Estes Park: The Wonder, Beauty And BREAK We (I!) Needed

Last week I kidnapped my husband and surprised him with a trip to Estes Park, Colorado. It was a trip for HIM, his surprise. Roy kept insisting the trip was for us, but it really wasn’t. I mean we did what he wanted to do, we didn’t have any kind of schedule, it never mattered what time it was… and yet the wonder that is Estes Park, worked its own magic on me. (Perhaps it was all of the cute chipmunks we encountered, which are so commonplace there – they’re like squirrels, prairie dogs or pigeons, depending on where you live.)

We stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast (Barbara’s Bed and Breakfast) which was a recommendation from friends. We had our own cabin, which was crazy and nice. It was incredibly cozy and we could stretch out in the sitting room after a long day (and a full kitchen to store leftovers, water, etc. not bad either). It even had an old fashioned writing desk (squee)! And the breakfasts there… WOW. There were six of us at the table every morning at 8:30 and we would talk over the best breakfast meal that I have ever had. I mean it seemed fricking gourmet, and while I expected it to be good, I never expected that. I told Barbara (the owner and cook) that her breakfasts were out of this world and the perfect way to start the day. (And there were hummingbirds right outside the window while we ate – bonus!)

The town was charming, and while I expected to enjoy the shops and locations, I was surprised I found it so charming because it is so popular with tourists and I tend to prefer undiscovered, hidden gems. We didn’t leave without getting some unbelievable chocolate truffles, taffy and souvenirs for ourselves and my three co-conspirators. We ate the best barbecue (Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ and Taphouse) that I have ever experienced, enjoyed an Indian food buffet (Nepal’s), and ate some of the best pizza (Poppy’s Pizza and Grill) either of us have ever had in this country (we spent ten days in Italy in 2011 and it’s kind of hard to top that). Sometime throughout the day we would make our way to a local coffee place (Coffee On The Rocks really does rock!) and oh my God! Why do they have to be ninety minutes away? Before we left I had ended up trying their Pumpkin Pie Latte, Pecan Caramel Latte, Frozen Hot Chocolate, and their signature drink Howling In The Wind (cinnamon and macadamia nut) Latte. For the eats alone, I am already counting the days until we go back.

But for me some other kind of magic happened that had nothing to do with the shops, or where we stayed, or any tours, tastings etc. that we participated in. It was everything else…

For the most part we hiked several of the day trails inside of Rocky Mountain National Forest (Cub Lake, Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and the Tundra Community Trail) and it was breathtaking. I like hiking, I mean I walk to de-stress and make sure to do at least 11,000 steps per day, but this was different. The lakes were beautiful, the wilderness and wildlife… it just seemed to uncork something inside me that I wasn’t even aware was plugged up in the first place. When I looked out at the natural beauty of our surroundings I saw something different from what my husband was seeing. It was my inner creative at work.

Bear Lake, Estes Park, CO

Bear Lake, Estes Park, CO

When I saw a tree twisting itself and growing tall and proud out of a huge boulder, barren of soil, I saw something beautiful (so did my husband) but I was immediately putting words to it. I couldn’t help it. There was something so moving about something growing, something alive… out of something so hard and cold. I would say these things aloud, sometimes unaware I was doing it. At one point after going on and on about how I was inspired by what I was looking at, I said, “I know I’m a nerd.”

Tree growing out of rock on Cub Lake Trail.

Tree growing out of rock on Cub Lake Trail.

Roy: “No, you’re not.

ME: Oh, don’t worry. I own my inner nerd. Nerds are in, and we probably will be until at least 2030.

[I turn and give him a serious look.]

ME: But call me a dork and we have a problem.

Cub Lake was definitely my favorite hike. Which is kind of funny since it was the longest, the hike that gave me a splotchy sunburn (apparently SPF 70 is not strong enough for the Irish likes of me), it was the trail that made me hurt (seriously rocky and rough terrain) and for the last half mile we went up more than six hundred feet, dealing with high rocks and ledges (and I do not do heights!) and well you get the idea. Maybe it was my favorite hike before that half mile, because yeah… Anyway it was by far the most beautiful and the most inspiring for me. It took us four and a half hours (round trip – total of 4.6 miles) but that was because we had to stop and take tons of pictures and just enjoy it.

Cub Lake

Cub Lake

On Cub Lake’s trail a male elk was mighty upset by our presence. It bugled at us to leave, but we were on the trail with a mountain on the other side of said trail so we could only go backward or forward. My husband kept telling me to go, and I would for about twelve steps before turning around and seeing him backing up to a ‘safer’ spot and taking pictures. I told him I refused to go without him, so I guess I am to blame that this is the best shot he could get…


One irritated elk!

I even got to the point where I stopped wanting to know what time it was. It was actually nice not knowing, not needing to be anywhere, just being able to be – without commitments, obligations or expectations. It was so freeing (and so not me).

Our big special dinner was at a restaurant called The View. We sat out on a balcony as the sunset, and a black bear joined us for appetizers (no joke – it was great to see a bear in the wild, but also from a safe distance, up on that balcony). The next night we toured the infamous Stanley Hotel (that will be its own post next week) and again wave after wave of ideas, a desire to create just overwhelmed me. On our last day we explored part of downtown, and went to the Estes Park Brewery.

Black Bear at "The View"

Black Bear at “The View”

It sucked that we would have to return to the real world, but at the same time, for the first time since our mini-moon in 2012 I felt ‘better’ coming back. It was like the trip had rejuvenated me. It cleared my mind of all the gunk and stress and daily crap. It made me feel inspired to write twelve different books. It made me more focused and more in tune with all the things that matter. I never forgot them, but life can kind of build up and the residuals of every day, kind of clogs your… everything. Being able to find joy in almost anything, keep the big picture in mind, solve problems with razor sharp focus, and just be inspired… For me it was not only for writing, but for living.

Sometimes knowledge is not enough. I knew all of these things before I left for Estes Park. I knew I should find joy in this and that, I knew what mattered, I knew how to get the job done… but at the same time I was worn down without even realizing it. So yes, this was a nice surprise for my husband – a romantic getaway to reconnect to each other without all those external forces at play, but I think I was the one who was most surprised. Because I came out of this trip so much better, stronger, and clearer than I was going in. Completely rejuvenated and restored… I reconnected to myself, the person I want to be, the way I want to live and remembering that every day there are one hundred reasons to smile. 🙂


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