|Top of Deer Mountain - Elevation 10,026 feet|
My first NSV of the trip came in the middle of Kansas. Traveling as a child, we would always see the signs on the barns that said, "See Rock City" but I didn't know there was one in KS! It's crazy to think of how giddy I was to actually get to stop and see Rock City! There's not a whole lot to really see there, but it was a place where I climbed the big rocks...celebrated making it to the top and overcame the fear of climbing back down. (Truly the hardest part for me because I couldn't really see where I should put my feet!) Though climbing was an NSV in itself, the NSV that made my day was when CME encouraged me to crawl through Doughnut Hole Rock. Trust me, I had not intention of doing so until he said, "Now THAT would be an NSV!" - knowing that I've passed on certain activities like caving with the boys because I knew I couldn't fit. So yes, I accepted his encouragement and crawled through a rock! WooHoo!
We drove on to stay with our friends in Boulder for the night...still kind of silly excited about that experience. Monday morning we visited NCAR - which was a real treat for us all, but probably mostly for our youngest son who thoroughly enjoys science. From there we headed on to our campsite at Morraine Park Campground in RMNP. As we were setting up camp, we were visited by a female elk. Yes...right there in the campground. She was within 50 feet of us and didn't seem to care we were there. Crazy. We ate a quick lunch and decided to drive on up to the Alpine Visitor Center. I am so thankful that CME drives so cautiously! The roads are crazy-curvy with massive drop-offs on the sides. He rocked it!
At two miles above sea level (11,796 feet), the Alpine Visitor Center is the highest facility of its kind in the National Park Service. There's a place across from the building where you can climb a set of stairs to be even higher... 12,005 feet! Second NSV (though it seems small compared to some of the others) was that I climbed those stairs...pain free...and even with the altitude and oxygen levels being different I wasn't totally out of breath! Come to think of it, I'm not sure I was even a little out of breath! The views of the mountains and the tundra were breathtaking...but the activity level not as much! From there we drove on to the Continental Divide where we spent a few moments to enjoy the site...the water...the mountains...the trees...the snow! Yes, day one in RMNP was a good day!
Though I'm positive that CME shared the information with me prior to our trip, I didn't fully realize what Day 2 would entail. Had I realized the details in advance, I may not have ever come to realize that I could do this! CME fully researched this trip and knew the best way to handle our next hike - Bear Lake to Fern Lake Trailhead. The sites were spectacular and the terrain was everything from rock, stone, dirt, water to sand and snow! The hike itself was 9.2 miles with a total elevation gain of 1230 feet and it took us 7 hours to complete. (Many NSVs during that time period.) It was the hardest and most exhausting 7 hours I've ever endured. But my goodness was it worth it! More than once, I would get teary-eyed. Not because I was tired or in pain (though the descent down did make my knees tender), but because I was in awe of God's transforming power in my life! This was hard. I hurt in places I didn't know existed. I crossed snow-covered paths that truly should have made my heart so nervous I couldn't move (one wrong step...) but instead I was basking fully in God's creation and praising Him that He made it possible for me to be living this life...hiking and experiencing His greatness with my family. I spent a lot of time, thanking Him while on the trail as well as calling for His strength to finish safely. Through Him, all things are possible. I never imagined I would have or could have done this....but I did! Praise God!!
Wednesday, Day 3, was a special day as well. Our oldest son celebrated his 16th birthday on the summit of Deer Mountain - a 6 mile round trip hike with a total elevation gain of 1236 feet. (NSV yet again.) Our youngest was determined to beat the rest of us to the summit. He succeeded by about 10-15 minutes. Again, breathtaking views of the mountains, plus a sneak peek at Estes Park where we'd later celebrate PJE's birthday. Trail food lunch at the summit was nice...except for the chipmunks who definitely were NOT afraid of humans. They weren't mean, but they were rather aggressive in their attempts to snag some of our food. I thought they were cute even if they were pests!
Later that afternoon, we celebrated PJE's birthday at Grubsteak Restaurant where CME and PJE dined on Yak Burgers, MAE had an Elk Burger and I had a portabella mushroom burger. In hindsight, I probably should have eaten something I can't get locally, but I like portabella burgers... Anyway, the guys enjoyed the wild game and trying something different and I did try their Wild Boar Scotch Eggs. Pretty tasty actually. The rest of the evening was spent visiting the various shops, stopping at a park where Rocky Mountain Church was preparing for "Praise in the Park" (cool!) and ended with ice cream from Hayley's Ice Cream Shop (recommended by our waitress). Though I don't often indulge in ice cream and I find it expensive to buy one only to eat about half...that's what I did...ordered a single scoop of the salted caramel ice cream, ate about half and was way satisfied.
Day 4 in the park was a "take it easy to let our bodies recover" day. We slept in a little, ate breakfast, then headed out to the west side of the park. More meadows and open fields than the east side, but also a place to see more wildlife. We stopped again at Alpine Visitors Center...yanno, bathroom break and coffee stop! Our first "official" visit was at the Holzwarth Historic Site. A small walk back to the cabins to visit a little bit of history was fun and also allowed us some much needed walking (on flat terrain) time to keep the muscles from getting too stiff. Not to mention that I took a few moments to sit next to the Colorado River - because I could.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Coyote Valley Trail. Again, this was a flat area where the mountains and open fields were quiet and peaceful, especially being the only ones there at the time. We walked the trail that wound along side the Colorado River and even took a moment to all put our hands in it. It was during this hike that I got to spend some time talking with MAE about how God was moving in my heart during the week. We saw MANY older adults (seniors for sure!) who were out on these trails - moving and grooving. Many of them even passing us at times. I told MAE that this trip had been one that God kept showing me that He is allowing me to truly LIVE life. To be active...to move...to be healthy. I admitted to MAE that I still have days I struggle with my addiction. There are still days I have to battle the urge to eat more than I should or things that I should. I told him I have a tendency to be lazy when it comes to exercise. I'm not doing what I should all the time, but I also told him that God was how I was able to get through the past two days. More than once I called on His name to help me take another step. I want this life to be a reflection of His goodness, so EVERY thing I do is for His glory - this trip included.
We later stopped at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center on the west entrance to the park where the Park Ranger advised us to visit Adams Falls since we were looking for a short hike. I am so glad we listened to her! The hike back was short...with some elevation gain, but the falls were beautiful. There's something about the sound of water that calms me. I wasn't even stressed as the boys got closer to the ledge than I would have instructed. We continued our hike past the falls to see some 'meadows' (though I think CME and I both would consider them swamps!). And there he was! Within 100 feet from us (and up a hill) was a bull moose grazing on the land! He was huge! I was more than a little pumped to see him...it was one animal I wanted to check off our list...and for CME and the boys to see up close too! Super cool!
We concluded our night by driving back to Estes Park for dinner and by the time we got there (about an hour and a half later) anyone nearby could tell CME and I were tourists - just by how we were walking! Legs. Dying. (Ever have to tell your legs to move?) Quick pizza and then back to camp so we could rest up before heading home.
Both on the way out and the way back, we stayed at different KOA Campgrounds - one in Topeka and one in Salina. Both were very nice...yet different. Not all KOAs are the same, but I'd recommend either of these. CME knew we'd be tired on the way back so we didn't camp on the way home. Instead he rented the TeePee at the KOA in Salina KS. The camp is owned by a Native American Family and being able to stay in the teepee was a great ending to our week on the road. (Never been so happy and thankful for hot showers!!!)
Some things I failed to mention:
- No hot running water in the campground. Solar showers are great...IF the sun comes out to warm the water and IF you're not taking the shower in the evening when the sun is setting and the cool breeze whipping through the outdoor facility. Solar shower = not a fan.
- The weather? We couldn't have planned it any better. The weather was amazing and each day it seemed to be exactly what we needed for the trail/hike.
- I did have 3 blisters, 1 mosquito bite and 1 bug bite gone bad...but other than that, it was great!
- There was a hummingbird one afternoon that kept flying around our head. That was cool.
- Watching the rain fall at the mountain across the way was interesting.
- There are interesting people on Pearl Street in Boulder.
- Having friends to visit (both ways) was definitely a bonus to our trip.
- God can create friendships through ways we can't imagine...Instagram? Yep.
- The drive is looooooooooooong.
I'm sure its because I'm a city girl, but being in the mountains allowed me many opportunities to reflect on life, on where I was physically and emotionally not long ago and where God has brought me through this journey. He's allowing me to truly LIVE this Life! I am so grateful! I'm at awe of Him!
|Crawling through Doughnut Hole Rock|
|We're THAT family.|
|Admiring our "backyard" for the week.|
|Had to touch the snow at the Alpine Visitor Center!|
|First "hike" of the trip...up those steps!|
|12,005 above sea level!|
|Hanging out in the rocks - looking over the tundra!|
|We just HAD to get in the snow!|
|Then a snowball came flying at us!|
|Part of our 9.2 mile hike|
|Part of our 9.2 mile hike|
|Love this man!!! So thankful for him!|
|The "sketchy snow" slope part of our 9.2 mile hike.|
|Part of our 9.2 mile hike - getting a bit tired!|
|Beautiful view...narrow path! Part of our 9.2 mile hike|
|So thankful for his encouragement and support!|
Part of our 9.2 mile hike
|On top of Deer Mountain with my honey!|
|He napped while waiting for the rest of us!|
|What a cool place to spend your 16th birthday!|
|Know where you're going...even when you're just 16!|
|Family time = fun time!|
|Quite place for a nice picnic.|
|Selifes at the falls?|
|There's a moose up there!|
|TeePee for the win!|
"I praise you [God] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." ~Psalm 139:14