a connection back to civilization.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

With buildings like these, you can just imagine what it would have been like to be here over a hundred years ago.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

While the town is fairly small, it’s easy to fill a day exploring, and we both had a great time. (Can't get enough of Silverton? We also share a few glimpses of the town here.)

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Have you been to an old mining town before?

 


 

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Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

I have been wanting to visit Colorado for years and this desire for pristine wilderness, majestic peaks, and the great outdoors has only been further amplified by our life in the flattest state in the United States. We literally couldn’t be further away from the mountains that we both grew up with at our doorsteps.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

The simple way to solve this problem would be to jump on a plane and arrive in Colorado a few hours later.  However, we rarely do simple. My plan was to drive the nearly 2,400 km (1,500 miles) to our destination in the San Juan mountains in southwest Colorado. My decision to drive was primarily driven by (get it?) our plan to camp, offroad, and explore the more remote regions of Colorado that would require our 4x4 Toyota Tacoma and camping supplies. I say "my decision" because I love to camp but had to convince Bettina to tag along.

We own a Toyota Tacoma and were extremely happy with its performance throughout the trip. This post is not sponsored by Toyota but we can highly recommend them.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

We began our drive west early on Friday, beating rush hour out of Chicago and continuing on the 8 or so hours to Lawrence, Kansas where we spent the evening visiting friends.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

The next day, we spent hours staring at the rolling hills of Kansas and the endless wind turbines as we made our way to the Colorado state border and eventually to Colorado Springs.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

The First Day of Offroading

 

We started our adventure at the Garden of the Gods park, which was so stunning, I could write an entire blog post about it. If you haven’t been, the park is very close to Colorado Springs and is a great place to walk and hike while exploring the interesting rock formations.

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Heading south we had a short 45 minute drive before what we considered the true beginning of our offroading experience when we turned off the paved road. Our first offroading adventure would be to conquer Medano Pass as a test of our rusty 4x4 driving abilities and trial run for the days to come.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

We aired down the tires and took in the fresh Colorado air before proceeding up the dusty forestry road. (For the less offroad experienced among you, airing down the tires reduces your risk of punctures to the tires as you drive over sharp rocks. It's crucial though to get the tires back to normal pressure once you get back on the pavement for proper handling and safety.)

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

We came across a few obstacles that we had to stop and take a second look at before proceeding, but the trail was otherwise perfectly manageable and a lot of fun.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

Towards the end of the trail, there were a number of creek crossings which could fill your truck with water if they are deep enough. We didn’t fully appreciate the depth of the water of one particular one until we were smack in the middle of the river with no turning back. The water reached the bottom of the doors of our truck!  This is what it looked like on the Jeep that went through just after us.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Arriving at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Our destination goal for the day was the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It is a special place where you can freely explore the 30 square miles (78 square km) of dunes and the tallest sand dune in North America, at 750 feet (229 metres).

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Nearing the end of the trail we could see glimpses of the sand dunes in the distance, and the road turned to sand as well, which was a fun challenge to drive on.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

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We decided to hike up the sand dunes but almost didn't make it! Bettina and I weren’t yet used to the higher altitude and hadn't eaten much yet that day, which is mainly a way of saying that we're totally out of shape.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

The views from the top were absolutely breathtaking and definitely worth the effort.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

 

It was perfectly quiet out on the dunes, and the setting sun cast golden light across the area.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

We set up camp for the night in a primitive site nearby, with nobody around.

 

Tenting in Bear Country

 

Driving up to our site, we came across a few bear warning signs. Having camped in the Rocky Mountains, we are no beginners at camping in bear country and know to follow the bear rules. The most important of which is to lock all your food items and toiletries in the car and leave nothing at all outside that will attract bears. And yes, bears love toothpaste so make sure you lock it up as well.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Not all travels go exactly as planned. This was our first night camping in our tent in a while, and also one of the worst nights we had.

To start off, it was windy which causes the forest to make a lot of noises that your brain can’t always justify as ‘just the wind.’ Next, it rained a couple times throughout the night. While we stayed completely dry, the noise of the rain did wake us up each time.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Lastly, we had a few visitors to our camp in the early morning. At around 4:00am we were both awake and could hear something moving around our campsite. It was still very dark outside and fairly quiet except for the noises we were hearing. We both held our breath and listened intently for quite some time. Tents provide a false sense of security against anything that may want to ruin your night. I mustered up the courage to see what was out there, and so we very slowly and very quietly prepared our headlamps and flashlights on our phones for a surprise attack on whatever was out there.

Unzipping the tent I quickly flashed the lights all around and found six eyes reflecting sharply back at me, about 20-30 feet away. Three deer were nonchalantly enjoying an early breakfast around our tent and didn’t seem to be bothered by us being there. After shooing them away, we got a bit more sleep but overall had a very restless and sleepless night. A great way to start off almost a week of camping…

Have you had a rough night camping in a tent before? What was your experience?


 

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Fun Times at the Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy is well known for extreme tides and the rock formations that result from the tidal erosion. The thing about tides is, they kind of just happen without regard to your travel plans and when you plan to be near the water. We had a bit of a late start leaving Halifax (which you can read about here) and so missed the low tide in the morning when we arrived at Hopewell Cape on the Bay of Fundy in the afternoon. (You can learn about the technical aspect of the tides here and check out the tidal timing here.) Luckily for us, there are two high and two low tides each day, that’s semidiurnal for those in the know.

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

We arrived just after high tide and walked around to the various viewpoints to take pictures. The views were good, but not quite the awe-inspiring vision we had in mind and saw during our online research.

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

With the two high and low tides each day there is about six hours separating each extreme. The tides here are considered the highest in the world. Twice each day 160 billion tonnes of water flows in and out of the Bay of Fundy. The tides peak at around 16 metres (50 feet) which is as high as a five-story building!

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

Having seen the bay at high tide which meant that a few walkways were barred off and covered in water, we expected the landscape to change dramatically at low tide. We had planned ahead and knew we would have a bit of a wait, and so enjoyed a picnic in the afternoon sun while the tides were changing.

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

A few short hours later we headed back to the viewpoints on the Bay of Fundy and were awestruck at how much everything had changed. Where did all of the water go?

 

Low Tide at Bay of Fundy

 

The tide movement is even more spectacular when you compare high and low tide moments next to each other.

 

High Tide

 

High Tide at Bay of Fundy

 

Low Tide

 

Low Tide at Bay of Fundy

 

High Tide

 

High Tide at Bay of Fundy

 

Low Tide

 

Low Tide at Bay of Fundy

 

We were able to walk around the newly exposed seafloor and take pictures as the sun began to set in the distance.

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

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Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

The extreme tides here are very special to see and you won’t believe it until you see it yourself!

Not far away from Hopewell Cape is the village of Alma, which experiences the extreme tides right in its harbour.

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

Fisherman here definitely are aware of the tides and store their boats on stands! How they got the boats on the stands in the first place is beyond me.

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

We really enjoyed our evening drive along the Bay of Funday and south to Saint John as the setting sun brought new views around each bend in the road and revealing the beauty of the Canadian Maritime Province.

 

Fun times at the Bay of Fundy

 

Bettina was especially smitten with the fields of daisies.

 

Field of Daisies New Brunswick

 

Field of Daisies New Brunswick

 

Field of Daisies New Brunswick

 

We arrived in Saint John late in the evening and needed to leave fairly early for our long drive back to Boston. Even though it’s not usually our strong suit, we managed to get up early in order to take a short walk around the city before heading out.

 

Sunrise in Saint John

 

Sunrise in Saint John

 

Morning Walk in Saint John

 

We enjoyed walking around the Saint John harbour the most. There is no doubt that the waterfront would be buzzing with life on warm summer afternoons or any time after 8am, which is when we were there.

 

Morning Walk in Saint John

 

We even spotted Theodore Tugboat on vacation from Halifax this summer.

 

Theodore Tugboat in Saint John

 

Our drive back to Boston was fairly uneventful. We wanted to leave with lots of extra time as border waits and holiday traffic can be unpredictable. We spent a grand total of 2 minutes waiting in line to cross the border, and stopped at the nearest gas station to fill up the car where we met this friendly Canadian ready to celebrate the Fourth of July!

 

Dog with Hat and Glasses in Convertible

 

Would you go on a trip over Fourth of July to get more use of your day off? Or would you fear you’re missing out on celebrations at home? Let us know in the comments below!

 


 

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East Coast of Nova Scotia

Arriving in Nova Scotia was a highlight for us, as we had now reached all three of the Maritime Provinces.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

We started our day in Lunenburg, a UNESCO world heritage site, and home to many colourful buildings. It was, unfortunately, a bit of a cloudy and grey morning, but you wouldn’t know it looking at all of the colourful houses!

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

A few more houses in case you didn’t get the idea.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

Lunenburg is full of old and historical buildings. The Bank of Montreal branch made us feel like we were transported back in time or landed in a Harry Potter movie.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

The town has a rich history of agriculture, fishing, and ship-building. You may have heard of, or at least seen the most famous ship built here, the Bluenose, featured prominently on the Canadian dime. The commemorative replica, the Bluenose II, was docked in Lunenburg during our visit.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

We left Lunenburg relatively soon (not completely unrelated to me being freezing cold and the views being quite grey). In the hope for more sunshine, we drove to Peggy’s Cove and were amazed by the views! It was at this point that Nova Scotia completely stole our hearts.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

Seeing the Peggy’s Point Lighthouse from a distance was simply breathtaking.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

Once we actually arrived at Peggy’s Cove we loved walking around and exploring the small fishing community.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

I was worried Peggy’s Cove would be an over-hyped tourist destination, but we found the place surprisingly undeveloped, and almost magical. Walking around the village you can get a real sense of the simple life of the people that lived here (before all the tourists arrived) and the struggle of living right on the wild Atlantic Ocean.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

Peggy’s Point Lighthouse is clearly the star of the show here.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

We could have walked around the lighthouse for hours. Even though there were a few tourists there, the place felt calm and we enjoyed watching the waves break on the rounded rocks.  Peggy's Cove is exactly what we thought Nova Scotia would be like and we highly recommend you visit.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

Shop My Style

 

My necklace is by GLDN and my purse is from the cutest Chicago online boutique called White Elephant Designs. I linked a similar one below.

 

 

After some delicious mint chocolate ice cream sorbet, we were on the road again, pointed North towards Halifax - the capital of Nova Scotia.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

We saved our exploring of the city for the next day, so sought out a restaurant for dinner and can highly recommend the seafood at Five Fisherman. Our selection for the evening included local Mussels, PEI oysters, a shrimp cocktail, brussels sprouts and some lobster mash for good measure.  We also dared each other to take ever-increasing dips of wasabi on our shrimp. There were no winners. 😀

Also, if you are still keeping score, we were now three for three on the seafood and ice cream challenge.

 

The next morning we were greeted with sunshine as we walked around the Halifax waterfront and explored the city.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

 

As we walked around the waterfront, we came across a few very Canadian food booths. We'll leave it up to you to guess whether we had Beavertails, Poutine, or Cow's Ice Cream for breakfast.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

The city has a large number of historical buildings, almost all of which have a view of the harbour as the city is situated on a hill overlooking the bay.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

If you have more time to spend in the city there are also a number of museums dedicated to the extensive history and culture of the area.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

As we were preparing to head back out on the road, we had one last ‘attration’ to see. Every day (other than Christmas) at 12 noon, a canon is being fired from Citadel Hill as a tribute to Halifax’s history as a major stronghold for the British. We drove up near Citadel Hill just before noon and waited.

 

East Coast of Nova Scotia

 

Now, we knew it was going to happen, and when it was going to happen (give or take a minute) and we still jumped out of our skins. It was LOUD! And with that we were off with a bang heading West!

 

Have you been to the East Coast of Nova Scotia? Have you ever tried Beavertails? Let us know in the comments below!


 

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A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

After a day of driving, we were ready to tour Canada's most densely populated province: Prince Edward Island. Manhattan this is not, as its capital Charlottetown, is home to about half of the 150,000 people that call this island home. Most people arriving in Prince Edward Island will begin their sightseeing about 12.9km away as they cross the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

We stopped at the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre just before you begin the drive across the bridge to get the best views and can highly recommend it.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

From here you can walk around on the sandy beach and dip your toes in the (frigid) waters of the Northumberland Strait. Fun fact: The Confederation Bridge is the longest bridge in the world over ice-covered waters, and it even cuts cool patterns in the ice! (see these pictures here).

 

Confederation Bridge - A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Confederation Bridge - A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Driving around PEI we were immediately at ease and got a sense of the relaxed pace of island life.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

The province is mostly rural, containing lots of sprawling fields and farms. Summertime is a great time to visit PEI as lupins are in full bloom around the island in vibrant colours of purple, pink, and white!

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Of course, Bettina couldn’t resist a picture or two amongst the flowers (while trying not get to stung by a bee)!

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Her necklaces are from GLDN and she wears them almost every day.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Arriving at to the entrance gate of Prince Edward Island National Park, we were getting our wallets out to pay the entrance fee, where the friendly park ranger informed us that *unfortunately* due to it being Canada Day, the entrance was free!

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

We quickly spent all the money we saved though as we came across Richard’s, an island-favourite fish shack serving up delicious lobster rolls and fish and chips.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

It was possibly the freshest fish and chips we had ever eaten and we would go back any time!

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

We strolled around the beach a little bit but left for Charlottetown soon as the dark clouds rolled in.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Charlottetown is a very quaint, historic town, and easily walkable. We really enjoyed wandering the streets,  checking out the many boutiques, historical houses, and waterfront path.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

As we were walking along, minding our own business, we came across a formed crowd around a blue waterfront building. It was Cow's Ice Cream!

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Cow’s has been scooping up old-fashioned ice cream with some very clever names for decades and is considered one of the world’s best places to get ice cream. On a summer day by the ocean who can resist ice cream? This was the second day of our road trip and so far we were two for two on having seafood and ice cream each day.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

How about some Wowie Cowie, Caramel Moocchiato, Cowconut Cream Pie, or a classic Cownadian Maple? There’s just too many good ones.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Bettina couldn't resist spending some time talking and posing with the locals also.

 

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

After exploring the old town, we made our way to the Beaconsfield Historic House but were a bit late to check out the museum.

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Instead, we followed the crowd and walked over to Victoria Park to take in some live music, views and festivities before heading out of the city to our next hotel. It was Canada Day after all!

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

A Scoop of Prince Edward Island

 

Have you been to Prince Edward Island and sampled some Cow’s ice cream?


 

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New Brunswick in June

Kyle and I decided to make the most out of July 4th - and spend it in Canada! 🙂 All joking aside, July 4th was the perfect time for us to go on a slightly longer trip as we could use the holidays as our day off and could save some PTO. Never having been to Canada's East Coast before, we decided to fly to Boston using the Southwest Companion Pass and drive north to explore the Canadian Maritime provinces - starting with New Brunswick.

 

New Brunswick in June

 

We got to Boston late on Friday evening and left the city heading North early the next morning. Having a 7 hour drive ahead and not knowing whether the border crossing was going to add additional travel time, we tried to get out as early as possible.

Of course, we couldn't hit the road without our mandatory stop at Starbucks...

 

 

...and some ice cream at Gifford's Famous Ice Cream. I went for the raspberry sorbet and must say it was really delicious.

 

New Brunswick in June

 

New Brunswick in June

 

Once we drove past Portland, civilization began to wane and we were more and more surrounded by trees and nothing else.

 

New Brunswick in June

 

Very much to our surprise, we didn't see a single sign indicating that we were about to leave the United States and cross an international border into Canada. until about 1km away. If you weren't paying attention as to where you were driving, you could be in for quite the surprise! I was even more excited when we finally arrived in Canada and were greeted by familiar moose signs. Most people don't know this but New Brunswick is the only Canadian province which is officially bilingual and as such, all signs must be in English and French. "Attention" works out quite nicely for the French and English moose among us. 🙂

 

New Brunswick in June

 

Just before sunset, we arrived in Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick, and wandered around to explore the historic old town. Fredericton is a quaint Canadian city and definitely has a European feel to it.

 

New Brunswick in June

 

New Brunswick in June

 

New Brunswick in June

 

New Brunswick in June

 

Shop My Look

 

My purse is from a Chicago-based online boutique called White Elephant Designs.

My necklace is from GLDN and was a birthday present. I've been wearing it almost every day since.

 

 

New Brunswick in June

 

I enjoyed walking around the old streets, reading about some Canadian history, and watching everyone and their mother gather in the town square, getting ready for the Canada Day celebrations.

 

New Brunswick in June

 

New Brunswick in June

 

New Brunswick in June

 

We still had a two-hour drive ahead of us until we reached our final destination for the day and hit the road again, but not before stopping by a Tim Hortons and getting an espresso to keep us awake for the rest of the drive.

 

 

 

It was long day of driving but we were sure happy to be back (home) in Canada!

 

New Brunswick in June

 

Have you been to the Canadian East Coast? What was your favourite Province? Let us know in the comments below!

 


 

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Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

We saved Auckland for the last day of our whirlwind New Zealand adventure (check out our itinerary and read about our previous 3 days here, here, and here). We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Auckland, which was right downtown and allowed us to easily walk around the city for the day. The view out of our hotel room, had us ready to get out and explore!

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Our first stop was probably our favourite spot in Auckland – the waterfront! We love cities set in dramatic settings, and being right on the ocean is always a good bet.

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Of course, being only four days into the jetlag and the timezone assault on our internal body clocks, we needed more coffee. Fortunately for us, Auckland is bursting at the seams with trendy coffee shops and cafes, seemingly on every street corner.

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Bettina found this mobile coffee shop called Utopia Coffee which she particularly adored (probably because it's turquoise).

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

We couldn't imagine a better way to start off our day exploring Auckland than sipping on a delicious cappuccino in the sun while enjoying the city's waterfront views.

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Shop My Look

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

The downtown core is fairly compact and easy to get around, though there are a number of fairly steep hills, even right within the central business district.

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Wandering around town, we had to stop by the sky tower for me (although we didn't take the elevator ride up in the interest of time)...

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

...and Tiffany's for Bettina (although we didn't enter the store in the interest of our future travel budget).

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

We spent some time relaxing in the sun at Albert Park before heading back down to the waterfront to have lunch at one of the restaurants we were eyeing earlier in the day.

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Of course, no meal is complete without ice cream and I simply couldn't resist stopping by the Island Gelato Company and trying a scoop or two of their salted caramel.

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

We also talked to some of the locals about their ice cream preferences. Turns out, any would do!

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Auckland has a fair amount of urban sprawl around the harbour and hills in the area. Hiking the hills are another one of the must-do activities here. We decided to "hike" up Mount Eden, which was steeper than it looked but well worth the views from the top!

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

You can see the entire downtown core of the city with the harbour and surrounding hills as a backdrop. A little bit further south is One Tree Hill (yes, that One Tree Hill of U2 fame) which we also enjoyed hiking to the top of for a different perspective of the city. Not only does this hill have great views, but also flocks of sheep happily grazing around the park.

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

It wasn’t long before we had to head towards the airport for our flight back home, but not before a stop at one of Bettina’s favourite stores of all-time – Forever New. She went a little bit crazy and bought as many clothes and shoes as she could possibly fit into her carry-on (and the remaining room in mine!).

 

With Auckland having the largest airport in New Zealand, it is likely you will begin or end your trip here, and it provides a great taste of metropolitan New Zealand. There are so many other sights to see in and around Auckland, such as taking one of the many ferries to a nearby island, that our one day visit wasn't quite enough and we will no doubt be back.

 

Adventures in Auckland, New Zealand

 

Which of our days in New Zealand / blog posts did you like best? We're curious. Let us know in the comments below!

 

 


 

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