Where do you go to get away from your “go mode?” Where do you go to recharge your batteries, maybe find a little adventure, lose track of time, and let go of your daily insanity? I was desperately seeking a solo weekend to do all of those. Where did I go? To the edge of wild. But, wild isn’t as far away as you think. My edge was at the Ritz Carleton Bachelor Gulch. Ok, so I wanted to be pampered in luxury at the edge of wild. Who doesn’t?
Joy of Letting Go
It was one of those Fridays where I was scrambling to fit in a hundred bazillion things into a few hours – pretty much a typical day for me. I had every intention of leaving Denver mid to late morning, meeting a friend in Frisco on the way, and then enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the Ritz. Of course, that didn’t happen. I finally put down my to do list, with the exception of a few phone calls on the drive up to Bachelor Gulch, arriving at the Ritz late afternoon. It was buzzing with guests checking in for a Texas-size wedding. I could hear the buzz of the wedding guests, yet I couldn’t as I entered one of the largest freestanding “log cabins” in the contiguous United States. The pixie dust of this magical mountain lodge was already being sprinkled on me as the welcoming staff made me feel like I was the only guest in this paradise in the Rockies. The moment I walked in, I caught a glimpse of the oversized Great Hall calling me into this mountain chalet that would be my home for the weekend. It really does have a luxe homey feel. Plus, the staff is over-the-top friendly, helpful, and just plain ole kind. As I opened the door to my room, I just said, “aaahhhhh.” My room was spacious with a huge bathroom, and a wonderful balcony overlooking the pool and forest cascading down the mountain. I immediately made the decision to soak in my oversized tub later that night. In my first few moments at the Ritz Bachelor Gulch, I was already experiencing the joy of letting go.
After getting settled, I headed back down to the lobby level to grab an early dinner. My choice was the traditional gastropub Buffalos. House-made veggie burger with truffle fries and a glass of rosé out on the patio was the perfect way to ease into my weekend getaway. I scarfed down the delicious burger and sinfully good fries then grabbed a second glass of rosé and headed over to one of the Adirondack chairs to enjoy a delightful Friday evening. With the sun starting to go down over the picturesque setting of Bachelor Gulch, it was magical. Plus, it was a stellar spot to people watch as a wedding party mingled on the patio, children laughed and ran around on the ultra-green grass, and couples enjoyed time together in the breathtaking scenery of this rustic yet luxurious lodge nestled in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Bachelor Gulch was founded by seven single pioneer men who settled in the quiet mountainside after working as miners in Leadville. At first glance you might say the Ritz Bachelor Gulch looks like a grandiose Swiss chalet, but it was inspired by “parkitecture,” a style of architecture used to design the historic lodges built in national parks in the 1920s and 1930s. Before heading back up to my room, I swung by the spa and got some bubble bath. After a long soak, I drifted off to dreamland as I could barely keep my eyes open while cozily watching Under the Tuscan Sun all snuggled up in the luxurious linens of my bed.
I was up early Saturday morning doing one thing I love – hiking. But this morning hike was different. I headed out with the Ritz’s general manager Steve Janicek, his daughter and niece who were in town for a visit, and a couple of other guests – a guy from Florida and another guy with his son from Annapolis, Maryland. But the star of the hike was a rather well-fed Saint Bernard named Bachelor. We were driven up to the top of the mountain and started our hike near Mamie’s Mountain Grill. It was a perfect morning for hiking as we made our way through aspen groves, fabulous vista views, and wide-open meadows, which are ski runs in winter. As we were winding our way back down the mountain and chatting about life, which usually happens when hiking with others, I made the comment that I “live for experiences, not things.” It’s a common bond I share with Steve, his daughter and niece as like me, they lost a family member unexpectedly too young in life. Nature is healing and hiking that morning in the pure mountain air and breathtaking forest was renewing and simply good for the soul.
After the morning hike, I decided I was heading out to log a few more miles and hike from Bachelor Gulch to Beaver Creek. Caitlyn at concierge desk mapped out a village-to-village hike for me. The chairlift right from the Ritz was running that Saturday. So, I took a ride up to Mamie’s, listened to some live music and sipped a little sparkling Italian wine in the sunshine.
From Mamie’s I hiked Daybreak Ridge for 1.5 miles, then connected to the Village-to-Village Trail. Normally that route would be about a 4-mile hike but I decided to add a little extra by hiking it all the way to Beaver Lake Trail. Call it the allure of the forest I guess for me to add a little extra mileage! I took Beaver Lake Trail to Five Senses Trail, which follows the creek into Beaver Creek Village. After grabbing a post-hike snack, I called for the shuttle for the fast way back to the Ritz. I’d logged enough miles for the day!
A Wyld Epicurean Experience
Having worked up a huge appetite hiking, for dinner I dined al fresco at Wyld. My server Will was an absolute delight. He’s been at the Ritz for about 13 years. He suggested kicking off the evening with one of their crafted cocktails and I went for the Ginger Gulch made with Tito’s vodka, ginger, honey, and fresh lemon.
I was dining alone but was never really alone. I had so many delightful conversations with staff members at the Ritz. I chatted food with executive chef Jasper Scheider. I love how he uses techniques he picked up while working in the Bahamas and gives a mountain twist to them. Sommelier Ben and I had an instant connection as his sister lives in my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Plus, he knows his wine and yes, I put him to the test to pick one out for me. Brendan, the manager, grew up and New Zealand and South Africa. I enjoyed chatting about two dream travel destinations for me. There was Camille and Jess, two delightful gals on J-1 Visas, which is an international work program for students. They were always smiling as they came around to check on me. I had a lengthy conversation with Paola, also on a J-1 visa. She is from the Philippines and has big dreams of becoming a blogger and writer. Will knew she has this dream and brought her over to introduce her to me. I instantly adored her. She’s bright, vivacious, a little timid, and a sheer delight. As I picked out dessert, I put her on the spot and asked her to describe her favorite. I’ll get to that, but first let me what you through my wonderful meal. The fluke ceviche was divine. It was topped with apple, pickled red onion, microgreens, espelette pepper, and jalapeño for a nice kick. The Baby Beet Salad was next. The beets still had a little crunch and paired perfectly with the hazelnuts, goat cheese, and dried cherry vinaigrette. I caved when the bread came out. I had to try a slice of the house made bread made from a 3-day starter. Ben, the sommelier, recommended Patient Cottat, a French Sauvignon Blanc to go with the Maine Diver Scallops I ordered. He was spot on with this pairing. The crispness of the wine paired with the peas and minerality paired with scallops. The peas were just a touch al dente and the sea scallops topped with a pinch of sea salt. The presentation with sugar snap lemon sesame and yuzu soy on half of the plate was Instagram worthy. Very rarely do I eat everything…but I ate everything! Light, refreshing, stunningly presented, and bursting with flavor is how I would describe my dinner. My dessert choice was lemon meringue tart. It was light, creamy, tangy, and delightful just as Paola described. It’s also different with the meringue on the bottom. That’s Jasper’s twist on a classic summer dessert. It was definitely a night of indulgence.
Sunday morning, I got up early to take in sunrise while drinking coffee and admiring the gorgeous flowers around the mountainside patio. Plus, there was a crispness in the air with temperatures in the 50s as a hint of fall soon arriving, so I was taking full advantage of a pleasant mountain morning.
I got to hike to Steve and Bachelor again. This time it was just the three of us. We had a great time stopping and chatting with other hikers we came upon on the trail in between our talking shop as we made our way down the mountain. He made a comment about how blessed he felt to live and work in Bachelor Gulch, right at the edge of wild. Stand out on the mountainside terrace of the Ritz and you’ll understand exactly what he means. You’re in the lap of luxury just steps away from the rugged beauty of the forest that attracted the seven bachelors who made it their home so many years ago.
I was in full relaxation mode and did something I don’t normally do. Not wanting to leave and with a visit to the spa next on my agenda, I extended my stay for another night. As Steve said, “You can’t get a stress relief massage then jump into I-70 traffic. That’s defeats the purpose of the massage!” He was right and secretly I was thrilled to get one more night at the Ritz. I arrived a few minutes early to the spa. I wanted a little decompression time. The hotel is built into the mountain and with the spa on a lower level, you get instant quiet. My massage therapist Chase worked some serious magic on my beat-up hiker and traveler body. When my massage bliss was over, and Chase was walking me back to the lounge, I said still in a la la land state of mind, “I so needed that.” “Yes, you did. I will not deny that,” Chase quickly responded and we both laughed. I took full advantage of my spa time and soaked in the Grotto. As I was lounging in a chair to dry off while listening to the soothing sounds of the water flowing into the Grotto, I drifted off for a quick catnap. I’d get another one of those poolside in the afternoon.
With morning quickly turning into afternoon, I partook in the lovely Sunday jazz brunch. As the saying goes, “It’s not brunch without a mimosa.” The brunch stations were overflowing with yumminess from fresh salads to scrumptious pastries to savory eats like salmon and omelets. My Sunday Funday brunch rolled right into chill time at the pool. The brunch patio and pool are right next to each other, so the pool seemed fitting for my next stop. As I sat in the sun hearing the buzz of families enjoying the pool I dozed into dreamland for my second nap of the day.
Last Blissful Night
Later that afternoon I headed back to the Adirondack chairs I had sat in Friday evening. This time I sipped a frosé from Daniel’s Bar & Grill. I had to try it in the name of research was what I told myself as I sipped the refreshing frozen rosé. Needing to do a little screen time on my computer I opted to have dinner in the Great Room. There’s a coziness to my favorite spot in the Ritz with the three-story stone and wood-burning fireplace surrounded by lots of seating nooks and expansive windows looking out to the mountain. Great Room Manager Andrew came over for a chat – another uber-friendly staff member. I truly was beginning to feel like part of the Ritz family. Wanting something to nibble on while I worked, I went “go big or go home” fashion and ordered the cast iron nachos. There was enough for a whole gaggle of folks! I didn’t even get close to making a dent in them, but they were worth even mile I would log on the trail the next day.
I thoroughly enjoyed one last blissful night on the edge of wild….in full luxe style.