Once a rugged cow town filled with gamblers and gunslingers, the Colorado capital has grown up. Today, it meets cosmopolitan halfway and learns to play nice while still kicking up a little dust.
Author Rachel Sturtz Photography Jen Judge
DAY THREE | Grab a stool at the silver-rimmed counter for breakfast at Sam’s No. 3 (1). You could spend all morning wading through the four-page menu, or you could simply order a breakfast burrito drowning in green chili that nearly spills off your plate. Consider yourself completo.
You’ve arranged with the concierge for a rental car, which makes for an easy trip to Golden, Colorado’s original capital, 16 miles west. You pass a sign that reads “Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden!” then park at the resting place of Colonel William F. Cody (better known as Buffalo Bill), where Head into the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum (2), home of the world’s largest alpinist library. Guide Dave Turk has a story for every item in the museum, including the ice pick that saved five men from plummeting off of K2.
All that book learnin’ will give you a hankering to get your boots dirty, so head up to North Table Mountain(elevation 6,658 feet) with a guide from Front Range Climbing Co. for a primer in rock climbing. Unless you’re an experienced climber, you’ll skip harder routes like Mr. Squirrel Places a Nut and opt for something more manageable, like Offline or Wholly Holey. Strapped into your harness, you scramble slowly up ledges and claw at a few cracks before falling back on your rope. Wear sunscreen; it’s hot up there.
Sufficiently bruised, you settle in for a sandwich at a sidewalk table at D’Deli (3), where the Aspen Buddha—a sandwich of turkey, swiss, curry aioli, sprouts, cucumber and yellow banana pepper—goes down like nirvana while you watch the well-behaved local canines frolicking off-leash. Then take a leisurely walk along the bank of Clear Creek, where you take in the scene as kayakers dip, bob and rodeo in a river hole.
Your day isn’t done yet. It’s practically a state law that a Colorado visitor has to at least attempt fly-casting into a running stream. So you head over to Golden River Sports (4), and take a four-hour lesson in the dark art of fly fishing. After spending an hour tying your own fly, head up to the “Golden Mile,” a restored section of the river rich in willow beds, logs and deep holes—the perfect laying ground for brownies and rainbow trout.
Strolling in Golden
Image – Jen Judge
The most important lesson you learn: There’s a big difference between casting and catching. That’s what you tell your barmates that evening over beers at a converted Victorian-era house called the Golden City Brewery (5). This is Golden’s “second largest brewing company” (Coors is the first), and it closes at 6:30 p.m., so finish that Standup Double IPA and get a move on.
After a quick shower at your hotel, return to Highland and duck into a booth at Root Down (6), where the exposed brick ceilings just barely hint at the building’s past life as a service station. Order a spicy Pearracuda martini, seared diver scallops grilled to perfection and dripping in a lemon-habanero tartar sauce, and the organic carrot and Thai red curry soup. It’s been a long day, and after one spoonful of the organic chicory-chocolate tart, Denver seems just wild enough.
RACHEL STURTZ will tell anyone who asks that she caught a 20-pound rainbow trout.