This trip was inspired by my credit card. It has a beautiful background of snow-covered mountains that I assumed were someplace impossibly far away. When I learned the mountains were in Colorado, I decided we had to pay them a visit. Andy would like everyone to know that he knew all along they were the Maroon Bells in Colorado…to which I say, why did it take him five years to share this information with me?
To be honest, I really wanted to travel internationally this year, so initially, I wasn’t as stoked about Colorado as I usually am for our family adventures. But, Colorado won me over right away. I wish we could have stayed longer; I feel like we just barely scratched the surface.
DAY 1: Flight into Denver
Boss Hogs of the Day: The amazing women at Budget who dealt with some angry, swearing customers, then gave us a free upgrade on our car because we were friendly and our kids were cute. I don’t actually think our gear would have fit into our original car.
Highlight: Dinner with Andy’s old friend, Garrett, under the B-52 Bomber outside Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. We didn’t arrive in time to go into the museum, but they had airplanes outside and Carter was thrilled. It was his birthday and he was overjoyed to ride a plane, open a new LEGO plane and eat dinner underneath a plane on his big day.
DAY 2: Georgetown Loop Railroad, drive to Aspen-Snowmass
Boss Hog of the Day: Aila baby. She’s pretty much game for every harebrained idea we come up with. Train ride with lots of smoke? Climb up a mountain? Ride on top of the bags on the hotel luggage cart? As long as she’s fed, she is up for anything.
Highlight: Riding the Georgetown Loop Railroad through the mountains. This was the best train ride I’ve been on yet. The tracks go through the mountains, over streams, past old silver mines and through forests. After our ride, we drove over the Continental Divide on our way to Aspen-Snowmass.
DAY 3: Hanging around Snowmass
Boss Hogs of the Day: Cousin Evan and Aunt Dee. They drove over three hours each way to come visit us in Snowmass. It was my first time meeting this side of Andy’s family and I was so grateful and honored they made the trip. It was lovely to spend the day getting to know them better.
Highlight: Eating dinner at the top of the “Skittles” gondola in Snowmass. We went on a short hike in the morning, came back and met up with Evan and Dee for lunch, took naps, went for a swim and then topped off the day on top of a mountain. Then we got to ride the gondolas back down.
DAYS 4-5: Maroon Bells and Difficult Campground
Boss Hog of the Day: Carter. Our budding little mountain man hiked the 3.6 mile Crater Lake trail almost entirely by himself. We played hide-n-seek along the trail, which kept him motivated to keep running ahead (parenting win!). As you can see in the pictures below, he is really really good at hiding along the trail.
A very close second in the Boss Hog department is the amazing ranger who spend 45 minutes on the phone with helping me find campsites only a month in advance. She was a miracle worker who made our trip possible.
Highlight: The Maroon Bells, obviously. They are the reason we came to Colorado! We spent two days hiking here (Maroon Creek Trail and Crater Lake Trail) and camped nearby at Difficult Campground. It only whet my appetite for more. I’d love to go back in the fall and see the yellow Aspen trees. I’d also love to go back in the spring to see snow on the mountains. It is easy to see why these mountains are the most photographed place in Colorado. My pictures don’t come close to doing them justice.
DAY 6: Drive to Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park
Boss Hog of the Day: Andy. Our fearless driver and human compass extraordinaire. We drove for over five hours, with a pitstop to explore an abandoned mining town. Andy is the best sport…even when everyone in the car passes out and abandons him to his duties.
Highlight: Impromptu explorations. In the morning after we packed up, we walked down a hidden path at the back of our campsite, down to the nearby creek and threw rocks in the water. Then, on the road, we spotted an abandoned mining town and jumped out to explore. It was a good reminder that not everything needs to be meticulously scheduled and planned. Sometimes the best memories come from a spontaneous impulse to explore. I am a hyper-planner and I need to remember that a whole day with nothing planned means I can see where it leads me.
DAY 7: Rocky Mountain National Park – Old Fall River Road
Boss Hog of the Day: Andy. He really wanted to drive the Old Fall River Road and I tried to talk him out of it because another long day in the car did not sound fun at all. I’m so glad he didn’t budge despite my wheedling and whining. The Old Falls Road had many more opportunities for impromptu exploration than I expected.
Highlight: Playing in the water. First, we explored the Alluvial Fan, a natural water park with a thin waterfall running down the rock. We rock scrambled, crossed streams, played in small pools, and Carter got the brilliant idea to slide down one of the bigger boulders butt-naked. Of course, we let him.
We ate lunch at Chasm Falls, drove up to the top of the mountain and saw incredible hanging lakes nestled at the top of distant mountains. We went on a grocery run in town, then made another impromptu decision to jump in a stream just before we reached our campsite. More butt-naked shenanigans ensued. My kids are so dang happy when they play in the water. Sometimes, we all just need time to play.
Day 8: Rocky Mountain National Park: Emerald Lake Loop
Boss Hog of the Day: Me. We hiked by three lakes and one of them was called Dream Lake. Stay tuned for to learn more…oh, the suspense!
Carter was a close second. He hiked almost the entire 3.5 mile trail on his own. And, he was adamant about leaving no trace. And he played hide-n-seek like a boss. He pretty much rules.
Highlight: We hiked by three breathtaking alpine lakes, but the highlight of this day was watching Carter and Aila walk and play together on the trail in their little raincoats. They held hands, and Carter kept turning around to warn Aila to watch her step. They spun each other around and laughed and giggled their way up the trail. Carter kept trying to put his arm around her to make sure she wouldn’t fall, but she wasn’t having it. Independent little bugger.
The OTHER highlight is one I will never forget. Stay tuned…
Day 9: Boulder -The Flat Irons
Boss Hog of the Day: Luke. Andy’s cousin Sarah’s adorable little boy stole my heart when they came to spend the day with us in Boulder.
Highlight: Picnicking at Chautauqua Park under the Flatirons. It was beautiful. Colorado is beautiful everywhere. It was lovely getting to know Andy’s cousin, Sarah. It was fun watching our kids run around on the grass. It was fun meandering a ways up the trail then meandering our way back down.
We also visited the site where Andy’s grandparents’ home used to stand before it burned down. Returning to Boulder was a bittersweet emotional experience for Andy.
Day 10: Fly Home
I think Andy and I are getting better at traveling with our little ones. Each year we plan a little more realistically, making sure to slow down our pace and plan for downtime. We love traveling with our children. It isn’t always easy, and we can’t hike as far or see as much as we might without them. There are still a lot of things I’d like to do in Colorado.
But experiencing the world with my kids and seeing the world with their eyes of joy and wonder is worth every sacrifice. This is never more apparent than when we explore together.