Every year since 2014, GMC has hosted an expert fantasy football league in Denver, Colorado. For this event, 12 of the most prominent sports writers from outlets like Yahoo Fantasy, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, Maxim, and AskMen fly to Denver to take part in the festivities, which include an introduction to the following year’s line of GMC vehicles.
Although the draft itself is quite an experience — it happens inside the Denver Broncos stadium, just steps away from the field — my annual excursion has included what has now become my favorite drive. I arrive a day early to take a ride up Mount Evans, which is the highest paved road in North America.
All in all, there are many beautiful drives in and around Denver. Some prefer a ride to Vail or into The Rockies, but the expedition up Mount Evans — all 14,264 feet — is something everyone should do at least once.
The base of Mount Evans is just over an hour away from downtown Denver. To get there, you’ll have to find your way to I-70 West and take exit 240 to get to Idaho Springs. Once you’ve reached Idaho Springs, just follow the signs. Bring warm clothes as it can get quite cold at the summit, even in the summer, and keep in mind that the scenic byway is only open from about Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Denver has a burgeoning food scene, but my tradition is to visit the same barbeque joint to get a to-go order before embarking on my journey: Kitchen Table Café.
One of the challenges of being a food lover who is health-conscious is that barbeque usually has to be a guilty pleasure. It’s either traditional meat (chock full of steroids and GMOs), or the sauces are stocked with preservatives and sugar, or corners are cut on the sides to save money. But Kitchen Table Café is a much more unique barbeque spot.
It starts with the meat, which is about as close to organic as you can get. Although it’s not 100-percent organic, it’s the same level that you’d find at Whole Foods. In terms of the sauces, dressings, and condiments, they’re all made in-house and sweetened with cane sugar (and no high-fructose corn syrup or preservatives). The idea is to eliminate the ingredients that you can’t pronounce and the foods that can’t be sourced — and that’s greatly appreciated.
Listen, you’re still eating fatty cuts of meat and there’s butter, sugar, and a bunch of other not-so-healthy things involved because it’s comfort food — but there’s a conscious effort here to make it better, to make it how our grandparents would have done it before chemicals leached their way into the culinary process. And as a result, this is quality comfort food done right.
There are two beautiful lakes you’ll encounter on your way up Mount Evans: Echo Lake and Summit Lake. Echo Lake is always my first stop, as that’s where I park myself on a bench and indulge in my barbeque lunch.
Echo Lake isn’t far up the mountain, which means the weather is still relatively warm. There’s a nice trail that goes around the lake — about three-quarters-of-a-mile long — which is a recommended break from the driving.
Summit Lake, on the other hand, is at about a 13,000-foot elevation. It’s surrounded by rocky cliffs that are 1,000 feet above it and there’s also a small hike you can do here too. If you’re interested in a spectacular view, head about a one-quarter mile to the Chicago Lake Basin overlook.
The Four Seasons
One of the highlights of driving up Mount Evans is experiencing four seasons in a day. My visit always comes at the end of August, so summer is the most obvious of the four. As you set off on your ride, you’ll feel the sweltering sun and the warmth in the air, but as you start to move up the mountain, the temperature will gradually drop. You’ll still see bright colors, which offer a springtime feeling – especially at Echo Lake – but you can feel a seasonal change.
At one point, you’ll make a turn to reach the backside of the mountain, and the sun will disappear. Those neon greens and bright blues that were there before now start to fade to fall yellows.
And the last season — if you’re lucky — presents itself at the summit. As you’re reaching the top, you’ll be driving through the clouds, and sometimes those clouds are delivering some snow…even in August!
Careful when you step out of your car at the summit. Not only is it sure to be brisk, but you might feel the altitude kick in as you get out of your car. Move slowly as you take in the breathtaking views now that you’ve reached the peak of the highest paved road in North America. There’s no rush now; you’ve reached your destination.