It’s the summer that won’t start! Now, only in Colorado!
Seriously: as I write this, it is snowing on Berthoud Pass. Aspen Mountain opened to skiers … on Memorial Day. We cancelled our Mother’s Day plans to drive to Colorado Springs because it was too dangerous driving through a winter storm over Monument Hill. Meanwhile, California bakes and dries out. Having endured droughts before, I’ll grudgingly take dump-trucks of moisture any day.
I bring this up because last weekend, we finally — finally — left Denver and went somewhere with our daughters. Our first trip with four-month-old Lamorra. We drove up I-70 to Steamboat Springs for a night, then reconnected with my extended family at a fishing and hunting ranch outside Yampa. What has the moisture brought?
Unbelievable dandelions and iris (like the above picture north of Silverthorne), lakes where there have never been lakes, waterfalls in unexpected places, and severely swollen rivers. The Colorado River at Kremmling (mind you, a mere 60 miles away from its origin) was almost a half mile wide, flooding willows, pasture and nearly the railroad tracks. In Steamboat Springs, the same could be said for the Yampa River. Normally a placid and happy little river, it had spilled well over its banks and turned our favorite boardwalk into a scene from Waterworld.
To add to the bizarro world of our “summer,” there were blooming crabapple trees in town. Don’t they usually bloom six weeks ago?
All of this pointed the way to a morning hike the next day, down the quarter-mile Routt National Forest Trail to Fish Creek Falls. This is what Fish Creek Falls looks like in the fall. And this past weekend? Above. down by the deluge, it was impossible to communicate without shouting into each other’s ear. And we took turns keeping a death-grip on our oldest daughter’s hand while the youngest rode shotgun in a Bjorn.
After that awesome display of power, we chilled out at the Old Town Hot Springs, grabbed lunch at Freshie’s, packed up, and headed south 45 minutes to Eagle Rock Ranch.
My dad discovered this place years ago, and since then he has returned a handful of times to fish the ranch’s half-dozen lakes, and, I’d imagine, take the occasional siesta on the property’s Augusta National-like lawns.
This was our first time staying at the ranch, and we were joined by my entire family. My brother and his crew stayed in the cabin next to us, while my parents took a more secluded cabin down the hill on the shores of the largest lake.
Besides the pristine nature all around, I was most impressed by the ranch’s pavilion and outdoor kitchen. On the first night, I attempted a feast for the whole family, which segued nicely to s’mores hour. Both nights, Varenna got to stay up late and watch the stars for the first time, and she even got a couple of paddles in the kayak with Mom and Dad.
And the birdwatching was fantastic. While I cooked, red-naped sapsuckers, western tanagers and a bald eagle flew by. Out on the lake, ring-necked ducks mingled with eared grebes, while up in the serviceberry bushes, evening grosbeaks and green-tailed towhees flitted about and sang to each other. Off in the distance, the eastern edge of the Flat Tops rose over the valley, draped in snow.
I never picked up a fishing rod. I never donned a bike helmet. It was just 48 hours of rolling with it, breathing deeply and enjoying time with my family. Given what the First Year With Two Kids looks like for most of us, I count myself as fortunate for getting such a breather.