2022 wrap up

It is easy to get lost in the day to day grind, but looking back on 2022 as whole makes me realize what an amazing year it has been. We have once again been fortunate enough to travel to some amazing places, some new, and some more familiar. We have seen gorgeous scenery, and have ate some amazing food along the way. We have camped, Airbnb-ed, adults only resorts, and luxury hotels. We took a trip to Texas hill country just the two of us, met family high in the San Juan mountains of Colorado, and went with some dear friends to Rocky Mountain National Park.

2022s best places we stayed in no particular order…

  • The Imogene Hotel, Ouray Colorado. The Imogene is located on downtown Main Street, within walking distance of bars, restaurants, and shopping. We stayed in the mountain queen room and it was spectacular. https://theimogene.com
  • Stonebrook resort, Estes Park Colorado. Stonebrook resort is adults only located on Fall River just outside of downtown Estes Park. We stayed in cabin 15, a two bedroom cabin with kitchen, fireplace, and private hot tub. https://www.stonebrookresort.com
  • Agave nest cottage, Fredericksburg Texas. We found the Agave Nest cabin on Airbnb. It was one block off of Main Street, it was quaint, had a kitchenette, one bedroom with a bonus sitting area.
  • Loews Hotel, Kansas City Missouri. We visit Kansas City several times a year and have stayed at many different hotels, but none compare to the Loews. It is a luxury hotel located in the crossroads district, just blocks away from the T-mobile Center. We were lucky enough to stay there during our favorite time of year, Christmas and it was spectacular. https://www.loewshotels.com/kansas-city-hotel

2022s best meals (in no particular order)…

  • Franklin Barbecue, Austin Texas. Franklins is probably the most well Barbecue restaurant in the world, people come from all over the globe to try Franklins brisket. https://franklinbbq.com
  • Secret Stash Pizza, Crested Butte Colorado. Secret Stash is located on Elk Avenue in the heart of Crested Butte. It is one of the more popular restaurants in town so the wait can be long, but it is worth it. http://www.secretstash.com
  • Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, Austin Texas. We were at Valentina’s for breakfast and it was amazing. If I had to choose a last meal the breakfast taco I had that morning at Valentina’s would be on the menu. https://www.valentinastexmexbbq.com
  • Coffee on the Rocks, Estes Park Colorado. Coffee on the Rocks is a top notch spot to grab a cup of coffee, but what makes special is the ambiance. Get your coffee, head to the pond, feed the ducks, watch the elk, and enjoy the mountain surrounding. https://coffeeontherocks.co/?fbclid=IwAR3xzK_Zm4yrbFVmJOFOXt1XJnR0QY7c4rcaZ9cquFRHGsxE1AC-qWFH6Lg
  • Hitchin’ Post Steakhouse, Fredericksburg Texas. After a day of wine tasting the steak fingers at the Hitchin’ post really hit the spot for dinner. https://www.hitchinpoststeakhousefbg.com

There are many things to look forward to in 2023 and some planning has already begun. A trip to three national parks has been booked. A few shorter trips to Kansas City are on the calendar. A fall winter trip is currently being discussed, but of all I want to enjoy the day to day. I want be more consistent with posting blogs, cook more, make more videos, focus on a healthier lifestyle, be more present everyday and not get lost in the daily grind of work. I hope everyone makes 2023 a year to remember.

Thee Pitts Again, Silverton CO

Located in the San Juan mountain range, right off the notorious million dollar highway lies Silverton Colorado. Silverton is a small town bustling with activity from tourist shopping and eating along Main Street. Sitting in the middle of Main Street is a bright pink building that is home to Thee Pitts Again BBQ, an award winning barbecue restaurant that has been featured on Diners, Drive-inns, and Dives.

A busy rainy afternoon in Silverton

We ordered a variety and shared between all of us at the table. We had chopped brisket, pulled pork, slab of ribs, corn, potato salad, corn bread, beans, and fried pickles.

I have never had much luck with barbecue in tourist towns, but Thee Pitts Again changed that. The food was very good. The pulled pork and brisket were tender, juicy, with good smoke flavor. The ribs were cooked perfectly with a good bark and that same smokey flavor that makes you want to come back for more. The corn was just a basic corn, the potato salad was good, corn bread was delicious, and the beans had good flavor that complimented the meats. Everyone at the table enjoyed their meal on that rainy afternoon. I would definitely recommend Thee Pitts Again Barbecue if you are in Silverton. The scenery around town is definitely worth exploring while you are there.

Ouray Colorado

After a few amazing days in Lake City we made our way around the mountains to Ouray Colorado. Ouray is a quaint mountain town that is a hub for San Juan mountain adventures. Offering plenty of food and lodging options, Jeep and ATV rental, off-road trail access, hot springs, spas, and stunning mountain views. Ouray has everything you need. Ouray sits along the famous “million dollar highway” U.S. 550 between Silverton and Ridgway.

San Juan mountains

The mountains surrounding Ouray are absolutely stunning. Everywhere you look while you are in town is a picturesque view. Cascade Falls is signature feature of town. A very short walk and you can be standing right next to the falls.

Box Canyon Falls is another short walk to spectacular views. Box Canyon comes with a cover charge though. $10 per group gets you in. Parking is limited so you might have to park on the road and walk a short distance. Box Canyon is a unique feature and worth the time and entry fee.

Box Canyon Falls

Ouray being located along the million dollar has many opportunities for trail access. Since this was our first off roading trip we did not tackle the more difficult trails in the area. There is access to Yankee Boy basin, Imogene Pass, Black Bear Pass, and many others. One morning we headed down 550 and took Hurricane Pass to get an amazing view of Lake Como. The unique color of the water is spectacular and pictures can not do it justice. I would recommend stopping at the lake for lunch. Hurricane Pass is a moderate trail, and a fun one to drive. There was not a lot of traffic the day we drove compared to the Alpine Loop, but the views were just as stunning.

There a few different way to get to Telluride from Ouray. You can take Black Bear pass, Ophir Pass, Last Dollar Road, or the paved way highway 62 out of Ridgway. We chose to try out Last Dollar RD for a more relaxing drive (I had done a lot of driving at this point). There are warning signs that the road becomes extremely muddy when it rains so pay attention the weather report and watch the sky. About a mile down the road we came across a large herd of Elk. We love watching the wildlife in Colorado. Last Dollar rd is a fun drive and at one point towards the top we were looking down the planes arriving at Telluride airport, a unique view for sure. If you are base camping in Ouray carve out half a day to check out Telluride. It is an upscale mountain town that still has small town charm. Grab a cup of coffee, stroll down Main Street, pop in and out of the shops, and enjoy the view of Bridal Vail Falls.

Overall our time in Ouray was amazing! I hope I never forget sitting on the patio of Red Mountain Brewery in the rain watching the multiple waterfalls form on the surrounding mountains, sharing a drink with my amazing. Or meeting great people and chatting at the rooftop bar at the Ouray Brewery. The trails we traveled, and the sometimes foul language coming from the passenger seat when the trail got narrow, haha. We loved our time in Ouray and the San Juans mountains, and we will be returning this summer. To all the travelers and adventures out there get to the San Juans. There isn’t a better place to base camp than Ouray. Explore the trails, see the wildlife, smell the wildflowers, and have a cold beer and meet some new people in a rooftop bar surrounded by beautiful mountains. Cheers.

If you missed the trail videos on the last post here they are again… http://ENGINEER PASS ALPINE LOOP COLORADO https://youtu.be/lGXnu8EBM3E http://cinnamon pass Alpine Loop Colorado jeep gladiator rubicon https://youtu.be/0lGQL59hbv8

Lake City, Colorado

This summer we took our first trip to San Juan mountains. This is an area of Colorado that is known for its off-road trials, so I have been wanting to take our jeep there for quite some time. We started our stay in Lake City, a small community that caters to off-roaders and their needs. Right outside of Lake City is where you can find Colorados largest nature lake, Lake San Cristobal. The lake is gorgeous, and The Inn at the Lake was a perfect spot for our stay. A quiet place with amazing staff, and delicious breakfast. The Inn at the Lake is one of our favorite places we have ever stayed, and a return stay is definitely in our future.

Lake San Cristobal was the perfect place for us to start our exploring, it is hub for what is known as the Alpine Loop. A 60 plus mile long off-road trail that is made up of Cinnamon Pass, Animas forks, and Engineer Pass.

Cinnamon Pass summit

Cinnamon is first up when you start out at Lake San Cristobal. It is rated as an easy trail. It has a rocky terrain, and steep drop offs in spots but a high clearance vehicle with proper tires is all that is needed. There are some other trails off of the main route, one that was recommended to us to explore was the American basin. It was wild flower season while we were there and the American Basin is one of the best places in the area to see colors of the flowers. Linked is a short video of our trip up Cinnamon pass. https://youtu.be/0lGQL59hbv8

Cinnamon Pass ends at the historic Animas Forks townsite. Give yourself time there to explore the structures. You can venture into Silverton for coffee and a bite of breakfast at Coffee Bear, before heading back Animas Forks and up Engineer Pass back into Lake City.

Engineer Pass is considered one of Colorados most scenic, and trust me it lives up to its reputation. It can be intimidating in spots, but wow what drive. Engineer is a Jeep badge of honor trail, but is not an extremely technical trail. The views you will see traveling up from Animas Forks to the summit are stunning. I cannot recommend this trail enough. Even if you do not have a Jeep, or vehicle capable of the trail get to the San Juans and rent one. You will not be disappointed. Click the link for a video of our trip on Engineer Pass. https://youtu.be/lGXnu8EBM3E

After a full day on the trail we decided it was time to relax and grab some dinner. Lake City has many great places to grab a bite to eat, even a couple of BBQ options. It was a Sunday night when we got off Engineer and arrived back in town and Southern Vittles had ribs on special for 19.99 that night so naturally that is what I chose. It was very good, especially for the price. It came with hush puppies and fries. I would eat this every Sunday night if I lived there. The wife had a pulled pork and sausage sandwich that she was very happy with.

Our time in Lake City was short, but memorable. We were moving on to the other side of the mountains to continue our San Juan adventure in Ouray Colorado. We will cover our time in Ouray in another post, but I will tell you we have a return trip to Ouray booked already. In the meantime keep traveling, exploring, spending time with loved ones, and eating good food.

Estes Park, CO. Oct 2020

We decided we would take a return trip to Estes Park in October of 2020. We had previously visited the area in the fall of 2018, and loved our experience. The town is your typical Colorado mountain town. Quaint, lots of local shops, and restaurants to explore and eat at. The most surprising thing about Estes is the wildlife that is easily spotted throughout town. There are elk aplenty in town. The visitor center is usually a great place to spot some elk. It is located right off the Big Thompson River, across from a golf course, perfect for lounging elk during the rut. You can easily spend a day or two exploring the shops downtown, taking a tour of the historic Stanley Hotel, and viewing the elk around town.

I am hopelessly addicted to a good cup of coffee, and Estes has a few places to choose from. Our favorite by far was Coffee on the Rocks. It offers great coffee, breakfast burritos, and pastries. Coffee on the Rocks sits beside a pond with picnic tables set up around it, making it easy to social distance during the pandemic. Inside you can purchase a cup of food to feed the ducks that inhabit the pond outside. A great activity for kids (or your wife lol) while you enjoy your coffee drink of choice. Coffee on the Rocks is a must stop on a beautiful morning in Estes. Another stand out is Antonios Real New York Pizza. Antonios is perfect meal to grab after a long day of hiking, or shopping downtown. Antonios is right up there with Bleeker street pizza (the best New York style pizza in my opinion). There a couple of barbecue restaurants in Estes, we chose to try Smokin’ Daves BBQ and Brew. Due to the pandemic we ordered it to go and took it back to our hotel room. It definitely scratched my itch for barbecue. Nothing we ordered that night was spectacular, but everything was good, and well packaged for the short trip back to the hotel. would eat there again if we make a return trip. Barbecue is everywhere, even in the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains.

Estes Park is also home Rocky Mountain National Park. one of the largest national parks in the United States. It spans 265,769 acres, and 358 square miles. The mountain views are amazing. Everywhere you look there is another picturesque mountain view. This trip was a bit different from our previous journey to RMNP. The largest wildfire in Colorado history was threatening the park, and Estes. The smoke was visible in the air most days, and a light coat of ash covered the Jeep in the mornings. A Jeep is always our adventure vehicle of choice. When we traveled over trail ridge road to the other side of the park flames were visible in the distance. Trail ridge road is a must in my opinion. Keep your hands on the wheel, pay attention, and it is just a road like all the others. I had planned on taking all Fall River road up to the alpine visitors center this trip, but it was closed due to the wildfires. I guess that means a third trip will be in order.

Hiking in RMNP can be as strenuous or as leisurely as you choose. A quick easy hike around Bear lake, or Sprague lake. Or a longer hikes up to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald lakes. We learned from our first trip that if you want parking at Bear lake you have to get there early, and that is what we did. We arrived at Bear lake parking before the sun was up. This trip we decided we were going to hike up to Dream lake. We stopped briefly at Nymph lake to take a couple of pictures, and enjoy the scenery for a bit and then continued on to Dream. The extra bit of hiking is worth it to get to see the beautiful scenery surrounding Dream lake. We didn’t pack any supplies so that was as far as we were going that day. Take your time on the way back, you don’t have anywhere to be you are vacation. Enjoy the scenery, take some pictures, stop and spend more time at Nymph. Enjoy the quietness of the mountains, and listen for bears.

The wildfires, and some road construction going on in the park seemed to have the wildlife routines a bit off, but we were able to make the most of it. It is pretty easy to spot elk in the park, they are everywhere. It is very common during this time of year (October) to park at Sheep Lake at dusk and watch the elk heard come into the valley. The bugling from the bull elk can be heard from far off. It is quite the spectacle watching the interactions of the bull elk during the rut. Bring a pair of binoculars, a chair, and good coat and you can sit there until sunset experiencing nature at its best. Rocky Mountain National Park is a spectacular place to visit.

The Traveling BBQer

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