Vail Daily travel: A Grand getaway | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily travel: A Grand getaway

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

Erin Thames/Special to the DailyThe North Shore Lodge on the shore of Lake Granby, just four miles from Grand Lake.

“So, did you do girly things, like go to the spa and have tea and stuff?” my friend John asked me via text about a trip I took to Grand Lake with four friends the first weekend in October. Even though we were only a little more than two hours from home, it felt like a world away.

“Not even close,” I wrote back.

We were too busy taking a boat tour of Grand Lake, hiking to waterfalls, wandering through the town’s old cemetery, checking out the graves of Grand Lake pioneers and looking for wildlife at dusk in Rocky Mountain National Park.

And since it was the height of the fall colors, we gawked at the golden leaves. While there aren’t a ton of aspen trees in the area, the smattering of yellow and orange really popped against the dark green pines. The contrast was stunning.

Over two days, we laughed constantly. It was a girls’ weekend to remember and the beginning of what will hopefully be an every-few-months tradition.

Let’s start from the beginning. We arrived at North Shore Lodge on a Friday night. The quaint lodge is located on the north shore of Lake Granby, about four miles from Grand Lake. The two-bedroom “Family Getaway” unit was cozy and warm and had everything we needed – a full kitchen, plenty of beds and a great view. A shared deck looks out at the lake and the mountains beyond. There are also communal grills and a fire pit. Word to the wise, be sure to bring the fixings for s’mores … something we forgot.

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After unpacking our bags, and having a welcome-to-Lake Granby cocktail, we headed into Grand Lake for dinner at El Pacifico, a reasonably priced Mexican food joint in the center of town. Pinatas hung from the ceiling and a one-man-band played cover songs in the corner, making us think we’d stumbled into an apres scene on Bridge Street. But the margaritas were decent and the Dos Equis fish tacos were quite tasty.

The next morning after breakfast in our own cozy kitchen – homemade cheese grits, fried eggs, bacon and mimosas – we headed back to Grand Lake, to the town-owned Headwaters Marina for a 10:30 a.m. boat tour. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky as we hopped on a pontoon boat for the hourlong tour, which, lucky for us, was given by Jerry Hassoldt, the marina manager and a longtime (we’re talking 50-some years) local who knows everyone and everything about the town. He’s a salty-but-kind soul who has breakfast with the mayor every morning and clearly loves Grand Lake. Over the course of the tour, we got to peek at the houses lining the shore of the lake, most of which are occupied only two or three weeks out of the year. He pointed out which homes were for sale and for how much and entertained us with tidbits about which owners lock up and which do not, bear intrusions, etc. He pointed out actor Tim Allen’s home and the pier where Allen and his most recent bride got married. As an osprey circled above us, he gave us a quick history lesson: Grand Lake is the largest and deepest natural lake in Colorado and the headwaters of the Colorado River. The “liquid gold” is pumped to Shadow Mountain under the Continental Divide to the Big Thompson River and then to the South Platte River.

After the tour, we struck out for Adam’s Falls, a series of small-but-pretty waterfalls not far from the middle of Grand Lake Village. After the quick hike (it’s less than a mile), we walked the town’s main drag, ducking into stores filled with mountain cabin-style knick knacks and window shopping the many jewelry stores lining the street. We bought iced dirty chai lattes and took them down to the boat dock, where we lazed about in the sun, sipping and chatting until our rumbling stomachs roused us enough to head back to the lodge. For lunch, we sat on the benches overlooking Lake Granby and ate curried chicken salad sandwiches and homemade spinach dip and crackers.

That afternoon, after a quick walk near the lodge, we set out to explore the area a bit more. After taking a wrong turn on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, we ended up at the town’s cemetery, which is one of the few active cemeteries located within a national park. Misty raindrops didn’t stop us from walking around the headstones, searching for the oldest graves we could find. Many a Grand County pioneer is buried between the tall pine trees dotting the gently sloping hillside.

Next, we headed into the park, where we hoped to spot a moose. Instead, we joined a slew of other cars pulled over haphazardly on the side of the road snapping photos of a regal bull elk who stood frozen near the road, watching the people watch him. But the real spectacle came next. While driving home, we had to pull the car over to the side of the road to fully absorb the purple and orange colors splayed across the sky as the sun sank.

Dinner was comfort food at its best – a tray of homemade ribs and creamy macaroni and cheese. We devoured every one of those ribs, barbecue sauce smeared on our fingers and mouths, and took second helpings of the heavy-on-the-good-stuff pasta. Then we stayed up ’til midnight playing dominoes and Cranium and drinking tequila cocktails and red wine.

Nope … it was definitely not a spa or tea-sipping kind of weekend.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.