Summer vacation continues.  Only a few days after returning from Austin, Karen and I resumed the party by driving up into the mountains to celebrate our silver anniversary.  My niece Jessy flew in from Iowa over the weekend and watched Ellie for us.  The bonus for her was spending time with Brit.  They’re close cousins.

We headed out late Monday afternoon on Hwy 285.  Somewhere between Aspen Grove and Bailey – maybe Pine Junction – where the Denver radio signals begin to fade behind the mountains, I popped in a CD ripped entirely from 1987 hit songs.  It leads off with Walk Like an Egyptian, includes Crowded House, Madonna, Billy Idol, Michael Jackson, and had us reliving memories of the year we married like only music can.

The hills rolled away with the music and miles.  We ate Cheetos and shared a Coors Lite driving through South Park. After 3 hours, we arrived at the Mount Princeton Hot Springs in Nathrop, Colorado.  I discovered this romantic lodge last summer while hiking the Colorado Trail.  Karen saw it for the first time.  Compared to the glitzy resorts in Vail and Aspen, this place is undeniably rustic.  But there are colorful flower boxes in every window and private cabins secluded in the woods across a green meadow where they host weddings every weekend.  The staff don’t wear name badges listing some European country of birth because they are all local.  They’re genuine and as charming as the window flower boxes.

We ate the first dinner of our three nights in the lodge.  I feasted on lamb while Karen ordered Chicken Marsala.  One look at this menu and I think you’ll agree the place is fairly priced.  This holds true for the drinks as well.  We dined in Buena Vista too, at The Asian Palate and The Eddyline Brew Pub; both very nice but we returned to the Mount Princeton Lodge for our anniversary dinner because it’s easily the finest food anywhere in the Arkansas River Valley from Leadville to Salida.  After having dined at every notable eatery within range of the nearly thirty trailheads of the 500 mile Colorado Trail, I consider myself a master-level contributor to Yelp and Urbanspoon.

We rose early the first morning to hike the Colorado Trail at the Chalk Creek Trailhead two miles down the road.  Karen surprised me not only by leading a torrid pace up the initial 1000 foot, mile and a half climb, but by going strong for 9 miles in 4 hours.  That’s an awesome hike.  At altitude.  This picture is of Karen after topping the first hump with the Chalk Cliffs behind her that form the south base of Mount Princeton.  We recovered with a soak in the 106° hot springs and a couples massage.  This place is every bit on par with Vail and Aspen.

We hiked each day, Wednesday on the Alpine Tunnel Trail along the Continental Divide and Thursday doing the short Agnes Vaille Falls Trail.  We drove home via Copper Mountain and lunched at Tuckers at that resort.  Our summer activities might be over with but Ellie has her first triathlon Saturday followed by a week of music camp.  Back to the family routine but Karen and I truly enjoyed ourselves.  Looking forward to the next 25 years of marriage.