The Mountains of Colorado
When we started planning a trip to Colorado, we had decided that we would drive, to save flight-money and also the need for a rental car. We enjoy road trips and could drive right into Aspen, passing any landmarks we would want to visit along the way. When we noticed Southwest’s great sale – MKE nonstop to DEN for TWO for $320, we jumped all over it. Turns out, road trips are kinda grueling and with limited time off, we’d rather spend a few bucks on flights and cars than “waste” my husband’s precious (limited) vacation days. When we retire (or Jim gets unlimited vacation days ha ha), we’ll be all over those road trips and we’ll love them dearly. Just not now.
It’s so funny when you land in Denver, it’s just assumed that mountains will surround you. I had almost forgotten that the Rocky Mountains are actually to the west of the city, so while there’s a beautiful backdrop of mountains “behind” the city when you look west, the city itself is pretty flat. When we were getting our car I heard someone say, “Where are the mountains?” I had to chuckle. Go west young woman!
Our first stop was Estes Park to set us up for the next day’s travels through Rocky Mountain National Park to our destination – Aspen, Colorado. As we entered the city, we passed the FABULOUS Lake Estes, which was smooth as glass that day. I had come through Colorado almost a year earlier and knew to expect the yellows of the fall and not the oranges and reds I am used to living in the Midwest. Turns out we missed a lot of the color and two weeks earlier would have made this an even more gorgeous trip. We probably would not have run into the weather than we encountered on later days, which I’ll talk about later. Back to Estes Park… WOW!
Estes Park would definitely be a nice place to spend a couple of nights, with it’s beautiful scenery and the fabulous Stanley Hotel, sitting so majestically on a hilltop at the base of the mountains. I’m not going into too much detail about this wonderful hotel, since I hope to stay there some time and want to save my post for then. My ghost-loving friend may have to stay in one of the haunted rooms that they speak of in this video from the Stanley Hotel’s website, because I WILL NOT! A stay of only one night was enough to inspire Stephen King’s – The Shining – which remains one of his landmark masterpieces. Read more about the Stanley Hotel’s haunted history HERE.
We travelled west through Rocky Mountain National Park on Hwy. 34 and it was a wonderful day. Good thing we had good breaks on our rental car, because there were lots of ups and downs associated with rising from the Mile-High City (Denver at 5,280 feet) to just below 12,000 feet at the Alpine Visitor Center in the pictures below, with a lot of the road traveling above the tree line.
As I was squatted down to get the picture above left of the log fence, I heard a ruckus behind me. When I stood back up, I realized that a gentleman had just proposed to his sweetheart at this particular place on this particular day. They were surrounded by their families, who “just happened to show up” and some said they had no idea what was going to happen, but I’m assuming they had to have an inkling. All in all it was a pretty cool experience, and of course, she said YES!
Heading back down to lower elevations, the trees (and the beauty) returned (in my opinion). The pictures below are of Milner’s Pass, which is on the Continental Divide, which cuts through the center of the state. This imaginary line runs over the highest ridges of the mountains, separating rivers flowing east toward the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico from the rivers flowing west toward the Pacific Ocean. I guess I never really knew what the Continental Divide actually did, so I learned something new today. I know, I’m a little slower than most!
A ways down the road was a lake, another beautiful oasis and a lovely spot for a picnic – had we been on that road trip with a cooler and some sandwiches!
We picked up 40 in Granby, then headed south back to 70, passing thru Glenwood Canyon to Glenwood Springs. From there we would take 82 thru Snowmass and into Aspen. Turned out to be a long, but beautiful day, with lots of surprises along the way, one of them being Glenwood Canyon. A much less-busy me would have checked out the maps and not been so surprised by such a lovely sight, but surprises are good too, right? There was construction and nowhere to pull off to take pictures, but I got some good ones on our way back to Denver, so you’ll just have to return for another blog!!
Up Next: Maroon Bells