Pack your bags and stuff loads of Oxygen in it, as I am taking you from 1500 FT elevation (Phoenix) to 8 times higher into a small city of Breckenridge, Colorado. This town though known as a ski destination oozes with charm even in its slow season which is the month of October.
My hubby and I drove from Phoenix to Breckenridge with our munchkins in the back seat. The drive to the destination was supposed to be 11.5 hours but with million breaks and a big traffic jam of over 2 hours, I was glad that we ultimately made it to our destination. I was psyched up to experience fall in Breck, and my mind was full of beautiful FALL colors accompanied by cool weather. And let me tell you, I was not least bit disappointed!
Indeed I saw FALL, so what if it came down from the sky as a snow-FALL! Yes, we were welcomed by flurries of snow in OCTOBER! The Aspens still had some color but many were bare, but it was a beauty unsurpassed!
Our hotel was right on the market street- bustling with energy, and lined up with cute mom and pop shops and restaurants boasting several different cuisines. There were free trolleys to take us around this area, which was a great perk as finding a good parking spot was a treasure hunt that we didn’t enjoy.
Another peculiar aspect that caught my eye was the presence of O2 bar and IV clinics that help people acclimatize to high elevation. Apparently, the air is thinner at higher elevation thus causing altitude sickness in some people. I experienced this phenomenon too and bought a compressed O2 can from a gas station. Every time I felt my heart racing, I would inhale O2 to get the calm back.
PLACES WE VISITED
Our first stop was Frisco Historic Park and Museum. The town of Frisco is just few miles away from Breckenridge, and is worth spending time in.
This museum has original structures, ranch homes, mining cabins, and even a jail. Kids had a blast exploring the historic structures in the excitement of getting stamps on the passport book (which you can pick from visitor’s center.) And all of this beautiful experience is free of cost!
As it started snowing the next day and then the following couple of days, we decided to do some indoor activities. We chose the Country Boy Mine tour. My kids enjoyed the rocks and gemstones collection in their shop. The mine tour was inside a tunnel and was informative. We learned about the grim situation that miners worked in with a stream of water continuously flowing through their feet. They worked in the pitch darkness of the tunnel, with a candle that ate away the limited oxygen inside. The miners kept mice in their pocket as an oxygen gauge. The working of mice gauge was simple as long as the mice frolicked around the miners, the conditions in the tunnel were favorable.
After absorbing all the information, we went for gold panning. This part held the most excitement for my son who thought he’ll be super rich after panning the gold. But the entire process was arduous with no gold luck. So disappointment took over until kids discovered a chute that took them down to the parking lot. Well between the choice of becoming rich and having fun, FUN wins.
Another indoor activity we chose to do was an Escape Room. We opted to NOT book the entire room and were open to being clubbed with other participants. But soon we realized we were on our own. We had 60 minutes to solve the clues and deactivate the bomb and get out of the room. Even though I kept telling my kid that this is a game, and everything is fake. He was super nervous about the bomb going off. After help from the guide, we were finally able to solve the mystery. But it took us probably around 80 minutes to crack it! But readers, to our credit, it was our first Escape room experience and we were with 2 kids. I think we did REALLY well! And most important of all we had fun. And like I said before FUN always wins.
Remaining time of the snow, we spent sipping hot chocolate next to the fireplace and watching movies in the hotel’s media room which we reserved for our very own movie theater experience.
On a clear days, we did some sightseeing. We went to Cucumber Gulch Wildlife Preserve.
We were rewarded with MOOSE TRACKS on the snow, but no luck finding the moose anywhere.
We drove to the Boreas Pass Road, which was an exhilarating experience with snow all over and loopy roads. The scenic views and mountain crisp air made the drive worth it. We did not hike but spent some time admiring the Bakers Tank, used to supply water to the train engines in olden times, and of course more snow play.The views were picturesque. The white snow-topped trees reminded me of whipped cream, and the mountains that of Oreo cookies. My imagination was a clue that I was famished.
We went to Loveland Pass which is on higher elevation. The road had hairpin loops and snow everywhere as we went up and up. As my hubby was driving while I was motivating him by my ‘Ooohs’, and ‘Ahs’ and ‘please be careful’ comments. Well, we safely made it past one of the highest roads in the US, and credit goes to my motivational speech. (Some may call it nagging but technically it is a pure motivational speech from a wife that helped us all reach to the top of the mountain!
Loveland pass was a snow utopia with splendid white views all around. This pass is a must do if you are around this area. The temperature was about 22F, with knee-deep snow on the viewpoint. And I continued giving a motivational speech, but this time to my kids-‘STOP!’ ‘DON’T GO THERE!’ I was freaked out!!!! Again, we did not hike but soaked in the panoramic views all around.
We drove through the Eisenhower-tunnel, a construction marvel at 11,555 feet above sea level, the highest vehicular tunnel in the US. It is a 1.6-mile miracle on highway I-70. Some interesting facts about this tunnel can be found on this link- https://www.mountainshuttle.com/blog/40-facts-eisenhower-tunnel/
Because of the great reviews online, we decided to do the Georgetown Loop railroad. We did not find it spectacular. Driving around we saw better views than seated in the train. But on a brighter note, we saw some deers in this small town of Georgetown,
and also saved some moolah by getting a discount from the visitor center and choosing not to book the tour via the tour guide company. Unless you are big railroad fanatic, this attraction is not a must-do in my list.
We also did a short 0.6-mile hike at Saphire point overlook. Kids loved the hike, though the highlight were the chipmunks who were human-friendly and ate seeds right off their hands. We got some gorgeous views of the Dillon Reservoir, and of course, played some more in the snow.
DINING and SHOPPING
We tried a variety of cuisines-Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, Thai, besides getting our hands on donuts and ice-creams. We’d bought a $10 dining Passport that gave us discounts/special offers at many restaurants. And it was worth it!
Food was delicious at most places, but one restaurant – Mi Casa requires a special mention because of the splendid window view we got-
We indulged in serious market street shopping to buy souvenirs for friends and family. I enjoyed peeking into the shops as each of them had something different to offer. The picture of our shopping experience would be incomplete without mentioning that we were constantly surrounded by the drama of two kids who were more enthusiastic to return to the hotel and play video games, rather than tag along with us for shopping.
We had some minor disappointments during this trip. We found out that the Gondolas, Ski lifts, and the Adventure Park remain shut off in October. So make sure you find out about their timing if this is something that would interest you.
Most of the mountain driving would require a 4×4 vehicle, and the roads sign mention it.
Always visit the visitor center and ask for discounts on things you plan to do. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the savings.
If high elevation makes you sick, don’t fear using the portable O2 can.
THE DRIVE BACK
On our way back from Breck, we stopped at Hoosier Pass-Continental Divide on CO-9, another great photo opportunity.
COOL FACT: The Continental Divide in the Americas is the line that divides the flow of water between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Precipitation on the east side of the Continental Divide flows toward the Atlantic Ocean, and that on the west side drains and flows toward the Pacific Ocean.
As we drove to lower elevations, the path became even more breathtaking.
Throughout the drive, my heart was brimming with the mesmerizing beauty of nature. The gold and copper colored trees lining the roads, and covering the mountains were beckoning, and we plan to visit this mecca of natural beauty again.
Good Bye Breck!