An Unexpected Colorado Mountain Escape

Soo….August, not such a good month in my little blogging world.  The balance of my life tilted more toward work and less toward, well, anything else.  September promises to be better, so I’ll kick things off with my discovery of a lovely little retreat in a little corner of the Colorado mountains.

I grew up in Southern California, and while I’ve lived a lot of interesting places – Bath (England), Boston, and San Francisco – I’ve never felt at home away from the sunny beaches and majestic palm trees of my youth.  That is, until I moved to Denver, Colorado for medical school.  I fell in love with the beautiful mountains and ubiquitous parks, the outdoorsy spirit of Coloradans, and the relentless sunshine that lightens the heart even in the middle of winters mild enough for my frail Southern California constitution.  It was also in Colorado where I fell in love with the man who became my husband and his wonderful, welcoming family.  Colorado now feels as much my home as SoCal, and while I’m happy to be back in Southern California for residency, I look forward to every opportunity to return to my second home.

The most recent opportunity came in the form of the best of celebrations, a wedding!  Brian’s cousin was getting married in Granby, Colorado, and we looked forward to the trip with alacrity.  We merrily made our travel plans for the last flight out on a Thursday night, thinking, what could possibly go wrong?  This is how we came to find ourselves at 3am the morning of the wedding at the Advantage Rental Car agency at Denver International Airport- after a full day of work, a 3 hour trek to LAX in rush hour traffic, a 2 hour flight delay (because LAX, alas, is the antithesis of “efficient”), and a 2 hour flight to Denver through turbulence – facing our vehicle for the next 2 days:

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The Tank. (Photo taken hours later – the full scale was difficult to appreciate in the dark).

 I raised an eyebrow at Brian.  He gaped back at me in exhausted consternation.  “I swear, I ordered a Camry!” he exclaimed.  Well, obnoxiously large as it was for the two of us and our 2 carry-on bags, The Tank was at least spacious – and we came to appreciate it.  Regardless, it was 4am before we finally crawled wearily into bed, waking up 4 hours later to drive the 85 miles from Denver to Granby.  Needless to say, not the most graceful way to start the weekend.

Anyway.  Granby is a tiny rural mountain town just past the ski resort Winter Park on US-40.  It’s a beautiful drive through the Arapahoe National Forest along the windy roads over Berthoud Pass.  It would likely be a great place to flee in order to wait out the Apocalypse, but at first glance Granby doesn’t exactly scream “vacation destination.” In terms of lodging options, there aren’t many.  Most places are vacation rentals primarily utilized during ski season, requiring a 2 night stay in order to book.  Unwilling to pay for a night we wouldn’t be present to inhabit, I went on my trusty Airbnb account and booked a room at a bed and breakfast called Aspen Hollow.  The reviews on Airbnb were very good, and Marilyn and Tommy looked to be a jolly couple from their photo.  However, as we drove off the paved road and onto a gravel path with signs stating “caution, cattle may be on road,” I started to get a little nervous.  We seemed to be driving off into the wilderness along a lonely road away from civilization…which was confirmed for me when my cell and internet connections abruptly died.  Undaunted, we drove on, and I was suddenly grateful for the perceived security of The Tank.

We stumbled upon Aspen Hollow almost by accident.  There is a gate barring the road onto the property in order to keep cows off of their land.  We opened and closed the gate and drove up the driveway, which opened onto a beautiful house overlooking Frasier Valley. The door opened and Marilyn, a perky little white-haired woman with the sweetest smile you ever saw, greeted us in a strong Southern accent, welcoming us into their home.

We entered into the Great Room and my jaw dropped.  It was gorgeous.  The high ceiling soared gracefully overhead, adding drama to the first impression of the room.  One wall was floor to ceiling windows looking out over the valley.  Deep, rich wood gleamed everywhere.  Plush sofas faced a striking fireplace and the most beautiful table I have ever seen.  Made of an inverted stump of a 4000 year old pine, tiers of glass floated on the polished roots with 2 eagle heads carved into them.

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Furniture as Art.

Clever, tasteful details of décor added to the luxury of the surroundings.  It was the sort of room begging for a roaring fire and a bottle of wine with lively conversation while lounging on the couches with friends.

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Aspen Hollow great room. The picture really doesn’t do it justice.

We were shown into our room on the main floor which opened with a numerical punch code – no keys to keep track of here!  The room was large, luxurious, and beautifully decorated in turquoise and copper accents.  A king bed stood in the center with a huge closet and an en suite bathroom tiled in stone.  Downstairs was a common room with a big screen TV, more plush, comfy couches, a small workout area, a Jacuzzi, a pool table, and a kitchenette with a refrigerator stocked with soda and beer.  Going back upstairs, we walked out onto the deck with that spectacular view.  It would be a lovely place to sip coffee on a crisp morning or a glass of wine on a warm evening.

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The deck overlooking Frasier Valley.

Marilyn and Tommy built the place themselves, and it is obvious to see that a lot of love and pride have gone into their home.  The place boasts 6 guest rooms and an attached 3 bed, 2 bath condo with a full kitchen and a separate entrance.  It’s just spectacular!  Marilyn was beyond attentive to our every need.  Anything we asked for she produced instantly.  The hospitality was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

We hurried to get ready for the wedding, which was a lovely event.  The ceremony took place at the top of a mountain on Granby Ranch – we took the chairlift to the top!  The backdrop for Drew and Tyler’s ceremony was breath-taking, and we managed to get a few photos of our own taken prior to the start.  It was easy to see why they chose to hold their wedding in Granby!  We rode the chairlift back down to the event center at the bottom for the reception, which included drinks and delicious food and dancing – and the painful realization that I am terrible at the game of Corn Hole.

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The summit, and the backdrop for the ceremony – just gorgeous.

Tired from our travels, we retired early and made our way back to Aspen Hollow.  Marilyn and Tommy were waiting up for us, and we spent some time chatting in that beautiful great room before turning in.  We awoke in the morning to the aroma of fresh coffee and a gentle stream of peaceful, quiet music beyond our door.  We went out to breakfast with the other guests of the B&B.  I swear, Marilyn and Tommy brewed the best coffee I have ever had.  Marilyn thinks it’s the quality of the water, as she assured me the coffee itself is nothing fancy.  She served dainty fruit cups with a side of a caramel yogurt sauce that was delicious drizzled over the fruit.  This was followed by berry muffins, southwestern frittatas with homemade salsa, and melon.  And of course, fresh orange juice and more coffee!  Marilyn’s cooking was delicious, the food plentiful.  I enjoyed getting to know the other guests, as well as our hosts, who chatted with us as they passed around more food and filled our juice and water glasses.  I was actually a little sad when breakfast ended and it was time to pack up our things and head back to Denver.

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View from the deck in the morning sun.

Aspen Hollow is the perfect mountain retreat for those who want to unplug and unwind while still being surrounded by comfort and beauty.  Initially, I thought Granby would not be my choice for a vacation destination; however, I can see myself returning to Aspen Hollow in the future for a longer stay.  There looks to be excellent hiking right outside their door, and I would love to spend some time on their deck, reading or writing or just taking in the view.  Of course, there are also other things to do in Granby – there’s a golf course down the road and some pretty intense-looking mountain biking trails on Granby ranch.  And then, of course, there is winter time.  In addition to downhill skiing, Granby would be a great place for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.  It’s worth a trip, and I highly recommend staying at Aspen Hollow.  Just be sure to tell Marilyn and Tommy I say hello!