Mountain Moments

It’s become a tradition of sorts. Bec comes to Colorado each year for a few weeks in the summer to escape the exhausting heat of AZ. And each year, Bec and Jen and I spend a long weekend in Estes Park as part of the itinerary. It’s a tribute to our childhood during which our family vacationed in this village just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park almost every summer of our formative years. But more than that, it’s a chance to escape the busyness of our lives and sit in a comfortable chair by a rushing creek with a glass of wine and talk. And laugh. And cry. And make confessions. And laugh at our confessions.

Oh, and swat bees and douse ourselves with spray to fend off mosquitoes and watch various kinds of wildlife make their way through the motel grounds. This year it was wild turkeys….

We have several Must-Dos when we are in Estes. One, of course, is to visit the taffy shop……

Don’t worry. I actually left some for others to buy.

One night each year we eat dinner at a long-time Estes Park restaurant called the Dunraven Inn. The restaurant features Italian food, and sort of specializes — randomly, perhaps — in seafood.

This year, Jen invited a friend of hers to enjoy dinner with us. Bec and I stewed a bit about whether or not Jen’s friend Karma would be put off by our sense of humor and — quite frankly — our love of good food and wine and great martinis. As it happens, we needn’t have worried, as Karma could have been one of the sisters for all anyone knew. Well, except that she is very tall and has the figure of a fashion model. But other than that…..

Here am I, enjoying my food and delicious martini and NOT looking like a fashion model…..

Our server, though quite congenial, wasn’t stellar. He made up for his incompetence (and quiet speaking voice) with a good attitude. We thought he said his name was Bill, and called him by that name for a good while. Finally, towards the end of the meal, he admitted his name was NOT Bill. “But my brother’s name is Bill,” he added happily. And then proceeded to take several pictures of us, including this one….

As I said, he made up for his shortcomings with good cheer.

Another tradition we have adopted is our annual visit to Cinnamon’s — a bakery featuring the most delicious cinnamon rolls one can imagine. And there is no need to point out that all of our traditions seem to include food. Anyhoo, the proprietor of Cinnamon’s is a retired baker from somewhere in the midwest (Kansas? Missouri?) who lives with his family in Estes. The bakery offers a very limited number of choices — pecan rolls, gluten-free blueberry muffins, one type of fruit roll, and, of course, cinnamon rolls. There is really no need to look further than the cinnamon roll, and most people don’t. The hours during the summer, according to their signage, are “7:30 – 10 or when sold out.” The day we went, I got into line at 7:15…..

…..and brought cinnamon rolls back to the room. When we drove past the restaurant at 8:30, the SOLD OUT sign was already out.

I’m happy to tell you that we do have one tradition that does not involve food. We try our best to walk around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It isn’t always possible, as Bear Lake is the tipping-off point for many popular hikes so parking is often unavailable. This year, Bec and I found a spot Sunday afternoon around 4, and had just enough time to take a lap around the lake that was one of our mother’s favorites…..

Our time in Estes Park is always one of my most special memories of each year.

Guest Post: Estes Park-It’s Not Just For Taffy Anymore

By Rebecca Borman

I’ve said it before…while it’s really fun to travel to new places, it’s also nice to go back to places you love.  For me and my sisters, one of those comfortable places is Estes Park, Colorado.  The drive through the Big Thompson Canyon is stunning, and the first view of Estes Park, nestled in the midst of the Rockies, always lifts my heart.  In a way, it’s like coming home.  Our family vacationed there when I was a child, my honeymoon was there, and there have been many more visits after that.  This summer, in the midst of my Colorado road trip, my sisters and I worked in a few days’ trip to Estes.  Kris and Jen are busy women, so each could only stay two nights.  But, I was there for three nights, and Friday evening we were there together.  We all made the most of our time…..

Kris and I enjoyed a walk around Bear Lake.

A visit to Estes Park always involves some familiar and important activities.  For instance, the first evening, Kris and I had a cookout at our motel.  And when I say we, I mean Kris.  She brought the steaks, lit the grill, and cooked the steaks.  Well, I did toss the bag of Caesar salad!  We even ate outside at a picnic table by the river, enjoying the view of the mountains surrounding us as the evening set in…..

Another must for us is dinner at the Dunraven Inn, a lovely Italian restaurant that has been in Estes Park for years.  We ate there after Jen arrived on Friday night so we could have dinner together.  I thought it would be fun to take Uber or a cab so we could enjoy our cocktails without worrying about driving back to our motel. I tried Uber…seems there is one driver who may or may not be on duty at any particular time.  Hmmm.  Then I checked for taxi companies.  There is only one, and I mean one cab, not just one company.  We called for our taxi and were put into the driver’s que, third in line.  We made it to the restaurant almost on time.  Our driver assured us that while he was going off duty soon, another driver would be driving the cab.  We asked the Dunraven to call for the taxi as we finished dinner, and we patiently waited for it outside.  We waited quite a while, wondering what we would do if the taxi never showed up.  Finally, we saw it coming toward us.  And driving right past us.  That didn’t seem good!  We hoped he was dropping off someone, and that was the case, because he pulled up a few minutes later.  “I saw you waiting here,” he said.  “I bet you got worried when I drove past.”  Haha, yes we did.

The next morning we tried something new, a trip to Cinnamon’s Bakery, which makes one thing only:  cinnamon rolls.  We got there just before it opened at 7:30, and there was already a long line.  We happily bought our rolls and coffee to take back to our room.  The bakery is open until 10:00 or until they sell out.  When we drove past it around 9:00, the CLOSED sign was on display.  It paid to get there early.

Our next adventure was a drive into Rocky Mountain National Park.  As we started toward the Park we noticed that some streets were blocked off, presumably having to do with the Scottish Festival being held that weekend.  We wondered if there was a parade.  We didn’t think much about it as we enjoyed a drive through some of our favorite areas of RMNP.  When we left the Park we had a plan.  We would find parking near downtown and do some important shopping, primarily for our favorite salt water taffy.  However, police blockades prevented us from turning into town.  We asked a kilted police officer who was directing traffic what was going on.  It was, as we suspected, a parade.  Elkhorn Drive would be blocked completely until the parade was over.  Wait a minute…our motel was on Elkhorn Drive.  “You mean we can’t get back to our motel?” we asked.  “Not until the parade is over.”  Bummer.  Now what?  Plan B was to buy deli sandwiches and go back to RMNP for an impromptu picnic.  We found a good spot by the river and enjoyed our sandwiches al fresco.  It was a good Plan B!….

At that point Kris had to leave, so Jen and I were on our own.  We both wanted to hear the elk bugling at dusk. So after we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at our motel, we drove back into the Park.  We found a spot near a meadow that seemed to have elk potential, and we weren’t disappointed.  We saw many elk, including a bull with a 16-point rack.  Very cool.  There’s something special about the sound of their bugling and the feel of the crisp fall air as darkness falls upon the mountains.  It was an evening well spent…..

As always, I felt a pang of regret when I drove out of Estes Park the next morning.  I had purchased my taffy and a few Christmas ornaments, and they would serve as my reminders of these few days in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

I’ll be back again next year.

Falling for Fall in the Mountains

Sisters

Sisters

My sister Jen says it’s one of her favorite sounds in the world. I must admit, it’s right up there – somewhere between a really good choir singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and the sounds of my grandkids’ voices.

What am I talking about? The sound of elk bugling in Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall.

That’s why Jen and I make it a point every year to trek up to Estes Park to spend at least one evening with the bull elk as they woo their girlfriends in their fascinating mating ritual. This year Bec joined us, and I think our annual tradition will become hers as well.

As dusk approaches and it begins to get darker, you start hearing the eerie sound of the bulls – a sound that begins low and increases in pitch until it echoes against the mountains. It is beautiful, and apparently the female elk agree. They can’t resist. Who could? We read that in preparation for the evening’s activities, the bulls urinate and then roll in the wet mud. What female could turn their noses up at such sex appeal?

Each year it seems we get a better show, and this year was no exception. We saw two Elk bugling 2015 (2)big bulls fighting for their territory. They lowered their heads and charged each other. They stomped their feet and charged again. Suddenly (or at least it seemed sudden to us), the fight was over. We couldn’t tell who won. The two just turned around and walked off in opposite directions. We never figured out the rules, though we tried.

We watched an interesting display that included three bull elks – one of which was injured and walked with a decided limp. He must have lost a fight. The other two played some sort of elk waiting game. Suddenly, one of the bulls walked over to the other bull’s herd and lured one of the cows to come with him. She seemed undecided, but the big bull elk helped her make the decision as he began to chase her over to his herd. We couldn’t quite figure out whether she was happy or not. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter because it’s the males that make the decision.

It was a glorious weekend. The first night we cooked steaks on the grill and ate them atsteaks estes park a table on our balcony at the Deer Crest Resort. It was a lovely warm fall night, and the grounds of this resort are beautiful. I promise I’m not being paid by the hotel to recommend this accommodation. The resort and the owners are both delightful. I can’t recommend it enough. The owner joined us that evening at the fire pit, shortly after the three of us drank our Fireball whiskey shots. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I would write. But, well, yum.

We spent much time sitting by the Fall River, listening to the sounds of nature.

We spent much time sitting by the Fall River, listening to the sounds of nature.

The second night, after the amazing elk show, we ate dinner at the Dunraven Inn, which provided us another grand experience. Jen ate mussels, and Bec and I each had cioppino. If I wasn’t such a lady, I would have licked my bowl. Yum again……

cioppino dunraven

We had a wonderful weekend, which unfortunately concluded with the car incident about which I wrote yesterday. But what the heck! Even that provided us with a great story to tell.

Bill will be home today, and it is my sincerest hope that he will NOT have rolled in mud.