Loving Living on Colorado’s Western Slope! Spotlight on the Grand Mesa

20181007_171611-01-01My love for the western slope has grown exponentially.  I obviously love living in Colorado, but the western slope has really solidified my love affair with this great state.  No, I am not a native.  But my husband and I have lived many places and our decision to move to Colorado in 2010 was one of our best choices.  With that being said , I have to be honest, not everything has been rainbows and butterflies.  I have struggled trying to find a job.  The job market on the western slope is vastly different from the front range.  It seems no one is interested in a technical trainer with an educational background.  But, the silver lining—love living in Colorado is doing great!  On Instagram I now have 20,600 followers and I have been published in two local publications.  The first, Spoke and Blossom (spokeandblossom.com) is a magazine that showcases adventure and life in western Colorado. I am featured as one of their favorite Instagrammers (on page 22 of the Fall 2018 issue).  The second, Colorado Country Life (coloradocountrylife.coop) is a magazine that features photos from across Colorado as well as news about Colorado’s electric industry.  My fall leaf photo that I took on the Grand Mesa was featured (on page 3 of the September 2018 issue).  I was beyond excited to be featured in each publication.  Such an honor!

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This leads me to my current obsession out here on the western slope.  My muse, so to speak.  The Grand Mesa.  Otherwise known as the largest flat top mountain and home to over 300 lakes and reservoirs, it is our playground.  It takes us about an hour from our house to get to the top of the Mesa.  We can see the Mesa from our front yard and pretty much anywhere in the grand valley.  This mountain captivates me.  When you look at it from the valley, it doesn’t look like anything spectacular.  For instance, if you have ever been to Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak a Colorado 14er makes quite a statement.  The Grand Mesa on the other hand doesn’t have that stature.  It looks, well, like a flat top mountain.

20181009_135604-01It isn’t until you drive up to the Mesa that you find its true gifts.  I love that the Mesa makes you work, so to speak, for its beauty.  Unlike other iconic and prominent peaks in our great sate, the Mesa is very understated in appearance.  I am going to use the seasons (out of order) as my way of describing the its hidden beauty.

Fall.

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While looking up at the Mesa from the valley you would never know that hidden up in that mountain are glorious waves of gold, orange, and red Aspen leaves just waiting to be photographed.  Fall is a magnificent time to experience the Mesa.  The temperatures are always cooler on the mountain and the foliage is beyond beautiful .  Trust me when I say that fall on the Mesa is a feast for the eyes.  When you look out at the wilderness it is like a tidal wave of color.  Rich golden tones cause your eyes to readjust, trying to figure out if what you are seeing is truly real.  The pure and crisp colors that line the drive all the way through the forest make you question what truly qualifies as a yellow brick road.

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If you follow me on Instagram you know that we have seen magnificent displays of foliage around the state.  Kebler Pass, Guanella Pass, Flat Tops Wilderness, just to name a few.  But the Grand Mesa, is my number one choice to photograph and enjoy nature’s fall bounty.

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Late Spring/Early Summer.

IMG_20180708_205612_094-01Now if my fall description of the Mesa hasn’t enticed you to visit, let’s discuss late spring/early summer.  If you like wildflowers, well you are in luck.  Wildflowers up on the Mesa come in all colors of the rainbow.  They are everywhere.  If you enjoy photographing flowers, this is the spot for you.  During this time of year the Mesa is green and filled with robust color from Columbines, Paintbrush, Thistle, just to name a few.

Another reason to love the late spring/early summer on the Mesa–wildlife.  Do you get giddy at the sight of a moose?  What about a moose and its babies?  This year on the Mesa we saw a moose and her two baby calves.  It was a sight to see.  Thank goodness I had my Nikon because my cell phone camera wasn’t going to cut it.  We were pretty far away, which is always the safe distance to be from wildlife.

DSC_0240-01Up on the Mesa you are more than likely going to experience a traffic jam.  A cow traffic jam that is!  Yep, up on the Mesa, cars aren’t our source of traffic.  It is cows.  I can’t tell you how many cow photos I have.  Oh, and videos.  I can’t resist taking their picture.  They are free range and graze all over the Mesa.  Sometimes they appear out of nowhere or they are along the side of the road, so be careful!!  I especially like to see the calves during this time of year.  Watching them frolic around on the Mesa is sweet.  You can tell I grew up in the city!  😊  *Other animals we have seen are deer, rabbits, elk, and marmots.

20180708_181119-01Summer.

 

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If you enjoy hiking, summer on the Mesa is for you.  This summer we explored many trails on the Mesa.  The temperature on the Mesa is at least 20 degrees cooler than it is in the valley.  Hiking on the Mesa is quite the experience.  Home to over 300 lakes and reservoirs you are bound to stumble across water.  It is like an Easter egg hunt.  You never know where a lake or reservoir may be hiding.  It is exciting!  The only down side to so many water sources, mosquitoes.  In the summer, they are an issue.  If you decide to hike the Mesa in the summer, bug spray is a necessity or those blood suckers will ruin your adventure.  Otherwise, summer on the Mesa is a grand time.  Views are abundant, and it feels as if you can see for miles.

My other favorite summertime activity is exploring the many dirt roads on the Mesa.  I really enjoy the off-road experience and the Mesa has plenty of dirt roads.  My favorite dirt road can be accessed at the Land’s End Observatory.  It is a windy road that looks menacing when you look down at it, but really it is not that bad.  You don’t need a high clearance vehicle to access it.  With all of its twists and turns, it reminds me of Lombard Street in San Francisco.  If you take it all the way down it will take you to Hwy 50.  This road is not accessible in the winter.  With that being said, let’s talk winter.

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Winter.

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It recently snowed on the Mesa and I was given a reality check.  All of the dirt roads I was able to access this summer, are not accessible by our vehicle in the winter.  During the winter months cows are replaced with snowmobiles, haha!  Snowmobiling is a popular sport up on the Mesa.  The Mesa in the winter is the quintessential winter wonderland.  Snow abounds (usually, we had a severe drought this last year) and all of the trees are coated with white winter sweaters.  The wilderness becomes still and silent.  The only sound is snow falling from the branches above.  The trails that were once clearly defined are now covered in pristine, untouched snow.  We don’t own a snowmobile so this year we are going to give snowshoeing a try.  With an abundance of trails snowshoeing is the ideal way for us to explore the grandeur of the Mesa during the winter.  We figured that because we like to hike, snowshoeing would be a great way to still get out and exercise.  We will see how this turns out!

No matter the season, the Grand Mesa is my favorite place to not only explore, but to take a billion photos.  In my opinion, Skyway Point and Jumbo Reservoir/Mesa Lakes area are the best places to capture a sunset.  I think it is probably obvious that I love the Grand Mesa.   Knowing that this mountain anchors our valley and holds such immense beauty is one of the many reasons I love living in Colorado.

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Colorado Wine Country

 

imageI thought it was time to dedicate a post to Colorado wine country.  Especially since the 26th Annual Colorado Mountain Winfest is this weekend in Palisade, Colorado.  The Winefest is Colorado’s largest wine festival featuring unlimited sips from over 50, yes 50, Colorado wineries.  The festival is held in September, perfectly planned with the changing of the seasons.

imageGrowing up in Northern California I was well aware of wineries.  After all, when you hear Napa, the first thing that comes to mind is wine.  But, in my humble opinion, Colorado has a lot to brag about as well.  I remember the first time I discovered Colorado wine country.  We were living in Denver at the time and I had to go to the Western Slope for business.  While driving along I-70, I was passing Palisade and I did a double take.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  All of the vineyards!  It was an amazing sight.  Unfortunately, on that business trip I couldn’t partake in any vino tasting, but I made sure to tell my husband, “we must visit the Western Slope and check out the wineries!”  Well, we did!!!  We took a little mini vacation and explored the wineries.  It was an awesome experience.  Lots of very nice, hospitable folks, and of course delicious wine.  Another plus, almost every winery is dog friendly.  We were so impressed by the landscape, the wine, and of course the people, it was a great visit.

 

Mount Garfield (my favorite), the Bookcliffs, the Grand Mesa (largest flat top mountain in the world), and the Colorado River adorn the landscape, along with lavender farms, and a variety of orchards including the infamous Palisade peaches.  The Grand Valley is full of lush farmland.  A sweet combination of warm days followed by cool evenings make this valley the perfect place to grow grapes and other produce.

imageWine country in Colorado offers a wide range of wines.  If you like wine, you are covered.  White, red, rose, sweet, honey, you get the idea.  If you aren’t a wine person, no worries, there is also a brewery and distillery in Palisade as well.

imageOne item on our to do list is to cruise around the wineries on bikes.  Now is the perfect time to bike the Fruit and Wine Byway because the temperatures are starting to cool down.  Bring your own bike or rent one locally.  There are plenty of places to spend the weekend.  Including the Wine Country Inn, which can be seen off of I-70.

imageNow that we live on the Western Slope and about 15ish minutes from Colorado wine country, I want to sing its praises!  We regularly take little drives through Palisade, (that is where I took the pictures for this post) where I chase the setting sun to get dreamy pictures of that perfect light hitting the wineries.  I am always in awe of the majestic beauty out on the Western Slope.  If you haven’t made a trip out this way, I invite you to visit what I enthusiastically call home.  Raise a glass to a hidden treasure on the Western Slope, Colorado Wine Country!  Cheers!

For more information about Colorado wine country, please visit:

coloradowinefest.com

Visitgrandjunction.com

colorado.com

coloradowine.com

Visitpalisade.com

Peach Picking in Palisade, Colorado

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Iis Palisade peach season.  Probably the best peaches I have ever sunk my teeth into.  Super juicy, fragrant, and simply delicious.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying a Palisade peach, let me give you the low down on theses delectable treasures.  The Grand Valley, where the peaches are grown, has hot days and cool nights which are a perfect combination for bringing out the natural sugars in the peaches and growing big fruit.  I grew up eating peaches in California, and no offense to California but the peaches were always very dry, mealy, and tart.  They were picked too early for transport and were not given enough time to develop enough natural sugar (thanks visitgj for this information).  So, you can imagine my amazement and pure joy when I bit into a chin-dripping Palisade peach for the first time.  Yummy!  image

There are two types of Palisade peaches, cling and freestone.  Both terms refer to the way the peach sticks to the pit.  Cling peaches stick to the pit and freestone peaches don’t.  I like both but prefer freestone peaches when cooking.  They are just easier to cut into when making cobblers or adding them to my overnight oats.

imageWe usually buy our peaches at the local Farmers Markets or we take the short drive to Palisade and buy them at the various orchards.

Recently, we decided to pick our own peaches.  We randomly stopped at Mt. Lincoln Peach Co.  We went later in the day and on a weekday so it was quiet, which I love.  When we arrived we received a box for gathering the peaches, we were also given a map showing which trees were ready for peach picking, and we were on our way.  It was a fun experience.  The orchards are green and lush with tons of ripe peaches that are extremely fragrant.  While picking peaches, a perfect view of Mt. Garfield, the Bookcliffs, and the Grand Mesa can be seen in the distance.  Helpful tip:  wear closed toe shoes, preferably tennis shoes.  The orchards were a little muddy and I was wearing a pair of dressy flats, not a good idea!image

A city girl, it was really neat seeing chickens and roosters nearby making the whole experience “a little country.”  I loved it.  imageThe pick your own peaches at this location were $1.00 a pound.  We ended up buying $8.51 (to be exact) worth of peaches.  We went home and I immediately made peach cobbler.  So good!

 

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There are many orchards and “you pick” orchards in Palisade, please visit– visitpalisade.com for more information.

If you haven’t had a Palisade peach yet, don’t worry, Palisade peach season usually runs until September.  Also, you can celebrate Palisade peaches at the annual Palisade Peach Festival, August 17-20, 2017.  For more festival information please visit–palisadepeachfest.com

Check out–“Selecting the Perfect Palisade Peaches,” at visitgrandjunction.com

Please leave a comment letting me know your thoughts on Palisade peaches.

Welcome to Colorful Colorado!

cropped-rsz_2dsc_0138.jpg“Welcome to Colorful Colorado,” the phrase that greets people at the state line.  This phrase is a welcoming  beacon after a long day of travel.  It greets visitors and residents in the same manner, with open arms and opportunity.  When you see those 4 words you know that you have arrived at your destination.  These words, almost as soothing as “I love you.”  Ok, I know that may be pushing it a little, but in reality if you are traveling and Colorado is your destination, sometimes it feels that way.  Depending on what direction you are traveling, that sign may be a sign of relief.  **Did you know–Colorado has 7 border states–Wyoming, Utah, Arizona (part of the infamous 4 Corners region), New Mexico, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kansas.

We travel a lot around the United States and in all honesty, I am not being biased, the Colorado welcome sign is, well, the best.  It has pizazz!  Ok, I am biased.  I just love to see the welcome sign.  It means I am home.  This particular sign does represent home.  It is along the Colorado/Utah border on I-70.  It is my favorite picture.  I took it during our home search in Grand Junction.  Screenshot_2017-06-22-13-40-10-1-01

The sign, which is deep-rooted with Colorado residents, almost had a face-lift.  When I was trying to find some information or history in reference to the sign I read that there was talk years ago about changing the font.  But, Colorado folks were not having that!  I have also read that some feel the sign is monotone and drab.  I mean how can you have the word colorful in a drab wooden, two tone sign?  I think it is perspective.  What makes Colorado colorful?  Colorado is not only mountains.  Prairies, farmland, deserts, mesas, canyons, valleys, monuments, all adorn the Colorado landscape as well.  All of these different types of topographic treasures make Colorado colorful!  It just depends on your outlook.

(The welcome sign on the Colorado/Wyoming border) Screenshot_2017-06-22-13-53-01-1-01

I am still a self proclaimed tourist in my own state.  I am the one you will see on the side of the road (safely) snapping a picture of the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign.  I find it to be somewhat of a treasure hunt to find all of the different signs welcoming folks to the great state of Colorado.  One sign in particular had me on a quest.  I first saw the sign on Instagram.  It truly was the only “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign that was, well, colorful.  I had to find it.  I was on a mission.  And I was bringing my husband and our pup along for the ride.  It took some time but I managed, thanks to the Instagram community, to pinpoint the location.  20170429_161848-01_resized

See!  It truly is colorful.  This sign is located on the Colorado(Hwy 90)/Utah(Hwy 46) border.  The nice thing about the location of this sign, it has a turnout for safely taking pictures.  Now, I should state that not all signs along the border welcoming folks into Colorado are exciting!  But they are worth mentioning.  One honorable mention is the Colorado state line sign in Dinosaur National Monument.  Not an exciting sign, but it is neat to know that while in the park you are traveling between two different states. 20170603_150921-01-01_resized

You might be thinking, how in the world can she devote a blog post to a welcome sign?  My response, it is a Colorado thing.  We even have signs to let you know when you are leaving…..Screenshot_2017-06-22-14-03-30-1-01

As always, please share your thoughts in the comment section.  You can also follow me on Instagram, where I spend most of my time!:)

Hanging Lake

20170619_184836-01_resizedWe have been in Colorado since 2010 and we had never hiked Hanging Lake until just recently.  We decided that we should probably hike the iconic and quintessential trail sooner rather than later because recent reports of vandalism to the trail had sparked conversations about possibly closing the trail.  (FYI, today is June 21, 2017 and I have read and heard the trail will probably implement a permit system instead of closing down).

20170529_163400-01_resizedCurrently, there is no fee to hike the trail.  The exit to the rest area which will lead you to the trail head is well marked off of I-70.  Keep in mind that this is a VERY popular trail, especially in the summertime and the parking lot gets full very quickly.  Keep this in mind while planning your trip.  Please keep in mind that the park staff works very hard to make sure that the flow of traffic and the parking spots are monitored.  Please don’t get angry with park staff because of parking or traffic, plan wisely to avoid frustration.  Another tip, hike on a weekday if you can and arrive early or later in the afternoon when the crowds have cleared.

20170529_163850-01_resizedThis hike is absolutely beautiful.  The lake is stunning and majestic.  When you make it to the top and round the bend and your eyes first catch a glimpse of the infamous lake, you immediately forget the strenuous hike and realize the best views do require some hard work.  “Hanging Lake is a rare example of a lake formed by travertine deposition where the natural geologic and hydrologic processes continue to operate as they have done for thousands of years. The site is also noteworthy for its thriving hanging garden plant community.” – See more at: http://www.visitglenwood.com/things-to-do/hanging-lake#sthash.CX2kv7QD.dpuf

After hiking the trail twice, reading the multitude of signs posted around the rest area and trail, talking with visitors, and observation I decided to compile a list of helpful tips.

  1.  Unfortunately, you can’t drive to the lake.  You have to park and hike up to it.
  2. Proper footwear is a must for this hike.  This hike is steep and rocky, and the rocks can be very slick.  I do not recommend this hike in flip flops, dressy sandals, etc…
  3. In my opinion, this hike is a steep climb.  Be aware of this before you embark on the hike, if you are with someone with health issues, this may not be the hike for them.  I personally would rate the hike as strenuous.
  4. Hydrate.  Bring H2O.  Don’t let the small mileage fool you, especially in the summer and especially if you aren’t used to the elevation.
  5. Take your time going up.  In my mind, hiking is similar to yoga, everyone goes at a pace that is personally comfortable.  The hike is beautiful all the way to the top.  Stop, catch your breath, and enjoy the scenery.  (There are places to sit along the hike).
  6. Parking is very limited at the trail head/rest area.  Expect crowds, especially during the summer.  Plan ahead, start early or go a little later in the afternoon.
  7. If you show up at the trail head at 7:45 pm in the summer, keep in mind that the chances of coming back down the trail in the dark is highly likely.  Plan accordingly.
  8. Leave no trace.  Pack out what you brought in.  There are no trash cans along the trail or at the top by the lake.
  9. Please respect all of the signs and barriers.  There are signs everywhere letting visitors know what to expect and the rules of the trail.
  10. This is not a dog friendly hike.  Pups will have to stay at home for this hike.

Enjoy your hike and visit to the Glenwood Springs area.  If you hike or have hiked to Hanging Lake, please share your comments, I would love to hear about your adventure.

For more information on Hanging Lake and visiting Glenwood Springs, please visit http://www.visitglenwood.com/things-to-do/hanging-lake

 

 

Home ownership in Colorado–Western Slope Style!

20170618_204556-01-01_resizedWe bought a house in Grand Junction, Colorado, aka the Western Slope.  We now have an investment and we are no longer paying exuberant rent.  We feel blessed.  Everyday we get to see the beautiful, confident, underrated Mt. Garfield outside our bedroom window!  However, with all of our blessings we have quite a few homeowner lessons that we are learning along the way.  First, let me point out that I am a very organized person.  I still keep an old school check register because I have to highlight and mark off transactions and pending transactions.  I like to know what our monthly bills are, to the decimal point.  So with all of this border line OCD happening in my head, home ownership has had many unexpected costs.  I would like to share these costs because in my mind, well, this information is just really helpful.

First, we belong to an HOA.  No biggie.  We knew our neighborhood had an HOA prior to signing our final paperwork.  What we didn’t realize, our annual dues are due in January.  We bought our house mid-December.  The added cost of the HOA dues really put a wrench in our month, which by the way, includes Christmas and gift buying!  So, I made some phone calls and emailed the HOA and thank goodness, they allowed us to pay the dues in installments.  So, now we know that we need to have an extra $300 in checking to pay our annual HOA dues which are due in January.

Second, speaking of HOA, in our neighborhood we have irrigation water.  Now, I am not that well-versed on the whole irrigation water set up.  But what I do know, irrigation water is handy because it allows us to water our lawn and not use the same water that we use inside the house for cooking, drinking, and cleaning.  Irrigation water maintenance is very specific.  Apparently, before winter the irrigation system must be “blown out” so that the pipes don’t freeze.  We didn’t have to do that this year because the previous homeowner took care of it.  In the spring, you have to make sure, before they turn on the irrigation pump that the valve on your property is closed and then once they turn on the pump you can turn on the valve.  Confusing right???  Well in all of that confusion we also got a bill for $60 from the ditch and drainage company.  This annual bill is due in March.  So, I had to make another call and find out what the bill was for and if I could pay it a little late.  So, now we know that we have to pay an extra $60 for irrigation water in March.

Third, we got another bill related to the irrigation due in June.  This bill is paid to the drainage district and is the storm water utility fee.  This fee of $36 is an annual bill for the runoff from the irrigation water.

Fourth, the power companies (electric and gas), water, sewage, garbage, and cable all have to be set up.  Theses utilities also include an initial connection fee.  I know this seems like a no brainer, but we were renting and didn’t pay for water, sewage, or garbage.  Also, our power bill was one bill when we rented and now it is two separate bills from two separate companies.  Cable, I know it is not a necessity, but we do set it up, especially for the Internet (how would I write this compelling blog post 🙂

Fifth, we rekeyed the house, completely necessary.  We had  to buy an extra garage remote, because the previous homeowner only left one.  Also, we needed a washer and dryer.  We could have sworn that the washer and dryer were being left behind in our contract but we reread it, and were sadly mistaken.  Thank goodness for Craigslist.  We also needed a lawn mower, edger, and a hose, which we didn’t have to buy right away because it was winter when we moved in.

Home ownership is teaching us a lot.  We have other expenses but they are not necessities.  For example, we have changed out the old light fixtures for more energy efficient lighting.  This was not necessary, but we are slowly putting our own touches on our house along with trying to find ways to cut costs like the electricity bill!

In conclusion, home ownership is blissful and stressful!  We own our very own home.  We can paint, change lighting, pull up carpet, and basically make it our own.  This is what makes buying a house turn into a home.  But, the most spectacular part of home ownership is that we get to visit places in western Colorado that we have never visited before.  We are off exploring every weekend and we are enjoying our adventures!

 

**If you have any home ownership tips to share, please put them in the comment section.  I love to hear different perspectives and advice.

 

Our New Home, the Western Slope!

It has been a while since my last post.  I have no excuses.  But I will admit, I am addicted to Instagram.  That is where I have been keeping up with lovelivingincolorado social media.  Since my last post, we moved from Denver (where we lived for 5 1/2 years), which is also known as the Front Range to Grand Junction, which is known as the Western Slope.  We have always enjoyed visiting the Western Slope.  When the opportunity popped up for us to relocate to the Western Slope we jumped on the chance to relocate.  Some may read this and think, “why would you ever leave Denver?”  I had a hard time at first, thinking about moving away from the city, but then I remembered all of the reasons I truly love the Western Slope.  Below are some reasons, if you have any you think I should add, please let me know!

  1.  Affordability.  We were finally able to buy our first house.  While we loved living in a little over 800 square feet for 5 1/2 years in Denver, having a home with over 1600 square feet, more than one bathroom, a 2 car garage, a backyard for our pup, as well as absolutely NO shared walls, well, we feel spoiled!  Did I mention no more shoveling out our cars????
  2. We are about 20 minutes from wine country.  Yes, that is correct.  Colorado wine country, also known as Palisade, Colorado is a little piece of Heaven!  Visiting the wineries via bike, a must!
  3. The Colorado National Monument is literally minutes from our house and the views never tire.
  4. Many, many trails to hike.
  5. Close proximity to skiing at Powderhorn as well access to the Grand Mesa (largest flat top mountain in the world).  No more fighting the crowds on I-70 trying to get, well anywhere to ski.  We are on the other side of Vail Pass and we don’t have to travel through the Eisenhower Tunnel.
  6. We are about an hour and 45 minutes from Moab, Utah, which is home to not one but two National Parks.
  7. Telluride is about 2 1/2 hours away, Aspen 2 hours and 13 minutes, Crested Butte 3 hours, Durango 3 1/2 hours, and Glenwood Springs now only takes us 1 hour and 21 minutes.
  8. Have you heard of Palisade peaches?  Yum!
  9. Love the outdoors?  The western part of the state is for you!
  10. The landscape, Mount Garfield and the Bookcliffs are absolutely stunning!

Colorado is wonderful for many reasons.  As much as I miss Denver, it is exciting to experience another part of this wonderful state!  If you need any Western Slope recommendations, please leave a comment below.  The West Slope is the Best Slope!  Thanks for reading!