Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Grand Old Man of Estes Park

Freelan Oscar Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer automobile, first came to Estes Park in 1903 on doctor’s orders. Impressed by the beauty of the valley and grateful for the improvements to his health, Stanley decided to invest his money and his future in the budding tourist community.

Freelan, and his twin brother Francis, were both accomplished inventors and both considered to be geniuses. Together they founded the Stanley Motor Carriage Company after selling their photographic dry plate business to the Eastman Kodak Company. Their first automobiles, known as Stanley Steamers, were built in 1897 and relied on steam power. Demonstrating their rivalry with gasoline powered vehicles, one of the Stanley models set the world record for the fastest mile in an automobile in 1906. Clocking in at 127.6 miles per hour that day, the record stood until 1911.

In 1903, at the age of 53, Freelan was advised by his doctor to visit Colorado. Suffering from tuberculosis, the doctor told him not to make any plans beyond the autumn, expecting the disease to take his life within the next several months. Stanley's summer vacation in Estes Park, however, put him back on the road to good health. Soon he moved to Estes Park and purchased 160 acres of land where he would build a luxurious hotel for vacationing Easterners. Stanley designed the hotel, as well as the manor house, casino building, concert hall, tennis courts, 9-hole golf course, trap shooting range and eventually an airfield for small planes.

This photo of the Stanley was taken by H. T. Cowling and appeared in the National Park Portfolio of 1916/1917:

At a cost of more than a half-million dollars the resort opened in June of 1909. Some of the early guests to visit the Stanley Hotel included J.C. Penney, Harvey Firestone, Dr. William Mayo and Theodore Roosevelt.

In that same year Freelan built a hydroelectric plant along the Fall River, which allowed the hotel to claim it was the first in the country "to heat, light, and cook meals exclusively with electricity…" Eventually his plant would provide electricity to the growing citizenry in Estes Park. Within just a few years the influential Freelan O. Stanley was earning the reputation as "The Grand Old Man of Estes Park."

The hydroelectric plant would supply electricity to Estes Park until July 15, 1982. On that day the Lawn Lake Dam broke and sent 300 million gallons of water down the Roaring River valley and killing three campers, before rushing down Fall River Road and destroying the plant’s power generating capabilities. Twenty years later the plant would reopen as the Estes Park Historical Museum.

Despite the dire prognosis from his doctor, Freelan would live another 37 years before dying in 1940 at the age of 91.

Several decades after his death, the Stanley Hotel became famous once again when novelist Stephen King found his inspiration for "The Shining" after staying in an almost empty hotel on the night before it closed for the winter. Although the hotel wasn’t used in the movie, it was used as a backdrop for the three-part 1997 television mini-series.

In more recent years the hotel has gained notoriety as one of America's most haunted hotels. Numerous stories from visitors and staff have reported seeing Stanley's ghost, or his wife's ghost. Visitors today can take the Ghosts & History Tour, and possibly encounter the mysterious apparitions for themselves.

In the lobby the Stanley Hotel proudly displays this 1906 Model EX, 10 HP Runabout. This model came equipped with both a 26-gallon water tank and a 13-gallon gas tank. The gas was used to heat the water in the boiler, and could take up to a half-hour before it generated enough steam to power the car. This model weighed 1000 pounds, could achieve speeds of 45 MPH, and would have set you back a cool $850 back in the day! (my guess is that to purchase this same car now you would likely have to add at least 2 zeroes to that figure)


Saturday, August 30, 2014

How and Why CFI Protects Colorado's Fourteeners

Whether you've hiked a relatively easy 14er such as Quandary Peak or Huron Peak, or even the highest mountain in Colorado, Mt. Elbert, it's likely you've benefited from the volunteer work from the folks at the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.

Not familiar with this organization? The video below provides a quick overview of the non-profit's work building sustainably located summit trails, closing and restoring unsustainably located user-created trails, and the education of Fourteener hikers. CFI's work helps to protect the rare and fragile alpine tundra ecosystems that draw an estimated half-million people from throughout the world to climb Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks.

For more information on the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, please click here.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who was Grandma Gatewood?

In 1955, after raising 11 children, Emma "Grandma" Gatewood became the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail - at the tender age of 67!  In September of that year, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin.

Then, in 1960, she hiked it again, becoming the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail twice. And, just to prove those first two weren't a fluke, she hiked it again in 1963 - at the age of 75! After that third adventure Emma became the first person to hike the 2,179-mile trail on three different occasions.

So who exactly was Grandma Gatewood? This short video, a trailer from a documentary film project called "Trail Magic", gives a few insights into Emma Gatewood's life, tribulations & achievements:


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top 10 Places to See Colorado's Awesome Fall Colors

In the fall, Colorado is transformed into an arena of shimmering colors. Byways, passes, trails, railways and parks all offer ways to soak in fall foliage that peaks between mid-September and mid-October. Here are some of Colorado.com's favorite places for viewing the amazing fall colors of Colorado:

Rocky Mountain High. Trail Ridge Road, North America's highest paved road, winds from Estes Park to Grand Lake through Rocky Mountain National Park offering unrivaled vantage points. Inn-to-inn hiking offers a unique leaf-peeping experience in this area.

Photographer's Favorite. Gunnison is home to Kebler Pass, a favorite of photographer John Fielder, which boasts the largest aspen grove in North America.

Tires, Tracks and Trees. The San Juan Skyway, a 236-mile loop through the San Juan Mountains, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and Soaring® Tree Top Adventures, all offer amazing arrays of fall colors in southwest Colorado.

Iconic Views Outside of Aspen. The iconic Maroon Bells, located in the White River National Forest, provide access to hiking trails that offer unbeatable views of aspens, pines and alpine lakes.

Classic Western Colors. Colorado's Western Slope is home to the Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat top mountain, where vibrant scrub oaks contrast with shimmering aspens along the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway. A bird's eye view is offered via chairlifts during Fall Fest at Powderhorn.

Into the Wild. Buffalo Pass near Steamboat Springs is lined with rows of glowing aspens and winds eight miles to the Continental Divide and Summit Lake. Locals recommend the moderate hike to Zirkel Wilderness Area - the Gilpin Lake Loop is an outstanding hike.

Scenic Southern Colorado. La Veta Pass on U.S. Route 160 is one of the most scenic drives in the state during the fall. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is another way to explore fall foliage in southern Colorado.

Gondola. The Free Telluride Gondola and the three-mile Jud Wiebe Trail both offer unmatched opportunities to view Telluride's colorful foliage.

Vroom with a View. Colorado Highway 62 over the Dallas Divide offers epic views of Mount Sneffels. The route connects with Highway 145 and Lizard Head Pass, showing off Wilson Peak. Be sure to take the side trip on Dallas Creek Road to the Blue Lakes Trailhead. The hike up to Blue Lakes is one of the best hikes in the state.

Front Range Foliage. Begin a road trip in downtown Boulder and head up through Boulder Canyon to the small town of Nederland and along Highway 72, which connects to The Peak-to-Peak Scenic and Historic Byway.

You can click here for more information on Colorado's best places to see fall colors.

If you do plan on visiting Rocky Mountain National Park this fall, please note that our hiking website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings for both Estes Park and Grand Lake to help with all your vacation planning.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

One Man's Perspective on Solitude and Wilderness

Every couple of months 68-year-old Ed Zevely rides into the Colorado high country to camp for weeks at a time, and does it completely alone. Through thunderstorms, open meadows and treacherous passes, he finds his own patch of serenity. Ed provides an interesting perspective, perhaps one that all of us should consider as we go through life.

Open Door to Solitude from Filson on Vimeo.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rocky Mountain's 100th Anniversary Approaches: Celebrate With Hikes and Other Events

On September 4, 1915, hundreds of people gathered in Horseshoe Park to celebrate the dedication of America’s newest playground, Rocky Mountain National Park. Signed into law on January 26th of that same year by President Woodrow Wilson, Rocky Mountain National Park would forever protect the incredible resources found within its boundaries so that future generations might also benefit from its beauty and wildness.

As the 100th year anniversary of its creation rapidly approaches, Rocky Mountain National Park will be offering several events in conjunction with park partners and surrounding communities to commemorate this historic event. In order to accommodate the greatest variety of events possible, celebration of the Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary will begin on September 4, 2014, and will continue through September 4, 2015.

Included on the list of anniversary events are several guided hikes. The Colorado Mountain Club will be offering hikes, climbs, and wildflower walks throughout the anniversary year. The YMCA of the Rockies will also lead hikes throughout the year as well.

Also, on September 5th, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association (now the Rocky Mountain Conservancy) will offer a naturalist-guided hike along the Ute Trail (please call 970-586-3262 for details).

The park itself will be offering a guided hike along the Lily Lake Trail on September 6th. This hike is known as the "Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary Wilderness Walk".

For a complete list of events scheduled for the year-long celebration, please click here. You should note that additional events mat still be added as we approach the anniversary.

Rocky Mountain enthusiasts may also want to note that award-winning author Mary Taylor Young has recently published a new book that celebrates the park's centennial. In addition to telling the story of the park, Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years is illustrated with more than 250 historical and landscape images. Mary will be giving a presentation on her new book at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Auditorium on September 27th as part of the Centennial Speaker Series.

If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park during the centennial celebration, or anytime for that matter, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings in both Estes Park and Grand Lake. Also, don't forget to check out our Things To Do page to help with all your trip planning.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Some Flood-damaged areas on Canyon Lakes Ranger District Reopen

Some areas of the Canyon Lakes Ranger District impacted by the September 2013 Flood have re-opened as repairs have been completed.

Storm Mountain and Cedar Park Roads are now open, along with the Crosier Mountain Trail system. These are all located west of Loveland. It is important to note these areas and others damaged by the flood may not be the in the same condition as they were pre-flood. The Storm Mountain roads had to be improved more than they are historically maintained in order to accommodate the heavy equipment needed to make repairs.

The Forest continues to focus on many flood recovery efforts; however, additional rains this summer have delayed some repair work. Crews are actively working on additional road and trail repairs. As these repairs are completed more areas are anticipated to open before the field season is halted by snow.

For additional information about flood closures and recovery efforts, check the FS website.