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FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2007
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Clear Creek spreads out in Georgetown, Colo., to form this lake. Fisherman frequent the spot, and it is also popular for viewing other wildlife, such as mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
Daily photo by Amy Pollick
Clear Creek spreads out in Georgetown, Colo., to form this lake. Fisherman frequent the spot, and it is also popular for viewing other wildlife, such as mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

TRAVEL TRIP
COLORADO
One mile high and loving it

By Amy Pollick
apollick@decaturdaily.com · 340-2443

Rain pounded on the shuttle bus roof as my sister and I grabbed our luggage and made a run for the car rental office in Denver, Colo. By the time I finished the paperwork, the shower was over and the sun was shining. Outside, a stiff breeze was blowing and the air was blissfully mild. Welcome to the Mile High City.

Denver is a spread-out city. It took more than an hour in heavy traffic to drive the 30 or so miles from the airport to the south side of town. Even so, the cooler air (while Decatur was sweltering in 100-degree temps) made us feel better about the world in general.

Friday night found us wandering around lower downtown, or LoDo, as the locals call it. Denver has an active nightlife and dozens of clubs and restaurants within a few blocks of each other. However LoDo, and indeed all of Denver, is pedestrian-friendly. The city has bike lanes downtown and cabs are less common than bicycle-powered carts. Union Station is still in use as a commuter train station, and these trains are part of Denver's efficient mass transit system.

My sister and I felt surprisingly safe in LoDo. The usual big-city problems no doubt exist, but we enjoyed walking several blocks, sipping coffee from a local café and people-watching

After a stop to see the Mother Francis Xavier Cabrini Shrine in Golden, the states's oldest city, we traveled to Castle Rock on Saturday. When we arrived at the Douglas County Fair, the rodeo was in full swing, with a packed arena and standing room only. It's a real western fair, with the 4-H exhibits of hand-raised farm animals being a popular attraction. We caught the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in concert as well, playing for a sell-out crowd. Castle Rock was an easy, half-hour drive, but the real driving was the next day.

High country

A friend who lives in Littleton advised us to stop in Georgetown on the drive up to Breckenridge. I'm glad we did. Georgetown was established in 1859, as a gold mining town. The main downtown street is lined with shops and restaurants, many still in the buildings erected in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Although tourist-friendly, I got the impression Georgetown has retained its Old West look out of fondness, rather than an acknowledgment of what attracts visitors. Clear Creek runs through town and expands into a picturesque lake where the fishing is good and wildlife viewing is popular.

Interstate 70 climbs from the 8,512 foot elevation of Georgetown, to 11,112 feet at the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels, which cut through the Continental Divide, and are the highest such tunnels in the world. Although the tunnels seem 10 miles long, in reality, they each run about 1.6 miles.

The views were spectacular, and it was difficult to drive and gawk at the scenery at the same time.

Breckenridge

Breckenridge's elevation is about 9,600 feet and the altitude can take a toll on those of us from the lowlands. The locals advise taking it easy for a day or two, and drinking plenty of water. Breckenridge is a ski town in the winter, but spring and summer are becoming more popular for visitors, with hiking, biking and walking trails everywhere.

The Blue River runs through town, and while Decatur natives would cough politely and call the 40-foot wide stream a "creek," it is a lovely body of water. The water is fairly shallow through town, and the city has built natural rock steps down to it. Children wade in the water, and people take their dogs for a swim there, as well.

Breckenridge is another town packed with history, and the visitors center has exhibits illustrating how the original settlers lived and mined for gold. The center also has an upstairs observation balcony overlooking the "Ten Mile Peaks" on the town's west side. One of the ski lifts runs year-round, and for about $5, tourists can take the lift up to one of the 12,000-foot-plus peaks.

Like other Colorado towns, Breckenridge is ideal for walkers. Those staying in the town have an option of arranging for a shuttle to pick them up from Denver International Airport and taking them directly to Breckenridge. Once there, a free bus service takes visitors and residents anywhere in the county.

Smiling faces

One of Colorado's great assets is its friendly people. We were greeted with smiles everywhere we went. Nearly everyone we met was cheerful and pleasant. The helpful attitude extends to Denver International Airport, where senior volunteers in cowboy hats direct travelers on their way.

The heat smacked us in the face when we arrived back home, making us wish we were still in Colorado.

If you go

Most local airports have a direct flight to Denver International Airport. Huntsville flies with United Express/Skywest, and United Express also operates a direct flight from Birmingham. Frontier Airlines flies direct from Nashville.

DIA is about 30 miles northeast of town, so take this into consideration when booking return flights.

On the Net

A wealth of tourist information is available at www.denver.com or by calling (800) 233-6837. Be sure to request a Denver travel guide. This magazine-like tour guide covers tourist attractions, dining, accommodations and advice on navigating Denver’s mass transit system.

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