Rainy Day in Boulder

Staring at the four walls of my hotel wasn’t an option on a recent rainy day in Boulder, Colorado. I had to get out. Fortunately, I had a rain jacket and a sense of adventure. That, coupled with internet access and a good map, had me heading out to explore some alternate things to do. 

I was only one block away from the famous Pearl Street Mall, an outdoor pedestrian mall with shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries, so I splashed that direction first. Windows full of interesting pastas, funky bowls, funny napkins, cookbooks and candies lured me into Peppercorn. This two-story shop is a foodie’s dream come true with jars of hard-to-find items like clotted cream and vegetables marinated in spices and oils. Toward the back is an area of gourmet kitchen tools and linens to decorate any host’s table. Candles nestle here and there among other products, and a wander upstairs reveals household décor for any taste. 

Back outside, I snuggled my bag of treats under my raincoat and kept going. Plenty of shops on the mall sell rain and hiking gear, and I passed several places where I could have tasted one of the many microbrews that call Boulder home. It was a small place called Smithklein Gallery where a life-sized bronze dog waved me into the store. Oil paintings, glass sculptures and a wind-blown dog happily panting out of a real Volkswagen car door are just some of the pieces on display. 

Not far from there was another gallery called Lolo Rugs and Gifts, but this one had handmade Turkish rugs and brightly colored lamps arranged in various explosions of light and color. Some stood alone, others were gathered into multihued bouquets that hung from sizeable chandeliers. Soaps and jewelry are also sold here, but the magical lamps and rugs stood out as cacophonies of color that stopped me in my tracks.  

The rainy mall exhausted, I hopped into my car to go exploring. Years ago, I used to play “get lost” with my brother when we lived in Los Angeles and would do just that – driving into the Hollywood Hills to get lost and find our way out again; we saw amazing things well off the beaten path. This seemed like a good idea for an inclement day in Boulder, too. 

Fortunately, I was in luck. Canyon Boulevard turned into Boulder Canyon Drive and took me up into the Front Range of mountains that make up the westernmost side of Boulder. Steep, rocky inclines flanked me with strong Ponderosa Pines growing straight up their stone slopes and Boulder Creek rushed down alongside the road. Every curve in this windy road was a feast for the eyes. And then, like a gem, Barker Meadow Reservoir opened up in front of me with the little town of Nederland on its far end. 

I later learned that Barker Meadow provides water to the city of Boulder and is a great place to catch trout and salmon from shore, but no boats or swimming are allowed on this shining reservoir that was built in 1910. Those activities would not comply with Boulder’s water regulations. 

Curving around the reservoir I found myself in Nederland itself and decided to stop in for a turmeric tea with honey at the Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt shop. True to its name, the café is literally three train cars put together: a 1905 pullman car, an 1872 circus car that had once been a railway post office car, and a caboose built in 1910. It was off season, so the barista told me I was out of luck for enjoying their signature mini-donuts. But the tea was great, and I was able to drink it in a vintage railroad coach that still had brass window lifts, stained glass windows and patterned red material on the ceiling. I had to wonder how many feet had walked on that hard wood floor. 

Just around the corner on First Street I grabbed a sandwich and some chips at Mountain Peoples Coop after wandering around in a gem and fossil shop and the Rustic Moose where I found Colorado souvenirs for everyone on my list. 

Farther down First Street I found several signs and references to Frozen Dead Guy Days. Evidently, this town made its fame not as the mining town it once was, but because of the frozen man that was discovered in a woman’s back yard in the mid-1990s. She and her son had been carrying her cryogenically frozen father around with them from Norway to California and eventually to Nederland where he was discovered and became somewhat of a celebrity. Now Bredo Morstoe is kept on dry ice delivered bi-monthly by locals and is celebrated in mid-March every year by the entire town of Nederland with their annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival. 

Historic train cars find new life as a coffee shop in Nederland, Colo. OR—Cryogenically frozen Bredo Morstoe inspires Frozen Dead Guy Days, an annual festival in Nederland, Colo. OR – Nederland, Colo., is a small, welcoming village that has an unusual annual Frozen Dead Guys Day festival. Photo courtesy of Lesley Sauls Frederikson.

Heading back down the mountain pass through the towering pines and rocks, I spotted a sign for Boulder Falls and pulled over with several other cars to explore one of the shortest hiking paths I have ever seen – safe for a drizzly day. Carefully carved rock steps lead up and down into a crag between two stone cliffs where a gushing stream explodes over a cliff and signs warn of imminent death for waders and those who would dare to venture off of the trail. I stood in awe of nature’s sheer strength and permanence. These stones, this creek and even some of the towering trees around me had been there long before I was born and would exist long after my demise. 

Boulder Falls gushes out of a crag in the Front Range of mountains just outside Boulder, Colo. Photo courtesy of G Adventures.

As I drove back to my hotel, the rain gave way to dappled sunshine that peeked down through the parting clouds overhead. Bikers and walkers were taking to the streets again, but my rainy adventure had unearthed things I would never otherwise have seen – through art, humor and the sheer force of nature. 


            Play on Pearl Street: www.boulderdowntown.com

            Navigate Nederland: www.townofnederland.colorado.gov

            Chill with Grandpa Bredo: www.frozendeadguydays.com

            Feel the Falls: www.dayhikesneardenver.com/boulder-falls/

            Lesley Sauls Frederikson is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.