[Mountainside Trails]

Now it’s time for the grand finale of our Colorado trip: Estes Park. But first, we had to get there. And before we could set out on the hour-long drive to Estes, we had to get coffee. And that’s where we took a little side-trip.

You see, I’m not too picky about where I get my coffee, as long as my coffee is hot and sweet. (I’m fond of raspberry lattes, in particular.) Joel, however, has a thing against Starbucks. (Don’t ask why; I don’t know.) So, instead of hitting the three Starbucks within five blocks of our hotel, we drove 10 minutes away to get Caribou Coffee coffee. I mean, it was good, but a little out of the way, if you ask me. But Joel was happy, and a happy Joel means that everyone else will have a good day, too. (And who can’t use a guaranteed good day? I certainly need some guarantees in my life.)

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Anyhow, we hit the road and headed out to Estes Park, making jokes about Colorado drivers (at the expense of Colorado drivers, naturally) who can’t figure out east from west without the mountains. Personally, I think it’s difficult to get lost in Nebraska — there’s a road or a town every few miles if you need guidelines — but others say differently. That’s not to be confused with getting turned around; I do that quite frequently (I don’t like one-way streets).

As we got closer to Estes Park, the more alert we became. I think that was in part due to the coffee, but we both enjoy shopping and beautiful scenery, and Estes has both of those in spades. We actually ended up parking at the Estes Park tourist information center to figure out our game plan — which was decided to be shopping and food first, and then a tour of Rocky Mountain National Park.

We popped in and out of various stores the length of the main street in Estes Park (there are more than 300 stores and restaurants — we didn’t see all of them), picking out postcards and ornaments and admiring the handicrafts. I was very sad that my souvenir budget didn’t allow for some of the beautiful artwork, but I did manage to grab a few fun postcards instead. We also sampled BBQ and handmade ice cream, as you do, and even got a little sunburned. (Whoops.)

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Our trip through the park turned out to be beautiful. We saw amazing scenery and some wild animals as well. I will note that while I was extremely nervous on the gravel trails climbing to the top (paths where we were mere feet away from a huge drop), Joel was more nervous on the paved roads down down the mountain. It’s funny how the city-girl and country-boy stereotypes played out there.

After we left the park, we headed back to the hotel. We timed things just right that we drove in before the sun set, which meant we didn’t have to navigate unfamiliar highways in the dark. Joel finished up some reading for his graduate school classes; I caught up on social media and reading of my own; we watched a couple of episodes of a show about candy-making (it’s called Unwrapped, if anyone’s curious). It was a pretty nice end to the day.

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