Down and Out in Denver? Up and at ’em, More Like

Today’s blog post comes from Nick Chesterton, a Round the World Expert in our Manchester branch.

Don’t you wish you could find somewhere new and exciting to visit? Somewhere none of your mates have been to, where you can try new activities, eat and drink food from around the world and meet strange and wonderful people.. can this magical place really exist? Of course it can – it’s the good old US of A!

We’re not talking shopping in New York or having photos with that smiley mouse in Florida, or even snapping the celebs in California – although we don’t deny that those are pretty fun things to do. We’re talking getting off the beaten track, picking a city on the map and just exploring! America is the fourth largest country in the world and with almost 60 national parks dotted around there is plenty to choose from if want to get out and about in the wilderness.

Ok, I’m sold – so where do I start?

If you ask me, Denver, Colorado is a good a place to start as any, and about three hours north in the town of Loveland is where I found myself recently. After spending the morning in the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park up at 11,000ft walking/wheezing our way up the yet to open for the summer Trail Ridge Rd past 15ft snowdrifts, I ended the day down in the foothills sitting round a campfire sampling the local ale (of which there are over 3,000 in Colorado alone), eating s’mores (toasted marshmallows sandwiched between biscuits of your choice with chocolate wedged in there for good luck) and listening to the warbling tunes of a local rancher.

Dances with Horses

I have to say horses are not my friends. Having been scarred for life by a behemoth (in my head) of a horse, hoisting me from the ground by my parka hood before unceremoniously dumping me back to the ground when I was six, I was a little nervous about the whole ranch thing. I even tried to exact my revenge a few years later by bravely/foolhardily ordering a carne crudo in an Italian restaurant which turned out to be a quarter pound of raw (not rare – RAW) horse meat accompanied by olive oil and herbs. Needless to say, the horse avenged his friend’s death the very next day in the middle of a walk. A ten kilometre walk. Through a forest. It got messy.

Lions and deer and bears, oh my

But despite all that, within five minutes of saddling up and heading off into the foothills the dread was replaced by the expectation of what lay beyond – deer, elk, bears and mountain lions all loiter in the forest though admittedly your chances of spotting the latter two are pretty slim. But the amazing scenery of the red rocks, tumbling rivers and forest alive with birdsong along with the stunning backdrop of the snow topped Rockies beyond more than made up for lack of lion action.

City slickers

If you do head to Denver, unrivalled views of the night sky and tales around the campfire will likely be on the menu for you too, and plenty more besides for the more adventurous types, like archery, zip lining, white water rafting, trekking and for those whose derriere is made of sterner stuff than mine, more horses. The ‘dude’ ranches offer an escape from normal life, and while this may all seem a little bit city slickers, the ranch guys and gals who run these places are so unbelievably genuine that they’re still a really authentic way of getting back to nature. How else could I still remember this all so fondly every time I get that whiff of horse and BBQ that’s still welded to my favourite jeans.

Denver’s your oyster

When the time comes to drag yourself away from the ranch and sparkling night sky, where next? Back to the bright lights of Denver to take a Broncos game or a gig at Red Rocks Amphitheatre? Up and over the Rockies, to Salt Lake and Utah? The stunning Badlands National Park just two hours to the north, or the Wolves of Yellowstone just a day’s drive northwest? The choices, just like America itself, are truly endless. Maybe I need to go back..

Fancy following in Nick’s footsteps and trekking around Denver on horseback? Or maybe the zip line’s more your speed? Either way, check out flights or tack it on to a big US trip, and start planning. Already been? Tell us your tips in the comments below!