Elk in Estes Park, Colorado 2019, with Colorado Traveling Ducks

It would not be fall for us without a day trip to Estes Park, Colorado.

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park is the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.   There are a lot of elk in the park, and all over this area of Colorado.   In the fall, mating season brings the elk out of the mountains, and many spend time in the parks and golf courses of Estes Park.   We love to see them.   As we enter Estes Park we stop for a photo by the city sign.   The mountain views from this lookout are beautiful.

Mountain view from lookout

We continue into town, park, and walk along the river to the shops.

Creek

Having spent a lot of time in this small park, we can say it is a great place.   Of course, we love the water wheel.

Water wheel

And the shops beside it.   Last year we purchased singing bowls from the Himalayan store.   That is the last store by the water wheel.  They still sing and we still smile when we listen.   Walking along Elkhorn Boulevard, we purchased a couple pair of very soft slippers.   Then our normal stops at Laura’s Fudge Shop.   The sign says they have been spoiling dinner since 1970.   Moms have been coming here since the early 1970’s.   So, it really is delicious.   Fudge, toffee, candy, caramel apples, popcorn, ice cream and more.   Yum.   Then to The Taffy Shop.   Moms have been coming here just as long.    But, let’s find the real stars of today’s trip.   Often we see many elk on the lawn of The Stanley Hotel.

Elk herd at the Stanley

The Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s book, The Shining.   Driving a couple miles toward the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, we see more young animals.

We are on the wrong side of these guys

They seem to be looking the wrong direction.   In town, often a herd is in the park near Lake Estes.

Elk in the park

Aren’t they magnificent?   Today we found this bull elk on the golf course.

Bull elk on golf course

And a few more elk lounging on the golf course.

Elk lounging on golf course

These elk are wild and very large, but they are rather accustomed to humans.   However, we do not get too close.   They are wild animals, it is mating season, and they can be startled.   So humans and ducks watch and admire the elk, but do give them a lot of space.   Today we are going home through Big Thompson Canyon.   This is a beautiful canyon with many private cabins, many rental cabins, bed and breakfast, lodge, shops and year round residents.   Parts of the canyon are rather wide to accommodate small settlements, and parts are rather narrow with steep mountain sides.   Often mountain goats are on the side of the mountains.   But today we stop for cherry treats.

Colorado Cherry Company

Colorado Cherry Company is a favorite.   We ducks relax on the chairs and pose for a photo.

Great store.  The Cherry Tree

Inside mom tries a couple bites of pie.   She settles on a cherry rhubarb slice of pie.  It is delicious.   Her favorite jam is dark cherry jam, so that comes home, too.

Pie for dinner dessert tonight?

I bet we have this slice of pie for dinner dessert tonight.   I hope so.   We went for the elk, but did come home with extra things also.   We, Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck, love these day trips.   We hope you enjoy day trips in your area.

Estes Park and a Close Encounter With Elk

A gateway city to Rocky Mountain National Park, we love the resort town of Estes Park.

Estes Park, Colorado

It was overcast with car headlights on the rock.   We liked the shadows on the stone.  Fall River flows from Rocky Mountain National Park into Estes Park.

Water wheel in river by park

We love the water wheel in the river by this small park.   Elkhorn Avenue is the main street in Estes Park.

Elkhorn Avenue

We usually walk from one end to the other, stopping in various shops and often a restaurant.   One of our standard stops is The Taffy Shop.

The Taffy Shop

There are several taffy shops, but we have been coming to this one since mom moved to Colorado in 1975.   The taffy is made right here and it is delicious.  Try the Texas Pecan.   Another regular stop is Laura’s Fudge Shop.

Laura’s Fudge Shop

A few years ago, Laura’s expanded but the shop is always crowded with locals and tourists.   That really says the fudge and more is excellent.  We enjoy Turtle Fudge and Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge.  And the toffee, and the caramel apples.   Yum!   We did our shopping, crossed the road, followed the river and got in our car.

River flows under main street near parking area

This is fall, the rut, or mating season of the elk.   This time of year, we hear the male, or bull elk, calling his mates, sounding like a bugle.   The female may answer with a rather shrill squeal.   The elk often leave Rocky Mountain National Park and wander in and around Estes Park.

Elk herd leaving lawn of Aspire Residence at Stanley Hotel

This herd is behind the Aspire Residences, part of the Stanley Hotel.   There were several humans sitting on balconies enjoying the elk herd.   As you can tell, the herd is gradually moving to another area.   But some are not in a hurry.

Baby elk nursing

This young elk is hungry and trying to nurse, but mom doesn’t stand still very long.   They have moved, crossed a major street, and are now in the golf course.

Elk herd on golf course

The lone male watches the females.

Bull running to keep females together

He tries to keep them together.   This bull does a lot of running, or sprinting, to keep the girls where he wants them.   Oh, a second herd is arriving.

Second herd approaching golf course

They will join the first herd on the golf course.   How will this end?

Two bulls calmly passing

The two bull elk, one from each herd, pass each other, without incident.   But, we don’t think the elk can read.

Tee time?

Only golfers on the golf course.

Elk on the Golf Course

Well, is it tee time ladies?  The elk and humans mingle well.   If the elk want to move, the humans scatter to allow the elk freedom to go wherever they wish.  Further along, a herd is around Lake Estes.

A bull elk in Lake Estes

This bull is cooling off and probably drinking in Lake Estes.   The sun has set.

The Stanley Hotel at sunset

The Stanley Hotel is illuminated by the glow of the setting sun behind the Rocky Mountains.   A beautiful end to a beautiful day.

Florissant Fossil Beds With Zeb the Duck

Colorado used to have giant redwood trees.   We had a warmer climate, so we had many tropical insects also.  That was about 34 million years ago.   What a change from the Colorado we know and love today.   Today I, Zeb the Duck, took mom and a friend to Central Colorado, a little south and west of Colorado Springs, to Florissant Fossil Beds.   These fossil beds are now part of the U.S. National Park Service.

Florissant Fossil Beds

It was a cloudy day, so we decided to see the outside things first, just in case we got some rain.   About two miles from this sign, is the homestead of Adeline Hornbek.   Back when women usually could not purchase land, Adeline acquired 160 acres to homestead.  Her homestead is now protected by the National Park Service.   In 1878, she had outlived two husbands and had four children to raise.   She and her children farmed and ranched here.

Adeline Hornbek’s Homestead of 1878

Today, her great great granddaughter, was in the house.   So tourists were allowed inside the home and outbuildings.   Attached to the main house is the well house.

Well House

An enclosed pump is less likely to freeze.   The kitchen was large.

Kitchen

On the right side is the door to the well house.   To the left and to the front, is a door to the living room.   The open door on the left leads upstairs where her sons slept.  The rear door goes to another room, with a door to the outdoors.

Living room

The living room is also rather large and has a wood stove for heat.   You can see the adjacent room behind also has a wood stove for heat.   This is the pantry.

Pantry

With five people to feed, storage space was important.   Outside, dug into a hill, is the root cellar.

Root Cellar

More food was preserved here for the long cold winter in the Colorado Mountains.   Going back to the Visitor’s Center, the fossil beds are outside, so we went there first.   There are fossil exhibits inside also.

Petrified redwood tree

I, Zeb the Duck, am sitting on a large piece of petrified redwood tree.  The huge petrified tree stump is under a manmade cover, to offer some protection for the fossil.   Moisture in the stump, freezing and thawing, will damage the fossil.   Humans are trying to slow the process.   The sign says 34 million years ago the Rocky Mountains were warmer with wet summers and mild winters.   This area was forested with towering redwoods, cedar, pines, mixed hardwoods and ferns.   Now this is rare.

Trio of fossilized stumps

A family circle of fossilized stumps grew out of the single trunk of an older parent tree.   The 3 trunks are ancient clones, or genetically identical copies, of that parent tree.   This is common now in California with coastal redwoods, but this trio of stone stumps is unique in the world’s fossil record.  We hiked the one mile trail and arrived here, at the Big Stump.

The Big Stump

This massive petrified redwood stump is one of the largest fossils in the park.   The tree was probably 230 feet tall and 750 years old when volcanic mud flow buried its base.   In the 1800’s local residents excavated the stump and tried to cut it in smaller pieces.   You can see 2 saw blades still in the stump toward the top, above my little duck head.   The base is charred from volcanic mud and volcanic lahar.   Further along, we see tree rings in the redwood fossil.

Rings in fossilized redwood stump

These rings are still visible after 34 million years.   They provide information about environment and climate.  The rings show more favorable growing conditions than coastal redwoods of California today.   Tropical insects were also here.   We had tsetse flies?

Tsetse Fly

This fossil was not on display the day we visited.   Let’s go inside.

Fossil display at Visitor’s Center

There are many fossils on display.   On an interactive display we met this spider.

Spider

This stealthy ground spider (Palaeodrassus) lived under the bark of a tree.  Rather large spider!  Florissant Fossil Beds, which according to the U.S. National Park Service, now look like a grassy mountain valley in Central Colorado, is one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world.   This place is very interesting and we could spend much more time here.   But we are leaving now and heading back home.   A couple miles to the town of Florissant, we see these deer.

Deer are so graceful and delicate

There is one male and several females.  He is watching.   But I like her.

My new friend

I think this deer is watching me.   Further along we saw a herd of about 50 elk resting in a grassy meadow.

Elk lounging.

We love seeing the wild animals.   The trees of our northern mountains have changed color and many have fallen.   We are in the central mountains now and the leaves are still beautiful.

Autumn in the Rocky Mountains

We love to see fall colors in the mountains.   Especially on a warm calm day.   Are you enjoying the changing seasons where you live also?

Grand Canyon Hiking with Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck

Let’s do some hiking today.   At Grand Canyon National Park there are so many opportunities to hike.   And so many great trails for our enjoyment.   Before we start down Bright Angel Trail, we visit two historical buildings in the immediate area.   First we enter Kolb Studio, built in 1904.

Kolb Studio built in 1904

This was the Victorian home and photography studio of the Kolb brothers, Emery and Ellsworth.  They were pioneer photographers and filmmakers.   Inside the studio today, you will find part gift shop, part museum and part movie theater (where you can watch their film that played continuously for 61 years).   Be sure to walk on the decks and balconies for fabulous views of the Grand Canyon.  Nearby is Lookout Studio.

Lookout Studio

For many years there was rivalry and mean competition between the two studios.   Lookout Studio was designed by famous architect, Mary Colter.   Lookout Studio was meant to blend into the walls of the canyon.   The studio does appear like part of the canon wall.   She also designed the building at Hermit’s Rest that we showed you last time.   Be sure to visit both studios.   Please take time to fully appreciate the views of the Grand Canyon from each studio.

View from Lookout Studio

We loved to sit and look for a long time.   After an ice cream snack, we are ready to hike Bright Angel Trail.   This trail descends 4,500 feet (1360 meters) in 7.8 miles (12.6 km) to the Colorado River.  Bright Angel is the most traveled trail in Grand Canyon National Park.     This is where we are going.

Bright Angel Trail from studio

We are not going to hike the entire distance, but we will hike part of the trail.   We soon go through this arch.

Archway on Bright Angel Trail

You can see, the canyon walls are steep.

Steep wall of Grand Canyon

Further down the trail, we look up to see Kolb Studio.

Kolb Studio from the trail

We were there, and moms, we have to hike back up out of the canyon and reach Kolb Studio again.   Of course we did it.   We are not still in the canyon.   We enjoyed the hike and the views looking into the canyon and the views looking up, out of the canyon, are beautiful.   We would love to see your Grand Canyon photos also.   Back to the top of the canyon, we take the shuttle bus to Pima Point.   Leaving the shuttle bus, we again hike a section of the South Rim.   We will hike 1 mile or 1.6 km to Hermit’s Rest.   Hermit’s Rest is the end of the South Rim trail.   There are many stops for us to gaze at and admire the beauty of the Grand Canyon.   Five or six million years ago, the Colorado River cut through the rock and carved the Grand Canyon.   Here is the Colorado River, still changing the landscape of this canyon.

Colorado River cutting the canyon even deeper

However the geology of this canyon tells of a time when the tectonic plates moved slowly across the earth’s surface.   Some rock at the bottom of the canyon is almost two billion years old.   Each time we stop we are in awe of the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.

Every view is magnificent

Continuing along the South Rim Trail, we reach Hermit’s Rest.

Hiked to the end of Rim Trail. Arriving at Hermit’s Rest

And one of the official greeters is here enjoying a snack.

Elk, Official Greeter at Hermit’s Rest

Tonight we ride the shuttle bus back to Maswik Lodge for dinner.   The humans had Navajo tacos and spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread.   We ducks also liked the dinner.   While visiting The Grand Canyon, sampling food at the various lodges and shops is also fun.   There are many things to see and do here.   You can come for a few hours and see the canyon or you can stay for weeks and never be bored.   This is a great place.

Exploring the Grand Canyon’s South Rim with Zeb and Soapy Smith

Leaving Williams, Arizona.

Williams, Arizona

Driving north on Route 64, through beautiful tall pine forests, we reach Grand Canyon National Park.   We are entering the park through the South Rim entrance.   This is the most developed area of the park, and provides the most amenities for visitors.

Grand Canyon National Park

First stop is always the Visitor’s Center, then a short walk to Mather Point.

Mather Point, Grand Canyon

This canyon is huge!

Panorama can’t begin to cover it all

It is rather crowded here, so we begin following the Rim Trail.   A very short distance, and we found a new friend.

Our new friend, the elk

This park is full of elk.   It is spring, and the male elk are just sprouting new antlers.   Hard to know if we are seeing male or female elk, but they don’t seem to have any fear of humans, or ducks.   Of course, they are protected in the National Park.   Continuing along the Rim Trail, we must stop for many photos.

Like the red here

Soapy’s mom is holding us.

Every view is breathtaking.

If we fall, we are gone forever.

If we fall, we are gone

This canyon averages 10 miles wide (up to 18 miles across, or wide, at places) and 277 miles long.  And it averages one mile deep, but deeper in places.   We reach Yavapal Point and Geology Museum.   Geologists decided this was the best location for the museum.   This is a great view from the Geology Museum.

Beautiful canyon

They appreciated the view, showing several layers of rock.   Private cars are not allowed on these roads during main tourist season, so we ride the free and frequent park shuttles.   Cars are only allowed to lodges and camp grounds.  We leave our shuttle at The Abyss and hike more of the Rim Trail.   There are very few humans on our trail.   Although there are over 5 million visitors each year, the park contains 1,217,403 acres.   Avoiding the crowds is really not that difficult.  The Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River over several million years.   As you notice, the erosion process in still happening.

Watch for falling rocks

When will these huge rocks fall?   And these pretty wildflowers can grow in this rocky desert climate.

Cheerful wildflowers

Aren’t they beautiful?   This is Hermit’s Rest.

Hermit’s Rest

The shuttle buses end here and Hermit Trailhead will guide climbers to the bottom of the canyon.   We hiked a short distance on this steep trail.

Rather steep trail

This trail is recommended for experienced desert hikers only.  We didn’t go very far.   Only about 15 minutes down the trail.   The inside of the lodge is beautiful and huge.

At Hermit’s Rest

This photo should give you an idea.  Hermit’s Rest is a National Historic Landmark.   The gift shop was nice.   We purchased ice cream from an outside window.   So good!  On the way back to Mather Point and our car, we stopped at Yavapal Lodge for dinner and these delicious pies.

We loved these pies

Hiking and admiring the Grand Canyon makes humans and ducks hungry.   We will show you more of our Grand Canyon experience next time.

Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck Visit Grand Lake, Colorado and Quacker Gift Shop

Did we mention that we love our home state of Colorado.   Well, we do.   We even have a special gift shop here.   Grand Lake, Colorado is a lake and a town, located at the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park, west entrance

Let’s visit a little of the park.   We can drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, on the highest continuous paved road in the United States.   Trail Ridge Road connects Grand Lake on the west with Estes Park on the east.   But today, we just go a little way into the park.   We want to see some elk.   Here is one.

elk

Elk on the move.   We really saw several elk today in several places in the park.   Sitting on this fallen tree, we appreciate our Colorado scenery.

In Rocky Mountain National Park

We love our mountains, the meadow, the stream and the elk resting.   But mom, what about our store?   Back in the resort town of Grand Lake, we find The Quacker Gift Shop.

The Quacker Gift Shop.

While there are other items available, the main focus of this gift shop is us–rubber ducks!   From the vantage point on the large duck’s bill, we can see much of the available merchandise.

View from a duck bill

And there is a lot!   Let’s sit on the top shelf by duck caps and the Jumbo Ducks.

Sitting by duck caps and Jumbo Ducks

And still more.

Dreaming of wonderful jam

We enjoy this shelf, sitting by locally made jams.   Yummy!  And Celebrity Ducks.

Celebrity Ducks, and us

So many.   Sitting by the pink flamingo, we are near ducks from The Wizard of Oz, a KISS duck and so many more.

Are we celebrity ducks?

Of course some new ducks came home to join our family.

The newest members of our duck family

The moms purchased fresh fudge also.   After lunch at The Hub, the fudge was sampled and appreciated.   Grand Lake is a town located on Grand Lake, the largest natural lake in Colorado.

Grand Lake

Isn’t the lake pretty?  Grand Lake was formed by glaciation about 30,000 years ago.

Grand Lake

Glaciers are gone and we have a beautiful recreation area.   On the beach some children built a sand castle.

Beach at Grand Lake

The swimming area is clearly separated from the boating area for everyone’s safety.   And boats.

Boats available at Grand Lake

Boats can be rented by the hour.   Maybe next time.   We didn’t allow enough time to fully enjoy Grand Lake.   Boat tours are also available.   We will be back here.   Grand Lake has long been known as the headwaters of the Colorado River.   And the mighty Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon, one the top natural wonders of the world.   Grand Lake is about 2 hours from our home near Denver.   We can come for a day, a weekend or a week.   But, we will be back here often.   We ducks must revisit the gift shop dedicated to us and rubber ducks everywhere.