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.

Over Trail Ridge Road with Zeb the Duck

A favorite summer drive for us includes visiting Winter Park, a stop at Grand Lake where we enter Rocky Mountain National Park.   We drive over Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved highway in North America.  Exiting the national park at Estes Park we stay there for a little shopping and then return home.   It is a full day, but a wonderful day.   That is the plan for today.   First stop is Winter Park, Colorado.

Winter Park Resort

This is a mountain resort, skiing in the winter and many opportunities in the summer.   In the winter there is a ski train from Denver to Winter Park.   In the summer we love the Alpine Slide.

Alpine Slide, Winter Park Resort

It is hard for mom to get photos of this, but here you can see the half pipe track we use.   Also there is a rider on a sled at the end of the ride.   When we finish, we take our sled and hang it on the line so it can be taken back to the top of the ride.  We ride the ski chair lift to the top of the mountain, get off, walk a little way to get a sled, put our sled on the half pipe run, sit on sled, check our brakes and ride to the bottom of the mountain.   It is really fun!  We can make music here at Winter Park Village.

We can make music.

In the winter humans ice skate on the lake behind us.   Back in the car, we drive to Grand Lake, Colorado.   Grand Lake is the name of the town, but there is a lake, named Grand Lake here.

Boats available at Grand Lake

Hardy souls swim here, but we don’t want to swim in a cold mountain lake.   But these boats on Grand Lake are really fun.   Now let’s enter Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park, west entrance

This is one of four national parks in Colorado, and probably our favorite.   Here I, Zeb the Duck, am admiring the beautiful mountain scenery.

In Rocky Mountain National Park

You may notice dead trees behind me. The Pine Bark Beetle is killing many of our lodge pole pines.   This beetle epidemic is in Canada, the United States and into Mexico, killing trees in the forests.   This beetle epidemic has occurred several times in the past 500 years, but it is so sad to see so many dead trees.  I just love lakes.

Alpine Lake

This alpine lake is so beautiful and so serene.   Driving further up the mountain on Trail Ridge Road, we are now above timberline.

Above timberline. It is too high for trees to grow

The growing conditions at this altitude and temperatures are too severe for trees to grow.  You can see a lake and snow below us.   We were there in August, so this snow is from last winter.   Remember, the higher you go, the colder it gets, so snow in some areas doesn’t always melt during the summer.   On Trail Ridge Road we have experienced incredible mountain scenery.

Beautiful views

We climbed through alpine conditions.  Visited above timberline.   Stopped near Visitor’s Center.

Near Visitor’s Center

Passed through Arctic tundra.  We crossed the Continental Divide.

Crossing Continental Divide

Viewed landscaped shaped by volcanic activity.

All types of terrain here in Rocky Mountain National Park

And descended into the resort town of Estes Park.   We could spend days or more exploring this park and take thousands of stunning photos, but not today.   We enter Estes Park.

Welcome to Estes Park

We walk through town and of course mom always stops at Laura’s Fudge Shop and at the Taffy Shop.   At one of town, we watch the river and listen to the soothing sounds of water tumbling over the rocks.

Scenic river through Estes Park, Colorado.  This is a free photo from the internet.

We love this town and we love this drive.   When you visit Colorado, we encourage you to drive over Trail Ridge Road.

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.

Chapel on a Rock and Rocky Mountain National Park with the Colorado Traveling Ducks

Today I, Zeb the Duck, and Soapy Smith Duck, are going with our moms toward Estes Park.   We all love Estes Park.   It is a great mountain resort town near Rocky Mountain National Park, about 90 minutes from home.   Chapel on a Rock, or Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel is our first stop.

Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel

Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel

In 1916 Monsignor Joseph Bosetti was on a quest to find the impact site of a falling star when he found this rock formation.   Remembering the Bible verse Matthew 16:18, upon this rock I will build my church, the Monsignor wanted to build a church here.   But he had no funds.   For 20 years he prayed and struggled with the Colorado Highway Department to keep his Rock intact.   The land was purchased and then donated by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Malo.  In 1936, twenty years after first seeing the rock, the chapel was completed.   The statue is very prominent, also.

Statue near chapel

Statue near chapel

This chapel is beautiful with Mount Meeker as a backdrop.   The sanctuary is very nice.

Sanctuary

Sanctuary

Here are some stairs.

Let's go up the stairs

Let’s go up the stairs

The stairs lead to the loft.   This view is also nice.

View from loft

View from loft

The official name of this chapel is Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel.   This Franz Mayer stained glass window, depicts  Saint Catherine holding the body of Christ on the cross.

View of loft and window

View of loft and window

The statue of soft wood was made in Giacomo Mussner Studios in Bolzano, Italy.

Statue from Bolzano, Italy

Statue from Bolzano, Italy

The chapel was part of the Camp Saint Malo Catholic Retreat, Conference and Spiritual Center. The main building burned in 2011, but the chapel was not damaged.   In 2013 during the floods, debris from a mountain slide destroyed much of the trails and other buildings, but again, the chapel was not damaged.   The chapel is open to the public and available for weddings and other occasions.  In 1993 Pope John Paul II visited this chapel and hiked some of the mountain trails.    Next we visited Rocky Mountain National Park.

We love Rocky Mountain National Park

We love Rocky Mountain National Park

This is a favorite place for us.   Today we drove to Bear Lake.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake

There is a half mile trail around the lake.

Hiking trail

Hiking trail

This is our favorite short hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake

Soon it started to rain, so we went into Estes Park and had lunch at the Stanley Hotel.

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel

Our moms said we could come back here soon and spend the night at the famous Stanley Hotel.   When we do, we will tell you about this hotel and if we see any ghosts.

Rocky Mountain National Park is 101 Years Old Today

The most visited of Colorado’s four National Parks is 101 years old today.   Rocky Mountain National Park came to exist January 26, 1915 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill creating our National Park.

We love Rocky Mountain National Park

We love Rocky Mountain National Park

This park has many attractions; the most notable is Trail Ridge Road.   This road, connecting the towns of Grand Lake on the west and Estes Park on the east, reaches 12,183 feet and crosses the Continental Divide.   The road, US 34 is the highest continuous highway in the United States.   Trail Ridge Road closes in the winter, due to snow.    Rocky Mountain National Park has much wildlife, including large elk herds, prompting Estes Park to hold Elk Fest every fall.   Hiking, mountain climbing and camping are just a few activities enjoyed by park visitors.

When in Colorado we hope you visit all of our National Parks:   Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park.

Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park with Zeb and Eider Duck

I, Zeb the Duck, and my Alaska cousin, Eider Duck went to Estes Park, Colorado.

We love Estes Park, Colorado

We love Estes Park, Colorado

We love Estes Park.  We wandered around town; bought the best taffy at the original Taffy Shop and then our favorite creamy fudge at Laura’s Fudge Shop.  Yum!!

There is some ice on the river now.

Ice means winter is coming

Ice means winter is coming

Christmas will soon be here, and we saw these Christmas decorations.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

The bear with the Christmas hat made us smile.

Everybody is getting the Christmas spirit

Everybody is getting the Christmas spirit

Things are getting so festive.  We saw this snowman and snow woman.

Our new friends

Our new friends

We liked them and they liked us.

Then we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park.

This is one of our favorite parks

This is one of our favorite parks

The park will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2015.  This park is beautiful.

So many beautiful views

So many beautiful views

We drove as far as we could on Trail Ridge Road.  It is closed part way up the mountain for winter.  The road is not maintained during the winter.  There was snow here.  The wind was pretty strong also and that makes everything feel cold.  The snow was really swirling around the mountain peaks.

Snow swirling around the mountain peaks.

Snow swirling around the mountain peaks.

Near Bear Lake we got out to sit on this snow bank.

Humans, don't forget us!

Humans, don’t forget us!

It is pretty, but snow is cold for small ducks.

This deer was watching us, just as we liked to watch her.

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn’t she beautiful?

We watched this bird for a while;

We like this bird.

We like this bird.

we like seeing so many animals in the National Park.   And the elk was so close to the road.

Even elks want a snack.

Even elks want a snack.

He is a gorgeous animal.  His huge horns makes him so majestic.  We love to see the elk here.  Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are always beautiful, but they are really special in the winter with snow and the feel of Christmas in the air.  We hope you are enjoying the winter and anticipating Christmas also.