Monday, July 21, 2014

Colorado 2014 - Castlewood Canyon and Dam

Last year, we "discovered" Castlewood Canyon and were so excited about it that we went again this year. It's such a fun hike, regardless of which side of the park you do. Of course, we did both sides again, but this particular post is about the hike up the Dam side of the park. Jamie was working that day, so we took her 4 kids and ours into the park for the hike. We tried using our new bike trailer/stroller for a little while, but the trail was just too rocky for the wide wheelbase to fit through, so we parked it on the side and picked it up on the way back.


The dam collapsed in 1933, causing a huge flood all the way to Downtown Denver, about 40 miles away

Emma being a big girl.



 The kids all love climbing into the spillway pipe.






   The dam is really cool and doesn't take long to get to, but the big bonus for the kids is splashing in the creek on the way back.
 

Irene wasn't too keen on the cold water.
 She much preferred the rocks.


 The kids found a big crayfish to play with.



 This time of year has some very pretty thistles in bloom. Eeyore would be thrilled. Well, as thrilled as Eeyore can get anyway...
 The cacti are so pretty in bloom, too.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Colorado 2014 - Grand Lake

Now, back to the trip...

Immediately on finishing Hanging Lake, we did some hobo baths with the kids in the rest area there and loaded everyone up for the 3-hour drive to Grand Lake. By this time it was getting close to 9pm and getting dark. We had originally planned on camping in Grand Lake, but being so late, we decided we'd just sleep in the cars in the driveway of the cabin where we were spending the day. We set out following Jamie because she had a smart phone and could use GPS. We only have dumb phone and have to rely on printed directions. Our directions were the same as hers, but the road between CO-131 and Kremmling, CO (Trough Road) was so desolate and dark (not to mention dirt...) that we wouldn't have found it if it hadn't been for her leading us. It was dark out. I don't mean that it was nighttime dark. I mean it was dark enough that I was concerned every time Jamie went around a bend ahead of us because her lights disappeared. It was a new moon and I'm sure that the stars were probably brilliant if we had been sitting still somewhere, but when there are no buildings, streetlights or other vehicles, it's way dark. Just as a lark, i briefly switched our lights off and we were immediately engulf in pitch-blackness. Bad idea. I didn't do that again. So after 3+ harrowing hours, we did make it into Grand Lake and got the cabin. At this point, the kids had been mostly asleep. Rebecca and Jamie worked it out so that they could go on the porch and sleep on a couch, but the rest of us were left to the wolves. Now, by this time it was around 1am and I was exhausted from the drive and the day. All I wanted was a little sleep. No sooner had I dozed than Gabe woke up saying he needed to poop. I tried to stall him hoping it was a false alarm, but he was insistent. Being pitch black and not having any idea how to get into the house, let alone how to find a bathroom, I set off (rather angrily) in search of a hole in which he could relieve himself. Grand Lake is a quaint, slightly touristy mountain town that seems to hut down shortly after dark. No all-night grocery stores, drug stores or gas stations. I started back down the road toward Granby (with a vague notion of just driving back to Denver) when I spotted the campsite we were going to use before we decided to get here so late. Thinking I could sneak in and borrow their facilities, I went down that road, but it turned out to be a gated pay facility since it's owned by the National Forestry Service. Further frustrated (if that's possible), I turned around and just pulled over on the side of the road and tried to get him to go. Now he tells me he doesn't have to... It's a wonder I didn't lose it. I drove back to the house (only because I had all Rebecca's clothes and toiletries) and parked again in the driveway. I put my seat back and tried to go to sleep. At this point Emma started waking every 5 minutes with a blood-curdling scream. No explanation, just an ear-destroying wail. Then she'd settle down and be quiet. Then she'd scream again. In the midst of this, Gabe again tells me he needs to go. I may have said a few words that I would regret if I could remember them. I resisted the temptation to tell him to just go in his Pull-Up (because I didn't want to have to smell it the rest of the night), and got him out of the van and helped him go in the weeds right on the side of the road. Not ideal, but he went. Back in the van. 5 minutes pass and Ezra tell me he has to go. If I'd had a sharp implement, I possibly would have taken my own life. He said he just had to pee, so I opened the sliding door and told him to have at it. All this time, Emma has continued her alarm. Once Ezra was resettled, I managed to calm Emma enough to get her back to sleep and dozed off again. By then, it was close to 3am. After what seemed like 5 minutes, I was awakened and blinded by a bright light. Yup. The sun. It was 6:30am. The kids were still asleep, so I tried sleeping for a little while longer, but finally, at 7:30, I admitted defeat. It was a Herculean effort to put on a positive face and go in search of coffee and breakfast. 

Now, you might think it just ruined the rest of the day to have a bad night and normally, you'd be right. However, Colorado mountains, coffee, pancakes and eggs, more coffee, laughing kids, good friends and beautiful weather can really cheer a person up. The cabin was fantastic and reminded me a great deal of my family's Adirondack camp. Once we were all inside, there were 5 adults and 16 kids packed into this little place! There were our 5, Jamie's 4 and Kristie and Jared's 4. Then there were 3 more that K & J were watching for friends. Fortunately, they were older and able to help guide the rest of the herd.

So after breakfast we all loaded into our respective vehicles and drove to the East Inlet trailhead that took us to Cascade Falls. Always suckers for waterfalls, we were glad to go the 1/2-mile or so to see this one. 





But the waterfall wasn't the end of the line by any means. Jamie and Kristie led us further on the trail into the Rocky Mountain National Park. As we rounded a bend, this is the view we came upon:
Just breathtaking. It's a gorgeous view of Mt Craig (Mount Baldy) in the middle.

 A little farther on is this great overlook that lets you see the creek for miles ahead. We stopped and took various group photos.
 All 16 kids.


We tried to get a good picture of Emma, but she decided that this was a great time to try out her various silly faces. She is such a nut. She practiced those faces all weekend and would do them every time i asked her to smile... :) 


  

Jared stopped for a little while to show us how he fly fishes. I've never been fly fishing but if I had access to a place like this, I believe I could get into it pretty easily. Rebecca really wanted to spot some wildlife on this hike, particularly a moose. Kristie has posted many a picture of moose she has seen in Grand Lake on facebook. But, with so many in our group, especially kids, and considering the time of day, it was not meant to be. So we just have to go back.

After hiking back, it was just barely noon, so we went back home, packed lunch, changed in to our suits and went to the beach. Yes. The beach.

 The town of Grand Lake has a very nice park and beach area.

 The view and atmosphere reminded me so much of Camp.


It didn't take long for the boys to start making a remarkable network of canals and dams.

 Gabe, Ezra and Emma spent quite a while digging and hauling water.


 Even Irene got in on the action. She wasn't sure at first about the sand, so she just touched from the safety of the towel.

 Not to long afterwards, she was scooting around the beach like a champ.

 "Ooo! Water..."
 She scooted herself all the way own to the water and sat playing and splashing the the frigid water.
 Jared and Kristie have access to a paddle board and canoe. I tried the paddle board, but it was so windy and rough I didn't try standing. Even on my knees, it was all I could do to keep my balance. It was exhausting! The kids each took a ride in the canoe, but it wasn't much easier than the paddle board with all that wind.

Rebecca got out there, too.

 As the day wound down, Rebecca told me about a path near the house that was worth checking out. It led down to the shore and along to a bridge over the canal between Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake. The view from the bridge was fantastic.

 After dinner, we loaded up the kiddos and headed toward home. As we drove south out of Grand Lake, we spotted these awesome views of Mount Nevo and Twin Peaks.

We had such a great time that we wished we could spend another day or two, but...
more adventures await...