How I Celebrated My 26th Birthday : Estes Park Colorado

For my 26th birthday this year, my husband and I ventured off to Estes Park, CO for three days. We had an amazing time and would recommend every part of our trip to anyone interested in going to Colorado. I decided I wanted to blog about this trip and give everyone a bit of an insight to how wonderful Colorado is.

My wonderful husband drove us the entire 10 hours so that I could work on a wedding on the way there. He drove the entire way and let me control the music so that I could work. This picture was taken on the Eastern side of Manhattan, KS. On our trips to Colorado we like to stop in the city of our alma mater to eat breakfast at a famed breakfast restaurant called The Chef. We love The Chef and all of the food it has to offer, little did we know it would be the second best breakfast place on our vacation… but more on that later.

Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0239The Chef is located in Manhattan, KS and is widely regarded as one of the best breakfast restaurants in the Midwest. We have plenty of memories of going to The Chef for breakfast in college, so since Manhattan is right off of I-70, we always like to stop by on the way to Colorado for breakfast. I always get the oatmeal with a side of toast and bacon, Adam got the Fajita Scramble. He’s more adventerous than I tend to be when it comes to food. The Chef didn’t disappoint, it never does.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0240We finished, paid our bill, topped off the tank and got back onto 70 to continue westward. The Flint Hills are always so beautiful to me and I think windmills are incredibly aesthetic.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0241As I mentioned, I was editing a wedding the entire time so the drive through Kansas seemed to go by so quickly! The driver (my husband) would most likely disagree. My brain said ‘Don’t be those cheesy people’, my heart disagreed and said ‘we need a touristy picture in front of the sign!’ We’ll never forget this trip for a number of reasons, but pictures like this almost perfectly quantify what we did.

Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0242Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0321The thing that most Kansas residents who enjoy the mountains can relate to is the resounding… aesthetic disappointment… with Eastern Colorado. You drive 8 hours through Kansas, get to Colorado ready to enjoy the scenery and…. see about 2 more hours of what is basically a continuation of western Kansas. We made it through and started to head towards the mountains and the anticipation was starting to build. We were so excited.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0243We had never been to Boulder together so we wanted to stop by and see the town and try out a brewery that I had found online. The foothills heading into Boulder were amazing and it was just the beginning of many wonderful pictures of the mountains that would come from this trip.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0244Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0245We finally made it!!! We made it to Mountain Sun Brewery. This place had been raved about by many different friends and reviewed through the roof online so we had to stop. Adam was in the middle of growing out his hair with the end goal being a ‘man bun’. It eventually lost out to suburbia nuance and had to be cut, this was nearly the longest it got. Viva la man bun. Adam could not stop talking about how good the beer was; for you beer snobs, he compared the saison there to the Tripel. Whatever that means. Adam got a burrito and I got a hamburger, the food lived up to the hype. This place was so much fun. The had a “team” policy when it came to waiters and waitresses, you could ask anyone at any time to help you and they would be on it. The service was fantastic. They only accepted cash or check, and if you didn’t have the means to pay for you meal at the time, you could leave with you bill and an envelope and drop the money off at a later time. We love trying out unique places and this certainly was that. We couldn’t recommend Mountain Sun highly enough.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0322We left dinner and started to head further “up” to Estes Park. Adam drove through these roads, because he declared that he “didn’t drive through Kansas to handoff the keys in the mountains!” He’s a peach. You almost lose your sense of self in this scenery and it just continued to get more and more beautiful.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0247ESTES PARK!!!!! This is the bridge we crossed to get into town and the lakeside/mountainside houses that came with it. The homes here are gorgeous… ah, aspirations.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0248As mentioned before, the scenery just continued to get more and more surreal.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0249We made it Estes Park about an hour before check in at our AirBnb so we parked the car and walked around Main Street a little bit. We heard some music from afar and followed it. We got to see Cowboy Dan just in time for his finale, a wonderful rendition of Rocky Mountain High, an old country song, Adam tells me. He was so much fun and plays here three days a week!Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0357We made it to our AirBnb! We could not have been more excited to stay at this place. It came with a hot tub (a dealbreaker for Adam), was right by the mountains and minutes away from the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. This was the view from the front of our AirBnb!Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0356 The cabin  met every one of our (pretty darn high) expectations. The owners of the cabin Tom and  Janet were so nice and we’re happy to call them friends now.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0250Here are a few more shots of the cabin. It had a fence around it, so we had complete privacy and seclusion when we wanted it. I could go on and on about how great our experience was with this AirBnb.

Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0251Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0252Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0253Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0254Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0255Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0256The bed in the AirBnb was amazingly comfortable so we slept like babies. We woke up at about 6:00AM to head to Rocky Mountain National Park to hike for the day. This is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember as a sentient adult, so needless to say I was pretty pumped!Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0302Taking pictures in the park was easy. Basically point anywhere, click the button and breathtaking art would come from it. It can’t be overstated how beautiful this park is. This was the beginning of the first trail that we went on. We hiked about 7 miles in the morning. About 70 degrees and sunny, we couldn’t have lucked out more with the weather.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0257Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0258A dork with a fanny pack. Native to these parts, evidently.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0259Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0260Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0263Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0265We met the nicest people on this trip. Adam can talk to anyone, so we had a chance to talk to some great people on the trails.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0266Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0267Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0268Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0269Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0270Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0271Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0272Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0273We made it to Dream Lake! Can you believe these pictures are real places??? It’s insane how beautiful it is there.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0274Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0275Take the cutest animal you’ve seen. Multiply that animal’s cuteness by about hundred and you would still leave a pretty huge cuteness quotient between that and a chipmunk! These little guys were all over and they were adorable. This one wanted Adam’s trail mix. Adam’s foot for scale.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0276Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0277Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0278Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0279Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0280Fly fishers! Fly fishing is near and dear to my heart because I do it with my dad so I had to take a picture.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0281Finally… the Bierstadt Lake fable. The Bierstadt trail map is below, we were thinking about discontinuing our hiking for the day and head into the town to try out the winery and steakhouse, but instead we decide to take one last little jaunt to one last little lake on one last little one-mile trail.  Had we paid more attention in school, I imagine one of us would have picked up some cartography skills and understood that map meant that we will be walking up a preposterously steep one mile, not the leisurely hike I wanted. We start out on the path and everything is great, we start to head up a gradient and I begin to think that I’m out of shape. I had only just begun. We continue to get higher and higher, every picture you see a road in below, the road is where we started. Looking back it now, it’s a funny story that I tell with a warm heart and a sentimental tone. While I was hiking, however, I was virtually inventing curse words.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0282Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0283Aforementioned road where we started. Nowhere near the top.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0284Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0285Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0286We made it! To the top! Flat land! No Bierstadt Lake! Wait, that’s not a good thing. We climbed what felt like Everest only to get to the top and see no lake anywhere. It was a little disheartening, but Adam wasn’t going to let us do all of that hiking to not see what we set out to see. I had so much fun perusing around and trying to find this lake. Finally, another couple came up to us… “Do you know where the lake is?” the gentleman asked Adam. “$&#!” Adam replied. We all laughed while crying on the inside at the realization that this lake that people marveled about may not be close or even at this spot. The other couple began to descend down the easier path after we wished them well. We decided that we would look for a little bit longer to see what we could see. All of a sudden, through a break in the trees… BIERSTADT LAKE! It was everything we had hoped for. Walking around the lake all you could hear was absolutely nothing. It redefined silence for me. We were totally at peace. we wanted to descend at that point and carry on with the wine plans that we had made earlier. We had two choices; we could take the easy way down which would have brought us down at a very lazy slope and a very wide path, or we could go down the (described by locals as) hard way. We aren’t hikers, we barely exercise. We’ve sat and watched a season of Friends in one setting. It was a no-brainer! It took every fiber of our being to come up the hard way, so there was no way that I was going to let Adam prove something by going down the hard way. We went down the hard way.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0287Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0288Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0289Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0290After the Bierstadt triumph, we headed back to our cabin to shower, get dressed and complain about being out of shape. Adam spent about 30 minutes in the hot tub with a bottle of wine while I laid on the bed wondering if this is where I would die. Anyway, we came to our wits and decided to head to a steakhouse called Twin Owls up in the mountains. It was amazing. I had a chance to try Elk and Adam had short ribs. I took out my camera to take this picture and if you look carefully in the reflection of the olive oil, I think you can see Adam rolling his eyes.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0324We finished dinner, walked around town a bit more and then headed back to the cabin for the evening. We had a big day planned next.

We woke up in time to see the sunset, which was beautiful beyond words. We were going to drive to Grand Lake, CO today via Old Fall River Road, a dirt road up the side of the mountain barely wide enough to fit a car. I have a lot of confidence in Adam as a driver, but confidence can be a meaningless construct when looking down the side of a mountain with nothing more than a few inches between you and the edge.

Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0291Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0292Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0293Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0294Did I mention the narrowness of the roads?? Anyway, here are some big horned sheep. Evolutionarily designed to ram things and would certainly send our car into a tumble down the cliff. Lucky for them, they were cool enough that we had to stop and take pictures. Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0295We made it to the top! It took about 90 minutes to go 9 miles but it was so much fun. We got out to take some pictures and come to the realization that the 70 degree weather we enjoyed in shorts at the base of the mountain did not translate great to the top of the mountain.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0296Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0325This is one of the many moose we saw. I loved this trip.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0297Grand Lake is a really nice remote mountain town in Colorado. If I wasn’t there to talk him out of it, Adam would have bought a house then and there. He loved it.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0298Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0299We stopped at the renowned Grand Pizza for lunch. Food ranks highly in things that are important to me, so sorry about the volume of food stories on here, but we really didn’t have a bad meal on this trip. Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0300Heading back from Grand Lake to Estes Park, we went through Rocky Mountain National Park. We didn’t do a cheesy picture the day before, so we had to do one on this day.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0326OUR TIGUAN TURNED 50K ON THE TRIP!!!!Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0301Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0303Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0304Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0305Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0306Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0307This was Adam’s element. He loved driving on these roads. It warmed my heart to see him so happy.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0308Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0309Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0310Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0312Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0313Just chillin.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0314Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0315Our Tiguan, being a boss, hanging out in a cloud. No, seriously, in a cloud.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0316Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0317Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0318Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0319A picture of the sunset on the last night of our stay. It was so wonderful, I loved everything about Estes Park.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0320We headed out at about 5:00AM on Wednesday morning and had to stop at a breakfast place we had read about in Denver. It was called Snooze an AM Eatery and it was the best breakfast I have ever had. Adam got the breakfast tacos and I got a pancake flight. It was amazing and we’ll definitely be heading back anytime we’re in Denver.Kansas City Wedding Photographer_0327From there we headed back home to reality to continue our lives longing to come back to Colorado. It was great birthday and I can’t wait to see what comes in the years ahead.

Until next time Colorado!

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