Colorado: Farewell in the Mountains

As  I mentioned before, I recently returned from Colorado, where my family had gathered in order to scatter the ashes of my father, who died last year.

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We had arrived into Denver, but for my dad’s event we drove up to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, near the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park.  We gathered there because my dad enjoyed the area–he spent a lot of time there as a young man, and he seemed to continue to enjoy returning there later in life.

The Stanley Hotel is an interesting place with an interesting history.  It was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley opened in 1909.

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In on the lobby of the place, one can find a Stanley Steamer, an early car produced by Freelan and his twin brother Francis, after they sold off their pioneering work in photography dry plates to Eastman Kodak.

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It’s a nice hotel with its own beautiful views…

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…as well as one honking huge meatloaf at one of the restaurants that my brother ordered for lunch one day.

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Seriously, what?!

The Stanley Hotel is famous in popular culture for its role in inspiring The Shining, the best-selling novel by best-selling author Stephen King. Apparently, he stayed there back in the 1970’s, and through a series of experiences got the outline for his popular ghost story during that stay.

It’s not the hotel where Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation was filmed, however. Apparently, King wasn’t a fan of that movie, and later, another adaption–a TV miniseries–was made with a script that King wrote.  As my family and I sat waiting for the evening “spooky tour” of the hotel, they showed us a few minutes of that miniseries. Again, I’m not a big horror movie fan, but at a glance, it looked pretty terrible.

Our tour was run by an enthusiastic guide named Cody (Kody?) who told us all about the history of the hotel, the story of Stephen Kings stay there, and most significantly, all of the spirits (interactive and non-interactive) that live throughout the hotel, and how to best experience them.

As it happens, I’m not remotely interested in experiencing the ghosts of the Stanley Hotel, or of any other locality. Indeed, there’s little room in my worldview for for the spirits of the deceased to wander endlessly through vague repetitions of their former habits, even ones they used to enjoy—and its even harder to swallow if we’re going to say that they are in part mechanistically subject to the actions and whims of hotel staff, guests and tourists. Still, the tour was well done, informative, and amusing.

Incidentally, Dumb & Dumber was also filmed in part at the Stanley Hotel, but sadly there were no behind-the-scenes anecdotes on the tour about how any experiences at the hotel inspired Jeff Daniels for that extended toilet-laxative scene.

Anyway, the accommodation was nice, but the real reason we were there was for my dad. On the first morning we were there, we eleven relatives drove out in three cars along Trail Ridge Road, which is apparently the country’s highest continuous paved road.

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It’s a beautiful trip, and it was great to go there in the Autumn, as we did. The place is covered with aspen trees, which trees turn a bright yellow in the Autumn.

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That creates a striking effect when intermixed with the evergreens in the area.

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We did the “ceremony” off the road at a place called Medicine Bow Curve Scenic Overlook Lookout, which was one of the road’s many memorable vistas.  It was the first time I’d ever scattered someone’s ashes. Actually, it was only half the ashes, as we’re planning on putting the rest into a grave sometime later. And it turns out that there are quite a lot of ashes in a person, and it took a bit of effort to actually scatter everything.

Afterwards, we continued to have a look around, and visited the Alpine Visitor Center where I had some tasty chili at the cafe and bought some souvenirs, including a small branding iron with the initial of my steak-loving daughter (to mark her steaks!)  At 11, 796 feet (or 3,595 meters) the Alpine Visitor Center is the highest visitor’s center in America’s National Park Service.

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We also went a bit higher by walking up a nearby hill.  Again, beautiful scenery abounds.

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It’s not necessarily my favorite landscape, but is amazing.  And it was a fitting place to farewell my dad, considering how much he enjoyed the area.  It was special to be able to see place, in a manner of speaking, through my father’s eyes.

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I’m very glad that I was able to go, and the whole process was meaningful to do with my family.  We are all so spread out around the earth that it’s a rare treat for us to be together. The moments when we are together are not perfect–like all families, we certainly have our issues—but it’s worth the effort when we can make it happen, especially when it’s around something as meaningful as remembering our dad.


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