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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 01 12 24 – Reflecting on a Stay at the Stanley in Winter

“Every big hotel has got a ghost. Why? Hell, people come and go …” ― Stephen King, The Shining


The written word has had a lot of influence on me. A few weeks ago, I grabbed an old pen and noticed it was from the Stanley Hotel. I must have picked it up when Julie and I stayed there in 2014. It is hard to for me to imagine it was ten years ago. I have known of this grand old hotel since I was 13 years old. I first learned of it when I read the Shinning, and a mythical hotel called the Overlook based on the Stanley. I was intrigued even then. I never thought I would get to visit it in any season, let alone in deep winter, but it is what happened.


Even as a kid, on my first read, I recognized that the Shining was an incredible work. There have been a few movies based on the book, but none of them come close to the written work. Somehow, in that early era I recall reading that King was influenced by his staying at the hotel. He imagined the scenario of a winter custodian and his family trapped in a remote hotel with the ghosts of the hotel and his own demons. As he noted once in an interview:


“While we were living [in Boulder] we heard about this terrific old mountain resort hotel and decided to give it a try. But when we arrived, they were just getting ready to close for the season, and we found ourselves the only guests in the place – with all those long, empty corridors." King and his wife were served dinner in an empty dining room accompanied by canned orchestral music: "Except for our table all the chairs were up on the tables. So the music is echoing down the hall, and, I mean, it was like God had put me there to hear that and see those things. And by the time I went to bed that night, I had the whole book [The Shining] in my mind”


Stephen King wrote the Shining in 1977, it was his first major bestseller. As referenced, it was influenced by his visit to the Stanley Hotel in 1974 and his struggle with alcoholism, the latter being something I would also end up identifying with. I am sure it was the second book of his I read, with the first being the Stand, which was published in 1978. In that era, I read a lot of sci-fi and horror. While now I read all non-fiction, what has not changed is being a voracious reader.


It may be hard to imagine, but in that era and all those that came before it, data was not at our fingertips. If you wanted to know something it usually took effort to learn. I recall learning that the hotel was in Estes Park Colorado and its connection to the Stanley Steamer. I imagined it would be a place I would want to visit at some point in my life. When we went, I had the foresight to rent an AWD vehicle. It was really helpful as it was snowing while we drove up from Denver to the hotel through steep mountain passes. We then drove through Rocky Mountain National Park and was able to get above 10,000 feet over some snow drifted roads. I enjoy that kind of driving and was imagining some scenes from the book on the drive up.


We did some tours of the hotel, that included a lot of ghost lore. It was clear that some of the other guests were really pumped up to experience a paranormal event as several were brandishing PKE Meters and noting their meters spiked in one corner of the basement near the boilers. Neither Julie nor I experienced anything we thought was out of the ordinary despite staying in a room that was purported to be haunted. We do not own PKE Meters.


It was not a long trip; I think we took off just a handful of days. On reflection what made it special for me was the opportunity to visit a place I had learned about in my youth with Julie. There are a few places I found out about in my childhood that we have ended up getting to see. Two other notable places being Mont Saint-Michel in France and Death Valley in Nevada and California. I am not sure where the rest of my meanderings in life will take us, but I am grateful that life has afforded me the opportunity to experience some of the places I learned about as a young person with my person.


One of the other themes of these writings is one of recovery. In active addiction, I went almost nowhere and did very little that was fun. As addiction took hold, my life got small. Mine was not an uncommon experience, as illuminated in the Nuggets cartoon clip. Recovery first took me abroad in my very first year in recovery to France, where I saw the Eiffel Tower and experienced a culture different from the culture I was raised in. None of my travels would have occurred in my much shorter and less rewarding life if I had not found recovery at an early age. In this respect, I can identify with the demons of alcoholism as characterized by King in the Shinning, which as noted came from his own struggles. Lloyd the bartender will get no tips from me, but I have a pen and some fond memories from this grand hotel.


I am not sure where 2024 will take me. The odds are that most of my world exploration will be of a modest nature, likely on my e-bike on weekends when the weather and my responsibilities cooperate. I am grateful for every opportunity I have to explore the world, near and far.

What are you grateful for today?

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