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!

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Road Trippin’ the Great Ocean Road, Australia


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Last Tuesday, Cheyenne and I started our mini-road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road. We rented our car at the Avis near Southern Cross Station on Tuesday morning, aiming to get to Apollo Bay by that evening. We started out at 10 am with some packed lunches, and got to our first stop-off at Torquay Beach around 11:30. The beach itself is easy to get to, wide-open, pet-friendly and generally very well kept. We were lucky enough to get a little bit of sunshine while we ate, but unfortunately the pet-friendliness of the beach ended up with Cheyenne losing some of her lunch, as a cheeky yellow lab snagged most of her Foccacia while we had our backs turned.

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After a little more play time on the beach, we set back out on the road and drove for another five hours. The scenery was breathtaking and we found ourselves stopping all the time for photo-ops, and the views just kept getting better and better! We spent a good deal of time at the Great Ocean Road memorial arch, which also had a small military commemoration and was generally a nice place to have a rest for a few minutes.

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Along the way we noticed that Australia is particularly fond of aggressive road signage and polarizing place-names, with signs including friendly warnings (“drowsy drivers die,” “survive this drive,” and “fatigue is fatal” were three of my personal favorites), and with places of interest called things “Shrapnel Gulley” and “Mt. Defiance.” Our first day of driving lasted about five hours, and we arrived at our hostel around 3 pm.

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We ended the night in Apollo Bay, a quiet little beachfront town with an amazing youth hostel. We stayed at the Apollo Bay Eco YHA, which was more like a dorm-style hotel than a hostel and had very friendly owners, an amazingly homey living room, and a big, bright, functional kitchen. It was a five or so minute walk from the nearest grocery store and a five minute walk from the beach, and was overall an amazing place to stay.

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Day 2

Cheyenne and I had a bit of a late start on the second day of our trip, getting out around 10:30 am. Our first stop was the Cape Otway Lighthouse, which was scenic and had some great grounds to walk around. Entry to the Cape Otway area was $19.50, and included entry to the park, to an aboriginal museum, to a museum devoted to dinosaur fossils, and to the lighthouse. The lighthouse had a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide on top, eager to answer any questions we might have had about the area. The view from the top of the lighthouse was equally great, and in the right season makes for a great whale-watching location.

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We had some soup at Cape Otway’s café, which was expensive but perfect for the chilly day, and the café couldn’t have been in a more scenic spot. As we ate we heard some of the history of the lighthouse and the cape, and learned that it was the port through which many immigrant Australians came from 1848 onward.

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After we finished lunch we started driving again, moving slightly further away from the ocean for a few dozen kilometers as we drove through densely tree’d areas. The roads were windy but felt pretty safe, and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. After an hour or two of driving we entered into wine and farming country, and we made a few pit stops along the way.

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Our first pit stop was the G.O.R.G.E chocolate makers, which offered some free samples and chocolates that came in a variety of different flavors, shapes and sizes. The chocolates themselves are tasty and not particularly expensive; I bought a large milk chocolate bar, a pair of chocolate frogs, a chocolate koala and kangaroo set, and a large chocolate “freckle” (chocolate topped with colorful sprinkles) for $13.50. The G.O.R.G.E chocolatiers also had two resident miniature horses who were super cute and friendly!

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A few kilometers up the road was the Artisanal Whet Cheese makers, whose farm and cheese making facilities are located in the middle of the gorgeous countryside. They offered a free cheese tasting with a selection of 9-11 cheeses, all made on site. I can’t say there was a single cheese that I tried that I didn’t like, but I absolutely loved their chili and garlic marinated feta! I bought a box of it for $10, which was definitely more than worth it. Unfortunately, I was unable to try the blue cheeses they had on offer as I’m allergic to penicillin and I’m gluten intolerant, but I have it on good authority that they were also pretty tasty!

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Our last stop on our mini foodie tour was one of the vineyards another few kilometers up the road, but unfortunately they were closed when we got there. Thankfully we were 100% satisfied with our chocolate and cheese, so we weren’t too disappointed!

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Our next stop on the road was the 12 Apostles, which are probably the most famous landmark on the entire trek. Day tours will take you directly there from Melbourne, and the area itself was pretty crowded with throngs of tourists. There’s a nice beach before the apostles that I think I liked even better than the apostles themselves, as it was quiet but very scenic and not super well-touristed. The weather was pretty volatile during our drive, though, and the waves were way bigger than I had expected. As a result, I had to change my skirt when we got back up to the car, having been hit unexpectedly by the renegade tide and been soaked up past my knees.

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We traveled the next 200 or so kilometers to Mt. Gambier without many stops, and stayed the night at the Mt. Gambier Gaol Hostel, which used to be used as a prison and a halfway house. The hostel was undergoing renovations, but thankfully the woman who runs the place accommodated us anyway, and we had an awesome (but kind of creepy) night, even though we were the only guests there.

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The next day we drove another five-ish hours off the Great Ocean Road until we got to Adelaide. This leg of the journey definitely wasn’t as scenic, but was a nice drive all the same. If you ever get the chance to do the Great Ocean Road I’d definitely recommend it, but unless you’re super pressed for time, stay clear of the tours! Its way more rewarding (and probably cheaper) to do it on your own.

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-Natalie

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