COLORADO TOURIST INFORMATION: (800) 433-2656
STATEHOUSE Denver (303) 866-2604
This is the first capitol we've been to where visitors are allowed to climb to the top of the dome and walk around its 24-carat gold-plated glory for a breezy, 360-degree view of the capital city below. Inside the 180 foot dome is a circular portrait gallery of famous Coloradans in ovals of stained glass. Each portrait has a plaque describing who the person was and his or her contribution to the state. Descending to the next level of the rotunda is the Gallery of Presidents, portraits of every president, from George Washington to Bill Clinton, each portrait painted by the same man, Laurence Williams. All paintings are originals except the portrait of Abraham Lincoln, which was stolen the first day the exhibit was unveiled. The tour guide said, "Someone walked in, put it under his arm, and walked out." Except for the bronzework, all materials used, both constructive and decorative, come from Colorado, including an unusual rose onyx marble, employed as wainscoting throughout the Capitol. This unique rose onyx marble, from Beulah, Colorado exists nowhere else in the world, and the quarry's entire stock was used exclusively for the Capitol. At the base of the wide, elaborate, grand staircase, with its gleaming, mirrorlike bronze railings, is a beautiful eight-paneled mural telling the story of Colorado. The tour guide boasts that this capitol is completely original, "nothing restored." The shining bronze, the beautiful murals, the fabulous staircase and stained glass -- and especially the Dome-Walk -- make this one of our all-time favorites.
Check it out . . . Originally the dome was made of copper, but citizens complained that copper is not native to Colorado, so it was replaced with gold. The original 200 ounces of gold were donated by Colorado miners, some donating their gold teeth. (The original gold-toothed dome has since been replaced.)
Check it out . . . Way down in the basement is the First Lady Doll collection, where dolls depict the likenss of each First Lady going since Colorado's statehood in 1876.
Check it out . . .The front steps of the capitol has a mile-high marker, noting its position one mile from sea level. Years later some university students remeasured and proved it incorrect by a few inches. Now there are two markers.
"There is a most romantic place called Estes Park, at a height of 7,500 feet. Long's Peak, 14,700 feet high, blocks up one end of Estes Park, and dwarfs all the surrounding mountains. From it rise, snow-born, the bright St. Vrain and the Big and Little Thompson rivers. By sunlight or moonlight its splintered grey crest is the one object which, in spite of wapiti, and bighorns, skunk and grizzly, unfailingly arrests the eye. From it comes all storms of snow and wind, and forked lightenings play round its head like a glory. This is another world."
-- Isabella Bird, 1873
The beautiful natural setting described by this British traveler over 125 years ago remains unchanged; however, a small town fashioned after a Swiss resort, has sprung up to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. Its main street is crowded with shops, cafes, restaurants -- some stacked on top of one another -- each offering some intriguing fare for the tired and hungry tourist, shopper, hiker or skier. Street musicians fill the air with festivity while a plenitude of tourists from all over the world stroll along the charming riverside walkways and wooden bridges. It's very crowded here, but over the years the town has managed a system that seems to move the crowd along quite civilly. It's not an annoying crowd, but more like a peripatetic party. Perhaps its the rarefied mountain air, but everyone seems in good spirits -- even the locals who regularly endure these constant visitors, are always smiling.
Rocky Mountain National Park
In addition to the hundreds of hiking trails that take you to snow-splattered peaks, tinkling waterfalls and emerald lakes, the Rocky Mountain National Park has a loop driving route that is spectacular in both its alpine scenery and constant wildlife sitings. The stupendous Trail Ridge Road ascends 12,183 feet, eleven miles above the treeline as it travels across the mountaintops gliding up and down and twirling around the frost-covered mountains like a cake decorator icing a multi-tiered wedding cake. All around are panoramic views of snow-gobbed crests, crags and valleys, with a smattering of colorful wildflowers and abundant wildlife. The occasional "traffic jam on this road is always caused by a family of bighorn sheep or a herd of elk with their majestic antlers strutting past car antennae as patient drivers watch with mouths agape and cameras flashing. Another driving route is Fall River Road which spills into the Trail Ridge Road up at the Alpine Visitor's center. This is almost a backroad route to the top, where the vistas are of green valleys, wildflower-infested meadows, streams, and waterfalls. The Fall River Road narrows very early on from the park entrance and then becomes a one-way dirt road that spirals upward to the ultimate alpine destination. Both roads offer unusually different views of the sunny, green side and dark, gray side of the mountain range's personality. Both roads are thrilling, although the Fall River Road adds a touch of danger to it as the dirt road gets smaller and smaller, higher and higher, with deeper and deeper ruts, making one feel very much like a pioneer in a prairie schooner.
OUR CAMPSITE FOR THE WEEK:
Manor RV Park, Estes Park (970) 586-3251
The RV park is in a wonderful location, close to the Rocky Mountain National Park and close to Estes Park's town center of shops, outdoor cafes, restaurants and entertainment. The scenery is beautiful but the layout of the park limits the view somewhat as RV's are "stacked" on hills. While here, we cast an envious eye toward the park next door, Spruce Lake RV Park. It lies in a valley so that all RV's are on the same level, providing an unblocked view of the marvelous Rocky Mountains that encircle the area. Both parks are situated on the shores of Thompson River, however, Spruce Lake RV Park keeps the shores open to all, but Manor RV Park, where we are, puts seasonal, almost permanent RV's on the shore, thus blocking the view and inhibiting river visitations for fear of "trespassing." Spruce Lake Park next door also has two lakes and more public facilities. It also provides a little walking bridge over the river as a shortcut to some of the shopping areas. The rates are the same at both parks. Both are clean and well-maintained. Both have friendly hosts. The only things Manor park has over Spruce Lake are: paved roads, rather than dirt roads (very necessary since due to daily afternoon thunderstorms); a fresh air, outdoor laundromat, making laundry-day less odious; and since this park caters to seniors, the neighborhood is more peaceful. So, one must decide between scenery or comfort.