Summer of 2014 was a magical Manhattan swirl of good food, memories and friends, but my country girl soul still ached for the epic nature and national park glory of my previous summer, traversing the West with Ayaz.
Cities sing to one part of my soul, but so too, does the call of the wild. When given the chance to travel to Colorado in August and visit Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (thank you, Visit Estes Park), I straightened my imaginary cowgirl hat and packed my bags.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is truly a jaw dropper. The mountains are indeed majestic and all the many other superlatives I can think of, complete with sweeping views of valleys and lakes, elk sightings and moose tracks. The park is celebrating its centennial this year, and has lots of special events and activities planned.
I may be the world’s worst horseback rider — ok, make that least coordinated, but dammit, I TRY. And, above all, I love love love it. I took a trip with Estes Park Outfitters through Roosevelt National Forest and Homestead Meadows, which is marked with the remnants of 19th-century homesteads. The history was fantastic to discover, but so, too were some of the stellar views encountered during the ride. Warning: it’s a relatively difficult ride; not particularly kid-friendly.
The Key to It All
The Baldpate Inn is a curious little outpost just outside Estes Park that gains a lot of notoriety for its buffet lunch (which is actually quite forgettable). Still, it’s also home to a odd and awesome key collection of more than 20,000 keys. If you’re thinking, “Why is that exciting?” well, the truth is, it’s downright fascinating. The collection holds keys from Westminster Abbey, Hitler’s desk, Mozart’s wine cellar, the Pentagon, and even one said to be from Frankenstein’s castle.
The Stanley Hotel
It’s easily the choicest accommodation in Estes Park, but even if you don’t have the ducats to stay here, pay The Stanley Hotel a visit — it’s the actual inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining and it’s creeptastic. Don’t get me wrong, the hotel is completely plush, but take a tour and learn the story behind King’s inspiration as well as tales of alleged spirit sightings and you’ll get your spook on pretty fast. You’ll even learn how to purportedly attract the spirits of children roaming the halls.
Cascades Whiskey Bar
While you’re at the Stanley, mosey over to Cascades, home to nearly 700 whiskeys, the largest selection of whiskeys in Colorado. Be adventurous and have the super knowledgeable staff guide a mini tasting for you.