Summertime means hamburgers and hotdogs, swimming and baseball, fireworks and parades. Summertime also means its family vacation time!
When I hear the words "family vacation" I envision Clark Griswold behind the wheel of the ole' Family Truckster. I can see him falling asleep behind the wheel; getting his hubcaps stolen in St. Louis; tying Dinky to the bumper and hauling poor dead Aunt Edna to her son's house on the way to Wally World.
Our family decided on a trip to the YMCA camp in Estes Park, Colorado this year for what was to be my four and eight year olds longest trip in a car. In years past, we had settled on closer destinations such as Adventureland in Des Moines and Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City (Go Chiefs!), but this was sure to be a test of parental patience in the wake of a ten hour drive.
With an early start and the magical visions of mountains clouding their busy minds, the girls did fairly well with only a dozen potty breaks or so and a couple dozen "Are we there yets?"
Upon entering Colorado, we saw the ominous signs of a thunderstorm brewing ahead, but realized and found out that it was the billowing smoke from the Fort Collins fire which had started just that morning.
The YMCA camp in my opinion was wonderful! Though our cabin was small, it was more importantly clean and bug free. The first thing my girls noticed was that there was no television. Sorry girls, no SpongeBob SquarePants! I found it quite refreshing to have no TV or computer. This was a chance to leave the madness of the world behind if only for a few days, and I relished in it.
For several months before our trip to Estes Park, our oldest daughter talked non-stop about wanting to ride a horse when we got there. Within a ten minute walk from our cabin was Jackson Stables where we enjoyed several rides through the Rocky Mountains.
My daughter fell in love with her horse and was able to talk about every little thing she learned about Duchess. We even enjoyed a few evening strolls to the stables, and she was so thrilled when out of 130 horses, the one she rode that day (Duchess) walked up to see her!
This trip also allowed me to unleash my inner explorer; I was able to do some zip-lining which was totally awesome! I believe my girls really enjoyed seeing their dad act like a kid.
If you have been to Estes Park, most likely you have traversed up Trailridge road. If you have not been there, Trailridge road is a must on anyone's destination journey. The views are breathtaking, the road coming only feet from sheer drop offs. Towards the top of Trailridge road, we stopped and I was able to walk out to the edge of a mountainside and look nearly 10,000 feet straight down. With a strong wind to my back, I stood on the brink of that ledge, raised my hands to the Heavens and thanked God for blessing me with so much in life; family, health, home, job. It was a very humbling experience; one that made the hairs on my body stand straight as I stood at the pinnacle of the cliff.
I was sad when we had to come back home. I had enjoyed the closeness of my wife and children, the opportunity to enjoy each other without the annoying and noisy backdrop of a television. It had been a great experience for my girls as we saw many mule deer close up and even a juvenile elk outside of our cabin when we awoke one morning.
The trip home was quite funny as my oldest kept telling us about her horse Duchess and, "Dad, Mom, did you know Duchess this?" and "Mom, Dad, did you know Duchess that?" It was so nice to hear the excitement in her voice which was a reassurance to me that she would remember this vacation throughout her life, just as I remember trips out there with my parents when I was a kid.
John - A ParentSavvy Parent Expert