The Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce takes chamber members and volunteers on a “Fam Tour” every spring and fall to familiarize them what's available in the area. In the past, the tour has gone to shops in Woodland Park, Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co., hotels in Cripple Creek, cabins in the woods and other places in and near Teller County.
The tour on April 30 followed a similar path. It combined lodging and destinations and took participants to see everything from dinosaurs to goats.
The tour bus was chartered from Durham School Services, which provides bus transportation for local schools but also provides charter service to businesses and tour groups.
The tour started with the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center on U.S.24 in Woodland Park. Geri Lebold, the center's education director, led the group on the same tour her six guides offer to other visitors as part of the paid admission.
“This is a world-class museum,” she said, adding that the center specializes in making casts of dinosaur, marine and flying reptile and fish fossils. “We display the casts here in our show rooms but when they sell we replace them with new casts. There are always new exhibits.”
She explained that center crews digs for dinosaur fossils in Texas, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota and for reptiles, `dinosaurs neither fly nor swim,' Lebold said, and fish in Kansas, which used to be covered by the Western Interior Seaway back in the Cretaceous Period.
From the dinosaur center the tour moved to Eagle Fire Lodge & Cabins, also on U.S. 24. Scott Downs led the tour through spaces representative of the lodge's 17 units from recently redecorated railway-era cabins, high-end luxury suites that used to be the lodge's classroom and board room, units with loft bedrooms, a conference room that comfortably seats 40-72 people and the lodge's nearly new patio picnic and barbeque area.
“We cater to tourists who might only stay a night or two and to corporate clients who might stay weeks at a time,” Downs said.
Next on the tour was Woodland Inn Bed & Breakfast/Pottery Gallery at 159 Trull Road in Woodland Park, owned by Susan and Frank Gray. The couple also owns Two Potters, a pottery gift shop where visitors can buy hand-thrown pottery fired on the premises. The B&B has eight cozy rentals and the Grays also offer pottery making lessons. Frank Gray offered the tour group coffee and piping hot coffee cake served in his hand-thrown mugs and on his matching plates.
Kathy Buysse, who with her husband Dean, owns the Edgewood Inn Bed & Breakfast. She led the group through the Inn's five sizable rooms, which are furnished with a large selection of antiques. Most of the rooms have small kitchens, large tables and great views. The tour group also saw the conference area and the outdoor covered and open decks that are under construction for weddings and other large gatherings. The 12,000-square-foot home also has a theater where every seat is the best seat.
The first half of the tour ended at the Bristlecone Lodge, which offers a combination of cabins and recreational vehicle sites. The lodge is owned by Ivan and Joyce Mehlaff. Ivan Mehlaff led the tour group through a couple of the cabins and out into the RV Park, where there is a fire pit, a spa and showers.
“We also rent out our showers to campers in the national forest,” he said. “All of the cabin and office decorations were made by Joyce. She never stops changing things.”
Lunch, which was eaten on the bus regardless of the no-eating and no-drinking signs, was provided by Subway. There were only two stops in the afternoon, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Stone Creek Farmstead. Then the bus headed back to Woodland Park.