ghost hunts and elk sightings in Estes Park

eggs benedict with bacon and avocado, fire roasted tomato salad w/ lemon vinagrette

Before our day trip to Estes Park, we needed sustenance.  We were going out there with the plan of exploring the town and potentially hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park, but fully aware that it might be too cold to realistically do so.  So we were basically playing things by ear...

fig goat cheese pop tart!

We started the day at Tom's Urban 24, which was spacious and sunlit, with adorable round booth tables and Edison lightbulbs suspended at different heights and shaded with colored blown glass (I had photos but lost them later when my phone went kaput!) 

The food was delicious and totally worth the wait (those mango mimosas also helped alleviate wait time).  This place reminded me a lot of 24 Diner, a more upscale diner in Austin.  The hollandaise that came atop my eggs Benedict was some of the richest, thickest hollandaise I've been served.  The salad accompanying it was tasty and well-balanced-- not just an afterthought to the rest of the dish (as side salads often tend to be).  Jamie and I split this fig goat cheese pop tart to start as well-- yummmm!  It wasn't overly sweet and the crust was light and flaky (it more closely resembled a  Toaster Strudel, if we're gonna get technical...)

Willi, me, Carson, Jamie

We hit the road for Estes, which was a great scenic drive, especially toward the end as we wound our way further into the mountains...and the temperature continued to drop-!

Yeaaaaah.  So that's cold.

We got out at this scenic viewpoint for a Kodak moment-- and man it was freezing!!  Maybe hiking wasn't going to happen after all...

One thing we wanted to be sure to do, however, was explore the famed Stanley Hotel, the grand and allegedly haunted hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining...

this might be my favorite photo from our trip!

yep, looks haunted alrigh

We got in the elevator and went walking around in the hallway.  And there was definitely a...spirited feeling to the place.  And certain details just added to the haunted feeling... like the ladder leading up into a dark hole in the ceiling (???) and a somber, empty desk just randomly in one hall...

suuuuper old elevator

resident psychic by appointment

After a hot toddy in the Stanley's upscale bar, we went into Estes Park's downtown area and did a bit of walking around-- well, as much as we could muster in the cold!  (How laughable to think we'd been planning on hiking through the Rocky Mountains today!)  Many of the shops were pretty touristy though and kind of repetitive (think fudge, outdoor gear, and folksy art), so we decided to go on a hunt for a thrift store!  This looked like the kind of place with a fantastic thrift store...

We looked one up online and our GPS began leading us toward the mountains.  It instructed us to turn onto a random street and told us we'd reached our destination-- and suddenly there were 6 or 7 giant elk in front of us!  Just meandering around in people's yards!  And the two above were frolicking and engaging in some sort of hornplay!  I had been wishing and hoping for an elk sighting (since we were on their turf, after all)... and it seems a Stanley Hotel ghost must've slipped into the car with us and made it happen!  Because there was not a thrift store in sight, but instead we'd been led to something much, much better.

(I took many more pictures, but luckily I posted this one to Instagram because my phone died shortly afterward, never to turn on again!)

black light tetris

On the way back to Denver, we stopped at Oskar Blues.  The brewery responsible for some of the first craft beers in 6-pack-form (like Dale's Pale Ale and Old Chub) was located in the small mountain town of Lyons, CO.  Who knew??

I was really excited to check it out, but unfortunately the food was underwhelming,  the beer was overpriced ($8 for a pint??  We'd been spoiled at other breweries so far..), and the vibe seemed more TGIFridays than craft brewery (in my opinion).  BUT-- they do get bonus points for the much cooler blues club downstairs (hence the name Oskar Blues), complete with black light arcade!

Really, though, what it comes down to is this: I got to explore a haunted hotel and gawk at some elk.  That's a pretty good day in my book.