Dreamy, Happy Summer in Vail, CO

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My brain went on freeze mode this afternoon and I was looking to get it going again, so I pulled up my photo files and came across this picture: It’s me, happy. Really, really happy.

Photo by Kristin Yantis

And all of a sudden I could hear my husband teasing me for he cannot comprehend how it is that a tropical island girl, by way of Brooklyn, could be so madly in love with the mountains. And I have to step back and wonder if this is all just a serious case of wanderlust and the grass being greener syndrome that most nomadic souls like me suffer from.

Except, I’ve been to the mountains quite a few times before, and regardless of whether it is in Scotland or the Adirondacks, I am drawn to the majestic beauty of it all, longing to wake up surrounded by the scenes every day of my life.

When I recently went to Vail, I made it a point to take an early morning walk on every one of the very few days I was there. There was all this talk about bears coming down from the mountains in search of food and how they had been a problem this year, and I won’t deny that the possibility of a bear crossed my mind a few times, but the sweet morning dew and smell of crisp air called me – like clockwork – making me leap out of bed and set out for exploration.

The first day of my walk was a short one – only 45-50 minutes long. I was exploring the terrain, getting a feel for the land. I was accompanied by Teresa of TangoDiva.com. We walked a short distance up the mountain from Vail Village and then back down towards Lionshead.

The second day of my walk, I got up a little earlier and went a little further, this time with Lauren of Eater Denver by my side. We found some new paths and even ventured through some hidden ones, making friends with playful doggies and admiring the palatial mountain homes along the way.

Having gotten my feet wet from walking on a muddy path that was meant to be closed, picking the dry pine needles out of my curly hair once back in my hotel room, and feeling the light sweat trickling down my back only inspired me to go further the next day.

On my last day in Vail, I woke up to the sights of a cloudy morning and an overbearing fear of bears. I looked out at the mountain and saw the morning fog hanging low, no sunshine in sight. I waited a bit, then I put on my backpack and heading out on my own. The timing was perfect. Even for a Monday morning there seemed to be so very few people around.

I followed the stream to the foot of the mountain and slowly started to make my way up the Berry Picker trail. “Cute name,” I thought, until the half mile mark when I realized that it gets its name from the crazy amount of red berries that surround the path on both sides. Of course I would take the berry path on one of the highest seasons of bear sightings. I was told making noises often scared bears away, so I tried to act cool and whistle a tune as I hiked up, but it was hard to do that and take in the little oxygen I had at my disposal at this height, thus I decided to risk it and just breathe in silence instead.

After walking a bit further up the winding path, I was out of breath. I stopped for some water and air. I looked around, there was nothing but green. Green and flowers. I just wanted to cry. It was so beautiful. I longed at that very second to not have to leave and to have my family magically transported so that they could share this moment with me.

Two chipmunks scurried past and a few birds shook the leaves overhead. My eyes winced at the faint sunlight gleaming through the aspen forest, long enough to color them golden and for me to capture. I could hear the water trickling down a creek nearby as my breathing found a pace that allowed me to go on.

I made it to the first mile, but could see the trail inviting me to go further, though time was not on my side. One of those crazy mountain joggers sped past me, but not before letting me know about the deer up ahead in the field. I made my way up another half mile, but the deer had left and I needed to start my way down.

I took in every second of my walk, refusing to speed up my pace more than I needed. I hated that I wouldn’t be able to finish the entire 3.5 miles of this trail, and that I didn’t see one single bear.

The Fun of Vail, Colorado

Vail Village is designed, literally, to inspire those who visit no matter what the season and to make them feel like they are in a mountain village similar to those often pictured in fairy tales – or European guidebooks. The summer months in the mountains are by far my favorite. Vail will soon be celebrating its 50th anniversary, and has gone through some major renovation, $2.5 billion worth!

As luxury as Vail is known to be, it also has a lot of offer that anyone can enjoy free of charge or at a very low cost especially in the summer months which helps to balance it all out, in my opinion. My whole spiritual journey up the mountain, for example, is compliments of Mother Nature…well, and the Forestry Department who helped pave the trails. If walking up the mountain is not really your thing, the ride up and down on the Gondola makes for a great romantic, or family friendly experience – especially for those with little ones.

The views from Eagle’s Nest (3,155 feet), where the gondola drops you off, are gorgeous and it’s where the downhill biking trails start and where the horseback tours, pony rides, and top of the mountain tours take off from. It is also where you can take part in various activities such as rebound trampoline jumping, wall climbing, and miniature golf. Most importantly, it is where the wedding deck is located – a sight to behold.

Guided nature hikes are an hour long and free of charge, and there are various lawn sports, such as bag toss, horseshoes, and more which are also free of charge.

To visit Vail in the summer also means to be able to take part in one of the largest Farmers Market and Art Show in Colorado (till September 16) and other events such as jazz festivals, kids adventure races, Gourmet on Gore (Sept 1-3) and Oktoberfest (Sept 7-9 and Sept 14-16), just to name a few.

During my visit, the Vail Soul Music Festival was taking place and it was nice to witness first hand the diversity and welcoming warmth of the community. Everywhere I went I saw families and couples, young and old, enjoying everything the area has to offer.

Must sees are: The Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail Nature Center and the various art and fountains found throughout. And even better idea, is to rent a bike ad see the area on wheels. This bike friendly, active town is just fabulous to navigate through.

If you like the mountains in the winter, you will definitely love them in the summer, and if you want to take that experience to a level a bit more special, than Vail is a great place to kickoff your adventure, with or without kids in tow.

Read more about my adventures at Vail, including how I ate my way through this small village and where I stayed.

For more information on Vail during any season visit Vail.com and follow them on Twitter at @VailMtn.

For a complete Twitter update of my adventure, check out Girls Gone Vail: Taste of Vail Summer on my Storify!

Many thanks to Malen Yantis Public Relations and their partners in Vail, Colorado for their hospitality and service in order to make this experience possible.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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6 Responses to Dreamy, Happy Summer in Vail, CO

  1. Holly says:

    Thank you for transporting me right there with you. What a beautiful place – I hope to visit one day and take similar morning walks.

  2. Teresa says:

    What fantastic photos! Inspiring indeed.

  3. Carol Cain says:

    @ Holly:

    Thank you Holly! I hope you get there soon : )

  4. Carol Cain says:

    @ Teresa:

    Thanks Teresa, and for being a part of it with me!

  5. What a beautiful recount and I'm still so inspired by your committed early morning hikes Carol. You did a lovely pictorial capture of our trip! So glad to have shared it with you.

  6. Carol Cain says:

    @ Toni @ Boulder Locavore:

    Thanks so much Toni! Looking forward to the opportunity to visit again, maybe next time closer to you. It was lovely meeting you!

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