USA 2018 Part 1 – Fort Collins, Horsetooth Mountain and Fort Lupton

4 months after Emily left me in Plymouth to finish some studies in the US, I finally arrived in Colorado to meet her. It only took a 6 hour coach from Plymouth to London and then a 10 hour flight from Gatwick to Denver. No biggie! Especially considering it meant the start of our adventures in her home state before she moved with me back to the UK. A delay with immigration meant I was a little late to meet her, but there she was, sure enough, holding a sign she had painted. Happy that the arduous wait and long-distance relationship was over and once again amazed at how much love one person can give another, I went with her to Fort Collins.

Yes I kept the sign…

An hour or so after we left Denver International Airport we arrived in Fort Collins, where I was immediately taken to Big Al’s Burgers and Dogs. Starving after my flight (where I refused to buy the world’s most expensive microwave dinner) I experienced my first true American dining experience – a half and half burger (beef and bacon), buffalo fries and a malted chocolate shake. Delicious; everything I expected and more.

Downtown Fort Collins

After food we headed to the apartment, dropped off my bags and had a brief rest (I tried and failed to get over my jet lag) and set out for the New Belgium Brewery. Emily and I have shared a love of good beer across 5 countries in Europe and I had been promised as good an experience at one of Colorado’s most famous craft breweries. Unfortunately, it was too late to do a brewery tour (next time, Fort Collins!) but we did share two tasting boards of some of the nicest beers (wheats, pales and sours) I have ever had. After a couple more beers at another pub & microbrewery, Equinox, jet leg finally got the better of me and I had to call it a day.

First taste of breakfast food in the states – featuring awful jet-lag shadow photography

Waking up the following morning we headed out for breakfast at the incredibly chic Baker and Ginger, where I had my first taste of a breakfast burrito. One of the best breakfast foods ever. I think Emily might now have some competition for my number one American love! Fully fuelled for the day we headed to Horsetooth Mountain, which overlooks the city, for my first American hike. When most people think of Colorado they think of the Rockies, and I was excited to hike some of the best mountain trails in the world. So excited in fact that I went far too hard up Horsetooth to begin with, and the elevation gain winded me after we had completed about 60% of the trail.

At least catching your breath halfway up a mountain gives you views like this

Being at 21 feet above sea level in Plymouth 36 hours before and climbing a 2213 metre (7259 feet) mountain it was hardly surprising. It is nearly 3000 feet higher than Ben Nevis, the highest mountain and point of altitude in the UK after all. But I didn’t let it stop me, and with some cajoling by Emily I powered through the rest of the trail and finished the light scramble to the peak. The views at the summit, sat on the iconic horse teeth shaped rocks, over the reservoir and across the State were breath-taking. Sharing that moment with my beautiful girlfriend (and some chipmunks) is something I will never forget. Here I was, in Colorado, at the end of the favourite hike of my favourite person in the world. Life really doesn’t get much better.

On top of the world

After heading back down (funnily enough much easier!), we got groceries and beer for our coming road trip to the Grand Canyon. Next was the most important part of my visit to the States. Emily took me to Fort Lupton to her family home. After climbing a real mountain, I was tasked with the emotional mountain of meeting her family. And of course, to have brought up such a loving, funny and caring daughter, both her mum and dad were fantastic. I got to see the area and farmland that Emily grew up on, have grilled brats and hang out with the people most important to her. It was the perfect evening. Turning in early, with the first leg of our road trip looming (to Utah), I couldn’t have been happier.

Watch this space!

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Incredible view… please excuse the near death rattles