Grand Lake is a darling town and I’ve enjoyed several visits here. So of course I thought I knew all about it when I arrived Sunday afternoon. (I should pause here to say that I drove from Pinewood Springs 60miles through Rocky Mountain National Park (Trail Ridge Road) enjoying what has to be some of the most stunning views anywhere.) The exact location of the Rapids Lodge was unknown to me but I decided I’d just drive around Grand Lake until I found it – which in a small town took about seven minutes, it would have taken four minutes but I had to slow down for tourists crossing the streets. I checked in and got a key to the Columbine room which is over the dining room of the lodge. The view from my window is rushing water noisily crashing over huge boulders, some of which are nearly submerged. Yesterday morning, as I stood in early sunlight, two fawns wandered out into the swirl, just feet from me, and took a moment to stare at me.
The actual Lighthouse Writers’ retreat is held at Shadowcliff which has an interesting history and an interesting philosophy. For those staying in the various cabins, check-in is when you are handed a key and a bundle of sheets and towels, neatly folded and tied with a bow. The rest is up to the guest. Meals, expertly prepared using fresh ingredients, are served cafeteria style and guests sign up to help clear afterwards. The sessions are held in the chapel and time for free write means a chance to sit in the big solid chairs and sofas in the main room.
But the views from Shadowcliff are what sets it apart. Getting to the main lodge and central buildings requires going up steep steps – but the reward is at the top. Grand Lake in its entirety is spread out and yesterday morning, a white triangle on the water marked a sailboat gently making its way across the blue-black water. Grand Lake is Colorado’s largest natural lake and the town has of course grown up around it. There is lots to see but if you want to see a vista of incredible natural contours and contrasts, a vista that will make you marvel at how Mother Nature has arranged herself and her accessories to create a sparkling ensemble, climb to the top of Shadowcliff. Walk out on the rocks and just stand and look and try to take it all in.
Oh, the writing session – they’re just fine.