Colorado has been all about adventure. We are about three weeks into the trip and I have dropped about five pounds, have a sun-kissed face and several colorful bruises to prove that we have been having some awesome adventures!! Here’s a quick recap of the most memorable…… We’ve put our hands into the footprints of an Iguanodon that lived over 150 million years ago. We tubed down the rapids of Clear Creek in Golden, hurling ourselves a few times off the tube during some high rapids. We braved the winds and rain at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to see David Crosby and The Avett Brothers. We’ve hiked up to Hanging Lake, with a trail of just one mile in length but one thousand feet vertically!! We took stage 3 white water rapids rafting down the Colorado River, and later kayaked down as well. We soaked in the heated natural springs along the banks of the Colorado. We fished along the banks of the Gunnison River at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and stared down the largest cliff face in all of North America. We’ve sand sledded down the largest dunes in North America at Grand Sand Dunes National Park. We’ve had mule deer come into our campsite to check us out. We’ve biked and kayaked along the banks of the Arkansas River. We climbed huge boulders and rocks at Garden of the Gods. We’ve had the time of our lives. In three weeks, I’ve done more adventuring than in my entire lifetime.
Our trip began right outside Denver, in Golden, where we spent several days reconnecting with old friends from West Chicago. We had a wonderful time re-connecting with the Carey/Meyer family, who made us feel so welcome in Colorado from the second we arrived in the state. They shared great tips, lots of laughs and any fear of homesickness was quickly forgotten as we spent a few days in their company. We shared good donuts, good conversation, good dinner and good ice cream! What more can you ask for in life? Further proof that old friends are the best kind of friends, and that you can leave WeGo, but WeGo never truly leaves you!
Tubing down Clear Creek in downtown Golden was the first really big thrill of the trip. We tubed about a two to three mile stretch of the “creek”, which to this city girl felt like a pretty large and fast river. And let me tell you, the current was fast! Like real fast, and there were about six or seven rapids we took on during the ride downstream. We rented a two person tube from Adventure West, a local outfitter who was so helpful, and Justin and I took the rapids side by side, with the kids on our laps. On our first run down the creek, we were pretty cautious, slowly taking the rapids and coming out at the end just a touch wet and with a lot of laughs behind us. Our second run did not go so well! There is nothing scarier than watching your children hurl off your lap as you get sucked under a rapid, especially when you can’t touch the river bottom. After trying to hold Micah up out of the water and tackle the rapid, I finally just let go of him, knowing he had the life vest on and I did not. After letting myself let the rapid take me, I resurfacing just a bit down river to find both of my children swimming to shore, without a hint of panic on their faces, trying to flip the tube back over for us “old folks”. Once Justin and I saw how calm the kids were under pressure, we knew they would be prepared to handle other challenges we threw their way. A bit shaken, and very drenched, we resumed our adventure down the icy creek, pleased that we could still look back and laugh, and that no one was hurt. I did take away a very nasty bruise on my bottom from smashing into a rock, but other than that, we all came out exhilarated.
We then drove through the Rocky Mountains on Route 70, one of the most spectacular drives I’ve ever taken in my life. Driving through the ski areas of Breckenridge and Vail was gorgeous. But the most beautiful part of the drive was winding through Glenwood Canyon, where the road cuts through the center of the canyon and you experience the most awe-inspiring red cliffs and green conifer trees. In all this beauty hides a non-descript highway exit that leads you to the trail for Hanging Lake. I had seen Pinterest photos of Hanging Lake, but nothing prepares you for the true beauty of the place. And Pinterest certainly didn’t mention the hike to get up there…… just one mile in length, but in that one mile you go up 1,000 feet in elevation. I knew Justin and I could tackle it, but I had my doubts about the kids. It’s a gorgeous hike, but you are literally going straight up, with a lovely little creek on the side of you. There are a lot of rocks to navigate and a few spots where you are literally climbing on the rock face with just a small iron railing to help you. And the butterflies, they are everywhere! I am so grateful for them as they helped distract the kids when the climb became too much for them. But once you reach the top, you find the most pristine and beautiful lake I’ve ever seen, just hanging on the cliff face. And just a short distance further up, you see the waterfall that makes the entire lake possible. It is beauty that literally takes your breath away, plus you have no breath left from the climb!! Further proof that anything worth doing is hard, but the reward is so incredibly great!!
In the town of Glenwood Springs we took a white water rafting trip down the Colorado River with Blue Sky Outfitters. Spectacular! Tabatha wants to tell you all about that, so please read her blog post! I don’t want to steal her thunder. Justin and Micah kayaked long the banks of the river as well, and they will tell you all about that.
I will leave you with another memorable moment of the past three weeks…..sand sledding down the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. The Great Sand Dunes are the largest sand dunes in North America, reaching 750 feet in height. They exist because millions of years ago there was a great lake that covered most of Colorado. The winds within this valley forced the sand into large dunes, and the dunes are surrounded by two large mountain ranges. It literally is the only place on earth where dunes like this appear, and it’s amazing to see these desert-like dunes surrounded by alpine mountains. It’s an impressive eco-system that can be easily explained with science, but my mind has a hard time grasping. The dunes provide a huge amount of fun when you rent a sand sled!! For twenty dollars, we got a wooden sled for the day and were able to speed down the dune face. Going down, you can get to speeds up to forty miles an hour!! Coming back up is the hard part. It’s truly no fun carrying a sled up a steep sand dune in ninety degree heat. Not only are you hot, but the sand is extremely hot! But that climb up is worth the thirty second trip speeding down the sand face! Tabatha is truly a natural at sand sledding. She never wiped out, kept perfect balance and would zoom the fastest down….. a truly gold medal performance. Justin had the most trouble, usually taking the dunes backwards and flipping over a few times before reaching the bottom. Further proof that sledding should really be left to kids!
We have one week left in Colorado. I am truly taken with the beauty of the mountains. This girl from Illinois can’t get over the size of these mountains. I am truly taken with the beauty of the stark desert landscape of Southern Colorado. Seeing small cactus along the trail and watching lizards cross your bike path makes me smile. These are things I never thought I would experience in life. I was in a Starbucks in Denver and there was a mug they were selling with “Colorful Colorado” printed on the side. It is such a beautiful and colorful state. I know they mean the landscape is colorful, and it truly is! But my face is also the most tan it’s been in my entire life. So I will take some color of Colorado with me, when we venture on. And I will take some of the most amazing memories of adventure with my husband and kids. As my dear friend Matt says, “Life is Good.” (How did I go eight blog posts without a shout out to Matt B.? That’s just plain wrong!)