If you are looking for cowboy action in Wyoming, then I strongly suggest you visit in summertime. Now, in mid-October, there are no rodeos and there are no cowboys to be seen. Not even off-duty cowboys. You know you are in the Wild West because the shops are full of fantastical cowboy boots and hats in every colour and shape. But summertime is rodeo time and the towns I expected to be throbbing with country music and inhabited by sexy cowboys were deserted except for a few old-timers. After a Sunday afternoon walk around Cheyenne in the freezing cold, we decided to make for somewhere with a bit more life… Denver, Colorado.
Denver is known as the mile-high city, because it is exactly one mile above sea level. Unlike chilly Cheyenne, it is a buzzing, growing city, full of hipsters and sporty-looking students. I even heard a couple of people speaking Spanish! Many old buildings have been preserved and transformed into trendy restaurants and shops. The business district boasts wide, well-kept streets. Although the park in front of the rather lovely civic centre had a large group of extremely stinky bums (what a smell) camped out on the grass in front of the trees, Denver gives the impression of being a great place to live. A hip, modern, classy city against a beautiful backdrop of the snowy Rocky Mountains.
After spending the day enjoying the city, we drove to Estes Park, a charming little town at the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park. These are the same mountains that we enjoyed in Wyoming, but they seem less threatening and the whole place has a happier vibe. For a start, there are people here!
We began the day with a hike around Bear Lake and then another one to Emerald Lake. Have I developed heart disease or is it the altitude that is making it difficult to breathe and my heart thumps out of control? Frozen waterfalls glittered on the black rock walls and waterlilies were preserved in the ice on the lake. Cheeky chipmunks dash about hoping to find some crumbs, and under a brilliant blue sky, the snowy mountain tops invite you to keep walking… even if your nose is cold, and your chest is heaving, and there is ice under your feet.
Later we enjoyed a highlight of the trip, driving along Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet and has numerous look out points over the subalpine and alpine worlds. By this time of year, it is often closed, but luck was on our side. It was an experience I will never forget.
All this excitement, and it isn’t over yet. The red rocks of Utah await…