I'll admit it. It crept up on me. I was hanging a couple pictures when I saw the plaque under our wedding picture with the date. Crap! Calm down, she might forget (and my VW Rabbit might magically change into a Ferrari). I have all kinds of excuses, but at the same time each year I seem to up the ante. We won't count the first year; I was working in Boston and she was driving the moving truck halfway across the country. Since then there has been Vancouver, BC, Seattle/Portland/Walla Walla, Toronto/Montreal, and then last year was a month in Paris. How was I going to top that with only 10 days?! After a mild bout of panic and fairly certain she wouldn't divorce me if this year was a local celebration I started looking at restaurants. That's the thing to do right? In our town there are two excellent fine dining places, but we have already been there this year (just because and Valentine's Day). Then I started looking farther afield. We would have from the time she was off work Sunday afternoon until Tuesday morning when I had to be in to work. We could reasonably go up to Aspen or Vail right? Yes we could, but since the ski season reopened (what summer in Colorado?!) it was much more than I was prepared to spend. That left us with Estes Park. Estes Park! Of course! Our first visit to Estes Park was the first time she had seen the "real" mountains and the first time she had really experienced the raw beauty of the Western US. Poor Southern Belle's really need to get out more. No, wait, on second thought they don't. It lets us Western guys get a dainty young woman and reveal the world to them. It really is an amazing thing to watch my wife's face when we go somewhere new. It makes our trips so much more fun for me. Where to stay was almost a no brainer, if the price was right. Her whole family are HUGE Stephen King fans. The Stanley Hotel sits like a white Victorian castle overlooking the city. Famous for inspiring Stephen King's writing of The Shining and more recently as a haunted destination for all those spook shows on TV. To my pleasant surprise they offer 15% off the room rate to Colorado residents bringing the price down to $230 a night for a standard queen room. Sold! They offer many add-ons like a cheese plate or champagne or, since it IS the Stanley, a meeting with the resident psychic. No add-on for guaranteed haunting, but that's okay. The drive up to Estes Park was relaxing. We were going up the mountain as everyone else was going down. We took US-36 through Lyons and crested the hill overlooking Estes Park 30-minutes later. We pulled up to the gatehouse where the ghost tour goers and other such people handed over their money to park. The gate guard greeted us and upon stating we were checking in he verified our names against the guest list and welcomed us to the hotel. We parked and stepped into the hotel first constructed in 1909. The lobby is dark stained wood and green wallpapered walls. Those that saw the ABC mini-series The Shining would instantly recognize the lobby. The front desk greeted us and checked us into room 202. I was hoping they still used the old brass keys displayed behind the desk, but alas they have upgraded to the modern keycard system. Oh well . Our room was next to the original Otis elevator and a short couple of steps from the main stairs from the lobby. We did hear footsteps at night, but I'm relatively sure they were living humans, especially because one sneezed. I've never heard of a sneezy ghost. We had a nice view of the courtyard and waterfall. The room had high ceilings and was painted in the original colors of the hotel, not the dark scary colors of the mini-series. There was a faint smell of woodsmoke in the room despite the lack of a fireplace. A ghost?! No. The hotel's original construction is steelframe with local wood. Most of that wood was from a burn area, so on warm days a closed room will still take on the smell of woodsmoke. Cool, but not spectral. There is no air conditioning so we opened the windows. It wasn't hot (75 or so degrees), but the breeze out of the mountains was just too nice to ignore. The closet was huge and had all the usual closet type things you would expect. No secret passages or ghostly things. The bathroom was also very big. In fact they could have put a shower next to the bathtub and it still would have been more spacious than most hotel bathroom. As it was it felt giant. And no bathroom fan. Just like we would have done in 1909 we had to open the bathroom window when taking a hot shower. Somehow that just felt right. There is a TV, but it hides in a large armoire. There are the usual channels and then there is the Stanley Hotel only channels. The Shining streams 24/7 on channel 42 just for your viewing pleasure. After exploring our room we turned our mind to lunch, or dinner, let's just call it lunner. Either way we were hungry and wanted to eat. The hotel was a bit busy from all the ghost tour goers and members of a wedding running around so we walked down into town. It's a bit of a walk, and might call for a car in your mind. You'll want to go ahead and ignore that calling. The only road through downtown becomes a madhouse with standing traffic and pedestrians roaming everywhere. We walked down to the opposite side of downtown from the hotel to get to Penelope's. We had been before back on an Easter Sunday a few years ago when snow was flying fast and furious outside. This time in the warmth we ordered hotdogs and onion rings and watched the goings on outside. There are only a couple of chains in town (Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway, and Dairy Queen come to mind) so it really forces you to investigate all the little places. Feeling most satiated we strolled back toward the hotel only distracted once by the taffy pulling machine. It's like a hypnotic little device. You want to touch it. We resisted that as well as the finished product and headed back up the hill to the Stanley. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the grounds of the hotel and the other floors of the main building. It is a fantastic property with stunning views. The staff was all around warm and friendly. We were greeted by everyone even when we were just walking up the sidewalk outside. The staff was more than willing to answer questions or offer suggestions for things to do or places to explore on the property. The evening came quickly and owing to our late lunch/early dinner we didn't feel the need for a meal that night. We watched a bit of The Shining, but before long sleep was more important. I'm sad to report there were no strange phenomenons or spooky noises.