Monday, 11 August 2014

Denver, the Mile High City

Denver from Confluence Park

So we arrived in Denver on Thursday evening after a four hour flight and a two hour time difference from Boston, wow, it’s a big country! It’s just at the point where the Rocky Mountains start, lifting from the flat plain to the east to a high mountain region with 54 peaks over 14,000ft (4267m), Denver sitting on a plateau at 5280ft (1609m) above sea level, or one mile (exactly one mile if you stand on the thirteenth step of the State House in downtown Denver. It was the fifteenth step and an inscription ‘one mile above sea level’ was made, but then a new survey showed that it was a couple of feet lower, so a new bronze plate was installed at that level).

The State House
1609m doesn’t sound all that high, but it is higher than any point in the UK, Ben Nevis our highest mountain being 1407m and it was enough for me to feel a bit of ‘altitude’ after wallowing around at sea level in Boston for three days. Maybe it was the long flight crammed between two guys on the Southwest Airlines flight (they don’t allocate seating, you just find a free seat when you get on, trouble is they allocate entry to the aircraft depending on whether you want to pay extra or on how early you check in online. We didn’t realise this so ended up being almost the last to board, so had the remaining spare seats on a full flight), maybe it was the lack of water, or the late arrival (7.55pm, but 9:55pm on our Boston time), whatever it was that familiar hangover feeling of mild altitude sickness kicked in and I wasn’t able to get out of bed the next day until 12:00am, when I’d finally kicked the headache, got some energy back and the nausea feeling had subsided.

and on the 15th step....
But actually that round bronze plaque is the new marker on the 13th steo
A nice place Denver, no major sights to see, but being the capital of Colorado right on the edge of the Rockies with major ski resorts, it’s a centre for outdoor pursuits, so is a mixture of high rise office blocks with a laid back out west feel with wide streets and mountain backdrops. Our base was Beth and Jims Victorian house courtesy of airbnb, not only the cheapest accommodation, but also of a very high standard and a great couple who involved us in their lives. Not to mention Zeke the black cat who lived under our bed given half a chance!

Flowers in the State House garden
We visited the Black Shirt and Epic micro breweries at Jims suggestion, walked to Confluence Park, where the Platte River and Cherry Creek meet at a series of rapids, providing family entertainment, saw Molly Brown’s house, who was a survivor of the Titanic sinking (too late to go inside as it was just closing) and, on the way back walked through an impressive thunderstorm with forked lightening hitting the ground not far away. It wasn’t raining, but it still felt odd to be outside in those conditions. The rain did eventually come, but by then we were on the free Mall bus.

A couple of very laid back religious people walking round with a cool box full of ice creams, offering them to passers by. They gave us one each with a handout of a religious message, but no other discussion, they just walked on by. The message on the box says 'Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him'
Outside the Civic Building was a religious music festival
We arrived back at the house at 9pm on Saturday night to find Jim and Beth entertaining two friends out on the decking in their back garden. As soon as they saw us walk in Jim waved us to come out and join them, saying ‘you’ve gotta try some of my smoked chicken’, so we were introduced to their friends, sat down and fed great chunks of really nice smoke cooked chicken, followed by dessert and lots of great conversation. Chris, their guest was a little worse for wear, but great fun. He did want to go out to the Black Shirt Brewery for a late drink though, so we left them to go to bed as they got their push bikes out and wobbled off into the night. Jim and Beth weren’t that keen to go as they were getting up at 7am this morning to go and climb a 14,000ft peak, but they went anyway! Jim and Beth invited us to join them on the climb, but we couldn’t as we had to catch a bus back to the airport to pick up a car.

Jim and Beth's back garden

This made me smile

Got the car, but not without the ‘you really need a bigger car then you’ve booked’ story, but the trouble is, we do. We’ve got all our luggage, Roger our friend from Estes Park, just up the road, is lending us camping gear and on September 9th Jackie’s mum comes out for three weeks, so we need to get her and her luggage in. So we were persuaded to spend another $1000 to upgrade to a ‘full size’ car. Wow, it’s huge, a Nissan something or other, big engine, massive boot and just a big car – a gleaming red machine!

The former home of Titanic survivor Molly Brown, now a museum
And what is this tree and those long green things growing on it. We have no idea!
The Epic Micro-brewery
So today we not only had to go and pick up the car, but we had to move house as well, we had failed to book the extra night we needed at Jim and Beth’s and then found they were full, so now we’re in Jim’s house that he had before he married Beth last year. It’s a bit funky and there are other ’cool’ folk in here, but they’re a friendly bunch and we’re only here one night. They showed us their collection of cannabis, which is legal here in Colorado, asking us if we wanted to try some. They were pretty laid back, sitting outside at 10pm. A small dose 'takes the edge off life' Beth had told us.

Followed by the Black Shirt micro-brewery. The glasses as so shaped that more of the smell is captured as you take a drink, smell being equally important as taste in enjoying good beer - and it was good!
Look at this excited little puppy we saw
We needed the extra night in Denver so Roger and Jane could come and visit us. They were dropping their last guests at the airport so came over after, to drop off the camping gear and say hello. I last saw Roger four years ago disappearing ahead of me up Mera Peak in Nepal as I struggled up towards high camp at 5800m, really struggling with bad altitude sickness, so it was good to see him in a better state of health. Had a really nice night tonight with them, they’ve bought us loads of maps and a full kit of camping gear, plus we’ve been out for an Indian meal – vindaloo for me, wow, it was hot!

The Civic Centre from the 'mile high' step on the State House
Three days next in Colorado Springs and then onto Roger and Jane’s for a week of hiking and rock climbing in the Rockies. The trip is really beginning to shape up now!

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