Kittredge, Idaho Springs, & Blackhawk Colorado
December 14th, 2021
I arrive on time in Denver. The flight was smooth until the wheels hit the ground- I jolt. I am excited for my week in Colorado to start.
The Denver International airport is enormous. I take a tram to baggage claim. My luggage takes a ride on the conveyor belt, like deli meat at Walmart.
There’s my bag. When I pick it up I notice a large rip. It’s a big rip. Someone who should have attended anger management must have taken their frustrations out on my suitcase. Usually, I am not a complainer, but this suitcase is special. It’s been to Italy and back with me. I have no intention of getting a new one soon. I walk up politely to a lady with orange blonde hair and a perm went wrong. She was talking with other airport employees, clearly airport gossip. When I walk in it is evident I was disrupting their conversation. She didn’t even look at the rip before informing me there was nothing she could do. Even if there was, I don’t think she would have done it.
I’m disappointed, but I made it to Denver, and my luggage isn’t lost. My friend Sierra is picking me up from the airport, but she is still twenty minutes away. There is a vending machine nearby. Frontier Airlines didn’t serve complimentary food or drinks, and a diet coke sounds like heaven now. There is something so tempting about carbonation when I am dehydrated. I swipe my card and press A8. After one swig, I am disappointed. The Pepsi is warm.
A ripped bag and warm Pepsi later my ride arrives. It’s been nearly four years since I have seen sweet Sierra. I start to tear up when I see her. I barely recognize her. She is 105lb lighter than she was the last time I saw her.
On the ride home, she tells me the local legend of the demon horse, and we laugh about warm Pepsi. Apparently, two people died building the horse statue located outside, and not it’s cursed. I don’t know if it’s true, but the story is interesting. We stop at a gas station on the way home to fill up the car and get snacks. I walk into the gas station and see nothing but Carhart beanies and flannels. Yup, I made it to Colorado, all right.
The sky is dark, but I can still make out the outline of the mountains. Sierra weaves the car around the curvy roads. Good thing I don’t get carsick, or else I would have been heaving in the backseat. We arrive at her adorable house in Kittredge. There is a thin layer of snow on the ground. We stay up late talking until we are too tired to open our eyes. My week in Colorado has begun.
Day 1- First photoshoot and ill-planned adventures
I had a photoshoot in Idaho Springs early in the morning the first day. The couple is young, fun, and friendly. Sierra and I wanted to go to Rocky Mountain National Park for an impromptu couples photoshoot. It is cold and the sun is starting to go down. By the time we arrive at Rocky Mountain National park, we had about ten minutes before the sun went down. Beautiful as the two-hour drive was, I would have liked to capture more pictures with the sun out.
I am not in Chicago anymore. Suddenly, I want to wear my hiking boots with my dress and go to a meditation class. Coloradans are energy-centered. Before visiting Colorado, I had never heard of energy work, moon circles, or the power of crystals. I am about to be enlightened.
Day 2- Shopping & Shopping Galore
Sierra works at The Spice & Tea shop in Idaho Springs. While Sierra is at work, I talk with local shop owners in Idaho Springs. It took me off guard how amiable the people of Idaho Springs are. I could sense genuine kindness and connection from the conversations I had. The topics range from crystals, travel, energy work to aliens. I learn about a moon circle, and I am immediately intrigued. The more I discovered, I realized it wasn’t much different than me writing down my goals on a sheet of paper. Moon circles connect you with your community and allow space to set your intention on the things you want to develop. People gather together and share their intentions and what they are working towards.
Sierra writes her intention on a piece of tea paper, puts it in water, and then into the ground- to water and grow. It’s like a ceremonial and spiritual goal-setting group. I wish I could have attended a moon circle while I was there, but the next one is the day after I leave.
I met Dede in Echo, a hippie shop, who showed me pictures of her dog and bonded with me over our love of Italy. While strolling around the shops I stop by the Kind Mountain Collective. Sierra has chatted with the owner about letting me sell a few prints and hand-knit scarves in Kind Mountain Collective. I walk in and become even more excited. It was not hard to occupy myself during Sierra’s entire shift- shopping for Christmas presents and talking to people in the shops.
Besides talking with shop owners, I am a happy girl shopping in cute shops downtown. It’s the Christmas season, and I have a million people to plan on giving presents. I found earrings at Canyon Trading, crystals at Echo, and a deliciously scented body spray called the Mediterranian fig and The Soap Shop. I have never thought about buying crystals before. Truthfully, I don’t fully believe they do anything, but at $1.50, I thought to myself what the heck. I buy my boyfriend and me a piece of pyrite, because why not manifest prosperity. My final stop was The Spice and Tea Shop, where I bought some spices for myself and a few for family and friends. Downtown Idaho Springs is an excellent spot for shopping.
Another thing I noticed quickly about Colorado is weed is a large part of the culture here; weed dispensaries sponsor even highways. Weed is legal in many states now, even Illinois, where I currently live, but the difference is that weed isn’t a part of Chicago culture like it is out here in Colorado. Of course, if I wanted to find smokers in Chicago, I am sure I could see them, but it’s different. Some smoke weed in the morning, as often I drink coffee. It’s a right of passage to talk about smoking habits, grow a personal stash, and know the best dispensaries. As a North Carolina native, this is all new to me. I don’t plan to smoke a joint before work every day, but I respect that it is all Colorado culture. I’ll stick with my caffeine addiction instead of nicotine.
In Colorado, there is a never-ending list of adventurous activities. Rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and camping are all right here at our fingertips. The city of Denver is close by, but aside from that, if you don’t like the outdoors, you are in the wrong state.
Sierra and I cooked dinner together and watched The Meaning of Symbols on the Gaia streaming service when we got home. Gaia is Greek for Goddess of earth and mother of all life- Mother Nature. It’s a streaming channel for the spiritually curious. I have never heard of it, but the show is exciting and challenges me to see things differently. Another day in Colorado for the books.
Day 3 – Coffee & and view
My week in Colorado continues. On the third day, I rose again from the bed. I groggily slump my body into an upright position. Today, Sierra is working again. We wake up, make breakfast, and watch videos on our astrology sign’s tarot card readings for December. I still didn’t think much of the reading applied to me, but I am all for it if other people could get something out of it. I have always been skeptical about astrology signs, but I am open to hearing new ideas.
We drive the thirty minutes to Idaho Springs. This time, instead of shopping, I plan to make my way to the Frothy Cup to give their sugar-free white chocolate latte a try. I see Maggie’s Place, which I hadn’t been inside the day before. It’s never too early to do some morning shopping. I buy a pair of handmade earrings for a friend and walk the distance to Frothy Cup. The coffee shop is quiet and has plenty of tables to get work done.
Customers trickle in and out, but I am the only customer there parked for the morning. The espresso is delicious. Even though I am not eating a lot of sugar these days, I can’t help myself this time. I ordered a molasses and rolled oat cookie. The barista kindly warms the cookie up for me. The homemade cookie is the perfect combination of sweet and salty, worth all the sugar. Easily one of the best cookies I have had in a long time. I listen to Rocky Mountain High and slowly sip on my latte as the morning turns into the afternoon.
When it’s time for lunch, Sierra and I enjoy salads on patio furniture in front of The Spice and Tea Shop. I go to the library after lunch to get some photo editing done. Idaho Springs is in a valley, and all around us are mountains. When I look out the window, I have to bend down to see the top of the mountain. Some houses are built into the mountain. It reminds me of the homes in Lake Como, Italy. I sit in the library and slowly watch the sun go down- a sight to behold.
After working for a bit longer, I head by to the tea shop, and Sierra and I get ready for dinner. My boyfriend’s best friend Tyler from high school lives out in Denver and meets us tonight. We eat a couple of doors down from Sierra’s work at a place called Mountain Prime. Tyler is already there when we arrive. It’s nice to talk with someone so close to my boyfriend, and it makes me miss him a little more. I skim over the menu and have no idea what to order. Sierra says I should try elk stew. I’ve never had elk before, so I tried it, and it exceeded my expectations. The stew came in a sourdough bread bowl. Dipping the brew in the stew was my favorite part.
Day 4- Blizzards & Boudoir
I wake up to a blizzard outside. I can barely see out the window. Guess, no outdoor photoshoot today. Instead, Sierra and I decide to have a slow morning which consists of coffee, watching van life videos on youtube, and yoga. Yoga is way more challenging than I remember. Both of us are laughing through the session, and at one point, Sierra falls over. As the morning goes on, the blizzard stops, and the sun comes out, but the wind continues to howl loudly. The wind is a little scary to hear. It makes me feel as though the house could blow over. We don’t live in a world of Oz where houses fall on people, but the sound puts goosebumps on my arms. The roads are too icy to drive on, so I have to cancel my photoshoot in Blackhawk.
Sierra and I have been talking about taking boudoir photos for as long as I have known her. I couldn’t have an outdoor shoot, but I could have an indoor shoot. Usually, it takes a while for clients to warm up to me when shooting boudoir. I don’t blame them; they are practically naked. This time, however, since Sierra and I are great friends, she was comfortable stripping down in front of my camera. Sierra went through a significant weight loss over the last year. She is now a 105lb lighter than she was a year ago. If anyone deserves a boudoir and to feel sexy, it’s Sierra.
The weather clears up in the afternoon, but we decide to play it safe and stay in to order a pizza and watch a horror movie.
Day 5- Final Touches
Our show is only one day away. There isn’t much left to do but check on the final touches. I get a warm good morning wake-up call; we cook eggs and enjoy our slow morning. When we move, it’s time to head to the craft store to grab a few last-minute things for our art gallery. I buy frames for my photos, and Sierra buys paint.
We decide to head downtown Denver to go thrifting on a spontaneous whim. Our efforts were in vain because the thrift stores we went into were way too expensive, but it’s still fun to try on pretty dresses. Window shopping is good in theory, but in reality, it gets disappointing when you can buy the things you want, so we left. Along the way home is a park Sierra remembers, and we pull in. The park has an incredible view of Denver’s city skyline. It’s freezing out, so we take a few pictures, soak in the scenery, and run back to her car.
On the drive home, we see glimpses of the sun going down over interstate 70—a gorgeous view. I haven’t seen mountains like this since Utah.
When we get home, it’s game time. Sierra has 24 hours to finish her paintings. It’s going to be a late-night- time to make some coffee. I stay up with her. Sure enough, one by one, she finishes. They look fantastic.
Day 6- It’s Showtime
Today’s the day. The last day of my week in Colorado. Years’ worth of work has led to this day, and it all came crumbling down in a text. Is this thing still a go? I try not to panic. The venue coordinators weren’t aware of our event happening. This wasn’t my contact, and Sierra is new to the business side of things, so she didn’t know that more communication was necessary. The Woodbury didn’t do any advertising for us until the day of because they didn’t realize it was still happening. I am unsure where the communication fell through on our part and theirs, but this is where we are now.
Frustrated and stressed, we drive down the mountain to Micheals again because I bought the wrong side frames. The grocery store is right next to Micheal’s, so we pick up a veggie tray and some cheese and crackers for the event. Both Sierra and I were nervous, stressed, and hopeful that people would come.
The venue space is perfect when we arrive, except there is nothing to hang our photos up with. We were told there would be a hanging installation, but what I see are bare walls. Sierra and I make it work by placing our pieces on nearby benches. We also move nearby chairs to place our collaborative work on. It’s a good thing we arrived at around 2:15 because set it takes a long time. By the time we are ready to get dressed and put on makeup, there are only 45 minutes left until the doors open.
It is a frantic jumble putting this show together, but when 5 o’clock came, it was like putting the last piece in a 5000 piece puzzle together. We did it. A few people trickled in and out. After all that work, one piece sold, but I am still over the moon we sold our first piece.
My cousin Anna and her husband Ricky came to my art show. They live in Colorado Springs. Since I don’t see them often, they offered for me to stay the night so they could spend some extra time with me. It is too kind of an offer for me to decline.
They follow us back to Sierra and DJ’s home, and I quickly cram all my stuff into a suitcase, so we can head out. It is surreal Sierra and Anna are in the same room. My best friend from college and my cousin are in the same room. It was like Mars and Jupiter colliding, my two worlds in one. Sierra and I hug goodbye. I hope to see her again soon. Now for the hour and a half drive to Anna and Rickey’s apartment.
I crash on their couch for the night. Anna gives me a comfy pair of fresh pajamas and a soft blanket. I sleep soundly through the whole night. I am content. A perfect way to end my week in Colorado.
Day 7- Fly Home
Part of me wishes to extend my week in Colorado and enjoy the mountains a little longer, but I am also equally eager to get home to my life in Chicago.
When I wake up in the morning, there isn’t much time if I want to make it to both brunch and my flight. I throw on a pair of flare jeans and a black long sleeve t-shirt. Just before heading out, I say goodbye to Sam, their cat. We arrive at the brunch spot New Day Cafe, and it is adorable, and the menu has an array of skillets, scrambled eggs, and latte. I order the Sunrise Skillet with a dark chocolate and peanut butter latte. Oh, so delicious. I try to eat it all, but there is no way. Indeed, I can eat it all in the car. I’ll save the rest for the drive to the airport.
We are all tired. The car is silent on the way to the airport. It’s sad to leave, but I am so grateful for the little time with family I did get this trip. A big hug, goodbye, and a picture to commemorate are all I leave Anna with before heading inside. A week in Colorado isn’t enough I have to come back.
The next adventure begins.
Only 6 hours later than I thought.
My original flight is scheduled to depart at 2:47. I pace the airport, talk on the phone with my mom and my boyfriend, and hit the bathroom before 2. I walk towards the bathroom when I get a notification that my flight is delayed. Okay, maybe it’s only waited a few minutes. I quickly checked my email, saying my flight was delayed until 7:01- four hours from now.
That’s not so bad. At least my flight wasn’t canceled. I had time to kill, so I started walking in and out of the stores. When I fly, I always like to buy fashion magazines, so I went to probably twenty stores looking for the latest edition of Vogue. I never found one, but it was a way to occupy myself while waiting.
Finally, after walking around for a bit, I settled into a chair near my gate. I watch Netflix, and before you know it, the flight is getting ready to board. All passengers gather around the gate entrance, eager to board when the Frontier employee announces that the flight is delayed again. I met a lovely couple Bill and Karen, who talked to me for a long time about living in Denver and all the cool places I could visit next time. That made the waiting go by a little faster. When they begin boarding zone 3, I say my goodbyes and board. The flight is uneventful, and I am eager to get home to my boyfriend.
Arrival time is around midnight, only seven hours later than expected. I call Jermaine to see where he is. When I couldn’t figure out where it was, he came inside. I am so happy to see him. Now I only have to pick up my luggage. I don’t see my bag yet. We talk for a few minutes. Then the baggage carousel stops. No one around me has their luggage, but the carousel isn’t moving. After a while, people start to get agitated, and I hear whispers of what is going on. The Frontier is understaffed and had no one to load the luggage. Two hours later, the carousel starts up again. I sign a huge relief when I see my blue-flowered bag, so happy that it isn’t lost. At 1:08, luggage in hand, we walk out of the airport, but the night is far from over.
Where’s my car? Jermaine asks. It’s towed. We ask a parking maintenance employee where to go since our car has been towed. He said, “I don’t know. The police deal with towing“. We walked back into the airport, the last place we wanted to be and found a police officer to ask. Meanwhile, there is a riot going on down at baggage claim 10. People are screaming at the Frontier employees about how long the wait is taking. Not everyone has their luggage yet; we are just a few of the lucky ones.
The police officer we ask directs us to a relocation lot. We thank him and start walking. It’s not a safe walk. The only thing saving us is how late it is, there aren’t many cars out. We trudge along the highway and arrive at the suggested location, only to find no cars. So in the cold, with all my luggage Jermaine and I trek back to the airport to talk to the policeman again. He gave us the wrong location.
Baggage Claim 10 has become a riot. I could hear yelling as soon I walk through the automatic doors. After nearly three hours of waiting, some still haven’t seen their luggage, and some probably won’t. Others have ripped bags, and the Frontier employee is doing nothing to help. They ripped my bag and I had to wait two hours to get it, but it’s so late I just want to get the car and go home.
We talk to the officer again. He realizes he gave us the wrong lot so this time he will send a car to pick us up. Except he is so busy dealing with the yelling of customers the driver takes a long time to arrive. By the time I pick up the car and we pull away from the airport the time said 2:56 am. I am ready for a hot shower and to crawl into a warm and cozy bed.
At the end of my week in Colorado, I learned a lot about spirituality and what it means to be in touch with yourself and nature—grounding- as Sierra calls it. This week in Colorado reminds me I don’t have to leave the country to experience a different culture or spiritual awakening. After spending only a week in Colorado it’s so tempting to want to move out to Colorado. John Mur said it best “the mountains are calling, and I must go.” I have no doubt I’ll be back, but I am heading back to Windy City, Chicago, for now. I still crave Elk Stew.