I walked out of my Estes Park cabin at the Baldpate Inn to go for a hike at one of the two nearby trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. Two women were screeching about how something had just walked right up to the library door of the main lodge and then skittered across the driveway and off into the woods when they spotted it. Later that night while relaxing in my cabin, I thought I heard a bear rummaging around outside, but never saw it. I kept an eye open during my stay at the Baldpate Inn, though, both hopeful and nervous at the prospect of seeing a bear up close.
My room was not quite ready when I arrived. But I was early. I am always early. So I can’t fault the Baldpate for that, especially since it was only about five minutes past the morning checkout time. Check-in was still hours away. I was fortunate to have this extra time, though, since I could spend it walking through the Baldpate’s historic key collection.
Somehow the idea of a seeing a key museum was of interest to me. I really thought it was quite silly, but was attracted to the novelty of it nonetheless. So I looked forward to the opportunity the most during my stay at the Baldpate Inn. And when I arrived way too early for check-in, I took advantage of that extra time to see it, and was more than pleasantly surprised. It was a fantastic exhibit that could have captivated me for hours.
There are ancient keys, keys to other hotels, keys from all over the United States, keys from across the globe; it’s really quite amazing, all of the keys – their different shapes, designs, artistry, etc. – which are on display. There is a key to Mozart’s wine cellar, one to George Washington’s Revolutionary War headquarters, keys to handcuffs used by the Colorado State Patrol back in 1965, one to Fort Knox and another to the Philadelphia Mint, and, oddly enough, even a key to Adolph Hitler’s desk and air raid shelter. About the only thing they don’t have one for in the collection of well more than 20,000 keys is one for the White House. George H.W. Bush sent them a letter, though, explaining that “The keys to the White House are more symbolic than tangible. It is the votes of the American people that open the door to the White House.” So, yeah, nevermind that – they do have a key to the White House, I guess, simply based on the people who visit and stay at the Baldpate.
Which key was the first is not known. What is known, though, is that it is all there because Gordon and Ethel Mace homesteaded the land back in 1911 after honeymooning in the area. They built cabins and, later, a lodge from timber they cut by hand from trees right there on the property. The Baldpate was so named for the mystery novel by Earl Derr Biggers, who suggested it during a visit because the family’s hotel resembled the imaginary one he wrote about in his novel. Guests who stayed there used to receive a key of their own to the Inn. But when World War I started, the price of metal became too much and they could not give away keys. So instead guests brought them the most interesting and exotic keys they could find. And so the collection grew and the display began.
I wandered through the key museum for what must have been an hour and left thinking I didn’t have nearly enough time to look through and admire everything. My room was ready, though, and I was eager to get out for a hike, so I departed with the thought I would return. This didn’t happen, since I ran out of time; even though I feared I would spend a lot of time driving back into town because the Baldpate Inn is seven miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7, there is a lot to do in the area around the Inn. And I spent a lot of time just enjoying the area.
After unloading my car into my nearby cabin, I immediately headed up to the Twin Sisters Peaks trailhead. It was late in the afternoon and I was worried about making the 11,428 foot summit (3,483 meters) before sundown. The sky was gray and threatening rain, so I hustled as fast as I could to reach the summit; rain in Colorado also means lightning, and I had no desire of being struck by lightning on this day. Or really any day for that matter.
The trail is a little over three miles one way. I was about a mile from the top, right where it really starts to get steep, and the deluge began. It poured down on me, almost immediately soaking me right on through. I didn’t even take a moment to consider the situation. Yes, the summit was within reach, but there was no point in risking it. I could easily make the return trip to Estes Park and the Baldpate Inn to go hiking again, since it is a quick drive up the road from my home down in Denver.
I spent most of the remainder of the evening in my cabin simply relaxing. It was comfortable with an over-sized cushy chair next to the fireplace, a large soft bed, and a huge Jacuzzi-style bathtub separate from the shower. The room was obviously made for a romantic weekend away, but I was not going to let that bother me during my stay alone. I was excited about the extra space all to myself. I was comfortable and, dare I say cozy, all on my own under a nice, warm blanket with a book.
As it is a bed and breakfast, the Baldpate didn’t have much for dinner – only a soup and salad buffet. So I made the short drive down into Estes Park to eat. I probably should have just stuck with the lighter dinner offered at the Inn, though, since breakfast was so big I could not finish it; three courses, including fruit, muffins, a huge cinnamon roll, and a quiche smothered in cheese and topped with bacon were presented to me one by one. But about halfway through, I had to raise the white flag and admit defeat. It all tasted amazing, better than I had imagined, but I could not finish it; I left with a doggy bag of eats to enjoy later.
Before leaving Estes Park, I crossed the highway and reentered Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail around Lily Lake was the second of the two trails near the Baldpate. And it was the perfect way to work off that slightly uncomfortable feeling I had obtained after eating so much at breakfast.
The trail around Lily Lake is short, only about a mile long, and flat. It is not difficult in the least. But that doesn’t mean that it is not interesting. Quite the contrary, to be honest. It is beautiful mountain scenery at its best with the more than 14,000-foot-tall Longs Peak towering over it. I stopped several times to admire it reflecting off the lake’s still surface, making the scene nothing less than picturesque.
And so, when I finally departed Estes Park and the Baldpate Inn, I left with a sense of calm I had not felt in weeks. I was wound up and stressed out, but my complimentary overnight stay with an interesting trip through the key museum, dinner in nearby Estes Park, and hikes on two different nearby trails helped me relax. It was just what I needed before returning to Denver and the office.