Since we have both done our fair share of international traveling, we’ve made great American friends abroad who live in all sorts of cool places in the US. Dan’s fellow Australia travel partner, Doug, lives outside Boulder, Colorado, and one of Casey’s good friends she met in India lives in Blair, Nebraska. Both took us in when we passed through their neck-of-the-woods, offerings us a chance to reunite while getting to know a new neighborhood.
We’ve always heard great things about Boulder, Colorado; the people are so healthy, everyone hikes and rock climbs, they’ve got great microbreweries… Luckily our high expectations were exceeded, starting at South Boulder Peak. First off, let’s just address the fact that we have been spending way too many consecutive hours in the car on our eastward trek home. The cities in the northern part of the US are few and farther in between (compared to the South) which means lots of nonstop 8 hour drives! Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to stretch our legs and check out the great hiking we had heard so much about. Doug informed us that South Boulder Peak was the way to go, one of his favorite hikes in the area. What he didn’t emphasize (probably not wanting to scare us off) was that the route is pretty strenuous for folks who have spent a good portion of the last 5 weeks sitting. Not to mention that the “path” turns from a walkway into an all-out boulder scramble as you near the top! As if we hadn’t suffered enough dehydration just sitting in the car without A/C, we attacked the route during midday and brought along one bottle of water for the both of us to share. Yep, we’re always prepared.
That said, every last drop of sweat was worth it. The steep and rocky 6.7 mile hike offers absolutely spectacular views once you reach the summit, with picturesque mountains painting the horizon. Definitely one of the most satisfying hikes we’ve ever done, although we’ll admit we were too sore to walk down the stairs later that night! To access this trail, park in the South Mesa Trailhead parking lot (after paying the newly implemented $5 fee). Follow the signs to Towhee Trail, continuing on to Shadow Canyon Trail, and then eventually taking a left to jump on the Mesa Trail. As you near the top you will see signs for South Boulder Peak. It’s fairly easy to figure out, just make sure to check out the map in the parking lot area.
Along with the great hiking opportunities, downtown Boulder–especially Pearl Street–is a pretty neat area with lots of great restaurants and breweries offering a nice eclectic vibe on a brick laden walkway. Boulder ranked pretty well on our personal livability index, although not quite catching up to our #1 favorite, San Diego.
Continuing our trip into Nebraska, we weren’t really sure what to expect. If it hadn’t been for visiting our friend, we probably would have skipped the state altogether. But we were pleasantly surprised, especially with Omaha. We drove into the downtown area for a visit to the Old Market, a historic district that runs parallel to the Missouri River. The Old Market has all sorts of antique shops, restaurants and vintage shops tucked away in renovated warehouses. We especially loved browsing the photographs at the Mangeleson Images of Nature Gallery. The artist is acclaimed to have some of the best wildlife images around, but we particularly loved his skill at capturing the essence of polar bears.
What we got to see firsthand was the massive flooding of the Missouri river, affecting both the Nebraska and Iowa area. You can see in the photo below that there’s a lot of water where it shouldn’t be, covering up the smaller trees.
Peace from the East! Words on Chicago coming soon!!