The hostel is situated on the top of a hill where the main core of the university students live. It's a really nice area, if a little noisy come night time (I dread to think what it's like during term time) and it's walking distance from the trails in the mountains, as well as the town centre. For the first day I just wanted to acquaint myself with the town so I made my way down the hill to 'Pearl Street'. I was not disappointed.
Most American cities follow the same pattern; endless wide roads that go on as far as the horizon will allow it, concrete, building works and a severe lack of greenery. Boulder aims not to turn this on its head, but to make an American-style city as beautiful as it can be... and it succeeds. The Pearl Street Mall is precisely the kind of thing that you might find in any town in England - it's a stretch of pedestrianised road with shops and restaurants on either side - but to this it adds a concoction of sculptures, play areas for kids, street entertainers, hot dog vendors and trees. Lots of trees.
Having lived in Salisbury and Southampton I had never realised how crucial the various parks and getaway areas were to the mood of its citizens. Walking around New York I found myself dying to see one tree, or one little patch of grass that I could sit down on and read a book for half-an-hour but the only way to remove yourself from the mass of buildings and roads is to catch the subway up to Central Park, which is a mission in itself.
People in Boulder are also sickeningly healthy (if you'll excuse the oxymoron). As I perused the streets I came across health food shops, veggie cafes, zen shops, joggers, cyclists, people doing Tai Chi in the park. It is rather strange to think that the town with the most lively (read pissed) population of students in the USA is also one of the healthiest towns in existence. There is a whole system of 'Greenways' running through the town and up into the mountains alongside rivers and parks, with little posts giving you information on the various environmental efforts the town makes to keep itself clean.
The town shares the environmental blame with its locals by saying that all substances that go into the drainage system flows untreated into the river - which is used by paddling children, as well as people floating down its length in canoes and rubber tyres - and so warns against putting potentially harmful substances down the drains.
The second day I walked along one of the shorter trails in the mountains. The Rockies, even right on the edge of the range are a sight to behold. People of all ages use the trails to escape from the city into relative solitude and when you pass the occasional person it is customary to stop for a brief conversation, or at the very least say 'hey'.
The last day was the day of the great excursion. I hiked up to the top of Green Mount which, at 8100ft, took a hell of a lot of effort. Every time I turned a corner thinking I must be close to the top there was another steep incline to climb. My whole body was protesting, water was running low and it was absolutely baking but once I got to the top everything was worth it (as you will see from the pictures). By then I just wanted to be airlifted down but alas, my helicopter was in for repairs so I had to walk. The smack smack smack of my feet on the rocks left me thinking I needed a hip replacement and I was desperate to find some water and a chair.
After 5 hours in the mountains I spent a well deserved afternoon reading by the river and got an early night ready to catch the bus to Denver at 5:20 in the morning. Next stop - Salt Lake City.
The train rolled into Denver at the slightly more civilised time of 7:00 so I got the connecting bus to Boulder. First impressions weren't that great - the bus dropped me off about 3 miles away from downtown where there was a petrol station and a load of building works going on. I was chatting to a woman on the bus who's friend was going to pick her up so she offered me a lift into town. Awesome.