Taking the Wheel in Colorado…

Just to recap…this long weekend has been already pretty crazy awesome, a balloon ride, hike + dinner on a mountain and then a road trip.  What more could a person want to do on a long weekend getaway? Well how about driving…and getting yourself from point A to point B? Challenge accepted and taken!

Well Day 3… started off with an early start! Marathons start way early in the morning in the US… and the American Discovery Trail Marathon had a 6:30am start.  We made our way to the “American the Beautiful Park” where the Marathon was starting.

(Side Note: Keenan had me drive–just so I can get use to his car…it’s a Prius and I’ve never driven a hybrid before… add that factor to the fact that I’m really nervous about driving his car, and it was crazy early and I’m not a morning person…but did learn quickly that his brakes are TOUCHY…..lots of fun but I got us to the start line in one piece).

Keenan found some friends at the start line.  When you marathon as much as he has… you get to know people that also love running!  colorado-springs_0030

Off he goes on his 69th marathon…can you see him cross the start line?

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Hello sun…and gorgeous light.  (I maybe need to get up early just to capture the light in photos….it’s so pretty at dawn…)

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Luckily Keenan let me drive his car while he was running…so I went back to the motel I went…to have breakfast and shower! (..first time using one of those WAFFLE MACHINES in the continental breakfast room at the motel…how AWESOME is that?)

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I decided to head back to the “Garden of the Gods” to explore a bit more on my own….

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..it was a wee bit less crowded and parking wasn’t an issue.  Self-portraits with timers also weren’t an issue!

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…it was so gorgeous, and quiet…like I had the place to myself…perfect time to soak up the silence and to think.  colorado-springs_0033

Look deep into nature,
and then you will understand everything better.
Albert Einstein

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I’m glad I went back to the Garden of the Gods, it was nice to get out of the car and walk a little…and just take in the spectacular views everywhere I looked.   This is totally a spot I’d stop again to walk/hike and enjoy…. one visit just isn’t enough!

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Just living is not enough…
one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
Hans Christian Andersen

These flowers are EVERYWHERE this time of year in Colorado… Keenan tells me they are a weed, but I call them gorgeous! They remind me of my favourite flowers…sunflowers!

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The next thing I did… was head back into Manitou Springs… there happened to be a Art Festival happening in the park.  (Totally something up my alley!) Really cute ‘tree-house’….or should I say… somewhere kids can sit!)

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I added to my Children’s Book Collection… with two books by Mark Ludy. I picked up a copy of the Flower Man and Paper Monsters.    Mark was a totally awesome guy…even though there was a bit of a line, he stopped to talk to everyone… greet children by names and really focus on who was in front of him! So great to meet him… and his stories are pretty cool!

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I made it back to the American the Beautiful Park… in time to see Keenan finish strong in his 69th marathon!

(Funny Story:  Something I never even did tell Keenan, that I forgot the name of the park where I had to pick him up…and wasn’t sure what to type into my google app to figure out how to get back to him.  After a quick moment of panic and mini-freak out… I realized that I had taken a photo of him at 6:15am…. with the name of the park…luckily I did that, or I might still be in Colorado Springs looking for him!) colorado-springs_0043

Congrats Keenan…you are one to inspire…you set goals and have dreams and then you go out to get them!colorado-springs_0039After a detour back to our motel to sneak Keenan back into our room (check out was 12noon and we got there 12:30…but he still was able to shower!) I took the wheel and drove us back to Louisville… which was a pretty crazy, fun experience.  Keenan’s speedometre is digital so just shows miles…(which is ok, because I followed the signs and stayed in the speed limits). However, it was the most un-nerving thing to do…because I literally had NO CLUE how fast I was driving without a reference to KMs.  After finding the switch button I realized that 75miles =120kms…so mystery solved it was all good!

We stopped at Rosie’s Diner a really cool retro diner.. such good food and really amazing milkshakes.  (Chocolate-mint…definitely worth the stop!)
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The rest of the day was about getting back to Louisville…heading to a movie (my choice) and really wasn’t a good choice…next time we go to a movie…Keenan you get to choose ok? Then dinner and packing up my bags getting ready for my crazy early flight home!

In life, all good things must come to an end! Thanks so much for an awesome weekend Keenan and showing me around your beautiful Colorado.  From the glimpses I’ve seen this long weekend I totally need to come back to explore some more.

Road Trippin’ Colorado Style

So already on Day 1 there has been ballooning, hiking and a dinner on top of a mountain! Was pretty excited to see what Day 2 of my long weekend in Colorado would bring!

I got to sleep in a bit! (Which was so nice… I actually slept…AND I woke up feeling a lot better…looks like my body was adjusting to the altitude.) We did a bit of running around, dropped Ro off at doggie daycare…and then headed south to Colorado Springs!

Colorado Springs—were random deer run across the street to do their Sunday shopping at the grocery store?

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We had to stop in to pick up Keenan’s race bib for the marathon tomorrow. The pick up was this really cool brewery… it was an old school that had been converted!

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SO MUCH FUN…. we had already had lunch…or we would have stopped in the cafe for what looked like awesome food! colorado-springs_0020

Originally an elementary school built in 1916, Ivywild School was closed in 2009. It was shortly thereafter that the wheels started turning and the idea to move the 18-year old Bristol Brewery over to the space, along with a bakery, espresso/cocktail bar, delicatessen and office space, started to take shape. It was a unique and bold proposition that would take years of planning and a lot of great minds to achieve but it was just what the neighbourhood needed. {Source}

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Next up…. when in Colorado Springs you definitely need to go visit the Garden of the Gods! colorado-springs_0004

The Garden of the Gods has been designated as a National Natural Landmark. The Park is a unique biological melting pot where the grasslands of the Great Plains meet the pinon-juniper woodlands characteristic of the American Southwest, and merge with the mountain forest of the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. The 300 million years of geological history of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs reveal one of the most extensive pictures of earth history found anywhere in the United States. It is a true geological wonder. {Source}

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So why was it named the “Garden of the Gods”?

In August, 1859, two surveyors started out from Denver to begin a town site called Colorado City. While exploring locations, they came upon a beautiful area of sandstone formations. M.S. Beach suggested that it would be “a capital place for a beer garden,” when the country grew up. His companion, Rufus Cable, exclaimed, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” The name stuck. {Source}

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It was so gorgeous…like breath taking awesome… we ended up here about mid-afternoon; with probably EVERYONE else that was in Colorado Springs! (Yahoo for long weekends… and people…but why not visit the most gorgeous spot on a long weekend?) colorado-springs_0005

We didn’t let the crowds stop us…but we decided to only stop at the ‘balanced rock’….
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Hence all the ‘from’ the car shots… with the car roof in the bottom. (I may or may not have been wearing my seatbelt…and may or may not have been stretching my hand out a window.. and randomly snapping photos… ) colorado-springs_0006

…and sometimes that drive-by shooting turns out pretty darn perfect! colorado-springs_0008 colorado-springs_0009

Just enjoying the ‘Balanced Rock’ with a few of our new friends…. colorado-springs_0010

In the 1890s, photographer Paul Goerke shrewdly purchased the land around Balanced Rock. Goerke and his son, Curt, snapped photos of tourists for .25 cents each. The Goerkes then developed the plates in their shop at Steamboat Rock.  They use to take photos of people in front of the balanced rock, he brought donkeys for them to sit on.
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Keenan managed to get the got-the-whole-holding-up-the-rock pose a lot better than I did!!!
colorado-springs_0011 What do do next? We decided to go check out the “Cliff Dwelling Museum”… about 5 miles west of Manitou Springs.
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After escaping the gift shop that was like a maze…many different levels, random rooms and never seemed to end! We went to walk through the cliff dwellings.
colorado-springs_0013 This site is a privately owned site.
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The history of the site was a wee bit lacking at the museum–or maybe we didn’t really take the time to read all of the history!
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RELOCATING THE CLIFF DWELLINGS

The 40 room site was originally located in McElmo Canyon, which is in the southwest corner of Colorado near Mesa Verde and Dolores. The process of relocating these cliff dwellings began in 1904 and was completed in 1907 when the preserve was opened to the public. Virginia McClurg, the original founder of the Colorado Cliff Dwellers Association, hired William Crosby and the Manitou Cliff Dwellings Ruins Company to begin this process. They wanted to preserve and protect these dwellings from looters and relic pot-hunters. (Source)

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Keenan did have so much fun randomly climbing and exploring all the nooks and rooms!
colorado-springs_0017 It was the perfect time of day to visit…the light was so pretty! Overall, it was kind of a bust…but way fun to walk around the site, maybe just not worth the cash to get in…
colorado-springs_0018 Thanks Keenan for snapping this photo… i think it is my new fav shot of myself!
colorado-springs_0019 Next we headed to check into our motel for the night… we had a room with a view! (Snapped just outside of our door… hello, Garden of the Gods!
colorado-springs_0023 We ditched our stuff and headed into Manitou Springs to walk around and find a spot for dinner.  colorado-springs_0027We ended up eating on a patio that was right beside this river! (seen in the photo…)
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Manitou Springs was an area that the Native Americans held sacred and would visit to drink and soak in water from the mineral springs to bring on healing. We stopped to look at the Shoshone Spring’s spring house…

Shoshone Spring’s spring house, built in the 1890s, is located on Manitou Avenue. It has the “greatest amount of deep-seated water from the karstaquifer system and the highest mineral content of the town’s springs, and particularly high content of chloride, calcium, alkalinity, lithium, manganese and zinc. Because of its high mineral content, it was considered the most “medicinal” of Manitou’s springs, partly because of its sulphur content. The spring house was constructed of red sandstone from the nearby Kenmuir Quarry, which is now the Red Rock Canyon Open Space (Source)

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While there…another group of 3 people came close to the springs…I really don’t know what happened, but and all of a sudden this Sugar Glider jumped onto Keenan… I might have screamed! Then got some photos…. of him hanging out, and climbing across his back onto his shoulder. Then the man claimed his pet…. it was a totally random, but pretty cool! (The funny thing was that the woman in the group had another sugar glider… but it was in her t-shirt pocket…not as social.) colorado-springs_0029 Another action-packed awesome fun day!!!! But have no fear–there’s still one more day of this holiday to get through… and that will be a story for another day!

Wordless Wednesday LXX: Magic Light

It’s time to bring back Wordless Wednesdays!!! hiking_0028

Somewhere on the trail from Brainard Lake past Long Lake on the way to Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area in Colorado!

Hiking in Colorado

Last post I told you all about my morning Ballooning.  After brunch we headed back to Keenan’s to pick up Rowan (Ro) his dog.  Then we packed our backpacks and headed up to the mountains to do some hiking.

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We started at Brainard Lake…found a parking spot (which we weren’t sure we’d get because it was so late in the day..and being a holiday weekend everyone was OUT and ENJOYING the weather!)…we put on sunscreen and started our walk.

As you can see in the photo it was at an elevation of 10,300 feet.  Our plan was to hike on the trail to Lake Isabelle walking past Long Lake on the way.
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“Keep close to nature’s heart…
and break clear away, once in awhile,
and climb a mountain
or spend a week in the woods.
wash your spirit clean. ” ~John Muir

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…it started off as a bright sunny day and there was a nice cool breeze, so it wasn’t too hot!

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The first sign that the seasons are changing… leaves that are starting to turn! (But Summer is not OFFICIALLY over until after September 21st—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) However, fall and the changing leaves is one of my most favourite times of the year.
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…there were lots of people on the path hiking! Seemed like all ages, everyone happy to be out and enjoying the day.  We were stopped by the park rangers (at the sign below) and asked if we had rain gear…the weather often turns fast in the mountains! The skies were starting to get darker.  We did and decided to keep on moving… hiking_0010

There’s always something magical about walking on a path in the woods. This hike it seemed more magical–as we could hear thunder bombing in the distance. I honestly think that is one of my fav memories of this hike…walking in the trees and just hearing the power of the rumbling thunder!  (But there was no lightening…and we were in the trees…so I was assured it was safe enough…and we’d be protected if lightening did strike.) And this info all came from a guy who did get struck by lightening on the top of a mountain…Keenan’s had some crazy adventures! But he knows his stuff… hiking_0011

I could have sat beside this river for hours…. it was so peaceful.  I need to do this more often go explore in nature–it feeds my soul! Don’t get me wrong–I do love living in a city, but I need to get some more regular visits back to nature to recharge my batteries. I think this is one of my favourite photos from my hike… hiking_0012

I’m a slow hiker…and I’m totally ok with that.  Luckily my hiking partner for the day was ok with that too.  I think part of the reason I was going even slower than normal…was the altitude. hiking_0013

I really didn’t even think about altitude and how it could affect me…but by this point in my hike I was feeling pretty awful.  My dull headache had reached the point of crazy-horrible…even though I was drinking lots of water… it didn’t help. I’m pretty sure it was a mild case of altitude sickness—and when I googles symptoms later that day.

(Yahoo for Doctor Google… 3 of the main symptoms were: headache, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping. I had all 3…and realized that might explain my crappy sleep the night before!)

hiking_0014 …it was so beautiful, and I didn’t want to stop…but when I saw this HUGE log (in the photo below) beside the trail… I had to sit down, and I knew I was done…and I still had to hike back to the car! Somehow, Keenan seemed to know…that too so we decided to head back.
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So we didn’t end up at Lake Isabelle…but sometimes it’s not about the final destination but the journey to get there. It was still pretty awesome to be hiking in the mountains in Colorado.

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I’m not really a dog person–I mean I love other people’s dogs…but I can never really see myself getting one of my own. (Which is ok…I do enjoy walking my brother’s dog Gus….he’s the best!) But over this hike this little guy earned a special spot in my heart… Ro was such an awesome hiking buddy!  He LOVED to be out there on the trail…but didn’t really love the huskies we saw on the trail….even though they were way bigger than him! It was fun watching him always on the move…hunting and looking for things to chase! (even though he was on a leash the whole time!)
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…My photos really don’t do it justice! Every moment of the walk I was in awe….it’s so beautiful, and I was so glad to experience it. hiking_0018

…with the thunder there was a bit of rain, but it mainly was a light drizzle and then the sun came back out.  I joked it’s because I was there, and the sun was mandatory for my visit. hiking_0019

On our way back to the car…we passed some hikers that told us just down the way there was a moose in the field.  I was pretty excited, but didn’t want to get TOO excited, because you never know with wildlife…whats’ there one minute has sometimes moved on by the time you get there 5-10 mins later! hiking_0020

However, I wasn’t disappointed!!! We got to see a momma moose and her calf.  Keenan stayed with Ro on the path so I could get a wee bit closer for photos.  Once I was done that, I unclipped Ro’s lead and kept him at the road so Keenan could go closer to take some video clips! hiking_0021

Hiking magic…wildlife? WOW… you can never expect to see things like this…but when it happens you feel so blessed to have been there to see that moment. hiking_0022

We hiked down to Brainard Lake a different way than we came…and ended up on the other side of it.  At this point, I was so dead…even with a smiling selfie…I was feeling done in.  So I chilled by the lake…watched a dad with some kids rearrange everyone so that they were in the spots they wanted so they could go back out to fish.  Keenan and Ro headed back to the car and came back to pick me up.  Thanks again for doing that Keenan! hiking_0024

Then we were on our way back to Louisville.  Down the crazy winding road…we past through Ward, Colorado.  It’s a crazy little town… with heaps of random things around old houses….Keenan told me that their post office was just removed—so they have to go somewhere else to get their mail now. hiking_0025

Of course after we are finished our hike and heading down the mountain the sun comes out…and nice gorgeous blue skies! But it was time to head home… have a shower and a bit of down time.  Before we headed back up into the mountains for dinner! hiking_0027

As we were driving up to Gold Hill… it was getting dark, and starting to rain…and we weren’t 100% sure of the road, we had a map and rough idea where we were going but no cell signal.  But we continued on this dirt road up the mountain.  We went around this HUGE curve…and I was like WOW, look at that… the lights of Boulder on the horizon.  (side note: I was pretty impressed with my new iPhone 6S’s camera!) gold-hill-inn_0026We had a reservation at 8pm for dinner at the Gold Hill Inn. “The Gold Hill Inn is remote from the city lights and city noise of the Twenty-first Century. Things haven’t changed much since Frank and Barbara Finn opened the Gold Hill Inn in 1962. Sons Chris and Brian Finn are now managing operations by continuing to serve their six course meals, with the menu reflecting the seasonal offerings of the local markets.” (Source)

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…the history of places is always an interest to me.  So it was pretty awesome to have dinner in a place…where if the walls could talk, I’m sure there’d be heaps of stories to tell!

 In January 1859 a group of prospectors panned & dug their way up Four Mile Creek looking for traces of gold.  As they approached what is now the town site of Gold Hill, they discovered the first real proof that their search was profitable. The town site began to grow, upon the formation of Mountain District #1 Nebraska Territory. First, the miners built a settlement of log houses and shacks, followed by the service buildings, school, stores, and boarding houses.

In 1872 the Wentworth Hotel, a three-story luxury log building, was constructed with the idea of attracting tourists to the town. The Wentworth Hotel hosted many early personalities such as Clarence Darrow and Eugene Field who wrote several poems about Gold Hill including, ” Casey’s Table D’ Hote “.
In 1920, the hotel became the Bluebird Lodge, and was run as a private vacation spot for women from the Chicago area who were teachers, nurses etc…. Mrs. Sherwood was the original creator and was a protégé of Jane Addams of Hull House and also a humanitarian. The vacation spot became so popular, that in 1924 a dining hall, also log, was needed, and built next to the Bluebird Lodge. By the late fifties the “single” vacation was no longer desirable or necessary since the “rights” of women had improved. Many of the women had acquired their own cabins in Gold Hill.
In 1962 the hotel and dining hall were bought by Barbara and Frank Finn from the Holiday House Association. The dining hall became the Gold Hill Inn and the adventure began. (Source)

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The other pretty awesome thing about this place…I had joked to Keenan before coming that I wasn’t climbing up any mountains, unless there was a tea house at the top! So what does he do? Finds a restaurant at the top of a mountain to take me too for a fabulous 6 course meal!!!
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There was a salmon appetizer, then a extremely yummy lentil soup, then salad (didn’t remember to take a photo of that!)… for my entree I had the smoked stuffed trout—OMG so yummy!

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Then I had this frozen chocolate mint cup for dessert…and it was so darn good….and tea then cheese and fruit to share.  The food was amazing, company even better and the conversation the best part of the night! gold-hill-inn_0005

…we made it down the mountain winding down the dark, gravel road…which seemed way faster than the way up!

Believe it or not…this was just Day 1 of my 3 day weekend adventure!  There’s way more stories to tell… but that will have to be in another post.

Balloon Magic in Colorado

For Labour Day weekend (last weekend) I went to visit my friend Keenan in Colorado. For years I’ve read his blog and loved watching all his posts of him exploring and enjoying the mountains in Colorado.  It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit…so decided that Labour Day weekend was the perfect time to go and explore Colorado for myself. (Fair warning: this post is going to have a PILE of PHOTOS!)
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My flights were uneventful… I actually lucked out with a really awesome seat, I could stick my feet into business class but the real perk of this was I had extra leg room! It was one of those flights that I fell asleep before we took off, and woke up about 45mins before we landed! (Nice to get a cat nap in… travelling always makes me feel so tired, especially jumping back in time 2 hours with the time zone difference!)  balloon-magic_0001

Keenan picked me up…and after heading back to his place and a quick walk for Ro…we headed out for dinner and ice cream! Ended up having the most fantastic burrito…and even had left overs for the next day.
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So Friday night I was told, “So we are going to have to wake up at 5:30am tomorrow…BUT it’s because we are going HOT AIR BALLOONING!!!” Huge-amazing-awesome-surprise…

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Anyone who know me knows I don’t like early mornings… but hello!? Maybe I should reassess that stance…and be getting up earlier to catch the sunrise…because there is some magic light and so gorgeous and worth getting up way early in the morning.

balloon-magic_0005No words of complaint about the hour…when you get to see the sun rise on the horizon!
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“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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There was huge excitement as everyone was put into their groups… there were like 4-5 Balloons that took up between 6-8 people  (plus driver) in the basket. We went with Fair Winds– Hot Air Balloon Flights.  They launch them about a 30min drive from Keenan’s house…often he has seen them taking off during his early morning runs!
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But first thing first… huge fans were used cool air to inflate the balloons (that had been laid out on huge tarps)…the baskets were all on their sides.
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After they were filled with cool air, then it is switched the ‘hot’ air…and slowly the balloons came up off of the ground! (The two people below joined our balloon ride… they were enjoying some early morning fresh air…)
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All the balloons were so colourful and gorgeous.  We ended up going on the more green one.
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I did find out some information I didn’t know about…”Most hot air balloon launches are made during the cooler hours of the day, at dawn or two to three hours before sunset. At these times of day, the winds are typically light making for easier launch and landing of the balloon. Flying at these times also avoids thermals, which are vertical air currents caused by ground heating that make it more difficult to control the balloon. In the extreme, the downdrafts associated with strong thermals can exceed the ability of a balloon to climb and can thus force a balloon into the ground.” Source

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This wasn’t my first balloon ride… when I was younger I won a hot-air balloon trip for two through a grocery store competition.  So I took my gramma… (She was the one that always told me to sign up for the in-store competitions.) We went at sunset…so the sunrise was a bit different! balloon-magic_0012

Our balloon is getting filled with hot air…balloon-magic_0026

As the balloons inflate, there is someone holding onto the top with a long rope… (not sure why… and I didn’t ask…) But it was cool to flip around to the other side to quickly get this photo before we had to jump in our basket. balloon-magic_0013

So exciting…as we started to take off.  Now in our basket…we had 6 other people.  A couple that was celebrating their 44th Wedding Anniversary; a lady who didn’t like heights (but was going to have the experience with her husband)…and another couple that had perfectly timed iPod play list… that they shared earphones to listen to the whole trip!
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The other balloon waiting to take off… until we got into the air! (Every balloon had a walkie talkie so the balloons can communicate with each other.)balloon-magic_0015

WOW!!! the mountains + balloons… honestly, there are no words… I couldn’t stop smiling, staring and taking photos! balloon-magic_0016

…such amazing gorgeous views.  balloon-magic_0017

…I loved flying over the neighbourhoods, everything looked so tiny—and almost like a model village! I remember thinking this as a child on my first trip too! (sometimes things don’t change). balloon-magic_0018

…those smiles didn’t stop the WHOLE time!
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…even our balloon pilot was all smiles as he talked and told us random things about what we were seeing! He also would turn the balloon so we could get a view over our side of the basket! balloon-magic_0020

We ended up going in a pretty straight line… and went up to 7500 feet! balloon-magic_0021

As all good things, come to an end… soon our trip ended!… I was expecting a bumpy landing (my first trip we bumped and were dragged sideways in a farmer’s field)….but that was so not what happened this time.  We had one BUMP and then hovered over to a better grassy area to put out the balloon.  balloon-magic_0022

…We stayed in the basket until the balloon was unflattened and laid out onto the grass.  (they opened up the top…. (which was closed before we took off!) balloon-magic_0023

After we got back to were we took off from we were surprised with ‘goodie’ bags! A t-shirt, framed photo of the two of us in the basket taken before we took off, a pin, and a mini-bottle of champagne.  (This is a tradition in ballooning…rumours had it the first French balloonists would take champagne to give to spectators to ease their nerves when they landed!)
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…then we got to wait around while all the balloons and baskets were packed up! Keenan and I took the time with a few selfies! (some on our iPhones and others on my SLR…)
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…after we headed into Louisville for brunch, at this really neat family run 50s style diner.  balloon-magic_0030

So that was the start of my action-packed-weekend-of-fun in Colorado…Keenan you sure know how to start a weekend off with a BANG and surprise a person…Thank you so much for this amazing surprise!

But don’t worry dear readers, there’s more adventures and stories from Colorado to be told…but they are going to have to wait until the next post!

EDITED:  to add Keenan’s AWESOME video from the adventure! Thanks for putting this together Keenan… 🙂

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