Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rocky Mountain High Lakes

It was a day for extremes as the Good Girls went from the high hot desert around Moab to the high cool mountain lake of Grand Lake, Colorado. As headwaters of the Columbia River we had been following, it was an appropriate destination.

A slightly unplanned turnoff took us to our destination via a rural route that put us in a Rocky Mountain frame of mind, thanks to
Meadows and hills in Colorado. Photo © by Judy Wells.
 hills that grew into mountains,

Photo by Debi Lander.

cattle and nary a car nor truck without ski racks and a heavy tow rig on the back.

We rendezvoused with our friend and host Gaylene Ore and followed her to Grand Lake where we checked into one of The Western Riviera's rustic, cabin-like efficiency rooms overlooking the lake.

Grand Lake Lodge. Photo © Judy Wells.
We hopped in with Gaylene for lunch at the historic Grand Lake Lodge. Opened in July 1920, burned in 1973, it was rebuilt and opened in 1981. I suspect the rooms, cabins, pool and dining room have been busy ever since. It reminded us of a period National Park lodge, which it was. Another was in Estes Park at the other end of the road through Rocky Mountains National Park.

View from Grand Lake Lodge porch. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Don't miss the view or the bison meatloaf.
Bison meatloaf. Photo by Judy Wells.

Grand Lake. Photo © by  Judy Wells.
After settling in and admiring our views of the lake we headed out to survey downtown Grand Lake, basically a street that parallels the lake with a few side streets.

Exchange tennis shoes for boots and you are back in the old West. Photo © by Judy Wells.
On both sides stores are fronted with old-fashioned boardwalks adding to its casual Western/boating flavor. It is, after all, home of the world's highest yacht club. Registered in 1902, the Grand Lake Yacht Club hosts an annual race with the ornate silver, ever so prestigious trophy donated by tea purveyor and yachtsman Sir Thomas J. Lipton.

Historic Rapids Lodge and Restaurant. Photo © by Judy Wells.
This disarmingly small-town burg has two other big-time attractions, Rapids Lodge and Restaurant and Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre.  We dined superbly at one and were rousingly entertained at the other.

Rapids of the Tonahutu River. Photo © by Judy Wells.
We joined Gaylene at the Lodge's restaurant after admiring the racing, tumbling rapids of the Tonahutu River it overlooks, imagining how nice it would be to sleep to their sound.

It wasn't long before our attention was the meal. Elk chops with raspberry demi-glace filled our plates with enticing aromas and our palates with delectable flavors.
Elk Chops, a taste of the new  West. Photo © by  Judy Wells.

We didn't encounter the Lodge's ghost, a friendly old lady who wanders the corridors, but we did get a kick out of the Lodge's history. Built by intrepid pioneer John Wesley Ish and opened in 1915, the hotel had electricity, indoor baths and running water. It has had 30 owners since through some pretty wild times as recently as the 1950s when the second floor was a gambling casino, the third floor a brothel, with a buzzer at the front desk to warn patrons to head for the back stairs when the law was approaching.

History of another sort is focus of musical "Newsies," one of four musicals in rotation at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. It makes a night of good theater telling the story of impoverished New York newsboys who went on strike in 1899 tackling powerful publishing moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

We were pleasantly stunned by both the handsome theater and the talented cast. No surprise that the group is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Other shows in this year's repertory, "Mamma Mia!" "Westside Story" and "Almost Heaven, Songs of John Denver."

We chatted with the couple in front of us at intermission and discovered they drive the 100 miles from Denver to catch the season every year. Pretty good recommendation, I'd say.

The town was shut or shutting down as we walked back to our room. We'd been too full to try either of the ice cream shops, one at each end of Main Street, both attracting crowds of customers. Time had been too short to do more than quickly scan the shops. Probably a good thing because we were tempted by several.

Grand Lake. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Nor had we been able to catch the boat tour around the lake, the largest natural one in Colorado, and learn more about the area's history. But we had dedicated a whole day to spend in Rocky Mountain National Park before heading up to Sheridan, Wyoming.

No one could believe we had yet to sight a moose, particularly between Grand Lake and the park. We were disappointed, too, until early the next morning as we headed to the Denver airport for the next leg of our trip. We were bemoaning the lack of moose sightings when I glanced over to the right side of the road and saw one between the trees. He paused in his dewy morning meal, gave us a long look and went back to eating.

I felt like Captain Preston of the Yukon at the end of every radio broadcast when he would turn to his trusty Husky and say, "Well, King, case closed."

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