Friday, June 24, 2016

DESTINATION: Estes Park, Colorado

After our tour through Rocky Mountain National Park we headed into the town of Estes Park, Colorado.  Estes Park is the headquarters for RMNP.  Many people visit Estes Park as a summer resort but our trip was to collect the final geocaches we needed for the Across the Divide Geo Tour.  Little did we know that in collecting our caches we would get a quick tour and history lesson of the town!

Fall River

We drove into Estes Park on Highway 34 which is also known as Fall River Road because it follows the Fall River.  This beautiful, narrow, road is lined with tall pines, cabins and lodges.  As Fall River comes into town the name changes to W. Wonderview Ave.  

Our first stop in Estes Park was a scenic over-look known as the Knoll-Willows Open Space.  This 75-foot rock outcropping sits south of W. Wonderview Ave. and east of MacGregor Ave.  We took a short hike to the rock outcropping and from there we could see the famous Stanley Hotel and the ruins of a burned cabin that was built in 1908 by Albert Birch, a city editor for the Denver Post.  The cabin was placed on the State Register of Historic Places in 2001.  Leaving the cabin we hiked along a path that follows Black Canyon Creek. The creek is a willow-lined stream that provides habitat for trout, beaver, elk, great-horned owls, red-tailed hawks and a host of migratory songbirds.  We tried but we did not find the geocache hidden at this location.


View of Stanley Hotel from Knoll-Willows Open Space

View of Long's Peak from Knoll-Willows Open Space

Ruins of Birch Cabin built in 1908


Stone fireplace inside Birch Cabin ruins

Heading north on MacGregor Ave. we stopped at the corner of MacGregor and Devils Gulch Rd. at the entrance to the MacGregor Ranch.  The ranch was established in 1873 but now the main ranch house now serves as a museum, displaying the original furnishings and personal memorabilia of three generations of the MacGregor family. Visitors to the museum can take a guided tour of the 1896 ranch house and a self-guided tour of the historic outbuildings, including a milk house, root cellar, smokehouse, blacksmith shop, and antique farm equipment yard.   Sadly, we did not visit the museum but we were able to find the geocache we needed very near the ranch entrance.


MacGregor Ranch sign & entrance

View of meadows at MacGregor Ranch

One more cache would lead us to the middle of an intersection at Highway 36 and Highway 7 where a bronze statue has memorialized a very famous Estes Park citizen, Samson.  This 1,000 pound, 9 point, bull elk was a mascot, of sorts, for the town of Estes Park.  He was frequently seen in town, sometimes at the YMCA, and had no fear of humans.  Tragically, Samson was killed by a poacher looking to harvest a trophy wapiti (elk).


Samson

View from deck of
Estes Park Brewery
Hiking and geocaching is hard work!  We decided we needed refreshments so we headed to Estes Park Brewery on Prospect Village Dr.  There we shared a delicious burger and a local micro brew from the top of their patio.  From this height we had views of the Big Thompson River flowing through Estes Park, and Fun City, another stop on our geocaching tour!







Feeling revived after a good lunch we headed to Lake Estes and the Estes Park Museum where we picked up more caches for our tour.  The historical center archives the lives of early homesteaders with restored buildings, displays & tours.

Estes Park Museum

Reconstructed buildings of Estes Park pioneers at museum

View of Lake Estes near Estes Park museum

From the museum we hit a few random tourist sites to pick up the remaining geocahes we needed to complete the Across the Divide Geocache Tour for Estes Park.  With ten caches under our belt we stopped in at the Estes Park Visitors Center located on Big Thompson Ave. and near the Estes Valley Recreation District.  We claimed our prize and then walked around the recreation district which sits near the Big Thompson River. In this area many people were working on their fly fishing skills.

Estes Park Visitor Center

View of Big Thompson River along the river walk in Estes Park

After a busy day in Estes Park it was time to head back to our base camp at Grand Lake. Instead of leaving Estes Park the same way we came in we chose to take Highway 36 to the Beaver Meadows entrance of RMNP.  At Deer Ridge Junction Highway 36 connects onto Highway 34 or Trail Ridge Road and winds back through RMNP.

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center of RMNP (built in style of Frank Lloyd Wright)


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