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Colorado Road Trip: Just A Little Bit Boulder (Pt. 1)

In the center of downtown Boulder Colorado's East End.
Boulder Colorado, perched roughly one hour (depending on traffic) northwest of the Denver city limits, wears several faces. One face is a sweaty one: the city has over the years become a top residence and training destination for pro triathletes and other elite endurance athletes. In general, the Boulder population is highly geared toward outdoor activities, not surprising in an area where mountains, rivers, hiking trails, and roads friendly to bicycle traffic abound.

Another face is the academic type: many of the pedestrians we saw on the street the day of our visit were students, most of whom are associated with the Boulder-based University of Colorado. In a city of approximately 100,000 people, the roughly 45,000 students who attend this state university have a big effect on the goings-on around town.

Lastly is Boulder's political face: this city is one of the more liberally minded populaces in the state, with the more exclusive parts of the town reminding me a bit of Marin County in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their moniker as "The People's Republic of Boulder", and all the pros and cons that this entails, reminds me a lot of how the city of Berkeley is perceived.

On the day we visited, these and any of Boulder's other faces seemed just in perfect working order, a lot this of attributable to the gorgeous weather. All manner of people were out to walk, bike and run through and outside of town, often accompanied by their pets or their toddlers in tow. Students were also evident everywhere, but their thoughts seemed more focused on the weekend ahead rather then upcoming academic challenges. Even the bicyclists putting in some hard miles seemed to have smiles on their faces, as if that it was a mandate from the city for the day.

The tiny dip we took into this town's charms this day proved to be a perfect way to while away a Friday.

Just a few of the sights you'll see along Boulder's main strip
Pearl Street: Boulder's main downtown district is anchored by Pearl Street, and, perhaps not surprisingly, has a West End and East End. This street bears some resemblance to High Street through Columbus' Short North neighborhood in that it has a host of eateries, art galleries and plenty of shopping opportunities. Like the Short North, the area acts as a destination for locals and visitors alike through numerous events; however, the mountain setting really distinguishes these two respective destination areas, from the surrounding mountains themselves to the various wilderness-related public art works and play areas for the kids.

One's attraction to stay long hours in the area will be tied to how much of a shopping fiend you are (at the time of this post, the Downtown Boulder website listed around 170 places to shop); my spouse are not much as much into this aspect as others, but we did find a couple stores that drew our attention.

Into The Wind, operating for over thirty years, offers a cornucopia of the most colorful wind-riding kites you can imagine. The interior is lined with these wind-riding constructs overhead, offering a multi-hued tapestry as you walk through their space. They also have a neat collection of toys, similar to the offerings you'd find at German Village's The Book Loft and the Short North's Big Fun.

Meanwhile, Zuni offers up some really beautiful Native American art, fetishes and other crafts mainly from the southwestern portion of the United States, within their quaint store at what seem to be fair prices. My spouse, who has a small stock of native arts and crafts, picked up a pretty little basket to add to her collection.

Into The Wind
1408 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302
(800) 541-0314
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1424 Pearl St.
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 443-9575

Boulder offers numerous hiking and walking trails both in and outside
of town, including the North Foothills Trail and Boulder Creek Path
North Foothills Trail/Boulder Creek Path: We love going out for hiking during our excursions, but we unfortunately forgot our more rugged hiking shoes and walking sticks. Thus, some of the more challenging trails around the area were out of the question. However, Boulder offers enough trails to allow even the regular couch potato to burn off a few calories and/or grab a view of the mountains.

The North Foothills Trail, located on the northern outskirts of North Boulder, isn't that terribly long in distance (a trail that traverses higher up into the foothills is available for those looking for a longer excursion) but actually offers a bit more of a rocky pathway than its "easy" rating suggests. Other than the crest line of the nearby foothills, the trail gives the hiker a view back down toward Boulder itself against on what was this day a clear blue sky. It also shows clearly where civilization has bumped squarely up against nature; right next to the houses are fields full of prairie dogs. Some of thee critters looked to be quite wary of our presence and sending off alarm chirps; however,  many seemed idly curious as we hiked by, as if they were saying, "Oh, it's another human again. Whatever..."

The Boulder Creek Path, on the other hand, plays the same role as does the Olentangy Trail in Columbus. Just south of the downtown area, this paved path provides an easy way for walkers and bikers to get across Boulder east to west and passes by the elegantly constructed Boulder Library as well as the University of Colorado campus. Numerous places to hold a picnic or setup a pickup football game abound; artwork and information about the creek can be found scattered along its length as well. The creek itself is accessible in numerous places and, on this fairly warm day, quite a few people took the opportunity to dip their feet into its cold flowing waters.

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