Mountain Reunion: Estes Park, Colorado (Part I)

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Mountains or sea? Sea or mountains? The recurring questions. I have realized that the season - and thus state of mind - determine my desire for one or the other. In fall and winter, I mostly tend to feel more drawn to the mountains. 

Fact is, I have always wanted to go to Colorado. More so, I have always wanted to breathe in the fresh mountain air, leave the big city behind for a while and free my mind on a long hike in the Rockys. Simply nature. Simply outdoors. 

Turns out, this wasn’t all that far from reality, as Aly and I were planning another reunion after she had made her way to the west coast back in February. When we meet, we do cool things. Or, as she puts it: “We do talk big game but we also deliver.” So true. (I mean, come on, we jumped out of a plane together.)

After weeks of looking through our schedules, getting an idea of flight prices and hotels, we had the whole trip planned (credit goes to Aly, she is an organizational talent). More or less last minute, the two guys joined our initially planned girls’ weekend. The more the merrier. 

And so on a Friday early evening, we hopped on a plane  - one starting at the east, the other at the west coast - to eventually touch down in Denver for a rather loud, (girly) reunion at the airport. Reunion successful, in the U.S. state with the highest elevation. (Thanks Wikipedia, for educating me about this one.)

An almost-deer-crash and a few hours of sleep later (welcome to Colorado), we were all geared up and ready for the big “Deer Hike” (how ironic) that we had planned for Saturday. When we left our basic lodge and saw the snow-covered Rocky’s surrounding us, it hit me: Wow, this place is already exceeding my expectations. I was bouncing up and down the passenger seat (avoid sitting in the back if you are prone to motion sickness). Aly and I made our excitement known in a high-pitched voice ( – we might have been also extremely excited about a large breakfast at that cozy, rustic place we located the night before). 

It’s exactly what I needed, what we wanted. The crisp air, and fall scenery added to the overall atmosphere. You know, fall is the only thing that I do miss here in California. I am certainly not complaining about all the sun-filled hours and relatively warm temperatures, but when it comes to experiencing seasons, San Diego is not ideal, I should say. I miss wrapping up warm, inhaling cool air, seeing the leaves change and getting this utterly cozy feeling inside. You know what I mean? I am a fall person, and always will be, deep down inside. 

When we entered Rocky Mountain National Park…

Snow on top of the mountains!!

Gearing up and getting ready for hiking. 

Now, I had it right here in Estes Park - which is where we should stay for two nights in the lodge we had booked. It is about a one and a half hour drive from Denver airport, further north. Beautiful, ha! The gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park, as they say. It’s huge, by the way, and you see wildlife at its finest. 

I can’t even…

On the way to the park we passed moose. You don’t see those everyday - expect when in Colorado, I guess (or whatever other places they run around). After a fueling breakfast, we were ready to climb mountains. (Umm, well, not to that extreme, but it sure was challenging hike.)

We hit the trail.

Okay, got it. Makes sense. Just don’t know who’ll actually win this fight. 

One thing I realized (and never really have before, not even all these times when me and my family went skiing in Austria) was that coming from sea level and hiking up to 10,000 ft is hard.) With due respect to our pretty good fitness level, this hike was definitely a cardio workout at its finest. We all loved it, though. I let the scenery pictures speak for themselves.

Just let it sink in; the scenery is just perfect. 

We started here…

…and walked our way further up. 

Through the woods!

Not even ‘almost’ there yet.

Stopping for shenanigans along the way. 

We finally made it all the way up, after hours!

A quick photo and then we needed to calm our rumbling stomachs with a few sandwiches. It was ‘freezing’ up there! Absolutely windy. 

We met this pro poser as we ate lunch on the summit. 

After 30 minutes or so, we then started our descent

After our decent in the later afternoon, we were exhausted, not going to lie. It was, however, very well worth it. We stopped for a beer cider (or two) and food at a nearby BBQ house before we headed back to the hotel for a hot tub session. Our muscles and joins were thankful. Nothing beats hanging out in a Jacuzzi after having been active outside basically all day. 

Back to our lodge.

After a hot shower, we headed downtown (taffy seems to be a thing here…) for some ice-cream, before we then drove back to the lodge, where we all went straight to bed and slept like rocks that night, dreaming about crackling fires and hot chocolate in a rustic surrounding. 

This mountain retreat couldn’t have started off any better.

(Part II will be up soon.)