When was the last time you were able to go on a summer vacation? For me, it’d been eight years (YES, 8!) since I’d been able to take a summer vacation. Or any vacation at all, for that matter. This summer vacation to Denver Colorado with Shawn was the first real break I’d been able to give myself. It was also the first vacation Shawn and I have taken together. Needless to say, we were both VERY excited to take some time off and strike off on a road trip to a place we’d never been.
The whole reason we decided to take our summer vacation in Denver, Colorado was to see a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Shawn LOVES Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats and I gotta say, it was an amazing concert. Maybe even the best concert I’ve seen. But we’ll get to that. 😉
First Summer Vacation Stop: The Devil’s Tower
Our first stop on our trip was to The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. We decided that in order to save some money, we’d camp overnight in the shadow of The Devil’s Tower. Turns out, a two person tent isn’t really sufficient when your partner is 6’2″. Lesson learned! We brought along my tripod to get some long exposure photography of some star trails and the tower. Spoiler alert: any night we planned on doing some long exposure photography, it was cloudy or raining. Such is life!
So we stayed at the Devils Tower / Black Hills KOA Campground for a night. We pitched our Varage Sale purchased two person tent, and headed over to the tower to take a walk around the path that circles The Devils Tower. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. The views were beautiful, and it was really cool to see something up close that we’d only ever seen in pictures or a movie.
Speaking of movies, the campground we stayed at played Close Encounters of the Third Kind every night at dusk. If you’ve never seen that movie, The Devils Tower plays a HUGE part in that movie. So it was pretty cool to watch the movie with the tower in the background.
Day Two: Denver, Colorado
We woke up to a wet tent (it rained, and what can I say, we’re camping noobs). So, being the “fuck it” type of people that we are, we stuffed the tent, still unpacked, into the trunk of my car. We figured we’d take the tent out once we got to our AirBnB in Denver and let it dry out in the backyard. Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen either.
That morning I also woke up to a head cold that had settled into my chest. I attribute getting sick on my vacation to all the smoke in the air that we had to drive through in Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming. Most importantly though, I blame it on the fact that I’ve been doing nothing but working with no breaks. I hadn’t been taking care of myself. So naturally, the second I slow down, I got sick. It was a distinct reminder that I need to give myself breaks every so often!
So, we struck off to Denver, Colorado. We learned how much traffic SUCKS in big cities. We finally got to our AirBnB and checked in. The first thing we did after settling in? You know it. When in Rome, right? 😉 Our first visit to a dispensary sure was an eye-opening experience as to what legalization will look like in the next few years in Canada. We picked up a few treats, including a sparkling water and grape soda. I didn’t mind the taste of either, but Shawn gave it a huge thumbs down for flavour.
The AirBnB we stayed at was SUPER conveniently located to a ton of local restaurants, and a short walk from a main street. So, we struck off and explored our little pocket of Denver.
Before we went on our trip, I’d been exploring a bit of the area on Google Maps and had come across a quirky little store The Wizards Chest, which we happened across not too long into our wandering. Once inside it didn’t take me long to find the display of Pusheen plushies. I’ll let you in on a secret; I’m secretly obsessed with Pusheen. So, Shawn insisted we leave with a Pusheen of my own. It was a hard decision between the Pusheenicorn and Mermaid Pusheen. Yes, 30 years old, and a Pusheen plushie was one of the highlights of my trip. What do you want from me? 😂
That night we went to Carmine’s on Penn for some delicious Italian food. Sorry, East Side Marios, you ain’t got nothin’ on Carmine’s. We ate Chicken Parmigiana, drank delicious wine, and enjoyed each other’s company. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take time to spend with the people that make you feel GOOD. This whole vacation was such an eye opener about how much I’ve had my face in my keyboard, working on my business over the past year. Shawn has been SO SO amazing and supportive so it was real nice to be able to treat ourselves after all the hard work we’ve put in to get ourselves to where we are today.
Food, Art, and Plants
Our AirBnB host conveniently left us a list of local places to eat, and Lucile’s Creole Cafe was one of them. Fresh beignets with homemade jelly, biscuits and gravy, grits, and potatoes. Hilariously, chicory coffee served to me in a “get well soon” mug (still battling that damn chest cold). If you’re ever in Denver, go eat breakfast here!!
Shawn and I took a long leisurely breakfast before heading off to the Denver Art Museum. My favourite exhibit there was definitely the New Territory: Landscape Photography Today display. I left that exhibit feeling pretty inspired, which I think definitely contributed to one of my favourite photographs I took on part 2 of this trip, up in La Ronge.
Later that day we headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens about an hour before sunset to just wander around and take some cool pictures of flowers. Being a plant-obsessed person, this was probably the one place on our entire trip that I took the most pictures. I’ll be honest with you all – we took our entire kit down to the states with us with the intent on taking a ton of photographs. MOST of the photos from our trip were just taken with our cell phones. That’s definitely going to change for our next trip, I think! Regardless, it was really nice to just take some low-stakes photos of things we thought were pretty.
Friends on the Road
I’m really fortunate to know a ton of super talented photographers, having been in the industry myself for over a decade. My good friend Alex of Alexandra Dugan Photography drove down from Oklahoma to meet up with us while we were in Denver. Alex graciously agreed to take some portraits of Shawn and I together, because we’d yet to have any photos done!
And, well… Shawn had other plans for how this photo shoot was going to go. 😉
Alex and her partner Kurt offered to drive us to the concert venue (it was finally time for the concert – the whole reason we came to Denver!). We’d been driving around all day, getting some freakin’ rad couples portraits done. We’d decided that we would end the day with some photos up in the mountains at sunset, so planned our day accordingly.
Well, none of us were really familiar with the area that we were driving through. We hadn’t accounted for the serious LACK of roadside pull-offs! We were losing the light fast and I was starting to get worried we wouldn’t get sunset photos, after all.
As luck would have it, about 10 minutes from the concert venue we found a sign that said there was a mountain outlook up ahead. YES! Sunset photos after all.
Well, we got there just in time for the last light of the day, and with enough time for Sneaky Shawn to drop to one knee and propose.
When Shawn and I first met, I wasn’t really in the best place I’d been in my life. I’d just gotten out of an abusive relationship. I didn’t really have any self-worth, and didn’t believe in myself. My business was just barely treading water and I didn’t think I’d really ever see the success I’d always hoped for.
All of that changed when I met Shawn. This amazing, beautiful, caring man came into my life. He saw past my anxiety, PTSD, and depression. He showed me from day ONE what it meant to be in a kind, caring, and loving relationship. I know that he’d say I owe all my successes in the past few years to myself, but I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my #1 cheerleader. He’s seriously changed everything I thought I knew about what it meant to be loved.
So, we’re tying the knot in 2020. We plan to actually have our bus done by then (it feels like it’ll never be done), and take an extended honeymoon after our 2020 wedding season. What better maiden voyage to take in our home on wheels, than on our honeymoon? ❤️
PS – Head over to Alex’s blog post about our session to see the rest of our proposal pics, plus the rest of our session. They turned out real cute. 😉