R&R In Utah and Colorado: Part 2
Ken and KT’s apartment is in a cool, walkable neighborhood with balcony views of Mile High Stadium and the Rockies. There’s a ton of development going on in Denver now (they expect the total population of the city to grow by over 50% in the next 25 years) so that view of the mountains is now pockmarked by a couple of the many new high-rises being constructed all over the city.
After settling in and spending a few minutes catching up, we walked through the neighborhood and I was given a tour of some local haunts of theirs. We eventually wound up at one of several sports bars in the area watching the Bears/Packers game. Fried foods and beers were consumed. Eventually we departed for another local spot where we watched the end of the Cubs/Dodgers game. Our night concluded at a third bar where we played billiards and ski ball, and ordered more fried foods. I also apparently insulted a guy with one eye. Personally I think he was overreacting. After losing at billiards, losing at billiards, and getting into an altercation with a guy with one eye…I decided we should call it a night.
Our plan for Friday was to drive out to Estes Park and explore Rocky Mountain National Park. I was told that I was in town during peak autumn elk rutting season, which meant I had to learn all about elk mating rituals to prepare myself for what might occur.
We drove from Denver out past Boulder, through the quaint little town of Lyons, and eventually descending into Estes Park. As we approached a turn towards the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park we noticed a crowd had formed at a golf course alongside the highway. Dozens of elk were visible roaming in the course so we decided to stop on our way out of the park. I also recognized the Stanley Hotel sitting up in the distance, and requested a brief stop there as well. With our itinerary firmly established, we headed into the park.
We began by winding our way slowly up Trail Ridge Road as we looked for elk along the road. We saw deer but no elk. We made it as high as about 11,000 feet before the road was closed for the season. Having reached our peak elevation we parked and walked around for a few minutes. Crazily enough, it did not feel nearly as cold as it should have given the temperature. In fact I should point out that the weather was remarkable during the entirety of my stay. Mid-70s during the day and high-40s at night. Clear skies and sunny every day. Visiting families with their children all bundled up in Gore-Tex winter coats looked oddly out of place. Hell, even the flannel shirt I was wearing felt like overkill.
From our spot near the timberline we headed back down the trial towards Beaver Meadows. We then drove to Sprague Lake, where we again parked and walked the perimeter of the lake. Again, given the sunny and warm conditions it was a little bizarre to see parts of the lake frozen over, and patches of snow along the lake trail. We considered heading toward Bear Lake or a glacier but given our limited time we decided to head back toward Estes to see the elk rut and the Stanley.
Our first stop was the Stanley, where we basically just hopped out of the car, snapped a couple photos of the hotel and the goofy little hedge maze they built out front. We wandered the lobby for a few minutes and admired the old-world design. We didn’t get a chance to sneak upstairs to Room 237. I guess another visit is in order…
When we returned to the golf course, the elk were still hanging out. We didn’t hear any bugling or see any mating, but it was still a spectacle. I guess during rutting season one bull can have a huge harem of cows to himself, and they are super territorial. As we stood and observed with maybe a dozen other onlookers a second bull started to approach the herd. As he stood and grazed, slowly making his way towards the herd, the bull in charge made his way towards the other guy. There was no excitement or fighting, one bull was simply run off by the other. When he returned from his little triumph, the bull started to wander a little too close for comfort so most people snuck back to their cars.
On the way home we stopped for coffee, then stopped into Boulder for dinner. We ate at a place Ken and KT like called Shine, which is a farm-to-table place with extensive vegan, vegetarian, and paleo-friendly options. It’s also apparently 100% gluten free, which is great if you’ve got Celiac, or if you live in LA and like to claim you’re allergic to gluten. I ordered the chicken confit with bacon, collared greens and mashed cauliflower. Shine also brews their own beers. I had the IPA, and I tried KT’s gluten free beer, which wasn’t terrible.
We wandered Pearl Street after dinner, popping in and out of a few stores. It felt eerily like Church Street in Burlington. Notably, we stopped at a tea shop so Ken could replace an unusual-blend-of-ingredients tea he enjoys. As someone who doesn’t mind paying $15 or $20 for a half-pound bag of coffee I can understand having expensive taste. Some of the teas here cost, like…$15 per OUNCE. That’s wild. I would have tried one of their sample teas but they reuse their sample cups and my germophobia would not allow me to trust their cleanliness, even though I’m sure they are washed very thoroughly. Ken, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re happy with your five-thousand dollar tea. I’ll settle for a cup of that shitty Trader Joe’s pomegranate white tea.
Back in Denver we took a couple minutes to unwind (and in Ken and KT’s case get some work done) before heading out to one of their favorite bars, Quixotes True Blue. I wouldn’t say a Grateful Dead themed bar is the last place you’d ever find me on a Friday night, but it’s certainly not near the top of the list. Alas, Quixotes has legitimate charm, and is an amazing place to sit back with a beer and watch the characters wandering around between rooms. A nondescript jam band played in the front room while a Grateful Dead cover band played in the larger back room. I quite enjoyed roaming the perimeter studying all the vintage rock posters on the walls. In that light (and behind glass) it’s hard to tell if they were original first printings or not, but it was still a very cool way to decorate a bar. Sadly, Quixotes is closing this weekend. Plans are reopen elsewhere in the city, but until then a pretty unique part of Denver’s night life is going away.
I’ll continue with more photos from my travels tomorrow.
Cliff Martinez – Messenger Walks Among Us [MP3]
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