Our first adventure on our mountain getaway was going for a hike on the Willis Gulch Trail right next to Twin Lakes. The trail was only a 10 min drive from the cabin. The weather was pretty great and although we started out with coats, we quickly shed those as we warmed up on the beginning of our hike. The most amazing thing about this hike were the views of all the aspen trees and their brightly colored leaves. It was like walking in a wonderland of yellow and orange. We hiked along the Willis Gulch Cutoff trail until for about a mile until it ran right into the main part of the Big Willis Gulch Trail. Madeline walked a good portion of this trail and had the best time in her new hiking shoes. She was quite the chatterbox while she was hiking. It really was quite impressive that she could hold a steady pace while hiking uphill. Along the trail we had great views of the Twin Lakes, a sweet waterfall, and yellow line pathways full of fall aspen leaves. As we neared the junction where our trail met up with the main trail, we had a few options. We could have kept on hiking upward towards Willis Lake, but it was another couple of miles and we thought it was better to keep today’s hike shorter since we planned on doing a bigger hike the next day. That turned out to be the wise choice. We cut down on the main Willis Gulch trail back down the mountain to make one big loop. We found a few good spots to stop and eat lunch but every time we sat down to eat our lunch, a few bees quickly smelled our sweet sandwiches and swarmed us. To say that Madeline is scared of bees, flies and pretty much anything that buzzes is an understatement. She literally freaked out, so we packed up our lunch and ate it on the move. The last beautiful section was 100 yards long of the most beautiful yellow wooded area. It was magical. We could have spent all day playing there.
After getting back to our car we headed up County Road 24 towards Mt. Elbert and found a place to park the van. Then we all piled into Mike’s car to do some off-roading to see more beautiful fall leaves. Abby opted to sit in the trunk so that Madeline could have her own seat in the middle row. We adventured on Colorado Trail Segment 11 and had the best time. We stopped every once in a while to take photos of the trees but then quickly got back in the truck for some more bumpy fun. We made it all the way up to some cool lakes and decided to get out and enjoy the view before heading back down the trail to where the van was parked. We piled into both cars and headed to Leadville to grab some ice-cream and see the cute little town. Everyone fell asleep on the way to Leadville, but the talk of ice-cream quickly woke everyone up. Madeline enjoyed her baby cone. It was jus the right size for a three year old. We ate our ice-cream and then headed onto Country Rd 105 towards Turquoise Lake Rd. We found another good spot for the van and piled once again into Mike’s car to do some more off-roading to Hagerman’s Pass where the Continental Divide is. This ride was much bumpier and definitely only a road for 4-wheel drive. There were a few scary sections where we were somewhat angled against the side of the mountain to get around some deeper ruts, but Mike navigated his way along the road nicely. He didn’t even have to use all the off-road features on his car. It was fairly windy at the top of Hagerman’s Pass. We got out for a quick photo. Luckily there was a truck right behind us that stopped at the same time to take photos at the sign. The look on their faces as we all piled out of the car was priceless. I imagine it was similar to watching a million clowns pile out of a car. I don’t think they expected 4 kids to get out of the car. After a quick pit stop, we headed back down the same way we came all the way to the van. We split ourselves between the two cars and drove into the town of Leadville to order pizza from a local pizza restaurant. Mike ordered it to go and we all enjoyed a yummy dinner back at the cabin. Then it was movie night and making cinnamon rolls for conference weekend.