Estes Park, Colorado

My hip surgery put off this post, so to get a long-overdue writeup out of the way…

Mo and I gave some thought to where we wanted to vacation this fall, and after hearing good reports decided we wanted to give Colorado some quality time, neither of us having been there except in passing. Even better, we invited our long-time friends Dave & Sue from Los Angeles to join us, and were pleased when they said, “Yes!”

We rented a house in Estes Park and met up there on a Saturday, us flying into Denver and they driving up with their dogs Kona & Callie. The house was wonderful, and made for a terrific home base for our excursions. Although we were soon to learn that elk were to be found everywhere, we saw three in the backyard the first morning, and 36 the next morning!

morning-elk
morning elk outside our window

It didn’t take us long to adapt to our different time zones: being morning people and hour ahead of the Mountain Time, we found we could work in a trip to town to wander the streets while our late morning friends an hour behind got their beauty rest and exercised the dogs.

Estes Park is a quaint town with a scenic riverwalk behind the various shops and restaurants on the main street, overlooked by the stately Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining”. There were festivals on each of the weekends we were there, so we avoided the traffic and bustle then, opting for a later evening meal and stroll instead.

The house we were renting was just minutes from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and we made a few trips there during our stay. On our first visit, we watched some drama as a bull elk defended his herd of a dozen cows from two other bull elk. We also stopped at the alluvial fan at Horseshoe Park and tested our balance on the various boulders and rocks along and across the water there.

On another trip we drove a good section of the Trail Ridge Road, again watching elk interactions and photographing the peaks, valleys, and mountain lakes in the distance above and below the alpine tundra. The picturesque yellow aspens made for a nice splash of color among the pines all throughout our drives around the area. Long’s Peak was often in the background of our photos, the tallest mountain in the park at 12,400’+

mt-meeker-longs-peak-mt-lady-washington
left to right: Mt. Meeker, Long’s Peak, and Mt. Lady Washington

When we did finally get around to some serious hiking, we decided to head back into the park to the trail starting at Bear Lake. After stopping to take in Nymph Lake, we continued on up to elevation 9900′ to Dream Lake, where we discovered just why it was so highly recommended.

dream-lake
beautiful Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park (click to embiggen)

We had some nice exchanges with other hikers on the trail, and overall (like so many sites on our vacation) we gave it 4-out-of-5 stars: not enough oxygen!🙂

bear-lake
Bear Lake, in Rocky Mountain National Park

The next day we drove over a good portion of the Peak to Peak highway, taking in the mountains and beautiful aspens, stopping at Barker Reservoir at Nederland, and being blown away by the casino-to-anything-else ratio of Blackhawk — what’s up with that? On our way back, we paid a visit to Chapel on the Rock, and then stopped at Lily Lake to watch the ducks and muskrats before sunset.

chapel-on-the-rock
Chapel on the Rock

We ate a several fine restaurants, from Strong Mountain Restaurant, YOU NEED PIE!, Poppy’s Pizza & Grill, the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern, The Egg & I, Mountain Home Cafe, Claire’s on the Park…well, you can tell we sampled quite a few places during our stay🙂

On our last night in town for supper, we parked in the library parking lot…and were confronted by a bull elk. He was attending three cows eating tall grass near the stream just north of the lot.

downtown-elk
bull elk in downtown Estes Park library parking lot

It was incredibly relaxing to visit with our good friends and play with the dogs in the fresh mountain environment. So — would we go back again? In a heartbeat! We’d rank it 4-out-of-5 stars: needs more oxygen😉

Epilogue: On our way to the Denver airport, we stopped in Boulder to enjoy a meal at a restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and as we were finishing up our meal a gentleman at a neighboring table had seizure. We helped out where we could (and stayed out of the way the rest of the time) and thankfully he began recovering as we were leaving. It was gratifying to see that those tables around him at the time did not panic, offered a helping hand where needed, and kept their cool.

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