Love at First Sight in Boulder

I have been in Boulder, Colorado, less than 24 hours and already feel as though I found a home away from home, or perhaps a home to move to in the future. Or maybe I lived here in a past life, about 140 years ago, when the home we’re renting was built — who knows? The fact is that even though I can’t yet find my way around town, I experienced love at first sight when we pulled into our destination.

We found our rental, 207 Pearl Street, through vrbo.com (Vacation Rental By Owner). Choosing a rental through this website is like throwing darts blindfolded, since all the properties look and sound good — or rather, too good to be true. We felt drawn to this place because of its alluring history as a settler’s farmhouse, and because the map showed it backing up to a green swath of open space yet walking distance to Pearl Street’s shopping district.

But we had done that research months ago, and I hadn’t bothered to recheck the website and reservations before arriving. Consequently, I remembered little about it and couldn’t even recall how many bedrooms it has.

An IPhone snapshot of our arrival Sunday night at 207 Pearl Street, Boulder.

An IPhone snapshot of our arrival Sunday night at 207 Pearl Street, Boulder.

We pulled into the two-story stone dwelling slightly frazzled after a daylong trip from Telluride, which we made longer by missing an exit on the freeway by Denver and then driving two sides of a large triangle. A symphony of crickets greeted us as we parked, and I paused briefly to read the plaque on the home’s side, designating it a city landmark. Then we opened the unlocked front door.

The plaque on the side of the house detailing its history.

The plaque on the side of the house detailing its history.

We discovered two downstairs rooms that look charmingly anachronistic, framed by distressed wood floors, low wooden ceiling beams, double-hung windows, and chunky rock walls built with gravel-laden cement. In the midst of this antiquated setting stood gleaming stainless-steel appliances and a flat-screen TV. The kids ran from room to room, hollering at the discoveries of whirlpool jets in an oversize tub, skylights that open with the touch of a button, and a fireplace that turns on with a switch.

Meanwhile, I toured the place with my jaw dropped, disbelieving that we found ourselves in such a special place — a home that feels old yet updated, large yet intimate, luxurious yet rustic. It has two bedrooms (three if you count the queen bed wedged into the laundry room) and two baths, but it was built on a mid-19th-century scale, which means doorways and stairways are narrow and just a tad crooked. Taller people surely would hit their head on the low beams.

I puzzled at how the sheetrock against one wall mysteriously stops at a rough edge, revealing original stonework underneath, and how the slate tiles in the upstairs bathroom floor gape open and unintentionally create a little window to the washing machine in the room below. Here and there rusted pipes emerge from walls and go nowhere. Like any truly historic home, it reveals clues about its past that hint at how each generation and every repair added layers to its character and pages to its story.

Teddy feels at home in the small downstairs living room.

Teddy feels at home in the small downstairs living room.

Teddy also likes hanging out at the foot of our bed.

Teddy also likes hanging out at the foot of our bed.

We ate a late dinner at a trattoria on Pearl Street and fell into bed exhausted. I woke up when it was still dark outside and worked through the disorientation that comes from spending the night in a new surrounding — where am I? what day is it? My muscles ached from the race I ran Saturday, and my head ached from last night’s wine, so I knew I had to get out and run. I tiptoed around to find running clothes and headed out just after 6 a.m., the sun glowing but not yet showing over the mountains.

I ran no more than a couple hundred yards, to the junction of Pearl Street and Canyon Boulevard, before stopping to take in and fully appreciate the open space preserve so close to our front door. “Settlers Park,” the sign said, named after the settlers who camped under the red rock outcropping that rose suddenly at a trailhead before me. Still not fully awake and scarcely believing the good fortune that led me to this trail on which I could welcome the new day, I began scrambling up the rocky single-track. Midway up I stopped and had second thoughts. I had no idea how steep it was or where it went. This would be a great place to bring the kids and Teddy, I told myself, vowing to explore it with them later. I felt like relaxing my mind and muscles on a gentler and straighter route, so I headed back down and rejoined the main bike path that meandered along Boulder Creek.

Colly and Kyle in the shadows by the trailhead at Settlers Park, which we explored later in the day.

Colly and Kyle in the shadows by the trailhead at Settlers Park, which we explored later in the day.

Another 200 yards and I paused again to look around at a grassy area and playground called Eben G. Fine Park, next to the picturesque river. I was at the mouth of Boulder Canyon and the paved path kept going on indefinitely along the shoulder of the river, hugging the sheer canyon walls. Picking up my pace, I discovered the pavement ended after about a mile and gave way to a well-groomed dirt footing ideal for running. No wonder Boulder is a runners’ mecca, I thought. And then, as if to prove my point, the first of several sinewy, elite-looking runners sped past. Faster and more frequently they came, some in matching outfits signifying their place on a team, all of them looking serious at a distance but then smiling as they passed.

I returned after about five miles, just as the others were waking. The kids and I walked a half-mile east on Pearl for breakfast at the nearest cafe while Morgan headed off on his bike.

I knew, and the kids knew, that we should get back to the house and start the day’s schooling, but we shared the sense that we’d rather explore. “Maybe we could do PE first,” said Kyle, “PE” being our tongue-in-cheek term for legitimizing playing and running around.

“Yeah, and it might get cloudy later, so we should go out now,” Colly added. Easily persuaded, I agreed that we should walk to the park.

Morgan, the kids and Teddy reunite on the bike path this morning.

Morgan, the kids and Teddy reunite on the bike path this morning.

Walking along the bike path, we soon spotted Morgan riding the other way. He turned around and went with us to the playground. First the kids played on the swings, then they splashed in the river.

Kyle and Colly "doing PE" in Boulder Creek this morning.

Kyle and Colly "doing PE" in Boulder Creek this morning.

We were in no hurry to go anywhere, not compelled to do anything. Eventually the kids agreed it was time to go back. Morgan and I helped them with their schooling for a couple of hours, then we took a break, and then we spent more time reading and writing. The wi-fi was fickle, so we took more breaks. We made plans to buy groceries and take Colly to a drop-in gymnastics class tonight. Morgan ran an errand to the camera store.

And that’s all, and that’s why I love it here.

Colly and I spent time together this afternoon writing in the little office off the master bedroom, overlooking a terraced garden in back. The room probably used to be a back porch.

Colly and I spent time together this afternoon writing in the little office off the master bedroom, overlooking a terraced garden in back. The room probably used to be a back porch.

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4 Comments

  1. Martha Howard, September 15, 2009:

    Sarah: “My muscles ached from the race I ran Saturday, and my head ached from last night’s wine, so I knew I had to get out and run.”

    Me: My muscles ached from walking around the block, and my head ached from last night’s wine, so I knew I had to pop an advil and sleep for least two more hours.”

    You crack me up, Sar! Glad to hear you guys and Boulder are such a great match

  2. Christine, September 15, 2009:

    Hi Sarah Just read your post about Boulder and you made me feel so nostalgic. i used to run on the Boulder creek all the time going up towards the mountain. Check out the Mesa Trail leaving from Chatauqua park ( Baseline and around 10th street)and also Flagstaff trail starting from Baseline Road a bit further up from Chatauqua. I would run from my home ( 830 14th street) all the time!!! We miss you here. Got stung by bees on Golden Spike while running with Eric ( who got stung too). kisses Christine

  3. fiona lewis, September 15, 2009:

    Sounds really fun and luxorious! Tell Colly hi for me!See you soon(ish)

  4. Chris Becker, September 16, 2009:

    Really enjoyed your commentary. I’m sure you will head up Boulder canyon? Used to climb those cliffs back in my college days! I could live there again too.

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