Out West Trip Recap 2: White Water Rafting & Camping in the Mountains

Where did we leave off? Oh yes, feeling a little damaged after an afternoon at the Great Divide Brewing Company in downtown Denver. Thankfully, a good night of sleep had us both feeling much better the next morning. As a part of our hotel stay and being a Marriott Rewards® member, we received complimentary breakfast! And man was it great.


I ordered the oatmeal with a side of fresh berries. As well as a water, orange juice, coffee and smoothie. I like my drinks, okay?!


IMG_6556 I caught Kev taking a picture of his food. HA! Made me laugh because he gets SO MAD when I say, “Hang on, don’t take a bite! Let me take a picture first!”


After breakfast, we loaded up the car and rolled into the mountains. Our first look at the mountains were beautiful! Gosh, the views just don’t get old.


Our first stop in the mountains took us to Idaho Springs, Colorado, a cute little town right on Clear Creek and known for its Gold Rush history. We had morning white water rafting reservations with AVA rafting, recommended to us by our friends Jake and Rachel who did a similar trip with them a few months ago.


We signed up for the 1/2 day intermediate trip that lasted about two and a half hours. The outside temps were in the low 60s with the water temps in the low 40s so we knew it would be cold. Thankfully, AVA hooked us up with wet suits and a splash jacket (came with our trip cost) to keep us somewhat warm.

We also knew that rafting at the end of May would be really fun because the snow was running off, making the water pretty high. They said the water was at roughly 650 cfs, which was pretty fast considering the fact that they start canceling trips at around 800 cfs.

I’m not gonna lie – I was nervous. I had been white water rafting before but it was decently mild. On said trip, I also fell out and busted my lip on a rock under the water. Turns out, I had nothing to be nervous about because our trip was F.U.N.! We had five class IV rapids and very little down time between the really intense parts, which made our two and a half hours fly by. I didn’t even really notice how cold I was until we were getting towards the very end!

Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures suited up because we were FREEZING when we got out and rushed to put warm, dry clothes on. This was the best we could do:


AVA gave us a coupon for a free beer at the local brewery, Tommyknocker and I mean, who can turn that down?! Don’t worry, we only had one each.


The food? My word. SO GOOD. Worth the trip out to Idaho Springs for this chunk of fried fish right here.


Once we could feel our feet again (no seriously, it was that cold), we headed UP to our camp site. Because we didn’t book anything very far in advance, we were left to slim pickings when it came to campsites. The pictures and reviews showed that the Golden Gate Canyon State Park Campground would be beautiful, but I forgot about the small little detail otherwise known as elevation. Yep. We camped at 10,000 feet!

Now that might not seem very high to some of you, but we live in Kentucky. The closest I’ve been to 10,000 feet lately is the second floor of my house.

Not to mention, we didn’t pack for the weather at 10,000 feet. You see, we thought we’d be camping in late May, so we packed sleeping bags, one thin blanket, one sheet, a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Had I known it would drop to FREEZING temperatures at night or 10,000 feet, I would have brought a lot more than that. Like a winter coat.

In fact, while we were setting up our site, it SNOWED.


But don’t worry, we built a big ole fire and survived.


And we roasted weenies. (Thanks for the poles, mom & dad! Came in handy.)


After eating out the past few days, a “home cooked” camping meal was nice. If that makes any sense.


I don’t know why, but I love setting up camp. I love getting the bed ready, setting up the picnic table, fire, etc. I was a little too excited to set up our laundry line that we got as a gift for our wedding. Our white water rafting clothes froze that night, but at least we tried.


Golden Gate Canyon State Park was probably the prettiest campground I’ve ever stayed at. It was quiet, the bathrooms were clean and the views were amazing! So what if we had a hard time breathing. 😉


We stayed on a primitive site, which meant no electricity or water. Not normally a big deal, but we had an air mattress that needed electricity to blow up. Unfortunately, we thought that the adapter we had for our car may work, but it did not so we decided to just sleep on our sleeping bags that night.

A few hours later, we were woken up to angry thunder and lightning pretty close to us. We had zero cell service, so Kev couldn’t look up the radar to see where the storm was so we waited it out a bit. It seemed like it was getting closer and closer so we played it safe and went to sleep in our Nissan Versa compact little tiny car. OF COURSE, two minutes after getting settled into our car, the storm went away. But it was 3 a.m. and we were not about to move all of our sleeping bags and crap back to the tent, so we stayed put.



And three hours later, we were woken up to the bright sun shining in our car. Sleeping in your car isn’t the most fun thing in the world.



We didn’t have a problem getting up that early because not only were we pretty uncomfortable, we had a full day in the mountains ahead of us!

We ventured up to Nederland and Eldora, little cute tiny towns just west of Denver, to check out Diamond Lake Trail. I heard about this trail from Iowa Girl Eats (again!) and thought it looked to be the perfect combination of beautiful and challenging but not too challenging, if ya catch my drift.

We got three miles into the four-mile “road” (not even close to being a road) leading to the trail before we saw a jogger who told us that the trail was completely covered in snow still. AGH! So instead of trying it, we decided to turn around and cut our losses. But not before we got out and took GORGEOUS pictures of the scenery.








So pretty, right? I love Colorado.

We ventured another three miles down the mountain and found ourselves back in Idaho Springs for lunch at BeauJo’s pizza. When we were at Tommyknockers the day before, the line was out the door for BeauJo’s so we knew it had to be good! Thankfully, we got there right as their lunch rush was starting and we had no line at all!


I started off with their salad bar and Kev and I split their classic crust pepperoni pizza. We can’t recommend this place enough!


Because our grand hiking plan for the day was canceled due to snow, we looked up the possibility of driving up Mt. Evans, a popular 14er (14,000 feet mountain), but that was closed due to snow too!

So we racked our brains and came up with Plan C: Breckenridge, CO!

I’ve skied at “Breck” (as the locals call it), but had never been during the warmer months. The sun was shining and we had no plans, so we made the hour drive further west. We also got to go through the tunnel!


The great part about going to Breck this day? My bosses/owners of the company I just said goodbye to were in Breck for vacation, so we met up for a brew and chat to catch up! I didn’t get to see them in real life every day since I worked remotely, so it was great to see them in real life again.

(Not pictured, but Kev had the Great Divide 20th Anniversary – belgian styled Ale and I had Breckenridge Brewery’s Avalanch Ale – an amber ale)



After saying goodbye to them, we walked around Breck and did a bit of shopping. The views were amazing!


We were laughing because we were in shorts and tanks/t-shirts and there was still snow everywhere! Colorado for ya.


We spent the majority of the day in Breck but headed back to our campsite to get dinner started and bundle up before it got dark.


We totally cheated with the whole “primitive camping” thing by blowing up our air mattress in outlet by the bathrooms. We slept like crap the night before so we did not mind carrying the air mattress from the bathroom to our tent. Thankfully, the thing fit through the tent door!

And yes, we used towels that we brought as extra blankets. It was COLD!


I’m so glad we went into Nederland earlier in the day because we grabbed some of New Belgium’s Spring Blonde. It’s not camping without beer! (I promise, I don’t drink all the time. When in Rome! Or “craft beer country”)


We stayed very close to the fire that night and hit the hay pretty early since we had a jam-packed day planned the next day!


Coming up: Fort Collins and New Belgium Brewery and storm chasing day one.

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2 thoughts on “Out West Trip Recap 2: White Water Rafting & Camping in the Mountains

  1. I am so enjoying these posts! I just have to say that I think we would get along so well in real life. I know it’s creepy but I think you might be someone I’d add to my “lets take a vacation together” list…if those lists existed. I read these to Wyatt as he replaced the spark plugs on his car and he enjoyed it, too. 🙂 I’m so glad your trip went well! (Despite no storms.)

    • NOT CREEPY AT ALL! We’ll let you know if we ever pass through KC again and you need to let us know if you ever come through Kentucky again!

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