Oh, the weather has been so good to us lately and we are super grateful. After doing home church we packed lunch, snacks, and water and headed on a new hike with the kids. We drove the swag wagon up Mt. Herman road and parked at the trailhead to hike to the top of Mt. Herman. We were lucky to grab a parking spot just as someone was leaving. The road was already lined with cars. It was around 1:30pm so we weren't all that surprised that it was crowded. We passed a few families on the trail, but it really wasn't as crowded as we thought it would be. Madeline was such a trooper and hiked the ENTIRE way up the trail. She had help with a few spots where it was slippery, or the rock steps were too big for her to step up on her own. Each one of us took turns holding her hand and helping her along. It really was quite impressive that as a 3-year-old she could handle such an incline. Mike carried the kid backpack just in case, but she didn't even ask to sit in it at all. The hike was really fun as we headed through some great tree sections and some fun rocky sections. Eventually we popped out on top and the views were pretty spectacular. We found a nice spot below the ridge line to each our lunch and enjoy the view. Madeline was all about the chips and grapes. Everyone else enjoyed the other fun snacks that Mike packed. Grapes, brie, crackers, chips, and hummus pleased everyone. After some laughs and silliness at the top we decided to put Madeline in the backpack for the descent. We hiked down so fast it was hard to believe it was that short of a hike. The entire hike was only around 2.5 miles round trip. The funniest thing Madeline said on the way down was, "I can't wait to get back to the car so I can hold my blanket and suck my thumb." Oh, she just makes us smile. It's good to be outside with all of the kids hiking in the great outdoors.
After just one week of being quarantined with the new stay at home orders, we were all getting a little antsy and decided to head out for a family hike at Spruce Mountain Open Space. To our surprise, the parking lot was completely packed. Luckily, we didn’t feel like there were too many people on the trail. With everyone practicing social distancing, we walked wide on the trail whenever we came to other families. Madeline was so excited to be out hiking and she kept up with everyone surprisingly well. The first part of the trail was all clear and then as we started to enter the shady part of the trail we came upon the snowy section. Since the weather has been warmer the trail was starting to melt and instead of hiking up icy sections it was more of a slushy snow. There were lots of snowball fights as we headed up the trail. The boys were always ahead and so the rest of us got the brunt of random snowballs flying towards us. It’s a good thing they didn’t have good aim. Once we got to the top we rested, took a family photo, enjoyed the view, ate some chocolate, and then headed down an entirely different way. We decided to climb down some big rocks and explore. It was definitely a fun way to go down, albeit it a bit more dangerous. After getting back to our car, we were all craving ice-cream and so we headed straight to Baskin Robbins and got ice-cream cones through the drive through. I couldn’t think of any better way to end our fun family hike.
We adventured today to the Painted Mines to go walking and exploring with the kids. The last time we were at the Painted Mines was 5 years ago. This was Madeline’s first experience and she loved it. The older kids didn’t delay in exploring up and into the different geological formations. We technically weren’t supposed to be walking up on top of the formations, but we did it anyways, trying to be careful to not destroy anything we were walking on. It didn’t matter that we had been here before. Every formation seemed new to us. We all loved the different shades of yellow and pink. The brightly colored bands of clay, caused by oxidized iron compounds, are found throughout the entire park in formations including spires and hoodoos. The clay has an almost chalky feel to it. By the end of our exploring our pants were covered in what looked like chalk. We didn’t care, though, because this awesome Interpretive Park is pretty unique and amazing. We were lucky to be able to explore on a relatively warmer winter day. On our walk back to the car we shared the chocolate bar I had brought from home. That made for a great end to our adventure.
For Mike's birthday this year I booked a weekend away to Beaver Creek at the Park Hyatt for some relaxation and outdoor adventure. Since the weather was a bit colder than we had anticipated, we left our mountain bikes at home and planned on doing some hiking instead. We left on Thursday evening and got to the resort a little after 9pm. The hotel was exactly like I had remembered it a year ago with some slight updates to the lobby. We headed up to our room, which we got upgraded to a suite, and turned on a movie and ordered room service while Mike finished up some work from the day. It was nice to just sit and watch TV together before drifting off to sleep.
The next day it was so incredibly cold and snowing and so we decided to sleep in. We ate a very yummy breakfast in the hotel restaurant before walking over to the Allegria Spa to check out their services. We booked a massage for the following day and then grabbed our coats from our room so we could head to the village to do some shopping. We went into the various shops and didn't buy much except for a cute pair of ski socks for Madeline. We stopped at Rimini's for a warm ham and cheese sandwich and a Nutella and banana crepe. It all tasted so good. After a few more shops, and talking with some pretty great locals, we headed back in the hotel to grab our suits so we could spend some time in the outside jacuzzi. We love sitting outside in the jacuzzi when its cold and snowy outside. There is just something so magical about it all. The rest of the day was spent napping and relaxing before heading to dinner at Hooked which is a seafood restaurant. We ate the most delicious Japanese rolls. They were like no other rolls we had ever eaten. Then we headed out to find some yummy dessert. We decided to drive down to Vail to grab some dessert at a local Ale House. It wasn't quite up to par but that was ok because the fries we had were delicious. Then we headed back to the hotel and grabbed our free s'mores kit and headed up to the room to eat the chocolate and go to bed. It was much too cold to actually go outside to the fire pit and roast s'mores.
The next morning, we woke up to cold temperatures but sunny skies. We ate another fabulous breakfast and then headed out on our hike up to Bear Lake. We took the Bear Lake trail which followed the creek. It was awesome to be able to hear the creek alongside the trail almost all the way up to the lake. Most of the trail was snow covered with the snow that had fallen the day before. It was actually really great to hike in the snow. The hike up to the lake was relatively easy and we enjoyed being together. It was super peaceful up at the lake and we enjoyed playing with two little birds who enjoyed our crumbs. We decided to head back a different way and took the Overlook trail which had us venture across the various slopes. It was pretty spectacular hiking through dense forests before popping out on the open slopes only to cross and then hike once again through another set of trees. This went on for quite some time and eventually we lost count of how many sections we went through. As we looked at our watches it became clear that we needed to pick up the pace if we were going to make it back in time for our 3:00pm massages. At one point we actually started running on the trail when we could. With only 15 min before 3:00pm, we were getting desperate to find a short cut back. So, like idiots, we decided to get off the wooded trail, and just walk/run/slide down the last sloped mountain straight back to the hotel. It was kind of crazy going straight down the mountain. Mike used his hiking poles and glissaded down some of the snowier sections. We just laughed and laughed all the way down. We made it back to our room with only a few minutes to spare. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting pampered and then relaxing in the 5-Step Aqua Sanitas Water Sanctuary. It was the perfect way to unwind after our 8-mile hike. After showering and getting ready for the evening, we headed down to the bar in the lobby area and ordered the most amazing appetizer while we killed time waiting for our dinner reservation at Mirabelle's. We ordered the Cheese and Charcuterie Platter and it was DELICIOUS!!! Then it was off to Mirabelle's to eat some tasty French cuisine. It was the perfect way to end a pretty perfect day and a pretty fantastic getaway to Beaver Creek! Of course, it snowed throughout the night and when we woke up to go home it was all snow covered. That was pretty magical!
I’m not sure whether we are just optimistic parents or just plain nuts because we decided to take Peter, Emma, Abby, and Madeline on a 14er up to the summit of Mt. Huron. Mike and I hiked this last summer and thought it was one of the easiest 14er's so we figured our kids would have no problems. Emma and Peter really didn’t struggle at all during our hike while Abby and Madeline definitely had their moments of dislike for us on the trail. The weather was a little cooler when we started and since it was the fall with no worry about afternoon thunderstorms, we knew we could leave later in the morning. We were on the trail by 9:30am and started our adventure with Madeline out of the pack and walking right with us. We put her in the backpack to begin with but she was quick to tell us that she wanted to walk. She hiked for the first ¾ of a mile up the trail and just had the best time. We didn’t stop that much the first mile. It was uphill, of course, but the trail was mostly straight. By the time we made it to the switchbacks we put Madeline in the backpack and Mike carried her through the 16+ switchbacks. We did stop a few times for snacks and to remind the kids to be drinking plenty of water and to just rest our legs from the mildly rocky and steep switchbacks. Mike was really good about letting Abby know when we would be done with the switchbacks. It was important to give her updates about the upcoming sections of the trail. Up until this point most everyone was pretty happy and doing quite well on the trail. Madeline had a few moments of sadness, but it was probably because she wasn’t used to sitting in the pack for long periods of time. We tried to entertain her by singing songs and at one point I turned on some kid songs from my iPhone to keep her spirits up. That lasted until we popped out up and onto the meadow area of the hike.
The meadow section is such a fun part of the trail. It’s not steep and it levels out quite a bit. We told Abby it was flat, to which she replied, “This is not flat AT ALL.” I replied, “This is as flat as you get climbing up a mountain.” I’m not sure she loved that response, but it was true. It was flat enough that you didn’t feel like you had to work very hard. Peter, Emma, and Mike went ahead while I walked with Abby across the “flat” meadow trail. We only stopped a few times to rest our legs for only a few seconds before continuing on. We finally made it to the end of the meadow where we met the others at a large rock at the bottom of the next big push up the mountain. We stopped there for a good 10-15 minutes to actually sit down and have some snacks and hunker down out of the wind. We ate grapes, various cheeses and crackers. It felt good to eat and to sit. At this point it was either turn around and head back or push it to the top. We decided to keep on pushing. Mike continued to carry Madeline, for which I was super grateful. The wind started to pick up and so we decided to grab the bigger blanket we had brought in our packs and put it over Madeline’s pack so we could cover up her legs. Her pants kept riding up and so there was a small section of her leg that was exposed. As strong as Mike is, I could tell that this was taking a toll on him. With the extra weight from carrying her coupled with the ridiculous wind it made our journey quite hard. Madeline was not a happy camper by this point. We had her all bundled up in the pack, but I could tell she was tired and a bit cold. At one point we took her out of the pack and took turns just carrying her in our arms. I could literally only do it for 20 ft at a time. It became frustrating that we were not moving very fast. Where once our hands were nice and warm, the wind started to turn our hands numb and cold. I’m not going to lie; this was a much harder ascent this time around. Between Madeline and Abby, Mike and I were struggling to keep their spirits up and our own. We let Peter climb ahead since he is such a fast hiker and Emma even took off. She ended up coming back down the trail several times because she didn’t want to get that far ahead. Other travelers along the way told her, “You will have hiked more than anyone else as you go up and down and up and down the trail.” She got a chuckle out of that. Once we made it to the cathedral spires, it was the last rocky scramble to the summit. With only 400 ft of rocky scramble we were too close to quit. I think we all cried a little bit as we made our way to the top. Abby had several melt downs and Madeline had fallen somewhat asleep from all the trauma from the wind. I kept checking on her and calling her name just to make sure she was conscious. She was ok; just tired and a little cold. At one-point Abby refused to go any further. Another hiker was making his way down and stopped to give her some of his oxygen. She immediately perked right up. She and Mike took turns getting some more oxygen in their lungs before continuing on. That sweet traveler let Abby keep the remainder of the oxygen to use on her way up. It was really sweet. We all did make it to the top and stopped very quickly for a quick photo. Peter had been sitting there for an hour by the time we arrived. He was pretty cold, but he hunkered down behind some rocks to wait for us. He is pretty experienced with climbing 14ers so we knew he would be ok. The views from the top were pretty remarkable. It was too bad it was so windy because we really couldn’t spend very much time up there.
The rocky scramble back down to the cathedral spires was probably the worst part of the hike. It was hard to find the path we had come up and we got a little off the beaten path at the beginning. Tempers flared a bit, but we did make it back to the real trail. All I could think of was poor Mike. He had carried Madeline in a pack with the wind blowing him all around. I couldn’t have done what he did. I wanted to get down this next section back to the meadow fast and the only way to do that was if Abby hiked at the same pace as the rest of us. I linked arms with her, and we just flew down the mountain. Every time we turned on the trail, we switched positions so that she was closer to the mountain. That made her more comfortable and she was able to keep up a good pace. It was so crazy how our hands started to unthaw the further down the trail we climbed. As we neared the last section of this part of the hike, I noticed Mike was slowing down, so I let Abby and Peter go ahead while I waited for Mike. Emma had already made her way into the meadow by that point. Later Mike told me that his legs were starting to shake uncontrollably so he had to stop more. By the time we made it to the meadow we all met up at the same rock as before and ate our lunch. We should have eaten earlier but it was way too cold at the top so this was the first place we could eat. Mike took off the pack and laid down on the ground. Madeline finally perked up but didn’t eat a lot of her sandwich but was happy to eat tons of fruit snacks. After a good period of resting I took the backpack and carried Madeline down most of the way down. She was quite the chatterbox on the way down and her spirits were pretty good. I think she was happy to be warmer and out of the wind. Just when I was about ready to be done carrying Madeline, she wanted to get out and walk. Thank goodness. She walked the last ¾ of a mile back to the trailhead. It was so cute listening to her little conversations with me. She talked about all sorts of funny things. It made the last part of our hike rather enjoyable. By the time we all made it back to the car we were so relieved and proud that we had made it together to the top of Mt. Huron. Did we push ourselves past our limits…maybe? But what could be better than teaching our kids that they can do hard things. Afterall, there are always life lessons when hiking in the mountains together!