Friday, August 23, 2013

CO Trip - Day 3: Estes Park

The third day of our trip, Sunday July 29th, was the day of the wedding. However, the wedding wasn't until 4pm so  three of us (since B-guy was a groomsmen) decided to take advantage of the day by grabbing breakfast and heading back to Rocky Mountain National Park.
You've probably come to gather I love food.  For travel, Trip Advisor is a common resource I use to check recommendations, including restaurants.  When we saw that Donut Haus was ranked  #1 out of over 100+ restaurants, we knew where we were headed for breakfast!
We got there around 9am and literally the line was out of the door (and probably close to 15 people deep). Once we got inside, after a brief wait, we were greeted with lots of sugary options.
We decided to branch out and grab make up our own variety pack and split the goods.
While there were picnic tables outside Donut Haus, they weren't very scenic and they were crowded.  Instead, we drove less than a mile down the street to a coffee shop we'd seen the night before, Coffee on the Rocks.  We ordered some cups 'o joe and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery.

Breakfast with a view
Decisions, decisions!
From there we headed back into Rocky Mountain National Park. Since we only had a few hours to spare and had driven the main drag the night before, we opted to follow Bear Lake Road.  We'd been warned that this was a popular route and, especially with construction there now, we should expect traffic delays, but lucky for us at 9:30am that Sunday morning there were none.

Instead of car bumpers and brake lights, we saw this guy out for his breakfast. There was also a fox on the other side of the road but he was too quick to catch a picture.
We drove all the way to the "end" of the road, to Bear Lake itself.  It is certainly a popular spot because we grabbed one of the last parking spots at the lake. Once the lot fills, there are shuttles and parking lots farther out.
We decided to hike to Alberta Falls.  Although the trail is only about one mile one way, we were huffing and puffing a bit on incline and due to elevation.

We saw a few of these cute ground squirrels. The problem was they weren't shy of people (probably used to getting food) and would get close to you or run across your path #thingsthatmakemesqueamish
We made it to our destination with little difficulty and listened to the booming falls for a bit. It's crazy how powerful just water can be!
We encountered some drizzling which made us decide not to pursue a second hike. Rather we stopped at Bear Lake for the view and then decided to get back in the car and drive through more of the park.

Bear Lake
It was much cooler and wet than the day before. Too foggy to see any animals so we mainly just hopped out of the car for a few quick views.
Similar to the night before, the clouds seemed to overtake and accent the mountain views. So peaceful and pretty. Well, until it's your turn to driver.  Then I became one of the tourists I'd read about. Foot on the brake at all times.  I generally don't have a fear of heights (other than an occasional urge to jump! which is normal, right?) but being on the edge of mountains in fog gave me a few somersaults in my stomach.
Once we were back in town, we decided to grab a quick lunch and head back to the hotel to shower.  We ended up getting Pepper's Mexican Grill, which is fresh, made to order in front of you Mexican (burritos, bowls, quesadilla, etc. Similar to Chipotle). I regret not taking a picture of my massive but yummy burrito.

Now the true reason of the trip, the wedding.  The ceremony and reception were at Taharaa Mountain Lodge in Estes Park.  There was arranged transportation from our hotel so we could enjoy the night safely.

The bride put so much heart and detail into this wedding.  Rains in the morning caused them to change their plans for a wooded ceremony spot with a pergola to the covered deck of the lodge, but this view isn't too shabby for a wedding now is it?
She looked absolutely stunning as she walked down the aisle.  Only about 60 guests were invited to the wedding. Between the size of guests and the natural beauty (both of the surroundings and bride), the wedding had the most intimate feeling. And, how pretty is this dress?
The ceremony was not conventional. It involved both of their families and was utterly heartfelt.  I'm so happy to have captured the picture below. The entire ceremony I was either tearing up or laughing. This is such a caring and humorous couple. Their love for one another is so radiant, and contagious.
The inside of the lodge was breath taking. Everything and everywhere you looked was perfection.  The lush green centerpieces and succulents, the soft lighting and the view. Not to mention the amazing appetizers, which included Pinterest inspired grilled cheese and tomato soup shooters.
Of course, walking into a room with a table of more than six flavors of miniature cupcakes (another menu was on the far end of the table), was quite exciting too.
We were honored to be part of their day and so glad we made the trip out west to celebrate with them. In fact, if I could do things over again....hmmm. Maybe there's a vow renewal trip in our future? ;)
PS - Thank you to those on Instagram who helped me
decide to wear the heels

We enjoyed good speeches, food and dancing throughout the night. Although one of our favorite forms of entertainment was the photo booth...
You have to remember (or maybe you didn't know because I hadn't until I read the sign at the bar), that one drink at higher elevation is proven to have the effect of three drinks at sea level.

Time for me to insert funny story: I ran track and cross country with the sister of the groom in high school. She, her husband and their 14 month old son where all at the wedding. We were catching up and Ben randomly said, "ya know, once we see a bear and mountain lion, we can have kids". The other couples around us laughed and B&B said they were my witness. Later in the night, the brother in law of the groom switched from craft beer to domestic (maybe Bud Light?) and Ben gave him crap for switching.  BIL's rebuttal was the best: "You may want to think about switching too or you may end up with kids sooner than you think". Ha!
The reception ended and we were shuttled downtown to Lonigan's for the after party, but not before Ben stopped by to his see buddy...
And it just so happened within days of our visit, a bear walked into a bar <insert joke>. It was that  very bar we were at. In honor of the bear, we had to take some beer shots.
We shuttled home and despite not having set plans for the next morning, we all woke up surprisingly early and decided that we'd better go ahead and make the trip home, not before stopping back at Coffee on the Rocks for a breakfast sandwich (yum) and coffee.

It was a great trip! I'd been nervous about the long ride, but with four people to share the grunt work of driving, it worked out really well (and was a fraction of the price of flying). Until next time Colorado!


  1. I'm not sure which had me drooling more the donuts or that park! What an awesome trip!


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