Category Archives: General Travel

Palm Springs, California roadtrip

Palm Springs sign
Palm Springs sign

Earlier this month, my husband and I jumped in the car and hit the road for Palm Springs. From Denver, the drive is about 15 hours straight through. We had decided we wanted to do a getaway, and after adding up the numbers to fly and rent a car in Palm Springs, California, we decided to drive. Our intent was to find some warm weather, and get in a few rounds of golf.

It was a blast. We spent the first night at our friends in Prescott, Arizona. From there we headed out to the Coachella Valley and the Southern California desert. We learned a few things along the way.

Arizona has some beautiful landscapes. We cut across southwestern Arizona on our way from Prescott to I-10. There were some pretty desolate areas we passed through on our way.

Coming into the Coachella Valley is a beautiful drive. Quite frankly, I-10 through the desert is not all that interesting. But once over the ridge on the way into the valley, the views are spectacular. I wish there had been somewhere safe to stop the car and take a few photos!

Palm Springs seems to have a golf course on every corner. It seemed like quite a dichotomy that this city in the desert had all these green golf courses. I’m sure that’s a discussion the residents are having as we speak.

The Tahquitz Golf Course - Legend Course. Hole 4
The Tahquitz Golf Course – Legend Course. Hole 4

The Palm Springs Follies, an institution in town, is closing this year for good. This show has been going on for 25 years. The performers are all over the age of 55 and do a great show. The Master of Ceremonies, who always manages the show, was happy that the shows were sold out through the end of the run but he wondered where everyone was the past few years!

The drive through Utah on I-15 and on to I-70 is still stunning. This drive passes two national parks, Capital Reef and Canyonlands, as well as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-LaSalle National Forests. You’ve got to stay alert as you drive through the passes. Luckily, there are plenty of overlooks to rest and enjoy the views. If you haven’t made this drive, put it on your list.

I’ll be posting additional posts on this trip over the next few weeks, but these are my first impressions.

Roadrunner at the Living Desert Zoo
Roadrunner at the Living Desert Zoo

Glenwood Springs on a budget

Mount Sopris
Mount Sopris

Following the Colorado River as if flows into Glenwood Canyon, the terrain abruptly shifts from green valleys and rolling hills to severe rock walls with the thundering river below. Rafters and kayakers bob in the water, steering their craft through the boulders and white water. This is the last section of the highway before entering Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Glenwood Springs is a great getaway from the Denver area. There are plenty of low cost and no cost activities to experience in and around the town. Take the family and try some of these.

Hiking. There are many miles of hiking trails in the Roaring Fork Valley. From the paths along the river to those up Storm King Mountain, there are trails for every level of adventurer. For those who like to climb mountains, the 12.6 mile round-trip track to the top of Mt. Sopris is not a technical climb, though it is for the advanced hiker and can be done in a day. The 4-mile round-trip hike up Storm King Mountain ends at a memorial to the firefighters who died in 1994 fighting a wildfire.

Hiking trail
Hiking trail

Biking trails. Biking is a great family activity and there are trails for every skill level. For the hardcore mountain biker, there are steep, technical trails on Red Mountain. For a bit tamer ride, the Glenwood Canyon track follows the river and has stops at the rest areas along the highway including Bair Ranch, Hanging Lake, No Name, and Grizzly Creek. The Rio Grande trail connects Glenwood Springs and Aspen and follows the old railway between the two towns. For those who prefer a downhill ride, catch the RFTA Bike Express for a ride into Aspen. Then unload the bikes and ride the mostly downhill 44 miles back into Glenwood Springs. The Bike Express runs on weekend mornings from May to early September. For more visitor information about the bike trails around Glenwood Springs, check out Visitglenwood.com.

Rafting down the Colorado River
Rafting down the Colorado River

Tubing and rafting on the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers.  Tubing on the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers is a whitewater lovers dream. Put in your craft at Two Rivers Park and float down the river in the slow current. For kayakers, the town has one of the few locally supported whitewater parks. Rent tubes in town for about $16 each, bring your own boat, or take a professionally guided rafting trip with one of the many tour providers.

Fishing. For those who like to cast lines, Glenwood Springs is a great choice. With both the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers home to many different varieties of trout, it’s never a bad day to go fly fishing. The river is accessible, with many different locations where it’s possible to park and walk down to the water for wading and shore fishing. There are many different streams that feed the major rivers in the valley, including No Name Creek accessible from the exit about 1.5 miles east of Glenwood Springs. If brook trout are your quarry, try Grizzly Creek. This is also an exit off I-70 east of town. Visitors can park in the main lot and hike back to find your spot. If you prefer company, there are guides and outfitters available to rent equipment and find an out-of-the-way fishing hole.

With the rivers spilling out the canyon and the sun shining, Glenwood Springs enough activities to keep an entire family busy without breaking the bank.

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The rainbow rocks of eastern Colorado

Pain Mines Park, El Paso County, ColoradoAn easy day hike on the eastern plains

The sun shines in Colorado almost every day, and this was no exception. The morning was clear, and watching the antelope sway across the prairie and the horseback rider move cleanly up the ridge in the distance was worth the hour in the car. I was headed to Calhan, Colorado and the PaintedMinesInterpretivePark in El PasoCounty, about an hour east of Colorado Springs and about two hours south of Denver.

Rolling into the parking lot first thing in the morning, the view included the gently sloping hills and prairie in the distance. Grabbing my hat and camera, I headed down the easy trail toward the hills. The grade started to increase as I passed a family with a small child who was chasing butterflies and watching birds. Although the bench at the top of the hill looked inviting, I kept going and around the corner and the formations came into sight. It was amazing to see the white, red, and orange badlands appear suddenly from the prairie.

Overlooking the plains.
Overlooking the plains.

Winding down the wild-flower rimmed trail, the hoodoos and spires were more intimidating as I got closer. As I made my way around the north side of the area, the trail headed up again to an overlook. In one direction, the vast prairie laid out with trails. In the other direction, the stark white formations looking like frozen, rocky, milk. The pale rocky falls fronted the colorful rock layers in the rest of the park. I made my way to the rainbows in the rock.

The clay and sandstone formations are gently formed by wind, rain and blowing sand. The gullies and caves that are carved out of the rock form an intricate maze of color and shadow. This red clay found in these formations was mined to create pots and used as ceremonial body paint by the Indians. This was also a hunting ground for the first inhabitants because of the abundance of deer and bison in the area. In the early 1880’s the first settlers homesteaded the area.

Wildflowers along the pathThere are about four miles of trails in these 750 acres. Around the formations, the trails are actually dry stream beds. In this area, the weather can change quickly and flash floods create the trails as the water runs off. The wildflowers are blooming wherever they can get a foothold and the paths are lovely. A frequent visitor to the park mentioned that often artists set up easels in the morning to paint the beautiful landscape.

The particulars: The Park is open from dawn to dusk 365 days per year and is free to the public. The hiking is considered easy here, though be aware that there are some steep inclines. The services include a few picnic table, a few benches along the trails and a toilet near the main parking lot. This park is not designed for wheelchairs. There are two additional overlooks to the park with short trails to small picnic areas that seem more accessible.

There is no overnight camping allowed in the park. This is a great park for kids, though climbing or disturbing the formations is illegal. Visitors should bring their own water and be aware that it can be quite hot on a summer afternoon and there is very little shade.

To get to the park, take I-25 to Highway 24. Go east on Highway 24 to Calhan. Once in Calhan, go south on Yoder Toad/Calhan Highway, then turn east on Paint Mine Road and follow the signs. For more information, visit the El Paso County website.

Deb Schaffer is a local Denver travel writer and golf enthusiast. Check out her articles about Denver travel deals on Examiner.com and golf course reviews at BoomerGolfBliss.com.

Denver Restaurant Week February 22 – 28, 2014

Denver Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to try exciting restaurants that are part of the Denver culinary scene. There are more than 200 restaurants participating this year, offering fixed-price, multi-course meals for $30 per person. Restaurants participating include the Briarwood Inn, Brooks Steakhouse, Hapa Sushi in Cherry Creek, Le Central, Panzano, and the True Food Kitchen.

If you don’t have reservations yet, now’s the time to make your choice and give the restaurant a call. For more information and to view the available menus, go to Visit Denver.

Spring break in Cabo San Lucas, touring the Canadian Rockies, and exploring India

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This week’s deals include a great deal to Cabo San Lucas, an adventure in the Canadian Rockies, and a short tour to India.

Spring Break is around the corner, and Groupon has partnered with to offer a seven-night all-inclusive vacation in beautiful San Jose del Cabo. From Denver, the packages start at $1099, double-occupancy. This vacation includes airfare from DenverInternationalAirport, lodging, taxes, and all meals and drinks in the resort’s five onsite restaurants and three bars. While in Cabo San Lucas, visit the nature reserves in the area, including the CaboPulmoNationalMarinePark which includes one of North America’s only hard-coral reefs. Tour San Jose del Cabo, a well-preserved town with Spanish colonial architecture, and an arts district a quick walk from the town square.  Or just hang around the pool and on the beach to enjoy the sun. Visit Groupon.com by January 16 for more information and to book your vacation.

From beach to mountains, Gate1 Travel is offering a nine-day tour of the Canadian Rockies starting at $1499. Fly into Calgary and then head to WatertonLakesNational Park, stopping at UpperWatertonLake for the spectacular mountain views. Next you’ll visit GlacierNational Park, continuing along LakeShelburne to visit the Many Glacier hotel. Then travel to BanffNational Park, the heart of the Rocky Mountains for the incredible views and to spend the day enjoying the boutiques, western saloons and pubs. Drive along the shores of TwoJackLake, LakeMinnewanka, and BowRiverFalls. Along the way enjoy the bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and the occasional grizzly or black bear. Continue to Lake Louise, JasperNational Park, and the Columbia Icefield, where guests have the opportunity to walk on the glacier. The package includes eight night’s accommodations, hotel taxes, fees & service charges, sightseeing and transportation in a modern, air-conditioned motor coach, the services of an English-speaking tour manager and entrance fees according to the itinerary. Guest should book by January 13 for additional savings. Visit Gate1travel.com for more information and to schedule your vacation.

India is on many people’s bucket list, and this deal may make it affordable. SmarTours has partnered with Travelzoo.com to offer five nights in India starting at $1299. This package includes airfare from New York, five nights’ accommodations, all sightseeing tours and entrance fees, all intra-India transportation, an English-speaking tour guide, five breakfasts and a farewell dinner. Travelers spend one night in Delhi, two nights in Agra and two nights in Jaipur. Visit the Taj Mahal, ride an elephant, and visit the outdoor market. If you’re interested in more time in this remarkable part of the world, there is an extended 15-day India and Nepal package available. Visit Travelzoo.com soon for more information and to book your vacation.