Estes Park, Colorado — The Place Where Birthday Dreams Come True

I will provide you with fair warning my friends — I’m about to overload you with baby and beautiful scenery photos. If that happens to be the kind of thing you enjoy (ahem, who doesn’t?!), then please keep reading.

As I mentioned yesterday, this past weekend was my birthday, and Chris planned a weekend getaway to Estes Park for our little fam. We stayed at this Airbnb, which was two blocks from the Lake Estes walking path, about a four-minute drive from our hike at Gem Lake on Saturday and an easy walk into town, too. There was a cute little kitchenette which was perfect for our beer-stocking, baby food-making needs, and they had games and puzzles and the perfect Wi-Fi password. (It had something to do with going outside, but Chris says I shouldn’t give the actual password … fair enough.)

We had take-out from Thai Kitchen  on Friday night (delish), made a lunch to bring with us on our hike Saturday and had Mexican for dinner Saturday night at Ed’s Cantina & Grill.  The food was fantastic, and the town — which we walked through on Saturday evening after our hike — was really cute, but really what you come to Estes Park for are the awe-inspiring views. We had planned to do two hikes on Saturday, but the Gem Lake trail ended up taking us about four hours total, because we took the long way back and it had snowed the day before, so it was a bit icy in patches, which meant we went super slow with the little one in tow. Chris was carrying her in the Ergo, so I was really glad that he rented spikes for our shoes from Estes Park Mountain Shop, which we had never used before but which I thoroughly believe I’ll be using for every hike from here on out … they are so helpful!

Anyway, the Gem Lake hike was definitely difficult in parts (check out the All Trails info on it here), but it was absolutely worth it.

Here’s a bit from our weekend getaway ….

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^^ A bit blurry, but OMG I love this pic 😉

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^^ A fridge full of Michelob Ultra … that’s my kind of birthday celebration!

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^^ Lotte was very excited to help dad set out the puzzle pieces for a puzzle that we never actually did. Turns out when your 8-month-old goes to bed at 7 p.m. and you’re sharing the same room, there’s not much you can do but watch Parks & Rec repeats on your iPad in the dark, which, as anyone who knows me at all will know, was totally fine by me.

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^^ This is definitely a photo of some of my favorite things, but I actually took a picture of it because last year I was pregnant with Lotte and couldn’t have beer or soft cheeses. My how things change in 12 months.

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^^ Traveling with a baby is, as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of fun, but there is something to be said about having to be on baby’s schedule. It actually turned out that it was better we had to wait for Lotte to wake up from her morning nap before heading out, because it warmed up nicely before we hit the trail.

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^^ Chris is frequently annoyed with my trail mix eating habits, which include picking out all of the M&Ms and leaving pretty much everything else behind. This time he decided to hedge his bets and set up a make-your-own-trail-mix bar, that way I could put in as many M&Ms (and as few peanuts, yuck!) as I wanted!

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^^ Hiking shoe spikes! So dorky … and so worth it!

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^^ And so the trail begins! It was about 3.3 miles round-trip, but we took the Twin Owls loop back, which added an extra 1/2 mile or so.

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^^ These two 😉 My loves.

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^^ Rocky Mountain National Park usually costs $20 for a day pass to enter, but this trail technically takes you through sections of the park … for free!

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^^ We seriously could not get enough of these views!

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^^ The higher we got, the snowier it got. Thank goodness we had our hiking shoe spikes! That was $16 well spent.

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^^ Just before you hit Gem Lake you’re blessed with this gorgeous view. I would have been happy with just this alone, but then …

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^^ You get to the lake, and it’s simply spectacular.

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^^ These icicles are gorgeous, but I really love the blurry Chris & Lotte in the background.

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^^ We hiked around a bit and ate our sandwiches on the other side of the lake, then started to make our way down. I swear it had been a bit cloudy and chilly on our hike up, but as soon as we reached the lake the clouds cleared and the sun was shining. It was stunning.

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^^ This little muffin even fell asleep on the way back down – why not, all comfy, cozy snuggled on dad!?

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^^ Checking out the Twin Owls View Trail on the way back was definitely worth the extra .5 miles!

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After our hike we took a brief rest back at our Airbnb before heading out on the walk into town. The River Walk is super cute, and you pass by a bunch of fun shops and restaurants to browse.

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^^ This sign on our walk had me cracking up. I mean I guess aggressive elk isn’t something to laugh about, but it certainly seemed funny to me!

_DSC7606On Sunday — my actual birthday 😉 — we planned to get up and get breakfast in town, then check out the downtown area a bit more, but Lotte had other ideas. Namely, she was super grumpy and just wanted to go home, which was fair enough because we’ve kept her pretty busy over these past couple weeks. We did manage to stop by the Estes Park sign on our way out and snap a photo though:

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Thanks for an amazing time, Estes Park, and thank you for being so close to our home. We will definitely be back.

Bis bald, friends!

A Saturday Spent at Rocky Mountain National Park

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Hey friends,

On Saturday, Chris and I hopped in the car and drove out to Rocky Mountain National Park, a 415 square mile park that encompasses some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve seen yet in Colorado — and that’s really saying something.

So to start, we decided to bite the bullet and purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass for $80. An individual car entrance for just one visit to Rocky Mountain National Park is $20, and we’ve already been to Arches National Park and have plans to visit Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park (we plan to visit Mount Rushmore as well, but there’s no fee to get in to see the monument there, and the parking fee isn’t covered by the annual pass) — so we figured it will probably be worth the cost.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the Trail Ridge Road, which was the first thing we tackled on our visit … holy cow, friends, it’s insane! From the park site:

Covering the 48 miles between Estes Park on the park’s east side and Grand Lake on the west, Trail Ridge Road more than lives up to its advanced billing. Eleven miles of this high highway travel above treeline, the elevation near 11,500 feet where the park’s evergreen forests come to a halt. As it winds across the tundra’s vastness to its high point at 12,183 feet elevation, Trail Ridge Road (U.S. 34) offers visitors thrilling views, wildlife sightings and spectacular alpine wildflower exhibitions, all from the comfort of their car.

The drive up to the visitor’s center is absolutely stunning, with plenty of places to pull off along the side of the road and gawk. If you’re lucky — like we were — you might even see tons of animals, like deer, marmot, groundhogs, squirrels and chipmunks and, our all-time favorite, the bighorn sheep.

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_DSC1488^^ Bighorn sheep! And if you look very closely, you can see a little groundhog trailing him …

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While the views here are unlike any you’ll find anywhere else, you will need to pay attention to signs of altitude sickness. At over 12,000 feet in spots, I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking visitors here on their first day in Colorado. You’ll need to give yourself time to acclimate to the higher altitude, drink plenty of water and take things slowwwww. There’s no shame in taking your time on hikes around here — no one wants to have to deal with the effects of altitude sickness … blech!

Oh and one other word of wise — wear pants and bring a coat! Chris and I were total rookies and didn’t even think about the fact that high altitude brings chilly weather (we’re talking 50s and low 60s here, people), so we were forced to buy sweaters from the visitors center just to be able to make it through the rest of the day!

We took a couple of hours to see everything we wanted along the ride (I would recommend driving all the way up to the visitor’s center first, checking that out and doing the short little hike near the center, then driving back down to make your stops), and we even pulled over at one particularly gorgeous spot to stop and have some lunch we had packed. After we headed over to the super simple Bear Lake hike, which is only a .6 mile loops with no incline.

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We were going to attempt the Alberta Falls 1.2 mile hike, as well, but at that point we were getting a bit tired and felt like we had jam packed a lot into our first ever trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

But don’t worry, Alberta Falls — now that we’ve got our annual pass, we’ll be back for ya!

Bis bald, friends!

 

The 52 Project: August 10, 2015

_DSC1509^^ This past weekend Chris and I headed about two hours northwest of Denver to check out Rocky Mountain National Park … and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Holy crap it’s beautiful here, friends! I’ll be back later this week to talk more about everything we saw, but for now, feast your eyes on the beautifulness above (and yes, we did have to buy a jacket and sweatshirt from the gift shop because we were ill-prepared for the freezing cold weather that accompanies 12,000+ feet above sea level! Rookie mistake … ) Anyway, bis bald friends! Hope everyone had an amazing weekend.

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