WHEN IN BOULDER!
The moment my van left Denver airport for a 40-minute ride to Boulder, I knew I had an amazing time in store for me. I could see a lot of snow on both sides of the road and a mesmerizing mountain range right in the front, and it seemed as if one was driving to a dead end. I was glad that i ignored many suggestions not to visit the state of Colorado at this time.
People who leave Boulder for another place, come back soon as they can’t be comfortable anywhere else. That’s what Boulder’s magnetism does to its people. It pulls them back. It makes them fall in love with it. Everyone I chatted with during my recent 4-night stay here, from Uber Cab drivers to bartenders who fixed me drinks, an Indian family that runs successful catering business to the hotel staff, from people I met at my official meetings to strangers that I bumped into, no one had anything adverse to say about it. They only sang praises and didn’t see anything wrong with its weather, population, people, cost of living or traffic- the usual topics that we discuss at any place we visit.
A friendly Uber driver talked me into accompanying me on a small hike on the weekend. On the way he closed the meter and drove me up to a view point on Flagstaff Mountain so I could enjoy a panoramic view of the city. He felt happy and proud that he belonged here. I was also being polite so didn’t tell him that I had been here last evening only. The view point, a mere 5 minute drive away from downtown Boulder, looms above the town and can be seen from every nook and corner. So close are the mountains that everything else is in close proximity. The history says that gold miners came to a place called GOLDEN in Colorado, which is only 10 miles away and settled as far as Boulder. With them came other businesses like machinery & mining tools etc. Since then Boulder is a paradise for every adventure-lover and inhabited only by 100,000 people.
A town for health fanatics, people can be seen jogging around at any time of the day. Those who are not running or walking can be seen cycling, which every second shop here sells or rents. Only in Amsterdam I had seen so many bike stores before. Entire town can be cycled in a couple of hours which makes it compact, small and traffic free. Just one lady who drove me to a small town in Lafayette once showed concern over the fact that more than 100 families were moving in Boulder every month resulting in its population growing gradually. The biggest draw, according to her, was legal Marijuana. This fact was even confirmed by my friend Avery Stonich, a super-active, pretty Travel Blogger, who has walked every possible trail in Boulder many a times over and even written about them for various publications. She said that the Marijuana industry here was worth 1 billion dollars.
On a walking tour in downtown Boulder with Avery, I was shown a few Marijuana shops where despite her trying hard to get me an entry we failed as I didn’t have my passport on me. We continued to walk and check out some micro-breweries, finally stopping at one for fresh beer. The market was starkly dominated by shops selling adventure-gear and ski equipment. I was so impressed with the calm & quiet surroundings that i decided to stay put for the weekend and extended my stay. Avery recommended a hike in the famous CHAQUATUA NATIONAL PARK.
February is considered to be quite cold but fortunately for me the sun shone in its full glory the day I decided to go for this recommended leisurely hike in the famous Park, that offers panoramic views of the town. Entire town wore a white blanket of snow and the trails here were no different. Sun kept playing hide and seek but given the cold breeze, my woolen cap, gloves and thermal did come to my rescue.
The ranger’s office at the base had an extremely helpful staff who asked me how long i wanted to walk for and suggested a hike accordingly, clearly marking it on a pocked-sized map which ensured i did not need any other help though many a times i didn’t have any other person in sight.
The park is named after a mass movement for promoting education & culture that started way back in 1874 on Lake Chautauqua in western New York. It started as a summer school for Sunday school teachers and within a few years broadened its scope to include adult education of all kinds. Based on its success, many small towns, especially in rural areas established ‘chautauquas’. At the peak of its success, almost 12,000 communities had hosted Chautauquas to introduce people to new ideas, great ideas and to discuss public concerns. The movement pretty much died in 1930s owing to the rise of the car culture, radio and movies. Several of them however survived, functioning today and offering summer long educational, cultural and recreational programs & accommodations.
Now a national historic landmark, the Colorado Chautauqua is considered unique as it is the only one whose grounds are free and open to the public. Now more than 112 yeard old, this one remains a living testament to the Movement’s ideals i.e. lifelong learning, love of nature, voluntary simplicity and music, oration and the arts.
Right behind the ranger’s office there were a few rows of beautiful cottages, which are available for renting and are quite popular in summer months. These are a base for exploring the park for its different trails. For nature lovers, what better place to enjoy the views, walk the trails and soak up the sun. A fairy-land atmosphere often compared with Aspen for its snow and natural charm.
As i left Boulder the following day with a heavy heart, deep inside i knew that i will be back here soon and probably to rent a cottage and spend a couple of days where nature is at its best.
20 Feb’ 2016