Colorado

Climbing Castle Rock at Rock Park

January 8, 2018

Trail(s): Paul Hill Trail and John Emerson Summit Trail
Location: Rock Park
Fees: Free
Website: Rock Park
Distance: 1.4 miles

Today we decided to take a short road trip and explore Castle Rock.  I feel like I’ve driven by it at least 100 times.  It’s hard to miss as the butte towers above the flat plains and I-25.  It’s a bit of a drive from Denver for only a 1.4 mile trail, so the outing turned into watching the sunset and grabbing dinner afterward in Littleton Town Square.  We read that the short trail would take an hour which seemed sort of long, so we expected the climb up to the rock to be hard despite only gaining 300+ feet in half a mile.

We followed the gradual incline around the “back” of the rock as we passed scrub oak and small pinon on the hillside.  We quickly reached the base of “Castle” whose ledges were decorated by nesting pigeons.  We spiraled around the base to find the climbing area that would get us to the summit.

This 75 feet required rock scrambling.  Fortunately, the rock was course, almost like cement, so hand and foot holds were easy to find.  We squeezed through a narrow crevice and quickly the flat top of the butte.  I don’t think it took us more than 20 minutes in total, but I also wasn’t counting.  Regardless, the sun was quite setting yet, so we played around making shadows.

 

 

Eventually we enjoyed the setting sun, though the original forecast for some clouds didn’t really pan out, so there were only a few pink clouds in the sky. All in all, it was still pretty and we were gladly we finally climbed the rock we pass by regularly!

Oh well…we still savored some cajun food.  ETB

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Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, The Rockies

Road Trip: Denver to Dallas (and Back)

I’ve made the trip to and fro Texas to Colorado many times.  Having said that, I haven’t made too many stops along the way.  Usually, I’m destination bound.  This year, I decided to make the road trip more interesting and found a variety of places to stop along the way.

These are some of the best luxury and nature places to visit between Denver and Dallas:

PLACES TO VISIT IN COLORADO

THE BROADMOOR

Fortunately, my friend Nancy is self-employed and has a flexible schedule like me.  As such, she was able to join me for dinner and a festive night at The Broadmoor.  The luxury resort is always adorned in Christmas lights during the holidays and it is fun to see the exquisite resort decked out in decorations.

Getting to the resort Tuesday afternoon was a bit rough given an accident on I-25 that held up traffic for 45 minutes, but I suppose our day was better than those involved in the crash.  We eventually arrived around five, got a room with a lovely view in the west tower, and strolled past the lake to Happy Hour where we enjoyed a drink and snacks at The Hotel Bar before enjoying a fancy dinner at The Summit.

Nancy order the “Angry Trout”, the Summit’s signature dish.  The fish is cooked with its tail pulled through its mouth, so it looks “Angry”.  I went with two appetizers: a mushroom, truffle bisque which was very rich and tasty as well as a magnificent bowl of mussels.  We ended the night enjoying the lights around the lake.

PALMER TRAIL (SECTION 16)

The Palmer Trail is located in Bear Creek Cañon Park which is owned by Colorado Springs.  The trailhead was only a 15 minute drive from the Broadmoor into the foothills very near the Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

The Palmer Trail (section 16) was a bit of a misnomer at first.  We couldn’t find any trail signs that mentioned it.  We knew we were completing a loop however, so we followed the directions to Red Rock Loop which was also the most heavily traveled trail.

After about 1/2 mile we reached a trail junction with a detailed map and a post directing us up a steep slope which turned into several switchbacks.  We climbed for most of the next two miles or so before reaching a summit which afforded excellent views!

The trail, mostly a soft red dirt, led us through the forest down to High Drive, a dirt road blanketed in a thin layer of icy snow.  We took short careful steps along road before reaching the paved surface where we climbed to the car.  I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about having to walk on a paved road, but it wasn’t for very long, and otherwise the 5.2 mile hike was quite nice.

PLACES TO VISIT IN NEW MEXICO

CAPULIN VOLCANO NATIONAL MONUMENT

Capulin Volcano National Monument is home to an extinct volcano which erupted 60,000 years.  The national monument offers five trails which are all very short in length with the longest being two miles.  As such, the whole park may visited in an afternoon.

The most popular trails appeared to be the Crater Rim Trail and the Crater Vent Trail both located at the parking area by the cinder cone after driving the spiral road to the top.  For those who don’t like ledges like me, this was not the most exciting drive!

I hiked the Crater Rim Trail first which was the hardest in the sense of steepness.  The one-mile loop is paved, which was disappointing to me, but I can understand why as it circle the rim of the cone which rises over 1,300 feet above the plains and provides spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Next I followed the 0.2 mile Crater Vent Trail 105 feet down to the bottom of the crater and its plugged vent.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in the bottom of a volcano.

Finally, I drove back down toward the visitor’s center and stopped at the parking area for both Boca Trail and Lava Flow Trail.  Boca Trail is two miles while the Lava Flow Trail is only one mile.  I only felt like hiking one of the two paths, so I picked the longer one.  The path led me through dormant prairie grasses, scrub oak, junipers, pine trees, and chokecherry bushes for which the volcano is named.  Capulin is the Spanish word for chokecherry.

The information listed this two-mile hike as strenuous.  I didn’t find it to be difficult with the exception of stepping on small pieces of lava rock which seemed to roll on the hard surface making me slip a handful of times.

Overall, it was nice break to take from driving, though I don’t think this National Monument requires more than one visit.

PLACES TO VISIT IN TEXAS (NEAR AMARILLO)

PALO DURO CANYON STATE PARK

I have visited this state park once before, but it was a gloomy day and I only completed a short hike.  This time, upon arrival, I asked the ranger, “How far into the park is the Lighthouse Trail?”

She answered, but then asked, “Are you an avid hiker? Because I think the Lighthouse Trail is flat and somewhat boring, whereas the Givens, Spice, Lowry Trail undulates past a variety of scenery and connects to the Lighthouse Trail.”

Having heard that, I decided to follow the trail named after runners who helped build it rather than the most popular trail in the park which is also responsible for the most heat related injuries and deaths to people and pets.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to worry about warm temperatures.  It was hardly 40 degrees when I started and the sun was struggling to peak out from the thin layer of clouds.  While I hoped the fiery ball in the sky would brightly shine on the myriad of colors in the rock striations, at the same time, I didn’t want to get too hot on the eight mile hike.

I skipped along the trail fairly quickly as I only had three hours to complete which was barely enough time to truly enjoy the hike, but I still managed to stop and snap photos of cacti, hoodoos, and canyon walls peppered in shades of purples, browns, and oranges just to name of few.

Eventually, I reached “the end” of the lighthouse trail, but I recalled the ranger mentioned I could climb up to the rock formation.  In addition, I saw some people scrambling on the rocks.  The climb was steep, but not too difficult, and completely worth the effort!

I walked out on a plateau “book-ended” by two towering formations which provided fantastic views of the expansive canyon below.  I noticed the couple I had spotted earlier continued up a steep path to the top of one of the formations…so cool!  I’m so glad I followed them up.

I didn’t spot any wild life while hiking, but passed a deer on my drive in and flushed a bevy of dove hidden in the thick brush as I turned the corner.  That made me jump!  I suspect the desert topography would be quite pretty in the spring when the cacti are blooming.  I’ll definitely have to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park again.

CAPROCK CANYONS STATE PARK

I was pleasantly surprised by this park.  With Palo Duro Canyon State Park being only an 1.5 hours away and being the second largest canyon in the United States, I believe Caprock Canyons State Park might get overlooked.  In addition, it is a little out of the way.

I arrived at this park on a very cold, overcast day, maybe 23 degrees.  While the weather muted the lovely colors of the canyon, I certainly kept cool while hiking and had the trail to myself!

The park offers a variety of trails.  I wanted to see the natural spring at Fern Cave, as such I connected three trails (Canyon Loop Trail, Upper Canyon Trail, and Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail) for an approximate 6.5 mile loop.  The trails are also named Trail D, C, and B, respectively that was helpful to know while following the trail markers.

This hike was fantastic!  At the beginning, I was lulled into a false sense of security while following a wide, smooth red trail past a variety of rock formations.  The information had suggested this was a strenuous hike, but at first this was not the case.  Soon, the wide trail turned into a single track which led me through a variety of vegetation.  All I could think was I’m glad I’m not here in the summer heat and bugs!

Soon I was following a wash and then I found myself climbing.  The climb was gradual up until I reached Fern Cave.  A small amount of water trickled over the rocks as I admired the ferns and ice-cycles at the same time!  From Fern Cave, the trail became a little confusing.  At a trail junction, a marker pointed with a large arrow to the left and a small arrow to the right but it didn’t indicate a trail letter.

As I climbed up, I remembered a split in the trail, and deduced the large arrow to the left that I was now seeing is just pointing to a return way back on the same trail C.  This turned out to be right, but I was certain until after referencing the map which suggested I needed to climb 0.2 miles to the highest point of the park before connecting to the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail.  Fortunately, I had my Fitbit on and watched the mileage as I bounded to the top and found several trail signs.

This trail offered fantastic views and if it weren’t so cold, I likely would have meandered rather slowly.  Having finished the climb and being exposed to the wind, I fought off a chill by running portions of this flat section while stopping occasionally to admire the multi-colored cliffs.

Soon I reached the descent which seemed much steeper than the climb.  I followed several rock stairs down to the trail from which I began.  This would be a very challenging hike in the Texas heat.  While I wasn’t enthusiastic about the cold weather, only having to carry a couple bottles of water was far better than what would be needed in the summer as indicated by the countless signs warning hikers to turn around if they didn’t have water.  I really enjoyed the landscape changes and variety on this path.

I would definitely come back to see other trails, the bison and the bats which are all part of this park.

THE MANSION BAR

The Mansion is a famous, luxury hotel in Dallas where many of the stars stay.  Its dark, traditionally decorated bar serves of course serves pricey cocktails, and I couldn’t imagine how my friend, Phil Pritchett’s rock band would fit in, but it did.  He put on show, dancing, playing the guitar, and belting out English cover songs along with his bass and drum players.  The British Are Coming plays there about twice a month where several regulars come to see them.  In fact, the people watching is worth the price of admission!

AT&T STADIUM AND THE COWBOYS

Well, most people say the stadium itself is worth visiting, and I believe a tour may be arranged, but we went to see the Cowboys.  Unfortunately, they did not have a very good Christmas Eve.  Regardless, it’s fun to go to a game!

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Bahamas, DreamTrips

Dreamtrip: Paradise Island, Bahamas

Where to Stay, Things to Do, and Places to Eat on Paradise Island

I felt like I needed some beach time in the winter, so I booked a trip through my vacation club, World Ventures, the largest private club in the world.  The club provides pre-packaged trips as well as a booking engine for flight, hotels, VRBO, cruises, and rental cars.  It also includes an online shopping mall with virtually every retailer as well as discounts at local restaurants and events.

I didn’t want to have to think about anything for this relaxing vacation, so I picked a four-night trip to the Bahamas.  I flew from Denver while my friend Max came from Dallas.  Miraculously, both of our flights were on time and our bags came off the carousels next to each other in baggage claim, so we were off to paradise quickly! Continue reading “Dreamtrip: Paradise Island, Bahamas”

Colorado, The Rockies

Roadtrip to the Rockies: Estabrook

September 22-23, 2017

Another fall, another weekend at Estabrook!  I have some regulars joining me now which is nice.  I also added a few newbies who loved learning the 100 year history of the family ranch.

The weather wasn’t nearly as nice as last year, but it didn’t stop us from getting in a  five or six mile hike around the property.  I was actually feeling rather unenergetic and like having an excuse of cold weather and threatening rain to sit around and play card games and Settlers of Catan.  I must give credit to Erin, who has been on a mission to climb a fourteener this year, as she wanted to do a training hike.

I’m so glad she wanted to walk around as the weather held off, and we got to enjoy the fall colors.  We also managed to spot a few deer which was surprising given our noisy chatter.  I will attribute that to Brad’s eagle, hunting eye.

I’m so glad new parents Moria and Mario made the trek up with six month old Alinea.  I imagine it’s a lot of work to bring a baby to the mountains…one bag for them, ten for the baby, right?!?  Alinea is such a great baby!  She sat right at the table with us.

The rain did come later, so I did get to play some games and was thankful for a few other fellow gamers.  Erin, Brian, Mario and Moria liked “Oh, Hell”.  Brad and Angela liked Settlers of Katan…YAY!  We also had some nice meals and got some good porch time while watching the incoming clouds.  It was a relaxing weekend in the mountains.

Finally, Erin was nice enough to gift a Colorado paver to Estabrook.  What a nice hammock view!  ETB

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Colorado, The Rockies

Roadtrip to the Rockies: Como, Alma, and South Park City

September 21, 2017

My aunt Jennifer and uncle John like to go on different outings, and they inspired me to stop at a variety of old mining towns that I generally pass by on the way to my next hike.

COMO

My first stop of the day was in Como.  Como owes its existence to the railroad and mines.  Gold, discovered nearby in 1859, lured miners and later ranchers to area.  Soon coal was discovered too.  For trains, which ran on coal, this was the first source of coal after leaving Denver.  As such, in 1881, the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railway built a roundhouse and depot in Como.  This once thriving town, named by Italian miners from Lake Como, met its demise after multiple railroad reorgs and a final removal of tracks in 1938.

Regardless, there are still cool buildings in the town including the roundhouse, the depot, an old hotel, an old Catholic church, and an old school house.  I got lucky and arrived when a gentleman had just finished giving a tour of the otherwise closed roundhouse.  He let me walk around the property and then unlocked the door to let me in to see an old locomotive and printing equipment!

ALMA

My next stop was Alma, the highest incorporated municipality (town not city) in North America.  There wasn’t much to see in this small town, though it is possible to grab a beer at the highest bar, South Park Saloon.  Alma is a good portal to bag a few peaks.  The Decalibron Loop is a popular nearby hike that helps peak baggers mark off four fourteeners: Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross!

SOUTH PARK CITY

From Alma, I continued on to South Park City, a historical area next to Fairplay which is supported by the South Park Historical Foundation.  South Park City is a collection of old buildings, some on their original site and some moved to this now museum.  Inside the buildings are all sorts of collections of rocks, minerals, irons, and period items.

I personally loved the mining mill, the doctor’s office, the school house, the blacksmith shop, the bank, the general store, and the drugstore.  The variety of tools, drugs, compressors, lunch boxes, and medical supplies were simply fantastic.  At first I thought the $10 entry fee was a bit steep, but after visiting, it was worth every penny.  I probably spent at least an hour, maybe two, wandering around the 40 buildings!

LOST PARK ROAD

Finally, I just took a drive down Lost Park Road.  I had been there before to hike Segment 5 of the Colorado Trail, but several back roads connect to it that I have never explored.  And what a time to explore, during the fall and changing colors.  What a nice day!  ETB

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Italy

Fonteverde Thermal Spa in San Casciano Dei Bagni

September 17, 2017

What a lovely way to spend our last day in Tuscany…relaxing!  Today we visited the award-winning Fonteverde Thermal Spa.  Fonteverde was once a renaissance palace for the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici.  Now it is a resort which overlooks the Val d’Orcia.  It is set atop a natural hot springs.  Visitors may enjoy the main pool, pay a premium to try additional pools of different temperatures, or select from a variety of treatments.

Most of our group paid extra to pick from a variety of pools, while a few of us hung out in the lower pool.  All pools had waterfalls and fountains which could be used to massage the body.  We arrived early and had most of the peaceful atmosphere to ourselves.

After our visit to the hot springs, we stopped in the nearby town, San Casciano Dei Bagni which owes its existence to the hot springs.  The village which offers lovely views of the countryside is also home to an excellent restaurant, Daniela.  We enjoyed the wonderful weather as we dined on the patio.  Our first course, a saccottino, was superb.  I can’t imagine the number of calories I consumed after digging into this crispy bag filled with potatoes, cheese, and ham and placed in a bowl of cream.  The presentation was fantastic!  Daniela served us a large salad with chicken for the second course…this was a welcome change from the normal foods.  Finally, we spooned pistachio and chocolate gelato into our mouths for dessert.  A diet is coming soon!

After our decadent lunch, we wandered around the small town.  A few ladies spotted some antique jewelry they liked through the window of a store that was closed, but a quick phone call summoned the owner to town within twenty minutes!  While they purchased their wares, a few of us checked out the church, Oratorio di Sant’Antonio and weaved through the back streets.  I love seeing the old walls, doors, windows, flower pots, and light posts.  What a nice day!  ETB

 

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Italy

Scenes at the Villa

September 10-17, 2017

We spent most late afternoons and evenings enjoying the villa.  Many trails rain through the nearby hills.  Some trails remained relatively flat and followed a canal while others climbed through the shade of trees past vacant homes being renovated with cash.  Sunflowers and wildflowers we common sites.  When we weren’t walking, we were likely playing tennis, sitting by the pool, cooking, petting the friendly cats or enjoying apertivos and dining.

Morning and Afternoon Walks

Fun, Food, and Friends

Around the House

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Italy

Tastings in Tuscany!

September 12-15, 2017

all we do is EAT in Italy

Well, it’s diet time…For American’s I think Tuscany translates to indulgent dining.  And when we weren’t savoring three course meals, we were tasting truffles, olive oil, cheese, and wine!

Truffle Tasting

Truffles…YUM!  I LOVE them, so I was very excited to visit Doriana, a truffle expert in the region.  Doriana, who has a store full of everything truffle, including sliced, diced, spread and mixed with other vegetables, buys her truffles by the pound from regional farmers who bring them to her store.

The farmers use dogs, generally mutts who have a good nose to hunt for these treasures which can be found a few inches or a foot underground during the spring and the fall.  The white truffles are more rare than the black truffles as they only grow in October.  While the farmers are always out searching with their dogs which can be worth thousands of dollars, many times the best time to find the truffles are during a full moon!

Doriana greeted our group of ten graciously.  A table was already set with plates of breads with a variety of spreads including plain truffles, truffles with asparagus, and truffles with olives just to name a few.  We learned which spreads or sauces would taste best with pasta or topped on a ribeye.  Of course, in typical Italian fashion, we washed down our nibbles with wine and expresso!

At the end of the tasting, none of left empty handed.  We all had a few jars of rich, tasty truffles to savor back in the States.

Olive Oil Tasting

It’s amazing how inexpensive olive oil is in Italy!  Too bad Rita didn’t ship, or our group of ten may have bought her out of the varietal olive oil gift pack.

Generally, olive oil is made with a blend of different olives; black, green and red.  Rita had an idea to make varietal olive oil in order to taste the flavor of each type of olive. She planted her olive trees fifteen years ago, and is the only one our tour guide knows of who produces both a blend and varietal olive oil.

We got to enjoy the afternoon at Rita’s operation.  We wandered through her olive groves, picked perfectly ripe figs right off the trees to eat with our picnic lunch, and admired the lovely views while also learning about her olive oil endeavor.

Cheese Tasting

Our sheep farm visit was very interesting!  Sheep in Italian in pecora, as such today were learned how to make pecorino cheese.

The sheep farmer we visited owns 1,000 sheep.  There are two seasons…breeding season and milking season.  The milking season lasts for five months.  Each female sheep produces a 1/2 liter of milk twice day.

To make the cheese, a 100 liter vat is filled with milk that is mixed with enzymes, bacteria, and any flavor like truffle or pepper.  The mixture is squirted into baskets which are placed on a tray which is moved into a warming storage room where the cheese ferments.  After about twelve hours, the cheese is moved to a cold storage room to stop the fermenting process.

The following day, the aging process begins.  The cheese may be aged for months or over a year.  Some of it is packed in walnut leaves or grasses to add different flavors.

After learning about the process, we were invited into a tasting room where we tried a fresh cheese, eight different aged cheeses, and ricotta mixed with sugar for dessert. Most of us ended up liking a six month old aged cheese.  It was quite a tasty and fun lunch!

Wine Tasting

Cantina Murogrosso was just a quarter mile down the road from our villa, so we walked to the winery for a lovely tasting with Paola, the sommelier but also an assistant to our tour guide.

The grapes were just harvested (early due to the drought), and we arrived just in time to see them working with the giant tanks of grape juice, soon to be wine!  The winery is expecting a good year.  With the drought, the grapes weren’t plentiful, but the quality of the grape was excellent.

After wandering through the vineyard, we made it to the tasting room.  We tasted two whites, a rosé, and two reds with breads, cheese, and meats.  Paola advised us to save the rich cheese for the rich red wine.  We also learned that it is important to hold the stem of the wine glass as not only do our hands warm the wine, but the oils from our hands can transfer through glass which can change the flavor of the wine.  She is not a fan of stemless wine ware!

In addition, the rich red wine needed to breathe for at least two hours!  I really enjoyed the full-bodied red wine that included the same type grapes and blend of a Brunello though it could not bear the name as the vineyard did not fall in the specific region.

Cantina Murogrosso is small winery and produces only about 8,000 bottles a year. They hand pick all their grapes which means humans are choosing the best grapes and pruning them before they are placed in the bucket.  Large wineries which use machines, mix together all the grapes, mold, bugs and more!  By hand picking the grapes, they don’t have to add as many chemicals to kill all the bugs, bacteria, and mold either.  In addition, since they don’t commercially ship to the USA, they aren’t subject to all the sulfite requirements.  As such, I could drink a whole glass without getting a headache.  What a fun evening!

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Italy

A Day in Montepulciano, Italy

September 11, 2017

A Girls Trip to Tuscany

My tennis partner Ann organized a girls trip to Tuscany.  Ten of us came from near and far.  Some arrived in Italy early; others arrived the day we were transported to Tuscany from Rome.  With the exception of Mary, most of us enjoyed a smooth arrival to Rome not counting the deluge of water falling from the sky!

We took two vans to Il Colombaio, our villa on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. We settled in for a lovely evening of food and drinks and prepared for our first full day in Tuscany in Montepulciano.

Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance town that sits atop a 2,000 foot limestone ridge in southern Tuscany.  It is renowned for its pici pasta and Vino Nobile wine.  Our drivers delivered us directly to its Piazza Grande formed in the typical medieval fashion with a church, the city hall, and a wealthy man’s residence with a portico below for socializing and doing business.  On a side note, the FREE public bathrooms were nearby (a nice change from the Amalfi Coast).

The church which borders the square is called the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and is also known as the Duomo of Montepulciano as it is the most important church in the town.  Here is a link to an interesting article discussing the difference in Italian Church names:  chiesa, basilica, catedrale, and duomo: Is it a church or a cathedral?

After looking around the square, we visited Rameria Cesare Mazzetti.  Rameria means copper smith, and Cesare is a famous one.  He hand makes a variety of copper kitchen ware and decorations.  His craft has been passed down through his family for generations.  He still uses his grandfather’s stamps and tools today which are over 100 years old.

Cesare buys his copper from Chile.  It is certified in London and is then sent to Italy. He receives it in forms of rough globs and thin sheets.  He hand pounds the copper into the appropriate shape and depending on its function adds pure tin.

While copper requires a little more attention in the kitchen, it offers distinct advantages and professional chefs from around the world commission work with Cesare.  Both the shape and the thickness of the copper is very important for the pots to transmit both high and uniform heat for cooking.  In order to withstand the heat, the pots require the correct number of beats with the hammer!

In addition to being excellent heat conductors, copper also adds iron to water, so those who are anemic can add cold water to a copper pitcher and eventually get the iron they need without taking medicine.

Cesare was quite the character and a rather horny old man.  He wanted a kiss from every lady after he pretend branded everyone’s buttox before we left his laboratory to see his store up the street. As a parting gift, we made a copper decoration with flower petals, our initials, and the date. It was nice and creative!

After visiting his store, we wandered the streets of Montepulciano.  The views of the rolling Tuscan hills covered in olive groves and vineyards were lovely.  I wandered around the town looking for interesting photos, while the shoppers in the group visited the row of stores to find some nice leather, jewelry, and olive wood cutting boards just to name a few items purchased.

Many of us also explored the Città Sotterranea.  Here we weaved through passage ways filled with giant barrels of Vino Nobile produced by Ercolani.  The underground city included a crypt, the well of love, old olive crushing equipment and combs used for sheeps’ wool.  I loved wandering through the maze of rooms.

After the morning in the walled town, our drivers provided a short ride to Ristorante la Grotta, a Michelin Star restaurant located at the base of the town across from the Chiesa di San Biagio.  Courtesy of Ann, we enjoyed a long, savory lunch before heading back to the villa where we took an afternoon walk through the Tuscan hillsides before we ate and drank the night away.  ETB

At the Villa

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A Day in Montepulciano, Italy

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Colorado, The Rockies

Two Days in Durango, Colorado

September 1-2, 2017

I enjoyed two days in Durango after finishing the Colorado Trail.  Given I had just backpacked 53 miles on the Colorado Trail, I opted for an extremely relaxing day.  I stayed at the Best Western Durango Inn & Suites.  It is conveniently located at the South end of town within walking distance of Durango’s historic district loaded with shops and restaurants as well as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum and Train Station.

I started the day at Durango Bagel as it is located near the train station and I planned to take the train ride to Silverton.  Durango Bagel seemed popular among the local young folks.  After grabbing a breakfast sandwich, I wandered over to the train station to find out about my ticket that I ordered online the previous evening.

I recommend getting the ticket sooner than I did (especially in the summer) as many choices were sold out.  The weather had been so bad the previous month, however, I wanted to wait as I was interested in one of the open-air cars.  After having read many reviews, I wanted to take the train from Durango to Silverton in the morning and to return on the bus in the afternoon for a different view and a shorter ride.  This option wasn’t available, so I picked the reverse and hoped for clear skies in the afternoon.

I found the narrated bus ride to be uneventful.  I suppose if one hasn’t spent much time in the mountains, the drive would be nice, but frankly, I saw most of these views on foot multiple times over the last month.  In addition, the bus driver short changed of us Colorado Trail hikers 10 miles and then said thru-hikers took 2.5 months to hike it rather than 1.5 months at most.  Then, after he literally pointed out every gulch and mountain, he drove right by the trail without saying a word!  OK, I am being hard on him as he was very knowledgeable.  I suppose I was still relishing in my glory of completing it!

Anyway, upon arrival in Silverton, I climbed up to Christ of the Mines Shrine which overlooked the town, stopped for lunch at Thee Pitts Again which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and strolled along the main street as well as through the red-light district one street over.  The town is pepper with old buildings including the old jail and a variety of shops, including a nice antique store.  It doesn’t take more than a few hours to explore the whole town which is all I had before I boarded the train just as a rain and hail storm hit.

I paid extra for the Knight Sky car which had a glass roof and open-air sides.  As we started, I was getting rained on, though I had rain gear.  Less prepared passengers were given ponchos, umbrellas and blankets.  Fortunately, the storm didn’t last long and by the time the train left the station, the menacing cloud had left.  I’m not certain the Knight Sky car is worth the extra money, as I hardly ever sat in the plush seat for the three-hour ride.  I mostly stood outside the car on the platform or talked with the leader of a Kiwi group that was driving Mustangs around the Western United States for 33 days!  The car wasn’t crowded which was nice.  I’m unsure if the other cars were crowded.  All cars have windows that open, and it is best to get one toward the end to keep from breathing the ash from the steam engine.  Protective eye-wear is a good choice too.

I loved the train ride.  Despite having hiked through parts of this area, and even having crossed the tracks on the Colorado Trail and having followed the Animas River, this train ride offered spectacular views of the river, old mines and more.  Also, some of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed on the tracks.  I think it would have been a little better to ride the train from Durango to Silverton rather than the way I went.  Not for the scenery, but for the stories the train attendants tell.  The Kiwi group rode the train both ways, so the attendant, who was great, limited his stories on the return.  As far as scenery, the train criss-crosses the river many times, so either side has good seats, but for the high section of the tracks, it is best to be on the left going from Silverton to Durango.  I’m really glad I rode the train, and I suspect the bus was a better choice just because the train ride would be long for both directions.

Upon arrival into Durango, I deboarded the train and head to Himalayan Kitchen, a great Nepalese Restaurant.  The food was delicious.  Still looking to catch up on sleep, I headed back to the hotel early and awoke with renewed energy to explore Durango for another day.

I started out with Durango Diner as I loved dine food.  Bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns…who can go wrong with that?  Afterwards, I checked out the free museum at the train station.  The museum includes far more than just trains..old cars, WWII gear, stuffed bears and more.

Next, I stopped at Bread where I picked up a sandwich to take with me on the trail that follows the Animas River through the town.  I walked part of the trail and sat on the riverside as I watched many enjoy water sports like tubing and kayaking.

Happy hour included a beer a Ska Brewing just next to Ken and Sue’s, a fantastic restaurant that I shared a meal with some of my fellow CT hikers.  All of our meals were outstanding!  It was a great way to end our hiking.  ETB

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Two Day in Durango, Colorado

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