My family and I are on a one-year trip across the United States as we reconnect as a family, experience the natural wonders in the world God created, and see Catholicism – in all its uniqueness and beauty – across the country. This is our journey.
We’ve had several friends move out of state, and – when they do – most have ended up in Colorado. After having an opportunity to visit all the natural wonders, we came to understand the draw of this gorgeous state! We visited so many national parks, state parks, and even community parks … and before we knew it, an entire month had flown by as we explored the 38th state in the Union. These are some of the highlights of our journey across the state; since we spent so much time here, there’s no way to include it all!
We entered Colorado from the west, arriving in the small town of Grand Junction after leaving Utah. Incorporated in 1882, the town takes its name from the Grand River … today better known as the Colorado River. Like much of Colorado, the town has absolutely breathtaking bike rides through the natural preserves, many right along the river front.
The downtown area of Grand Junction has grown since its early start in 1882, but many of the facades have been preserved and/or rebuilt to maintain its original Old West feel. Adding to the beauty of the town were all the sculptures; the town takes its art very seriously, and the metal sculptures sprinkled throughout the streets provide both the community and visitors unique sights to see as they stroll by. The eclectic mix of modern designs blended with the humorous (a man in a bathtub!), with even a bit of faith sprinkled in. Sister Mary Balbina, captured in design, points a child to the hospital she helped to establish in the town. St. Mary’s Hospital and Medical Center continues to serves the area, over 120 years later.
After leaving Grand Junction, we continued our trek east and arrived in the posh town of Aspen. Known for its skiing and high-end lifestyles, Aspen’s downtown is a destination all on its own! From ice skating rinks at the base of the ski slopes to posh ice cream parlors, it’s easy to spend a day wandering through the manicured streets. While there’s no snow to ski just yet, the slopes were a sight to behold – as were the fountains built into the downtown plaza.
Our main destination in Aspen wasn’t the downtown, though – it was to hike the Grottos, Ice Caves, and Devil’s Punchbowl. This natural phenomenon is the result of water seeping through the cracks in the stone and freezing; water is the only material that expands as it freezes, and the expanding ice created smooth caverns through the rocky landscape. Just a short hike away are glacial cascading waterfalls; the crystal clear water felt like liquid ice as we ran our fingers through the falls.
The town of Golden may most famously be known for its spotlight in Coors commercials: “Brewed with Rocky Mountain water at the source in Golden, Colorado.” Sure enough, as you enter the downtown of Golden, the rich smell of yeast fills the air. Coors offers one of the most in-depth factory tours we’ve been on, complete with free tastings at the end. Yes, please! We were awed by the grand scale of operations, and surprised to learn that this is the largest commercial brew house in the world. The copper vats were massive!
We also learned how Coors not only invented the modern aluminum can but pioneered the very first recycling effort; when the can was introduced, Coors offered $0.01 for each can that was returned. The design of the aluminum can was purposely not patented, as the company wanted others to follow suit in using recyclable materials in their production processes.
Golden is also the home to two individuals, both deceased yet famous in their own right. St. Francis Cabrini was an Italian immigrant who created a camp and orphanage on the drier side of the Rocky Mountains. Over the course of her life, she established 67 institutions! Beatified in 1927 and canonized in 1946, she was the first naturalized American to become a saint and today is known as the patron saint of immigrants.
Today, a shrine exists at the former orphanage dedicated to Mother Cabrini. We climbed the 373 steps to the top of the grounds, where a 30-foot statue of Jesus keeps watch over the town below. At his feet sits a pile of stones, arranged into the shape of a heart; Mother Cabrini, along with the children, brought the stones to the foot of the statue and created the Sacred Heart image on her last visit to the area. The natural spring, which she miraculously discovered and which has been attributed for multiple miracle healings, still runs through the grounds and provides fresh water to visitors passing through.
The second is Buffalo Bill, famous not only for his Wild West shows in the late 1800’s but for driving positive social change for the Native American population. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s life brought a bit of the Old West to settlers not just in the United States, but throughout the world as his show hit the road. During a legendary performance in England, the Queen even bowed to the American flag at the end of the show – the first time since the Revolutionary War. Buffalo Bill led an exciting life, and – on his deathbed – became Catholic. I’m sure he’s still putting on quite the show in heaven!
We began our journey south, stopping to walk through Garden of the Gods (giant rock formations) and ended in the small town of Cripple Creek. It was an unplanned stop, and turned out to be one of our favorites so far! We found space in the expansive yard at Hospitality House to park our camper; a play on words, this Hospitality House was actually a working hospital back in the late 1800’s serving the booming mining town of over 60,000 residents.
The House has retained the original Victorian-era feel, and has labeled each hotel room door with the name of the room back when this was a working hospital. So, you may find yourself staying in the surgery, the recovery, or even the laboratory! It was easy (and even a bit eerie) to imagine the hallways of the now-hotel filled with patients, doctors, and surgeons.
Nearby is the Molly Kathleen Mine, where we descended over 1,000 feet underground! I don’t think I’ve ever said so many Hail Mary’s as I did as we dropped in the cramped elevator cage, in complete darkness, to the bottom of the mine. Once underground, the damp 50-degree air, pumped in from above – left a cold chill in our bones. The tour lead, a former miner from this very mine, gave us a first-hand view of the area below. The working conditions of the miners was worse than the worst – from the complete darkness, to the dust from the drillings, to the death of the miners in their 30’s and 40’s from miners lung, the perils of this job lurked at every turn. Today, the surrounding hills are still mined – some in ways not very different from the way they were one hundred years ago.
We had so many more adventures in this beautiful state – climbing through the La Mesa Cliff Dwellings, touring old parlor houses, exploring the gorgeous landscapes – that I could continue sharing for days! I invite you to join us on Instagram at @faithandfabric as we share our journey with you!
We’re so excited for this trip on the road as we explore the natural wonders that our beautiful country holds, and as we visit cathedrals, shrines, and see the beauty of our faith along the way! We invite you to join us for the adventure both here on CatholicMom.com and on our Instagram account, where we’re sharing regular updates of our trip. If you’re in an area we’re visiting, we would love to meet up!
Copyright 2018 Jen Frost