Monday, June 20, 2016

DESTINATION: Grand Lake, Colorado

After successfully dragging our trailer through Berthoud Pass we were on our way to Grand Lake, Colorado, the "Western Gateway" to the Rocky Mountains.   That's how we were using Grand Lake - as a gateway, to enter and explore Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Welcome to Grand Lake!
The town of Grand Lake sits on the shores of the state's largest natural lake and offers recreation for everyone of every age.  In the summer you can hike, bike, boat, sail or fish on or near the lake.  In the winter, Grand Lake, becomes the "Snowmobiling Capital of Colorado," and also offers snowshoeing and Nordic skiing.

View of Grand Lake from center of town

Upon arriving in Grand Lake we checked in to Elk Creek Campground and RV Park.  Elk Creek would be our basecamp as we explored the Rockies.  There's more information on another post about this campground.

Elk Creek Campground & RV Park Office
We then decided to explore the town of Grand Lake and what better way to do it than a mad geocaching tour - Across The Divide GeoTourThe Across the Divide GeoTour features Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and the mountain villages of Estes Park & Grand Lake. Traveling from town to town, you cross the Continental Divide reaching an altitude of over 12,000’ and celebrate the National Park Service’s Centennial.  It was our goal to get ten geocaches in both Grand Lake and Estes Park.  It turns out that this geocaching mission helped us get acquainted with the town quickly and introduced us to some of the town's historical sites.

Historic Rapids Lodge
The Historic Rapids Lodge & Restaurant is located just off Grand Avenue, or main street, at the North Inlet of Grand Lake.   The Rapids Lodge was built in 1915, making it over a century old.  The lodge is built from local lodge pole pine, and was the first building in town to have running water and electricity.  Famous (and infamous) guests that have stayed at the lodge includes Janis Joplin, Jim Croce, and Kris Kristofferson. Though gambling was illegal in the 1950s, there was some action to be had at Rapids! The lodge even had a secret bell to ring when authorities pulled into the driveway, alerting guests and allowing them to “turn the tables” and hide the evidence!

Rapids of the Tonahutu River run through the town of Grand Lake

Grand Lake Lodge
Grand Lake Lodge sits above the lake.  The views from the lodge grounds are spectacular!  Using native lodge pole pine, the main lodge and a majority of the property's 100 buildings were completed around the year 1920.

View of Grand Lake from the grounds of the Grand Lake Lodge

When we stumbled upon this tunnel, while geocaching, we had to find out more information.  The Alva B. Adams Tunnel is a component of the largest trans-mountain water project in Colorado. The tunnel transfers water from the western slope of the Colorado River drainage to the eastern Front Range of Colorado. The tunnel is 13.1 miles long and has a concrete lined diameter of 9.75 feet. The tunnel drops 109 feet in elevation along its length and runs in a straight line under the Continental Divide from west to east passing under Rocky Mountain National Park. At its deepest point, the tunnel is about 3,800 feet below the surface of the mountain peaks. Construction began on 15 June 1940, but was suspended as a result of World War II, from the end of 1942 to August 1943. The tunnel was holed through on 31 March 1944, an event that was broadcast throughout the United States by NBC Radio. The tunnel was posthumously named for its chief advocate, US Senator Alva B. Adams.

Alva B. Adams Tunnel
After completing our geocaching tour for Grand Lake, we stopped into the chamber of commerce to claim our prize.  There we asked about other sites we should see in town.  One site we were advised to visit was Point Park.  Like many parks around the shores of the lake, Point Park is owned by the United State Forest Service (USFS).  The Town of Grand Lake aids in the management of this unique park.  We had a leisurely walk among the willows and lupine and enjoyed beautiful views of the lake and the Shadow Mountain Lake connecting channel.
View of Grand Lake from a dock at Point Park
It took us a while to identify this Texas Blue Bonnet look-alike:  Lupine