After spending the 4th of July in Cañon City, we said good-bye to some relatives and joined some other relatives in Westcliffe, Colorado. The plan was to meet for lunch, but some of us were confused because we didn’t have a name of a restaurant or an address to punch into the GPS. That’s because it’s a small, small town. Basically, if we all made it to the main street, we were bound to run into each other. I thought it was cool how the town seemed to just stop abruptly and end in mountains.
We had a deliciously potentially-heart-attack-inducing lunch at Chappy’s, and then, because we were with Grandma and Grandpa, ice cream seemed necessary. We wandered down the street and found some ice cream at a place that also contained a cute shop with a bunch of cool nature-themed products I’d never seen before. At about this point there was quite a bit of lollygagging, which I know makes Cute W crazy. There were ice cream decisions to make, and shopping to ponder, and my kids and other members of our group were wandering hither and yon. And meanwhile, those dark clouds that you see above rolled in and were followed by more of them.
Pretty soon, there was a massive downpour. Now, I’m not anti-rain. I usually don’t bother with an umbrella, I’m always reminding the kids that we’re not meltable wicked witches, and on a hot summer day, I’ve been known to dance around in it (come to think of it, I’ve also washed my hair in the rain, but that’s another story). But this was no ordinary rain. We were going up in elevation (Westcliffe is just under 8,000 feet), and it was chilly, and the rain was dumping down. Cute W ran to get our car–a rental that could just barely hold the huge amount of luggage and other stuff that we can with us–while I attempted to round up the children. With the water pelting, visibility was poor, but I kept squinting in the direction I thought we’d find Cute W. When I finally saw him I realized that we’d lost J in the depths of the shop. I told M to head for her dad while I retrieved J. A minute later, J and I headed after M, who was making a mad dash to the parked car. The wrong car. A stranger’s car, which she only realized when she opened the door and started to get in. Eventually we made it into our actual car, and we headed, caravan-style, to our home-away-from home, the Alpine Lodge.
The Alpine Lodge has a restaurant space, a wide deck perfect for taking in the view, and five modest cabins.
Our crowd basically took over the entire place and adopted the staff as family, at least temporarily.
The original plan was that this would be a base camp before we headed out on an ambitious hike-to-camping outing for two nights and three days up in the mountains. Instead, the cold rain continued to pour with enough vigor and frequency to make us switch the plan to a series of day hikes. I think it ended up working out better for the family, anyway. The girls loved running around our miniature village and hanging out with the kids between trips on the trails.
Here’s inside our cabin:
It’s looking considerably tidier here than it actually was while we were occupying it. Between packing for a big backpacking trip and then reorganizing for little day trips and drying out rain-soaked everything and accommodating souvenirs and endless snacks, the place was chaos. But luckily, if you were in need of serenity, the view from the porch was lovely:
On our last full day, our group split up. Cute W, two other adult men, and little J decided that they wanted to hike as far up as possible in a single day, while the rest of it decided to take it easy. Throughout the trip it became abundantly clear that, although M and I like nature just fine, our enthusiasm level is not as hike as Cute W’s and J’s. Anyway, the “hoofers” headed out before dawn, which the “slackers” enjoyed a breakfast before heading out at a much more reasonable time. In fact, as we were heading up, we received a text update that the hoofers had already passed the waterfall, which was the slackers’ planned final destination.
In fact, not all of the slackers made it to the waterfall, even. After that, we didn’t hear much, so I was fretting about how everyone was doing. The hoofers were aiming for a hike of about 10 or 12 miles that increased elevation quickly, and I was dizzy and breathless occasionally down at the lodge. We’d finished our hike by early afternoon, so I was finishing up my second vodka tonic when another text finally came through, letting us know that the hoofers would be arriving at the trail head in five minutes, and could J please have her flip-flops? All my Mama Bear instincts went nuts as I ran for the spare shoes and my brother-in-law gave me a ride to the trail head about a half mile away (we slackers were pretty tired of walking by then). I basically swooped in and picked her up and carried her to the vehicle, yelling over my shoulder to Cute W that it’s “Good to see you, too, honey!”
J was tired out but feeling quite triumphant, and all of us grown-ups–especially those of us who hadn’t been able to manage hiking half as far–were deeply impressed. The group had managed to get up high enough to reach a beautiful lake. It was half-surrounded by snow, and Cute W said that if Walt Disney decided to create a fake, idealized lake, it would be that one.
The rest of the night we heard all about their adventures while my children, checking out the vodka tonics, kept asking me “Oh my gosh, Mom! Mom? Are you drunk?” and my father-in-law pressed the rest of a bottle of Malbec on me because he knew it was my favorite. I tell ya: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Anyway, along with being an unbelievable hiker, J took tons of pictures. Here’s her view of some aspens:
And this is one of my favorites of the whole vacation, a great picture of her dad:
Seriously, that’s an awesome picture, right? Do I have Mommy Bias? I truly can’t tell. Of course, I also thinks it’s so great because I’m so very fond of the subject!
On our last morning, we all managed to drag ourselves out of bed before dawn for a little sunrise-over-the-mountain watching before we went our separate ways.
After one last breakfast, the four of us headed off to Moab, Utah.