Fall: Colorado

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When we drove to Colorado in late September to see our daughter Lauren, who lives in Denver, the forecast was iffy at best.

The weather had been extremely warm in Denver all week – in the lower 80s – but the Indian summer was about to be replaced by cooler, rainy weather over the weekend. And in Rocky Mountain National Park, where we hoped to see fall color and elk herds, the forecast was for snow.

Ah, weather. You fickle travel foe. You can never predict these things when you plan your trips months in advance.

We had scheduled our trip to Colorado for the last weekend in September primarily because it was Lauren’s birthday. And then we found out that Frozen the Musical was staging its pre-Broadway run in Denver, so we snagged tickets. We were locked in, weather forecast be damned.

Dave and I drove out on Friday, wearing shorts. We met Lauren for dinner near our hotel at the Denver Tech Center.

The next morning we ate breakfast at Snooze, the “a.m. eatery” Lauren and Katie and I enjoyed when we visited last spring. This time I was disappointed. The restaurant still had that fun Jetsons vibe, but I made the mistake of ordering sweet potato pancakes and they came drenched in so much syrup I couldn’t eat them. They were way too sweet. (In hindsight, why didn’t I just send them back?)

After breakfast, we drove toward Colorado Springs, keeping our fingers crossed that the rain would hold off. We decided to go to the Royal Gorge; I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and I didn’t really even remember it. It’s pretty touristy, but fun.

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We walked across the pedestrian bridge (very windy!), took the gondola across the gorge, walked around, and took a lot of photos (shown above and below).

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Afterwards, we were hungry so we drove back into Colorado Springs and ate lunch at Mod Pizza, then headed to the Garden of the Gods (below). By then it was raining. We hadn’t walked more than a few yards when it really started pouring, so we went back to the car.

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And that was it for our nice weather for the day. We drove back north toward Denver, and it just rained harder and got foggier the farther we drove. It was a mess. We really wanted to be outside, but instead we shopped at an outlet mall and then went to a movie.

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Sunday was Lauren’s birthday. We started the day with brunch at a fun restaurant called Linger (above). It’s in the old Olinger Funeral Home building downtown. I really liked that place – the food was tasty, the menu was creative, and the atmosphere was very cool. I have a special affinity for funeral homes since my dad was a funeral director; I actually lived in a funeral home for a short time when I was a little girl.

We spent the rest of the day in Denver, going to dispensaries (birthday freebies!), thrift stores, the Tattered Cover bookstore, and a big, loud sports bar. It was a fun day. By late afternoon, we decided we needed to get dressed up for our evening at the theatre.

It was a cold, rainy night. We had reservations at Maggiano’s, an Italian restaurant downtown, and then tickets to Frozen at the Buell Theater. We were surrounded by little girls dressed like Elsa at both places.

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I don’t have little kids, so I’ve only seen Frozen the movie a couple of times. The stage musical is similar but has added some new musical numbers and eliminated some of the goofy Disney-movie elements. Although the show definitely appeals to families with young children, I thought it was incredible. Our seats were fifth-row center, and I found the stagecraft absolutely mesmerizing. The stage turns to ice before your very eyes! And the cast – wow, I didn’t think anyone could sing “Let It Go” like Idina Menzel. But then I heard Caissie Levy’s version and she killed it. (It’s no surprise that Levy also followed Menzel’s role as Elphaba in Broadway’s Wicked.) And Patti Murin (who has played Glinda in Wicked) is adorable as Anna. Mattea Conforti, the young actress who played Anna as a child, was equally talented and adorable. I predict this show, which opens on Broadway in late February, will run for a very long time. Maybe forever.

We left Denver Monday morning at 8 a.m. and headed toward Estes Park. The day was gloomy but not actually raining. Just before we got to our destination around 10 a.m., the skies cleared. We had been reading forecasts of cold (as low as 19 degrees) and snow, so we were really thrilled to see the sun, and it stayed nice the whole day. We were amazed! We went right into Rocky Mountain National Park. Our goal was to see (and hear) the elk rut.

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We entered at the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station just outside Estes Park and headed for Moraine Park, where we were told the elk sightings would be best. We saw gorgeous scenery and several elk, including a couple of males battling it out over the females.

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We drove Trail Ridge Road as far as we could; it was closed at Many Parks Curve. (I just checked, and the road is now closed completely until summer 2018.) At that high altitude, we saw lots of snow still on the ground from the day before.

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We went into Estes Park town for lunch at a little pie café. It was actually warm enough to sit outside to eat.

Later, we went back into the park in search of more elk sightings, and we saw plenty:

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We also walked around Bear Lake (below) and visited Sprague Lake. It was just a beautiful afternoon.

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As we were heading out of the park, we saw the largest herd of elk we’d seen all day. They were near the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center. We stopped our car, got out, and started taking pictures.

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Before long, the line of cars was backed up as far as we could see, and the herd was walking among the cars and posing for pictures for visitors. One lone male elk was trying his best to keep control of the situation, but the females and young ones were just ambling about. A couple of national park rangers were there, trying to control the traffic. It was like rush hour, with elk.

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We finally left the park and headed to The Stanley, the historic resort hotel made famous by Stephen King’s book, The Shining. We walked around the exterior and then went inside, drawn first by the welcoming porch and then by the cozy bar.

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We pulled up three barstools and ordered from a drink menu that included Redrum Punch and Shining Ale. (Not that they’re capitalizing on book fame.) I ordered a Redrum Ale.

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By then, I was pretty tired and ready to head to our hotel, Mary’s Lake Lodge, but we had to stop one more time and take pictures of another herd of elk, this time right by the road. I’m sure if you lived here, this would get tiresome, but I loved it!

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We checked into our lodge, which is big and rambling and has gorgeous views of the mountains.

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The restaurant inside the lodge smelled mighty welcoming, so we ate dinner there and called it a night. We left the next morning for our long drive back to Ames.

Our next visit to Estes Park is coming up in November, and I’m already looking forward to it!

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1 comment so far

  1. phoenixraay on

    Beautiful scenery and I am so jealous of all those elk you saw!


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