In preparation for the Centennial next week, there are plenty of events, programs, and celebrations highlighting the park service and its successes. In this spirit, my involvements included our Employee Founder’s Day Picnic to take place next Thursday with over 400 people expected in attendance. Hala, one of our co-workers from Facility Management, has tasked us with the brainstorming and implementing games for the picnic. As some of the “younger” employees in the office, she thought we’d be a good fit to create family games and kid activities.
Aside from work, I had an exciting weekend approaching. Two of my best friends from Maryland were visiting and we had a set itinerary of the great things to do around Denver –a national park included! Fiorella came Thursday night. She is a year older than me but we met in high school and have been close friends ever since. We have too many inside jokes to mention or even count. She hung out at our new apartment complex while Cory and I were at work (did I mentioned we moved!). Andres arrived late Friday night. He is one, if not thee, closest male friend I have. We both graduated from high school in 2012. Once here, we took the weekend for great adventure!
First Stop: The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and whoa was it cool! The park is about 4 hours from Denver and it has the tallest sand dunes in North America. We planned for sand sledding and staying a night in a neat hut nearby. The view at the Great Sand Dunes is quite surreal. You have mountains and a forest on one side, and then large piles and dunes of sand on the other! The creation of this phenomena is a series and mixture of events including a volcanic eruption, lake formations and disappearances, valley formations, and wind patterns. This animation from NPS best explains the science.
Walking in the sand wasn’t easy. Luckily for me, recovering from ACL surgery, it wasn’t too bad but everything took extra energy and time. Fiorella, Andres, and I couldn’t make it to the top. In addition to their bodies acclimating to the higher elevation, this was just a difficult hike. Cory, motivated by his photography, made it to the tallest sand dunes. Lucky him! This once-in-a-lifetime experience was totally worth the roadtrip.
Pit Stop! After a night in our cool hobbit-inspired hut, we took Sunday as not only our trip back to Denver but to continue exploring yet another Colorado landmark: Garden of the Gods. This public park in Colorado Springs and registered as a National Natural Landmark. It is home to some of the most incredible views, amazing sandstone rock formations, and bright blue skies. Nice hike to get out of the car and enjoy more of the outdoors.
By the time we reached the Denver area, we of course had to stop at our favorite brunch spot: The Lobby. Cory and I are pretty much regulars here due to their great food options and tasty mimosas. I must say, after this we were ready for a nap and relaxed night.
Monday came along and I decided to take the day off from work in order to explore with my friends. We took the day to sleep in a little and visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre, only about 20 minutes from our apartment. Red Rocks has continuously been voted one of the best outdoor concert venues, and once there we clearly understood why. A band was preparing to play that night, and while there, they gave us a quick snippet of their music as they tested the sound. It sounded great and I definitely plan on attending a concert here.
The rest of Monday we toured around 16th Street Mall and grabbed some lunch. By night, we went to another favorite, Homegrown Tap & Dough, a pizza place in Washington Park. Tuesday soon arrived and Andres had to catch his flight in the morning, Cory and I went back to work, and by evening, Fiorella had to catch her flight back too. Before she left, we had a early dinner at the new Blue Moon Brewery in RiNo. Then, it was time for goodbyes!
It was a really great weekend with some of my closest friends visiting and making, yet again, more memories. The timing worked out perfectly for both ends. It was right before Fiorella and Andres went back to school and a weekend I could take a day off to explore with them. I don’t have the biggest friend group, and although I can I easily put my involvements out there to the public, I tend to be quite a private person. I open up my personal life to very few and these are two people who I can truly say know me very well. I will forever be thankful to have friends like them; friends who were able to make some time from their busy work and school schedules, catch a flight across the country, and visit me in my new home.
Friends? An overstatement. Thanks for the good times Lela & Pinto <3