COLORADO CHEAT SHEET
- Visa: No for Australian Citizens but an ESTA of $14USD MUST be paid online here for tourist stays less than 90 days + no necessary vaccinations. No for Canadian Citizens for less than 182 days with no necessary vaccinations.
- Best Time to Travel: March to May, September to November for lower rates, reasonable temperatures. Summer is peak season.
- Currency: $1USD = $1.39 AUD / $1.31CAD
- Cost of Typical Meal - $10 - $18USD for a typical restaurant. Higher prices at finer establishments.
- CC friendly: Yes
- Transportation: Car
- Airports: Denver International Airport (DEN)
- Language: English
Ongoing Rumor: Total potheads, snowy weather and snowy beautiful terrain.
My Experience: Pot is everywhere, and you'll probably pass 4 dispensaries within minutes while driving in Denver. There's a diverse crowd of people in terms of personality, but in terms of ethnicity however, mostly everyone is white. Colorado is not obscenely cold as one would think, the state receives about 300 days a year of sunlight and because of it's central placement in the country, it never gets quite as cold as the coast.
Recommended listening for this article: Fleet Foxes
FUN RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES THAT
MAY BE CONSIDERED
ILLEGAL IN 27 STATES
The first Thursday of every month the massive gardening store hosts a FREE cannabis industry mixer with live bands, open bar and several weed related operators such as MAMMOTH P microbes and Wana edibles. A live medley of 3 DJs spinning different tunes headline the silent disco in the back and a medley of old stoners, millennial smokers and hipsters fill the crowd. You gotta love an industry that promotes happiness, organic farms and sustainable living. PLUS the free booze doesn't hurt either.
HITTING UP A DISPENSARY
Use Weedmaps, a free app onto your phone to find a local dispensary around you. Bring your ID, have a knowledgeable chat with the guy at the counter regarding the different types of strains ( Sativa, for example is a popular one) and the types of effects you are looking for. You'll pay less than what it sells for on the streets (approx $30USD vs $60USD for an 1/8th). Weed in Colorado is just as organic as a farmer's market, it is tested, ORGANIC and sustainable, making it free of parabens or any other chemicals. This just might be the best process of smoking since your college days.
MAKING THE MAGIC HAPPEN
If you're going to get high and chill on your couch and watch South Park reruns, Colorado is NOT the place for you. There are over 100 trail heads less than an hour from Denver, Colorado, and many more located within the masses of those heads. Hiking and smoking go hand in hand, and why not? Why shouldn't you bask in the wonder of nature with just a little enhancement? Go relive those college days friends. Keep reading to see some of the best outdoor activities that you can partake in within Colorado.
OR WHAT I LIKE TO CALL
"YES POCAHONTAS I REALLY CAN SEE THE COLORS OF THE WIND"
Located an hour and half from Denver proper stands a little known park called the PAINT MINES INTERPRETIVE PARK - a geologist's wet dream and a wannabe rock climber's playground. If you're a little priss who can't get a little dirty - then I don't recommend coming here. While it says - not to climb on fixtures (and I DON'T RECOMMEND DOING THIS) some people have participated in a little climbing, scrambling and sliding round the rock formations. You can see more in my post HERE.
Did you notice? The name is CHAU-TAUQUA park. It's MY PARK!
I was a little disappointed to find out that CHAUTAUQUA PARK (cha TAW kwa) was not named after me. Instead, the park was a monstrous movement during the late 1800's - early 1900's that paralleled summer camp, but on steroids. Before the time of television and radios, families would go to established "chautauquas" or neighborhood associations with their families and stay for summer holidays to partake in outdoor hikes, listen to poetry, concerts and speeches and join in community festivities. The movement first started in upstate NY and spread so much throughout the country that FDR is said to have said Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America".
This park however, was less than an hour drive from Denver and served as a very popular hiking trail. Bouldering is common here, and you'll find plenty of rock climbers with crash pads navigating the trails. Visit the Satellites along the Blue Bell path to do some bouldering and scramble up to the top of a hill to catch the view.
OR CAVING UNDERGROUND IN THE PITCH BLACK
"It's on Clear Creek Canyon, Take 6th avenue west. Look for the big parking lot on the left by the river past the first tunnel. I'm not sure which mile marker".
We didn't get very detailed directions at first. Our friend texted us the directions you see above. The story goes that this particular cave is known amongst locals as a drinking spot. It's so off the grid, that the cave doesn't have a name or sign. They just refer to it as the "Cave".
We pulled over onto the side of the highway, the sky pitch black and large, looming shadows of the mountains surrounding us. Cars zoomed by, their bright, brilliant orbs of light, blinding us in the night. We daggered across the night highway and continued the dark trek to the top of the mountain. While in daylight hiking opens your mind, in nighttime hiking condemns it. I imagined myself falling off the edge, one gloved hand gripping on a plant slowly beginning to be uprooted by my weight. My friends shouting, "HOLD ON!" and running in slow motion to help me, then a jump cut to the plant, my nervous eyes darting between my hands and the roots coming out one by one, then finally the last root coming out and me falling down into the dark abyss below. My final words would be,"YOU ASSHOLES" with one fist shaking into the night.
After a twenty minute hike up to the top, bypassing shrubbery and climbing from boulder to boulder, we finally found the entrance to the cave. Massive boulders cluttered above one another on the ceiling looked as if they would fall on us any second. The main opening was tagged with all sorts of graffiti. A bed of greens, reds and orange spray paint and various names tagged the walls. I imagine one day hundreds of years from now, archaeologists will find this cave and think..."what does it all mean"?
Spelunking is not for everyone. At one point we slid down 12 feet in between two very narrow walls called "The Devil's Buttcrack" with nothing below us but pitch black, and using only the walls for friction. We squeezed through narrow slots in the cave, army crawling one by one, literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. Enormous boulders staggered atop one another, and we had to heave ourselves up to scramble through them. This is a prime den for panic attacks and claustrophobia so if you have problems with either, this may not be a good idea for you.
If you are interested in going, be sure to wear good hiking boots or shoes with great grip. Climbing shoes could also be cool here and bring a great headlamp and clothes that you wouldn't mind getting dirty or ripped. I left my pack and camera in the main cave because the slots were too narrow to fit in. Make sure you go with someone who knows their way around and let someone on the outside know where you are.
HIKING THROUGH FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY
Staunton Park was one of my favorite hikes in all of Denver. You will experience all sorts of weather within Staunton, so pack accordingly. We made our way from t shirt weather across brisk windy plains to a snow covered mountain where the stream was frozen, and snow began to fall in a flurry at the top. Horseback riders join the trails as well, and since the park was newly opened in 2013, you won't find too many others along the park as you. Signs for the park are also pretty small on the highway. It will cost you $7.00USD to park.
FYI: Staunton Park's hours are listed wrong online. Google states that they are closed on Sundays, but they are open.
SNEAKING INTO ABANDONED BUILDINGS
SOMEWHERE IN COLORADO
Up a mountain, through the snow covered trails, under cover of Evergreen trees stands an old and dilapidated building in Colorado. Inside, we made our way through the house to find an old home in surprisingly good condition. Who's home or what it stands doing here remains a mystery.
CLEAN, FUTURISTIC AND GREEN
The words organic, sustainable and green are used without irony here, and more than a few times you will find compost bins and water recycling toilets. Veganism and vegeterianism are a common thing and you'll be asked "do you want real cheese with that? and "I hate bacon" more than once or twice during the day, without irony. (Sorry, am I being a NY snob?)
Some great places to get food are ROOT DOWN for a hip restaurant you might find Anthony Bourdain visit. The scallops are a must! Check out the bar down the street or take a visit to THE SOURCE for a variety of different restaurants to pick from. Similar to Chelsea Market, the place also hosts movie nights and features mexican food COMIDA and the American home cooking at ACORN. A good breakfast at neighborhood friendly Breakfast Inn for homey diner food or SNOOZE downtown for some delicious and healthy food. Visit Ophelia's for Happy Hour and catch a delicious dinner and drinks for $5-$7 per dish + drink. After 9pm the downstairs turns into a concert hall. Right upstairs is a hostel called Fish.
Visit the 16th street Mall (which is actually a street of shops, not an indoor mall) and stop by the Coors Stadium and visit the Union Station to grab a coffee. To work on your climbing - make a visit to MOVEMENT indoor climbing gym.
THERE IS A HOMELESS PROBLEM IN DENVER
BUT NO ONE SEEMS WORRIED ABOUT IT
In downtown Denver, is a neighborhood called Five Points. Within this neighborhood is the infamous Coors Field, several fine restaurants, modern luxury buildings and homeless shanty towns. The inlfux of homeless people here is shocking, never have I seen so many homeless people in one place. They fill up entire blocks with makeshift homes made of cardboard and old comforters, averaging 20- 30 people on a single street. The plethora of shelters, homeless services and decent year round weather in Denver draw homeless from all over the country. Mental health is also an issue, locals mentioned that after the crash of 08', a lot of funding was cut from the mental health services and as a result, a lot of the patients were released and left to live in the street. While it may be a bit jarring to see so many homeless people at a time, they are neither rude, nor dangerous. I walked down the street and was smiled at and said hello cheerily to people as they continued on with their day chatting with one another. The picture above was taken from a very popular local eatery called SNOOZE, where lines of homeless people stood directly across the street.