Hello again all!
Last weekend we finally got a chance to explore the Rocky Mountain National Park, specifically Estes Park! We’ve been wanting to go for a while, so we were very pleased to get a chance to at last have a run around 🙂 It wasn’t necessarily warm, but it was certainly warmer than usual so we decided to risk it. And don’t worry, we of course took pictures!
But first, more about the park itself. Estes Park is the headquarters for the Rocky Mountain National Park, and contains a lot of very beautiful must see features. It’s only about an hour from our apartment and contains lots of hiking trails, wall climbing routes and amazing views. It also had a lovely nearby town, which contains the famous Stanley Hotel. This is the hotel that Stephen King stayed in, and which was his inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. This is a big selling point for the hotel, although after discussing it Rob and I weren’t necessarily sure that this was a flattering thing. More importantly Estes also contains the Twin Owls Steakhouse, which the wonderful Auntie Mary and Uncle Chris bought us a voucher for!
To get to Estes Park, we have to drive along the pleasingly named Big Thompson Gorge. This was a very pretty drive along the river, which runs through the gorge. We kept an eye out for bears but sadly didn’t see any, although we remain ever vigilant.
There are a lot of things that we want to see in Estes Park and it will take us a while to see them all, but one of the things that I’m keen to see are the nearby lakes. There are various hikes around Bear Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake that looks very beautiful, and these hikes are high enough that you can see the famous Pikes Peak. It was 65°F and sunny in Fort Collins with no snow I thought this would be no problem, but I forgot something pretty basic. That something is that the mountains are both a lot colder, and extremely snowy… specifically there was about 50 inches of snow, which is just over four foot.
The trails had been very well packed down so we were able to walk along the snow without many problems (although I probably shouldn’t have worn trainers) but quite a lot of things were buried deep in snow. Luckily the initial trailhead was still visible, and we could just follow the packed snow from there. You knew if you went wrong because you dropped a foot deep down into the loose snow, which was both bracing and a pretty clear signal. Again, water-proof shoes would’ve been a pretty smart move! Fortunately we made it through to the first lake, Bear Lake, and were very proud of ourselves. Of course, this was also under 4 foot of snow…
Not to worry though. The sky was blue, the snow was white, what we could see of the trees were green 🙂 Unperturbed we carried on in our travels. Once we got a little higher, around 9,800 ft, the views were amazing! The highest point in the park is Longs Peak, which is much higher up at 14,259 ft, but we’ll build up to that… And speaking of Longs Peak, extra big picture since it’s so lovely!
We were very impressed, and stayed for a while to admire the view. We then carried on in our quest for the next lake, which was Dream Lake! It was still quite cold, about 30°F in the park, but we got a lot warmer as we walked. One of the things we’re still getting used to is how much of a difference the sun and wind make to the temperature. When we were out of the wind and in the sun it was positively balmy, but no sun and lots of wind was extremely cold. I probably felt more temperature variation over that one day that I have in the last year of living in England.
So, we hiked on happily while trying to stay in the sun as much as possible. We were walking for about two hours before we got to Dream Lake, which was extremely in the wind but happily was not under several feet of ice. At this point the elevation was an impressive 9,905 ft, and the view continued to be very lovely.
You can see the lake to the left of the picture, looking very nice and ripply. It’s still frozen over, but less so than everything else! You could kind of recognize it as a lake, which was a big improvement. We’re looking forward to revisiting it once it melts, since it supposedly has extremely clear water that reflects the mountains. We probably need to give it a few more months though!
We also met this feathery friend, meaning we get to play a quick round of ‘name that bird’. There were two of them and they were both very friendly, and very amenable to having their pictures taken:
I have no idea what type of bird it is, so let me know! It was about the same size/ shape as a Jay or a Blackbird. First to name it gets ten points, which can be redeemed for absolutely nothing 🙂
On the way back we spent a little more time enjoying the views/ posing for album cover style pictures:
Okay, you’ve endured enough of that for now. But to recap – very beautiful, quite cold, we’ll definitely make you walk around it when you visit 🙂
After our nice walk we got back to the car to warm up a little, and then drove over to the other side of the park to see what was what. We had been told that there was a very nice waterfall with lots of rocks to jump around, and we are always up for jumping around rocks. You’ll be pleased to know that we had enough sense not to try and take pictures while bouncing around, but we did get one of the waterfall before we started leaping around the place!
Again, the fact that most of the water was frozen limited the magnificence, but we were still very impressed. And once we’d tired ourselves out we got to take more silly album cover pictures, to inflict on you all! Mwa-ha-ha 🙂
Sorry, I’ll stop 🙂 Anyway, we had a whale of a time. After we were done we went to one of the bathrooms to clean ourselves up a bit, since we had fancy dinner plans for the evening! As I said at the start, Auntie Mary and Uncle Chris had bought us a voucher for the lovely Twin Owls Steakhouse, which we’d booked a table for that evening.
It was only a short ride to the steakhouse, which is very near the Stanley Hotel. We were only slightly held up by some Mountain-style road blocks:
And when we got to the Steakhouse we saw that there were more Elk wandering around outside! It was a strong start, and all very exciting 🙂
When we got into the steakhouse everything continued to be very fancy, with lots of pretty exposed wood. We started with fresh baked bread and olive oil, and then decided to go big and treat ourselves to some appetizers as well. Rob had the soup of the day, and I had some bacon wrapped scallops!
Then for the main course – we both avoided the Elk that was on the menu after making our new friends, and opted for nice fancy steaks!
It was awesome. We’d worn up a nice appetite by running around the mountains, so everything disappeared very quickly. It was followed quickly by a very delicious and very extravagant $9 glass of wine.
So yes, very good times all around! As you can imagine after these we were extremely sleepy, so we drove ourselves back home and almost immediately fell asleep. For poor Rob this whole experience had been preceded by an early morning 9 mile run, so we was pretty much paralyzed from the waist down at this point. He also needed his sleep for the Sunday morning 9 mile run, so early bedtimes were very important.
But more on that later! I hope that you enjoyed this blog of many pictures, and we hope to have more for you again soon!