After we left the Stanley Hotel, we drove back to the main road and stopped at KFC for lunch. I know; not very exciting but we were in a hurry and didn’t want to rush through a restaurant meal that really deserved more time than we had available. We ended up getting the 8 piece meal so we’d have something to eat later. Then we headed over to the jeep tour meeting place. (Click on photo to see larger on Flickr. There are also more photos in the Colorado Album, if you want to see them.)
We used Rocky Mountain Rush for our jeep tour and opted for the Panoramic Peak Tour, the medium wild with tower photo tour. It had begun to drizzle at this point, which was a little disappointing, but they gave us rain slickers and covered the seats of the 4 wheeler we would ride in. Now, I want to make something very clear here that I did not think of at the time. I’m fat. I readily admit it. I’m also not agile and my balance sucks. My brain did not make that connection with the fact that these are jeeps and thus pretty high off the ground. I needed a step ladder to get into and out of the jeep. They had one and besides some embarrassment and ungraceful moments on my part, it was fine. But there was no way I could haul myself in and out of those things without the step ladder. If you have problems with mobility, I suggest calling and asking a couple of questions just to see if this is for you. We did drive past the jeep they use for the milder tours that looked easier to manage, so don’t count yourself out until you check. Ok?
Now, the tour we chose didn’t take us into Rocky Mountain National Park. (Again, I really suggest you call and double check everything. You’ll get more details talking with someone at Rush than just relying on the website like we did.) Our tour instead took up back up Highway 36 into the Roosevelt National Forest. It’s still forest and mountains but it’s not where we thought we were going. Our driver switched the jeep to four wheel drive and up the trail we went. There was a lot of pretty scenery and our driver was a wealth of information. We stopped once on the way up to wander around an aspen tree cluster and have some snacks. (He brought snacks for us and bottled water. I thought that was a nice touch.) I was very impressed with our driver. Then I hauled my ungraceful-self back up into the jeep and we headed to the top of the trail to the watch tower.
Alright, fair warning. The trail is rough. You will be tossed around. The jeep goes fairly slowly but it’s still a bumpy ride. Do not try and hold yourself still. You will pull something and be sore as hell the next day. (Yeah. Ow.) Be loose and sway with the jeep. You’ll be fine.
There I am in all my wind blown, pink cheeked glory. I’m in the blue jacket on the left. My travel companion is in the tan on the right.
When we reached the tower we all piled out and climbed up the stairs. I’m scared of heights but I was fine. The stairs are solid and I didn’t feel unsafe going up. There is a little room under the top deck if you don’t want to go all the way up. There were more snacks. (I had a mini pack of Oreos.) Then we all trooped up to the top. This is where the tour earns it panoramic title. It was a little cloudy but had stopped raining by that time and you could see all the way down into Estes Park and clear across the horizon. It was really a beautiful view.
Way down there, kind of middle right, is the white speck that is the Stanley Hotel.
We spent around 15 minutes up there before heading back down to the jeep and then down the trail back to Estes Park. We didn’t see any animals up there; which I know disappointed my travel companion. It is a rather noisy jeep, so I think they know to steer clear. We then headed back into Estes Park and I kissed the ground when we finally stopped. I felt like a shaken cocktail by the end. Oh my god.
We headed to the hotel to check in after the jeep tour. We stayed at the Best Western Plus off of Big Thompson Ave. It was the most expensive hotel we stayed at during our trip, at about $130 for one night, but it was also the nicest. The room had its own mini fridge, microwave, and coffee pot. We booked a double room, so we each had our own full sized bed. They even had an indoor pool, although we did not have time to go for a dip. My only complaint is that the sink and vanity were pretty much out in the room. The toilet and shower were behind a door. I’m not really thrilled with the idea of someone being able to see me brush my teeth even if they are my friend.
My travel companion pulled out her laptop from her suitcase to see where we should have dinner. It was then that we discovered her bag had been pulled for a random search, they leave a little card inside, and they had pretty much broken everything inside while doing it. Her laptop screen was broken. Even the mirror in her makeup case had been shattered. It kind of put a downer on the trip. She called the airline and got the process for reimbursement started but it sucked. (And took her and her husband several months to get the full amount for what had been broken. One big headache.) I’m glad I thought to take my camera out of my bag before getting it checked. Honestly people, all of your electronics should travel on the plane with you. Airport personnel just sling those bags and suitcases through the air like it’s a game. If it cost you more than $20 to purchase, it should be in your carry on/backpack.
We headed out for dinner blind. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and we knew we’d find something. The main road through Estes Park is a cute strip with stores and restaurants and everything you could want. There is fast food, if you want to go simple, but we opted to eat at The GrubSteak. Why, you ask? Two words. Elk. Burgers. Like most non-cow burgers, the elk burgers there were juicy and yummy and probably one of the better burgers I’ve ever eaten. (I’ve had bison and venison [specifically deer] burgers too.) Too bad I had kind of lost my appetite from being tossed around in the jeep all afternoon and only managed to eat half my burger. I planned to eat the rest of it later but never got around to it. I mourned that uneaten elk burger. I really did.
We went back to the hotel and pretty much just crashed. My friend called her husband and her kids. We both showered and watched a little TV before pretty much zonking out. I got up in the middle of the night with a cramp in my calf because my body hates me. We had plans to meet up with my friend that had moved to Colorado a couple years ago for breakfast. She was nice enough to drive up to Estes Park even though it was a workday for her. I was really excited to see her. And I don’t think she minded having an excuse to head into the mountain even for just a couple of hours.
On my next post, The Egg & I, up into the mountains we go, and then tumbling back down them.