Oh Colorado, I would live in you like a kangaroo pup (is that a thing?) (did that sound sexual?). I still think I'd choose Montana over Colorado, but only for the seclusion & who knows how long I would last.... Colorado is just, I don't know. There's something about being able to drive 2 hours outside of a big city & wondering how the tiny restaurant in the middle of nowhere gets veggie deliveries. Also, I grew up around deer in Ohio - plenty of f*$king deer, & I've NEVER seen a herd of bucks just wandering around together. Like, how bro is that? Did I miss something (...is that normal)?
Back to Colorado - this trip I spent in Salida (apparently pronounced Sa-lie-duh...which makes no sense to me) & Buena Vista. I planned this trip around white water rafting, which is why I got to see this fantastic county. Honestly, I'd have never pointed at a map & been like, "SaLIEduh, you're the one for me." However, I found the perfect rafting outfitter in Buena Vista & I just couldn't resist - it was time to bring the pack, drink some....libations, & crush some Class V rapids.
1 | The Airport
In case this is your first time visiting my site, I love to start out my Keep It Local posts with my experience at the airport. Why? Because something annoying or interesting always happens at the airport. We caught a lunchtime flight out of OKC & it was smooth sailing, like normal, with Southwest (oh, except for that one time that their systems went down for an entire day...). Then we get to the Denver airport, wait way too long for our bags, ride the insanely long shuttle to the rental cars & then wait for a car because Avis ran out. Denver is the one airport I always seem to get trapped at. Whether it's the 1 hour TSA line or the crazy single-lane stairs from the train, I never budget enough time for this place. Seriously, if you take anything away from reading this today - 1 hour early is never early enough at DEN & if you have a rental car, you better be getting there 2+ hours early.
2 | Where To Stay
There was only one hotel-type property I considered staying in & it was the Surf Chateau in Buena Vista. Now, if you go there & it's horrible, I've never actually stayed there. My research presented it as a viable candidate for weekend residency, however there was a festival in town & they were booked solid. We had six people in our group (enough to fill a raft) & an AirBnB just seemed like a good option. That's when we found it, the house with the view.... If you have a group & you're looking to head to Chaffee County - this place will sleep a lot of people. I'm unsure of why it says it will only sleep 6 to be honest. Both couches are pull-outs, there are two bunk beds, four twin beds, two queens, & 2.5 baths. It's the perfect group getaway. It's 15 minutes from Salida & placed in the mountains. It sits on its own up on an embankment next to a (walkable) lake & beautiful creek. If you sleep with your windows open, you'll hear the creek babbling. It is truly a secluded gem. Plus, there is a ping-pong table. How do you beat views & ping-pong? I wanted to sit in the living room & write all day long in front of the plethora of picture windows. I didn't though - we had too much wine & too much cheese for me to be able to concentrate on writing 😉
Summer vaca? Bring your fishing pool & an adventurous attitude. Winter vaca? Bring your skis... & an adventurous attitude. Pretty much, just bring an adventurous attitude, it's Colorado!
3 | Where To Eat
Why is this usually the largest section of my articles? Because, food. All of the foods. To be fair, we didn't eat in Buena Vista because of the festival & general lack of energy post-rafting. We stayed about an hour from there & driving back seemed a little tedious when all we had was the weekend. So this section is fully based on Salida, which our rafting guide informed us is his favorite spot anyways. He preferred the more laid back vibe that Salida had to offer & to be honest, so did we (assumption...). Are you still with me? We are talking about food. If you're not with me, grab a glass of wine & then you'll be on my level. Go on, get up.
B R E A K F A S T
We ate our breakfasts at the house, lots of eggs, bacon & mimosas. However, The Patio Pancake Place looked like the place to go in Salida! Think breakfast, with a Mexican flare. If you're in Buena Vista I'd head over to the Buena Vista Roastery unless your craving a giant brunch. Go on, get your organic coffee fix!
Sorry I don't have a lot for this section! If you're like us & planning on fixing breakfast at your AirBnB, there is a Wal-Mart in Salida & a Simple Foods Market. The market is where I grabbed the goods for our cheese plate. They have a good selection of cheese (notice I said good, not large). They actually have a specific cheese I'm going on wild goose chases for in Oklahoma, Miyoko's Creamery - Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash *swoooooooon*. It's a nut cheese, but don't worry they have your typical dairy cheese too.
L U N C H & D I N N E R
I'm going to go ahead & combine the lunch & dinner section because Salida is small & pretty much anywhere you'd eat for lunch you'd eat for dinner. Our favorite stop was definitely The Fritz. They have small plates & big plates, but they are all delicious plates. We ordered a slew of small plates, which ended up being a little pricey, but it was fun to try a lot of different things on the menu. They had a great selection of hand-crafted drinks at decent prices. I was obsessed with the cucumber/jalapeno margarita, but I almost always muddle jalapeno in my marg's now-a-days. Tons of beer choices, but the guys pretty much only ordered Moose Drool & Miller... Dustin orders Miller everywhere though, it's disheartening in places like Colorado. He should probably contact Miller Light & see if they will sponsor him. They have a great, covered outdoor area (The Fritz, not Miller Lite)! Since our group was from 100F Texas & Oklahoma, we took every chance we could get to sit outside in the 70F temps.
I may have just lied about the favorite being The Fritz, now that I'm reminiscing I'm remembering Elevation Brewery & how full of glory our stop was. I'll talk more about this place below because it was less of a stop for food & more a stop for drinking. They host a food truck though, so if you're a lover of food trucks like we are - this is a great place. I forget which truck was there, but they had sandwiches & stuffed pretzels that were fabulous!
Another top pick for food was Currents (there website seems a little broken right now...), a steak & seafood joint. They have a great beer list & loads of wines. We didn't eat steak, but we did grub on some Calamari! Got a glass of stale wine, told the waitress & her manager had her pour a glass out of the exact same bottle...which was interesting. Besides that lovely encounter, I'd say this place is a solid stop!
One place we didn't go was the Amica's Pizza & Microbrewery. Every time we drove by, the place was packed & it has great reviews, so you may want to place this on your to-do list for future #weekendretreats in Salida.
4 | Where to Drink
Yup, "Where to Drink" is its' own category. Judge not (Dustin hates it when I say that). I mentioned The Fritz above for having awesome cocktails, but their food is probably the main attraction. Elevation Brewery though, I can't say enough. They have a wide range of beers, brewed on-site. One flight of beers to taste will have you feeling pretty darn good. Everyone had their own favorite, so I'm not going to sit here & tell you what you should try. Each beer has a great description so just choose what sounds good & enjoy. They have giant Jenga situated on a stage that I assume houses live music sometimes. I love that when there is no music, Jenga is chilling up there because then everyone gets to watch you fail miserably. For instance, our friend Bret probably only made it to his second piece before the thing tumbled on top of him. Don't miss this stop if you're in town, go enjoy the laid back atmosphere.
Wood's High Mountain Distillery is THE place in Salida for grabbing a drink. They distill & bottle their own spirits. They make Bloody Mary's you could substitute for dinner & they have a snack menu (with dessert nibbles). You can literally see the distillery in the back from any seat in the house. They open up the front so that you can people watch 'til your hearts content. There are couches if you want to forgo the a-typical bar vibe. Add all of the aforementioned together & you've got yourself a great evening with friends.
5 | What To Do
As I mentioned before, this trip was planned around white water rafting. I'll mention it a bit below, but once I get done editing some video, I'm going to write an article on that specifically. Besides rafting we spent most of our free-time at the house or in Salida. Remember, most of my posts are based off of #weekendretreats so time is of the essence. We went on this trip with friends from afar, so spending time with them trumped everything else.
W H I T E W A T E R R A F T I N G
We took this trip in August, which isn't a well known time for white water rafting in Colorado. Usually flow is low & rapids are running a few classes lower than labeled. <That's not always true, though. A lot of rafting outfits will tell you that they all run the same trips, which is a lie. There is one company (of maybe 2) that rafts a Class V portion of the river that others do not or may only do once or twice a year. If flows are low, you'll still get a better trip with these guys because the rapids are labeled as Class V to begin with. If you get a little rain, you're going to be booking it down the river. We rode with AVA on The Gauntlet trip & flow was between 850 & 900 CFS - they stop running this stretch of the river at 1000 CFS. Needless to say, we had the ride of our life on Pine Creek. We also had the best guide I've had the experience of rafting with & I'm no newb to the rafting scene. If you choose AVA, ask for Jared. I can't wait to share with you all of the fun we had, as well as all of the sh*t your pants moments. Stay tuned, I'll have that blog out soon.
S A L I D A S H O P P I N G
No small town in Colorado is a "typical" small town. It seems like every town I come across there has a historical presence that gives it, its' own charm. Salida is no exception. I've already told you about where to eat & drink, now lets talk about shopping. We made the mistake of coming in the afternoon & a lot of places close at 6 or 7 pm. Pull into town, grab a parking space & walk around. You could spend your entire day exploring this town on the river. There is no shortage in art or recreation. They actually have a brick wall covered in kayaks that makes for a superb photoshoot background (i.e. please see below...). I will not apologize for these photos, but you may have figured out by now - I think I'm pretty funny.... There's a little something for everyone here!
The only shop we really got to enjoy was YOLO because they were kind enough to keep their doors open for us so we could look around. Lots of eco-friendly goodies & clothing. We left with a brightly embroidered purse, a pair of socks & a bamboo shirt. Why? Because we know how to party.
B U E N A V I S T A
We sadly didn't get to explore Buena Vista much, but we did drive through it. We made a point to drive downtown & I was immediately trying to gain the stamina necessary to walk around because it looked fabulous. However, I couldn't do it. I also couldn't magically stop smelling like the river so a shower trumped exploration. There was live music in the streets & people everywhere. Granted there was a festival, I can't imagine its much different any other weekend. Similar to Salida, park your car & explore. There are plenty of walk-able areas in the historical little town.
H I K I N G & F I S H I N G
I don't even know what kind of direction to give you here. It's Colo-freakin-rado. You can drive in any direction & you'll run into a trail, lake, river, creek or stream. Come prepared & get outdoors. Take a look at the town's Chamber of Commerce pages to find specific trail maps or pre-planned recreational activities that involve the need of a guide. I guess I do have one suggestion, St. Elmo - Chaffee Counties' ghost town. The place is insanely well preserved & was founded in 1880. Plenty of hiking to be had here!
W H A T N O T T O D O
Go to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort. I mean, unless you want to just empty your wallet for some time in a packed, luke-warm, pool. Granted this is probably a bit of a better experience when the river is running low, it was not for us. The hot springs that are in the actual river area are freezing cold. One of the workers told us that we have to basically build a wall of rocks in the water & that if we did that we would get our money's worth. Well, we sent all three guys down to the water to build a wall of rocks. They stacked rocks forEVER & it didn't make a difference. The cold water was still finding its way through the cracks & crevices due to high flow. Oh, & they make you rent towels & lockers, this is not included. OH, & when you get fed up & say something to them, they let you know that they have another area with hot tubs that we can get into for $13 more per person (that includes lockers & towels, but they will not refund you for the ones you already purchased). Well, we already paid $22 a piece for entrance & $3 a piece for towels & whatever the lockers cost. We spent about an hour here & I personally regretted ever suggesting it.