4th of July Weekend 2019

Phoebe mostly said it all in her post, but I have the pictures! For the long-winded version of our 4th of July weekend’s adventure (and the photos I know you’re looking for), please read on.

Independence Day was on a Thursday this year, and my work let us celebrate by being independent of it on Thursday and Friday. A 4-day weekend is a rare gift! Back in March or early April, when we were planning our summer far too late, we decided to try a backpacking trip this year, the kids’ first one. We reserved a site in Rocky Mountain National Parkā€”the closest site to a trailhead we could find.

On Thursday, I went for my usual early-morning run and then picked Phoebe up for an additional mile. Dave went to work at the coffee shop in the morning, so the kids and I hung out at home until noon, when I took Phoebe to a promised mother-daughter lunch at our favorite ramen restaurant, Udon Kaisha. (Dave took Benjamin to Noodles.) She and I stopped by Sprouts to get trail mix for our hiking trip; we couldn’t believe how many varieties they have! We ended up choosing a different kind for each of us. When we met back up with Dave and Benjamin, who had stopped at REI to get a bear canister, the kids and I finished up our shopping for the trip at King Soopers. We had a late dinner of hamburgers, homemade French fries, and baked beans. (I would’ve liked potato salad, but fries are preferred in this group.) We left for the fireworks at about 8:30 and met up with the Wilensky Berzanskis family and Maggie’s mom and dad at Mount Calvary, where you can see the Folsom Field (CU) fireworks from the parking lot. Maybe because it had been raining, it wasn’t as crowded as usual. The kids played with glow bracelets we’d picked up at the Dollar Tree. The fireworks were a big hit, and they didn’t seem as long as usual, which was kind of nice. We were home by 10:30.

In the morning, as Phoebe said, we finished up our packing and drove up to Estes Park. It’s so easy to load up the car when everything is in 4 backpacks! We picked up our backpacking permit and parked in town for an early lunch. Then we drove over Trail Ridge Road to get to the west side of the park, where our trailhead was.

Driving over Trail Ridge Road.
Potty stop.
It’s a long way down!
Snow and glaciers.

We arrived at the Onahu Creek Trailhead around 3 in the afternoon. Our phones didn’t work, so I left mine in the car. We put on our backpacks and the kids each found a hiking stick. We were off!

Heading out on our hike. The kids had already picked up hiking sticks.

The trail was fairly steeply uphill in places, but for the most part it was gentle. There were plenty of flowers out, and we crossed the river a few times on fun bridges. Some folks coming down pointed out a couple of moose just off the trail, sitting down and munching lunch.

Columbine along the trail. Dave stopped to take some lovely photos.

Phoebe crossing the bridge.
It was a pretty warm day, so she rolled up her 3/4-length panda pants, the only ones she brought.
Benjamin getting ready to cross.
Dave often yelled “stop for a photo” and stage directed.
Moose just off the trail.
After a while, Benjamin didn’t carry his backpack anymore, but he hiked sturdily and without complaint all the way up.
Crossing the big fancy bridge.
Rushing river.

We weren’t paying too much attention to the time, but I think it took less than 2 hours to hike to our campsite. First we found the sign, then followed the trail to a nice flat site. Phoebe went exploring for a kitchen area; because of the threat of bears, we needed to cook 200 feet from our tent. She found a big rock that would work well. We quickly discovered that once we stopped moving, we were in a thick cloud of mosquitoes. We all put on our jackets (three of us were lucky to have hoods) and long pants, and Dave put up the tent so we could pop the kids inside. He and I cooked dinner while swatting frantically. The mosquitoes were so thick that when I flailed my arms, trying to create a bug-free bubble, I could feel my hands hitting mosquitoes every time I moved them.

We made it to the campground sign!

Okay, maybe Phoebe is ready to stop. I must’ve been squishing a mosquito on Benjamin’s head.
Last–and most narrow–bridge.
In his Woobie (sleeping bag) in the tent.
Phoebe started–and finished–Harry Potter #3 on our trip.

The most exciting thing that happened that evening was that Benjamin’s first loose tooth, which had been hanging on by a thread for what seemed like weeks, was ready to come out. I was afraid that he might swallow it in his sleep, so I gave him a paper towel and told him to wiggle it vigorously with the paper towel in his grip. He practiced some of the courage he’s been learning about in karate and twisted and yanked that tooth until it came out! He was terribly proud of himself for losing his first tooth, and he doesn’t even have to wait for the grown-up tooth to come in, because it came in behind and pushed the other one out. The tooth fairy managed to find him, even in the tent in the woods, and left him $2 and a very cute note.

First lost tooth!
The tooth fairy is definitely magic!

We managed to keep the mosquitoes out of the tent, so we went to bed after dinner and had a good night’s sleep. In the morning we discussed the possibilities; the kids weren’t going to be able to keep moving all day to escape the mosquitoes, and we couldn’t stay in the tent all day. It would be too hot after 10:30 or so. We decided to pack up and head out; Dave and I were kind of keen to complete the hike’s loop, but it would’ve been about twice as much hiking, and the kids didn’t think they could manage it, so we went back the way we came.

Reading in the tent in the morning.
Playing with Coco.
Showing off his dangerous animals cards.
Not such a bad life in the tent.
Dave is cleaning up.
In the woods.

Eating trail mix and getting a little weary.
Ready to cross the bridge.

Basically back to the car. Coconut (the monkey) is enjoying the view.
Phoebe hiked without complaint both ways and carried her backpack the whole time! (Including 2 books and a field guide to CO flowers.)
Pretty flowers along the trail.

We ended up stopping at Holzwarth Historic Site, which we’d seen on the way in. It was a dude ranch back in the early 1920s, and many of the buildings remain. The Holzwarths moved on after a while and opened Never Summer Ranch. We enjoyed imagining how hard it would be to get to a ranch in the middle of nowhere back then!

Thumbs up for the view at Holzwarth Historic Site.
“Is the water cold, Mom?”
Yes, his feet are soaked.
Cabins from the original dude ranch.

We drove back over Trail Ridge Road and stopped at a lovely overlook.

Still a lot of snow on the mountains!
Hey, a photo of the two of us! And we’re still wearing the same shirts we’ve been wearing for outdoor pursuits for more than a decade.
Coconut on the wall.
Benjamin next to the wall.
Unusually, she agreed to be photographed.
Panorama with really neat saturation.
That’s Boom Boom.

Dave had promised Benjamin that on the way home, we’d stop to play in the snow banked along the road.

Stopping to play in the snow.
We made snowballs to throw across the road.
Benjamin’s hand got cold pretty fast.
A herd of elk crossing the field.

We found a campsite at Meeker Campground on the Peak to Peak Highway, paid for our spot, and drove the half hour into Nederland to get dinner at the BBQ restaurant. We considered going straight home, but we ended up having enough energy to go back to the campground and stay overnight. We were all a little grumpy in the morning, ready to get home and watch the World Cup, but we felt a lot happier when a mama and baby moose walked straight through the campground!

Mama and baby moose in Meeker Campground.

It turned out to be a wonderful weekend. The kids were tough, we were all flexible, and we had no electronic devices to distract us. Just good old family togetherness. I’m already looking forward to our next backpacking trip! (I figure it’s only another 3 summers until the kids can out-hike me.)

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