July 19, 2014
Historic Baldpate Inn
Estes Park, Colorado
At least once each summer or fall we head south of Estes Park for lunch at the Historic Baldpate Inn. The rustic log lodge was first established just two years after Rocky Mountain National Park was designated. Since them vacationers and locals have found rest and repast after a park hike or visit.
The glassed-in porch dining room lures us for the inn’s soup and salad bar – or, shouldn’t I say tub – accompanied by homemade breads and desserts. Each day two different soups are featured, generally one hearty meat soup and a vegetarian selection. Yesterday, when we visited, beef stew and pumpkin curry soup were the daily choices. We all gave double thumbs up to the pumpkin curry and the two guys also enjoyed the beef stew.
An antique clan-footed bath tub filled with ice holds an array of glass jars and bowls of salad choices. Starting with either a leafy greens mix or fresh spinach (or some of both) we then select from traditional add-ons such as cucumbers, red radiates, black olives, carrots, jicama, bacon-bits, croutons, raisins. Homemade salad dressings top our custom salads. We also find three specialty salads each day. Yesterday we tried all three – fresh fruit in a lime/poppyseed dressing, a crisp corn/carrot/pepper salad and fruit in a light, creamy creation. Yum!
Hearty wheat bread is a daily staple and almost always their ever popular cornbread. My son Michael had one bite yesterday and said, “Taste just like yours Mom.” That’s because when I make cornbread it’s right out of the Baldpate Inn Cookbook. Moist with cream-style corn and shredded cheese this recipe can’t be beat. Usually we find two kinds of muffins or hot rolls. The lemon blueberry muffins were yummy yesterday but my all-time favorites are the butterscotch banana muffins.
Then it’s time for the very serious business of making one’s dessert selection. A silver tray holds slices of the available choices. Pies with flaky crusts are highlighted – rhubarb, cherry, blueberry, peach, apple, pecan, chocolate creme, key lime. Want it warm with a scoop of ice cream?
Walls of the dining room are covered with a historical collection of autographed photo portraits. Throughout our leisurely meal our eyes are drawn to the view across the pine forested treetops and the dozens of hummingbirds feeding just outside the windows. How could be ask for a better ambiance?
We never leave without revisiting the key room. A mystery novel, Seven Keys to Baldpate, inspired the inn’s name. When the author visited the inn and stated it was so similar to his imaginary Baldpate Inn.
Contributed by loyal guests today’s key collection is thought to be the world’s largest and includes ones for the Pentagon, Westminster Abbey, and Frankenstein’s castle. Keys hang from the ceiling, cover the walls and fill glass display cases. Attached tags tell interesting histories Each visit reveals a new story; such as, Key No. 7 that seven-year-old Timmy stole in 1952 and returned sixty years later. We watch children of guests who’ve left keys in the past search for that one special family key.
The porch calls guest to relax in one of the log rockers or the swing, enjoying deep breaths of pine-scented fresh air and conversation with family or friends. When the need to stir arises there’s a trail around nearby Lily Lake or longer hikes into Rocky Mountain National Park.
Baldpate lodging includes four cabins and twelve guest rooms in the inn – most of the lodge rooms share baths, all rooms have sinks, colorful quilts adorn each bed. Cabins range from one room to three bedrooms plus family room. All of the cabins have fireplaces and baths, two with whirlpools in addition to showers. Room rates include a three-course breakfast and late-evening snack. The Inn is open from Memorial Day weekend until mid-October. Perhaps we’ll return when golden aspen color the mountainsides.
When You Go: Baldpate Inn, 4900 S. Highway 7 (7 miles south of Estes Park), 970-586-6151, www.BaldpateInn.com.
July 16, 2014
Chihuly in the Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Botanic Gardens hosts Dale Chihuly’s glass creations from June thru November 2014. Thousands of glass pieces placed among the garden’s plantings draw large daily attendance. We joined the admirers yesterday, spending four hours appreciating not just the Chihuly exhibits but also the lush gardens which are looking exceptional. We noted the large crew of volunteers working meticulously to keep everything looking its best.
Pools and waterways provide marvelous mirrors for many of the glass works. We had the fortunate opportunity to see some of these same installations this spring at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. Watery reflections create entirely different views.
While photographing the White Tower a lady commented that she thought the best view was from the east, down a long green grassy stretch. I prefer the mirror image the pond provides. To each their own.
I also recommend taking time to observe individual components of the installations. It’s easy to admire the overall visual effect but looking at a single element or small groupings proves worthwhile. Does that single blue piece in the Monet Pool remind you of a waterfowl bending to feed?
I loved listening to children’s reactions and views of the glass and gardens. At a viewpoint for the Blue and Purple Boat a five-year-old thought the purple pieces looked like frog feet reaching for the water. I’ve seen those same pieces several times, frog feet never entered my mind but upon consideration I thought, he’s right.
Bob labeled the blue pieces floating nearby Hershey Kisses; Chihuly calls them Walla Wallas after the famous Washington onions. It’s all in one’s perception.
We were so taken with the gardens we almost forgot to visit Boettcher Memorial Center and Tropical Conservatory. Of course there’s Chihuly works incorporated among the plantings plus a small viewing area for a video – worth seeing but unfortunately the facility chosen is only one-tenth the size needed.
We found it interesting that a month into the exhibit the Chihuly team had arrived with another semi-truck of glass and were placing additional installations along the O’Fallon Perennial Walk and The Eclipse. Apparently when Dale Chihuly visited the opening he felt these areas were a little spare and, always the perfectionist, wanted to make some additions.
All the more reason to return plus the fact that seeing the show at different times of day, under varying lighting conditions and through the summer and fall seasons will always offer something new.
July 15, 2014
Lilies in Bloom
Denver Botanic Gardens
A visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens today brought many pleasures including a large variety of lilies in the peak of their bloom. Temporary Dale Chihuly glass installations throughout the gardens (through November) draws large admiring crowds. I’ve never seen the gardens looking so good. We found we took as many flower pictures as we did of the glass. As much as we admire Chihuly’s creativity, Mother Nature is up to the challenge and holding her own.
When You Go: Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St., Denver, CO, 720-865-3501, http://www.botanicgardens.org/.
July 8, 2014
National Grasslands Visitor Center
Wall, South Dakota
“These wind-swept seas of grass and wildflowers – four million acres in all – have witnessed the pageant of the frontier, the Dust Bowl, and the dramatic recovery into a great national treasure. Come visit the 20 publicly-owned National Grasslands administered by the USDA Forest Service.”
From the America’s National Grasslands brochure and website
Four million grassland acres in 20 designated areas stretching across 13 states yet only a single visitor center is dedicated to the National Grasslands. The center is located in Wall, South Dakota surrounded by the Buffalo Gap National Grassland.
On this trip alone we’ve passed through six of the Grasslands so it seemed logical to make a stop at the visitor center. A 25-minute video, “America’s Grasslands,” gives a historical perspective and explains their mission.
Exhibits feature plants, wildlife and history of the Great Plains, recreational opportunities and use management. Hands-on activities encourage interaction and we note youngsters at work on their Jr. Ranger program. We are pleased to identify some of the specific grasses and plants we had noted and left with a greater appreciation of grasslands conservation.
With a wet spring and early summer this was a very good year and time of year to visit the northern plains. Through Nebraska, North and South Dakota the rolling hills are a vibrant green often edged with sweet yellow clover. Grasses leaning with the wind to a horizon unbroken by fences give a sense of the possible scene two centuries ago, truly a national treasure.
When You Go: The National Grasslands Visitor Center, 708 Main Street, Wall, South Dakota, 605-279-2125, www.fs.usda.gov/nebraska.
July 8, 2014
Wall Drug Store
Wall, South Dakota
If your idea of vacation fun is jostling elbows with humanity intent on exploring every shelve of tacky tourist souvenirs don’t miss Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota. Indeed if you’re traveling within a hundred miles of Wall it would be hard to miss. At every opportunity a Wall Drug Store billboard has been constructed. Imagine – Free Ice Water, Cafe That Seats 530, Donuts, Ice Cream, 5 Cent Coffee – on and on. Wow, can you stand the anticipation?
Dorothy and Ted Hustead purchased the only drug store in Wall, SD in late 1931 (in the midst of the Great Depression). Struggling to make a go of the venture in 1936 Dorothy came up with the idea of offering free ice water. The advertising campaign begun. The Hustead family still runs the business; and, gives out thousands of glasses of free ice water each day.
The large indoor structure is divided into individual retail spaces similar to an indoor mall. it’s all Wall Drug. Jewelry, moccasins, shot glasses, books, Western art, or perhaps you’re in need of a ceramic rooster – whatever your heart desires. And, yes there is a drug counter.
Personal Disclaimer: We went to Wall Drug Store on a hot July day after exploring Badlands National Park and having a less than satisfactory lunch experience in a local eatery. Wall Drug was packed, I was tired, grumpy and still had things to do and miles to drive before we slept that night. Perhaps at another time I would find the store fascinating, after all they’ve expanded and stayed in business for 83 years.
I will admit to bellying up to the ice cream counter for soft serve with caramel topping so it wasn’t all negative. I bet if I’d looked hard enough I could have found a “Wall Drug – Been There, Done That” t-shirt. After all, two million visitors a year can say, “Been there, done that.”
When You Go: Wall Drug Store, 510 Main Street, Wall, South Dakota (not a chance you could miss it), 605-279-2175, www.walldrug.com. If you can’t make it to Wall you can always shop online!
July 5, 2014
Washburn, North Dakota
November 3, 1804: “We commence building our cabins.”
From: The Journal of William Clark
Led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark the Corps of Discovery traveled up the Missouri River from St. Louis for nearly six months. Realizing they needed a place to spend the approaching winter they stopped along the river near present day Washburn, North Dakota.
Groves of cottonwoods provided the wood needed for constructing the triangular fort. Bunk rooms, store rooms and work rooms face inward with 16-foot picket exterior. In just three weeks Corps members were moving into the primitive structure, hurrying to finish the roofs before the worst weather arrived. More than 40 men were to spend the harsh winter in tight quarters at Fort Mandan until early April.
November 20, 1804: “Capt Lewis & my Self move into our huts, a very hard wind from the W.”
From: the Journal of William Clark
During those months the men hunted bison, established relationships with native tribes, and prepared for the journey westward towards the Rocky Mountains. Trading goods for food with the Mandan Indians living nearby was essential to winter survival. In late February men were assigned the task of carving four dugout canoes; they finished in 22 days.
February 28, 1805: “Sent out 16 men to make four Perogus those men returned in the evening and informed that they found trees they thought would answer.”
From: the Journal of William Clark
Lewis and Clark compiled their observations, notes and specimens to be sent back to President Jefferson in the spring. It was here that Lewis and Clark hired fur-trapper Toussaint Charbonneau. When the Corps of Discovery left Fort Mandan in April 1805 Charbonneau, his wife Sacagawea and infant son Jean Baptiste served as interpreters and guides.
November 4, 1804: “a french man by Name Chabonah, who Speaks the Big Belley language visit us, he wished to hire & informed us his 2 Squars were Snake Indians, we engau him to go on with us and take one of his wives to interpret the Snake language”
From: the Journal of William Clark
When the Corps returned on their homeward journey in 1806 they found that the fort had burnt to the ground.
The Missouri River has changed course over two centuries, it is believed the original site of the fort is now underwater. Nearby a replica fort has been constructed, furnished much as it would have been during the 1804-05 winter.
Interpreters give guided tours; during our visit our guide was very knowledgable, bringing time at the fort come to life with fascinating details. He noted that several of the doors are hung incorrectly – they swing outward which would have made it impossible to open after the heavy snowfalls. As today’s temperature hovered near 100 degrees it stretched our imagination to feel the -45 degrees the Corps suffered. Many of the men experienced frostbite but all survived.
April 7, 1805: “Sunday, at 4 oClock …we Sout out on our voyage up the river in 2 perigues and 6 canoes, and proceded on to the 1st villg. of Mandans & Camped on the S.”
From: the Journal of William Clark
A large hands-on activity area in the visitor center attracts youngsters to try on outfits, don hats and climb into a replica dugout canoe.
When You Go: Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Washburn, North Dakota (38 miles north of Bismarck), 877-462-8535, www.fortmandan.com.
July 4, 2014
Scandinavian Heritage Center
The Scandinavian Heritage Center celebrates the heritage and culture of five Scandinavian countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Located in a peaceful park setting next to the Minot Visitor Center, the site honors immigrant ancestors who settled in the area. The centerpiece is a full-sized replica of the Gol Stave Church built in the early thirteenth century and now located at the Norwegian Cultural Heritage Site in Oslo, Norway. The intricate construction reflects rich symbolism traditional to Norwegian stave churches.
Unfortunately the church was not open when we visited but we met a young local couple who were married in the church four years ago. They return each year on their anniversary for photographs.
Other structures in the park include a Danish windmill, a grass-roofed stabbur (storehouse), a colorful, 30-foot tall Swedish Dala horse, and a 230-year-old log house from Sigdal, Norway. Sculptures represent a famed ski jumper, a Norwegian skier, Leif Eirikssen and Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. A walkway winds through the neatly landscaped grounds, and pass a pond, waterfall, Plaza Scandinavia (granite map) and Eternal Flame.
When You Go: Scandinavian Heritage Center, 1020 S. Broadway, Minot ND, 701-852-9161, http://scandinavianheritage.org.