Friday, August 5, 2011

Colorado Vacation: Day Four

Quite a change from the day before.
Monday, May 30, 2011

The last day of our vacation was chilly, windy, and SNOWY!

Paul and Macy got up early to put the fishing licenses to use. I do NOT fish. I don't catch fish, touch fish, clean fish, or eat fish. So, Joel took a little stroll up the road from the cabin while I slept in, got myself ready, and made a scrambled egg and toast breakfast once everyone returned. It was a late brunch really, so we packed some snacks and headed into Estes once again.

As soon as we got to the park, it was clear the weather was not going to be on our side. We drove up to Bear Lake and Alberta Falls where it was blizzarding! While it was beautiful, it really messed with my head!

We didn't even attempt to make it to the Falls with the wind whipping us in the face, but we did "hike" 300 feet or so to Bear Lake. Macy and I exchanged looks of disbelief as a girl walked by with flip flops in the snow. I thought WE were ill-prepared! It was just too frigid to do much outdoors up in the mountains, so we drove around, spotted some Elk (they are EVERYWHERE and don't really care what people are doing!), found a beautiful stream to snap photos:
and ended up back in the town of Estes to shop the stores in the afternoon. It was strange: although it was snowing wherever we went, the sun managed to follow us, keeping the weather somewhat tolerable. Back in town, the temperatures were warmer, the sun was out at times, but that WIND! Somehow, we managed to keep our feet on the ground, and ended our last day with some fun tourist shopping and a walk along a river.

Elk Crossing
We decided we wanted to dine out for the last night, so we made reservations at the Dunraven. With some times to kill, the boys checked out the brick house of some Mills guy (one of the men who created Estes Park), and we drove to the restaurant. We were a tad early, so we drove to the YMCA of the Rockies, saw MORE elk just hanging out all over the place, and then sat down to an amazing Italian feast!

While it wasn't much to look at from the outside, the Dunraven was dim and quaint, cozy and fun. We all enjoyed our meals an garlic bread, and were stuffed to the gills!

Back at the cabin, we cleaned and packed as much as we could, started a roaring (finally!) fire, took down basically a whole bag of marshmallows and the other s'more ingredients, and played some Catch Phrase to unwind. Well, Macy and I played while the boys Joel sulked....apparently they weren't enjoying themselves but didn't say so! I tell you, we can only do so much.... :)

Tuesday morning, we started for home around 7am, and pulled into our driveway right at 7pm. My parents had Brady at that point, so after sending Paul and Macy off to Oskaloosa, we headed over there to get him. It was pretty funny when he saw us - usually he cries and screams because he doesn't want us to take him from "gammaboppa's" house, but this time he just kind of slowly walked to us as a look of realization came over his face. He started laughing and jumping for joy, saying, "Mommy AND DADDY!!" It was really cute and nice to be missed, although ten minutes later I was ready to leave again! I knew he had a ton of fun with Joel's family all weekend, but that kid was CRA-ZY. I'm sure it will take some time and discipline to get back into the swing of things!

We are so grateful to Rebecca, Paul, and Macy for making this such a great trip! Joel ranks it just under our all-time best trip (honeymoon in Hawaii), and I might have to agree!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Colorado Vacation: Day Three

Sunday, May 29

We woke up a little later and took our time getting ready around the cabin. There was an art fair in Estes Park all weekend for the holiday, and we decided to check it out around 10am. We looked at all the vendor tents, bought a few items, and strolled the streets of the pretty town.

Macy and Paul bought fishing licenses for the next morning, and we picked up a new map for the cabin. Somewhere along the way, we caught wind of the fact that the forecast had changed and that while it was originally supposed to be a cool, rainy day, it was, in fact, gorgeous and the yucky weather would be moving in that evening. Hearing that, we high-tailed it back to the cabin, grabbed some leftovers for lunch, and headed out to hike our pants off.

At the cabin, we looked at the easy-to-medium trails and decided on Lily Mountain as our hiking destination. We all wanted to reach a summit, didn't want anything TOO incredibly long or steep, and this seemed to provide the perfect mix of both. At four miles round-trip, it was the shortest summit hike we could find.

Enter side-story here: In May 2004, Macy and I (and another roomie, Nancy) went on a college service trip to Colorado. Part of the time we stayed at the Salvation Army campgrounds in Estes, and on one of our "free" days, several of us decided to spend a few hours in the mountains. Macy and I were interested in a little light hiking, so we started up a trail, only to realize it was more of a short path than anything. So, we made our own trail. On a mountain. Without cell service. Or backpacks. Or water. Now, Macy is a very cautious person, but once I started up that mountain, I think I was bound and determined to get to the top.

"C'mon Macy, just a little farther! It's not too bad. We still have a lot of time. We've gone this far, we might as well keep going!" I think maybe she thought I wasn't going to turn around, and it was better to go up WITH me than down WITHOUT me! We made our way to the summit of this mountain, had breathtakingly beautiful views of the range, and then figured we should start the decent to rejoin our crew. Only we were kind of stuck. We didn't realize it was easier to crawl hands-and-knees to the top of a mountain than it was to try and walk back down it! It was too steep, so we went to the other side of the mountain where we at least had some trees to hang on to and keep us from just rolling to the bottom.

After climbing down a little bit, I started to think about how a mountain gets wider at the bottom, and how climbing down the wrong side of a MOUNTAIN would not make it easy to find our starting place, and our group. We tried to weave a little bit back to the other side, but again, being trailblazers instead of trail FOLLOWERS, we just had to kind of go where the terrain allowed us to go. After many harried moments, a run-in with a bee (Macy was ready to fall off the mountain instead of get stung by a bee), a somewhat terrifying leap off of a rock plateau, and a slightly twisted ankle, we saw....a highway! It was truly amazing to see the ground :) And although I appeared calm at the time, I later told Macy I just wasn't quite sure how things were going to turn out. We made it to the highway, but didn't have a clue where we were. I knew the general direction we needed to head, and lo-and-behold, a few minutes later, our group just HAPPENED to drive by us on the highway and stopped to pick us up. Hands down the dumbest thing we've ever done. And I do a luh-HOT of dumb things....

End side-story.

So, we pull up to Lily Mountain, and as soon as we pull into the park area, I got this weird, deja vu feeling. I said, "Macy....does this look familiar??" She immediately responded, "This is it!" We had been reminiscing about our previous hiking experience for two days, and here we were, out of all of the mountains in Estes Park, ready to summit the very same one. I was super excited to re-live our experience, only this time on an actual trail, with two other people, and plenty of snacks/drinks!
It took just over an hour to hike the steep, bendy two-mile trail and summit the 9,786 ft. mountain. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the views were spectacular!

Doesn't this look like some kind of reality show promo?

There was no wind, the sun was shining, and a couple little ground squirrels came up to the peak to say hello.
The top was so flat, we could wander around without feeling like we would fall. And yet, when you looked straight down or turned too fast, it was quite a woozy feeling!

Paul and Macy headed down first, while Joel and I enjoyed the views a bit longer (all that work to get up there, I couldn't just leave!!).

About 20 minutes later, we started running down the mountain and caught up about a third of the way down. I don't think the running was a good idea - while it seemed easy and fun at the time, by the end of the hike, my elbow, knee, and thighs were BURNING! Talk about total body workout! I was still very sore three days later....

Tired and happy, we decided to drive around a little bit and find another short trail we could visit. Not knowing what the weather would hold for our last day, we wanted to make the most out of the absolutely gorgeous, sunny, 70-degree day we were blessed with!

Lily Mountain Lake
We were famished around 4:00, so we ordered some pizza (Poppy's was good, but $40 for pizza? Yikes!), hiked a little ways up the mountain the cabin was perched on, started a more roaring-ish fire, and began a looooong conversation. We all four talked about everything: marriage, friends, family, the good, the bad, the ugly! It went on for hours, but it was so great to reconnect with one of my best friends, and see just how eerily alike our hubbies are, for better and worse :)

Around midnight, we crawled into our beds to get some rest for our final day in the Rockies.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Colorado Vacation: Day Two

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We woke around 8am hoping to find some decent weather on our first day. The forecast for our whole trip was less than pleasing (cool and rainy!), so we were glad when it was at least dry.

We put on our hiking gear (Joel and I were seriously unprepared for this whole thing: we didn't even bring water bottles or backpacks while Paul and Macy had real hiking pants and shoes!!), drove 20 minutes to Estes Park, and started driving the winding roads up the mountains. We stopped at the Moraine Visitors' Center to pick up a map and get some advice on where to hike on a cool, cloudy day. The lady who was working knew EVERYTHING about the park, and she let us know it! The only problem was, she used a highlighter to indicate everything she told us. Road closed: highlight. Recommended trail: highlight. Wildlife sightings: was quite ineffective for us when she got done because none of us could remember what was what because the whole freakin' thing was a yellow mess! Well, she tried, right? We picked up a stuffed Eagle 'Bee' puppet for Brady, (he calls any large bird an "eagle bird"), and went on our way. We decided the Ypsilon Trail seemed promising, so we took our packed lunches and started hiking the trail.

It was a looooong trail, with medium ascent and not the greatest of views. We hiked along a river that created a huge gorge when a dam broke and washed out the ravine. The river was nice, but the thick trees prevented us from really seeing a lot as we hiked. Once we got to the river crossing, we got to witness some really beautiful scenery.

On the other side of the river, we kept hiking, but decided we weren't going to make it to Ypsilon Lake. It was a 4.8 mile hike one-way, so we turned around and drove upward instead.

We went as far as we could to the Rainbow Road pass, which was closed due to snow. SNOW! Oh my, the snow....these banks were what, 40 feet tall? It was surreal to imagine that kind of snow at the end of May. Although it was pretty, my mind was having trouble digesting the cold temperatures (below 40 degrees!) and massive amounts of snow I was seeing. Well, we still got some pretty great views and a few stops along the way.

After driving around the park for awhile, we decided to head back to the cabin for tacos, games, boys cheating at Monopoly Deal, a heated discussion about the definition of a light year, and another, slightly more roaring fire :) A great end to a pretty decent first day!