Adventure and Daring Plans and Colorado Mountain Towns

We’ve been planning a little getaway this summer. Not a big trip, because now that we live in a cold, interior climate, we’re going to participate in that timeless American tradition that is the winter beach vacation. In other words, we’re saving hard to go to coastal Mexico or Hawaii next winter.

I mentioned Yellowstone, but we’re shelving that trip until the Sidekick grows a little older and stronger.

While she can hike up a storm, she’s only eight. I remember growing up as the weakest kid among four children, always at the back of the line on family bike rides, pedaling furiously to keep up. When we visited the Statue of Liberty, my father had to piggyback me halfway to the top because my legs gave out. I’m not the youngest, but my little brother was very strong – much stronger than me – and it took until puberty for me to catch up.

Point is, I’ve been where the Sidekick is now, and I want her to enjoy Yellowstone rather than exhaust her to the point where she’s not having any fun. At the same time, this family surpassed the preschool stage long ago. Both my girls can handle more than just short, flat hikes and playgrounds. Technically, I think my older daughter qualifies as a tween.

So I came up with a few alternatives to Yellowstone. Moab and Arches National Park, for one:

But you know, Utah’s pretty hot in June, so we shelved that plan along with Yellowstone for the moment. Plus, my side of the Rockies features plenty of red sandstone formations, as I’ve shared with you ad nauseum and most of which I can drive to in under 20 minutes. No offense, Moab. I’m sure you’re stunning, and I’ll see you one day.

While the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings in southern Colorado and the Four Corners area still loom as a possibility, they’ll probably end up on that shelf, too.

I can’t wait to go here, but an almost eight-hour drive means we’d want to stay more than a few days. And saving for the big winter vacation means this trip budget doesn’t allow for that long.

Finally, I hit on an idea I figured the girls would latch right onto. Amusement park! Kids love amusement parks! Since we can drive to Elitch Gardens in about 45 minutes, I thought it might be fun to do the staycation thing, get a room at a nice hotel with a pool nearby for a few days. That part of Denver contains lots of walkable tourist attractions, so we wouldn’t even have to drive.

They greeted that plan with silence.

Finally I said, “Okay. Where does everyone want to go then?”

My 11 year-old said, “I want to go someplace new. Like a little mountain town or something.”

The Sidekick said, “I wish for adventure and daring plans!”

Just kidding.

She actually said that a few days ago, in another context entirely, but it’s been making me laugh ever since. The Sidekick is an old soul. She has a creative, clear mind and an intensely stubborn and particular disposition, both of which mean she speaks seriously and thoughtfully all the time. In an eight year-old, that can translate into some weirdly random one-liners.

Also, it means she knows her own mind and answered my question like this:

“I want to go somewhere like Breckenridge, like last summer. I want to have a pretty view and walk around and look at cool things and take pictures of them.”

Breckenridge, July 2009

To understand how remarkable her comment is, you have to understand a couple things:

1. We took the hardest hike of the girls’ lives to date at Breckenridge’s Mohawk Lake. When I say “hard,” I mean the Sidekick was so tired by the end, I figured she’d never want to set foot in that town again.

2. Having just paid for a move halfway across the country from Florida to Colorado, when we went to Breckenridge we stayed in a very affordable, very un-luxurious, very tiny condo unit instead of one of the resorts like Keystone.

3. We hiked; we ate at restaurants on the Blue River; and we watched the Fourth of July fireworks and heard them echo off the mountain peaks; but we did not take the girls to any kid-specific activities, like mini-golf.

Every parent makes mistakes during the hard, hard work of raising kids. God knows I do, more than I’d like, but this was one of those times when I thought, “Hot damn, I am getting it right sometimes.”

I love that my 11 and 8 year-old girls want to hang out in a mountain town for their summer vacation.

Throughout their childhoods I’ve tried to make them appreciate things like beaches and mountains, fresh air, quirky downtowns, and fascinating museums, but you know how that goes. Kids will like what they like, no matter what you want for them or how you try to teach them.

So I’m ecstatic that, at this stage in their lives, those particular lessons took hold. They’re interesting people. They’re fun to hang out with, and they’re intrigued by the world around them instead of just the prepackaged, commercialized “fun” that permeates American kid culture.

Don’t get me wrong: my girls like that stuff, too, and that’s fine. They’re kids. I don’t expect them to be little adults.

But today, they’re asking for quiet, scenic beauty and quaint local color, so that’s what I’m going to give them. I’ll keep you posted where we decide to go.

68 responses to “Adventure and Daring Plans and Colorado Mountain Towns”

  1. Sara C. says:

    your kids are great. My parents take the girls for a week every summer, and they do things like go hiking and go to Williamsburg and other historical places like that. They LOVE it. They are bringing them to Virginia, with a day trip to DC, because Abby DESPERATELY wants to go to DC…I do hope she realizes that she won’t meet President Obama…that is her big goal.

    I wish we had cool places like Breckenridge to go to around here…though my kids are happy to walk around quirky places in Cape Cod, and they have a blast.

    I can’t wait to see where you decide.

  2. Amy says:

    Oh, man. I can relate to Abby. I lived in Virginia until I was about 10, and we used to go to D.C. for day trips sometimes. We did the White House tour once, and I remember being devastated the President didn’t just, like, walk by and wave at us.

    Now, see. I want to go to Cape Cod & the rest of New England! I’ve never traveled there at all.

  3. Sara C. says:

    If you make it out to the Cape…we’ll have to meet up…my in-laws have a house there, so it’s so easy for us to get there for a weekend. I do LOVE New England, but I’ll bet your girls would be totally UNDERwhelmed by what we call mountains here.

  4. Danielle says:

    Instead of choosing to lounge on the beaches of Victoria, my brother chose a 3-night canoe trip for his summer vacation. Too cool. I don’t get to go because I don’t have the time off :(

    Can’t wait to read about your summer plans and I’ll be sure to share my hikes when I actually go on some!

  5. Sarah says:

    Hee! I remember once as a kid, I was given a choice of anything at all I wanted to do that day. I chose the museum of natural history in the town we were visiting. They had a weather exhibit on, and I was a wierd 8-year-old in that I liked weather so much that I wanted to be a meteorologist.

  6. Amy says:

    Sara–Oh, I dunno. They spent their entire lives as flatlanders up until we moved here. They still call anything higher than speed bumps “mountains.”

    Danielle–Nice…although I’m sorry you don’t get to go.

    Sarah–You were just the kind of 8 year-old that would fit into this family!

  7. susannah says:

    Hi Amy,
    I have been to all of these places.
    Let me see, I was around ten when I did Moab,Yellowstone and Mesa Verde. Those ladders to get to see the cliff dwellings can be pretty scary.
    Zion is great for kids as the hikes are all paved to a greater extent. Bryce can be done by kids your age too, and it is pretty drivable from Denver. I think we did it from Denver rather than Salt Lake too.
    Have you done your doorstep ones like Colorado National Monument? That is one of my all time faves.
    Feel free to ask for opinions/advice-I’ve done 46/50 States’ National Parks! If you’ve picked you area of the south west thwn that should narrow your travels down.
    This summer we’re spending our middle week in Page, Arizona and doing lots in that area. We did the Wave when we were there last year (incredible!)

  8. MC says:

    Amy-Wow, the sidekick in that picture looks soo much like one of the girls in my small group at Awana this year.
    As much as I love summer vacation, I would love (and I think several others in my family would too) to go to the rockies… I’ve gotten to go skiing there once with my family, and LOVED it(we didn’t stay at the ski resort though, as we were in CO for the world sport stacking championships in Denver). It was amazing. And, I think I would fit into that category of likes for vacation that your girls are in right now. I love that kind of stuff…. and love taking pictures of it. :) As for anything higher than a speed bump being considered a “mountain”, lol…. there’s a hill in my grandmother’s town that’s really only a tiny hill, but everyone calls it the town’s “mountain”. Highly amusing (but really fun) is the indoor ski place they have 20 min away from there. Skiing in summer there is kind of odd, but fun.

    Sara-I LOVE Williamsburg. Doing the Jr park ranger program was a blast for me and my brother when we were little. :P Though Mount Vernon is also really interesting (one of George Washington’s homes). The smithsonian museums in DC are really cool (especially the air and space museum), the aquarium and there’s some other museum or place that’s really interesting and fun… maybe it’s called something like science museum? I forget. I’ve never seen the president when I’ve been to DC. Never. Ever. Lol, for me, DC means interesting places or other stuff (like the outdoor ice rink in winter…), in my mind it doesn’t really have any connection with presidents or famous people who are there.
    I’d love to see place up where you live though. I don’t think I’ve been up that way before. You’ve got me curious.

    Sarah-When I was in middle school, and one of my science units was on weather, I loved it and thought for a bit that being a meteorologist would be really cool. I’d still love to see an exhibit like the one you went to when you were 8.

  9. Amy says:

    Susannah–Thanks! We’re heading into the mountains to a small town, away from the national parks & big tourist areas this time, Our issue is the older daughter can hike just about at an adult level – even with asthma, go figure – but while the younger daughter isn’t quite there yet, she actually likes a harder trail than the paved ones. Enjoy your trip!

    MC–That’s why my girls want to head to a mountain town. They’ve adapted to this cooler climate too well. You’d never think they grew up in Florida, and it’s only been a year.

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