We set out for our annual camping trip this year with only a vague idea of where we would end up! Normally, this is the kind of scenario that pushes me over the edge, but I determined early on in our vacation "planning" that I wasn't going to get angry this year. I admit there were a few snarky comments, but for the most part, I rolled with the punches. All of this to explain why I am ignorant of the decision making process that led us to our first campground of the trip: Blue Lake.
We picked out our spot, which was set next to a stream amongst the conifers, checked in with Cliff (our host), and set up camp while the younger kids explored. Loved the site immediately, but once we had the work done and got to look around I was amazed that we had basically stumbled onto such an amazing place. Blue Lake was just a short hike from our site and we spent a couple of happy afternoons fishing there. We were also surrounded by trails through the picturesque mountain scenery so pristine it almost seemed unreal. One hike led us to Bear Lake, a few hundred feet higher than Blue Lake, which was even more beautiful.
We spent one morning in the nearby town of Cuchara, which was a charming mountain village. We perused the local antique store and gift shop, then enjoyed ice cream outside where a young man decked out in gangsta garb strummed his acoustic guitar and belted out country tunes with a surprisingly pleasant voice. Haddon found some flies he needed and purchased a gnat, a red ant, and a mosquito fly for $2 each. Jason and I purchased ice and fishing licenses, then the lot of us headed back into the wilderness.
We spent two gorgeous (but pretty windy) days hiking, fishing, exploring, laughing and two nights roasting marshmallows, telling stories, sitting by the campfire, before we decided that we'd like to pack up and move. Again, we had a direction in which we were driving, but no real "plan" about where we would end up. Unfortunately, we'd left our tent camping guide at home, but I had a list of sites we had starred as possibilities, so we ended up at Golden Gate State Park. We chose the Aspen Meadows Loop site unseen because it was reserved for tent campers only. When we got to our site...WOW. Site number two sat amongst Aspen trees and wild flowers on the edge of a meadow. Boulders large and small were scattered throughout the campground, sometimes piled up on top of each other like mini mountains waiting to be conquered by Dirks children. So beautiful, and so different from our Blue Lake campsite!
That night we visited Reverend's Ridge and Panorama Point, played hide and seek, cooked supper in the rain under the shelter of our dining canopy, and enjoyed our first hot showers in three days! Ahhhhhh... It rained off and on all evening the first night, and Jason had me sleep with Buttercup in the van where we stayed toasty warm and comfy. Imagine my surprise when J woke me up the next morning to announce SNOW. He wasn't kidding! There was snow everywhere. There wasn't a lot of it, but it was wet and heavy. The weight of it snapped the legs of our dining canopy and collapsed part of the tent's rain fly. Snow filled Jason & Bella's hiking boots that were sitting under the (failed) tent awning. We got everyone woken up and they dressed as Bella, Jason, and I cleared snow from our gear. It was a cold 38 degrees and still rainy/snowy, so we loaded up the van and headed in to Lakeside for some indoor recreation. Breakfast at Burger King, the movies, lunch at Champa St. Burger Works (YUM!), shopping, shopping, shopping, then we headed back to our campsite. Bubba-Man took down our poor, fallen canopy while J and Bella set up our newly purchased (heavy-duty, I might add) dining canopy. The sun came out in time for us to enjoy it while we made supper and ate!
We had absolutely gorgeous weather the rest of our stay at Golden Gate State Park! We spent our time hiking, fishing, laughing, story telling, exploring the ruins around the park, trying to get our wet wood to burn, and enjoying each other's company. Wednesday came too soon...time to head home. We packed up camp in record time and pointed the van toward Denver. Detour! Had to explore Red Rock Park a bit...what an amazing place. Filled with red rock monoliths and a natural rock amphitheater, Red Rock Park seems like something from another planet.
After leaving Red Rocks, we took the kiddos to Casa Bonita for lunch! Princeska chatted up the maitre de, scoring us seats right by the waterfall! YES!!! The kids loved the cliff diver and Princeska and Buttercup giggled uncontrollably at the silly gunfight and princess shows. Of course, we had to spend some time and money in the arcade, then we were off again to Grandma and Papa's house where we spent the final night of our vacation in the lap of luxury.
Best moments of our trip: Princeska catching her first fish EVER, getting giddy over the snow, Bella cooking every meal (woo-hoo!!!), Buttercup saying, "Watch how I do this, Dad," then flipping herself around to cross the log bridge backwards, Jason breaking all the tongs off his fork and then insisting on eating with it anyway, making up our own imaginary animals in the van and having Lulu draw them for us, discovering the ruins of a homestead that wasn't on our trail map, Bubba-man lighting our fire with his flint & pocket knife, Princeska's giggle during the Casa Bonita gunfight show, watching the fish jump in Blue Lake, roasting marshmallows together, spotting five long horn sheep, finding a beaver dam, discovering a bee hive in a cave at Red Rock Park, Princeska spoon feeding Buttercup hot chocolate, and laughing until my stomach hurt. Can't wait for next year!