We had my parents to stay over Thanksgiving. They'd never been to Colorado before, so there was plenty to do around Boulder, but I also wanted a long weekend somewhere in the mountains. After digging around on the great Vacation Rentals by Owner site, I found a little two bedroom condo near Idaho Springs, about an hour from Denver.
We drove up the I70, then about 9 miles up a twisty mountain road to get to the little community of St Mary's Glacier. I have to admit my heart sank when I saw the building we were staying in, it looked like an apartment block from East Germany in the 1970's. That impression wasn't helped by the two abandoned cars across the street, next to a boarded-up cabin with broken windows, along with multiple for-sale signs in our building. Climbing upstairs to the condo, the door across the hall had been forced open, splintering the frame. We were pretty sure it was being used by squatters, since the door was permanently open, but towards the end of our stay we spoke to the building manager and they'd apparently just lost their keys!
I felt a flood of relief once we stepped inside, the place was beautiful. You can see a full tour on Randy's website, but he's done a fantastic job decorating. There was a dining nook with windows on three sides, giving a view of the lake and mountains, and the living room was great in the evening thanks to the roaring fireplace.
The real point of the trip was outside the condo. Even though there hadn't been much snow, we were up at 10,400 feet so there was some pretty wild terrain. We had new snow-shoes to try out, so we trekked up the glacier itself, to 11,700 feet. We're fairly certain that Thor is the only Chihuahua to make it up to the top of the glacier, and we were all stunned by the views from the plateau. The only off-note was a couple of jack-asses on quad bikes who decided to ride them up the glacier despite all the sign-posts, only to be driven off by irate hikers.
If you're looking for an authentic slice of old Colorado, St Mary's Glacier is pretty fascinating, with no pretensions, lots of history and more ghost towns nearby than I could count. It's somewhere with character – if you're looking for an adventurous mountain vacation off the beaten track I'd highly recommend it. It's definitely not Aspen, but that's it's charm!