Kristen Lodge – Living in Grand County Vacation Land has its rewards |

Kristen Lodge – Living in Grand County Vacation Land has its rewards

Kristen Lodge / Outdoor Adventures Column
Grand County, CO Colorado

One of the benefits of living in vacation land is being a tourist in your own town when family visits and exploring the place you call home. Last week Nancy and Tim came to Grand County to visit me. I wanted to show off my town and give them a Rocky Mountain vacation they would remember.

They were on their own for the first two days while I worked. Trail Ridge Road stayed closed due to snow so they spent their afternoons in the Kawuneeche Valley watching the elk and searched for moose. I joined them after work. When I arrived, they knew exactly where to take me; we stood at the edge of Harbison Meadow and watched the elk through binoculars until dark. I became amazed at the elk as I stood next to the family from Oklahoma transfixed, as they were, at these majestic animals.

Nancy, Tim, and I spent every moment outside searching for moose, elk, and any other wildlife we could see. We were spoiled by how close the elk came to the roads. We didn’t anticipate snow and cold on day three. Instead of being inconvenienced by the snow we welcomed it; elk were easier to see in the snow. Although, I think this week reminded Nancy and Tim why they moved to Florida from Pennsylvania 12 years ago.

As we drove around Grand County we told stories. Nancy told me about deer dates with Tim at Valley Forge when they started dating. They would buy coffee and drive to Valley Forge and sit in beach chairs, talk, and watch deer. Now they were in the Rocky Mountains having elk dates while I worked. I told them about my first winter skiing at Winter Park Resort and how I loved the challenging trails and moguls. Nancy remembered her first and only ski experience in the Poconos during high school; she hasn’t skied since. As we drove on roads exploring the county I told them about my triathlon training rides in wind, rain, and snow.

We hiked Creekside Trail in the Fraser Experimental Forest looking for moose. I was certain we would see moose close to the creek; but we never did. We hiked the entire trail, stopping frequently to look through binoculars across the creek; but didn’t spot one. We drove north to Grand Lake and stopped at Pine Beach where signs state: “Moose In This Area”; there were none. We combed the shoreline, walked the trails, and didn’t even see a squirrel. I called everyone I knew to get ideas where to take Nancy and Tim to see moose. Kevin said, “County Road 4”; we drove for miles and didn’t see a moose. Denise said, “Grand Lake Golf Course”; but all we saw were Canadian Geese.

We were getting anxious. Their last day arrived and still no moose. The temperature warmed to 60 and after watching elk at Holzwarth Historic site, we drove to the Kawuneeche Visitor Center and learned Trail Ridge Road had just re-opened. We drove through snowy pine trees and stopped at the first turnoff to look down on the winding Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley. The mountains were white against a perfect blue sky. This is the world I wanted to show off. At the Alpine Visitor Center I watched a herd of elk graze on a steep slope as Tim threw a snowball at Nancy.

After the final day of elk bugling, searching for elusive moose, and driving to the top of Rocky Mountain National Park, we ate elk tenderloin at the Backstreet Steakhouse in Grand Lake. We toasted our Rocky Mountain vacation and the search for wildlife.

Three days searching for moose; I am changed from their visit. I showed them my world in more detail than I’ve lived it. I still need to find a moose and when I see a car pulled over I’m stopping, and getting the binoculars out. Their visit also reminds me – it’s not where you are but who you’re with that makes adventures in the mountains memorable. Maybe I need an elk date.