Estes Park, CO: Thin Air (gasp!) and Thin Skin (brrrr!) (Days 24-28 of 42)

News Flash: the search party for the missing Millers should begin in Estes Park, because we may stay here forever!  It has everything you’d imagine Colorado to be:  cool temperatures, soaring snow-capped mountain peaks, tall ultra-green trees, wildlife galore, friendly relaxed people, extensive recreational opportunities, and gasp-worthy scenes like this!


Estes Park is on the northern border of Colorado at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park.  RMNP is the highest park in the National Park system, and its Trail Ridge Road (about 4 hours worth of driving) is waaaay above the tree line on an alpine tundra at 12,183 feet above sea level!

Below, you can see the exact line where trees can no longer grow because of the altitude.

You lose 3% of your oxygen level for every 1,000 feet, meaning we were 36% depleted on breathing ability and thinking about opening one of those Vegas-style oxygen bars at the summit of Independence Pass.

One of our hikes took us to the beginning! the origin! the birthplace! of the mighty Colorado River, a tiny stream draining a wet meadow on the Continental Divide.  Hard to believe this little trickle eventually supports white-water rafting expeditions in the Grand Canyon!

If Custer SD is Bison Central, then Rocky Mountain National Park is Elk Central, seemingly all male and all with huge racks.  One strolled in front of our speeding jeep, causing us to slam on the brakes and the dogs in the back seat to hurl forward and hit the windshield.  Sorry Sprinkles!

Estes Park is also the home of the world-famous Stanley Hotel, known as the inspiration for writer Stephen King’s horror classic The Shining (and which is reportedly haunted).  Avoid these rooms:

#401: where a male ghost plays with women’s hair, puts an arm around their shoulder or waist, and runs his hand up their leg; meanwhile pressing the man of the room into the bed and making their jewelry disappear

#408: where a little boy tickles you all night long (endless tickling: everyone’s personal horror)

#428: where a cowboy paces at the end of the bed and leans over the bed to kiss the ladies

#217: where after dropping off your bags, you return later to find them unpacked; or having your shoes continually lined up neatly at the end of the bed (actually this ghost seems rather helpful)

We had dinner (Colorado Game Meatloaf –(elk and buffalo)– amazing!) and drinks in the bar which (in the movie) is the beginning of Jack Nicholson’s descent into insanity, although the movie was not actually filmed at the Stanley Hotel (rather, the Overlook Hotel near Mt. Hood in Oregon, and on a variety of sound stages in England).

Thankfully, our RV is not haunted and (as far as I know) has never been the site of a murder, so we weren’t worried about mischievous ghosts wreaking havok while we attending a Big Band concert in Estes Park’s excellent open-air performance venue, set right into a huge boulder, that hosts free concerts 3-4 times a week.  

 Other activities in Estes Park including riding an excellent trail around town and Lake Estes ….

Hiking the deserted and secluded hiking trails around Brainard Lake Recreation Area …

And mostly just enjoying this on the temperature gauge all day long!!!

South of Estes Park is the St. Catherine of Siena Chapel in Allenspark.  This chapel, built atop a massive rock, was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1993 (that picture hung inside), who stayed here and did a little hiking, presumably dirtying the bottom of his white robes on the trails and getting in big trouble from Mother Superior.

The historic Mill Site Inn was where a bearded, bedraggled, hitchiking-the-country-with-his-harmonica 21-year-old Philip Miller found work (and a bed) for a couple weeks, building a cabin behind this building for the owners.  It was truly a walk back in time for him to be there 40 years later!

A road trip to Golden was highlighted with a tour of the Coors factory, the single largest brewing facility in the world.

If all production lines were working at full capacity, the factory could produce 3.3 million six-packs a day!

And, most surprisingly, Coors puts up to three free beers in your hand before sending you back out to drive home again.

Lastly for this area, a road trip to Boulder led us to the pedestrian shopping area known as Pearl Street Mall, where “straightforward marketing” reigns supreme.

Boulder is still a little bit hippie … which makes this business perhaps unnecessary.

Alas, it was time to hit the road again, actually just in time, since we were a little concerned we were gonna get swept up in the “Hobo Parade” at the RV Park’s clubhouse….. uhhhh ……and furthermore we don’t have a tin pie plate from which to eat our Hobo Stew. 

So it’s off to Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Vail … three beautiful winter ski towns which are just as delightful in the summer months.  The Lucky Charm continues down the road ….!

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