Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Estes Park

It was June, 1965, and we'd ridden, stuffed inside a station wagon, for 1200 miles. All eight of us. I was exempt from riding in the rear facing back seat. We generally put the gassy boys back there. (Why is it that brothers always, always have gas on car trips?) The view was probably wonderful but my motion sickness made it an impossibility for me to ride there, so I'd gotten a coveted seat in the front, nestled between my parents.

It's the only vacation I remember us taking during my growing up years. I still remember Mom passing back a loaf of white sandwich bread, and a package of bologna. No mustard, just dry bread and bologna, and we'd each made a sandwich to eat as my Dad kept covering miles. I get such a visual image of him, one hand on the steering wheel, the other trying to hold together those two pieces of bread and likely that one slice of bologna. It wasn't a fancy vacation. It was what we could afford, and honestly, how they managed it I don't know. My parents must have felt like birds who have just had a nest full of babies hatch, always with beaks open and squawking for worms. Only raising us must have been like constantly having a new nest full of babies. Hungry all the time.

Back then I didn't know anybody who really went places like Disneyworld. I didn't know anyone who flew anywhere. It was just amazing to us six kids to be in the car, headed west for the mountains of Colorado. Amazing enough we ate dry bologna sandwiches and put up with gassy brothers.

I remember staying in Idaho Springs, with a little creek running under the walkway to our cabin. Daddy paid by the inch for the six of us to fish for trout, and we fried them up for supper. Eventually we made it to Estes Park, where Daddy and Mom set up camp. Or likely Daddy did, with 'help' from my brothers, while Mom started working on supper. I imagine she kept busy feeding us, or cleaning up afterwards. I remember we set up two tents, one was the kitchen, an army style tent with flaps tied back, and the other was for the six kids to sleep in, sleeping bags lined up and touching each other. My parents were to sleep in the station wagon. Can you blame them after a day of riding in the car with all of us?

In the middle of the night we all were waked up because Daddy, who had caught a chill, was building a campfire. It was C.O.L.D. for this little Texas girl, and probably the rest of my siblings. I remember us all snuggling up around the fire, with every single thing we could find to put on, trying to get warm.

Forty-four years later, I still remember that the next morning Daddy was standing by a tree with a mirror hanging on it, and shaving cream all over one side of his face. Even on vacation he shaved.

That vacation was not fancy, not even real comfortable but to this day something deep inside me has a special love for Estes Park, and Colorado because of this one, bare-bones vacation. We moved there three years later, and the rest of my family is still there without me.

So it was a special treat to drive to Estes Park on the last day of our trip west. Just to be there was wonderful, seeing fresh snow on the mountaintops in September. When we were deciding whether to spend the $20 to drive 12 miles up Trail Ridge Road (the rest of it was closed due to recent snow), we asked the park ranger if he'd seen any elk. He said he'd seen them an hour before, bedded down in the meadows. That was all we needed to hear.

Herds and herds and herds of them. Really harems of them. One majestic male with his rack of about 50 lbs standing up out of the grasses, and all the ladies lying around near him. Off on the sides we'd see younger males sparring, just in case they might have a chance for a second dance.

We watched them for well over an hour, and they seemed completely unaware of our presence.

Don's brother, Tim and sister-in-law, Nola joined us for the day. (Tim paid the $20 so we owe it all to him!)

As we wound through the park we came upon a herd that was crossing the road. Beautiful in such a rugged way.

Look at this guy - is he not gorgeous?!

Look at the coat on this one. I'm not sure if he was gaining or losing it, but it sure had a nappy look to it. I so love the look on his face. He came to within two feet of our car window - Don kept driving and I kept shooting!

Finally, on the last bend, away from the bigger herds, we saw one male off in a field with one female. He sniffed. She ignored. She sniffed and walked away. He came after her, and because we were lucky enough to have our windows down at that moment we not only saw him raise his throat up into the air, we heard his bellows come across the field.

I loved seeing the chaff off the field grasses flying across in the wind as he bellowed away.

Right when they began to mate I could not find them in my camera, but it really was amazing, in a National Geographic kind of way, to observe. The promise of little elk next spring!

As we continued on our drive of Trail Ridge, we came to this little lake - no fishing or swimming allowed, and 100 yards off the road. The water was so clear you could see to the bottom, and it has the most untouched look to it. Gorgeous! Everything in me wanted to jump in and swim across. Because me getting arrested would have really irritated Don, and it was crazy cold, I stood on the rocks and just looked. But I wanted to jump in.

So goodbye Estes Park, and Colorado for another year or so. You'll still be there when we go back again. Maybe next trip we'll find the big horned sheep.

Wonderful old memories of Estes Park with my family of origin. Fresh new ones with the person I love more than life. What a way to end a trip!


Diane@Diane's Place said...

This post made me come really close to coveting, and that's dangerous ground for a Christian to be standing on.

Such beautiful country! And to see wildlife up that close in its natural habitat is just amazing! Can you imagine living there and being able to wake up to views like that every day???

I'm glad you got to experience all that again, and that it brought back all those warm memories, Bev.


Susanne said...

So beautiful, Bev! Such special memories on both of your trips. The mountains are just beautiful and somehow I always really feel the Lord near in that majestic scenery!

I laughed at you wanting to jump in the lake. I'm sure Don very much appreciated you putting a reign on you spontaneous desires. LOL.

mombo said...

every year my family went to Grand Lake, Co with the drive up to Estes Park and Trail Ridge. I was the youngest, so I had the rear facing seat even though i threw up on every trip and was terrified of my dad's driving through the mountains. eventually my folks moved to Evergreen (after i married - how rude!) we went to Buena Vista for our honeymoon 26 years ago last week. still, i have an abiding love for Colorado though i haven't been back in many years.

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Hi Bev. I'm so glad I found your blog again! I think I lost you after you moved and I forgot to update my reader!

ANYWAY, just wanted to say that Estes Park is my favorite place in Colorado. I am so glad you paid the money to drive up Trail Ridge Road. Your pics are stunning and I know that the real life views were even more astounding. I cannot help but cry when we drive that road. The beauty captures my heart so completely.

I discovered a book the last time we were there that I want to recommend. It's called A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Byrd. It's fascinating...especially here account of climbing Longs Peak in the dead of winter.

Glad you enjoyed your trip out west. Thanks for all the yummy recipes you've shared lately too!

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Okay, it bugs me to leave a comment with typos.

The author's name is Isabella BIRD. And HER account of climbing LP is amazing.

Becky said...

Wonderful pictures. We were there 4 years ago (west of Boulder)during the Elk festival. There were elk all over the place. We had to sit and wait for them to cross the street. And they were grazing in the backyards of the townspeople. Amamzing!

Barb said...

What memories this brought back! I was 14 when we made that trip so you were only 9. Truly, as bare bones as it was, that trip was unforgetable and I have the exact same memories, especially of the cabin in Idaho Springs. You took some amazing photos. I'll never stop feeling blessed that I still live in this gorgeous state.