We headed into the “ghetto” of Denver to stay for the night. This is what our friend, Sarah Bowman, said of her part of town. Mind you, this was no ghetto. I’d venture to say that if this was Denver’s ghetto, the city is doing pretty well. We were pretty tired from the day, but we spent the night catching up and hanging out. Denver was the first place we had visited that we actually had too many people to visit, and it was definitely nice to see some familiar faces.
On Tuesday, we drove up to the Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. We weaved our way up the mountain over the very recently opened roads and into the snow-capped mountains. We drove through tunnels of snow with drifts up to 15 feet. And it is June. The visitor’s center at the top was still completely covered in snow and the plow trucks were working on digging it out. We walked a short walk to a viewpoint, and whether it was the view or the altitude, we were left breathless. It was also considerably colder up there as even our warm jackets that we brought were not enough to keep us warm. We eventually drove back down below the tree line to go on a couple of short hikes. We then took some time to walk around the cute town of Estes before heading back into Denver.
Our good friend, Austin Haller, put us up for the night in Denver University territory. We enjoyed eating some Jacksonville brats and hanging out in the great Denver weather. The next day, Austin and Messiah alumnus, Chris Becker, showed us around the city. We had a great time seeing this incredible city. We went to the largest REI imaginable and walked down the famed 16th Street mall. We got to watch some white-water kayakers near a park. These guys were pretty good and it was definitely very interesting to watch them do flips and tricks in the water. Again, we got a good taste of how much people in Colorado appreciate the great outdoors. We got a tour of the Red Rocks ampitheater from atop a hill, but really want to go back and see a show at this unique outdoor complex. We also got to see an awesome view of Denver and surrounding areas. We would have been completely content to sit on the hill all afternoon.
For dinner, we hit up a Denver staple, the Cherry Cricket, for some great burgers. This restaurant in a nice part of town was apparently featured on Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins on the Food Network. Mandy was extremely pleased, so it must have been good. We were very sad that this was our last true night on the road so we headed back to Chris’s house to hang out and reminisce one last time with friends.
We wandered into Durango on a Sunday, not hopeful that we would see many people out on the streets. Surprisingly, there was a bike race going on and the whole town was there with their kids. We watched as many cute little kids raced around one block of the old downtown. Our favorite was a 6-year-old girl racing on her pink bike and sipping on her camelbak the whole way while bringing up the rear of the pack.
After spoiling ourselves at the hot springs in Pagosa, we traveled to the Great Sand Dunes National Park near the city of Walensburg. We arrived to the park with only about 2 hours until sunset so once again we were racing the sun. Some of these sand dunes were up to 750 feet tall, although we did not make it to the highest peak, we did enjoy rolling down these large piles of sand. In addition to playing in the sand, we were singing the theme song of the movie Aladdin. We felt like kids again for sure. We were glad to be hiking the sand dunes in the evening – otherwise it would have been incredibly hot especially on our feet. Not to mention how tiring it is to walk in sand…quite exhausting. With the sun setting behind the dunes, it was quite a beautiful sight and we took a moment to soak it all in. We made a random decision after exploring the dunes, to just drive straight to Colorado Springs to set up camp. We have actually gotten pretty good at setting up our tent in the dark in record times.
In the morning, we headed to the Garden of the Gods. FYI- This is a garden of red rocks, not a garden of flowers. We walked around all of these large rocks and even watched some rock climbers. This park was definitely beautiful but for some reason it was not that fascinating to us. We think it is because we have seen so many other beautiful scenes and if we had seen this at the beginning of our trip we might have thought it to be more exciting. We have just been so spoiled to see so many neat sights and places in the past couple weeks that these gorgeous rocks seemed to be just another drop in the bucket. However the more we explored these rocks we definitely gained an appreciation for the beautiful gardens.
Have you ever experienced frost-bite? Although we didn’t have a thermometer this morning when we woke up in our tent, it was definitely close to 32 degrees. Our mummy sleeping bags didn’t work as well as we would have hoped and we woke up at 6am wishing we were in a warm bed. Since there was no way we were going back to sleep, we quickly packed up camp and headed off towards the Grand Canyon.
Despite wanting to hike to the bottom and dip our toes in the Colorado River, we opted to take a shorter hike totaling around 3 miles. We packed our bag with snacks and water (“provisions”) and started the steep declining trial. The views as we hiked became more spectacular as we ventured deeper and deeper into the Canyon. Pictures could not do it justice nor could we accurately describe what we saw. We were deliberate about each step on the rocky trail which tended to make us dizzy. However we had to make sure to stop every couple of minutes and look at the beautiful view before us.
At the bottom we rested our shaky knees and legs and took time to eat our “provisions” on an overlooking rock. I could have sat there for hours just staring into the vast landscape. The gap from the north rim to the south rim was 10 miles but it seemed like miles further. I can’t even imagine how long it would take to cross the entire Canyon…but 1 ½ mile was a good length for us.
Since making friends is always fun, we ended up talking to a couple who was from York, PA! What are the chances?! The husband Dave actually works in York Hospital and they knew all about Messiah College. They wanted to know about our trip and it was neat to talk to them to get ideas on fun things to do in the upcoming days because they had traveled a lot in the area.
By this time it was late morning and we were starting to feel the heat so we decided to start the hike up before it got too smoldering hot. I don’t even know what we were thinking or how we did it but we made it up the hill in 40 minutes. This trail was extremely steep and we were basically doing hill sprints up the entire thing. It had taken us at least 45 minutes to come down the trail and I’m not sure how our assent was faster than our decent.
We needed some time to recover after arriving at the top so we went to the car for sandwiches and tangerines. The first aid kit was also pulled out to relieve two huge blisters that had found their way onto Mandy heals. Thankfully we were done hiking for the day, but we surely would have had to carry her if we had more trails to hike.
After a five hour drive to Cortez, we pulled into a KOA and cooked up our favorite meal over the fire of baked beans and hotdogs. Later we showered and bundled up for another night in the tent, but this time we were prepared with lots of layers. Even if it did reach 32 degrees again-we would be ready!
Three weeks in a car has given me a lot of time to think. And meeting and talking with new people along the way has opened my eyes, to say the least. I am glad that working with the Career Center at Messiah has encouraged me to relate my experience to my future. I also glad that we chose to connect with various Messiah alumni across the country.
I think in a way I have been apprehensive about the future. I really enjoyed elementary school, middle school, and high school. College was an adjustment, but I loved my experience at Messiah. I have always been a nerd about getting excited for school each new year. But now that I am done with school and entering the workforce, it is a completely new part of my life. Messiah prepared me for my future, I am sure of that. I am very thankful to have a job exiting college, but I am most anxious about this new stage in my life I am about to enter into: the so-called “real world.”
Meeting and talking with Messiah alumni who are both happy where they are and excited about the future has been very enlightening. Kacie Klynstra is really enjoying her internship in Iowa City and has a lot to look forward to when the program is finished. Joy and Stephen were so bubbly and fun to be with and Portland seemed like such a great city to live in. Kevin Benedict really taught us all a lot, as you will be able to tell when we each talk about our interview with him. He made me excited for the freedom that being out of college brings and the continued friendships that come out of going to Messiah. Our experience worshipping in a large church with passionate people in Redding caused me to think about really being involved in a church that I can call my “home.” Seeing all the awesome new places we have seen, I am also really encouraged about the opportunities that exist even in the U.S. We still have two more Messiah grads to interview, but I have already learned so much and made some great connections that show that leaving Messiah as a student hardly means that I will leave the Messiah family.
Although not a Messiah alumnus, I also really enjoyed talking with my sister. She is convinced that there is so much more fun to be had outside of college, and has certainly lived out that expectation. On our hike, she made us all think of five things we really want to do in the future. We have taken that suggestion even further and have worked on our list of one hundred. Doing this has made me so excited for all of things I have to look forward to. If you think that life will only get better and better, chances are it will. College was a great four years of my life, but I’m convinced they weren’t the best.
These are just a few thoughts I have had while on this trip, but I am definitely enjoying the chance to learn about this. To echo the words of Mandy’s reflection, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Or does it?
Las Vegas was the next stop on our whirlwind adventure. We were able to stay at a beautiful house with my second cousins outside of the craziness of the city. We did drive down The Strip at night to witness the legendary lights and casinos. The next day was a gorgeous day, and we decided to give ourselves a lazy day to lay by the pool. We soaked up the Nevada sun and spent some great time with our hosts before heading for hot and dry Arizona. After struggling to find a place to camp for the night, we ended up finding space at a campground an hour from the Grand Canyon.
We wandered into Durango on a Sunday, not hopeful that we would see many people out on the streets. Surprisingly, there was a bike race going on and the whole town was there with their kids. We watched as many cute little kids raced around one block of the old ...
Have you ever experienced frost-bite? Although we didn’t have a thermometer this morning when we woke up in our tent, it was definitely close to 32 degrees. Our mummy sleeping bags didn’t work as well as we would have hoped and we woke up at 6am wishing we were in ...
Three weeks in a car has given me a lot of time to think. And meeting and talking with new people along the way has opened my eyes, to say the least. I am glad that working with the Career Center at Messiah has encouraged me to relate my ...
Las Vegas was the next stop on our whirlwind adventure. We were able to stay at a beautiful house with my second cousins outside of the craziness of the city. We did drive down The Strip at night to witness the legendary lights and casinos. The next day was a ...
So today we met up with our good friend Sal Shani (2009 Messiah alum) ready to explore the enormous city of LA. Throughout the day we were blown away by some of the unique scenes that took place along Hollywood Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. We felt the only way really ...