Travel

Thankful, 2020

In June of 2019 I was apartment hunting in Austin, Texas, trying to find something affordable closer to the Tech Ridge area where Luke and I were working. Our lease was set to expire in mid-August and we wanted to upgrade to a nicer neighborhood, something that wasn’t right next to a noisy freeway. When I couldn’t find anything in the price range I was looking for, I reached out to an apartment-finder service.

The agent I spoke to took down our information…and then advised us to stay where we were. It was at that moment I realized that not only did I not want to stay in our current apartment, I did not even want to stay in Texas.

Our general situation at the time was stable and upwardly mobile. Luke and I had found decent-paying jobs with plenty of opportunity for advancement. Elizabeth was content with her service industry gig. With three incomes and frugal habits, money wasn’t really a concern. But we had never found our community – our interests and lifestyle did not mesh well with the Texas zeitgeist, even in blue Austin.

I suggested to Luke and Elizabeth that we renew our current apartment lease for one more year and start making plans to move to a different state. They were instantly on board; the only debate was about where to go. The finalists were Colorado or somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Colorado won out, because it was closer and because I like sunshine.

We made a list of things we wanted to do and see in Texas before we left. These are the kinds of things that are more fun with a group of friends, but since we had no adventure-sharing friends there, we just did them by ourselves. We explored Palo Duro Canyon, summited Guadalupe Peak, and took a three-day road trip along the Gulf Coast. Our last year in Texas turned out to be the most enjoyable, but it also reinforced our desire to live someplace more compatible with our interests and values.

The kids would not commit to any city without seeing it firsthand, so in May we drove up along the front range of the Rockies to choose our Colorado destination. Our rough-draft plan was to look for a nice neighborhood in the Boulder area. The arrival of Covid was a complication, but we were very careful and wore masks and socially distanced from the locals. Our first stop was in Pueblo, which we liked more than we thought we would. Then we stopped in Colorado Springs, which we liked even better. Then we stopped in Denver, and absolutely fell in love. Then we continued on to Boulder, and to our surprise we didn’t like it at all. Too rich for our working-class blood. Our unanimous and enthusiastic vote was for Denver.

Covid complicated everything. Our Austin jobs were essential and fairly secure, but we couldn’t be sure of finding work in Colorado. We applied for jobs, but no one wanted to look at resumes with an out-of-state address in the middle of a pandemic. The best we got was a few “Get in touch after you get here and we’ll see if we have anything for you” offers. But apartment managers want to see an existing job or a solid job offer before they will offer a lease. It looked like we might have to go the AirBnB route just to get a Denver address so we could find local work.

We reached out to a couple of Denver apartment-finder services. One said they couldn’t help us. The other found a couple of apartment options that do not verify income. On the income line we all put our current Austin incomes, and that was good enough. We opted to sign a short three-month lease on a one-bedroom apartment and then find a better place after we found work.

I’d never in my adult life quit a job without having another job lined up. In July 2020 all three of us did just that. It was one of the leapiest, faithiest leaps of faith I’ve ever taken. In August 2020 we packed our belongings into a UHaul and left Texas behind.

And it all worked out. The apartment was comically tiny for three adults, but otherwise nice. Luke and I found work right away. Elizabeth decided to wait until we’d found a long-term rental and live off her savings in the meantime. Then I found a better job, got Mahogany shipped out, and we nabbed a good deal on a bigger apartment in a better location. We love Denver. It’s a very welcoming culture, full of interesting and friendly people. I don’t think we’ll ever run out of things to do here.

2020 has been an objectively terrible year. But for us it was a marvelous year, full of good changes and adventures. From Elizabeth’s trip to Nepal in January to this first Thanksgiving in Colorado, 2020 has been generous with its blessings. In an apocalyptic year of plague and economic unraveling, we are very thankful to be where we are.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may there be better years ahead.

Categories: Celebrations, environment, Family, Holidays, Life, Road trip, Travel | Tags: | Leave a comment

Breckenridge, Part III: Peak 8

On our first visit to the Breckenridge Ski Resort on Saturday, we had wanted to ride the “Colorado Super Chair Scenic Chairlift,” which goes up to the Alpine Camp on Peak 8. But the last chair goes up at 3:30 pm, and we didn’t get to it in time. So that was on our list for Sunday. We didn’t have any particular plan for what we would do when we got to the top, until we bought the tickets and they gave us a QR link to a trail map. We took one look at the map and resolved to summit Peak 8.

We got there early in the day, so we had the chairlifts mostly to ourselves.

The Alpine Camp consists of a restaurant called the Vista Haus, the Epic Discovery Fun Park with ziplines and other activities, and a wealth of trailheads for exploring the local peaks and forests.

The first part of the summit trail is actually a service road. It’s steep, but broad and smooth.

The views are wonderful all the way up.

The service road ends at a little ranger lookout station. From there the trail is narrow and much steeper.

We had agreed that we would head back down at 2pm whether we had reached the summit or not, to ensure that we didn’t miss the last chairlift at 3:30. At one point I realized that I might not make the summit in time. Elizabeth wasn’t struggling at all and I didn’t want to slow her down, so I told her to go ahead and claim the peak for the honor of the Silkotch name. She was like, “Okay, see ya.”

That structure she’s climbing past is an out-of-service ski lift, the Imperial Express. According to the signs it’s the highest ski lift in North America.

I kept chugging along…

…and actually did make it to the summit!

Elizabeth found a geocache box that had been converted to a visitor log. We both signed it.

The views were hazy from all the wildfires, but still phenomenal.

The lake in the distance is the Dillon Reservoir, the one we had stopped to admire on the drive up.

We chilled at the top for a while and then started down at about ten minutes to two.

We stopped at the ski lift station to snap a pic…

…and spotted a couple of ptarmigans! Another wildlife first for us.

We continued down and made it back to the Super Chair in plenty of time.

We felt like we had walked enough for one day, and decided to beat the traffic rush back to Denver.

Breckenridge has won our hearts. We’ll be back for sure.

Categories: Animals, environment, Family, Geocaching, Life, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Adventures in Nepal XIX: Patan Durbar Square

After the Monkey Temple, the next stop on Emma and Elizabeth’s guided tour of Kathmandu was Patan Durbar Square. There is a palace here where the Malla Kings of Lalitpur resided long ago, and a museum filled with beautiful antiquities.

Lots of gorgeous architecture here, presented mostly without comment:

The second floor of this temple has a dirt floor:

More to come!

Categories: Artwork, Friends, Holidays, Life, Nepal, Travel | Tags: | 1 Comment

Breckenridge, Part II

After Elizabeth and I broke camp Sunday morning we drove back to the public parking lot next to the gondola station. Our plan was to explore downtown Breckenridge on foot and then do some hiking up in the local mountains.

Breckenridge is a beautiful little town with an Old West Gold Rush aesthetic. Not in a dusty or faded or ghost-towny way, but fresh and colorful and vibrant. Elizabeth and I stepped into one charming little shop, bought a couple of pretty (and pricey) trinkets, and didn’t step into any more shops for fear of spending all of our money.

See that mountaintop in the next pic? That’s Peak 8, locally known as Imperial Peak, elevation 12,998′. A few hours after I snapped this pic, Elizabeth and I were standing on its summit.

Breckenridge is full of art, and parks, and parks full of art. Much of downtown is closed to car traffic now to make more room for pedestrians to socially distance.

We walked up Main St, and then returned to the parking lot via the Riverwalk Trail.

And then we climbed a mountain!

To be continued…

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, Covid-19, Holidays, Life, Travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Breckenridge, Part I

After puttering around the parks and foothills for three weeks I was eager to get up into the actual Rockies, visit one of Colorado’s picturesque little mountain towns and maybe summit a peak or two. I would love to see Ouray, but I’m not quite up for the six-hour drive to get there just yet. For my Labor Day weekend outing, Breckenridge was a more accessible choice. Elizabeth came with me. Luke wasn’t feeling a peak-scaling expedition this time.

I expected traffic to be awful heading west out of Denver into the mountains, and it was. What should have been an hour-and-40-minute cruise ended up being closer to two-and-a-half hours. But the views are so pretty, we enjoyed the drive anyway.

It was nice to get out of the Denver haze and up into the blue skies. We even pulled out into a turnout to admire an overlook view of the Dillon Reservoir.

We didn’t really know what to expect in Breckenridge. We had a vague, flexible plan to find some public parking near the scenic downtown and then just walk around and see what there was to see.

Parking was easy to find. And the Breckenridge magic started right away –– we saw gondolas suspended over the lot, heading up to some unseen alpine destination.

We asked around and found out that the gondolas are free to ride, so naturally we got in line. In retrospect, I’m amused by the fact that we never asked where the gondolas were going. It didn’t even matter; we’d just find out when we got there.

There are a total of four gondola stations on the line. We stayed on all the way to the top.

We disembarked at Breckenridge Ski Resort, which offers year-round activities. After grabbing some lunch at the Ski Hill Grill, we made a beeline for the Alpine Slide.

We took a ski lift to the top of the slide…

…and then rode little toboggans-on-wheels back down the slope. Wheeeeeeeeee!

By then it was mid-afternoon, and we wanted to settle the question of where we would be camping that night. We asked a resort employee about dispersed camping nearby, and he cheerfully gave us directions to his own favorite area, up in the National Forest above a different resort. I made a note, and we headed back to the gondolas.

I accidentally got off one station too early. Stayed long enough to snap a pretty pic and got back on.

Elizabeth wanted to check out the High Line Railroad Park, so we drove there next. The museum part is currently closed for Covid, but we did enjoy looking at the old vintage train cars and engines.

This monster is a rotary snowplow, used for clearing heavy snow off of the tracks.

There’s also a nice railway-themed playground.

And my favorite part –– the park is near the trailhead of Trollstigen Trail, which led us to Isak Heartstone, the Troll of Breckenridge.

It’s a short, pretty path, definitely worth the detour.

The shadows were getting longer, and we didn’t want to be setting our tent up in the dark. We stopped by a local eatery for soup and bread to go, and then drove up to the area the resort guy had recommended.

It was pretty up there for sure, but we had a hard time finding any ground flat enough to set up a tent on. After driving a backroad loop that my car was not designed for, we circled back and stopped to talk to an employee of the nearest resort about where we could camp. He recommended near the river, but said that really anywhere was fine.

Long story short, we finally found a flattish spot to set up camp with a nice view. And with all of the care we took to follow the advice of the locals, we still got a visit from a ranger the next morning, telling us that we had set up our tent in a no-camping zone and would have to relocate. Clearly there are rules that we must learn. I’m not going to post any pics of our campsite, because I don’t want to encourage anyone else to camp there.

To be continued!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Covid-19, environment, Family, food, Holidays, Life, Travel, Weather | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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