Monday, June 27, 2016

Father's Day at Horsetooth

Probably the most popular hike in these parts is Horsetooth Rock (behind the gorgeous Horsetooth Reservoir).

We headed out on Father's Day morning to conquer it :)

Climb and climb and climb some more.  Then stop for some snacks!

My mom and dad are great hikers!  This is not for sissies!

Check out the final climb to the summit.  Those are some brave, scrappy, hard-working little guys scrambling for the top!

And the view?  WORTH IT!

From the top you can see Wyoming (to the north) and Pikes Peak, Longs Peak, and beautiful snow capped ranges in Rocky Mountain National Park (to the west).

We were pretty proud of ourselves.

Great way to celebrate two amazing dads on Father's Day.

Monday, June 20, 2016

two days in RMNP

Our first two days in Fort Collins were still mostly play.  We did do some making of beds and unpacking of supplies, but for the most part we tried to maximize our last two days with family!

So we went to Rocky Mountain National Park.


A hike to Mills Lake (from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead... and past Alberta Falls)

these kids = LOVE!

so thankful for the many many hours with Uncle Andy and Auntie Kristi and Connor and Carson and Kaelynn.  Priceless!

Destination reached!  and worth the hike!

Andy and Matt scrambled up the final climb to get a birds eye view of the Lake.

Day 2 - many many elk sightings!

First at Beaver Meadows, then later along Trail Ridge Road.

We even had an elk cross the road - right in front of our car!

then it was back to Fort Collins, and Matt was off to the airport to pick up Grandmama and Granddaddy.  The next morning Andy and Kristi headed back to ND and we started in earnest here in Colorado.  So thankful for expiring visas which dictated flights and gave us two weeks to "settle in" to America, and for the vacation with family, and the beautiful places we travelled.

But we were also very ready to be somewhere we could call home for the summer.  For our transition weary kiddos the apartment here in Fort Collins is just what the doctor ordered.  After a few tweaks to the sleeping arrangements we've got something that will work for the whole summer!  And my mom and dad packed up a car load of apartment supplies so we are cooking and sleeping and washing laundry and just doing life together.

The schedule got a bit full starting Thursday and tomorrow (Monday morning) we crank into high gear.  The kids are loving their programming and the adult content is so so good! (though I do end up a little stir crazy some days!  I'm not used to all this sitting and listening!)

Today was a Father's Day hike, and I'll be back with that soon.  For now, it feels good to be "caught up" to where we are :)  or close enough!

on the banks of the Arkansas River

We were all in the mood to lay low for our final day at the ranch.  But by afternoon it was time to head to the Arkansas River.  

It's popular for white water rafting, but our crew was content to play on the banks (under daddy's watchful eye - that is a very fast current!)

The bigger kids gathered rocks and used markers to create souvenirs.

Luke tried to keep himself awake :)

and soon it was time to pack up and get ready for our final drive - north and east to Fort Collins - our home for seven weeks!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

one huge day in the Sangre de Cristo range

Thursday morning after breakfast we loaded up and drove about 10 minutes to our trailhead.  Destination: Rainbow Lake.

It was a tough hike, and this is one tough bunch of kids!

The views were gorgeous, the pine forests delightful, but the trail was tough - and LONG!  almost 11 miles round trip!  that's a very long hike!

Just at the moment that spirits were lowest and the lake seemed farthest we rounded a corner to a patch of snow, then another, and another.  It provided a burst of much needed energy and excitement!

and the lake did not disappoint.

We picnicked, and rested, and dipped our toes in the freezing cold waters.  Matt and Andy went "swimming"!  Brrr!

And then back down the mountain, down, down, down.

It was a bit crazy long.  We might not have attempted it if we had been more aware of how tough it was going to be.  But I don't think any of us regret it!  The feeling of accomplishment and the camaraderie amongst the group was priceless.

[Matt carried Luke on his shoulders a bit, and even JP for shorter stretches, but those little guys trudged a lot of miles on their own two feet!]

We got back to the ranch in time to throw some food in the cooler for a picnic with our hosts.  They had invited us to go see an old stagecoach road, and dugout house on part of their land.

And when the ranch covers 25 square miles, it can be a bit of a trip to get to the picnic destination :) John drove the farm truck with riders on hay bales sitting on the back, and Matt drove the 4 wheeler, and Andy drove a tractor too (because John needed it to do a bit of work about 2/3 of the way to our destination).

The history is fascinating to see with your own eyes!  The stagecoach road, the dugout house - incredible!

I'm not sure we could have had a fuller day.  John and Matt and Andy took turns letting kids ride in the tractor, on the 4 wheeler, and helping "drive" the farm truck.  We drove back down the mountain watching a crazy beautiful lightning storm over the Sangre de Cristo range.  (a little scary, but mostly thrilling)

and then we went to sleep! whew!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wednesday at the ranch

The next morning it was time for an exploratory walk around the property.  This proved to be a great warm-up for the hike Matt planned for the next day .... but more on that later :)

In the distance you can see both houses, and the barns; and beyond that, the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

Luke loved the cows.  And pretty much every single thing he laid eyes on the entire time we were there.  Maybe he was born to be a farm boy?

In the afternoon we drove to a lake, where Andy and the boys fished.

and everyone else explored

and picked wildflowers

and climbed rock piles.

Back at the ranch (literally!) the guys grilled burgers and the kids played cornhole and Julianna loved on the farm dogs.  This picture is special to me because each of my grandfathers is represented... my Granddaddy Hodges (a lifelong cattle farmer) and my Granddaddy Crissman (who always owned a dog that looked just like this). 

After dinner dish washing with cousins.

and game playing

and packing up for our next-day-hike.

15,000 acres {at the ranch}

We woke up in South Dakota and headed straight for the Wyoming state line, then turned south through Denver and on past Colorado Springs, to Canon City, and then south and west and south and west along the Arkansas River until we arrived at the ranch.

[This was the day that the road hours added up to just-about-too-many for this mama.  A week after pulling out of Denver and we were back where we started, with jet lag in our rear view mirror and 30plus hours buckled in the car.  The crazy re-entry plan that called for different beds in different cities in different states and all of us sleeping piled on top of each other for days on end was pure craziness, and at that very moment I was mostly sure it was originally Matt's idea - ha!

But I'm happy to report that recovery from the moment of despair was quick, and helped by an hour long pit stop where Kristi and I filled our carts with groceries for the ranch.]

Because, as it turns out, a 15,000 acre ranch is not conveniently located next to a grocery store. or a gas station.  or a restaurant.  or a stoplight.

This ranch was AMAZING.

And our hosts (friends of friends) were the KINDest people in Colorado.  I'm sure of it.

Not long after we pulled up (for our free stay at the extra house on the property) John asked the kids if they wanted to ride on the back of his truck and help feed the cows.  Then he asked Matt if he minded driving the 4 wheeler (which he didn't!)

NO picture could ever capture how incredible this place truly is.  And we lived every single moment there to its fullest.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Grand Forks, ND to Custer, SD {698 miles}

Monday morning it was time to head back SouthWest... this time with road trip buddies!  These past days have been an absolute blast!  We love traveling with Andy and Kristi and their kids and the time together is so sweet.  

Our first stop was Mount Rushmore, almost 700 miles down the road.  We made great time, cranking out solid mileage with limited stops.  

Lunch at a rest stop and back in the car  - 

It's just a really cool spot.  

and even more fun to see it from your Uncle Andy's shoulders :) 

We drove a bit farther to Custer and settled in for the night.  Our next day was another solidly l-o-n-g drive - on our way to a ranch near Cotopaxi.  The ranch was incredible.  But we were without cell service and wifi for days and I'm way behind on photos and blogging.  But I will get caught up, eventually :) 

family pics and the lake (again!)

Our last days in town came quickly.  First up, a family picture.  These moments, when all of us.... Grandma and Grandpa, Matt, Andy and Krisanne and all their families are together - it's rare.  So we were thrilled to get to take some family photos.

I've already seen the proofs and they are really really great - so thankful!  Here's a little sneak preview of the granddaughters on the porch swing.  Only 3 of the 11 grandkids are girls and they were born right in a row (#s 3, 4, 5 in the grandkid list).  So perfect for them!

the boys were super handsome too, and Grandma found perfect matching ties and I love it when my boys dress up - (even though Isaac detests any shirt with buttons!)

ummmm, have I mentioned that all my boys adore these big cousins of theirs, especially John Paul!

We got a quick lunch and loaded up for the lake.  The sun was shining and we were ready!  

The water was cold.  But the excitement could. not. be. contained.  

it was awesome

yours truly is going to wait for a warmer day to get behind the boat, but these kids had a blast.  And it was incredibly fun to watch them!  Matt and Andy got in too - hard to say who had more fun on that one.  The guys behind the boat?  Grandpa driving hard to bounce them like crazy?  or the kids in the boat watching and squealing and screaming and all "I can't believe our dads are doing this!"?

And a few final pics of all of us enjoying the backyard, such a great spot to relax and visit and eat watermelon, roast S'mores, swing, play checkers, help Grandpa with the trees...

I'm missing pictures from Matt's phone so I'll have to come back and add more when I get them.   Sweet days.  Short days.  and we were on the road again.