Karen and I wake before dawn to sit in our chairs by the fire and look out over the meadow to watch the sun rise. The clouds have cleared and we see Twin Sisters, Longs Peak, Mount Meeker and countless other peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park. I bring up a french press and two coffee cups in time to see two elk mingle with the horses in the meadow.
We are the only guests this weekend at the Golden Leaf Inn. Next weekend is booked for a winter festival. Our exclusivity allows us to get to know our hosts, Dave and Jane, over breakfast. Dave and Jane are Inn-sitting for Monica, the regular hostess, while she holidays in New Zealand. They are retired and previously volunteered at the YMCA of the Rockies for five weeks. By working at least 21 hours per week, they received full room and board. Karen visited this camp as a child while her father attended medical seminars. Today it’s more of a resort with 5000 beds and a convention center.
Five miles down Bear Lake Road is Sprague Lake where Karen and I hike this morning in the fresh snow. There are numerous trails here. We select a three mile loop. Once again, we leave our snowshoes in the van, choosing instead to wear our hiking boots over the lightly packed snow. It’s deeper than yesterday at Bear Lake. I post-hole occasionally but the boots work well and are much speedier as we complete a 90 minute jaunt in the woods.
We lunch at Ed’s Cantina before leaving Estes Park for home. We barely make it back in time for our scheduled recovery massages. Rough weekend.