We decided to take advantage of the three-day weekend and go to Boulder Colorado, which is very close to Rocky Mountain National Park. We often tell people not to travel during busy holidays unless there is a compelling reason to do so, such as it is the only opportunity to view something special. This was not one of those cases and we should have listened to our own advice, we would have been much happier had we done so. Our goal was to go hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, view the incredible scenery, hopefully get a glimpse of some wildlife, but mostly get into nature and away from the heat. That isn’t what ended up happening.
We should have known how the weekend was going to go when we arrived at our hotel. We belong to several hotel reward programs, something that anyone who travels frequently knows is an absolute must, and used points to book our room for the weekend. When we arrived at our hotel, we were told that our room was on the first floor, which is opposite of our preference as we prefer to be on the highest floor possible, we don’t like the noise of people above us. When we asked for a different room, we were told that we were in a smoking room and those are only located on the first floor. Our jaws hit the floor. We both have asthma and absolutely cannot stay in a smoking room, seriously didn’t even think there was such a think as a smoking room in this day and age. Then the next surprise, because of the holiday weekend, the hotel was sold out and this was the only room they had available. We were staying at a Hilton property, so we asked if there was another hotel in the Hilton family that might have rooms available, which there was, so they called and confirmed availability. However, since we were using points, we had to call the corporate offices, have our current reservation cancelled, redeposit the points, and make a new reservation, which was now not in a suite as we had originally booked. At least we had a room, so after an hour of dealing with the reservations, we were driving to our new hotel. Once there, the staff couldn’t have been nicer, they upgraded us to a suite and let us know that there was a complimentary shuttle to take us to the Pearl Street Mall, which is the heart of the shopping and restaurant district in Boulder. We dropped our bags off in our room and took advantage of the shuttle to go grab a bite to eat and enjoy happy hour at West Flanders Brewing Company, which was celebrating having just won two gold medals for their IPA at the Colorado State Fair. Maybe this weekend wasn’t going to be bad after all.
The next morning, we woke up and tossed our camelback and camera into the car and headed off towards Rocky Mountain National Park. As soon as we hit the small town of Lyons, we should have known what we were in for. Traffic was at a crawl as we made our way closer and closer to the only light in town where the local fire department was collecting donations for the annual “fill the boot” campaign. Once through the town, our pace picked back up and we thought things were back on track. As we neared Estes Park, the town just outside of the park entrance, we realized how foolish we were to think that we were going to get away from the crowds and get into nature. It seemed as though every other person in Colorado had the same idea as us. Another agonizing traffic jam as we moved through the main street of Estes Park lined with an art and craft fair, there was still some slim hope that people were there to visit Estes Park and not Rocky Mountain National Park. Once through town, we stopped at the visitor center just outside of the park to grab a trail map and talk to the ranger. There was a large group of hikers situated at a bus station outside of the visitor center, which we assumed were there for some sort of guided tour, we were about to find out otherwise. The ranger quickly informed us that there was no parking available at any of the trailheads and that they were busing hikers in to a single trailhead. Over a thousand hikers on a trail, not exactly our idea of getting into nature. In addition to going to the park on a holiday weekend, it was also the park’s centennial celebration and there were over fifty-thousand (we heard a hundred-thousand) people at the celebration the night before. We promptly got back into the car and headed back to Boulder.
After dealing with traffic and three hours driving back and forth, we were ready for a glass of wine. We took the shuttle back to Pearl Street and enjoyed some oysters at Jax Fish House. Pearl Street Mall is an outdoor shopping area that is closed to anything other than pedestrian traffic, which has a wonderful variety of restaurants, but on a holiday weekend, finding a seat without a reservation isn’t easy. We were lucky to get to Jax at just the right time, so we were able to get a seat at the bar. Only moments later there wasn’t a seat left in the place and reservations were booked solid until after 8:30 pm, so we weren’t about to give up our seats until we were done with dinner, which was a wonderful special of shrimp and grits. It was time to adjust our plans, so we enjoyed some people watching and the street performers that are all over the mall and decided that we would find a place near Boulder to go hiking the next day.
We talked to the staff at the hotel and they recommended a trail that only the locals knew about, so after a quick lunch, we were finally going to get our long awaited hike. We ended up hiking Sunshine Canyon Trail and then connected to Lion’s Lair Trail, which turned out to be just what we were looking for. Although there were houses on the surrounding hills, we only came across a couple of other hikers, so we got the tranquility that we were hoping to get. After several hours of hiking, it was back to the hotel and one final visit to Pearl Street. We love the oysters at Jax so much that we had to join them for happy hour once again. We walked the streets and enjoyed our final night of the weekend, finally relaxed and fulfilled.
Even though we didn’t listen to our own advice and stay away from the crowds, in the end we got what we needed, which was some down time and a chance to get into the mountains. It certainly wasn’t what we had initially planned, but we were together and that was all that mattered.