Week 46: Falling leaves

Fall is an unpredictable season and you can miss the golden aspen leaves if you so much as bat an eye. It just takes a strong wind or a night of freezing temperatures to miss the golden aspen trees. So, you can imagine how delighted we were to still see golden aspens lining the streets of Estes Park. Some of the aspens were a fiery orange – they were stunning. We spent two days out and about in the town and in the mountains with my in-laws and of course our kids.

On Saturday, we went to the harvest festival and followed that up with a picnic in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). AJ and MJ are becoming the best of playmates and they have been entertaining one another without adult interference for a couple of weeks now. It’s actually kind of weird. I feel both happy and sad about the whole thing. The one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that their new independence does not free up our time. While they are entertaining one another more frequently we are still often requested to intervene to help resolve conflict or to answer a burning question or to entertain and listen to an idea or thought (that demands our  immediate attention!). Needless to say, while they play we keep ourselves available.

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Back to the harvest festival for a quick anecdote – at one point during the festival, AJ detached from me and we lost each other. I stepped out of the line and felt an immediate lump in my body as I scanned the crowd for my boy. A mother, who was behind us in line spotted AJ and pointed him out to me. She was a life saver in a moment of near panic. AJ was just about to burst into tears when I found him. I held him so tight and we talked about the importance of not leaving mommy’s side. Prior to his momentary disappearance, I was wrangling with AJ to get him to stay with me and not run away while we waited in line. It just took a second of me looking away for him disappear. Thank goodness for the other mama and here watchful eyes! AJ stuck close to me after that and I stuck close to him as well.

A picnic in RMNP is quite the opposite of a crowded festival. The kids scrambled around more freely and the adults relaxed. We built a fire which kept us warm as the temperature started to drop. We also had the pleasure of an elk sighting. There is something about observing animals that is so fascinating and relaxing. With elk, you don’t have to worry about getting hurt as long as you keep your distance. To end the evening we made some smores. A cherished treat that my kids love and associate with RMNP.

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The next day we set off for a 3 mile, out and back hike. AJ hiked the entire time. The trail started with an incline and soon leveled off. AJ was excited to see remnants of snow. His grandpa made a tiny snowman, our first of the season, much to the kids delight. AJ only required some encouragement along the way. And food always seems to do the trick, especially if chocolate is involved. His grandpa had some trail mix and we let him select a few treats from the mix at designated spots with about a mile left to our turnaround spot. AJ was very selective and picked out all of the blue M&M’s from the trail mix. We tried to get him to pair the chocolate treat with an almond to which he responded: “I just want the chocolate.” I get totally get it. As a chocoholic myself I am sure to have passed down my love of this tasty treat.

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We soon arrived at our lunch spot where we saw what was left of the creek. We witnessed a small trickle of water make its way down the hill and beyond sight. It was enough water to keep the boys entertained after we ate our standard hiking lunches (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), along with some fruit. My mother-in-law educated us on the history of the area and we even saw some ruins from a very old house that was built during the Gold Rush era. Outdoors combined with a little history lesson is so meaningful. Being able to associate a period of time  from the past with present day scenery really makes things stick.

On the way back to the trailhead Joe and started to discuss our next 52 Weeks of Nature challenge, for 2017, and I think we are going to do 52 hikes and on each hike, we are going to learn something new about nature. Thanks, Grandma Phoebe and Grandpa John for inspiring our future adventures!

The way down was easy breezy. AJ found his snowman and decided to stomp on it! And he did so with such joy. MJ rode on Joe’s back except for the beginning and end where he hikes with AJ. They borrowed grandpa’s hiking sticks throughout the hike only returning them when they were no longer fun. Whenever we have the chance to hike in RMNP with my in-laws it feels like we are building important memories. Maybe because they are passing the hiking torch, so to speak, onto the next generation of CO lovers. It is always inspiring to observe the love of hiking being passed down to the grandchildren. Creating memories in the great outdoors, as a family, is exactly what life is about.

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