Cheyenne, Fort Laramie and Colorado: The Sequel by Amanda

Upon leaving Grand Teton, we crossed diagonally the state of Wyoming to spend a week “killing time” in Cheyenne before heading into Colorado for a second time. It took about eight hours to cross the state of Wyoming, viewing vast flat lands of ranches and Indian reservations. We attempted to find the grave of Sacagawea, but without luck.

Cheyenne is the capital of Wyoming and its largest city, and yet to us it felt like a fairly small town. It had a great farmers market and a surprising amount of small breweries and restaurants. Cheyenne is home to the largest annual rodeo, which has been taking place each July for over eighty years. They have a rodeo museum with interesting mementos about life in the old west. The kids enjoyed dress up like cowboys and putting on their own rodeo show.

We had an enjoyable day at Fort Laramie, about an hour drive outside Cheyenne, which was the headquarters of the country’s “western campaign” during the 1870s to 1890s. The Fort is a National Historic Site and Tabatha worked very hard to earn her Junior Ranger badge. Having no expectations, we thought we’d spend about an hour here, but ended up spending well over five. We were able to tour the soldier’s barracks, the Coronel’s quarters, old jail cells, and the soldier’s bar. The kids tried a sarsaparilla and were given the treat to lock the Doctor’s house with an old skeleton key from the 1880s. It was very easy to imagine what it would have felt like to be stationed in such a remote place. It was also very easy to imagine the difficult political position our country got themselves into with the native tribes of the west. Knowing that the Fort was often used as a prison for the natives, it was sad to have to reflect on how different our culture was to that of the Native Americans and how our country’s lack of understanding of their ways forced them to such violent measures. Throughout our stay in Wyoming, especially while driving through the poor Native reservations, it was hard to see that well over a hundred years later, we still do not understand the culture of the Native peoples.

Upon leaving Cheyenne, we drove back to Colorado. If you recall, we were supposed to start our trip back in June with a week’s stay at Rocky Mountain National Park but were unable to go due to our truck delay. So after a few months on the road, it was great to finally get a chance to see this beautiful National Park. We arrived at the Park around 4pm and decided against a hike and instead drove 48 miles, to almost 13,000 feet, on the Trail Ridge Road. The kids got a kick out of driving through the clouds as we drove on the highest continuous paved road in the country. We took several memorable hikes over the course of the next few days, including the Bear Lake Trail, Emerald and Dream Lake trails, and Ouzel Falls Trail, which were all spectacular. To prove that it really is a small world, we randomly ran into my brother’s grammar school friend, Vince, around Emerald Lake!!

Justin had one of the most spectacular adventures when he hiked about five hours up to the peak of Flattop Mountain. It was very neat to have hiked around Emerald Lake the day before and then to see it from 2,000 feet above. It is hard to explain how beautiful the views were and the huge sense of accomplishment it was to hike to an elevation of over 12,000 feet. You gain almost 3,000 feet in elevation in four miles, so it was certainly the hardest hike any of the family has ever done.

During Justin’s adventure, Amanda and the kids spent the day with their good friend Carina, who is attending school at Colorado State University. Micah had never been on a horse, so we decided to go on a two hour guided horseback ride in the town of Estes Park. The trail was not easy, but everyone did well and had a great time on the horses. Micah’s love of cowboys only got stronger after he tackled his first horseback ride!!

The town of Estes Park, right outside Rocky Mountain N.P., is memorable for two reasons… The Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King got the inspiration to write The Shining, and The Donut Haus, which has some of the most amazing donuts in the country!! If you’re in town, check out both establishments. We recommend the Bear Claws at Donut Haus and soaking in the historic beauty of The Stanley Hotel while having a drink in the bar.

We ventured back into Colorado not just to see Rocky Mountain National Park, but also came back to take the kids to see a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre just outside Denver. When Justin was sixteen, he went to his first concert, to see Beck. Since then, we’ve seen Beck six times together. It was now the perfect time to take the kids, especially considering the amazing venue. So at just five, Micah attended his first concert, and to have it be the same artist that Justin saw for his first concert too is really cool! And what an extraordinary concert it was!! We danced, we laughed, we cried, we rocked it! Oh, and Beck did too! It’s a great feeling to be screaming joy at the top of your lungs at a concert, and look over to see your kid doing it too. As parents, we were pleasantly surprised that our kids knew about 75% of the songs too! They are paying attention.

Before heading to the Beck show, we spent the day in Golden, which had been our first stop on the trip some three months before. It was great to come back to a place that felt familiar, almost like home. If you recall from our Colorado post, our first true adventure had been tubing down Clear Creek in Golden in late June. This time we camped right next to the creek but it looked very different from our past visit. The creek was much lower, and colder, and the rapids that had flung us out of our raft were now just ripples. Justin and the kids were brave enough to jump in and “swim”….there was more screams of cold terror by the kids then any real swimming. We were also able to visit our friends Erica, Jeff and Granger and share with them the adventures we had over the course of the past few months. It really felt like coming around full circle, to go back to the beginning and see how much we had accomplished and grown as a family. Truly a great summer!