Tuesday, December 20, 2022

RMNP--Day 2

This was a glorious, glorious day.

Because of the various time changes and time zones, we were awake at 4:30 am--and when you're awake that early, why on earth WOULDN'T you go watch the sunrise?

My original hope had been a sunrise hike to Sprague Lake--but I was pretty sure my mom couldn't handle that, and it was honestly so dang cold that I was not sure how pleasant it would be. This ended up being the coldest day of our trip. So, we drove into the park while it was dark, slowly winding our way up the roads. They started off clear but as the elevation crept up, they acquired more snow and ice. I felt fine and comfortable, but my mom was really freaked out by the roads, which was endless amusing to me--we are both originally from Buffalo! Come on, now!

At some point, heading up to Bear Lake, the sun hit the top of Hallett Peak and its surrounding peaks. We pulled off to the side and just watched the sun travel down, lighting up everything in orange and pink. The wind was whipping the snow over the mountains in such a way as to make it look like someone was pulling a translucent sheet over them, all rosy with the sun's glow.

We made it to Bear Lake, and the parking lot was basically empty--and icy. We scooted over to the Bear Lake trail head, poles at the ready, and made our way around the lake. It's a short, flat hike, but oh damn was it COLD. the wind would whip across the ice and throw its daggers into your face. The beauty was unreal though--in many spots, we were the first people to cut a trail through the snow. The sun was just now starting to hit the lake and dance through the trees, and it was silent and lovely and empty. 

We scurried back to the car to warm up and eat a bagel, and drink some hot tea from a thermos I packed. This time, we strapped on microspikes, and headed out on to the Alberta Falls Trail. It was packed with snow and we were clearly the first people of the day on it. We traveled down the trail for about a mile, before my mom decided that she wanted to head back. So, we didn't get to see the falls, but we did have a nice two mile hike there. It was a really beautiful trail, packed with snow and silent, with pines towering overhead and glimpses of the glacier canyon beyond. Throughout this trip, I really encouraged her to just say when she was ready to head back--I didn't want to get in over her head and her abilities. So back we went to the car to warm up, and to head to Sprague Lake. 

Sprague Lake was so beautiful and possibly the coldest place of it all. It's so open and lovely, but that wind whips off the mountain with nothing to block it and just slams into you. The lake was frozen over, and in some spots, probably frozen enough to walk on, though we wisely decided not to test it yet. Around we went, marveling at the gorgeous views and how rapidly winter was closing in on the mountains. 

After a quick drive around Moraine Park--just so that I could show my mom where we were going to hike tomorrow--we headed back to our cabin for soup. We ate some food and slurped some soup and hot chocolate, warming up and relaxing. 

Because we are gluttons for cold punishment, we drove over to Lilly Lake. The flat path around the lake seemed ideal for Mom, plus it's got some great mountain views of Twin Sisters. So around we trundled, all bundled up, stopping for pictures and to throw ice onto the iced over lake and to sit on the benches and admire the view. I took far too many pictures of Twin Sisters and promised them I'd be back to see them specifically.

We headed back into town to pop in a few shops and browse. Mom found a taffy shop and bought salt water taffy--then we ordered barbeque from a restaurant and grabbed it as take out. We brought our glorious BBQ back to the cabin and ate like we were feral wolves, and watched The Bodyguard.

At some point, we realized how dark it was, and decided to drive to the end of the road and look at the stars. It's so incredibly dark that you can see the spiral arm of the Milky Way with your eyes.

I think we slept like rocks, exhausted from all the walking and hiking. 

Monday, December 19, 2022

We Interrupt This Show

 Shortly after I pressed publish on that last post, I got a call from our local Golden Retriever rescue organization. They had rescued twelves--TWELVE--golden retriever puppies, approximately 6 months in age, and their mom from a puppy and mill and some truly horrible conditions. They needed foster homes.

So, being the suckers for a cute dog face that we are, we agreed to take one in. We named him Nacho Dog, because he is NOT our dog and he's only staying until he's healed up and finds his forever family. Nacho is doing really well, has settled in finally, and we think we've found his forever family! He's one of the sweetest, calmest pups I've ever had, and I'll be sad to see him go--but the chaos of two dogs and two kids and two adults with two full time jobs is too much. No foster fails here. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

RMNP--Day One

Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Day 1--Arrive at Denver at 10:20 am. Rent car, drive to Estes Park.
  • Day 2--Split day between time in park and time in town.
  • Day 3--Same.
  • Day 4--Leave Estes Park and head to Denver; rent car and stay at hotel near airport. 
  • Day 5--leave at 5 am from Denver. 
Day 1

At some point on the plane, it occurred to me that I have never individually rented a car before. By the time I was old enough to rent a car, I had been with JK for years, and I typically handled flights and he handled car rental. It turned out to be a breeze--I showed up on the shuttle from the Denver airport, my name was on the board, they told me to grab any car I wanted, and so I did. I joked with my mom that it felt like I had just stolen a car, but I guess that's how rental agencies do it these days. 

I enjoy that drive from Denver to Estes Park. It's so flat on one side, and then abruptly skyrockets on the other. For awhile, you're just racing along the side of the mountains and then slowly, you're turning yourself into them. Their fingers and then their arms wrap around you and pull you in, and you're surrounded by stone, reaching above you. You lose cell service. You lose time. Your ears pop. And then Estes Park bursts out from around the bend, laid out in front of you, with mountains towering over it. 

We stopped in town first--parked the car, walked around the streets, and got some lunch. Dinner? Brunch? Who knows, it was all very confusing at that point about what time it was, between the time zone change and the actual daylight savings time change. Warmed up, and with full bellies, we went over to YMCA of Rockies, where I've been wanting to stay for about two years now.

It did not disappoint.

The check in lodge had roaring fireplaces, and check in was a breeze. Our cabin was close and on the main campus, so it was very easy to locate and a great location for what we were doing. It was a two bedroom, sleeps 5 cabin--a queen bed and a room with a twin and two bunkbeds. It would be great for our family to stay in. A decent sized living room with a couch and coffee table, kitchen table, and small but perfectly adequate kitchen was all we needed. No TVs, though, but that was a welcome relief. The huge porch wrapped around half the cabin, and right out the front door was Longs Peak. It was too cloudy the first day to see it, though, so that was a nice sunrise surprise later on.

We drove into the park, stopping at some pullouts for the views. 

I took Mom over to the Alluvial Fan, figuring it's always a fan (see what I did there?) favorite, and also a very gentle elevation change walk. It was indeed a hit, with Mom taking so many pictures of it all that she filled up her ipad. 

The sun had sunk behind the mountains, so we bundled back into the car and drove out through the Fall River exit. On the way out, we spotted a herd of elk by Sheep Lakes, so we parked and watched them for a bit.

Circling through town, we grabbed some light groceries and went back to the YMCA. We had hot chocolate, summer sausage, cheese, and pretzels for dinner, and promptly went to bed. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Catch Up Preview

I have so much to say and catch up on that it's almost overwhelming! Here's a preview, mostly in pictures. 

We hiked all over Acadia National Park and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Shortly after I returned from Acadia, my mom and I went to Rocky Mountain National Park. Magical doesn't quite cover it. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Travel Planning: Acadia National Park

Plans are coming together for our October trip to Acadia National Park!

Traveling: We had originally planned to fly and rent a car, but ultimately decided that a road trip was the way to go. So the K Caravan will be heading across several states in our van, stuff and all! Our kids are good road trippers, we like being able to carry some of our stuff and gear we couldn't be able to bring easily on a plane, and lord, airports are SUCH a hassle with kids and stuff.

We plan to leave on a Friday and make it to Buffalo, where we can hang with my parents. The next day, we either leave super early in the morning and make it all the way to Acadia, or we decide to make a real road trip out of it and pick a random location before or around Boston to stop. Buffalo to Acadia is anywhere from 10-12 hours from my parents' house. Stopping just prior to Boston is one option, and hanging with JK's sister for the night; the other is a more winding route into some of the small towns in VT or NH. 

We are traveling with friends who will join our caravan in Buffalo. Their child lives out in Maine, so they are combining this with a visit to her.

Stay: We've got a place rented with a local company. We've got a whole house to ourselves, shortly after you get onto Mount Desert Island. I'm excited about this place, because it's got water views. We figured this was a good base for exploring all of MDI, while also giving us easy access to get off MDI and maybe check out parts of the park that are located elsewhere.

Hikes: I mean, as per usual, we have a whole list that we will adapt, depending on weather, kid participation, etc. EK has agreed to get up before sunrise and hike up Cadillac Mountain with me to see sunrise at the top--we shall see if she will do it. It might be JK and I, and our kids may hang with our friends. 

Other stuff: We've got plans for kayaks, renting bikes, a boat ride, time in Bar Harbor, seeing the lighthouse and other landmarks, and more. All weather depending, obviously. We also know that there's the chance to do some tidepooling and other things that will be wildly new experiences for us. 

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Travel Planning: Rocky Mountain National Park

What's that, you say? You just posted a plan for this. For a snowy, winter visit, right? And also aren't you going to Acadia, like SOON and maybe you should plan that?

Yep! And those are still the plans!

My parents were here for a short visit, and my mom was talking about how she always wanted to go to Yosemite. After they left, I thought to myself, well, self, let's just take her there! So I told her, and planning commenced. She's had surgery recently, so she decided she was not up to Yosemite, her dream trip, and wanted to wait until she had recovered more. I suggested five other national parks I knew she had not been to, and she picked Rocky Mountain NP. 

I actually tried to talk her out of it, based on my own experience. But then, I did a search for easy hikes and easy walks, and looked at everything there was to do in town, and though, nah, this is PERFECT. I think she was nervous that I would want to do some big hikes, but there are lots of easy, gentle hikes I've never done because I thought they were too crowded. However, we're going in November, so crowds will be significantly less.

Stay: YMCA of the Rockies.

Hikes: (1) South Moraine Lateral Trail; (2) Sprague Lake (if she's up for it, from East Portal; if not, just around the lake and maybe down the trail a bit); (3) Bear Lake; (4) Dream Lake; (5) Nymph Lake; (6) Lily Lake; (7) Beaver Meadow; (8) Beaver Ponds; (9) Alluvial Fan; and (10) Hidden Valley. Look at those great, easy options! If she's feeling it, we could do harder hikes and just go real slow.

Other stuff: (1) Browsing Estes Park; (2) The Estes Park observatory; (3) activities at the YMCA of the Rockies. 

Day 1--Fly into Denver. We meet at the Denver airport, grab, the car, and head to Estes Park. We'll get there well before we can check in, so I'm thinking lunch in town and driving around RMNP. I'm going to pick a good spot for sunset, and we can watch the sunset.

Days 2 and 3--We are going to decide on the day or night before what we are doing. There will definitely be a sunrise viewing in the park, and hopefully a sunrise hike; driving around the park and small walks and hikes; more sunsets; shopping; dinner in town; and fingers crossed, a night at the observatory. 

Day 4 is going to be a morning in Estes Park and then either driving straight back to Denver or maybe driving around to Grand Lake, then Denver.

Day 5 is leaving at FIVE AM ugh. 

I can't wait! 

Friday, August 19, 2022

Ladders, Bridges, and Ravines: Turkey Run and Shades State Parks

I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved these hikes. Right here in Indiana, which you think of as flat and corn fields as far as the eye can see, you've got these two gems. 

We hiked an absurd amount, and I can't believe the kids and Hank held up for it. It's an hour drive from our house, so we geared up, and hit Turkey Run first. 

We started with trails 6, 7, and 11 as a warm-up hike. The kids were super excited when they realized we would be hiking through a ravine and a mostly dried up creek, jumping back and forth over the water. They also very much enjoyed the stairs and the little lookout spot. 

We then combined trails 1, 3, 5, and 10 to create a very wobbly loop around--and we even split up at some points because...

Ladders! Yes! We had to climb ladders! I! Love! This! Hike! What's not to love? Hiking through ravines, along creeks, through creeks, up ladders, past waterfalls, over a freaking suspension bridge... It was The Best. 

Alas, Hank could not hike up a ladder, so we took turns finding an alternate route with Hank, while the other person climbed with the kids. 

After that, which was a solid 5 miles at that point, we headed out to go home except WHOOPS maybe not, we decided to really quick go over to Shades State Park, which is only 15 minutes from Turkey Run. Because we are bananas, we then went on ANOTHER hike of trails 1 and 4, adding on 2 miles. 

JD passed out in the car on the ride back, and I am pretty sure EJ did too. Hank had only been with us for a week at that point, but he seemed thrilled with the entire thing.

Honestly, some of my favorite hiking. It was just wonderful. It was very easy to choose your own adventure--you could keep it easy, or you could make a really hard hike out of it. It's pretty critical here to have good hiking boots or shoes, because you're often doing some light rock scrambling, and the rocks can be slick. I saw more than one person wearing flip flops with blood running down their leg from a fall. 

Some of this was on the edge of JD's abilities--not because he couldn't do it, because he's a climber and loves danger, but because I needed him to listen and do as I said, when I said it. That's a harder skill for him, and he has not yet learned to assess the best path to take, so there were points where I needed to be behind him for safety (the ladders) but I knew when we got up the ladders, it was slick and he needed to choose carefully where to step. Luckily, EJ is quite excellent at finding the best path to take, so she went ahead and assessed things for us while we brought up the rear. 

Anyway, the kids loved it and were already asking to go back.