One Denver-based creative started to feel the pang of burnout as the world re-opened and swiftly returned to business as usual. Lucy Beaugard took a trip to southwestern Colorado to reconnect with nature, herself, and her creativity.
Before the pandemic, I averaged at least one or two solo wanders a month. Even if it was only to get away for the day, exploring alone has always been something that grounds me, forcing me to get out of my own head and feel inspired once again.
Many people don’t realize that living and working a creative career means dealing with the inevitable creative block and burnout. To combat these, a dear friend and I used to plan quarterly dates together where we’d flip a coin and let the outcome decide which direction we’d head. We never really had a plan; just driving or pulling off to explore county roads and mountaintops together. We’d be creating along the way, feeding off each other’s passions.
The past year has been a rough one—mentally, physically and creatively. As a Denver-based freelance photographer, I watched my business disappear in 48 hours and immediately had to start thinking about my options. My creativity drained as I slashed my prices and figured out new ways to generate business for both myself and my clients. I began to struggle to find the drive to create.
Now, I finally feel like I see the other side. Clients are beginning to hire me at just below cost, and I even have moments where I’m overwhelmed and inundated with requests. It’s been the push I needed to wake up and find the reason I fought so hard to make it in a creative field in the first place. With the residual fatigue after a year of unknowns still lingering, it’s been crucial to find ways to pull myself out of the fog.
A spontaneous solo date is exactly what I’ve needed. So on a recent Wednesday I find myself again flipping a coin in search of something more: heads = northwest and tails = southwest. This time traveling with my new Away Packable Sling Bag in tow and a few essential items to get me through a loosely planned day alone.
I-70 W & Guanella Pass
Heading southwest from Denver on I-70 W has always been one of my favorite drives. The opportunities to stop and explore are endless. The plan was to pull off at a few places I hold close to my heart along the way but traffic of course had other things in mind. Instead, I made a straight shot for Guanella Pass after sitting in an extra hour of traffic. Unfortunately, upon arrival the top of the pass was closed.
I made the best of my adventure and pulled off onto the side of the road with my Away Packable Sling Bag to eat a snack, read my book (Educated by Tara Westover, a recent gift from my partner), and take in one of my favorite little lakes. I have been coming up this road since I moved to Colorado just over six years ago—it’s generally a quick drive from Denver and a way for me to clear my head and soak in various landscapes from moody, desolate mountain passes to valleys overflowing with golden aspens and evergreen trees. And the upside of spending the morning wandering around Guanella Pass is that Georgetown is just below and filled with the sweetest little mountain town shops and places to grab a coffee or a quick bite.
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After heading back toward Denver from Guanella, I decided at the last minute to pop into Southwest Gardens, a neighborhood nursery that has helped me get over my fear of raising houseplants. It’s been almost four years since I bought my first plant (a philodendron!) home, and not to brag, but I’ve now managed to fill my place with 15 plants and only struggled to keep two alive. One of the many reasons I continue to go to Southwest Gardens is the staff: everyone is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, plus each section is marked based on how much light and water plants need. To be honest, when I bought my first plant I hadn’t expected to fall in love with the process. (It turns out plants offer a longer lasting shot of post-purchase endorphins than a bottle of nail polish or a bouquet!) I picked out a new cactus to take home to meet all my other plants.
The Source Hotel
Leaving Southwest Gardens, I made my way to the Source Hotel in the River North district of Denver for a last minute night away—because why not? After 2020, a staycation is just what is needed. The hotel is modern, with Japanese and Scandanavian design features. The rooms are large and bright with massive windows and skyline views. Connected to the hotel is the Source Marketplace, with over 20 different vendors from Beet and Yarrow florists to Acorn restaurant and Station 16 Art Prints. Stomach growling, I checked into my room, freshened up, and headed downstairs with my Sling Bag in tow to grab a bite.
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It’s amazing how things work out: I’d had this intense craving for BBQ for a couple weeks and had planned to pop into Idaho Springs for a bite at one of my favorite mountain town ‘cue spots during my morning wanders, but due to the traffic I decided to bypass that idea.
Making my way into the Source Marketplace I stumbled across Smok, which I hadn’t visited since they opened a few years ago. The smoky barbecue and delicious sides had my mouth watering even before I was handed my tray, which was piled with “dealer’s choice” to continue my day of spontaneity: tender pieces of brisket and pork, mac n’ cheese with white cheddar and black pepper, creamed corn with smoked chile, queso fresh and lime, and spicy pit beans.
Rooftop Pool & Bar
Completely satiated, I made my way to the rooftop bar where the views of Denver’s skyline are breathtaking. I’ve always been a fan of a classic cocktail—my go-to is an extra dirty Hendricks martini. Naturally that was the best way to cleanse the palette before retreating to my room. Garage doors separating the bar from the partial wrap-around patio and plunge swimming pool were wide open, allowing city skylines to wrap around the entire space. After munching on the residual olives left from a once full martini glass, I retreated to my room where I drew myself a hot bubble bath. Book in hand, I allowed myself to sink into the tub and let out a deep sigh of relief. It was a really good day. I needed it.
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Lucy Beaugard’s Packing List
1. Away Packable Sling Bag
Perfect for spontaneous day trips.
2. Petzl Headlamp
Whenever getting outside for the day or longer, I make sure my headlamp is in tow and loaded with fresh batteries. It’s good to have a light source in case wandering lasts all night or even if I find myself in an unexpected pinch.
Snacks: always a necessary thing to carry around in case hunger strikes and I’m in the midst of a hike or an adventure. I usually pack Licorice Nibs and a protein bar, but this time I opted for some trail mix.
4. Liquid IV Electrolytes
Living in Colorado has taught me to always be hydrated—from the high altitude and dry air, it’s easy to feel lethargic from dehydration, so I always have a pack of electrolytes to keep me fresh.
5. Burt’s Bees Chapstick
Dry air also means dry, cracked lips.
6. Apple Earphones
I’m one of those humans who is constantly listening to music based on what I’m feeling. If I’m out and about I try to have my headphones handy so that I’m not disturbing anyone else around me with my tunes.
Even my dirty or athleisure wear can be elevated with a simple cover up or kimono — and I never know if I’m going to need to look a little more presentable in a pinch.
Having a pen and paper has been a great way for me to jot down notes or thoughts I have throughout the day. I can work through any little inspirations or internal monologues I have with myself by writing it all down.
If hunger strikes or I need to fill the tank, it’s always important to have my wallet with an ID and a few forms of payment ready to go.