I received a fabulous invitation (WooHoo) to a Girls’ Getaway in Estes Park. In the past, Colorado meant winter wonderland and skiing in deep champagne powder, hot toddies and warm fires. So I couldn’t wait to Skedaddle and see what we could do in early Fall.
We were hoping to witness “bugling” elk in the Moraine Park meadow of Rocky Mountain National Park and traverse the Trail Ridge Road, which skims the continental divide at over 12,000 feet of elevation, before the snows shut everything down until May.
… Love in the Aspens and Chipmunk with Winged Friend ….
First stop … check into our cabin, on trout pond, at the quaint Trout Haven Resorts (√) and make plans for the next two days:
- Trail ride in the RMNP by horseback (√)
- Make reservations for meals (√)
- Estes Park Fine Arts & Crafts Show (√)
- Driving Trail Ridge Road (√) in hopes of catching the seasonal color change of the Aspens and perhaps …
- See wildlife “doing their thing”: those bull elk aren’t “bugling” for nothing (√) …
AND … if I thought we were going to have any place to ourselves, not so: “No Vacancy” signs on cabins everywhere, packed restaurants, traffic snarled the streets in Estes Park and the shops were hopping. Clearly, Fall in the Rockies and Estes Park in particular are quite the traditional weekend outing from Denver and the weather could not have been better: dry 80 degrees daytime temperatures followed by chilly crisp nights! What’s not to LOVE!
We chose the Gateway Stables, located just outside the RMNP, offering a 2 hour trail ride ($55pp … GREAT VALUE) that would take us miles along the Fall River through Little Horse Shoe Park in the National Park where the terrain and views would be awesome with elevations above 7,000+ feet. Our guide, Miller, from Georgia, was a “Yes Ma’am” kinda guy and his spiel was great. We were one of the last groups of trail riders for the season and our horses will be the tail end of the herd to be moved next week to over-winter in Iowa.
After our morning trail ride we shopped in town, sampled delectable taffy,
and threaded our way through the Fine Arts & Crafts tents that were set up in the Knoll Open Space: amazing photography and lots of of jewelry and crafts one would expect to find in the Rockies.
The drive through the Rocky Mountain National Park ($20 for 6 day pass) which, by the way, celebrated its Centennial Anniversary this year, was amazing: winding roads with rising elevations and changing vegetation as spruces and golden aspens gave way to tundra and rocky terrain. By the time we summited Trail Ridge Road (12,183′), we found ourselves in a moonscape at the Alpine Visitor Center above which a short but steep trail takes hikers higher still offering spectacular 360 degree views. The mind-blowing Jurassic-sized timbers (below), scissored as buttresses over the roofs, speak to the massive amount of winter snowfall typical at these altitudes … not shoveling that stuff!
Whether ascending or descending, a line up of vehicles parked on the edge of the road telegraphed that wildlife was present. Of course, we were happy to add to the bottleneck by parking and sprinting to join the gawkers and pointers. We were just as excited to witness first hand the moose or elk who were minding their business lying in tall grasses like this very large female moose.
gather en masse in the hills and meadows (along with their chairs, coolers and fishing rods) during the late afternoon to quietly watch the elk herds’ daily migration down into Moraine Park. We had just such an encounter with an unhappy and testy bull elk who was trying to get his 3 gals to cross down from the hillside across a packed road to the lower meadow.
He “bugled” with great intensity and passion until the rangers stopped traffic affording him a wide swath to traverse. Unfortunately, the ladies weren’t convinced so he had to do an about face and return to the hillside …
… “bugling” a whole lot more until they relented and followed him across the road, into a stream … and the meadow beyond.
Harrumph … Very brave stuff!
When it comes to dining out, everywhere you go the theme is rustic and casual and the atmosphere tends to be loud and cheerful with everyone having a great time. Dinner the first evening was in a converted dance hall c.1937: Rock Inn Mountain Tavern. As its original purpose suggests, the interior is an open floor plan with a large wrap around bar and plenty of seating for casual dining. The exception in the decor department was at The Dunraven Inn which brands itself as “The Rome of The Rockies” and uses as its signature image, The Mona Lisa, which is placed ubiquitously … along with origami dollar bills …
… yes, perhaps a little confusing but since the cuisine is Italian and the decor very eclectic and homey, it eventually all makes sense. By the by … reservations are listed simply as (!) so absolutely reserve in advance. Our dinner was delicious with an ample wine list, sweet desserts and our server, Bianca, was great!
Summing up the adventure in the Rockies is best done visually:
Well … I hope you enjoyed this Skedaddle to the Rockies … if so, please “Like” and “Share” on Facebook and visit:
http://www.KateStillwellPhotography.com OCTOBER 1st for your Stock photo needs and Photography holiday shopping: available in various sizes, matted and framed or photo shipped in cylinder …
Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park Links:
http://www.trouthavenranch.com let Marisa take care of all your needs
http://www.dunraveninn.com ask for Bianca
http://www.rockinnestes.com Try their local IPA by O’dell’s
http://www.skhorses.com They suggest: Kiss your horse n’ tip your guide
http://www.estesparktaffy.com Their moto: “Spoiling Dinner Since 1970”