This whole thing actually started a long time ago.
With a Chevy Trailblazer and a 4-hour drive and a dirt-cheap motel in the Wisconsin Dells. There was a pan of scotcheroos on my lap between me and Ang in the backseat, but naturally – what kind of Midwesterners do you think we are? GOOD ONES, that’s what we are – and our special first meal of the trip included Butterburgers and fries and concrete mixers on the patio at Culver’s. We rode every waterslide, played every mini golf course, and bought a caramel apple at every candy store in the Dells. As college kids. You honestly cannot make stuff this up.
So this is when it happened. This is when we changed from FRIENDS-friends to TRIP-friends.
It was 2007 and we were destined for greatness.
God bless the Wisconsin Dells.
Next came a Kia Sorento, four adults, a baby, a dog, and a 1,200-mile pilgrimage to Whitefish, Montana. I have no idea how, but that was a breezy TEN DAY TRIP. Like, did we all not have jobs? I honestly cannot even answer that question.
Local road-tripping to a neighboring state (i.e. Wisconsin Dells) with friends is one thing, but our Montana trip – our TEN DAY Montana trip – was a whole new level of trip-friendship. That was a real vacation. A real, go-somewhere-far-away, legit-cabin-rental type situation. There were a handful of “why are you mad at me” and “I just need a minute” and “are we in a fight right now” moments, as ten days with anyone will do to you. But mostly, it locked us in.
Game over. Trip friends for life.
And then last week happened.
I hopped a plane with my trip friends – three of my favorite people in the world: husband, best friend, husband of best friend – and spent a week having fun in Aspen, Colorado.
And do you know what we did? We “hiked” aka walked around on trails and looked at pretty trees. We lunched on a patio and drank pumpkin beers on a Wednesday afternoon because guess who didn’t have anywhere to be? Oh, that’s right, US. We took naps. We talked and laughed, and two of us (not naming names) might have talked about the meaning of life and cried before the plane even touched down in Aspen, because trip friends should also be deep friends. We sat in a hot tub. We went out for dinner and happy-houred and made up swimming races in the pool like middle schoolers. I mean that completely literally – we splashed around in the pool like maniacs. I had this thought more than one time: people must be so annoyed of us right now. And if we’re being honest, isn’t that the best type of vacation to have?
So that’s what we did – we had a vacation. Like adults, kinda.
Like trip friends.
Also. One fun thing about going on a trip with friends: in all those years since college, one of your friends has become the literal best wedding videographer in Minnesota (not biased at all), so he flies drones and has cool video gadgets and makes a movie trailer video of your trip.
Just… casually. No big deal.
We are not even chill about this video.
When I went on my girls’ trip to Aspen a few years ago, we stayed at the magical wonderland that is The Little Nell. This year the Nell was generous enough to welcome us back. You really need to go to Colorado so you can experience the greatness that is Aspen and The Little Nell.
Somehow we missed the Maroon Bells when we were in Aspen for the girls’ trip, but this year we made it happen. And daaaaang, this is a beautiful place.
It is hard to even describe. So breathtaking. Also: very cold. Snow and stuff. Ice in the water, which was sparkly and gorgeous and kind of reminded me of Alaska. It is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been.
We ate really well.
Like, I’m starting this section with a picture of salad, but if I were to sum the trip up in two food words they would be FRENCH and FRIES. The food was so good, and mostly not healthy, and that’s okay because vacation. Favorite places to eat were:
- White House Tavern (macho salad and a Thai steak noodle situation, but obvi, also the chicken sandwich)
- J Bar (pastrami sandwich! who am I! it was yum city)
- Element 47 (honestly THE BEST, most buttery and perfect poached eggs of my entire life – I talked about it for at least an hour afterwards)
- Ajax Tavern (truffle fries omg).
This picture is a visual summary of what “hanging out” means. That patio. That sun. That mountain and the happy hour snacks. MUST.GO.BACK.
One of the best things about going to Aspen in October: it’s kind of summer and kind of winter at the same time. The air tasted earthy and fresh, like leaves and trees, and you might be able to shed your sweater and mittens by noon. You could see snow, but you were also warm enough to sit outside and feel the sun on your face. There were colorful leaves, green trees, and running water, but also that sparkly blue wintery sky and cool mornings that would make your cheeks pink. Bonus: because it’s low season, no one was around, so we could be total dingbats and take one million boomerangs and no one had to know. It was delicious.