Most Cost-Effective Trip to First Chair and Fresh Pow

By Sean Guidera

Early bird gets the worm and all that right?  But how do we be early and still comfortable?  How do we avoid having to get up at 5 am just to beat the traffic.... Close proximity to the mountain without paying for overpriced lodging would be the best case scenario, but making that happen without breaking the bank would be worth its weight in fresh powder.

The secret weapon of this winter’s weekend warrior is Denver based Native Campervans.  For less than the price of gas and lodging, you can rent a campervan that sleeps two, drive up to the mountains the night before and put yourself in short range of that coveted first chair and untouched snow.

Treating yourself to a campervan adventure this winter is really a no-brainer.

These vans are 2015 Dodge Caravans with great tires, and they come with complimentary snow-chains, just in case.  They also have a two-burner stove, two propane tanks, a sink, and the interior has been converted into a comfortable seating area consisting of a table and two benches that easily fold into a more comfortable bed.  To keep this living area clean, add on a Thule box for a small rental fee ($50).

Yes, you can save some money while: spending a restful night in the mountains, waking up minutes away from first chair without rising way before the sun or battling traffic, starting the day comfortable and capable of cooking a hot meal.

Apres The Way it Should Be

By Sean Guidera                                                                                                               www.spgwrites.com

A day skiing or riding is a day for you and whoever you choose to share it with.  It is not a day at work (unless you’re super talented and super lucky), not a day worrying, not a day running around taking care of the loose ends of life.  There’s no need to bring a shopping list to the mountain, no need to bring laundry to fold, you don’t even need to take the trash out on your way down the driveway.

A day on the mountain is literally a day to do exactly what you wish, however you wish.  Whether it be to ski-hard and push your limits while working on your abilities, or to cruise blue-runs all day while you enjoy nice wide turns, it’s up to you!  Bring friends, bring a dog, go alone, your choice!  To truly customize and maximize your experience, the cultural phenomena of campervans is a supremely practical way to enhance most outdoor activities.  I was looking at a converted van available for rent by Denver based Native Campervans, and couldn’t stop thinking about the beach (parking lot) of A-basin (Arapahoe Basin Ski Mountain).

Apres is the word most commonly used to describe the post-ski-day pint of beer, glass of wine, or mug of spiked hot chocolate.  But if the end of the day drink is not your thing, we all still apres.  Apres is simply the french word for “after,” and after is something we all experience, regardless of how.  Personally, I’m a beer kind of guy, but I know that everyone enjoys being comfortable and cozy after a day on the mountain and Native Campervans were brought to us to make us comfortable and cozy.

These converted vans come equipped with two benches and a table in between, a rentable Thule box for all gear, cooler, a pump sink, two burner gas stove with propane tanks, pots and pans.  You can literally finish your day in the parking lot, sitting at a table with a freshly cooked hot meal.  Grub with your feet up, play a game of cards, hot tea, cold beer; the sheer endlessness of possibilities has me dreaming of the chairlift!

To take your weekend warrior status one step further, rent the van overnight and do some winter-camping close to your favorite mountain so you rest, and repeat in the morning!

Wrapping Your Mind Around the Simple Life.

Wrapping Your Mind around the Simple Life

The American dream has downsized.  A whole generation of people, having experienced a deep recession, have learned that despite a downturn in financial markets our ability to live within our means has never been truer.  While many still cling to the idea that a large home, nice car and heavy cash flow are the ingredients to a fulfilling life, an ambitious yet sensible few are careful to not overthink it.  Instead, a great shift away from living large has taken course and the millennials are along for the journey.

No longer, it seems, are some people aspiring to climb the corporate chain and cling to every new piece of technology.  This movement away from technology and luxury reflects a search for simple things, the things that were still around when the markets crashed and fear for the future grew.  Inherent in this transition is a realization that happiness is not something you find by trying to fit in, but something you find when you self-reflect. 

The human brain is great at learning lessons based on external stimuli.  We’re constantly making subconscious decisions based on simple questions – How did that feel? Did I like that? Do I like that person? Do I need to protect myself from that in the future?  Does that contribute well to my sense of self-worth?  The problem with these decisions is that they go unnoticed, but still impact our lives greatly!  Every once in a while life throws us a chance to reflect deeply.  For me, it was my birthday.

One year ago, I surpassed another decade of life and as I turned to look back I wondered, what should I keep doing and what should I not?  All of the sudden my daily decisions rested before me and as I sat with them, I realized, I wasn’t satisfied.  I thought, rather morbidly, if I was lying on my death bed what would I want to surround myself with, to engage in, to leave with, happy.

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While the deathbed question serves to overdramatize the point, the root inquiry is one of great importance - In the end, what matters?  If it isn’t the new gadget, the hottest trend, or staying relevant on social media, then what is it?  The further along the road to happiness I drive the more I realized one point, a point that’s been made so many times before, happiness is the road itself.

A slight shift in perspective offers a new beginning.  Sticking your hand in a bucket of ice water crosses the threshold of your comfort zone, but eventually you stop feeling the cold.  I’ve discovered that the same principle applies to life.  When you’re used to an office filled with daily tasks that need checking off, a trip outside filled with spontaneity and the unknown opens up the perspective to a new realm of possibility.  If, for a minute, we made the assumption that the bucket of ice water was where we lived, then the heat of the sun would be overwhelming.  Have you ever considered the possibility that we were meant to live simply, but somehow we ended up in the ice bucket?

Change your perspective and watch the world change around you.  Stop asking yourself what you need to do to fit in with everyone else or rise above your peers.  Give yourself a chance to just be.  You’ll soon realize that the fruits of the simple life have always been waiting for you.


The Evolution of Campervans

By Sean Guidera                                                                                                           www.spgwrites.com

A soulful revolution has been happening for some time, and it’s extremely encouraging.  People are bucking the standards of a “normal life” and leaving behind nine-to-fives for a myriad of alternative careers and lifestyles.  The rat race is seemingly dwindling because people are finding their cheese elsewhere.  I myself started out with the stereotypical corporate experience and am now a brewer and a writer (www.spgwrites.comif you have the time).

People earn money from garnering a large social media following, families have YouTube channels with subscribers who aren’t actually related to them, and the idea of a perfect home has evolved from opulence to how small you can make a cozy and functional living space.  I firmly believe that this return to simplicity is a good thing, and one of the great ways people are simplifying is by combining their homes with their means of transportation.  

Yes, the campervan is one of the main symbols of this collective return to ourselves and the outdoor community has become one of its main proponents.

Debuting in 1950, the iconic VW bus was the first-ever minivan, and is still a welcome sight on the open road.  The VW was our gateway into four-wheeled living with its large cabin space and simple engine design.  Wanderers were given space to sleep and eat, surfers had a mobile quiver for their boards and the easy-to-maintain engine fostered an intimate relationship with the van while keeping all travelers moving down the road.

Free-spirits of all kinds are what made the van a social mainstay.  Campervans graced the album covers’ of Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys, DeadHeads used the vans to follow Grateful Dead tours from stop to stop and the endless summer was sought after behind the wheel of a VW. The unique qualities of these individuals were made evident by the tradition of re-painting the outside of the van to show what journey its inhabitants were on, or the mindset they were taking into it.

Today's outdoor enthusiasts are bringing forth a resurgence of this freely-moving lifestyle, but campervans are very different from extremely short, extremely frayed jean shorts.  The campervan movement is not about a fad, it is all about functionality and a feeling. 

Living life out of a van allows us to re-prioritize experiences and connections over abundance and materialism.  Campervans provide the opportunity to simplify and play a more active role in how we live our everyday lives, taking control over how we experience life in general.  

If you choose to live the #Vanlife, you are literally choosing to limit the possessions you will have access to on a daily basis. You have to make decisions based on what is necessary and what you really want to share your space with every day.  Although I’m sure there is a van-cat out there somewhere, this list is typically compiled of a dog, significant other and then what we are now deeming to truly be necessities: camping stove, hiking boots, sleeping bags, climbing gear, fly fishing rod, hand-tied flies, surfboards, a tent, headlamps, sleeping pads, ski and snowboard gear, warm clothes and....the van is probably at capacity!

Born from the necessity forced upon us by living out of a van comes the natural shift in what we truly value.  These values enter you into a secluded community which guarantees three things; open spaces, quiet places and smiling faces.  And although becoming a campervan enthusiast allows you the space to live as the individual you are, a desire to spread the love is natural.

Dillon Hansen took a page from his father’s book and bucked the traditional corporate experience for more control over his time, and a van.  With four-legged friend Harper in tow, Dillon has found more trails under his feet and more fish on his line.  Realizing the value this shift had returned to his life, Dillon looked for ways to share this with others.  After returning from a campervan trip around New Zealand with good friend Jon Moran, the pair wanted to provide an affordable way for people to experience the serenity of the wilderness and freedom of the open road, and thus, Native Campervans was born.  Based at the doorstep of the Rockies in Denver, Colorado, Native Campervans allows people to experience the #Vanlife even if they are not ready to purchase their own ride.

People say “home is where you make it,” but that has evolved; life is what you make of it and home is where you take it.  Feeling free and spreading love.  That may sound like a song-title from the mid-sixties, but it is truly a way to live life that is timeless.  

800 Miles in 7 Days: A Quintessential Colorado Road Trip

To many, Denver is the true gateway to the West. Sure, St. Louis may have an arch, but it also has 850-miles of Midwestern plains to contend with before the real West begins. And like so many early frontiersmen, who reached the western edge of the High Plains—where modern-day Denver is located—and gazed upon the Front Range in both terror and excitement, the Mile High City still, to this day, acts as the ultimate springboard for Colorado adventure.  

Here, we bring you a comprehensive guide to one of the best Colorado adventures you can have: a week-long road trip through the state. Combine the glory of the open road with the solace of the mountains on this 7-day journey from Denver over some of the nation’s most scenic highways. 

Day One

Denver to Buena Vista via US-285 S
122 Miles, approx. 2.5 hours

Day 1: 122 miles from Denver to Buena Vista logos.opticos

Day 1: 122 miles from Denver to Buena Vista logos.opticos

Do as the locals do and head south out of Denver to avoid the I-70 traffic. Take scenic route 285 towards the mountains, to the riverside town of Buena Vista, right in the heart of the Collegiate Peaks.

If you’re itching to stretch your legs early on, the Colorado Trail intersects with Kenosha Pass about 45 miles outside of the city, and it’s a section that is a particular favorite for hikers and mountain bikers alike, so pick your poison!

For a more leisurely stroll with a bit of interesting history, stop in South Park City to reimagine the life of those old frontiersman in the re-created mining town, made from buildings salvaged from the 1800’s. Tours lead you through to see old furnishings and equipment from the gold-mining boom.

If cool rivers are what’s calling to you, American Adventures in Buena Vista can take you through one of the state’s premier stretches of whitewater, Browns Canyon. With breathtaking scenery and a solid mix of calm water and exhilarating rapids, it’s easy to understand why this is a favorite run for whitewater enthusiasts. For more thrills, the Numbers Route will test anyone’s mettle, but whichever you choose, owners Mike and Amber will take great care of you.

To replenish yourselves, treat your crew to Eddyline Brewery in Downtown Buena Vista. Delicious craft beers combine wonderfully with their elegant menu; and high quality burgers and beer are a good follow up to any adventure, after all. The brewpub is close to the river, which has a nice walking trail running alongside it. South of town is Angel of Shavano Campground, a first-come first-serve site with 20 spots among aspen and spruce trees. Nestled in the San Isabel National Forest, this is a gorgeous place to rest your head and wake up to in the morning.

Day Two

Buena Vista/Salida to Crested Butte via US-50 W and CO-135 N
92 miles, approx. 1 hour and 45 minutes

Day 2: 92 miles from Buena Vista to Crested Butte ecksunderscore

Day 2: 92 miles from Buena Vista to Crested Butte ecksunderscore

On day two, you’re headed to Crested Butte with a stop at one of the nation’s top mountain biking trails, Monarch Crest. Take route 50 west, about 19 miles outside Poncha Springs to Monarch Pass, where you’ll find the trailhead. There are shuttle services that go between the trailhead and Poncha Springs, or if you’re lucky enough to be in a road trip convoy, just leave one car at the intersection of highways 50 and 285. The trail is 35.5 miles, averages about four and a half hours and will be a ride you’ll likely never forget.  

Continue on 50 to CO-193, which will take you right into Crested Butte. Enjoy scenic views of the Sawatch Range along the way, or save your appetite for mountains until you get to town, where you can access world class climbing at Skyland Boulders. Since you will be exhausted, it’s a great thing that downtown Crested Butte is a slow-paced place to take a walk and find a bite to eat, and you can’t go wrong at Brick Oven Pizzeria and Pub.

As the sun begins to drop, make your way over to Lake Irwin Campground, nestled between Lake Irwin itself and the unreal Ruby Mountain Range. When you wake up, it would be a shame not to fuel up at the Sunflower Deli back in town!

Day Three

Crested Butte to Fruita via US-50 W
163 Miles, approx. 3 hours

Day 3: 163 miles from Crested Butte to Fruita daveynin

Day 3: 163 miles from Crested Butte to Fruita daveynin

Day three is one of the longer treks in the trip, but what’s a good road trip without a long-haul or two? You’re taking 50 west from Crested Butte to Fruita. About 90 miles into the drive you’ll reach its main attraction, Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park. Try to hit the road early, as the views in the canyon can consume two to three hours of the day. Once in the canyon, you have several options for exploring it.

First is South Rim Road, a seven mile stretch featuring 12 scenic overlooks. Some take a short hike to get to the rim, which will be a great way to stretch your legs. The best views are Gunnison Point, Chasm View, Painted Wall, and Sunset View. There is a visitor’s center at Gunnison Point which opens every day in the summer and most days the rest of the year. If you’re feeling super ambitious, you can hike down into the canyon, but be aware that the hike back up is very demanding. 

North Rim Road is closed in winter, but if you’re there in the summer, the vertical walls found on this gravel road provide some of the most awe-inspiring views in the park with six distinct overlooks.

If you need a bit more activity this day, the Kokopelli Mountain Bike Trail features red-rocks and river views that will take your breath away. Before bunking down for the night, fill your belly at the Hot Tomato Cafe, a local favorite!

Day Four

Fruita to Yampa via I-70 E and CO-131 N
182 Miles, approx. 3 hours

Day 4: 182 miles from Fruita to Yampa vicki watkins

Day 4: 182 miles from Fruita to Yampa vicki watkins

Today is your day to experience, first-hand, the biodiversity of the gorgeous state of Colorado. Twenty-five miles into day four, you reach the town of Palisade. How can a state that makes your nose so dry create fruit so big and juicy? The microclimate in Palisade is how.  This section of the state, known as the Grand Valley, sits atop artesian wells and combines dry air, sunny days, and cool nights to provide an ideal home for two-thirds of the state’s award-winning wineries and the famous Palisade Peaches. Flying in the face of the well-known craft beer culture and cattle farms, this vineyard-rich part of the state lets you know just how unique Colorado is. Colterris Wines and the Clark Family Fruit Stand are two of our favorites.

About half-way to Yampa, enjoy the drive through 12.5 mile Glenwood Canyon. This historic railroad route boasts walls 1,300 ft high, the highest along that stretch of the Upper Colorado River. Shortly after, you’ll head north on CO-131 for the final push into Yampa.  

When heading into town, you’re about 15 miles from your campsite and one of the more dynamic trails in the state. But fair warning: only attempt the entire Devil’s Causeway if the wine has worn off! If it hasn’t, or if the conditions aren’t perfect, you can still hike the area and enjoy breathtaking views, but should probably avoid the highly dangerous Devil’s Causeway.  

To get there, take County Road 7 S for 6 miles, and continue on another 9 miles as it turns to Forest Service Road 900, which will take you to the north side of Stillwater Reservoir. Regardless of conditions, you can hike 2 to 3 miles into the Flat Tops Wilderness area to experience large table-top mountains that contrast the rocky pyramids in the rest of the state. A moderate elevation gain will bring you through wild-flower meadows and past a lake before you have to decide on conquering the causeway or not. A comprehensive trail guide is provided in the link above!

A few miles from the same trailhead is Bear Lake Campground, the $10 fee is well worth it!

Day Five

Yampa to Steamboat Springs via CO-131 N
30 Miles, approx. 40 minutes

Day 5: 30 miles from Yampa to Steamboat Springs Andrew Magill

Day 5: 30 miles from Yampa to Steamboat Springs Andrew Magill

After your intense day four, take a nice easy 40 minute drive into one of Colorado’s premier mountain towns, Steamboat Springs.  

The nearby Yampa River provides the opportunity to float one of Colorado’s gorgeous mountain rivers, while experiencing Steamboat in a unique way. This family-friendly float can be anywhere from one to three hours, depending on river conditions, where you put-in, and if you choose to stop at a park or restaurant along the way! Whatever type of float you’re in the mood for, the folks at Bucking Rainbow can get you set up.

Take a break to fuel up with a homemade pretzel, served with porter cream sauce, atMahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill.

To warm up, finish off your rocky mountain water day with a dip in Strawberry Hot Springs. These naturally fed hot springs are favorites of the locals for their natural feel and beauty. Numerous small to mid-size pools are shaped right into the rock and have an ice-cold stream flowing through, in case you want to counter your hot soak with a cold plunge. You’re sure to find a spot perfect for you at Strawberry Hot Springs.

If there’s no room for you to stay at the hot springs, get a head start on day six by heading down US-40 E to Meadows Campground in the heart of Routt National Forest. A serene night’s sleep is a given, as it’s nestled in the evergreens of Rabbit Ears Pass.  

Day Six

Steamboat to Estes Park via US-40 E and US-34
139 Miles, approx. 3 hours

Day 6: 139 miles from Steamboat Springs to Estes Park Jake Wheeler

Day 6: 139 miles from Steamboat Springs to Estes Park Jake Wheeler

Just when you thought Colorado could not be more strikingly beautiful, you drive the stretch of 34 called Trail Ridge Road. This road is named for its proximity to the trails that Native Americans used to cross the Rockies, and it is the highest continuously paved road in the US, reaching an altitude of 12,183 feet. If the expansive rocky mountain views don’t get you, a siting of Elk or Big Horned Sheep surely will, as the animals are regularly seen from the road.  

You will be ready to get out of the car by the time you reach town, and luckily you’ll be close to a quintessential Colorado hike for aspen trees, panoramic views, and an alpine lake. Once in town, take MacGregor Avenue north 1.2 miles to the trailhead of Gem Lake, which will be on your left after briefly becoming Devils Gulch Road.  

The post-hike experience in this town is not complete without a margarita from Ed’s Cantina, and for your last night on the road, we recommend a real bed in town because it would be hard to beat Estes Park, if anyone ever tried! Don’t feed the elk, even though you will probably get quite close to one.

Day Seven

Estes Park back to Denver via US-36 E
66 miles, approx. 1.5 hours

Day 7: 66 miles from Estes Park to Denver Mr. Lujan

Day 7: 66 miles from Estes Park to Denver Mr. Lujan

Get motivated for the bittersweet ending to your road trip with some locally roasted, fair trade coffee at Kind Coffee in downtown Estes; the floors are even made from bamboo, a renewable resource!

Boulder is your halfway point between Estes and Denver, and is a great place to polish off your trip.  The Flatirons in Chautauqua Park are some of the more unique rock formations in Colorado, because they literally look like they are laying on their side. Flatiron One is the perfect hike to experience the best of what Boulder hiking has to offer; it is steep which provides a bit of a workout, while also paying out priceless views of the Boulder Valley, Indian Peaks Wilderness, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Start the 2.9 mile loop at the Chatauqua Park Trailhead parking on Baseline Road if the lot is full, which it is prone to be early on weekends!

To re-fuel, it is hard to beat a burger at The Sink, a long-time Boulder favorite dating back to the time when Robert Redford was the janitor scrubbing the floors! Have a grass-fed Sink Burger with signature Sink Hickory Sauce to taste local history. The Sink is located on The Hill, a favorite neighborhood of CU-Boulder students.  

Homeward bound after Boulder, soak in the memories of a great road trip and bask in your new-found knowledge of this great state and all its beauty!