Monthly Archives: August 2012

The World’s Largest Key Collection, Estes Park, Colorado

This photograph shows part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, which is thought to be the world’s largest key collection. The Baldpate Inn is south of Estes Park, Colorado.

Friends gave us a list of six restaurants we should try in the Estes Park, Colorado, area during our too-brief visit this summer. One restaurant on the list was The Baldpate Inn, which was described as “a soup and salad bar and great desserts.” Wow, was that description inadequate! I love quaint, historic, charming, quirky and unexpected. The Baldpate Inn was all that. Plus, the food was great. My grandparents ran a hotel in Sturgis, South Dakota, built by my great grandparents, which we often visited, so I have a great fondness for old hotels and inns.

The Baldpate Inn, built in 1917, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Inn is seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.


The Baldpate Inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is the home of the World’s Largest Key Collection. The inn also attracts as many hummingbirds as it does diners. Hummingbird feeders are hung outside of the dining porch as well as on other porches at the inn. I love hummingbirds and was lucky enough to be seated next a feeder, which was mobbed. Hummingbirds are territorial, but these hummingbirds made temporary peace as they dined.

A hummingbird visits a feeder outside the dining porch of The Baldpate Inn, seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.

We wouldn’t have searched very hard for The Baldpate Inn, because it was just a soup and salad bar, after all, but fortunately we happened to drive by the sign to the inn on our way back on Highway 7 to Estes Park from Brainard Lake. The Baldpate Inn, built in 1917, is also a bed and breakfast. The inn is built from hand-hewn timber from the property, so the inn has a rustic mountain ambiance. After the delicious lunch, we ordered rhubarb pie with ice cream for dessert. We usually don’t order dessert, but we wanted to linger a little longer to watch the hummingbirds and admire the mountain view. (I love home made rhubarb pie, so it was no hardship.)

From The Baldpate Inn website: “The Inn was named after the mystery novel, SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE by Earl Derr Biggers, who upon visiting the property stated that the inn was so similar to the heretofore “imaginary” Baldpate Inn, that the Mace’s hotel would become the “real” Baldpate Inn. In the novel, each of seven visitors traveled to the closed-in-wintertime hotel, and thinks that he or she has the only key to the Inn. In keeping with the story line of the novel, the Mace family gave each visitor to the Inn their very own key.

Hummingbird feeders hang along the dining room porch of The Baldpate Inn. There’s a crowd of humans on the inside looking at the crowd of hummingbirds on the outside.

This tradition continued until the outbreak of World War I, when the price of metal became so expensive that the Owners were no longer able to give keys away. The loyal guests who returned yearly were so disappointed that they began their own tradition of bringing a key back to the inn with them each year. It is said that the competition between guests became so fierce to bring the best and most exotic each year that the Maces decided to begin a display of all the keys.

The Baldpate Inn’s photography collection features autographed photographs, taken by the original owners, of presidents and celebrities.

This was the beginning of the world’s largest key collection. The collection boasts over 20,000 keys including examples from the Pentagon, Westminster Abby, Mozart’s wine cellar, and even Frankenstein’s castle to name a few.”

In the dining room you can see The Baldpate Inn Photograph collection, which features autographed pictures of U.S. presidents (Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, George Bush), movie celebrities, (Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, Roy Rogers), captains of industry (Henry Ford, Randolph Hearst), folk heroes (Wild Bill Cody, Weston the Walker), and world renowned figures (Thomas Edison, Tetrazinni, Jack London).

The Baldpate Inn Dining Room.

These photographs are primarily the creative work of two of the Mace brothers Charles (one of the Inn’s original owners) and Stuart Mace, both professional photographers.

The next time we return to Northeast Colorado, I want to stay at The Baldpate Inn so that I can explore every nook and cranny, investigate the key collection more thoroughly, look at every photograph, enjoy the view, eat more pie, watch the hummingbirds, attend the plays in the outdoor theater and just hang out.

The Baldpate Inn Website.

Here is a small part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, the world’s Largest Key Collection.

A sign for theater productions is displayed on the porch of The Baldpate Inn. You can also see a hummingbird feeder. In cooperation with the Estes Park’s Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies, The Baldpate Inn presented live theater perfomances of two romantic comedy stage plays this summer.

The Baldpate Inn library looks like a cozy place to read in the cool mountain mornings and evenings. Stone fireplaces keep the inn pleasantly toasty.

The Baldpate Inn Dining Porch.

Hummingbirds are territorial, but they made temporary peace at this feeder at The Baldpate Inn, seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.

This giant key is part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, the world’s largest.

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Filed under History, Photography, Travel

Bighorn Sheep in Colorado

A bighorn sheep ewe, on the right, prepares to lead the herd on its trek across a highway in Rocky Mountain National Park. The ewe waits until most of the herd members line up and then she begins the procession. The sheep make the journey each day to and from two lakes in a meadow in the park.

Not far from Estes Park in Colorado, bighorn sheep graze in a meadow near two lakes, “Sheep Lakes,” in Rocky Mountain National Park. The herd makes its way to the lakes from the mountainside each morning and then returns to the mountainside in the late afternoon. It’s a beautiful commute. Park rangers and volunteers manage the tourists and the cars on the narrow highway to allow the sheep safe passage.

When the bighorn sheep are ready to cross the highway, park rangers and volunteers clear the road. The sign says no walking, but it also means no parking. This Hummer driver was confused!

My husband and I were among the gawkers in early August for the sheep’s late afternoon procession back to the mountains. I joined the paparazzi jostling for a view from the packed parking lot. Because we had to stand well away from the sheep, I envied photographers with big lenses. One woman pointed to a female sheep hurrying back across the meadow to the herd at the closest lake. Where had the ewe been? What had she been up to? Her lamb ran out to her and then trailed after her. “Mommy, where did you go?”

In the mid-1800s, thousands of bighorn sheep lived in the Estes Valley, but their numbers were decimated by hunters, by degraded environment and by diseases introduced by domestic sheep. At one point it was thought only about 150 sheep lived in the park, high in the mountains. The bighorn sheep in the low-lying areas were gone. It wasn’t until recent decades that through conservation efforts and reintroduction of new bighorn sheep that the population started to increase. About 600 bighorn sheep live in the park now. The herd near Sheep Lakes seemed to be all female adults and their offspring. You can read more about the RMNP bighorn sheep in a link below.

I saw one sheep move up the hill from the lake, and a few stood behind her. Soon, most of the herd was behind her. She waited there, alert, watching us silly humans in the parking lot. Even though we were probably a hundred yards away (I’m bad at estimating distances), she was wary. The rangers and volunteers make sure humans stay back because sheep can be easily stressed. However, later, we saw bighorn sheep grazing by the side of the highway along Big Thompson River, butting heads and knocking each other into the road. They didn’t seem bothered by the traffic at all. I was worried for them!

Eventually, the entire herd at Sheep Lakes gathered behind the lead ewe and then the sheep made their way across the road, where traffic had been cleared. Of course, just as with humans, one grazing sheep was oblivious to the departing herd. She looked up, saw she was alone, and then bolted to catch the herd.

You can click on all of the photos to get a better look. You’ll need to backspace to return to this page.

A bighorn sheep lamb nurses from its mother as the herd lines up and prepares to return to the hillside after a day in the meadow.

Bighorn sheep graze at Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.


A crowd gathers to watch and photograph the bighorn sheep as they graze at Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. The most popular time is when the sheep migrate to and from the hillside over the meadow, which they do once a day.


On the left, a ewe hurries back across the meadow to the herd. In the upper right, her lamb rushes out to greet her. “Mommy, where did you go?” In the bottom right, the lamb follows after its mother.


Bighorn sheep graze on the hillside along the Big Thompson River in Colorado.


About Bighorn Sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here is a section of a map showing the Sheep Lakes area, where a herd of bighorn sheep graze every day.

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Filed under Animals, National Parks, Natural History, Nature, Travel