The end of June found me and my daughter , Beth, traveling to Colorado to celebrate my niece’s wedding day. We had made our plans months ago and I looked forward to the day. My niece, Tina, grew up in western Wisconsin and about 10 years ago she moved to the Fort Collins area in Colorado. Tina fell in love with the mountains and spent her free time hiking in those mountains. A few years ago she meet her future husband, Rich, and fell in love.
We made our plans to fly to Denver and rent a car to drive the final leg to Allenspark where the wedding venue is located. We also traveled with another person, Tony. Tony’s uncle is married to my sister and he joined us for the trip. Our flight was an early one. The departure from Minneapolis was about 5:00 in the morning. Beth made the plan to stay in Bloomington at a hotel so we didn’t have to make the hour drive from home to the airport. 3 o’clock in the morning was an early enough wake up call, we didn’t need to be an hour or two earlier.
We made our way to the airport and parked the car and caught a shuttle to bring us to the front of the airport. We checked in and proceeded to the TSA checkpoint. The line looked long but it moved along very quickly. We made our way thru and off to our gate. It was very early in the morning. Caribou Coffee wasn’t even open at that hour in the morning. It was going to open shortly because a line had started forming by those needing their morning caffeine fix. It wasn’t long and they called us to board the plane for our flight to Denver.
As our plane took off I saw the sun rising over the horizon with a red glow. As we traveled westward I watched out the window as the sunrise greeted each town as the plane passed overhead. The flight was smooth and uneventful. We exited the plane and went to baggage claim and gathered our luggage. We exited the airport and found the rental car shuttle for the ride to the car rental lot and picked up our car. Beth rented the car and she added me as an extra driver and I did the driving for the weekend. The first order of business was to get some breakfast. We have been up for about 5 hours and hadn’t had anything to eat. As we drove towards downtown Denver we looked for a place to stop and have breakfast. We found an IHOP and stopped and ordered breakfast.
With breakfast finished we made a plan to head for Rocky Mountain National Park for some sightseeing before we made the drive to our cabin in Allenspark. We made our way to Estes Park, the gateway to RMNP. We stopped by the grocery store and grabbed some food to snack on as we drove thru RMNP. Our plan was to drive to the top of the mountains and visit the Alpine Center. I wanted to drive the Old Falls Road but we were to early in the season and the road wasn’t open. I looked at the information brochure for RMNP and it stated the road usually opens around the 4th of July. Rats! We were a week too early. We made our way up the mountain via Highway 34. We made the steady climb to 12,000 feet on our way to the Alpine center. We drove by a large herd of elk high in the mountains grazing on the new alpine grasses as we continued on the drive to the Alpine Center.
We arrived at the center and the air was cool with a slight breeze. Denver was warm at 7 in the morning and so was Estes Park. The drive up the mountain was also warm and bright. But the top was partly cloudy and cool. It was good I had packed a jacket for the walkabout at the Alpine Center. At 5 am we boarded a plane at 800 feet of elevation and a 2 pm we were standing at about 12,000 feet. The altitude didn’t seen to effect me too much. I kept a good stride up on the mountain. Tony on the other hand found the lack of oxygen taxing on his breathing. After a half hour of photos and a moment of taking in the sights and smells of the mountain top we made our decent to the floor of RMNP.
As we drove across the mountain top we met the elk herd again. There must of been 80 or more. All the sudden the traffic slowed to a slow crawl with frequent stops. I couldn’t see ahead because of the twists and turns then all the sudden I saw why we were in the traffic jam at 12,000 feet. There was an elk standing on the side of the road grazing within a short camera lens distance. On the other side of the road were several elk laying and chewing their cuds after filling themselves on the fresh alpine grass. As soon as we passed the the traffic lightened on our decent. We made several stops at the many vistas in RMNP enjoying the views and soaking up the warmth of the air and sun.
We made our way back into Estes Park to pick up some groceries for at our cabin in Allenspark. The town had turned into a big parking lot. There was a celebration in Estes Park and there were no roads bypassing all the people in town. With a slow drive we arrived at the store and found it with even more people shopping than before. We purchased our items and made our way to Allenspark.
We followed the Peak to Peak Highway with all of its twists and turns enjoying the back country of Colorado’s mountains and looking into RMNP. I saw a few sights I wanted to go back later to see and photograph. We found the town of Allenspark and exited the highway onto the business highway that traveled thru town. The town greeted us with many log cabins homes and rental homes. As I drove pass the post office and I spotted my brother and his family dropping a few pieces of mail in the mail box. Maybe they were letters they sent to themselves back home. We continued on our short journey and found our cabin.
The cabin was cozy and dark on the inside. The walls on the inside of the cabin were log with a deep rich patina of well aged fir logs. The cabin was well equipped for a quite vacation in the big woods. There was no cell phone service but the cabin did have WiFi so we could stay linked in to the Internet. Pictures will need to be uploaded to keep non traveling family members updated on our weekend adventure. We unpacked and I took a walk around the outside our cabin and listened to the sounds of a small mountain stream sing its song.
Dinner time would have us all meeting at my sister’s cabin. I’ll restate that, my Sister’s mountain home! My sister and her daughter and family, and Dad and MaryLu also stayed at the home. The home sat High on a Windy Knoll overlooking the Allensparks valley. The backdrop behind Allenspark was mount Meeker and many other peaks in the RMNP. From this home Mount Meeker would be bathed in the golden light of the morning sun and end the day with a silhouetted mountain peak in the final sunlight of the day. The whole family gathered for a cookout, pre-wedding photos and lots of talk before retiring for the night.
The next morning was clear clear and warm. Many of us were going to do a day hike on Lily Mountain. It was a short and easy hike. By who’s standards? Yes it was only a 2 mile hike and a 1000 foot rise in elevation. Remember, 24 hours earlier we were at less than 1000 feet in elevation. At first the hike seemed doable. As we continued my heart rate climbed and the breathing started to deepen and the body cells were asking for more nutrients. The group started to fall apart with one group pushing forward and one pacing themselves on a more leisurely hike. The top was no longer the goal but a day of enjoying the vistas from Lily Mountain. We continued to fragment into smaller groups. My brother and his family reached the summit of Lily Mountain. Others fell short of the summit and me I found a vista more meaningful than a summit. My daughter and sister joined me in the vista. The vista was overlooking the valley floor of RMNP and the sunlight bathed the mountains in their purple majesty.
We started our decent and other family members who reached the top caught up to us and passed us up. As we reached the road the fast returners were resting under several trees re-hydrating themselves. We all returned to our cars and made our return trip to Allenspark. We needed to get ready for my nieces wedding. It is the reason we all traveled to Colorado. The day was as perfect and was void of any clouds in the sky.
With our cabin party ready for the wedding we made the short drive to Wild Basin Lodge. Family members started gathering and started meeting family members of the grooms family. Dad asked me to video tape Tina’s wedding so I walked down to the meadow where the ceremony would be preformed. I wanted to look over the site and go over in my mind where I wanted to stand. I returned to the lodge and waited with the rest of the guests for the wedding to begin. Than came the announcement to all the guests to make the walk to the wedding meadow. I stood in the back with the video camera in hand and waited for the bride to arrive.
Dad had tipped me off how Tina was going to arrive to the wedding. She would be in a carriage. The wedding planner was flitting about making sure the photographer was in the right position. She also had her daughter down the road looking for the carriage. I was positioned between those two points. The wedding meadow filled with guests and the groom and and other wedding party members gathered behind the meadow. Than the moment happened. The bride was in place and the wedding started.
The music started and the parents were ushered in and so was the wedding party. I looked down the road and from around the corner a black horse appeared pulling a white carriage. Tina was being escorted by her Grandfather in the carriage. Tina’s father was at the wedding in spirit, photos and sewn to the inside of Tina’s dress because her father had passed away 16 years ago in a farming accident. The horse made its way to the back of the meadow and Dad exited the carriage. He walked around to Tina’s side and helped her down from the carriage. Then he escorted her down the aisle to the waiting groom.
We all sat down and the officiant started the service. The sun shown brightly and warmth was penetrating deeply into my skin. Mount Meeker stood majestically as a backdrop to the wedding service. As the service finished, the officiant pulled out the marriage certificate and had each person sign their name as required. Tina and Rich walked down the aisle and stepped up into the carriage for their first ride together as husband and wife. They quickly returned to the meadow for more photos with family and friends. After the photos they returned to the carriage for the ride to Wild Basin Lodge for the reception.
We all gathered at the lodge for a cocktail hour followed by dinner. More photos by family groupings. That was a major undertaking to align all the people and have their face’s visible to the camera. We continued to converse with Rich’s family and get to know them. I spent some time with my one nephew, Daniel, talking about photography. With the sun setting behind the mountains we started taking photos of the mountain stream. He wanted to learn how to achieve the silk look of the flowing water. With the low light we could set our shutter speeds slow enough the achieve the effect. As darkness descended the time had come for us to return to our cabin.
The next morning was bright and clear. The morning was a little foggy in my mind. I must of been over served or too many activities in the high altitude? We sat on the porch of our cabin sipping on coffee and watched a pack of llamas be lead down the road. We were going to stop for breakfast before leaving Allenspark. There is a small restaurant in town serving breakfast and lunch for the locals and visitors who call Allenspark home for the short term. After breakfast we made the short drive to High on a Windy Knoll. We wanted to say our goodbyes before driving back to Denver for a late night flight.
We took a scenic route back to Denver passing thru Nederland and Boulder. We were all exhausted from the weekend. We didn’t have much energy to do any sightseeing. It was hours before our flight and we just wanted to go to the airport and hangout. Our flight was scheduled for 9 pm and rain storms started moving into the Denver area. As they were about to load the plane lightening was detected close to the airport. The flight was delayed for an hour. The airline finally had clearance to load the plane and takeoff. With the plane loaded and taxiing to the runway I could see thunderstorms in the distance. As we flew home I watched the lighting in the clouds below the plane and admired the stars above in the heavens.
We landed in Minneapolis after midnight and had to make the drive home. Again I was driving and moving at a good pace within the law. All the sudden a deer appeared in the middle of the freeway. I was traveling in the center lane and the deer was standing on the hash line between the right lane and the center lane. A quick “Oh S#!T” came out of my mouth as I did a quick move to the left. I gave the deer a soft love tap with the front of the car. I pulled over at the next exit to inspect the damage. I pulled out my cell phone and turned on the light and did a quick look. Very minor damage and still drive-able. The next morning I did a little closer look and the deer had cracked the headlight lenses and put a couple of small dents in the sheet metal. There was deer hair in the bead area of the tire. Very minor damage and could have been worst. My wife looked for the deer on the freeway on her travels to and from work the next few days. She said she spotted a bloated carcass on the edge of the road near were I hit the deer. I guess it was a little more then a love tap and we returned home safe.
It was a great trip to Colorado and to be there to celebrate Tina and Rich’s wedding day. Congratulations to the happy couple.