Day 1 – August 1, 2015
After Boulder, we made our way to Estes Park, a quaint little tourist town that is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove through the downtown, which is a cute main drag with lots of tourist shops and outdoor adventure companies, and thousands of tourists. We also checked out the Stanley Hotel, built in 1909 in the Colonial Revival architectural style by Freelan Oscar Stanley. It catered to upper class tourists visiting the area. Stanley is also known as one of the brothers who invented the Stanley Steam Automobile, fondly called the Stanley Steamer.
The hotel now has 140 rooms, but originally only had 48. It has a fancy bar and dining room, and a beautiful, wide front porch with sweeping views of the mountains. It is also the inspiration for the Stephen King novel (and later movie) The Shining. King stayed there and dreamed up the story about the man who goes insane, cooped up in a haunted hotel one winter. And yes, The Stanley is said to be haunted. Just so you know though – the movie wasn’t filmed there; the exterior shots in the movie were filmed at the Timberline Hotel in Oregon (which does not have a hedge maze).
I have been to The Stanley once before, but since I was last there, they added a low (knee high) hedge maze to entertain the kids and confuse the adults who venture into it to get far enough from the hotel to take a picture – it is impossible, by the way… It was a quick stop this time – but one day, maybe we can afford to stay there!
We also stopped at a viewpoint outside of town and got photos proving we were in Estes Park – and then watched some other tourists feed the chipmunks. I’m not a fan of feeding wild animals, but I have to admit they were cute to watch. We also saw a Dark Eyed Junco, “Gray Headed” morph, and a Steller’s Jay, “Southern Rockies” morph. Even though we have both bird species at home, these ones looked very different, and the Steller’s Jay was stunning – I loved his “eyebrows”!
We had dinner at a local restaurant – Hunter’s Chop House – I had the steak salad, with steak, Gouda, cheddar, mushrooms, Craisins, and romaine lettuce. It was pretty good – my only gripe was that it was a rather fatty cut of steak. Jon had the elk burger with spicy beans, and loved it so much he forgot to even offer me a bite!
Total Day 1 Driving Distance – Denver International Airport to Boulder to Estes Park: 88 miles
Hotel for the Night: The Columbine Inn – a locally owned motel from the 40s or 50s. Clean and quiet – the owner was friendly and had several maps and great info on Rocky Mountain National Park.
The next day we were going to visit Rocky Mountain National Park!