Colorado · Colorado Moutains · hiking · historical places · hot springs · Overnight Trip · Railroad Travel · Uncategorized

January 2018: Glenwood Springs by Train

To celebrate living up to our 2017 New Year’s resolution we decided to keep it going in 2018. Well it wasn’t really a decision, it’s become an important part of our relationship and without a second thought we picked and planned a new experience for January 2018. January also happens to be Corrie’s birth month so the logical choice was to plan it around her birthday weekend to make the experience even more special. Cameron, being the obsessive planner and darling boyfriend that he is, took the lead on planning and booking the weekend getaway. We had both been to Glenwood Springs before, but mostly just passing through; or in Cameron’s case, fly fishing in all the great local rivers. We knew it to be a great spot for relaxing (how could it not be with all of the hot springs?) and we were anxious to spend a couple of nights there. But with the spirit of our resolution being to see and experience to new things, we knew we had to add something else to the agenda that neither of us had experienced before. So for this trip we would travel to our final destination on Amtrak’s California Zephyr train. We both had romantic visions of what the trip would be like; sipping wine as we cruised through the snow covered Colorado high-country, free from typical the I-70 slog. To say we were excited would be an understatement. The trip couldn’t come soon enough.

Union Station

DAY 1

With great expectations we woke up early on Saturday January 20th to shower and load our bags in the Jeep. Our train was set to depart at 8:05am, and with Cameron’s obsession with being a million hours early to everything, it ended up being an abnormally early morning for Corrie. But the excitement over what was to come, and the thought of a good cup of coffee, was enough to get her out of bed. As Corrie was in the shower, eyes only half open, a text alert came through on Cameron’s phone.

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Our travel delay faces

Our 8:05 train was delayed by an hour and half… off to a great start! Since we were already out of bed, showered and still excited to start our trip we decided to continue to getting ready (at a bit of a slower pace) and leave as soon as possible. We wanted to arrive at the train station with plenty of time to spare since this would all be new to both of us and breakfast at Snooze (located within the station) was sounding delightful.

We arrived at a quiet Union Station just as the sun was starting to rise and quickly located the Amtrak counter and checked our bags. We can report that Amtrak is diligent about keeping riders informed if you sign up for the text alerts when you book your trip. We know this because the train’s status was updated a couple more times with further delays, leaving us with a few hours to kill. Luckily, Snooze is a fabulous place to have breakfast and we only had to wait 10 minutes for a table (if you’ve been to Snooze before, you know this is nothing short of a miracle). To kick the trip off on the right foot we toasted with mimosas and Cameron had a delicious breakfast.

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No caption needed

Now, if you’ve ever brunched with Corrie, you know she likes her breakfast meals sloppy – preferably with green chili. So when she saw a slop plate on the menu, she was very pleased. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as sloppy as expected and was more like a mediocre pile of cold hash browns with a dollop of green chili on top. While a little disappointing, she is also a firm believer that mimosas are the most important part of any vacation breakfast or brunch, and with those being top notch she couldn’t complain too much.

As we were finishing up breakfast, we noticed that the station was beginning to get overwhelmingly crowded with lots of women in pink hats (and a few men in Captain America costumes). After a moment of confusion on our part we realized that our trip out of downtown happened to coincide with the 2018 Denver Women’s March. If you’ve read our blog, you know we love to people watch, so this would make our time waiting for the delayed train much more interesting. There were tons of people in costumes with all sorts of interesting signs for us to watch. It even sparked some good conversation amongst ourselves. And in the midst of the chaos we somehow managed to run into Corrie’s mom and her friends who had just arrived to join the masses.

The downside of all this excitement was that it also made using the restrooms a little more interesting. We both have baby bladders, but Corrie by far has the worst and the giant lines for the women’s restroom after mimosas and coffee caused some serious anxiety. The lines became battlefields with a bunch of riled up, ready-to-raise-hell, marching women all scrambling to beat each other to the closer line position. Some became feisty enough that Cameron even encountered several women that had given up standing in the women’s line and had taken up position inside the men’s room waiting for stalls to open up. One of whom loudly announced that she was a nurse and “had seen it all.” Maybe this was their way fighting for equal rights?

With our baby bladders empty, it was time to scurry out to track 4 to wait in the boarding line with the hopes of getting good seats. We stood there excitedly waiting for our train to arrive while continuing to watch the flood of marchers disembark the light rail and pour into Union Station. The train didn’t end up backing into the station until about 9:40am. We got our tickets scanned and the conductor assigned us two coach seats. We eagerly boarded the train and tried to take in as much as we could while our eyes adjusted to the dim light. Our seats were located on the upper deck, so we made our way up the narrow staircase into the still dark and dingy upper level. When we found our seats we were pleased with the amount of leg room, there were outlets to charge our crippled iPhone 6’s (thanks Apple) and the seats were relatively comfortable. But, the windows in the standard coach cars are small and our view was fairly cramped. We also couldn’t help but feel like the cars hadn’t been cleaned in quite a while – to the point that Corrie was scared to rest her head against the back of the seat. We also discovered that while you get “assigned seats” it’s actually sort of a free-for-all, since you don’t have to sit in the seats you were assigned and no one is there to check. And many of the more experienced riders went straight to the observation car and never actually sat in their “assigned” seats the entire trip, which we later found out why. Being rookies though, we dutifully sat in our seats to begin the journey.

The scenery once you leave the metro area is spectacular. The train takes you on a path that, for the most part, can’t be traveled by car. So we were seeing the Colorado Front Range (Boulder, Denver, The Flatirons) from a totally different vantage point. As the train chugged on, even though our seats weren’t the greatest, we were still excited and

Front Range
View of Boulder

we couldn’t take our eyes off the slowly passing scenery. Not long into the trip the Conductor announced we were entering what they called “the tunnel district.” Twenty-seven tunnels between us and our first stop in Winter Park! Corrie, being obsessive, tried to keep count through each one, but Cameron and the amazing views in-between each quickly distracted her and she was forced to just go with the flow. The last tunnel, Moffat Tunnel, is 6.7 miles long. It takes ten minutes to traverse and popped us out into the bright sunlight right at the base of the Winter Park ski area. It was a beautiful day to travel Colorado!

Knowing that some of the passengers that day were skiers that would be exiting the train at Winter Park, we decided that we would make a dash for the observation car when we stopped, keeping our fingers crossed that many of the seats would be vacated at that point. Turns out we made the right decision and we quickly settled into seats facing outward with huge windows that stretched from floor to ceiling (almost) and would make our sightseeing so much better!

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Gore Canyon from the observation car

Once we got rolling again, Cameron ventured downstairs to the café to find us a light lunch while Corrie stayed to hold our coveted seats. He returned with microwaved sandwiches that you’d find in a gas station and a half bottle of cabernet sauvignon, all of which were grossly overpriced (but still more attractive than the “fresh” steamed mussels they were offering in the lunch car). And to us it was still perfect, finally experiencing what we had pictured; sipping wine while watching our beautiful state roll past. We were traveling and exploring together and we could not have been happier. We sat there mesmerized for hours, snapping photos of every little change in the landscape.

Being rookies, we thought nothing of it when the café attendant announced she was going on her meal break. While we were out of wine and had no water, we figured she’d be gone for 30-45 minutes and upon her return we would refill. As it turns out she ended up being MIA for the remainder of our journey. The last 2.5 hours of our trip we couldn’t even purchase so much as a bottle of water to quench our parched throats. Not cool.

When we first entered the observation car we knew that we wanted seats on the left side of the train so that we could have a prime view of the river. We also knew that when we entered Glenwood Canyon, the river would switch sides. We kept our eyes open as we

 

 

Observation Car
Observation Car

approached the canyon and were able to quickly grab a table that had opened up on the right side. We thought we had scored. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t yet know who our neighbors would be the rest of the way. Four loud drunk men seated behind Corrie bitching about politics and four Amish people playing cards seated to our right. Surprisingly, the Amish were even more boisterous than the drunks as they continuously whooped and hollered to be heard over one another and continually slapped the table emphatically as part of their game. At this point we had been on the train for about 4.5 hours and this began to wear on both of us quickly (did we mention we were out of wine?) and we were soon ready to be done with our journey. We both agreed that the ride had become about an hour too long. 

We pulled into Glenwood Springs exhausted and eagerly stepped off the train into the fresh mountain cigarette smoke air (all the smokers jump off for a quick 10-minute smoke break since it’s prohibited on the train). Not exactly what we were hoping for in terms of a mountain air welcome, but we still very happy to be in our final destination.

We soon collected our bags and tried to hail a Lyft or Uber but discovered that the wait was going to be longer than the 15-minute walk to our hotel so we decided to hoof it. We’d been cooped up for most of the day anyway so it wasn’t much of an inconvenience – even if all the sidewalks in town were torn up for construction. We stopped into a liquor store on the way for a real bottle of wine and checked into the Holiday Inn Express on the west end of town.

Cameron had booked a regular king room when he made the reservation, but for some unknown reason the clerk put us in their “King Executive” room, ooooooo fancy! The room was on the first floor, which is a big strike one for Corrie since she’s a total ‘fraidy cat’ and is always paranoid about people breaking in. It was located between the elevator and public bathrooms and opened into the main foyer and lobby. Not what we would consider an ideal location for any room, let alone an executive suite. We debated switching rooms, thinking it would be too noisy for us to sleep in, but in the end we decided it was large and comfortable so we would stick with it. We’re tough like that.

We settled in to relax and have some wine before dinner. This was going to be a relaxing, go with the flow, getaway after all. Of course Cameron showered again, because that’s what he does. And while Corrie really wanted to get the train stink off her she decided the effort it would take to get ready again wasn’t worth it. We had done some research ahead of the trip and decided that Doc Holiday’s Saloon had to be our dinner stop on the first night. We are obsessed with everything having to do with the movie Tombstone and we knew that Doc Holiday was going to be a big part of our weekend, so it only seemed fitting. Uber came through this time with a very friendly driver named Todd. It was getting dark and started raining steadily at this point so we were glad we wouldn’t have to make the 15-minute walk.

HOT TIP! Watch your step outside of Doc Holiday’s Saloon. IMG_4694There is a subtle wooden porch in front of the door that (in a rush to get out of the rain) Corrie caught her toe on it and nearly went careening through the plate glass window in front of a horrified waitress wrapping silverware. We laughed our asses off (naturally), but it was close to being a disastrous start to our first evening in town. Dinner at the saloon consisted of bad bar food and Corrie’s burrito contained a chopped up hamburger patty in lieu of ground beef. The interior was nicely antique but the whole place was less kitschy than we expected. Being a little disappointed, we didn’t stay long and caught a ride with Todd back to our hotel. And, since it was a Saturday night and we were on vacation, we retired to our hotel room at our normal early hour.

DAY 2

Having met the Pukersons on our trip to Mexico in June, we were oh so happy (sense the sarcasm) to be introduced to the Stompersons at 1:30am. We were both awakened from our peaceful slumber by what sounded like a gymnastics team in the room above us. As we laid there a while listening, Corrie began to speculate in her mind that they were either moving furniture or they were chopping up a body. We turned on some Chris Stapleton to drown out the noise and eventually they had the body fully cut up and quieted down enough for us to drift back to sleep.

The Stompersons were back at it at 7:30am (because apparently they don’t require as much sleep as we do), but it was not nearly as bothersome since we were both starting to stir. Rising leisurely Sunday morning to a couple inches of fresh snow fall, Cameron made the long 20-step trek out into the lobby to get us coffee (yes, he still spoils Corrie). We were planning on making the short hike to Doc Holliday’s grave just outside of town, so when we opened the shades we were glad to see it was snowing lightly rather than pouring rain like the night before. We bundled up for the chilly temperatures and packed a back pack with extra gear. Uber and Lyft were devoid of any options for us and Todd had already told us he would not be available this morning. So, instead of bothering to call the lone cab company in town, we decided that we were perfectly capable of hiking across town to begin our real hike.

The first stop on our “hike” was for breakfast at Daily Bread, which was delicious! The service, food and prices were all impeccable. Someone across the restaurant even found the place special enough to propose to his girlfriend on a snowy Sunday morning. If you’re keeping track, this is the second time on one of our adventures that we’ve been witness to a proposal. A sign, perhaps? After enjoying our coffee, mimosas (duh) and veggie skillets that we beefed up with some meat, we bundled up again for the trip up to Doc’s grave site at Linwood Cemetery.

IMG_4696The route was steep and icy and that was before we even made it to the trailhead. The rain from the previous night had put down a thick layer of ice for the snow to blanket, making for very slick sidewalks. While Cameron is a mountain goat who can stride across ice with the greatest of ease, Corrie’s a little less coordinated (we know, shocker) and ended up shuffling most of the way. We trudged uphill through the historic neighborhoods with lots interesting little houses and friendly neighbors offering “good morning” greetings, before reaching the trailhead. The trailhead is well marked with a deck, benches, water fountain and large sign that details the history of the cemetery; we had to work really hard to get the ice and snow off so we could read it.

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The Wishing Tree

Then it was up the icy exposed trail, past the Wishing Tree, to the top of the hill where Doc, Kid Curry and other residents of Glenwood were buried long ago. It’s not a long hike, but the icy conditions made us work extra hard for the beautiful climb up above the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys where we could see all of Glenwood Springs stretched out below us.

Doc’s grave is well marked and fenced off. But the headstone looks a bit too nice and new, adding to the suspicion that he’s actually buried in the Potter’s field on the opposite side of the cemetery. There is speculation that he died an extremely poor man after being bed ridden for weeks before he passed. He also had few friends. Making it totally reasonable that he would be buried with no to-do and a plain wooden marker in the Potter’s field. We’ve always loved visiting historic sites and being huge fans of the movie Tombstone made this one stand out. So we found it interesting to think that Hollywood has glorified Doc Holliday beyond his own reality and we wondered if his gravesite was an example of just that.IMG_4702  

What do you do after visiting Doc Holliday’s grave? You go to a museum dedicated to the man, of course! We retraced our steps back to Grand Avenue and walked into the western apparel store Bullocks. Yes, the museum is in the basement of a ritzy apparel store that caters to the wealthy Aspen crowd! Seriously, there was a rack marked “$500 Off” right when we walked through the doors, making us feel just a little out of our element.

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Sad faces for Do

The “museum” is a single room in the basement that held our interest for a good 15 minutes and was well worth the price of admission that we were given that day, Free (normally advertised as $7). All we were asked was that we consider donating to help keep it running, which of course we did. The man who ushered us toward the museum mentioned that some pieces had recently been removed from the collection which was part of the reason he decided not to charge any admission. 

We did, however, get to admire the very derringer that Big Nose Kate engraved and gifted to Doc. Having paid homage to one of our favorite historical characters, we purchased our obligatory t-shirt (for Corrie) and coffee mug (for Cameron) and made the chilly 15-minute walk back to the hotel to relax and warm up for a bit before heading to our next stop of the day.

Hail an Uber, Todd shows up. It was starting to seem like he really was the only driver in town. The road to Iron Mountain Hot Springs has no sidewalks so we thought it was safer to ride there. Plus, we really didn’t want to make the walk back in 20-degree weather once we were soaking wet with mineral water. When we arrived at Iron Mountain we excitedly walked into the clubhouse and paid our admission.

We chose to visit Iron Mountain Hot Springs instead of famous big pool at the Hotel Colorado for a few of reasons. One, it’s made up of 16 smaller pools that seat anywhere from 4 – 12 people. This would allow for more soaking and less jumping and splashing from kids. Two, Iron Mountain has two bars where we could purchase an adult beverage to indulge in while enjoying the minerals (the large pool surprisingly doesn’t offer this). Three, it sits just above the Colorado River, which we knew would make for a great view.

After a cold and icy hike, we couldn’t wait to soak in the hot mineral water and scurried through the blowing snow and 20 degree temps to the least crowded pool we could find the fastest. It was a nice and toasty 100 degrees. As we were settling into the blissful warmth we realized that we had forgotten one important step. We looked at each other and knew we should have gotten some wine before getting in the water. Cameron, being the gentleman he is, and having hot Scandinavian blood coursing through his veins (seriously, he’s not just hot to look at), went back to the locker room to get a card so he could treat his lady to a glass of wine. The bar is located outside next to the pools, so standing there even for a few minutes wasn’t much fun. But knowing it would put a smile on Corrie’s face, he toughed it out and was quickly back in the water so we could toast to our trip with cans of Underwood Sauvignon Blanc.

If you kept up with our adventures, you’ve probably noticed a theme. We love to wallow in the water, wherever it is, Mexico, rivers, pools, doesn’t matter. So, in this moment, we were as close to heaven as we could get. We stayed and wallowed for a couple hours, switching to a hotter pool closer to the river about half way through. There was plenty of interesting people watching to be had – especially the woman on a first date in the first pool talking about how if she were a lesbian should would only date someone hotter than her. And we watched the west bound California Zephyr roll by on the south bank of the river.

We finally decided that we were nice and cooked and begrudgingly hustled through the cold to the locker rooms. Emerging from the club house, Cameron recognized Todd’s Uber parked out front and asked for a ride. Iron Mountain Hot Springs is a busy place and Todd was just hanging out there waiting for a customer. Lucky us.

The final and most important stop for the day was Riviera Supper Club & Piano Bar to celebrate an amazing woman’s birthday (she’s blushing right now). After some more relaxing and showering at the hotel, we weren’t able to hail an Uber or Lyft and resorted to calling a taxi. Which felt so antiquated this day in age. I mean, we actually had to pick up the phone, dial a phone number and talk to some on the other end just to get a ride! But, the driver arrived quickly, the ride was actually cheaper than Uber and despite what online reviews said, we had a pleasant experience. So you may want to utilize them more if you’re staying in Glenwood. When we got to the Riviera Supper Club we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and some lovely live piano music. It was relaxing and intimate on a quiet Sunday evening in a sleepy little town. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

DAY 3

No Stompersons, fresh coffee from the lobby, and a leisurely wake up was just how we both wanted to start our last day in Glenwood Springs. And we did. We were scheduled to depart Glenwood via train at noon, so we didn’t want to walk very far or find a taxi to go get breakfast. We instead decided on nearest and most promising looking breakfast spot. Rosi’s Little Bavarian Restaurant was highly rated on google and a just short walk away. Google lied… about the restaurant anyway. With only 3 other tables being full when walked in, the service was awful (15 min to get a cup of coffee) and the food mediocre at best (Corrie’s biscuit could have broken a window). The lone highlight was, of course, the mimosas. But if you mess that up you should be shut down immediately.

Shortly before leaving the hotel, Cameron began receiving the dreaded, but expected, texts about our train being delayed. We were not surprised but it began fray our moods a bit. Both of us are natural planners with little spontaneity when it comes to our activities, so when schedules begin to breakdown we both find it irritating. Plus, we both had to work early the next morning and the prospect of sitting on the train for 6.5 hours (it’s a longer ride heading east) and not getting back to Denver until 9:00pm at the earliest was not appealing. Even though the day before we had quickly prepared for the ride home by purchasing a deck of cards a bottle of wine, the negatives were beginning to stack up for us. Over breakfast we did some quick research and hatched a plan to get our train tickets refunded and rent a car to drive home. The train ride was beautiful and we are so thankful we got to experience it, but we were now at the point that we just wanted to get home to our pups (and meet Corrie’s parent’s new puppy that they acquired over the weekend).

Lucky for us, Enterprise Rent-A-Car was right next to our hotel and their website indicated that they had some cars available. After choking down the rest of our breakfast, we walked over to Enterprise and with speed and efficiency got our white two-wheel drive Dodge pickup (the rear wheel drive aspect was a big shock for Cameron and Corrie heard about it the whole way home). A quick pit stop back at the hotel to get our bags and empty our bladders and we hit the open road. The weather was perfect for a drive across the Colorado high country. The sun shining on a bluebird day and because it was a Monday there was no traffic. We made it back to Denver in two and half hours instead of the six and a half it would have taken on the train, whenever it finally decided to depart.Dining with Doc

Glenwood was good to us. Our stay was everything we wanted. We paid our respects to Doc Holliday, relaxed in magnificent mineral hot springs, met some really nice people and celebrated Corrie’s birthday. It was another grand adventure in the books and the perfect way to kick-off 2018.

Destination Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

What We Learned

  • DO: have dinner at Riviera Supper Club and breakfast at Daily Bread, everything was perfect at both places. See if you can plan a night at Riviera when they’re doing a show too. We bet it’s awesome!
  • DO: visit Doc Holliday’s grave if you have any interest at all. It’s a beautiful little hike and a beautiful setting for the cemetery. It’s also a great way to see the neighborhood charm of Glenwood if you walk to the trailhead.
  • DO: research all the available activities in Glenwood Springs before you go, there is too much to do in just a couple days.
  • DON’T: expect the trains to run on time, they never do as they have to give right-of-way to cargo trains.
  • DON’T: forget to bring your own provisions on the train, meal service and the café service are spotty.
  • DON’T: forget to tip the piano player at Riviera like we did. Oops.
  • DON’T: rely on Uber or Lyft to be available when you need it. They are limited in supply.

 

 

 

 

 

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