The mountains are calling and I must go. I have often heard people say that the mountains have a pull towards them. Why are we naturally drawn towards the mountains? There was a time when I used to think of going to the mountains when I needed to escape from my problems. In retrospection, I understand the underlying thought behind my then so casual statement. As cliche as it may sound, mountains to me are a place of solitude. Solitude from all the unnecessary thoughts that seem trivial in front of the enormity of your surroundings.
This Christmas, I went to Colorado simply to see the mountains and snow. Estes Park in Colorado is a small town nestled between the mountains and rightly called the ‘gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park’. Summer is the peak season but you will find winters are equally beautiful here and less crowded. I recommend you go for a cabin or lodge to truly enjoy your mountain getaway. I stayed at the Boulder Brook on Fall River on two occasions. After a long day of hiking there is nothing like coming to a peaceful cabin tucked between the rustic mountains and overlooking the river. A soak up in a Jacuzzi hot tub will take away all the fatigue and if its out in the open, that is just icing on the cake.
Hiking in the snow was a first time for me and what better place to get started than the Rocky Mountain National Park. I did not have traction in my snow boots so the Ranger at the Park suggested trails that were easy to manage. I wish I had appropriate gear for my hike to fully explore on my own rather than sticking to the trail path. I started with Bear Lake and went up to Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. The trail felt as though I was in Narnia world.
Apart from hiking, you can also simply drive around the Park and enjoy the scenery. Winter is a beautiful time of the year in Colorado, especially when a fresh layer of snow covers everything.
Despite the physical effort the hike was very refreshing and put my mind at peace. The whole experience of being surrounded by snow clad mountains and walking on frozen lake cannot be put into words. Away from the urban set up, crowd and city noise, you find yourself making a special connection with nature and thereby your own self.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks. It is important that you stay hydrated while hiking in high altitude.
- Drive slowly with caution when there is snow on the road. Preferably take an all wheel drive or a vehicle with snow tires during winter time.
- Pay attention to weather reports and plan accordingly.
- Stay warm by wearing layers of clothing.
- Buy snow and ice traction attachments for your shoes for hiking.
Downtown Estes Park is like a picture perfect mountain town. I was happy to see that most of the business/shops were independently owned and there were hardly any chain stores. Take a stroll on Elkhorn and Moraine Avenue where you will find all the stores and restaurants. Nepal Cafe, a casual spot near River Walk, is a personal favorite for a cup of Indian tea and dumplings. There were glistening lights everywhere, trees decorated and the shops dressed up for the holiday and all this got me in the Christmas mood.
One of the things that you HAVE to do in Estes Park is visit the Stanley Hotel, for this is where the inspiration for the popular horror novel “The Shining” came from. Having watched the film version directed by Stanley Kubrick starring Jack Nicholson, I was curious to know more about the hotel. As it turns out, Stephen King and his wife were the only guests at the hotel for one night and they stayed in room 217 which is where room 217 comes from in the book and movie. If you haven’t read or watched The Shinning, I urge you to, especially the movie because Jack Nicholson is absolutely brilliant.
On my way out of Estes Park, I stopped at Chautauqua Park in Boulder city. The park offers trails that lead to the Flatirons which are five mountains within the city of Boulder. The hike up the Chautauqua trail leading up to the Bluebell-Baird Trail is beautiful but I was more pleased to see these two dogs on the trails. They were so happy to be out in the snow almost blending in it.
For all its spectacular scenery and outdoor recreation activities, Estes Park and for that matter Colorado is a nature lover’s paradise. It is why I keep coming back to this place to marvel at the beauty of the mountains and breathe in the fresh air. My trip to Estes Park resulted in more than what I was expecting. From watching snowfall to waking up to everything covered in a blanket of snow to that crunch you hear when you walk on snow; this is winter at its BEST.
It is rightly a Colorado Rocky Mountain High! (- John Denver)
P.S. To read more about my love for mountains do visit- Yosemite: Expand Your Horizons