After arriving early and setting up the campite we had some time to spare we decided to take an unplanned trip to Aspen which was about 1 hour away. The road we took went through multiple risky peaks and moutains. You can see several landslide areas through this route, which is one of the reasons why it is only open during the summer months.

It felt dangerous to drive through the windy narrow rows, but the scenery and views of the mountains made it absolutely worth it. On our way towards Aspen we had a chance to stop at the Continental Divide Independence Pass which is definitely worth stopping at for a magnificent view of several peaks. If you are interested in visiting make sure to do so between Memorial Day until late October, early November.

Right outside of Aspen we stopped at the Devils Punchbowl, a natural swimming hole which you can access right from the road. There were a couple of people jumping in, and others taking in the sound of the waterfalls. After a couple of pictures and watching a cople of people jump into the hole we set out for Aspen.

The downtown Aspen area was lifely and full with shops and flowers. While strolling through the plazas a light rain started out of nowhere but we had learned to have a rain jacket on us at all times due to the rapidly changing weather conditions in Colorado. I’m glad we invested in good rain gear!

After walking around for a bit more with the rain we had built up an appetite so we stopped at Aspen Tap for a late lunch. Their cocktails and beer were pretty good, and the Mushroom Pizza wasn’t groundbreaking but it hit the spot :)!

We quickly wrapped up with lunch and headed back to Twin Lakes for the night, looking forward to go explore the Twin Lakes up close.

Day 6: Day @ Whitestar campground

We stayed at the camp admiring Mt. Elbert and Mt. Princetown. We were really close to kayaking at the lake. There is a small kayak, paddle board, etc rental van by the lake.

In the afternoon I cooked a Spicy Cajun Sausage Skillet which one of our favorite recipes regardless of if we are home  or camping. I highly encourage this recipe because it makes X servings-if we don’t go for seconds which is hard because its so good!

Day 7: Twin Lakes -> Vail -> Grand Lake (Green Ridge Campground)

Broke camp. Initially wanted to stop by leadville and Frisco but decided to go check out Vail since I snatched a reservation for Mountain Standard for lunch. The food was spectacular. We had the pimento cheese, mule, old fashioned, Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich and a delicious cod tartini (find menu and link), banana bread pudding

Day 8: Grand Lake: Hikes & Huntington Tavern

Walked through the Continental Divide Trail by the Shallow Mountain Lake and Grand Lake. We even met a hiker who was on day 55 of his true-hike from Mexico to Canada. Impressive indeed! Maybe we’ll get there one day!

After that morning hike we came back for a quick lunch. We had a Simple Mozzarella Pasta Salad I threw together. I remade it at home with some more time and its even better now that is has the right amount of mozzarella!

After lunch we hiked up to Cascade Falls. When we visited there were timed entry requierements in place  from 9AM-3:00PM, so we went around 3:00PM just in case, since we did not have permits. At the time of oir visit multiple tourist attractions required time entry permits which had to be reserved the day prior starting at 5:00PM at their website. Make sure to check if there are any need for passes before visiting a National Park attraction, especially for Rocky Mountain National Park!

The hike to Cascade Falls took us a good amount (3.0hrs) and it was definitely a sight to see. There had been some recent fires and a large portion of the forest was burnt, but this allowed us to better see the landscape and keep and eye for Mountain Lions which though not common have been spotted in the area. The contrast between the burnt trees and new wild flowers sprouting from the black ground was beautfiul in its own way.

Day 9:  Rocky Maountains National Park, Bear Lake, Dream Lake & Emerald Lake

Got up early to break camp and heat to the park. Went to the park, spotted some animals. Going in the morning was nice! Spotted some Elk by the coffe shop. Coffee shop.opened at 9am (boo). Headed to the trails, went for park and ride at rush hour (10am). Definitely car line from Estes Park. bear lake was beautiful, lots of pictures and short walk. Hiked up to Emerald Lake, so pretty! Waterfalls and flowers and rocky peaks! Saw a marmot at Emerald Lake!

Came back downt and headed to The Barrel in Estes Park. Delicious beer, I loved one of the Guava Sours. We had barbacoa corn tacos, al pastor corn tacos and some nachos, all delicious. The al pastor tacos were my favorite!

After lunch we walked around the main street, grabbed some ice cream at a traditional waffle cone creamery, the smell of the cones alone drew us to the store. Had the oreo dipped waffle cone with cookie dough ice cream.

Once we were done with dessert we headed to our lovely Airbnb in Loveland, CO to relax in the hot tub with some mimosas. I knew we would love a hot tub after all those days of himing and camping and I couldn’t have been more right!

Day 10: Loveland, CO -> Omaha, NE

We came back through Omaha and stayed at the Hyatt Omaha Downtown since we ran out of Marriot Bonvoy points to use. We were so happy we stayed downtown on a Saturday night. It was a lively downtown with horses, bachelorette parties and pedalling beer carts. It reminded me of Nashville. We went for dinner at a seafood restaurant.

Day 11: Omaha, NE -> Chicago, IL

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