After the Denver Shootout lacrosse tournament, we had a day and a half before our flight left. So I wanted to squeeze in as much Colorado-seeing as I could.
What follows is the vacation slide show that I will foist on you, mostly for my family and so I can remember all the cool stuff I saw...feel free to sneak out the back door.
But first a quick photo of the drawstring backpack I made for the trip.
I used the tutorial on Noodlehead - and it worked out perfectly for me, without any alterations.
These two mini trips are perfect half-day excursions for anybody visiting the Denver area. I was so glad I chose them.
First, Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs.
It took us about and hour and a half to get there from Denver, and arrived at about 3:00pm. The Visitor Center was nice with clean bathrooms, food, and some natural history displays. A viewing platform lets you see some good stuff, including the Kissing Camels. See them? There's a small opening through the rocks right under their kiss.
This would be really nice for a group that has people who can't hike - you can drive all around and see quite a bit from the car. Then, there are paved walking paths for others. Finally, real off-path hiking and rock climbing can be found, too.
It was really hot and Kenton had already played two long lacrosse games, so we didn't hike around too much.
Kenton took the camera up a rock for this one.
By the time we headed back to Denver around 5:00 we got stuck in commuter traffic! oops. But I did stop at Cafe Rio for dinner, I had heard so much about. Yum! It actually stuffed Kenton, which is amazing.
On Monday the flight was to leave at 8:30pm, so we headed out another direction at 8am, toward Mount Evans.
So cool driving into the mountains. But seriously glad it wasn't winter. Is that when trucks make use of these?!
Almost half an hour of real mountain side road to reach Echo Lake.
Kenton was reading and unfazed by it all after the first 5/10 minutes. I literally keep saying aloud, "Breathe and Follow the Road, Breathe and Follow the Road...." I have a pretty good fear of heights, a strange bridge phobia (especially considering I started as a Civil Engineer), and major fear of falling off high edges.
Seriously, those are the TOPS of trees. Steep drop, with not even a hint of guard rail and little shoulder. And not far from here there was a school bus stop! I guess Kenton is just lucky I didn't hyperventilate and roll off the road.
So we made it to Echo Lake. Pretty, and there was a lodge. But that's about it. So I soldiered on through the mountain's fee station - and luckily only had to drive about 5 more minutes of torture before reaching the next stop. Mount Goliath Research Natural Area. Part of the Denver Botanic Gardens, at 11,540ft.
This place was fabulous! A must stop for anybody with a half day to hike around. Super cute little hut with great information inside. (But use the bathrooms 5minutes back at the lake lodge!)
Kenton and I headed out with our waters on the M. Walter Pesman Trail. A 1.5mile hike up to just over 12,000ft. Perfect for a 90+deg day - it was only about 60 up here, and beautiful!
We found the perfect Christmas tree.
Totally amazed at how quickly my heart was racing and I was unable to catch my breath at altitude. We stopped to sit what seemed like every 5-10 minutes. Just a couple minutes to get the heart to stop racing.
Kenton took a few pictures of himself on the mountain with his ipod.
I learned all kind of amazing stuff on the hike, too.
Super lucky, we ran into two women that are hike guides for the Denver Botanic Society. They had found a flower they were surprised to not know, and were trying to figure out what it was. We started talking and they shared so much information about the super cool plants and ecosystem of the mountain.
The empty-looking area out there is alpine tundra. Because of climate conditions and elevation, very little grows. But can you see the few blops of green clumps in the tundra? Those are called tree islands, and they're small areas of pines that have gotten a foothold and make their own separate ecosystem to survive.
But here, we were standing among the Bristlecone Pines. Some of which were probably almost 2,000 years old!
They grow super slow. And have made all kinds of crazy adaptations. One cool way to identify one is by the 'dandruft' dots of resin along the needles.
They live long in death as well as life. The mountain driftwood left behind can be 2,000 years old as well. Google them!
There were flowers literally everywhere.
The variety was unbelievable. So tiny and all so beautiful. The women said that we were quite lucky, as the mountain was several weeks ahead in bloom time and it was all blooming at once.
Not long after we left the women, we were above the tree line and it became super rocky. Just tiny flowers to line the path. It reminded me of Lord of the Rings.
Kenton could run ahead. The altitude slowed me down.
Around 12,000ft we decided it was time for an Oreo break!
Then Kenton's head started to pound, and he was done. It wasn't far and I had to see what was at the top, leaving him back there...that little person in the middle of the rocks down there. Then, I called him up. It was spectacular, and you had no idea what was there until you actually topped the ridge.
Kenton, you made it, go stand by the mountains! Whatever, Mom.
(And if you can see, all that green at his feet are tufts of tiny purple, yellow, and white flowers)
It was really amazing on the other side of the ridge. Luckily, two men were there at the same time and took our picture.
That just isn't quite the feeling of being up there with the 360 view. I did take a couple 360 rounds of photos. I'm going to try to stitch them later in photoshop.
The 1.5 mile walk back, downhill the whole way, was WAY easier. We just stopped once or twice to catch our breath.
I found this super cool rock. Charcoal gray, with dark coal and lime green lichens. I thought of a value quilt right away!
The best part. Oreos and Mountain Dew at the end. He had been banned from soda all week in tournament preparation.
We were headed back down the mountain by about 2:00. I could have continued the drive to the 14,000ft peak. But there was no way I would do it. The perfect half or full day outing in Colorado!