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Romantic RiverSong hideaway near Estes Park pampers heart and soul

By Judith Lynn Howard, Denver Post Staff Writer

 

Sunday, February 2, 2003 - ESTES PARK - Arrive just before twilight, as the sun eases behind the peaks. Climb the weather-beaten steps of the Romantic RiverSong Inn, then pause at the door. Listen to the blue spruce, Douglas Fire and ponderosa pine whisper a windswept welcome.

A peaceful vibe rules at RiverSong, a getaway for couples tucked away on a gravel road where elk and deer wander on Giant Track Mountain, about 2 miles from downtown Estes Park new Rocky Mountain National Park.

Valentine's Day is prime time for this popular bed and breakfast. (Rooms may already be filled this year, but Valentine's Day isn't the only time to enjoy a romantic getaway.) RiverSong offers various packages, with luxuries such as fireside candlelight dinners and massages for two.

The 10-room inn is owned by Gary and Sue Mansfield who, after opening the inn nearly 18 years ago and after 37 years of marriage, haven't lost their romantic touch.

RiverSong's amenities are designed with lovers in mind: Turned-down beds with gingerbread cookies. Nine tree swings on the property. River-rock fireplaces.

Gary Mansfield, who has a license to perform marriages, says he has officiated at hundreds of weddings on the inn's grounds, in sunshine and snow. Couples visit RiverSong to honeymoon, celebrate an anniversary or rediscover each other.


The inn initially got its name from the Big Thompson River that flows nearby, but Gary Mansfield says he and his wife added "Romantic" when they decided to distinguish RiverSong as a lovers' hideaway.

Each room speaks to a range of moods, from magical to rustic, and Gary Mansfield says each is named for a Colorado mountain or prairie flower - such as Indian Paintbrush or Cowboy's Delight.

The rooms also have distinctive features. Wood Nymph has a willow canopy bed. Meadow Bright has a waterfall shower.

Journals are placed in every room, and the entries of guests provide a romantic eel all their own. In Shooting Star, a quaint room with a corner library, white iron and brass queen-sized bed and skylights, one entry reads:

"Sometimes, after a couple has been together for 25 years…you lose touch with each other…Our two days at RiverSong, ever a welcome and much needed getaway, just the two of us. It reminded me why I fell in love…and why I love her more every day."


gary and sue

The smell of freshly brewed coffee introduces the morning at RiverSong.
Electric candles in the windows, along with the Morse wood-burning stove, create a toasty mood.

Sandra Hardcastle, one of three staff innkeepers, greets guests with juice, coffee or tea, and a warm hello. She serves a scrumptious berry concoction with a yogurt-and-maple-syrup sauce, then a vegetarian Rocky Mountain quiche, with chicken sausage, melon slices, Bing cherries and blueberries served on the side.

One recent weekend, couples from Lakewood and Colorado springs, each celebrating anniversaries, sat at small tables lining the windows in the Southwestern-style dining room. The Lakewood couple discussed trying out the trail before checkout time at noon. With seven stone benches for sniggling, the rail is a haven with snow-capped views of the Continental Divide.

The Big Thompson and the pond are other haunts. During warmer months, guests can picnic with a well-stocked basket prepared by the inn's chef, for a fee. The Estes Park area also offers snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and bicycling.

In downtown Estes Park, just minutes from RiverSong, couples can explore galleries, antique shops and restaurants. If lovers don't want to be sweet just on each other, several shops offer chocolate, saltwater taffy and caramel corn.

Visitors can browse the shelves at Macdonald Book Shop, stop by Golden Leaf Gallery Inc. to check out the ornate Russian nesting dolls, or ask company president Craig Hendee to tell one of the blissfully romantic, epic Russian fairy tales.

RiverSong's guests also can shop at the bed and breakfast for signature mugs, aprons and other souvenirs. The Mansfields travel extensively and sell some antiques, like the elaborate Dutch cupboard in the main building.

But the best keepsake after a stay at RiverSong is the memory of being pampered. And, if you come with your sweetheart, of being loved.