Posted by: bree1972 | January 22, 2012

Rocky Mountain High – Part I – Ft. Collins, CO

“The whole family should move out here, mom – you and Ted, Jason and Blair, Matt and Julie and the kids.”

Blake has said that several times in the almost-year he’s lived in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and he said it at least a dozen more times while we were visiting.  Now that I’ve seen the self-named “biggest small city” or “smallest big city” in the state, I can easily see why he keeps suggesting it.  Ft. Collins is a gem of a place to live – much larger than I had pictured with information researched on Google.  It spreads out across a flat plain just east of the Rocky Mountains Front Range foothills and welcomes you in with state-of-the-art conveniences mixed with old-time Western flair.  Ted and I both loved it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  First . . . . we had to get there.

Whenever we fly – which isn’t often anymore – I always do our booking on-line.  After searching all the “cheap flight” web sites, I finally chose to go directly through Delta because 1) it’s the only airline that serves Albany, GA, and 2) we wanted to leave from Albany – if the price was right.  This time it was.  For only $79 more dollars, we could take the 50-minute flight to Atlanta from Albany and save a three-hour drive, the hassle of Atlanta traffic and parking, and the craziness of security at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.  Well worth the $79!

Only two little concerns.  Concern #1:  We had to get up at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning so we could leave the house at 4:30 and get to Albany by 5:30 – an hour before our 6:40 flight to Atlanta.  Concern #2:  We only had a 40-minute layover in Atlanta to catch our connecting flight to Denver at 8:10.  If we were lucky, when we deplaned in Atlanta, our outgoing flight to Denver would be from the same concourse.  They were both Delta flights – so wouldn’t that make sense to you?  Really?  It didn’t to Delta either.

Our 6:40 flight out of Albany left at 7 a.m.  We met some friendly folks on board from a neighboring county who were going to Denver on the same flight we were.  We talked about what a short time we would have to catch our flight, and everyone crossed fingers, hoping for very little space to cover after we landed.  Finger crossing didn’t work.  When we landed it was 7:50 – 20 minutes before our next flight, and a quick look at the monitors informed us we were four concourses from the Denver departure.

We took off at an all-out sprint through the Atlanta airport.  Down the escalator to the trains, jump on board, wait through three stops at other concourses, exit at the right concourse, sprint up the escalator.  Would we be lucky and have a gate at the top of the escalator?  Oh no – it was 12 gates down the concourse.  Our new friends from the plane arrived enough ahead of us to alert the attendant that the two senior citizens were on the way.  Ted, bless his heart, was carrying both his and my carry-ons, while I just had my purse and our coats.  We skidded up to the gate – with hearts pounding and lungs heaving – at 8:09.  The eight folks waiting on standby moaned in unison – with our arrival, the flight was officially full.

Less than three hours later, and through the miracle of crossing two time zones, we arrived in Denver at 9:30 a.m.  Blake was at baggage claim waiting on us, and – I could not believe it – my checked bag made it to Denver on the same flight!

And so began our trip.

It's amazing to drive north out of Denver and see the snow-capped Rocky Mountains ahead.

After the hour drive to Ft. Collins, we dropped our luggage at Blake’s condo and went downtown for lunch.  Ft. Collins is a bustling college town (Colorado State University), and the downtown area is a mix of restaurants, shops, and outdoor malls.  Officially called Old Town, this was the historical beginning of the town, and the early 20th century architecture has been preserved.

We ate lunch at Coopersmith’s Pub & Brewing.  We could have also eaten two doors down at CooperSmith’s Poolside.  No, there wasn’t a swimming pool – just 12 tournament-sized billiards tables.  Also available were ping pong, darts, high-def TV, shuffleboard, and a digital jukebox.  Really neat place!

Old Town is just fabulous. Very family-friendly with lots of outdoor sitting areas at the restaurants (if the weather had been warmer). Although the trees were leafless, every single branch is filled with white lights, and being in Old Town after dark is magical.

In 2010 Money Magazine named the town #6  on its list of America’s Best Small Cities.  With a population of around 140,000, the recession seems to have skipped Ft. Collins.  Colorado State University employs over 7,000 people, and the second largest employer is Hewlett-Packard, which announced worldwide layoffs in June of 2010 but added employees at its Ft. Collins location.

There are bike paths and trails everywhere - both in and outside of downtown - over 29 miles of them in all. Cycling is so popular that - right in the middle of Old Town - there is a Bike Library, where bikes of all descriptions can be "checked out" - just like library books.

Ice skates can also be checked out at the Bike Library. And once you've got the skates on . . . . .

. . . you step through the gate onto the Old Town ice rink! No - we didn't skate.

Sculptures are everywhere downtown and across the city. They range from whimsical dancers to Old West depictions of pioneers crossing the mountains and cowboys riding the range.

By afternoon, Ted and I were fading fast.  The two-hour time difference and the early morning awakening led to a little power nap back at the condo where we met Blake’s roommate, Tim.  That night was the huge (in Colorado) playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots.  We watched it with a group of Blake’s friends and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.  Great food, great fun.  Unfortunately, the Broncos lost.

Amazing colors at sunset as we left to watch the Broncos game.

We attended church with Blake on Sunday morning, then headed back downtown for lunch.

You know my love for independent bookstores, and we discovered a great one as we wandered around after lunch.

As I browsed the shelves, I heard Ted call me from an aisle away . . . .

. . . . and there, sitting together on a top shelf, were the latest books from two of our favorite Michigan authors - William Kent Krueger and Steve Hamilton. How cool!

We spent Sunday afternoon exploring the Horsetooth Reservoir, a large man-made lake and recreation area, constructed in 1949 and nestled in the foothills above Ft. Collins.

Located at an elevation of 5,430 feet and with a shoreline of 25 miles, the reservoir provides a myriad of recreation opportunities to area residents. Its name comes from Horsetooth Mountain, a summit in the foothills west of the reservoir.

You wouldn't believe how many cyclists we passed - bikers who had started in town, ridden several miles out to this road, then biked up to the summit. Made me tired just watching them!

I can rarely catch Ted actually laughing in a photo (believe me, I've tried). But here he is - so busy laughing at me fussing at him about tickling my neck that Blake caught him in a big grin). Love it!

Horsetooth Reservoir serves as a supplementary source of water for Ft. Collins and other communities in the area. It offers boating, swimming, water-skiing, camping, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and "bouldering" (climbing the hard Dakota limestone). I want to go back in the summer and see all this when it's green.

Blake and Ted look down at Ft. Collins in the valley below.

When we returned to town, we ate dinner out then went back to the condo.  Weather reports were scary for the next day.  Where we’d be traveling to the Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, CO, snow and blowing snow was forecast, with icy road conditions.  We decided to leave at 7 a.m. the next morning to try and get ahead of the storm.

On Friday:  Cathedral mountains and silver clouds.  Here’s a little preview.



  1. The mountains are gorgeous! That is some place that I would love to see in the summer time too. It sounds wonderful. LOVE the picture of you and Ted, the smiles on your faces is priceless even if it was because Ted was tickling you. Can’t wait to hear more. 🙂

  2. Another beautiful place in our beautiful country! I’m noticing a pattern here: visit something, eat, visit someplace, eat. 😀
    Sure missed you! I knew you were having a good time, and didn’t begrudge a minute of it, but still, missed hearing from you! Welcome home!

  3. There is so many beautiful places out there and “Thank You” Brenda for sharing another one of them with us. I just love the pictures. Those and the ones you have from Mackinac and ones from Lake Blackshear, you should make a calendar.

  4. Such a pretty town! Like Hilde, I’d love to see it in person-winter or summer! Kind of reminds me of Madison, WI but with mountains! Looking forward to to Part II!

  5. Glad your trip was a safe one. Beautiful photos as usual.So glad you are having a wonderful time with family!

  6. Charlie is already excited about the new (Michigan) books he will get to read this summer. Makes me want to move to the Rockies until I remember that I get tired of snow after 10 minutes.

  7. Okay, Brenda. I’m beginning to envy you for the beautiful places you get to visit. What a beautiful place! Thanks for sharing. Also, I plan to read the books.

  8. Looks like a wonderful place! Such pretty scenery too.

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