Cathy’s Current Destination: Estes Park, Colorado

11 Jul

I spent a magical week on Maui last month. It was truly the most incredible vacation I have ever been on, and it lived up to all the hype. We swam with sea turtles who were just hanging around on our beach, hiked through bamboo forests to private waterfalls, and stayed in a condo whose intimate patio was only a few yards from the beach. I found perfect peace and a lot of free adventures.

maui beach

I wasn’t on my honeymoon on Maui – despite the odds – but I was taking advantage of something I should have done long ago. Paired with some incredibly good travel deals right now, the price was right. I don’t know if you’ll be able to find the deal that we did, but if you want to stay a little closer to home, Estes is an amazing and little known option.

Rainbow over Teddy's Teeth

Having spent the last two weeks in Estes, I’m reminded of so many similarities to Maui. The spontaneity of walking out your front door into a herd of elk, the meditating moments of floating a plastic boat down a private stream, and the almost spiritual views of the entire front range of the snowy Rockies. There is perhaps only one place that can compare to the rolling waves on the Maui beaches: a babbling brook surrounded by aspen trees. Here, you share your quiet moments with countless creatures, who all – excepting the bears and mountain lions – just want to say hello and then go on their way. And the weather is fair in the summer, meaning you can exchange your typical 100 degree weather for the relief of an occasional snow bank.

Loch Vale

As times get tougher for all of us and we’re looking for a great spot to vacation on a tighter budget, I can’t think of a place where you could get more bang for your buck than here. Estes Park was even rated one of the top vacation spots again in 2009, and it’s easy to see why. There’s a great mix of high-end and low-end accomodations, restaurants, and activities. You can hike into the park, maybe even from your cabin. You can play mini golf for $2.50 a pop where you have a 50/50 chance of winning a free game. I even came out on top with an extra $2.50. Or you can splurge a little and go white water rafting. You can create your own fun, and the options are really limitless.

Tiny Town mini golf

There are only incredible hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. My favorite is up to Loch Vale, where sometimes I’m brave enough to continue on the path up a waterfall and all the way to Sky Pond (not this year!) We can even hike straight into the park from our cabins up to Sprague Lake. I love packing a PB&J and picnic-ing by a fresh, cold mountain lake where the chipmunks try to steal your snacks. And Longs Peak is not to be missed for the extreme hikers or the adventures seekers.

Waterfall to Sky Pond

Last night, I went to the Estes Park Rodeo for my first time. My favorite competition was when they brought out ten little kids, ages 5-9, to do the Mutton Bustin’ competition. The kids hold on to a sheep racing out of a cage. Some of these little guys held on for dear life. Others were being trampled. All of them were wearing helmets. My 3 year old nephew says he’ll do it next year. I can’t wait to go back.

Estes Park Rodeo

And we’ve been baking up a storm in the kitchen since we got here, too, if you haven’t noticed. And if you know anything about baking at an 8,000 foot altitude, it’s generally to be avoided more than the bears. The birthday cake my mom made for my sister today was delicious, but unfortunately it came out looking more like something her grandson might have thrown together. (Sorry, Mom.) But aside from this cake and some very burnt scones, everything has turned out pretty well with the help of a high-altitude cookbook.

High-Altitude Birthday Cake

Spending two weeks out here in Estes this summer has been an incredible opportunity. It’s what we used to do every summer when we were kids, and it’s a place that I can’t imagine the world without. There’s something really powerful about being surrounded by huge, snow-covered mountains in the middle of the summer. It always reminds me that there is something out there that’s bigger than all of us, leaving me energized and centered, ready to return to the hectic “real” world. If you have a chance to make it out here, you have to take it.

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2 Responses to “Cathy’s Current Destination: Estes Park, Colorado”

  1. Steve July 11, 2009 at 2:07 am #

    Nice photos!

  2. Linda Town July 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    Hi, Catherine,

    I’m really enjoying reading your blog (is that it?). Loved the photo of the birthday cake! I agree that Estes Park is a little piece of heaven.

    Linda

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