Denver Mint, State Capitol, Molly Brown’s House, and 16th St. Mall

This morning, we started our day early with a tour of the Denver US mint.  This mint makes all denominations of US coins currently in circulation.  Unfortunately, the tour did not allow us to bring cameras in, so the only picture I have of the mint is from the mint’s website.  The thing that I found the most interesting about the mint is that it uses the same type of machine to mint all types of coins–only the dies and the blank coins fed into the machines change to change the type of coins being minted.  Today, the mint was making pennies.  Pennies account for 62% of all coins minted in the US.

Denver mint exterior (from

After the US mint, we toured the Colorado capitol.  The capitol building is designed to resemble the US capitol, except it features a real gold dome.  200 ounces of gold cover the gold.  The building is beautiful inside, but was hot and quiet with both houses of the legislature in recess.  The capitol building is shared by the executive and legislative branches of the state government.  The supreme court used to be in the same building, but moved to a larger courtroom in a building across the street in 1977.

Colorado capitol exterior, showing the gold dome Colorado capitol dome interior

Just a few streets over from the capitol is the home of the Unsinkable Molly Brown.  Mrs. Brown became a wealthy woman through her husband’s gold mining, which caused them to move into this Denver home from their previous home in Leadville, CO.  Mrs. Brown was one of the survivors of the Titanic, and she helped to rescue many other people and make sure that their needs were met once they landed in America.  Today, her house is restored to its 1910 splendor and open for tours.  No pictures were allowed on the tour, so the only picture we have is of the house exterior.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown's house

The high today was 98 degrees, so we escaped the afternoon heat in the hotel’s indoor pool.  In the late afternoon, we returned to the 16th street mall.  We walked several blocks past the end of the mall all the way to the South Platte River, where we were able to see the mountains in front of us and the city’s skyline behind us.  On the way back toward the hotel, we stopped in many of the shops, but didn’t find anything worth buying.

People enjoying the evening on the 16th Street Mall  The gold capitol dome from the 16th Street Mall in the evening

Tomorrow morning, we will enjoy the hotel’s complimentary hot breakfast, drive through some of Denver’s famous neighborhoods, hopefully make it to Red Rocks Park, and then head back to Washington.  It’s been a good trip, with lots to do, but not enough to make us need a post-trip vacation to recover.


Celestial Seasonings Tea, Phoenix Mine, and Downtown Denver

This morning, we drove from Colorado Springs to Denver, a trip of about an hour. From Denver, we headed northwest to Boulder to go on the Celestial Seasonings factory tour. It was interesting to see what goes into their teas–Celestial Seasonings sells about 75% herbal teas, which are technically not even teas, since they do not include any part of the tea tree. Unfortunately, Celestial Seasonings uses a lot of proprietary equipment, so they do not allow people to take pictures on the tour.

Celestial Seasonings factory

In the afternoon, we went on a tour of an operating gold mine (they will be blasting next week). The mine tour was not what we were expected, with a real miner as our tour guide. The mine owner was quite the talker and we suspect that he had been in the bottle before we arrived. Everyone involved with the mine was quite the character. We also had the chance to pan for gold (and found several small flakes) before leaving.

The Phoenix mine The vein that contains gold, silver, and copper The family with our miner tour guide Panning for gold

Back in Denver, we checked into our hotel and walked five blocks downtown to the outdoor 16th street mall for dinner. We ate a Maggiano’s, an Italian restaurant where Laura went for prom. We had a five course family style dinner with enough leftovers to be tomorrow’s lunch. On the way back to the hotel, we enjoyed seeing the real gold dome of the state capitol lit up at night.

The 16th street mall

Tomorrow morning, we have a tour of the US mint, where they make several types of coins. We also want to see the unsinkable Molly Brown’s house and experience downtown Denver.


Pike’s Peak, Air Force Academy, and Garden of the Gods

Today’s adventures began with a cog railway ride up Pike’s Peak. The 8.9 miles of track to the top take over an hour each direction to travel. The ride is narrated on the way up, so the hour flies by. The trip down seemed to take forever. The view from the top was okay, but there was some precipitation in the area that eventually turned into snow flurries on the top of the mountain. It was also 35 degrees at the top. Too cold for me.

Pike's Peak View The family at a sign on top of Pike's Peak

After Pike’s Peak, we headed into Colorado Springs to visit the Air Force Academy’s beautiful chapel. The main (protestant) chapel is incredibly symbolic to the air force and great to look out inside and out.

Altar area in the USAFA Protestant Chapel USAFA Protestant Chapel interior USAFA exterior close up

Later, we went to the Garden of the Gods. This rock formation is owned by the city of Colorado Springs and open for free to the public. We drove and walked through the formations, enjoying the contrast of the mostly red rocks against the green vegetation.

Family at Garden of the Gods Garden of the Gods

Tomorrow, we may pick up horseback riding or hiking in the morning before heading to our last stop in Denver. We’re going to try to hit the Celestial Seasonings tea tour and possibly pan for gold tomorrow.

Colorado Springs (not much news)

Today, we spent the morning in back in the hot springs.  In the afternoon, we drove over four hours from Pagosa Hot Springs to Manitou Springs, which is next to Colorado Springs.

Since we arrived in the evening, we had a fun dinner at The Mason Jar and then tried to go to Seven Falls.  The elevator was out at Seven Falls and we felt that $10.25 per adult was excessive to see a lit up waterfall, so we decided to go back to the hotel and plan out tomorrow instead.

Tomorrow, we’re taking the cog railway up Pike’s Peak in the morning.  In the afternoon, we’ll take in The Garden of the Gods and some of the other Colorado Springs sights.  We’re spending two nights in Colorado Springs, but plan to leave early for Denver on the last day.


Mesa Verde National Park and Pagosa Hot Springs

Today’s adventure started in Mesa Verde National Park, home of the famed cliff dwellings of the Pueblo Ancestors. The park is surrounded on three sides by a Ute Indian reservation, so it takes nearly an hour of driving to reach the cliff dwellings that are near the southern edge of the property. We took an interpreted tour of Cliff Palace and saw several other cliff cities. At the peak of the Pueblo Ancestral people’s use of Mesa Verde in the 1300s, 4000 to 5000 people lived in the area. To put that in perspective, Cliff Palace is the largest dwelling and probably was home to about 120 people.

Cliff House at Mesa Verde National Park Cliff House at Mesa Verde National Park Foundation to a pre-cliff dwelling on Mesa Verde

In the afternoon, we drove to Pagosa Hot Springs, CO. We’re staying in The Springs Resort, which has 18 pools fed by the hot spring, plus two heated fresh water pools. We’ve enjoyed soaking in the various pools and dipping our feet in the cold river that the pools drain into. Today, the pools have ranged in temperature from 96 degrees to 114 degrees. We’ve enjoyed sampling the different pools. Our favorite so far is called Marco Polo, which was 100 degrees most of the day today, small enough to be cozy with four people, secluded, and right on the river, so we could hear the soothing river sounds.

The Springs Resort from across the San Juan River A hot sulphur spring In The Marco Polo hot spring fed pool

Tomorrow, we’re going to enjoy more of the hot spring pools, then head to Colorado Springs. We’ll stay two days there and see Pike’s Peak, Garden of the Gods, and hopefully see some of the famous buildings at the Air Force Academy.


White Water Rafting and Arches National Park

This morning, our adventure started with white water rafting on the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, CO. We were on a raft with four other people and a guide from Blue Sky tours. We started out with two miles in class three rapids and had a great time getting soaked. Then, we had a twelve mile stretch of minimal rapids that was relaxing. We only have one picture from rafting, since we didn’t want our cameras to get wet on the raft. We’ll have a better image when we get back and can scan it instead of taking a picture of the picture.

White Water Rafting

After rafting, we hit the road for Cortez, CO. The fastest route to Cortez took us through eastern Utah and right by the entrance to Arches National Park, so we took a detour through the park for most of the afternoon.

Inside the park, we were greeted by beautiful rock formations of many colors under the sweltering heat. The temperature was near 100 degrees the entire time we were in the park. Because of the heat, we didn’t do as many hikes off the road in the park as we would have liked.

The most famous sight that we saw in the park was Delicate Arch. The hike up to the base of the arch was 1.5 miles each way and a 480 foot increase in elevation, so we settled for the shorter hike to see Delicate Arch from across a valley. The best sight that we saw was Sandstone Arch, which we were able to hike up to, mostly in shade with a red sand covered ground. Every turn in the park had a scenic view.

Delicate Arch  Sandstone Arch Scenic View
Tonight, we’re staying in Cortez. Tomorrow, we’ll visit Mesa Verde early before it gets hot (we’re still in the desert, so temperatures are cold overnight and scorching during the day), then move on to our hotel on a hot spring.


Rocky Mountain National Park scenic drive

Today, we took a 40 mile scenic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park. We saw many scenic overlooks, and traveled on the highest road in the US. We enjoyed seeing how fast the rocks and vegetation changes with elevation. We saw more snow on the ground today, several people on skis, and were able to go out on a snowfield. I took the opportunity to get Laura with a snow ball. We also saw mountain sheep and a marmot while in the park. On the last leg of the scenic road, we stopped at the continental divide. The continental divide is the point in the country where on one side water flows into the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side water flows into the Pacific Ocean.

Mountain View Marmot Mountain Sheep Snow in June The Continental Divide

After the national park, we headed south west to Glenwood Springs. On the way, we drove past green ski slopes in Vail and Aspen. The drive was beautiful the entire way–every few minutes offered a completely different view. We also experienced temperature extremes today, from 47 degrees on the mountain tops to 95 degrees when we arrived in Glenwood Springs.

Tonight, we’re staying at the Cedar Ridge Lodge in Glenwood Springs, CO. Tomorrow, we’re going white water rafting bright and early, then traveling to Arches National Park in Utah before ending up in Cortez, CO.

A correction to yesterday’s post: the small rodents we saw were golden mantle squirrels, not pika.

Click on an image to enlarge.


Rocky Mountain National Park

Today, we landed just after 8am local time in Denver after a nice flight. We rented a Chevy Impala with leather seats and XM satellite radio (both given to us at no extra cost), and drove to Estes Park. We checked into the Twin Owl Motor Lodge, then headed to Rocky Mountain National Park.

In Rocky Mountain National Park, we hiked around Bear Lake. While not a difficult hike and only 0.6 of a mile, we took it easy to make sure that the altitude didn’t get to us.  The highlight of Bear Lake was seeing trout swim upstream on one of the creeks that feeds the lake. While hiking, we also found snow drifts to the side of the path. Pretty impressive, considering it was about 82 degrees.

Bear Lake  Bear Lake Spawning trout Snow
From Bear Lake, we hiked a mile to Alberta Falls. The hike was up and down, but we crossed streams several times and saw many breathtaking views along the way. The hike was worth the view, and we were able to hike back to a shuttle stop going mostly down hill.

Beautiful Cliffs  Alberta Falls
After Alberta Falls, we drove to Sprague Lake, which was the home of a resort from 1910 until 1940. We hiked the flat trail around this 13 acre lake, enjoying up close views of fish and a mother duck as we walked.

Sprague Lake  Mother and Baby Duck
During our entire time in the park, we saw blue birds with black crowns (I’m not sure what they’re called) and also pika, a chipmunk-like rodent. As we were driving out of the park, we saw about ten cars stopped on the side of the road looking at something. We couldn’t see what it was, but we decided to stop. It turns out that three elk were laying in a meadow very close to the road. Easily worth the stop.

Pika  Elk on the side of the road
For dinner, we ate at a rooftop Mexican restaurant in Estes Park. The food was good, and the view even better. I ended the day with a dip in the hotel’s hot tub (the pool was too cold) while my parents shopped the boutiques in downtown Estes Park.

The view from the restaurant

Tomorrow, we’re doing a five hour drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, which includes many famous sights and will take us above the tree line. After that, we’ll head for Glenwood.

As usual, click on any picture to enlarge.



Sorry for the lack of posts recently.  A lot has happened–Laura’s high school graduation, finishing up my summer work at Digital Sandbox, and being there for people.

Posting should be more consistent the next week, as I will be in Colorado on vacation.  I will be journaling on here when I have internet access and on paper when I do not.  I’ll also be taking lots of pictures.  But now, it’s time for me to finish breakfast, since my flight leaves out of Dulles in two hours.  Today’s plans include hiking in Estes Park.


Set Free

Breaking FreeThere is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God\’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Read the rest of Romans 8