After a few days of nothing but drinking and eating to excess on buffet’s and giant burgers, we all needed to get a bit of exercise and fresh air, and what better place to get it than the rocky mountains? We woke up to a lovely breakfast with Mark’s Mum and her partner to fuel the day’s events: hiking some of the trails on Mt Evans. By mid-morning we had water, trailmix and jumpers packed and were making the forty minute drive to the mountain.
Even though summer was quickly approaching, many of the mountains in the area remained capped with snow which could be seen long before we arrived at the ranger station. Standing next to the ranger station was a board describing the conditions at the top: 30°F with 6°F wind chill. That’s 1°C with -14°C wind chill, those unexpected temperatures threw out any plans of hiking near the top and instead we decided to go to the summit to check out the view, and then hike a bit closer to the base, where temperatures were slightly more hospitable.
The views were, in a word, stunning. I hadn’t seen snow since I went snowboarding in Niseko, Japan in 2007 and definitely wasn’t expecting to see any during this trip. In fact I kind of liked the idea of skipping a winter as I crossed hemispheres and continents, but here it was, the wondrous white whiteness and I was loving it. The only problem was that we weren’t exactly geared for the cold. I was wearing boardshorts whilst layered up skiiers took to what was left of the snow before it all melted away. Only a slight oversight. Nevertheless, we got to enjoy the views of snowy peaks in every direction for a while and of course, plank, before returning to a lake and trails down below.
We spent an hour or so on one of the trails which was again, beautiful. There were only small patches of snow left amongst the endless pine trees that we followed to a creek that was running down the mountain. Pat and I were talking for a few minutes as we started walking the trail and had to stop almost immediately because it was getting harder to breathe. I’m not sure if the altitude was higher than Kinabalu, but casually walking the trails on Mt Evans made me feel hopelessly unfit for at least fifteen minutes until my body slightly adjusted and we descended down the mountain further.
As we made it back to the cars we decided to go to a famous burger place in town called ‘Doug’s Cherry Cricket’ to continue on with the burger tour. At least we earned this one. The motto at Doug’s is that if they have it in the kitchen, they can put on your burger. That’s if the fifteen or so toppings already on the menu aren’t enough to whet your appetite. I went for a half pound patty with herbed cream cheese, roast capsicum, lettuce and tomato which I can safely say was the most delicious burger of my life. I just wish I had a photo of it. Over the course of dinner I was asked about about Australian food and what it is like. I’ve been asked this a few times this year and I still struggle with providing a decent answer. All I could think of was sausage rolls, meat pies – which are essentially a take on the ‘beef pot pie’, lamingtons, yo-yo’s and ANZACs. If I’m missing something, which I hope I am, please let me know in the comments.
Once we had returned back to the house, Nate arrived back from his cousin’s with some beer and a plan for the night. We started out at another one of Nate’s cousin’s houses where we discovered that Nate has no less than 1000 cousins, two of which were living in a beautiful old colonial house with a rocket scientist and were making up their own gourmet burgers for dinner when we arrived. We sat out the back around the firepit, listening to music echoing out of the nearby over 30’s African American bar before setting out with Dash, to a house warming party for one of Nate’s friends downtown.
The party was a great time and I even got to play my first American drinking game – flip cup. Flip cup is a team game where the two teams line up along either side of a table/bench so that each player is facing off with someone from the other team. Starting from one end, the first two opposing players must drink their drink, return the cup to the edge of the table and then try and flip it upside down. Once they do so, the next person can drink and repeat the process. The first team to finish wins. Shortly after I had finished my seventh can of beer I began to wonder why I was barely feeling tipsy when we realized that we were drinking 3.2%. Nate had unknowingly bought 3.2% because of state-to-state liquor licensing that in Colorado meant that beer sold in supermarkets cannot be heavier than 3.2%. With this new found piece of information, we quickly switched to liquor (spirits) until it was time to leave for the bars.
Just as what happened in San Diego, as soon as we got to the bars we somehow all split up for a few hours. Pat and I ended up talking to some people in a quieter area of the bar where two girls walked by, one of which pointed to me and (tried to) whisper to her friend “I think that’s the guy that gave my friend chlamydia.” I wasn’t fast enough to come up with a funny retort, but for the record – I don’t have chlamydia. I also got to see my first ever bar fight which should have been exciting, however was a little bit of a let down as all that happened was a lot of pushing resulting in a torn shirt and a lot of spilled beer.
Not long before bar close we all managed to meet up again and within about 10 minutes had a circle around us where we convinced at least 15 people to plank the barrels/tables in the beer garden. The planking continued as the bar closed and everyone piled into the streets and in search of food, with news stands, dumpsters, fences and even cars getting planked before we made it back to Dash’s house to sleep for the night.