Learning about Baldpate
We had learned about the place when flipping through a 60-year-old cookbook, which featured the inn's tuna noodle casserole recipe. It was fall of 2015, when we tracked the inn down. We fell for the quirky place and vowed to come back for a stay... even if they no longer serve the casserole.
This past spring I began trying to reach the hotel to make reservations. I knew the place closed down from fall to summer, but I became more than frustrated when 8 emails and 12 phone calls were not returned. I was close to giving up, when I made one last attempt and got reservations.
"Stay Before It's Gone"
Don and I have a list of old hotels we hope to enjoy before they disappear. Smaller, lesser known hotels can close unexpectedly. We've experienced that surprise upon arrival, twice.
As we drove down the gravel road towards The Baldpate, I braced myself for disappointment. My reservations had been online and I'd never spoken with anyone. Plus, I had spotted a notice about the Baldpate being up for sale. But the heavy door with wooden bolt was standing wide open when we arrived!
After months of fretting over the owner's lack of communication, I was delighted by the welcoming summer staff at the desk. One young woman gave us hiking suggestions and another asked if we needed help with bags. I turned from the desk to see the empty couches in the cozy lobby. Two years ago on a cold rainy day, the space had looked different with hikers and families, warming up around the fireplace.
Remembering the weather 2 years earlier, we decided to take the hiking advice. Just up the gravel road from the inn, we found Lily Lake, which was part of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Easy access to RMNP was an added perk.
Back at the inn, we explored. If the weather had been crummy, I would have enjoyed curling up with a book in front of the library's stone fireplace.
I should have checked the shelves to see if they had a copy of "The Seven Keys to Baldpate". That was the book (about guests at a mysterious inn) that gave the inn its name.
The Keys and The Inn
A cookbook is what helped us discover the inn. But it was the mystery novel that gave The Baldpate Inn its name.
After the Mace family opened their inn 100 years ago, the author of the novel visited and was surprised at how closely the inn resembled the imaginary inn of his book. The Mace family gave their hotel a new name and started a key tradition.
The Key Tradition, Then Collection
In early years, Baldpate guests were given their own keys to keep, as a fun, book-related gift. The tradition changed during WWI, when metal was rationed. However, loyal guests began arriving on return visits, with unusual keys to give the inn.
The Mace family began receiving keys from all around the world. They displayed these keys (to cathedrals and castles, universities and jails...) in what became The Key Room. My old cookbook boasted about the collection of 7,500 keys. Today it is over 20,000.
Hiking to the second floor guest rooms was sort of comical. The slanted floors and worn carpets made the inn seem a little eerie and neglected.
But the youthful summer staff, trotting up and down stairs, made me feel like I was at a lively summer camp. It became clear that the youngin's were housed upstairs as well, when one off-duty worker smiled and greeted, as he dashed into the shower room. I was suddenly glad we'd gotten one of the three rooms with its own bath.
Our tiny room had a bit of a summer camp feel, except for the plush robes on hangers. (The seemed a bit out of place.) The slanted ceiling, paneling and retro sink made it feel a little more like we were spending the night in Grandma's attic. I loved it.
We opened the windows and let the fresh piney air blow in. A few hummingbirds came dangerously close to entering, which added to the fun.
The Red Bathroom
Clearly there had been some updates in the bathroom, with the red paint and tile. The claw-footed tub at least had a helpful spray nozzle. The night before, we had stayed in a hotel that also had a claw-footed tub. Don is 6'2" and does not enjoy the charm of retro tubs. I reminded him that there was a shower room, down the hall.
I had to laugh at the little red lamp attached to the wall, between the pillows. The slanting ceiling also made the bed a little claustrophobic, but all was clean and we had Colorado air blowing our ruffly curtains. We were pleased.
Sharing the Porch
The porch got good use in the afternoon. Many guests who had come just for lunch, lingered on the porch. I was curious to ask some of them how they had heard about the inn. I doubt any of them had been guided to the inn, by a vintage cookbook.
Porch to Ourselves
At one point the other guests were suddenly gone and we had the porch to ourselves. The scenery was ideal and all was calm...
Except for the Critters!
The chipmunks didn't cause too much of a disturbance, but we actually moved our chairs at one point, to get out of the direct path the hummingbirds. It was pretty amusing, hearing the hummers as they zipped back and forth between feeders and flowers. Pretty funny.
Wine With Our View
We enjoyed the porch while other guests seemed to flock to dinner. We watched the wildlife, heard a few rumbles of thunder and kept an eye on the activity across the road. The outdoor theatre was in the midst of a tech rehearsal for the summer run of "The 7 Keys of Baldpate". We got to chat with The Villain when he wandered over during break. He was the one who took our picture.
Dinner on the Porch
We had peeked at the dining porch earlier and hoped to get a table with a view. We got our wish and a wonderful server as well.
Sadie and The Book
As I've said, the young staff couldn't have been more gracious. Sadie, was delightful and even seemed properly curious about the old cookbook. She guided us towards the soup and salad bar, which is the only option at the inn. But that pleased us, since we'd been on the road, overeating.
The glassed in porch held the diners, but the main dining room held the food. An ice-filled, claw-footed tub held the fixings for salad. Two kettles held the soup options.
One table held numerous fresh breads and a tray showed the pie choices. We took our full plates to our window table and enjoyed a perfect comfort meal, while a little classical music played.
P.J.s and Bedtime Snack
After dinner, Don and I wandered the main dining room studying the wonderful collection of photos take by two Mace brothers, back in the day.
By 8:30, we wandered our way towards the smell of fresh cookies in the lobby. I'd heard that pajamas were welcome at snack time and sure enough a few of the staff had already changed into theirs.
Before bed, Don and I opened the window a crack, but it was still too quiet. The walls were thin and there were lots of feet making trips to the restroom down the hall. Don set the cellphone "sound app" to crickets and that muted the creaky floors, a bit.
The phone app didn't block out the smells of baking breads at 4:22 a.m. I didn't complain about waking to that! I fell back asleep, then woke to a beautiful view out the window.
Breakfast was heavenly. Fresh raspberries and a poppyseed muffin. Swiss quiche with strips of bacon. Then came the most humongous cinnamon roll and I had to draw the line. Our server boxed up our iced rolls for later.
But I was pleasantly surprised by the warm and cheery staff. It will always be a mystery how the owner (spotted once) could remain so distant, when the staff appeared well trained, efficient and happy.
And... That Notable Porch!
I will fondly remember the raised porch! I felt like a kid in a treehouse, surrounded by the beauty of Colorado. Knowing that The Baldpate could be sold and the inn might close, added to that blissful feeling. "Whew! So glad we got to stay... before it's gone!"
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!