Last year David and I embarked on a new tradition that we plan to keep yearly so long as we are living in Colorado.
Our 9th wedding anniversary is on May 31st which is a great time of year but often falls on Memorial Day Weekend which equals holiday prices on travel and lots of crowds, neither of which we are particularly fond of. So instead we opt for treks earlier in the month and last year we found the perfect location – Estes Park, Colorado.
For those of you unfamiliar, Estes Park is the town at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. Not only does beauty abound, but there’s a main street with cute shops and restaurants, lots of places to admire nature, tons of recreation and one very simple but lovely YMCA camp that is open to the public.
This camp is huge and not just your typical kids camp. I had the opportunity to spend lots of time there with a previous employer who had several work retreats there. They have nice, simple lodges (that feel like motels) and cabins from 2-10 bedrooms. And you don’t need any affiliation with the YMCA to partake.
To top it off, the prices are cheap prior to Memorial Weekend ($99/night and the 3rd night free) but more importantly, they allow dogs! We hate to travel without our pups – we miss them, we worry about them when we’re away (we’ve had several mishaps with regards to their care in the past), not to mention that it’s very costly to board them or have a house/pet sitter stay with them. Any chance to bring them with us is always the top option and the fact that this place is well within driving distance and we aren’t capped at having only 2 dogs, makes it ideal for us.
Oh and did I mention that it’s super serene and beautiful here? It’s forced relaxation at it’s best. There are no TVs, no internet even (at least in our cabin, but there is access at the main lodge which looks like a tiny version of the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone) so it forces us to slow waaay down.
The days have a rhythmic quality to them…and although this may not be some people’s idea of fun, it’s simply divine to us and we so look forward to our time here.
First off, we sleep in as long as we can until the aging bladder of Sierra wakes us. We leash everyone up and go for a walk. Breakfast is cooked up in our cute lil’ kitchen room. Since we have limited plates and silverware, we are forced to clean up right away and I kind of like it that way…no chance for laziness to kick in leading to a pile of dishes at the end of the day.
We have our laptops with us so music is generally piping with an eclectic mix of Ray Lamontagne, Johnny Cash, Diana Krall and Lorenna McKennitt, among others. We pass time reading (alone and to each other), doing crossword puzzles together, walking, hiking, napping, and admiring the wildlife everywhere.
We walk the main street, and of course, spend time in the park (weather permitting!). In the evenings, we go to the lodge to spend a little bit of time on the internet, grab a coffee from their cute lil’ cafe and sit in the adirondack chairs in front of the giant hearth fireplace soaking in the radiant heat of the roaring fire. We also bring a couple DVD’s with us and might watch a movie back in our cabin if the urge strikes. To keep costs down, we cook most meals in the cabin and only eat out a couple times during our stay.
We go to bed early, we sleep ridiculously long hours and we totally relax.
My friend Jess pokes fun at us. “You guys are the only people that I know who live in a cabin in the woods but choose to vacation in a cabin in the woods!” Yeah, I suppose it’s kind of silly, but whenever we come here, we completely turn off. Kind of like I was mentioning in my post last week about our adventure without power for a weekend, it’s hard to force a technology shut down even though we appreciate the original break. When we come to Estes Park, we know it’s going to force us to slow down, unwind and, as my other friend Peg says, it’s a nice change of zip code.
We love a lot of vacation spots for what we can do or see, but we love this spot for what we don’t do, if you know what I mean. And there’s nothing like spending time in nature to ground you, to remind you of why it needs protecting and why choosing to live a greener and simpler life, while not always convenient or popular, is a great way to live.
So while you may not be fortunate to live close to something as splendid as RMNP, try to even spend just 5 minutes outside in nature everyday. Whether it’s out for a walk or standing out of your front door. Stop, take a deep breath in, listen to the sounds surrounding you and watch intently around you – you know, the things we take for granted in our everyday rushed lives. Sometimes its cathartic just watching a bird digging around the earth or listening to the trees whisper in the wind.
Where are your favorite down-time getaways?
(p.s. hope to have more in-town and park photos tomorrow if the weather clears up, otherwise, it will be more photos of snow!)