Things to do in Denver (When You're Not Dead)

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Crazy that it has already been over two weeks since the end of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market! Since returning home, the KAMP crew has been super busy hosting a music concert, hosting an annual party for a local not-for-profit, and selecting and ordering inventory from the nine new lines we are expanding into (and increasing inventory for at least four existing lines). Still, memories drift back occasionally to our time in Denver for OR, and the fun things we squeezed into a single day off from that event. KAMPers, here are some things (we call them 'musts') to do in Denver when you are not dead.
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The Clyfford Still Museum is an entire institution devoted to presenting, researching and maintaining the life's work of its namesake artist. The Museum is nestled into an area of Downtown Denver known as, the Golden Triangle Creative District, which also includes the Denver Museum of Art, the Vance Kirkland Museum, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, and more. You could very easily spend a day or more in this District alone.
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Clifford Still was a key innovator of the Abstract Expressionist movement of middle last century. He was famously opinionated (even cantankerous), and among the opinions that he held firm later in life was that an artist's body of work needed to be seen together in order to be properly perceived. So it was, that few of his works entered into public or private collections, despite his significance as a painter. When Still died, his will offered to bestow his entire oeuvre (95%) to a city that would build a Museum for it. For nearly 25 years, no city would come forward, until Denver's newly elected Mayor, John W. Hickenlooper, offered to honor this wish, and the city was officially accepted by Still's widow, Patricia (also an artist, her body of work was likewise gifted to the Museum).
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With Still as a favorite artist of mine (Jason here), I read about all of this as it was transpiring, as well as through the buildout of the actual building, and the unique conservation concerns that were held about his work that had been stored rolled and unstretched (turns out, most of it was in even better condition than the small portion of his work that had been in Museums this whole time). The Museum opened in 2011, and it has been at the top of my to-do list in Denver ever since. It definitely did not let me down; HIGHLY recommended!
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 It has been over fifteen years since the KAMP crew last rolled into Denver, and it is frankly, a much different, much improved city now. Without expecting it, we noticed how vibrant not just the Downtown core was, but all the neighborhoods we visited. It's every bit as bustling as any American city not named New York, even those much bigger than it. Denver is alive, and growing fast.
About the only negative we could point out was homelessness, which was pretty pervasive and heartbreaking. Talking to locals, we learned that this was largely due to property values (and rents) increasing dramatically over a short time. It wasn't clear to us exactly how the city was handling this, but I'd be surprised if its leaders weren't already working through a solution.
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That said, Denver offers great food and great cultural opportunities, but the main event will always be the Great Outdoors. Within an hour drive from Downtown, you can be completely transported to all sorts of natural environements, from mountains to rolling prairies. After the Clyfford Still Museum, we elected to see what was above mile-high near Denver.
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Within the massive Arapaho National Forest rises the Mount Evans Recreation Area.  Mount Evans Road is the fifth highest paved road in the world, and the highest in North America. The U.S. Forest Service describes the drive this way, "Every 1,000 feet gained in the mountains is equivalent to traveling 600 miles north in latitude [temperature also drops by 3.5-5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 ft. of gain] . In only 45 minutes, you will drive through a landscape that reflects the upper regions of North America."
 
Of course, we weren't going to merely drive to the top and not get out and hike a little...
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Little known fact here, but it has been a while since the KAMP Crew has hit up higher elevations (highest point in Missouri is Taum Sauk Mountain at just over 1,770 ft). We decided to cure that and hike all of the trails at Mt. Goliath Research Natural Area, a beautiful stop along the journey to the top of Mt. Evans that is managed by the Denver Botanic Gardens and hovers around 12,000 ft. It took us a while to find our "mountain lungs", and unfortunately, Mandi did develop some altitude sickness that lingered with her for the rest of the day and night. Still, it's a breathtaking walk there, made even more so by a majestic bristlecone pine forest that you pass through up until you break the treeline. 
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Bristlecone pines are among the oldest single living organisms in the world, with some specimens lasting for several thousands of years.
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This is near where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch of hummus, cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes on pita bread (all purchased at the City Market in Kansas City on our way to Denver). 
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Our next stop to the top was at Summit Lake, around 13,000 ft., a glacier-carved ecosystem managed by the Denver Mountain Park System. It is a designated National Natural Landmark due to its mirroring of environments found much further north, above the arctic circle. Permafrost is present here, as are rare alpine plants not usually found this far south.
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After Summit Lake, it is a series of narrow switchbacks that take you to the with yards of the summit of Mt. Evans, and above 14,000 ft.
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From the top, the Continental Divide and several notable peaks, including Pike's Peak, are clearly visible, as are a research facility and the remains of a former residence that are accessible. Needless to say, it is a remarkable view from up there, and well worth the trip up.
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Those tourists sure love their mountain goats!
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Above the treeline, the weather is often extreme and changes fast. We narrowly made it down in front of a strong storm, one of those things that just makes you appreciate even more the life that finds a way up here. It also goes to show how different a day in Denver can be, from how you start it to how it ends. 
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