Bucket List Adventure: Stand-up Paddle Boarding in Colorado!


Last month I turned 24, and in the spirit of trying new things every year, I decided I wanted to do something exciting that I’ve never done before. I had tons of adventures in my 23rd year of life–skydiving, hiking, zorbing, exploring movie sets, playing with tigers, communing with elephants, volunteering in Thailand and getting an up-close and personal introduction to Australian wildlife–and while I know that this year is going to be a little less exotic, I still want to do things that push me as a person, mentally and physically. Just because I’m not actively traveling at the moment doesn’t mean that my life can’t still be exciting and full of new adventures, and I’m determined to keep finding activities that will challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone.

It didn’t take long for me to decide what my first adventure as a 24 year old would be: stand-up paddle boarding or SUP, for short. As a birthday present to myself, I bought a GoPro and decided to christen it on the day trip to Bear Creek Lake Park, which is about 35 minutes outside of Denver.  My friend Erica was visiting from Massachusetts, so we headed out to the park in the early afternoon. Paddle board rentals are a little bit steeply priced there–$20 per hour–but the surroundings were gorgeous and our wait time wasn’t outrageously long. It was a Saturday, so it was slightly more crowded than it would probably be on a weekday, but the lake didn’t feel like it was absolutely overrun with people, which was a definite bonus!

Actually finding the little lake where you rent the paddle boards can be a little bit tricky, but we figured it out after a few minutes and then went to the boat rental building and put our names in. The wait was about 20 minutes, which was slightly inconvenient but did give us time to reapply sunscreen and let it soak in before we headed out into the extra-strong Colorado sunshine! When we finally got the boards we were a little bit nervous about actually using them; loads of people around us were taking lessons, but we hadn’t bothered with that and were just winging it.

To my surprise, stand-up paddle boarding is crazy easy! It takes a little while to figure out what strokes will push you in which direction, but the learning curve is pretty gentle and before long we were able to get ourselves moving, turning around, etc. We had tons of fun exploring the little lake and I think that this activity would be SUPER fun to do on a lazy river, especially while traveling. I’m definitely going to be seeking out SUP when I’m traveling in the future–I’d love to do it in Southeast Asia or in Hawaii! If you’re interested in trying SUP around the world, I’m going to include a few links to articles below that will give you a little bit more information on key destinations. If you’re not sure you want to try it on vacation, I highly recommend trying to find places near your house to do it–state parks often also offer it, so be sure to do a quick google search for SUP locations near you!

The Travel Channel: World’s Best Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Spots

Outside Magazine: North America’s 10 Best Beginner SUP Spots

The Clymb: The World’s Best Places to Stand-Up Paddle Board

Bucket List Traveler Info:

Activity Type: Adventure

Price: $20/hr

Value for Money: Average. There are other places where you can rent boards for $12 an hour instead of $20, and I’d say thats a much better value. 

Suitable for: Everyone! It doesn’t require much skill, and if you’re really nervous you can always take a lesson.

Recommend: 100%! Its so much fun and I can’t wait to do it again.

Extras: All photos in this article taken with a GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition.

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Hiking Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado


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Its been raining for almost a month (yes, a whole f****** month) here in Denver, but we FINALLY got a reprieve last weekend! After checking the weather report and seeing that thunderstorms weren’t on the horizon until about 2 pm, I asked my high school bestie Andie to come out early on Sunday morning so that we could get a nice hike and lunch in before the rain came back. We decided the night before that we’d go to Table Mountain, which boasts easy-to-advanced hikes and stunning views. It’s only about 30 minutes from Denver and dog-friendly, which was a must, as my little buddy Willie was desperate for a nice, long walkie!

Our original plan was to hike for about two hours, maybe a little bit less, but straight up and down. We parked, unadvisedly, near the neighborhood access on an nondescript side-road. We learned later that there’s an actual parking lot with amenities like port-o-potties and the like, which is 100% where we will park next time! Its a long drive from Denver and not having a bathroom at the beginning of the trail was basically torture.

Anyway, at our jumpoff point there was only a small posting about trails and whatnot, without any real marking as to where we were or what paths went where. This was exceptionally confusing when it came to deciding which direction we were meant to go in to start our hike, which we thought would be about three miles. Ultimately we made the wrong choice and ended up on the North Table Loop, which is said to be 5.9 miles long, but in actuality ended up being about 8 miles. In spite of not being the trail we’d anticipated doing, the hike was scenic and beautiful, and was a great workout to boot! We really felt like we earned our lunch!

The beginning of our hike was pretty easy and almost entirely flat. Occasionally we’d run into another hiker or a small cluster of people, and at one point we were overtaken by horses, but other than that it was peaceful and quiet. Midway through the hike things became increasingly difficult, and there was a marginal but steady uphill stretch that lasted for about a mile, which fully wiped Andie and me out, but the little dog was having a grand old time! Eventually we found the entrance to the park, and pushed on reinvigorated to the last quarter of our hike. By this point we’d been hiking way longer than intended and could see a thunderstorm approaching over the opposite set of mountains, inconveniently as we were passing a field of giant, metal electric towers. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it definitely put a hustle in our steps!

When we finished we loaded back up in the car–very muddy dog included–and headed into town for some lunch. We got to Sherpa House at 2pm, only 30 minutes before they closed, but were SO excited to find out that they still had their lunch buffet on, for $9.99 all you can eat! I ordered a chai in addition to the food I picked out–some memorable favorites included the Chicken Tikka Masala, a tasty spinach dish, some Onion Bajhi (onions battered with chickpea flour and deep fried–I probably ate 6+ of them, they were out-of-this-world delicious!) and potatoes that were covered in what appeared to be a yogurt sauce. I’m gluten free, so Naan was out of the question, but the Onion Bajhi totally covered my craving for carbs!

Very full and already sore, we got back into the car and hustled back to Denver, where I proceeded to get a 90-minute massage for $12.50 (yes, you read that right!) at the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado with my sister. All in all it was an amazing day, in spite of the threatening weather and the unexpected ruggedness of the hike, and the massage after the hike was exactly what I needed to recover!

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Bucket List Traveler Info:

Activity Type: Adventure–hiking!

Price: Free + Cost of lunch and gas. 

Value for Money: A++

Suitable for: Everyone! There are easier hikes you could do with kids. Probably not a great activity for mobility-disabled people.

Recommend: Absolutely! Hiking in Golden is great and I’d go back just to get lunch at Sherpa House!

Day trip to Tam Coc, Vietnam


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Having gotten to Hanoi a day before Typhoon Rammasun was set to strike Vietnam, I found my options for traveling relatively limited, as all trips to Halong Bay and other adventures along the coast were all preemptively cancelled. Fortunately, my hostel was very accommodating and found me some alternative trips that I could do, and I got very lucky with an amazing day trip to Tam Coc, or the “dry Halong Bay.” Tam Coc is located approximately 100 km from Hanoi, boasting three limestone caves that sit over a long, winding Ngo Dong river that runs through the picturesque karst mountains.

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We were picked up from our hotel around 8 in the morning and driven for about an hour to our first destination, which was a temple mounted in honor of one of the former kings of Vietnam. Our guide, Lucky, told us a little bit about the history of the area, then let us roam around on our own. We spent about twenty minutes at the temple, then set out again toward Tam Coc. When we arrived we ate a generous buffet lunch full of fresh and tasty regional foods, then set out on our two hour boat trip up the river.
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In front of the small lagoon where the boats are held are people peddling souvenirs and goods, most of which are pretty tacky. Some of the items, like the local rice-paddy style hat, might have come in handy on the boats, which were entirely in the sun. Our boats were paddled by local women and men, usually two to a boat, with one person rowing with his or her feet and another paddling by hand. Most of them were either wearing one of the hats or holding an umbrella to shield them from the harsh sun, and I would suggest doing the same if you’re planning on doing one of these tours, as there were few opportunities to take a break from the sun along the two-hour journey.

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The few breaks we did get from the sun came in the form of the three limestone caves that broke up the river. These caves are still being rapidly built and changed by the water seeping through the rocks from the plants above. In some places there’s water literally pouring down from above, and its pretty cool to get to see a cave being changed basically as you’re traveling through it.

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The whole trip is picturesque, personal (2 people per boat was the norm), and a great way to get to explore the mountains, especially with Halong Bay temporarily out of the picture. If I were to do the trip again I definitely would have put on more sunscreen, brought an umbrella for the sun and stocked up on water well before getting on the boat. The only drawback to the tour was that people were constantly trying to sell you things, from pictures they’d snap of you while you were trapped on the boat, to flowers, drinks, snacks and hats, and I even heard of some of the rowers trying to get more money out of their tourists, which unfortunately puts a damper on the beauty of the whole trip. Overall, though, the trip was definitely worth the time and the price (about $40 with all transport and food included), and made for an awesome alternative to Halong Bay!
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Activity Type: Tour, Day Trip

Price: $40

Value for Money: Average/good. Transport and food and activities all included, but some elements felt like people were constantly trying to get more money out of you.

Suitable for: Anyone. Did not require any specific fitness levels.

Recommend: Maybe, especially if you can’t go to Halong Bay or if its in the season where the rice all turns yellow.

Tips: 

1) Bring. Sunscreen. And probably an umbrella and a hat. Its insanely sunny and you’re stuck in a boat on water for two hours, its important to protect yourself!

2) Bring enough water.

3) Try and go when rice fields are yellow, which I’ve been told is in September. Also, make sure you get a view from above the fields– I didn’t on my tour, but apparently most tours tell you to and the photos I’ve seen from that vantage point look amazing.

 

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