Rocky Mountain High: Part II

There’s a “bro-style” in Denver that will make itself known on a Friday night, juxtaposed to the city’s stoner hipster look. Pop into a brewery and you’ll find bros and hipsters across the room from one another, forming small cliques, everyone mingling with their own kind. From the week I spent in the city, I’d say Denver has two distinct lifestyles for your average twenty/thirty something male:

The Bro’s Bro. Likes: Red Bull. Beer. Gyms. Polos. Mountain bikes. Abbreviating (“do you want pizza” = “let’s get some za”) Sandals. The Broncos.

The Stoner Hipster. Likes: Stumptown coffee. Beer. Skinny jeans. James Franco. Tattoos. Vape pens. Constantly and ironically quoting the McConaughey motto “Alright Alright Alright”.

The quickest way to tell the difference between the two? Their choice of headwear.

Your regular hipster can be spotted as well, usually carrying around a copy of Infinite Jest left unopened on their cafe table as they derp around on their Macbook, but the stoner hipster reigns supreme.

DenverhatsAirbnb-ing in the trendy Five Points neighborhood (there’s a pour-your-own beer bar and everything!), The Central Market became our go-to for all things food related. A gorgeous building that’s all brick and windows, it’s 14,000 square feet of culinary bliss, with a dozen gourmet vendors stationed throughout.  Everything you want, this place has it: Cold brew and kombucha on tap, artisanal chocolate, charcuterie boards and stinky cheeses, soupy neapolitan pizza, ice cream flights, a full scale bakery whipping out brioche and mile high cupcakes, and a cocktail bar to ensure you’ve got the perfect IPA or Manhattan to wash it all down with.

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Many meals were eaten here, and I wasn’t able to try anywhere near as much as I wanted to. During one lunch I wanted to grab Carl a treat without his knowing, so I said I was visiting the loo and covertly made my way towards the bakery.  I gazed longingly into the glass case where the cupcakes were housed.  Tall and pristine, every sprinkle or crumble of oreo was placed ever-so-perfectly on mounds of icing.

As I marveled, a thirtyish looking man approached from behind the counter.  He wore a black tee shirt and black skinnies, with slightly greasy shoulder length chestnut hair poking and curling out from beneath the usual black knit cap. With eyes at half mast, it became very obvious I was dealing with a very stoned individual.

Aren’t they beauuuutiful?” he asked, to which I responded “They’re so pretty!”  This was met with a long drawn out “yeah” as he walked away, the “eeeeeaaaahhh” could be heard trailing behind him and seemed to echo after he was gone.  I figured the departure was due to his having another task at hand, but I could plainly see him twenty feet away, watching silently as others rolled out dough.

A few minutes later he walked back over, asking “Sup?”.  I inquired about the cupcake options, and he answered by counting out on his fingers “chocolate sprinkles…..s’mores…caramel and marshmallow…uhhh”, then stepping away to be reminded of the final flavor.  “PB&J!” he triumphantly announced from afar, but didn’t return, so I still had yet to place my order.

At this point I’d been gone for eight minutes or so, and Carl was likely becoming suspicious, or worried for my digestion.  On his third and final return I was able to get two cupcakes shoved into a bag, and my conspicuously long absence was forgiven, because Tah-Dah! Cupcakes. Denver IX

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Later on, as the sky turned dark and Friday turned into Friday night, we began brewery hopping, and our visit to Ratio Beerworks could be summed up as “sunglasses on top of baseball hats” (forward or backward caps).  I have a lot of feelings on this subject.  Bro, it’s 10:00pm, I know you went home to change after work.  Currently you cast a cloud of axe body spray within a five foot radius of where you stand, so unless you’ve annihilated your coworkers this morning when you stepped into the office, you most definitely went home, sprayed up, popped on a Broncos hat, decided needs sunglasses on top, winked at yourself in the mirror, then left for a pregame session at your buds.

Official bro uniform of the city? I got this: Polo (preferably light blue) or hoodie, cargos, flip flops, and baseball cap con sunnies.

Overheard nearby? “If she’s not a ten, never again” and “Let’s go talk to these uggos over there, they’re basically begging for it”.  We were at Ratio for an hour and I felt like I needed a shower to get the body spray and bro-speak off my skin.

I love Denver. I’d go back in a second.  The city has tons of great food, a never-ending selection of breweries, a gorgeous botanical garden, and is within spitting distance of Rocky Mountain National Park. With all that being said, you know how on some days the universe’s magnetic pull seems to grab all the douchebags and put them in one spot? That’s what Ratio felt like, and I developed my own motto for the single ladies of the city: “Sunglasses on hat? Don’t hit that” — May you heed these words ladies, they’ll serve you well.

Before we left Denver we’d had a few spots in the area recommended to us by locals, and were told the best subs in the state could be found right outside of Red Rocks Amphitheatre (or as I soon learned to call the amphitheatre, “where those who need an audience to work out go for their cardio”). The subs were perfectly adequate, but that’s to be expected. In my opinion, there are no great sandwiches past the midwest. Sushi? most definitely. Oysters? A+. Burritos? Best in the country. Sandwiches?  Hell no. Back east we slather meat in cheese whiz, top burgers with french fries and drown corned beef in thousand island dressing. We know how to make a damned fine sandwich.

A sub, hike and some people watching later, we made our way into Boulder. Boulder oh Boulder. In the end I spent less than 24 hours in you, but I feel like I know you. Like I understand you.  And all it took was ten minutes of grocery shopping.

Overheard at the Pearl Street Natural Grocery:  Mother to ten year old daughter: “This is the fragrance you prefer? Daughter: “Coconut cucumber? Yes.

Bread selection: Limited, organic, saves you the trouble of eating and comes pre-staled.

Magazine options:

  • My Herbs
  • Paleo
  • Modern Farmer
  • Rock and Ice: The Climbers Magazine
  • Naked Food
  • Living Off the Grid
  • Artisan Pies
  • Lions Roar: Buddhist Wisdom for Our Time
  • Dr Mercola’s Optimal Wellness

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Jay Gatsby said of Daisy Buchanan “Her voice sounds like money” and he could have been describing a Boulder resident, but it would have been more on point for him to have said “Her voice sounds like money, her breath smells like quinoa and whiskey, her hair, of patchouli”.  It’s all about having the softest tee-shirts which are tossed after a single season, the sleekest spa products lining your walk-in shower, the coziest double faced wool which is dry cleaned after one wear in front of your backyard fire pit, and denim that comes pre-ripped, but is no longer adequate after that hole in the knee gets just a tad bigger after posing squat legged with the family dog for the weekly Facebook cover photo update.

This “Keeping up with the Sanderson-Elliott-Joneses” lifestyle makes Boulder a favorite of mine for one very specific thing though: Consignment shopping.  Perusing the racks at the local Buffalo Exchange was like having the entire 2014 New York pre-fall collection at my fingertips, but for 95% off. Rag & Bone cashmere dresses could be had for $35.00, Rebecca Taylor silks for $20.00.  I racked up such a pile that I had to make tough decisions like putting Milly dresses back because I thought their style of belt wouldn’t hold up over time, and saying no to Equipment sweaters because I really needed the next size down.  I dream of coming back to Boulder, and most of those dreams are fueled by the thought “What garments may come?”.

Boulder is tucked underneath the Flatiron mountains, creating gorgeous views all year long; it’s chic and cozy, and one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, edged out only by Honolulu and a few cities in California. The downtown is freakin’ adorable with its wide sidewalks filled with cafe tables in the summer and christmas lights in the winter. You can find natural beauty almost anywhere in the state, so if you’re visiting and are looking to soak in mountain views and mirrored lakes you have a plethora of options, but if your end-goal is to look like a princess at a pauper’s price, then get your broke-ass here for the weekend.

Post-shopping extravaganza I met Carl for a drink at the Hotel Boulderado. License No. 1 in the basement of the hotel has been serving up cocktails since 1909 when Boulder was a “dry” town. The speakeasy feel remains, with red walls, mahogany tables, tufted leather seating and a piano, all dimly lit, casting an Al Capone vibe. Up above in the lobby, the ceiling is a beautiful and massive pattern of stained glass.

Dropping money in this town is easy.  Luckily we were staying at a budget motel south of downtown, or it wouldn’t have been out of the question to drop 100.00 on drinks for the two of us. This budget decision also worked in our favor, as the motel had a pool (which we took advantage of before curling into bed and watching the Cartoon Network) as well as a continental breakfast, allowing us to get onto the road at 7:00 sharp without worrying about stopping for coffee.

Our AM timing was key, as we were excitedly headed towards that place the OG Colorado Stoners sang about: Rocky Mountain National Park. These anthems usually involve being underneath a starry sky next to your friends, a dog at your feet, and always always involve a fire burning and a burning joint. It all seems so wholesome I mean, whose parents could complain about their child living a quiet and unbothersome flannel clad life? I’d be far more upset if my kid came home one day exclaiming all they ever wanted was the dramatic flair of a Kardashian than I ever would be if they decided to live like John Denver with their Golden retriever.  Neither is preferable, but Denver > reality tv star no matter which decade you’re looking at this from. But I digress.

Easily accessible to both Boulder and Denver (it’s a 60 and 90 minute drive respectively), it’s the 4th most visited National Park in the country (bested only by The Great Smoky Mountains, The Grand Canyon and Yosemite) 4.5 million people visited last year alone, so on any given day there’s thousands of visitors milling about.  On a weekend though, the park’s urban proximity causes this place to blow up.  Want a parking spot at your preferred trailhead? Get here at 7:00am. At 8:15 we were busing to hikes.

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My fellow bus passengers were varied. One of the many things I love about the state is that hipsters and bros can coexist peacefully with one another. They’ll hang at the same bars, go to the same Bahn Mi joints at lunch and wake up at 5:00am on Saturday to hike the same trails.  Go to a Brooklyn brewery wearing a blue button down from your 9-5 life and you’ll get some side-eye, but no one batted an eyelash at the blonde on the Rocky Mountain bus who had barrettes holding her ponytail perfectly in place, and a Starbucks cold brew in her immaculately manicured hands.

This, I find to be infinitely lovely.  I find the common bro’s treatment of women to be both antiquated and offensive, and a recreational stoner I have zero issues with, but a stoner in the workplace can be irksome (it’s like watching a sloth try to juggle: Balls are gonna drop).  However, blanket judgements are good for no one, and the ever-increasing inability for folks to be in the same room with those that are different from them is ignorant and dangerous.

I’d consider myself guilty of gatekeeping at times (I mean, do you even know what a New England style IPA is? Have you ever heard of Albert Elbez or Philip Roth?) so I understand how there’s comfort in spending time with similar-minded people, but this is contributing to the social media bubble we’re creating for ourselves. I’ll be honest, I hate Trump, but I’ll still have a beer in small-town red-state bar.  I have zero emotions towards Beyonce, but I’ll let those around me get hysterical for her without raising an eyebrow.

Do I judge? Yes. We all do. Judgement isn’t the issue — it’s being incapable of altering a snap judgement upon gaining further info.  Or worse, refusing or denying the factuality of further information that’s provided to you. I can’t say for sure what bro/hipster relations are like in the state, but after my time in Colorado I hold out hope that we really can all just get along.

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Rocky Mountain is a place of sublime beauty.  It’s mountainous, yes, rocky without a doubt, but you’ll still be caught off guard as you explore.  Turn left on a trail and you could find yourself in an entirely green landscape.  Turn right and you may be on an open trail, walking along a glassy lake.  On Sky Pond trail we scaled along wet rocks parallel to a waterfall. A small traffic jam forms along this point, everyone waiting their turn to ascend or descend along the slippery rocks. Cramp someone, and one of you will have to give in to the other and scale back through the rocks, as it’s dangerous to tailgate while passing through the crannies.  Water seeping beneath you, with a sharp fall below.

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The final destination is a picture-perfect lake, fed by the mountain snowmelt. Altitude is an issue — as out of towners we were starting off at an elevation thousands of feet above our usual.  This calls for a celebration up top though, and we broke out a Funkwerks saison, sharing sips between bites of peanut butter sandwiches and goldfish crackers.  Next to us a group had accidentally lost their canteen to the waters, and were strategically planting themselves along the lakebed, throwing large rocks in attempts to turn the waters in their favor, pushing the bottle back towards its owner.  We lunched and relaxed for an hour, only to be driven out by darkening skies above.

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Always on the lookout for mountain goats, we caught sight of a spot of white on the cliff sides, using the zoom to goat watch. Within moments we realized it wasn’t a fuzzy goat we were looking at, but a tee-shirted rock climber.  After living on the west coast there’s a saying I have, “How do you know if someone rock climbs?” Answer: “They’ll tell you” (same goes for vegans). People take rock climbing seriously. So serious it turns out, that in a National Park someone will scale hundreds of feet sans ropes and gear. Just bare-handing the rocks, praying for good footing.

I made a sign of the cross, bowed my head, and walked on.  Shortly I was going to wedge myself between wet rocks and limbo down onto solid ground; I had my own demons to face. So far into our road trip we’d narrowly beat out rains during desert hikes, a terrifying notion, since flash flooding can be a major killer in the Southwestern states. A long hike and a long drive ahead, we booked it.

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Can you spot the climber?

Coming to the head of the trail, we joined the company of a family. As a childless woman, sometimes in public I’ll stumble onto kids that make me think “Hard pass on that. I’m good”.  This tends to happen when I pass a child bawling in front of a genuine wonder, like Niagra Falls or the Grand Canyon, crying and usually screaming like “I hate it! Where’s my iPad?!”  Other times, I’ll encounter a cherub child that gets my biological clock a’tickin. This was the later.  Finishing up the hike at Rocky Mountain this father/mother/two daughter combo was a delight to behold.  One child was perched on her father’s shoulders, silently taking in the landscape. Sometimes she’d suck her thumb, but mostly she just bounced up and down, wide-eyed at her surroundings.

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Minutes before reaching the trailhead the rains came, and we took cover under the shuttle stop waiting for it to clear. Our trail friends sat next to us, the girls munching on fruit snacks. The oldest asked when the rain would stop — “I’m not sure, probably soon.  It was a pretty hike though, wasn’t it sweetie?” the mother answered “It really was” her daughter replied, before popping some cherry gummies onto her hands.

Rocky Mountain: Wondrous to stoners who have eagles and embers in their eyes; impressive enough to call unto the bros whose life ambition is to lift heavy things and scale towering rocks; beautiful enough to stun children into silence. I’ve never seen a place so capable of captivating, if you told me it were comprised of weed smoke and mirrors I’d only be ever-so-slightly surprised.

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