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If you haven't been to Estes Park lately, put it on your list. I don't remember the last time I went up there - maybe 30 years ago.
There have been a number of ambitious and impressive developments, but you can still find the sideshows that go along with places like that. I will get to that.
Jennifer, Smitty and I just came back, and we were (almost) all smiles.
The location is spectacular. It's right up there with other parts of Colorado that make living here a gift, and visiting here a jealousy.
I had to keep my eyes on the road, but Jennifer did a great job of giving me a worthy tour, interjecting gasps that startled the dog.
The year-around population is less than 6,000, but it seemed like that many were on Elkhorn Avenue the day we were there.
We bought lunch at a place called Baba's. The food is exceptional, and the backdrop is exceptional. However, they need to have someone come in and put shoes and socks on the place. It looks like the decorator lost a bet. Overlook it. You will leave and write a poem about the gyros.
We took our lunch to a side road and parked facing a pine tree-hatted mountain, and inhaled our lunch and inhaled Colorado.
We weren't interested in seeing The Stanley Hotel. Knowing about it is enough. It opened (1909) before the Titanic was built, by Freelan Oscar Stanley, who moved to Colorado with his wife to find a drier climate. Stanley had tuberculosis. Stanley had money. Heard of Stanley Steemer?
We drove past Estes Park High School, home of the Bobcats. The students have an endlessly inspiring view. I thought about enrolling.
With all of that inherent, natural beauty, I don't know why there are so many kitsch and taffy shops. It's like selling "I (Heart) Grand Canyon" mugs at the Grand Canyon, or snow globes at Mesa Verde.
Maybe you can't go home empty-handed: Mitch and Betty back home in Indiana are on your shopping list. I have a tip for you. You can order "I (Heart)" mugs and snow globes that say "Estes Park, Colorado," online before you leave Indiana, set them aside and hand them out when you get back.
We listened to Yo-Yo Ma the entire time. His "Bach Trios" is sublime. Maybe you're thinking country and western instead? Nah.
The best way to appreciate Estes Park and nearby Rocky Mountain National Park would be in complete silence. I know that's not how it usually works in the United States. The louder the better. Buddhists don't come out at halftime of the Super Bowl and sit at mid-field in silence. I wish they would.
Americans want special effects. But here's another way of looking at it. Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are special effects.
Put down your phones, stop taking snapshots (there are better ones online), and look at what you are looking at.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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