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We arrived at the port of Valparasio and city of Santiago after being on the ship for twenty-four days. We would fly home that evening but first we had a ten hour shore excursion ending at the airport. We will do city tours of both cities with an included lunch between the two towns.

A few facts about this area…
Chile is 3500 miles long (so if you turned it sideways it would be 500 miles longer than the U.S. However it is only 100 miles wide. The geography is very diverse with a large desert in the north and glaciers in the south. Mountains run through the center of the country and it is very beautiful. Economically 35% of the world’s copper comes from here.

The cities were founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia. Actually Valparasio was founded in 1536 but did not become a permanent settlement until 1541. For the most part since there were no cities and no gold the Spanish were not too interested in this area. However de Valdivia saw the agricultural richness of the land and decided to conquer the area.

Wars with the natives and natural disasters like earthquakes and floods did not stop the people from rebuilding. Although aware of its past, Santiago has grown into a modern, industrialized city. Pinochet was a military dictator who took over from 1972-1989.

He seized power from the democratically elected Allende and preceded to torture and murder Chili citizens. Finally he went to England for back surgery and was forced out of office. They wanted to try him for human rights violations but the trials were continued until he finally died of a heart attack in 2006.

Originally the country was a colony of Spain but they became independent in 1818. However the Catholic Church and the state ruled together until 1925 when they finally separated their powers. Today there is a Congress and civil liberties have been restored. The country is considered a Republic and an elected president is only allowed to serve one four year term.

Santiago is in a bowl shaped valley 75 miles east of Valparasio in the shadow of the Andes. The population is 6.3 million while the port of Valparasio has only 876,000 people.

The Plaza de Armas is the heart of Santiago where bullfights use to be played. It is also the home of the Metropolitan Cathedral which was built between 1748-1800. The church actually sits on the site of 5 previous churches all destroyed by earthquakes.

Our tour guide’s name was Max and it was a nice day for a long bus ride. He took us through Valparasio which is a port city mixed with both old and new sections. There were a couple of very old buildings downtown that could not be saved after the earthquakes so they kept the façade and built a brand new building inside each one.

Since the city is built into 42 hills they also have what they call funiculars. It is a track that goes one block straight up a hill with a cable car you ride to get to the top of the hill. They are all over the city and pretty interesting to see.

Then we traveled through the upscale seaside area of the city on our way inland to the wine country. We had a two hour lunch, including alcohol. I kept drinking water in anticipation of our long flight home but my brother had the alcohol.

After lunch we had an hour and a half drive through the Coastal Mountain Range to Santiago. It was a beautiful drive but was a little hazy due to the contained fires just south of Santiago. My brother slept through the drive.

After our tour of Santiago we were dropped at the airport at 7:00p.m. We had a 10:30pm flight. My brother still did not drink water but had two cans of soda before the flight instead. You can probably guess I am a big proponent of drinking lots of water, especially before international flights.  Naturally he coughed all night long, waking me up constantly.

Our plane flew into Dallas at 5:15 a.m. We had a connecting flight to Phoenix in two hours and finally on to Yuma. I knew we might have trouble getting to the gate on time in a big airport like Dallas so I ordered a wheel chair.

My brother was skeptical and antsy but the thing about a wheelchair is they notified your next flight you are in transit so they will hold the plane a couple of minutes if necessary.

Being in the wheelchair we went right to the head of the two custom areas we needed to go through and then right to the head of security (when you go through customs you are outside the airport and must do security again).

After that we changed to golf carts. It took 3 different carts to get us to our gate and we only had ten minutes before boarding when we arrived. Without the wheelchair we would not have made it.

Phoenix is a big airport but easy to navigate; so no wheelchair was needed there. We walked as fast as we could and made it to our Yuma gate with three minutes to board! However our luggage did not make it.

American flies four times a day between Yuma and Phoenix. When we got to Yuma we had no bags but when I checked they had already been scanned for the next flight. So we took our carry-ons home and an hour and a half later we were back at the airport getting our regular suitcases.

Ray’s coughing thing turned into a bad bronchial infection and several days and a doctor visit later he still was not well. He had finally switched from soda to tea and he finally drank a bottle of water!!!!!

Our South Seas adventure was now officially over. We would always have great memories of our trip and hopefully I can get back to Australia sometime to see more of that wonderful country.

***Note***  I am having a special book sale.  If you go to my website (www.kileenprather.com) you can preview the first few chapters of each book.  I am selling the books for $10.00 apiece and if you buy three or more, shipping is free.  For more information email me at:  kileenp@gmail.com.

 

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We have been at sea for several days so everyone is looking forward to our next Port of Call– Papeete, Tahiti.  We didn’t dock until noon which was unusual.   There are 250,000 people who live on this French island which is 28 miles long.  The amazing fact is half of them are under the age of 30!  Papeete where we dock is a large city of 125,000 population.

Tahiti resembles the number 8 and was created by two volcanoes erupting.  The only problem was we were landing on a Sunday and not much would be opened but we were all anxious to put our feet on terra firma.  However this was not to be.

The day turned into a BUMMER!!!!!!!! There was a lot of rain the day before and the island was in emergency mode.  They would not allow the passengers or crew off the ship because roads were flooded and washed out and rivers overflowing throughout the island.  Naturally all shore excursions were cancelled.

The next port is Easter Island and we will land there in a week. That means we will be at sea for 10 days before touching land again.

Lots of things happened by not being able to get off the ship.  We had to dock to get supplies which they did allow but the new set of performers was not able to fly in.  That meant no new acts except the singers and dancers until we get to Chile where we get off.

It was an eerie afternoon.  People hung over the railings looking at the ground and the town knowing they could not leave the ship.  They put an extra movie on in the theater called Central Intelligence with the Rock that I had not seen.  It was entertaining.

The problem was there were not a lot of activities going on around the ship because we were scheduled to be on the island until midnight.  Because of this things were very slow.  Usually there is a lot of music playing in the different venues but when you are on shore the musicians are given time off as well as all the shop workers.

We did have a show with some Tahitian dancers—the government allowed them to come on board for the show– and that was neat because it was the real thing.

After we departed, life continued on board with the usual activities.  The singers and dancers put on a show every other night.  They were really working hard.  Then the crew musicians took turns entertaining us in the evening.  Some of them were good and some not so good.  Several nights people walked out.

I decided to buy internet minutes since we would not be on land for ten days before the next port.  And it was doubtful there would be internet on Easter Island.  We also learned we might not be able to get off there.  Since we had to tender on Easter Island if the waves were too rough, there would be no way to dock.  However the captain assured us he would do everything in his power to dock since we had been on the ship so long.

We moved our clocks up again as we continued our journey. And then again the following night. We were now in U.S. Mountain time.

We could not stop but everyone was up at  7:30 a.m one morning.  We were cruising around Pitcairn Island, made famous from The Mutiny On The Bounty.

Because of the steep cliffs there is no way to land.  They actually have a supply boat that comes every three months and they have to take a longboat out to the supply ship just to get their goods.

The area the supply boat sails to is called Bounty Bay and Adams Town is the capital.  That seems weird to say because the island is only 2 miles by 1 mile and there are only 50 people who live there—all descendants of the original Mutiny crew.

They have one paved road.  This island is considered the half way point between Australia and South America.  We were actually 3,000 miles from Chile (where we get off) and 3,000 miles to New Zealand.
We will sail around the island from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. with narration going on so here’s a little history.

The island was first recorded as seen in 1767 and was named after a fifteen year old boy who spotted it first.  The word was passed on to Captain Cook but even though he looked, he never found it mainly because his reading was off by 180 degrees.  That is what made it the perfect destination for the Bounty crew who needed to hide after the mutiny.

The mutiny happened in April 1789.  Captain Bligh was put in a twenty-four foot boat with eighteen others and miraculously they made it to safety 3600 miles later.  Then the mutiny crew went back to Tahiti.

Sixteen mutineers stayed in Tahiti and were eventually found by the British and taken back to England and hung.  Meanwhile Fletcher Christian kidnapped 11 women and 7 men—all Tahitian– and took them with him.  It took 2 months to find the island using the information Captain Cook had recorded since his charts were wrong to begin with.

Once they arrived there were a few battles between the Polynesian men and the sailors, especially due to drunkenness and the fact Christian would not allow the Polynesian men to have sex with the women.
Three years after landing Christian was one of the first of the sailors killed.  He was working in his garden and a Polynesian man came up and shot him.  His last words were “Oh dear” and today there is a cafe on the island called “Oh dear.”

We moved clocks up another hour.  We are now on Eastern time. I had trouble getting to sleep that night and the next day several other people complained about it, too.  We had moved up an hour in time for the last four days in a row.

This is our last sea day before Easter Island.  And in one week, next Friday, we will be departing this ship.  There was a lecture on Easter Island.  When we arrive there we will be 2300 miles from Chile’s coast and 2,500 miles from Tahiti.

As I mentioned previously, some of the passengers were worried because the currents and waves in this area can be bad and only half the time can a ship stop at this island.  The waves have to be calm enough for the tenders to get to shore.  Easter Island is an awesome experience but at this point in time everyone was more concerned with wanting to walk on land.

Luckily we were able to get off the ship.  I am not going into anything about Easter Island here because I did a previous post you can read on Word Press.

After Easter Island it was back to sea days, but only four before we landed in Valparaiso, Chile.  There was a lot going on that day including a talk on Chile. This was another formal dress night with lobster on the menu.  Then the captain had a party in the atrium area for the whole ship with free drinks.

That evening the singers and dancers were back with a show called “Soul Time.”  The first ten days of the cruise the singers and dancers only had two performances.  But as I mentioned, since we left Tahiti with no new entertainers, the dancers have been putting on a show every other day.  And the orchestra has been doing something every night.  These people have really gone above and beyond due to the circumstances.

We turned our clocks up another hour that night.  Now we are past
Eastern time.

Our last night my brother and I went to a good-bye party the captain gave for the ninety-seven of us leaving in Valparasio.  He mentioned that when we docked the next day we will have traveled over 8,000 miles on the ocean, although it is 6,000 as the crow flies from Sydney.  Actually it is 500 miles less for us since we did not start in Melbourne.

Oh, no!  We moved our clocks up another hour that night.  At least that is the end of it.  But we now have to go back 5 hours since we are flying back to Arizona.  I know my body will be screwed up time wise when we het home.

Next up: Our cruise ends

***Note***  I am having a special book sale.  If you go to my website (www.kileenprather.com) you can preview the first few chapters of each book.  I am selling the books for $10.00 apiece and if you buy three or more, shipping is free.  For more information email me at:  kileenp@gmail.com.

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After visiting Sydney and Melboure, Australia we were finally ready to board our ship, The Sea Princess.  By noon we were back at the hotel from our Hop On And Off Trolley we had taken to the international market.  Since it was only a block away to the ship we made two trips.  We got our suitcases checked in and went back to the hotel for our carry-ons.

Boarding the ship was pretty easy since so few people got on in Sydney.  The ship, which is one of their older ships in the Princess fleet, holds just under 2,000 passengers.  It started in Brisbane.  Then 400 of us got on in Sydney, although some of those people will get off in Auckland, New Zealand.

In Auckland they will take on another 400 passengers and then we would be on our way.  We found out later there were only 26 Americans on board.  We would travel across the South Pacific to Santiago, Chile, where we got off.

We only did a small segment of the cruise (21 days) but many people were on for the whole cruise. After Santiago the ship would continue south to the tip of South America and then all the way up the Eastern side and through the Panama Canal.  Then they would travel half way back down the western side of South America before heading back to Australia.
That evening the ship sailed and we began our journey East back through several time zones. We moved our time up an hour that night and the next day was the first of three days at sea before we reached our first port.  We were sailing in the Tasman Sea and the Coral Sea was just above us.  This was a typical sea day.  I looked in on trivia, went to a couple of dance classes and got ready for dinner.  We were at a table for 4 where we met a very nice Australian couple.  After dinner I went to the show with a Johnny Cash impersonator who was very good.

The next sea day was a shopping spree outlet day and my brother and I bought some T-shirts for $6.99 Australian (only about $5.00 US). I spent time in the gym and sauna and went back to line dancing class and trivia.  There are so many activities onboard you always felt very busy.

That evening was formal night.  After dinner there was a champagne reception and then we saw a light opera show.  After that was another show with “Mr. Sandman.”  He had a box of sand and made incredible creatures in the sandbox.  When we went to bed we had to change our time forward once again.

Our third sea day was a repeat of the day before.  We read a lot and I went to trivia again.  I met two couples from Australia I sat with every day for trivia.  I didn’t know much Australian trivia and they didn’t know much American trivia so we made a great team. There was a sit down pizza restaurant on board and we decided to do that for dinner.  Then we watched a movie under the stars.

The fourth sea day we landed! We were in Auckland, New Zealand.  We had reservations for the Hop On & Off Trolley as well as Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium.

There are two large islands in New Zealand.  One is called the North Island and the other is the South Island.  Auckland, the country’s largest city, is on North Island.  Although there are tall buildings downtown the landscape is unique with cones, craters and lakes.  These came about due to eruptions from the Auckland Volcanic Field a long time ago.

The Hop On & Off Trolley met us right on the ship’s dock. This was called the Red Line. Our second stop was Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium so we got off.  There was a large penguin display that was pretty awesome and then we went on a rolling floor called the shark cave.  We watched huge sea mantas and sharks above and beside us.  There was even a tank full of the largest lobsters I have ever seen.  They have to keep them apart from other sea life because they said they are constant predators.  Sure wish I could have eaten one!

After the aquarium we got back on the trolley (it stops every ½ hour) and continued on to the Auckland Museum.  This held a huge collection of Polynesian artifacts as well as memorabilia from the two world wars.

At the museum we transferred to the Blue Line.  This took us to another part of the city.  We saw a soccer field that was built inside a crater, although you couldn’t really tell any more.  Our most interesting stop on this line was Mount Eden.  This is the highest point in New Zealand and is the top of an extinct volcano.

The Blue line ended back at the museum and we transferred again back onto the Red Line.  We went through an old part of town with lots of shops and restaurants that was quite charming.  They mentioned that Bill Clinton liked the area so much he had visited there twice.

Our next stop was Sky Tower, 1,072 feet high.  It is the tallest free standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere.  Like the Space Needle in Seattle and other similar structures sprinkled throughout the world, you ride a glass elevator up to a platform with 360 degree views.  Once you get off the elevator the tower has glass floors which make it a little scary.

If you have ever been to the Sears/Willis Tower in Chicago you know there is a small glass area you can walk on and see the ground below.  But on this tower the whole platform had a glass floor which was a little eerie to walk on seeing the ground so far below.  This last summer I was in Seattle and they said they were rehabbing the Space Needle and would be putting the same type of glass floor in that structure. The tower also had several restaurants and even a casino but we did not stop.

The trolley took us over four hours to complete and then we found an internet café so we could check online messages. The ship sailed at 5:30 p.m. and we sat on our balcony sipping wine as we slowly watched the city slip away.  It had been a fun day.

The evening show was the cultural songs and dances of the region and we called it an early night after that.

Next up: Our cruise continues

***Note***  I am having a special book sale.  If you go to my website (www.kileenprather.com) you can preview the first few chapters of each book.  I am selling the books for $10.00 apiece and if you buy three or more, shipping is free.  For more information email me at:  kileenp@gmail.com.   Great idea for Christmas gifts.

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***Note this is the 2nd part in a series.  My brother and I took a 21 day cruise across the South Pacific last winter.  Before the cruise we explored Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.***

After arriving in Sydney, my brother and I decided to take a side trip to Melbourne to see a little more of this wonderful country. We were flying Jet Star which is a budget airline.

After a long walk through the terminal we arrived in a waiting room.  My son had told us about an app called “What’s Up” which we loaded on our phones.  As long as anyone we knew loaded it onto their phones we could call or text our friends and relatives for free anywhere in the world where there is free Wifi.

We wanted to try it out so we called our brother in Madison, WI.  It was very weird.  It was Sunday morning for us in Sydney but early Saturday afternoon for him.  It was strange speaking to him like we were near each other instead of thousands of miles away and the call was free!  If you are traveling overseas I would definitely recommend you and your family and friends downloading this app.

Next was our budget airline surprise at a big airport like Sydney.  We didn’t have a gate at the airport.  Everyone was bused (it took 3 buses because it was a big plane like Southwest) out to the tarmac where we walked up the steps to board the plane.  On arrival we were in for another surprise.

An hour and 15 minutes later we arrived in some place called Avalon.  It was a tiny little airport that only Jet Star uses.  We were not in Melbourne.  We were 40 miles away and had to take a shuttle for $22 each to get to the city.  Melbourne does have a regular airport but we never saw it.

Staying at another Holiday Inn we once again lucked out.  We arrived downtown around 10:00 a.m. and discovered they had a room ready for us.  Regular check-in is 2:00 p.m.  So we put our bags in our room so we could begin our tour of the city.

Before our trip started we found a site called “Viator”.  You can get hotels, airline, or tickets to attractions whatever you need all over the world at discount prices.  We had preordered the Hop On & Off Trolleys for both Melbourne and Sydney.

Our Melbourne Trolley was for 48 hours and included an airport transfer on the return.  Naturally we discovered we would not be able to use the transfer since we were at the alternate airport.

The Visitor Center where we needed to catch our trolley was a distance away but the hotel told us there was a tram one block around the corner that ran all over and the downtown area was a free zone.
So we were off on our adventure.  We were hungry but one of the stops was the Queen Victoria Market.  This is the largest open air market in the Southern hemisphere.  We decided to get off there for lunch and shopping.

The place was huge—at least two city blocks wide by a long city block deep.  There were also little cafes everywhere as well as a food court.  Being so close to the ocean naturally I ordered the fish and chips and it even came grilled which I prefer.  About an hour and a half later we hopped back on our sightseeing bus.

By 5:00 p.m. we were worn out and stopped at a convenience store and got a sandwich for dinner that we ate in our hotel room.

The next morning we once again took the free tram to the first trolley stop. There are two separate tours in Melbourne.  Yesterday we had done the city tour so today we were taking the St. Kilda tour.  This area is south of the city and is considered Melbourne’s seaside suburb.

I enjoyed this area and we hopped off to stroll through the little shops and have lunch at an outdoor café.  The day before had been very hot but a cool front had come through so it was quite pleasant.  It had also been so hot the day before that a great white shark had been spotted near shore so the beach had been closed to swimming.

Since we saw everything there was to see we took an earlier shuttle to the airport.  We were hoping to get on an earlier flight, but no luck.  They had plenty of seats available but wanted to charge us $300 extra.  So we sat in that dinky airport and read while we waited for our 8:45 p.m. flight.  This was definitely all part of the learning experience.

We did not get back to Sydney until after 10:00 p.m.  We found a cab to take us to Darling Harbour for our luggage and then on to our Holiday Inn in Old Sydney for the next two nights.  To say we got in late was an understatement!
We had another 24 hour Hop On & Off Trolley scheduled for around Sydney.  Since we got in so late we decided to sleep in.  By starting our first tour around noon we were able to use the trolley until noon the next day and then it would be time to board our ship.

We did two tours.  One was all around the city of Sydney and the other to the Bondi Beach area.  I liked Sydney; especially the old mixed with the new.

We also discovered the city had two cruise terminals.  Much to our surprise there was a Princess ship parked across the street from our hotel when we awoke and the hotel desk said our ship, the Sea Princess, would be docked there the next day.  That would save us a cab ride to the other terminal since we could just take our suitcases across the street and down the steps.

For dinner that night we walked down the street to the “oldest pub in Sydney.”  My brother decided on the Kangaroo steak and it was surprisingly good.  It tasted like filet mignon.

We got up early the next morning and took The Hop On and Off Trolley to the City Market, called Paddy’s Market, which had been closed since our return from Melbourne.  There were a couple of hundred stalls with all kinds of souvenirs.  My brother found a hat he liked and we got sweatshirts at $10 apiece.  I just hoped we could find room in our suitcases for our purchases.

Next up: Our cruise

***Note***  I am having a special book sale.  If you go to my website (www.kileenprather.com) you can preview the first few chapters of each book.  I am selling the books for $10.00 apiece and if you buy three or more, shipping is free.  For more information email me at:  kileenp@gmail.com.

 

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Here’s a great little trip you can take, especially to see the fall foliage in the Ozark Mountains, but also good in late spring or during the summer.  The Ozark Mountains in Arkansas beckon you.  I wrote once about Mountain View, a mountain music and crafts center mecca but this area is also great to visit.

Let me tell you a little about the Hot Springs area.  Everyone knows Bill Clinton was born in Hope but about 70 miles north nestled in the mountains is Hot Springs.  He moved there as a young man and I remember hearing stories of how his mother loved playing the ponies at the Hot Springs horse track.

But there are a lot of other things to do in this area known for its thermal springs and bath houses. The water that flows from the underground springs are believed to have healing abilities and were first discovered hundreds of years ago by Native Americans.

While here you may want to consider a sunset dinner cruise aboard the Belle of Hot Springs riverboat.   A visit through Hot Springs National Park is also a must. Then onto the opulently restored Fordyce Bathhouse on Bathhouse Row is a site to behold.  (this is also where the National Park has their Visitor Center).  Finally check out the Gangster Museum where you are transported back to the 20s, 30s and 40s when gambling and bootlegging coexisted with the warm mineral waters of this awesome little valley town.

Nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks, the quaint town of Van Buren offers a chance to step back in time by strolling through the beautifully restored Victorian Main Street.  Then you can climb aboard the Arkansas-Missouri Scenic Railroad. The turn of the century passenger cars with their elegant mahogany interior which was the norm in the golden age of rail travel, is fun to ride.

Since you are a hop skip and a jump away from Branson why not continue on to this music mecca.

An evening aboard the showboat Branson Belle with dinner and entertainment is a great end to a wonderful day.  This was the best tasting food I have ever had on a riverboat and the entertainment was good, too. Since you are in Branson, what else can you do?  Take in a show, of course.  There are morning shows, afternoon shows and evening shows.  Some of the shows you can take in are The Osmonds, The Million Dollar Quartet, Down Home Country, The Brett Family Show, the Clay Cooper Country Music Express, The Haygoods Show, and #1 Hits of the 60s and the 50s.

And if you enjoy these shows come back anytime in November and December to see their special Christmas shows.

So much to see and do in magical Arkansas.

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I have been doing tours in Colorado for years but for some reason have never been to Rocky Mountain National Park.  The park is only a 2 hour drive from Denver but it is to the north and we don’t usually go that direction.   However we have recently changed one of our tours to include this park and I was really excited to get a chance to visit.
A popular summer resort and the headquarters for Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park lies along the Big Thompson River. The town has a population of just over 6,000 and it’s elevation is 7,522 feet.
There is early evidence of Native Americans living in the area for hundreds of years. In the 1850s, the Arapaho spent summers camped around Mary’s Lake, where their rock fireplaces, tipi sites, and dance rings are still visible. They also built eagle traps atop Long’s Peak to get the war feathers coveted by all tribes.  They battled with the Apaches in the 1850s, and also fought with the Utes who came to the area to hunt bighorn sheep.
Whites probably came into the Estes Park valley before the 1850s as trappers, but did not stay long. The town is named after Missouri native Joel Estes, who founded the community in 1859. Estes moved his family there in 1863.
Griff Evans and his family came to Estes Park in 1867 to act as caretakers for the former Estes ranch. Recognizing the potential for tourism, he began building cabins to accommodate travelers. Soon it was known as the first dude ranch, with guides for hunting, fishing, and mountaineering.
In 1884, Enos Mills (1870-1922) left Kansas with his family and came to Estes Park, where his relative Rev. Elkanah Lamb lived. That move proved significant for the area because Mills became a naturalist and conservationist who devoted his life after 1909 to preserving nearly a thousand square miles of Colorado as Rocky Mountain National Park.
Mills was a sickly boy and he believed he gained strength form the pure mountain air.  He opened an inn and led many hikers through his beloved mountain range.  Between logging and a chance encounter with John Muir (the “Father of the National Parks”) after Muir died in 1914, Mills began lobbying Congress to save the land as a National Park. He succeeded and the park was dedicated in 1915.
Today, Estes Park’s outskirts include The Stanley Hotel, built in 1909. An example of Edwardian opulence, the building had Stephen King as a guest, inspiring him to change the locale for his novel The Shining from an amusement park to the Stanley’s fictional stand-in, the Overlook Hotel.
The town was also the site of the organization of the Credit Union National Association, an important milestone in the history of American credit unions.
Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved highway in the United States, runs from Estes Park westward through Rocky Mountain National Park, reaching Grand Lake over the continental divide.  It is a forty-eight mile road and you reach the summit where the Alpine Visitor Center is located at 12,183 feet.  Wow…talk about cold and windy but breathtaking.
The park is one of the most visited and with it’s location so close to Denver one can understand why.  There are 56 mountains over 14,000 feet in Colorado and as you travel through the park you can see Long’s Peak to the south; the northernmost “fourteener” as those mountains are called, at 14,259 feet.
One third of the park is above timberline and that makes sense with over seventy 12,000+ foot high peaks in the area.  As you drive the Trail Ridge Road the first stop is Horseshoe Park, full of wildlife, especially elk.  And the Bighorn Sheep feed regularly at Sheep Lake.
There are many places you can stop to hike or camp but just driving the road can also be exciting.  Once you get past timberline you can see the importance of this park in protecting the fragile alpine tundra, where trees can not grow due to such very harsh conditions.  Over three hundred very hardy alpine plants make up this area.  Twenty fiver percent of these plants can also be found in the arctic.  This is also a wildlife sanctuary for the many Bighorn sheep who are a symbol of the park.
After you reach the summit, the road descends to Grand Lake and the Colorado River.  The river starts in the park and if you travel on I-70 you can follow it to Grand Junction where it turns south to the Grand Canyon and beyond.
If you are interested in reading more about Colorado be sure and check my two part articles called “Colorado by Trains.”  Colorado is truly an exciting state to visit.  Although it is not known as “The Mountain State”–that title belongs to West Virginia–it is truly a wondrous mountain state.

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