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Moraine Park to Aspen Brook… An Emotional Ride

Recently, I wrote about our ride around the Cub Lake Loop, originating at the Fern Lake Trailhead parking lot. We decided to park there again, only this time we would ride out into the meadow area.

The Moraine Park meadow had a somewhat special meaning to me. My love of the Rocky Mountains, and the Estes Park area, in particular, was instilled in me because of my parents’ love for this place.

My mother, sister, and I used to rent horses in the early ’60s. Before insurance companies got involved, we could take three horses on our own for half a day! Years later, my mom shared with me that more than once she got lost. She simply gave her horse the freedom to find his own way back to the stables. I remember getting “treed” one year as we cantered across the mountain meadows!

I can’t find any photos of my mom, sister, and me on horseback in the mountains. But I do have some photos of those early days in Estes…

My father proposed to my mother in 1948 while visiting Estes Park. They retired there, a life-long dream of my mom’s. (My dad needed some convincing but ended up loving it!)

Ultimately, my parents ended up building a house in an Estes Park community known as Aspen Brook. My family and I spent many happy times at that home. We could walk into the YMCA of the Rockies property, and then make our way to the Moraine meadow.

Sadly, my parents have both passed and the home was sold. It would have been amazing to keep the home in the family, but there were no options for horses there! However, as Alan and I made our way into the meadow, I wondered if I could remember how to retrace my steps and ride to Aspen Brook…

Although it had been nearly 10 years since I had walked that path, it was familiar enough. In spite of some significant changes on the YMCA property (most likely as a result of the severe damage they suffered in the flood of 2013) we soon found ourselves crossing busy Highway 66 and riding into Aspen Brook.

My parents’ next-door neighbor, Marilyn, was a bit of a “Gladys Kravitz“. Nonetheless, my siblings and I welcomed her attention to my folks, as they were elderly and increasingly frail. Marilyn happened to be home when Alan and I rode up to the front of their house. It appeared that my parents’ home was empty.

I had a wonderful visit with Marilyn, reminiscing. As we talked, a cleaning crew appeared and entered my parents’ home. Marilyn had told me that three other families in Aspen Brook had purchased the home and that it was now permanently in the rental pool. Although it had been empty for several weeks, it was now being cleaned for occupancy.

Although I’m not sure why, I decided to go in. There had been some significant changes. I didn’t make it very deep into the home before I had to leave, as my emotions overwhelmed me. So many memories there…

We had an enjoyable (although contemplative) ride back to the trailhead. Although certainly, the average visitor is not going to set Aspen Brook as their destination, there are some great trails heading towards the YMCA and beyond. As we headed to Aspen Brook, we started by going behind the currently unoccupied Moraine Park Stables. We ended up riding for a brief time through the Moraine Park Campground, to the delight of some of the campers. We followed an overgrown trail towards the river, but we lost the trail. We got into a marshy area before we found it again. On our return trip, we stayed on it with no trouble, although once again we had to ride a short distance through the campground.

The trail takes you along Bear Lake Road, and under the road as well. It is a bridge I hiked under many times! The trail follows along the river, which flows very fast at that point. There are a couple of gates to open and close, as the park is trying to protect part of the meadow area from elk damage. The ride through the meadow is a sunny one, so sunscreen is a great idea!

Our total ride that day was 7.6 miles and it was a very easy one for the horses.

Our new tags are a bit delayed but still due within a week or two. Additionally, I wanted to share the news about an upcoming podcast. I was approached by Sandra Sullivan of Horse Habit TV about doing a podcast called “All Things Horse!” Thus far, we have recorded some very interesting information. We have had guest speakers discussing equine eye emergencies, training your horse yourself, the Horses of Gili, the brand new and rapidly growing EquusTV, and Carole Mercer and the Dancing Morgans. Additionally, we have several speakers scheduled for the next few weeks: a discussion about Cushing’s Disease in horses, EPM and related diseases, equine nutrition, selling a horse property, and lots of other great topics. Details to follow on the launch date and location!

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