Week 33: Solidarity with nature

IMG_1082Oh Genesee, how I love thee. Genesee, CO is one of the many treasures along Colorado’s I-70 corridor. A simple turn off the highway and there you are surrounded by the wondrous Genesee Park. The easy access that we had to the park left us with some excess energy …energy that is typically used arguing over directions! What would we do with this unexpected surplus? We used it to delve into a deep discussion about the political climate in the US.

During the week of July 4th, we saw two unarmed black men killed by the police, followed by the killing of 5 officers in TX. My conversation with Joe didn’t lead us to any conclusions, instead it lead to more questions about the issues. Our kids intermittently helped us refocus our energy on them. Actually, it was during this hike that I realized that my efforts are better spent imparting kindness into the hearts of my children rather than trying to educate others on my heart. For the record, I am a believer in institutionalized racism, and think that it is important to recognize the pain caused by the historical and continued mistreatment of the black community. Racism imposes upon others unfair treatment that is rooted in fear and hatred and it really has no place on God’s earth.

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As our hike dipped further away from the sounds of I-70, and into the sounds one might hear in the rainforest, I let myself drift into a place of peace and solidarity with nature. While this felt good, I couldn’t help but feel an array of emotions about my ability to escape. I felt both lucky and ashamed. Is this white privilege, I wondered. It was a paradox and I was caught between two sides of myself that both needed to be expressed. I did this all while parenting, and putting one foot in front of the other.

The kids were in good spirits because the trail was mostly shady, and there was a railing that AJ took a liking to. I carried MJ on my back in a carrier that I plan to write a review about (why is it so hard for petite people to find a good carrier, ugh!). MJ likes to remind you that he there by patting your head, ears, playing with your hair. It is so fun to discover this little guy’s personality!

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Along the trail we saw squirrels, a woodpecker and made friends with the bees. We crossed a sweet little stream, and stopped for pictures. It was a happy time, but a hard time. Joe and I both couldn’t shake the sadness we felt about the events of the past few days. We couldn’t fake our way out of this one. Sometime, I learned, it’s okay to hike and still be sad.

RIP to the 7 lives lost through senseless acts of violence.

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa.

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Week 32: More S’mores

Happy birthday America! We spent the Fourth of July weekend in Estes Park with my in-laws which included Joe’s parents and one of his sisters – who was also in town with her husband, two sons and our nephew. The older boys spent the week going to a rock climbing summer camp, and it sounds like they had a blast. In all there were 11 of us picnicking and hiking together over the weekend.

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We kicked things off with a “Rocky Mountain National Park Picnic.” AJ enjoyed his first s’more ever, and both boys spent the evening trying to keep up with their much older cousins. All of the boys were so good to one another. It is always nice to see older kids take younger kids under their wing.

Following the picnic we went to our hotel and slept soundly – surprisingly. Joe and AJ woke me and MJ up with Latte and Hot Steamer. We drank our beverages out by the river before heading up the street to Joe’s parent’s cottage. We were greeted with homemade waffles for breakfast. So yummy!

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With our tummies filled and are appetites satiated 11 of us headed for what we thought was a 5 mile hike to Gregory Falls. We were relieved to learn that we actually hiked 7 miles. Which means that AJ eclipsed his previous PR of 3 miles as he clocked in 4 miles on this day! The relief mostly benefited the ego, because we were all so tired. More tired than 5 miles should make you feel, but reasonably tired for a 7 mile hike.

The hike itself was hot, and fun. Joe’s parents know the trail system so well that we found our way to Gregory Falls by heading off trail for a portion of the trip. We also found ourselves hiking on a sliver of a trail in a cliff like setting. On one side was the mountain, and on the other a rushing river. I was carrying MJ, and though I felt steady on my feet I was also worried about slipping.

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We arrived at the falls and enjoyed having them all to ourselves! Since the trail was mostly washed out by the flood of 2013, many hikers and visitors to the park don’t know how to access the falls.  It was glorious to have them to ourselves!

The way back included some rain showers and complaining kids. I’d have it no other way!

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Week 31: Urban Outing

This week was the first week where we technically did not get out on a “hike”. It was a tough weekend as I, Joe, was out of town on a mancation and Kaitlin was hosting some AmeriCorps friends from out of town. A manca…what? A mancation is something all dads and married men should incorporate into their lives. It is a weekend away from bedtimes, potty training and other parent duties to get together with the old crew. Don’t worry, it is always tame and I know I came back a little refreshed and ready to be better parent and husband. The mancation consisted of boating, fishing, yard games and some cards….and maybe some alcoholic beverages.

Kaitlin, AJ and MJ were hosting some friends we met through AmeriCorps. They are married and have an 18 month old boy. By all accounts it was a great weekend. The kids played well together and shared laughs and mini-adventures such as whiffle ball, frisbee and water fights in the backyard. Kaitlin was able to catch up with friends and share the joys and challenges of parenting, while also laughing about parenting bumbles and remembering some fun memories.

I was back in town on Sunday and we decided to go to Jazz in the Park at City Park in Denver. It has not fit the narrative of our previous adventures, but it definitely was time spent in nature and outside. We packed a picnic and brought along frisbees, soccer balls and many other outdoorsy toys. We ate some delicious bratwurst, watermelon and chips. The kids had fun scooting up and down the slide at the playground, while the parents had disjointed conversations as the kept one eye on their children. It was a good time had by all and hopefully more to come in the future.

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Week 30: Beat the heat

Denver is so hot it often feels like standing next to an oven. We needed to find some reprieve and have pushed our hikes up higher into the mountains, so we headed out to Conifer, CO……two days in a row. One with just our little family and another with Grammy and Bumpa. Beating the heat is necessary because AJ and MJ just don’t enjoy walking around in the heat, I mean who does. This does mean longer drive times, which is challenging because we don’t want the kiddos to waste their naps in the car. There is nothing better than a long morning out hiking in nature followed by nap time and some piece and quiet.

IMG_0977Anyway, we hiked the Myers Ranch trail twice; once doing the Lodge Pole Loop and the other time hiking the Sunny Aspen Loop. It is a small hiking area with some nice shade and plenty of level ground to keep AJ going. A new revelation is that we are giving MJ a chance to hit the trail. We let him walk a little at the beginning and end of each hike. He loves it and so does AJ! MJ likes the challenge of navigating the trail, holding hands with his brother and being free of restraint. AJ likes having someone his size around to help investigate the finer points of the trail like rocks, bugs and plants. There will be a day, when we can no longer keep up with them, but that is far off….hopefully.

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We also purchased a new carrier for Kaitlin to carry MJ. For a long time, she was using the “ergo” and MJ was tucked safely next to her chest. He is too big for that now and likes to see the trees and other people hiking. The new carrier fit well, but the weight of the carrier and MJ was hard on Kaitlin’s knee. In fact something tweaked or twisted in her knee on an awkward step as she was carrying MJ and we may have reevaluate how we use the carriers.

It was a great two days of hiking filled with laughs, conversation and nature. We will need to continue to find places higher up in elevation as the forecast says hot, hot, hot for the immediate future.

Trail Highlights:

  • AJ took a big spill on both days. The first one scuffed up his arm and the second one turned him into a dust pile.
  • We had a yummy breakfast at Aspen Perk Cafe in Conifer for Father’s Day with my parents.
  • On Saturday, we took to our local pool and enjoyed a well deserved soak.
  • MJ loves to say “No.”

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Week 29: Birthday Boy Hike

IMG_0969AJ is officially three. The terrible twos were not so terrible and we are embracing our threeager. Grandma Pat and Grandpa Art came into to town to celebrate the birthday. We chose the Turkey Trot Trail in Mt Falcon, a trail we did in late winter/early fall. It is a great trail, but we forgot to plan for the heat. We meant to get out earlier, but the challenge of kids and logistics caused us to not get to the trail until 9am. Normally not too late, but on a day expected to hit high 90s probably doomed before it started…..oh yeah, and the trail is really steep to start.

Despite all of these factors pushing against us we decided to trudge on anyway. We started with MJ on my back and AJ on foot. We trudged slowly up the hill with AJ struggling against the steepness and heat. We kept encouraging him and helping him along the way, but we soon realized this was not going to work out. We only had one carrier and in no way was AJ going to make it all the way. We tried Grandpa Art carrying AJ, but it was too hot and he was to heavy. The tipping point was sunscreen getting in AJ’s eyes and him being miserable.

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This is one of the many, many, MANY! compromises you make as a parent. It was stressful situation because we want to be outside and get exercise, but the health of our kids, obviously, always comes before our wants. So, I turned around with AJ and mJ, while Grandpa and Kaitlin completed the hike. It was a relief and all was good as we trotted down the trail. We found a nice picnic table in the shade and had a snack and played games with rocks while we waited. All in all, it was a good hike and we enjoyed the outdoors.

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Trail Highlights

  • While waiting at the picnic table, we had a lot of visitors starting and finishing the trail…..
    • A group of similar little (maybe 1 and 3) girls came by and said hello. MJ walked over and gave one of them a hug.
    • We had some mountain bikers stop and get ready before they hit the trail. The boys were mesmerized by the bike wheels and knocked the bikes over in there joy. (OOPS!)
    • A little girl and her dog stopped by and MJ proceeded to “woof” the whole time.
  • During AJ’s hiking struggles an older lady told me I should have put a hat on him before we started hiking. I guess she does not know that after an hour of the hat fight we decided to forget the hat. 🙂
  • AJ’s Bday party later that day was great. He received a water table and we were all able to cool off with the table and the mini pool.
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A cool river in town – after the hike

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We also stumbled upon the Vietnam War Memorial. Art is a Vet. He loved this!

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Week 28: Colorful Colorado

It’s June which in our family is a month of birthdays, and the beginning of summer fun. We wait all year long for this month. June is exciting for many reasons including the fact that the school year ends meaning Joe gets to stay home with the kids, and also because it is AJ’s birthday. As our first born the day of his arrival will forever be etched into our collective heart because he changed our lives forever. He made us parents and that is a beautiful thing!

In our excitement for summer and birthdays we sought out a hike that was summery and colorful. Below are pictures from our adventure that capture it’s beauty far better than words ever could. Enjoy!IMG_0953

 

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Peace, Love and Equality

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Week 27: Being raised by the trails

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Estes Park, Colorado is stunning, and we are extremely lucky to have family who lives there. Back in the day, when Joe and I were completing our internships for our counseling programs, we lived in Estes Park for about 6 months. It’s not hard to find beauty in life when your everyday views include the great Rocky Mountains. So, what am I saying? I’m saying that Estes Park, with the access it has to Rocky Mountain National Park is a natural way to inhale beauty, happiness and wonder. During the summers we make the trip up to Estes whenever possible. And it’s often possible.

DSCN0187On this particular weekend, we stayed up my in-laws for a weekend of picnics and hiking. The first hike was “Twin Owls”. The terrain was typical rocky mountain stuff – rocky, steep declines followed by steep inclines, before we were spit out into a meadow of fairly flat tail were we had sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains and the canyon walls of Lumpy Ridge. We dipped through aspen groves and hiked on a ridge just above a grassy area were we could see horses and cows grazing.

MJ hitched a ride with Joe, while AJ walked. Our little hiker did pretty well, but soon petered-out after we spent some time exposed to the sun. He carried along some members of the Thomas the Train clan and made frequent stops to play out a story with them that he had crafted during the hike. We were about a mile into the hike when I had to make the call to turn around with AJ, and let the others forge ahead without us. AJ was weary and asking to be carried a lot. We didn’t bring a carrier for him, and my 5’1 frame can only carry a 3 year old body for so long.

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Once I made the decision to turn back I didn’t regret it. I carried AJ in my arms for about a half mile. We made good time, but I was getting depleted fast! I enjoyed turning around with AJ and meeting his needs. It felt so good to put him first and spend some time alone with him on the tail. The older my kids get the more I learn about agenda’s and how when I’m with my kids I need to put my agenda aside otherwise I become inpatient, irritable, and so on. Being in nature always reminds me to let go and live.

The next day my in-laws packed us a breakfast picnic at a cool lookout with views of Longs Peak and my favorite, Twin Sisters. After the picnic we set off for another, smaller hike. My in-laws are Rocky Mountain professionals. They have hiked most if not all of the trails in the park, and they have so much history in Estes Park. My mother in-laws father owned a hotel in town at one point, and she spent her childhood summers in Estes, being raised by the trails and mountain air. It’s exciting for me to witness this love of nature, the outdoors, CO and hiking being passed onto my sons.

Hiking with family always enhances our tail experience. Joe and I can turn off a little knowing that there are four sets of eyes on our two boys as they learn to navigate the outdoors.

Until next time…Bon voyage!

 

 

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Week 26: Hiknic

We are coming into the long days of summer, which includes heat, ticks and early hikes. This week we decided to head to Lyons, CO to meet my, Joe, parents for a hike and a lunch picnic. We got up early and set out to meet them by 9am. What used to be a simple grab our packs and lunch and be out the door in 5 minutes has turned into at least an hour of packing our bags, picking up after our kids and a mad dash to get out the door. It is part of life.

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The hike was in an open area with lots of rolling hills. We set out with MJ on my back and AJ leading the pack. It was a sunny day with lots of blooming grass and flowers. There was a sign forbidding us from continuing, and we were not sure what to do. We did some iphone research and found out that it was closed because of heavy rain. We made a call by looking at the clear sky and the dry trail that it was okay to continue. Later, we were confirmed that the trail was indeed open.

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During the hike we spent lots of time looking at flowers, scouting for animals and enjoying the sunshine. During the hike, AJ would steam ahead as fast as he could go and then turn around and tell us to hurry up. Hiking with him is a little bit of a pandoras box. Some days he could go forever and other days we take 5 steps and he is saying “uppie”. Today was an energy day and he was easily motivated.We went about 1.5 miles before turning around and heading back to trailhead. All in all it was a great little hike and we enjoyed the conversation with my parents and the energy of the kids.

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The picnic was wonderful. We had salami sandwiches, bananas, strawberries, coffee cake, cheese and crackers, carrots and hummus….basically anything that was leftover in the fridge. MJ is stuffing his face at all times now. I am amazed on how much food he can fit in his mouth. AJ is pickier and eats more like a bird. We delighted in the sunlight and enjoyed the conversation before heading home for naps.

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Week 25: Three hikes, one week

 

Well, this was my last week of unemployment, so I went all out with three hikes in one week. Five years ago this amount of hiking was totally feasible, but two kids and a gazillion responsibilities later three hikes in a week is a dream.

The first hike was a solo trek (my first in eight  years!). I chose a familiar trail that was both challenging and beautiful. I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, so doing things alone is not really my thing. I was actually pretty shocked that I made it to the trailhead without talking myself out of it. As a somewhat fear driven person I often talk myself into checking the locks multiple times each night (even when I’m dead tired), and am super aware of my surrounding. This mentality can be exhausting, but the urge to push through my fears and hike alone was stronger then the fear – this time at least. And let me tell you – it was exhilarating. I went at my own pace, heard the sound of my breath, and managed to clear my mind. I am happy to report that I did not get stung by a bee, attacked by a mountain lion, chased by a bob cat or murdered by a deranged human (obviously). Phew.

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The second hike of the week was to celebrate my husbands birthday. Last year I took him to a rock climbing gym where we relearned some basic technics. Unfortunately, we have mostly forgotten what we learned as we haven’t rock climbed since then; and not for lack of desire either. For this hike, I took Joe back to El Dorado Canyon which is a favorite of ours. We did 7 mile out and back hike, and enjoyed stunning views of the canyon and the mountains that surround it. It’s been about four years since we’ve hiked further then four miles, so this hike felt like freedom.

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…And finally, we took my in-laws to a front range area trail. They spend half of the year in the mountains and are avid hikers. It’s always so much fun to take them on hikes in the foothills as they are newish trails to them. Plus the kids love hiking with their grandparents. It gives them a pep in their step and gives Joe and I a chance to take a break from convincing our kids to keep moving!

We had high hopes for our hike, but the weather had a different idea. It began to rain as we drove to the trailhead – a total bummer, but nothing worth turning around for. The fog was low (which reminded me of home), and the mist was constant. We arrived at the trailhead and decided to bundle up and see how far we could get.

About a quarter mile later we decided to take a loop back to the car. It was just too wet to continue! There is no shame in attempting something and deciding not to continue with it. The shame comes in not attempting something because you know you probably won’t finish. Because really, who cares?! Getting outside is fail proof. All you have to do attempt something, the outcome is meaningless. The action of prepping for your adventure (in this case a hike), and putting effort into getting outside is far more important than whether or not you went 1 miles or 17 miles. Now that the pressures off get out there!

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Week 24: Tales from the trails

IMG_0746Mt. Galbraith is one of the most popular trails along the Front Range. The popularity of this trail is one of the reasons we do our best to avoid it, but somehow the trail beckons us. Whenever we have visitors in town we take them to Mt. Galbraith. It is one of the best trails near town for multiple reasons including the fact that it offers city scape views along with views of the mountains. It’s an all inclusive trail where you feel both close to town and removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. Along with the views is the fact that this trail offers a robust terrain posing a challenge to people of all fitness levels. So there again, an all inclusive trail offering something for everybody.

The trail begins with a small bridge that hovers above a river, on this day it was gushing due to the melting snow. After the bridge, hikers are greeted with a moderate incline along the side of the mountain. I’m not sure how long the trail ascends, but it eventually hits a breaking point where it flattens out and you can continue east toward city views or west toward mountain views. We didn’t make it that far on this day, but in the past we’ve done the entire loop. On this day, we made about 3/4 of a mile up the trail before rain forced us to turn around.

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Our little hikers did an excellent job. AJ walked most of the time, while MJ is enjoying ridding in a new carrier on Joe’s back. MJ seems to relish in the fact that he can see more from this vantage point. It keeps him awake and engaged. AJ loves the adventures that come with hiking. I mean what kid doesn’t thrive off of permission to play in the rain and run full speed through puddles! In addition to puddle jumping, AJ climbed a section of the trail that is rock and while he was tentative at times you could see the joy of this new experience, and conquering a challenge all over his face. It brought so much happiness to my heart as I witnessed him navigate the rocks with caution and confidence.

We were not alone on this hike as thick fog and mist accompanied us. Soon the mist turned into sprinkles which soon became a full on rain storm. Hikers (many with their dogs) began appearing out of no where as they made a run for it to the parking lot.  We also decided to head back. I had an extra carrier for MJ that I whipped out, while Joe loaded up AJ and off we went like goats down the hill.

It was with so much joy that we arrived to our car, turned on the heat and ate snacks on the way home. That’s the thing with our 52 Weeks of Nature challenge – you never know what experience awaits. You walk into the adventure without expectations and you return from the adventure with a new experience under your belt and more stories to tell.

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