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More Charm of Estes Park, CO

Louise Speaks: Day 14 goes on:  I know you can’t tell how much I loved Estes Park, but there is still more to tell.  After coming back into town from the Rocky Mountain National Park, we stopped at the Visitors Center.  We generally stop at all the Visitors Center because they have a wide selection of post cards and usually some hidden secrets about the town we’re in.  Estes Park was no different.

While looking at the post cards we saw this church that looked like a castle.  The pictures were very interesting.  Turns out it was just a few miles from the Visitors Center, so we got in the car and away we went on another unscheduled adventure.  The post card said it was Malo Chapel, but the actual name of the church is St. Catherine of Siena Chapel.  It is located at the Saint Malo Retreat Center in Allenspark, Colorado, just outside of EstesPark.  The Chapel is known as “The Chapel on the Rock” because it is built on top of a huge boulder.  It is also known as “The Stone Chapel”.  The Chapel can be rented for Catholic Weddings.

The founder of Camp St. Malo, Monsignor Joseph Bosetti, had for years entertained an idea that one day he would build a chapel on this site.  In 1916 he and two friends observed a falling meteor during the night and in his search for the remnants the next morning, he came across a large rock.  The beauty of the land inspired the priest and he remembered Jesus’ words to Peter: “Upon this rock, I will build my Church.”  The chapel was designed by noted Denver architect Jacques Benedict.  The contractors were the Coulihan Brothers and Charlie Miller of the nearby town of Allenspark, who had native stone hauled in by mule carts from the surrounding area to use as building material.  The chapel was dedicated by Archbishop Urban Vehr in 1936 to the honor of Saint Catherine of Siena.  In 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the chapel during his trip to Denver for the World Youth Day and bestowed his personal blessing on the chapel.  The Pope later hiked in the surrounding woods and spent some time at the Saint Malo Retreat Center. Over the years, thousand of visitors have stopped at the chapel to enjoy its simplicity and beauty as it is framed against majestic Mt.Meeker.  In 1999, BoulderCounty designated the chapel as a historic site.  The Saint Malo Retreat Center was destroyed by fire in November 2011, but the chapel was not damaged.  The Chapel on the Rock is truly a Colorado landmark and worth the out-of-the-way drive to see.  We could not go inside, but the outside and surrounding landscape was breath-taking.

We had a nearby Bed and Breakfast to see before dinner, so from the Malo Chapel we headed to the Romantic Riversong Inn  www.romanticriversong.com     what a charming place.  The Romantic RiverSong, Inn, an Estes Park, Colorado bed and breakfast, offers everything you could wish for…from a last-minute getaway decision to a longer vacation or holiday lodging.

Here you can find adventure and romance, privacy and seclusion, terrific food and warm hospitality. You’ll discover this mountain Craftsman-style inn just outside of the small mountain village of EstesPark. This very popular bed and breakfast inn awaits your discovery at the end of a winding country road on 27-wooded acres. Designated as a private wildlife habitat with its tumbling mountain stream, ponds ringed with lapis blue irises, hiking trails, and tree swings, Romantic RiverSong is as much a refuge for guests as the deer and elk, chipmunks and coyotes, bobcats and the rare Abert Squirrels, and a variety of birds…even wild turkeys. The melting snow fields of the Continental Divide provide the crystal clear tumbling waters for the mountain stream, and that becomes the background for couples who are seeking a small intimate wedding or a relaxing couple’s massage by streamside. At night, you are lulled to sleep by the melody of the River’s Song. This is where you want to be!

 Guests may wander the forested trails of this private wildlife preserve, pausing occasionally to catch their breath at one of seven stone benches along the RiverSong Trail. Here you are treated to views of the rugged, snow-capped peaks of RockyMountainNational Park and the cascading mountain stream below.

The inn has a mix of lodging from lodge guest rooms to outside fireplace cottages, all designed by Sue. The rooms have flair and elegance, yet they are private and comfortable. Cozy bed comforters and a crackling fire keep out the night chill. There are only 10 guest rooms and they all are named after wildflowers like Indian Paintbrush, a room with a bed suspended by logging chains that gently rocks you to sleep by a crackling fire. Mountain Rose has a rooftop shower with spectacular views of the snow-capped peaks of RockyMountainNational Park. Meadow Bright is very much a Colorado suite with rock and log walls and a waterfall shower. Wood Nymph has a deck 20 feet off the forest floor and a river birch canopy bed by the fireplace. It feels like sleeping in a tree house! The Forget Me Not room has a large Palladian window to see the glaciers of RockyMountainNational Park over the tops of your toes. All rooms have fireplaces, and many have jetted tubs for two. Beside the beds are journals authored by past guests. You’ll laugh and cry as you read them, and you’ll write down your own thoughts.

 RiverSong is a place where memories are born and relationships are nurtured. Food and hospitality are what make up the Romantic RiverSong Inn. You may be greeted in the afternoon at check-in by one of their cheerful staff carrying a plate full of warm cookies. The staff is picked for their natural abilities to please as well as excellent cooking skills, attention to detail, and creative imaginations. At Romantic RiverSong, they excel. Morning breakfast entrees have names like John Wayne casserole with Happy Trail muffins, Mountain Man French toast and Irish Potato Pancakes, and RiverSong Eggs Benedict. These are but a few of 30 different breakfast possibilities.  In the evening after a great day hiking, guests may opt for a fireside candlelight dinner prepared by the chef of over 22 years. White lace linen, bone china, silver service, soft jazz in the background, and a crackling fire provide the setting for a delicious five-course dinner.  Guests linger at check-out time…no one wants to leave, and neither did we. Guests have made new friends, and couples have found each other again; memories that will last a lifetime are what you take with you. Italians call it “momentitos de vita”; it’s the little moments of life that give us the pleasure of what we collectively call happiness. This secluded luxury inn will bring you here, but it’s the hospitality that will bring you back again…and again…and again.

We spent way too much time here, but it was so charming and the inn keeper could not stop telling us about all the wonderful things the Inn had to offer.  Definitely a place to come back to and definitely worthy of making Patricia’s book  “1000 Places To See Before I Die”

 The Malo Chapel was quite a sight to see, and the Riversong Bed and Breakfast, I just can’t say enough about it.  Once again, Estes Park and all it has to offer gets a rating of an A+.  Some things were in Patricia’s book, but most treasures we found on our own.  I could have spent a week in Estes Park.

AM…page 721

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Grand Lake, Estes Park, CO.

Louise Speaks:  Day 14 goes on:   As I mentioned in the Rocky Mountain post, if you begin in Estes Park, you will end at Grand Lake  www.grandlakechamber.com .  What an amazing place.  You enter this town, and then there…right in front of you…is this huge, gorgeous, calm, peaceful, lake.  Not only that, but there is a sandy beach, then there is a grassy area, and then there are things to do like you wouldn’t believe.  Here you can rent sail boats, and paddle boats, and kayaks, and motor boats, and the list goes on.  Grand Lake has something for everyone… hiking, camping, boating, fishing, sailing, horseback riding and other fun family activities. These are things to do in the summer, but when the snow begins to melt, you can spend your winter days snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and sledding!

Grand Lake is a historic mountain town in the heart of the Colorado Rockies and the Western Gateway to majestic Rocky Mountain National Park.     This charming village is nestled below craggy, snow-capped mountain peaks, and is just one mile from the western entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park.  While in town you can visit one of the 60 shops, restaurants and galleries on the historic western boardwalk, or you can create your own outdoor adventure.  There is a lodge and plenty of cabins and condos to rent, at very reasonable prices.

Grand Lake was established in 1881, and sits at an elevation of 8437 feet. It derives its name from the lake on whose shores it is situate,  Grand Lake is the largest natural body of water in Colorado. The Town of Grand Lake was originally an outfitting and supply point for the mining settlements of Lulu City, Teller City, and Gaskill, but today is a tourist destination which also surrounds the lake and the town on three sides. Grand Lake was the Grand County seat of government from 1882-1888. It was incorporated on June 23, 1944.  The Town of Grand Lake is a Statutory Town where the population was 447 at the 2000 census.

As if this town wasn’t cute enough we found a real gem.  As we were going from shop to shop we decided to get some lunch.  Just like in Italy, our eyes and noses sniffed along, and we found an ice cream shop…”The Dairy King”.  Very similar to the Dairy Queen but much more personal.  Turns out the owner Bob had an uncle who started this quaint shop many many years ago.  Bob bought it from his uncle and started selling Blue Bunny ice cream along with the best hamburgers in town.  One thing however, Bob forgot what year we’re in.  You see his hamburgers are only $3.95…a hot dog was $2.35…and a large order of fires was $2.75.  No wonder the place was packed.  Bob now has his son Ben cooking at the Dairy King, and Bobs daughter Sarah handles the order taking.  This was such a nice family and such a heart warming story of its history.  So here’s the scoop…if you ever go to the Rocky Mountain National Park, you must stop for lunch at the Dairy King in Grand Lake, and tell them Thelma and Louise sent you.

As the afternoon was coming to an end, I was all set to pack up and move to this quaint little town…BUT …and it is a big but, I found out what the weather was like.  Turns out there are 9 months of winter where the highs for those 9 months is in the 30s.  We were told it’s the only place in Colorado where you can legally drive snow mobils right down main street.  However, that meant that there were only 3 months of summer.  The good news for the summer  is that the highs are in the 70s.  So that being said, I guess I’m not moving…lol

I’m sure you can tell that I truly loved this town…9 months of winter or not.  It would be a great place to come for a week or a weekend, and I will be back.  That being said, I rate Grand Lake an A++,  and of course it wasn’t it Patricia’s book, but it surely would be in mine.

AM…page 720

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO.

  Louise Speaks:  Day 14:  We got up early as we knew we had a full day aheaad of us.  I’m guessing this is what Colorado is really all about…The Rocky Mountains.  We’ve all heard about it, it’s in songs, books and movies, and now here I am going through these famous mountains.  Within 415 square miles and crossing three distinct ecosystems, Rocky Mountain National Park,  www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm  encapsulates everything that makes America’s stony backbone special.  Most of the three million visitors who come every year start at the picture perfect mountain town of Estes Park and we were no exception.  I will speak more about Estes Park later, but just to give a general location, Estes Park is three miles from the park’s eastern edge.  From here the only route through the park is the Trail Ridge Road, which offers 48 miles of two lane astonishment as it follows an old Indian path across the Continental Divide.  I will also speak of the Continental Divide later as well. 

Threading through these mountainous wonderland you will reach a peak of 12,183 feet before reaching Grand Lake, the park’s western entrance.  Once again I will speak of Grand Lake a bit later.  Along this 48 mile journey there are over 350 miles of hiking trails that lead to meadows, surging streams and waterfalls.  The park is also home to 150 lakes, including Emerald Lake and the Glacier Gorge.  The country’s most important long distance treks threads through the park from north to south.  Wildlife is everywhere.  Just on our quick trip we spotted Elk and Moose, right along side the road.  We were also able to see much of the wildflowers in bloom that are visible every month between May and August.

The park is split by the Continental Divide, which gives the eastern and western portions of the park a different character. The east side of the park tends to be drier, with heavily glaciated peaks and cirques. The west side of the park is wetter and more lush, with deep forests dominating.  The lowest elevations in the park are montane forests and grassland. The ponderosa pine, which prefers drier areas, dominates, though at higher elevations douglas fir trees are found. Above 9,000 feet the montane forests give way to the subalpine forest. Engelmann Spruce and Subalpine Fir trees are common in this zone. These forests tend to have more moisture than the montane and tend to be denser. Above tree line, at approximately 11,500 feet, trees disappear and the vast alpine tundra takes over. Due to harsh winds and weather, the plants in the tundra are short with very limited growing seasons.

The entire park can be seen and experience by all directions.  As said earlier, Trail Ridge Road connects the town of Estes Park in the east with Grand Lake in the west. The road reaches an altitude of 12,183 feet, with long stretches above tree line. It passes the Alpine Visitors’ Center, a popular destination, and crosses the Continental Divide at Milner Pass. Numerous short interpretive trails and pullouts along the road serve to educate the visitor on the history, geography, and ecology of the park.  The southern area of the park is Wild Basin, a wild and remote region.  Several trails cross the area and backpacking it is popular. The Mummy Range is a short mountain range in the north of the park.  The Mummies tend to be gentler and more forested than the other peaks in the park, though some slopes are rugged and heavily glaciated, particularly around Ypsilon Mountain and Mummy Mountain.

We spent the whole day at the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Seeing the town of  Grand Lake, and experiencing the Continental Divide gave us the true feeling of Colorado.  Grand Lake was so incredible that I am going to post an entry for it seperately.  Today was a great day.  A day to explain why Colorado is known as the Rocky Mountain State.  The Rocky Mountain National Park gets a rating of an A+.    Part of this rating is due to the upcoming posts, but all in all it was an incredible day.

AM…page 720          INT…page 589

Thelma Speaks: