The hubby treated us to a weekend in the mountains for our two-year wedding anniversary. Much to my surprise, he reserved a cabin! I was under the impression we were camping with Buddy. And I wondered why Keegan said we’re bringing the kennel for Buddy to reside in during our extensive hikes. When I opened my card at the Welsh Rabbit Wednesday evening on our actual anniversary, the “key” to our cabin was tucked away inside. Needless to say, I was super excited!

I wondered if it had a kitchen or might just be a studio unit? I’d be appreciative either way, but Keegan couldn’t remember for sure. Turns out, the cabin had a living room, kitchen, bedroom and a bathroom. It was cozy, and the outdated appliances added to the retro feel.

Friday afternoon, we unpacked and headed to Adam’s Falls for a quick hike. We met two women and talked extensively of mental health services and treatment in Colorado. The hike to the Falls was super easy. 0.3 miles and we were there. So we continued our trek towards the meadow, and holy cow was it beautiful. Keegan and I also stumbled across Red Columbines on the trail. They’re normally lavender or deep purple, so that was pretty cool.

We knew we were in for a special weekend when I spotted a fox coming towards us. Keegan’s back faced a steep slope, and we were towards the bottom. We wondered where to hike next when randomly this fox appeared hovering above us for just a moment. Without a second thought, he hurriedly made his way down and came within a few feet of us. I snapped a few pics as he continued down the path towards the water. We were baffled and giggly. This marked our first clue into how amazing Grand Lake is.

We returned to the cabin to retrieve Buddy for another short hike. As mentioned in other recent posts, I’ve recently tried not to plan our vacations so thoroughly, and I wanted to practice this strategy (or lack thereof) again. Keegan and I didn’t know where to hike next, so we winged it and decided on the East Shore Trailhead, running alongside Grand Lake. At first we were disappointed as the path led us into the woods. “I wanted to be near the water“, I whined, but Keegan insisted we go a litter further. So we did.

I’ll be damned if not 10 minutes later, Keegan spots a moose in the woods, and I froze. I could tell it was huge but with it being hidden between so many trees, it was hard to know exactly what we were up against. Luckily Buddy was totally oblivious, or else he would’ve started barking and gotten us killed. At any rate, we stopped, stared, took a few shitty pics and nervously continued our hike. Once we passed the moose, he crossed over the trail behind us. I felt like I’d seen a dinosaur; this little guy was enormous, and he was a baby! We wondered where the mother moose might be and kept our eyes peeled returning to the car. This was our second clue regarding the beauty that Grand Lake had to offer.

Afterwards, we went to two convenient stores in search of Grenadine and OJ. On several occasions, we would hear one person refer to another by name. It’s like everyone knows everyone. This close-knit community shares an unwavering relationship with the mountains, the critters and the lake; perhaps this common denominator, a mutual respect for the great outdoors, unites the town in a way that most places never could. I’m not fond of the idea of living in a small town, but Grand Lake is something else. Everyone is warm, friendly and very hospitable. The scenery is remarkable.

Now that we were totally stocked with more meat and cheese than we needed, I mixed drinks and prepared the cheese plate while Keegan grilled the spicy sausage I found half off from some random Boulder company. Our cabin rest at about 8,500 feet–3,500 more than what we’re used to. Thanks to the increase in elevation, two drinks did the trick. We watched t.v., loved on Bud and went to bed.

Saturday, I was determined to paddleboard. This was the one thing I googled before our trip, because I really wanted to make it happen. I suspected this could be the most beautiful location I’ve paddleboarded in yet, and sure enough, I was correct.

If the pic of us on the lake had been taken from a different angle, you could see how magnificent Mount Baldy appears in the background. This guy took our pic near the dock before we paddled halfway around the lake where everything begins to open up. One day I swear I’ll own a GoPro, so friends can see my adventures through my perspective.

It aint Called Grand Lake for nothing! In a nutshell, it’s huge. It’s the largest and deepest natural lake in Colorado; not to mention, they hold other quirky records, such as having the nation’s highest altitude golf course.

 

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We thoroughly enjoyed our paddleboarding experience and learning more about the area. The company we paddleboarded with explained city council’s desire to start bringing in more visitors from the east side of the rockies to the west. Last year the park welcomed roughly 4.5 million visitors. Only 1 million of those traveled to Grand Lake–the majority of folks would eat up Estes Park while Grand Lake remained relatively empty. As such, RMNP and council members of Grand Lake have teamed up to start redirecting people to the west side 45 miles away. How they’ll make this happen, I have no idea. But for starters, it seems like most people have never heard of Grand Lake.

Ever since we moved out here and I visited Estes, I knew a Grand Lake entrance station existed. But it was 3 hours from our house, and we never set aside a weekend to visit. The only friend I know of that’s been to Grand Lake was Christine. Otherwise, none of our coworkers or friends recognized the name.

This hidden gem won’t remain secret for long. As soon as more tourists traverse the terrain, we suspect our chances of encountering wildlife in moose country will diminish overtime. It’s kinda sad, but we’re honestly just grateful that we could stay for the weekend. It would be hypocritical of us to complain of possible crowds in the future when we’re not exactly “native”.

Once we finished paddleboarding, we headed to Fat Cat Cafe. Keegan strongly recommended we try the buffet, and everyone online seemed to agree.

We only waited 15 minutes, which was nice considering how small the dining room was; this place could accommodate 20 patrons at best, and no one was about to rush through their meal. While we waited outside, an older couple told us of these “boiled eggs inside a potato” and piqued my curiosity. Turns out, they’re called scotch eggs. And they’re not tucked away inside a potato; it’s actually a large sausage ball with a boiled egg in the middle, cut in half. I don’t know where scotch eggs have been all my life, but this truly might have been my favorite moment of the entire trip. I’m now determined to perfect them at the house!

It was all we could do to return to the cabin and walk Buddy to the arts and crafts fair, but we did it. I purchased two new bars of soap and SPF 50 organic chapstick. And to top off the afternoon, Keegan talked me into hiking Cascade Falls.

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Needless to say, we returned Buddy to the cabin before our 7 mile hike. The first mile and a half was somewhat boring, but we practically had the trail to ourselves. The end result was fantastic, but I doubt I’d ever hike Cascade Falls again.

We approached the rapids with caution. I tried to google how fast the water might have been but couldn’t find a solid answer. Basically, if you slip, you die. The last thing you want is to fall in the falls.

The trail was flat and easy, but I hadn’t hiked 7 miles in a hot minute. I barely touched my barbecue afterwards; all I wanted was a hot shower and a bed. But the mudslide made me feel a little better.

As we waited on our food, this woman chatted us up. Apparently she owned Jump Start Coffee and highly encouraged us to see the hummingbirds at sunset. As tempting as it sounded, I was wiped and could barely hop on my bar stool to begin with. Her hummingbird feeders attracted pairs throughout the day, but between 8:15 and 8:45 in the evening, you were likely to see a dozen hummingbirds at a time. After she left, Keegan and I agreed to grab coffee from Jump Start in the a.m.

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Sunday morning, we ate breakfast at the cabin, and Keegan delivered a solid meal. We packed our things and headed for Jump Start Coffee, followed by the mountains.

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It was crazy to see the beginning of Trail Ridge Road so close to our cabin. The entrance station was tiny with only two booths compared to 8 at Estes. I always wondered what the other side looked like, since we had never traveled so far down TRR before. We started from the Southwest region of the park and worked our way North, then East. No, I won’t rattle off every single spot we stopped to see, but it was so much fun to explore the west side of the Rockies.

We drove from the park back to our house. We planned on steak and shrimp for dinner Saturday night, but by the end of our hike, we were beyond dead. So Keegan and I cooked together Sunday evening.

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And that’s about the extent of our anniversary trip! There’s no one else I’d rather share my outdoor adventures with. I’m grateful we enjoy doing the same things and look forward to our remaining summer expeditions.