I'm not much of a nature photographer. Landscapes... escape me. When I travel, I am often gigging for portraits and headshots, and therefore try to minimize the additional time I'm schlepping around 5 lbs of camera body and lens hanging off my side.
I remember visiting my aunt in Durango twice in my teens. The downtown area is one of the more interesting I've seen - speakeasies and niche shops, smells of incense and food convincing me I could stay in Colorado forever.
Denver was on the travel list for obvious reasons. Although I had a delayed layover at DEN last year (and found a really amazing hummus plate and IPA to get me through it), I needed to explore beyond the walls of an airport. Last week, I did just that!
Denver to Boulder
I joke that I left the Chicago-area because of snow. It's not totally wrong. The last winter I endured there was that year of polar vortex nonsense inviting temperatures dropping to -50 with windchill. Never again.
Snow is a different thing when it's on a trail and not your commute. When it's soft and powdery and not dirty, icy sludge. It also makes for a great natural diffuser for photos. My friend Patrick and I hiked Chautauqua trail near Boulder, where a majority of these photos are from, and Mount Sanitas via the Centennial Trailhead.
The altitude definitely had its effect - I don't know how you Colorado natives drink enough water or own enough Chapstick to manage the arid conditions. Seattle sits around 187', whereas our adventures took us as high as 10,000'. That's the altitude at which your flight crew tells you it's ok to move about the cabin, for reference.
Hot and Cold
One of the first things I said I must do when I arrived in Denver was visit the hot springs. If you haven't been, do something about that. Hot springs are a naturally occurring source of hot, mineral-rich water that is beyond perfect for relaxation. My only complaint is the smell of sulfur, and the fact that it stripped the pink out of my hair. Seriously, I had pink hair dyed just days before!
Iron Mountain Hot Springs' pools process 400 gallons of water per minute. Coming straight from the mountains, this water is full of iron, sulfate, chloride, sodium and calcium and averages 105-108 degrees in temperature. I've alleviated persistent back problems over the years with deep-tissue massages and yoga, and I had a hot stone massage in Hawaii last summer, but nothing comes close to how fully-relaxed I was after a few hours in those waters.
I joked that I wanted to experience it snowing while we warmed up in the hot springs and, sure enough, it happened. It was a truly bizarre experience, watching snow fall and steam rise. The feeling was much like regulating body temperature when you sleep - one foot out of the covers, bundled-up but with a fan going.
The other thing I love about Colorado is the thriving Vegan community there. It is much easier in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Portland (and even Las Vegas!) to find a variety of vegan restaurants and Denver/Boulder was no exception.
Here are just a few of the amazing dishes I had on this trip, with a shoutout to City, O' City for my overall favorite spot that we visited late at night and only garnered super dark photos. Go there! It's a bar, a coffee shop, and a restaurant all in one. I'd never leave it if lived nearby.
My Tour Guides
I have to give a huge shout-out to my friend Patrick (and his baby, Finnegan) for hosting me and taking me on all these adventures. As you can see, they both got their headshots done. ;)
RiNo District Art
Dylan is a Seattle-based portrait photographer passionate about social justice, the male form, and finding the right time each day to switch from iced coffee to whiskey. He's on Instagram @dylanmaustin.