I recently visited Meeker, CO and the Flat Tops Basin on a long weekend jaunt from Denver.
We left Denver around 2PM and headed in to the Mountains with a capital M on I-70. We were able to get out of town early enough to avoid the usual Friday afternoon rush out of town.
It took us about 2 hours to get to Silverthorne, where we stopped for gas and supplies, including a stop at the Outlet Mall so that Dave could pick up some fly fishing shoes.
Leaving Silverthorne, we passed through Breckenridge and then hit some traffic after the Eisenhower Tunnel – there was construction and lanes merging which created a bottleneck for about 45 minutes. Once we were past that, it was smooth sailing to Glenwood Springs, and the North on Route 13 to once we hit Rifle.
Past Rifle it was still another 1 hour until Meeker, where our cabin is located.
We rolled in to the cabins around 7PM, and were excited at what we saw.
The Green Cabins was a small cabin community about 2 miles from the small town of Meeker. There were 6 or so cabins, many of which were pretty basic – just beds – with a shared bathroom/shower facility, and then a few of the cabins like ours actually had full kitchens, bathroom, and shower inside. We found the Green Cabins based on a recommendation from my golfing buddy and colleague, Barb. She actually came in to Meeker and Trapper’s Lake (where we would be heading the next day) the weekend before, so gave us the scoop on where we could stay, fish, and hike. Her and her father had been coming to Meeker for 20 years on an annual bonding trip, so she had all the inside intel.
Our cabin was #8, off to the right by itself once you passed over the bridge.
Here’s the interior:
I had spoken to the cabin management that morning to make the booking, and she said that the key would be in the door, and just to leave the cabin fee (cash or check only) on the table before we left. Very informal.
After dropping our stuff in the cabin, we headed in to the town of Meeker for dinner after a brief walkabout the property and adjacent creek, while we watched the sunset.
We decided to first check out the famed Meeker Hotel, which had guests like Teddy Roosevelt, Dick Cheney, and Billy the Kid stay there over the 120 years or so it had been opened.
The outside had the feel of a Wild West motel, and the inside looked more like a hunting lodge. Check out the animal heads on the wall, probably all stuffed by the local taxidermist around the corner (called Antler Taxidermy).
There was some cool memorabilia on the walls and in the display cases at the Meeker Hotel, including some autographs from former Presidents, and a wanted posted for Billy the Kid, who was a guest at the hotel in the late 1890s.
There was also some neat things lying around like this old safe:Rumor has it, there are often hauntings at the Meeker Hotel. Namely, in the Painted Lady room and in the fireplace of the main lodge room, it’s reported that the ghost of the original owner, Charles Dunbar, is known to make an appearance.
We actually had the option of staying in the Painted Lady room, but all it had was one double bed so we passed that up for the cabin.
We asked the desk clerk about dinner and she said that the Meeker Café was open, or that we could also check out the Mexican Restaurant. We strolled in to the Meeker Café and thought we might sit at the bar, but it was so empty we decided to take our chances with Mexican. On our way there we noticed an old-fashioned soda fountain and drug store, as well as a local bar, Chopper’s (it looked a little rough, but fun).
Every ethnic restaurant in town had the name of the food in the title – literally. The Italian restaurant was advertised as the Italian Restaurant (although it did have a real name La Famiglia). There were two Chinese places (one across the street from the other, which was eerily reminiscent of the way Starbucks seemed to choose locations)…we tried to imagine the stories behind the owners of these two Chinese restaurants and decided that they must be feuding families trying to one up each other. “You think you can put in a Chinese Restaurant? I’ll show you – I’ll put a better one in right across the street from you!”.
The Mexican Restaurant was named the Mexican Restaurant.
We went inside and again thought we might sit at the bar, but again it was deserted so we grabbed a table in the main room. That’s what happens when you end up eating late in a small town – nobody is around.
We ordered some shots of Herradura and our waiter laughed at me (nicely) when I mis-pronounced it the Gringo way (forgot to roll the rr’s and drop the H). It turns out, our waiter, as well as most of the restaurant staff, where Mexican, and somewhere between 16-20 years old. They all hailed from the same town in Mexico – Guadalajara. When we asked them how they ended up in Meeker, they explained that many of the restaurants were owned by the same guy – who was from Guadalajara. This guy arranged for them to come to the U.S. and work at his restaurants. They said they were having a good time, were making good money, and enjoyed the snow (and skiing) in the Winter. They did all genuinely look happy and glad to be in Meeker. It was very out of place, but lent to the charm and eclectic nature of the town.
Our waiter’s name was Mark, and he was still a newbie to town. He was very nice, but was still getting the hang of the job. It was kind of adorable when he didn’t know what “neat” meant when we ordered out tequila. Kids these days 🙂
We enjoyed the Herradura and waited for our food to come. I ordered the steak fajitas, which were decent. I didn’t feel that great though later in the night
The other cool thing about the Mexican Restaurant was the brands on the wall. The walls were all wooden, log-cabin style. In them, were the cattle brands of nearby ranches. We asked Mark what they were, and he said they were used by hunters to recognize one another on the hunt. We were skeptical (to us they obviously looked like cattle brands) but went along with it until we asked another waiter what they were, and he agreed with us that they were cattle brands – not hunter signals. LOL. We weren’t sure if Mark made up this story on the fly or if he actually thought this was the truth. Either way, we thought it was kitchy Americana cool.
On the walk back to our car, we ran in to the same girl working the front desk at the Meeker Hotel, the Mexicana chica. She was all decked out in rollerskates and roller gear (elbow pads, knee pads, helmet) and looked absolutely adorable. I asked to take here picture and she consented. We thought she was something out of Napoleon Dynamite, especially with geeky glasses. Later on, we discovered there’s a whole fetish for the rollergirl movement – we were wondering if this chica new about that.
After yucking it up with the locals, we went back to the cabin and took a long walk on the road and did some stargazing. I brought my stellarscope but it wasn’t working properly since we were missing the light that came with it. It was impossible to look through it and overlay the star pattern on to the sky – it was just too dark. On top of that, the sky was still extraordinarily hazy due to the fires in Northern California and the Northwest bringing smoke and haze in to our beloved Rockies.
We stayed up well in to the evening talking and eventually fell asleep late.