The Broadmoor’s Bliss: Part 1,205

We first went to AAA Five-Diamond The Broadmoor when the kids were ages 3 and 1. Almost a decade later, we still can’t get enough and it’s truly our favorite Colorado vacation.

When The Broadmoor Magazine’s editor gave me my latest assignment, I was thrilled. “Growing Up Broadmoor” is to be a reflective piece about all the many wonderful memories we’ve had over the years. It’s turning out to be more difficult to write than I thought because there are so many grand gestures and beautifully small nuances that are a part of our DNA. We love and appreciate that special place like no other.

Usually when I’m on assignment, we’re busy with activities related to the story. The Ranch at Emerald Valley. The White Lights Ceremony for the holidays. Outdoor adventures with Broadmoor Outfitters. This time, we were simply coming back “home” after moving away…and that will be my lead-in for the story.

We arrived on New Year’s Day, just as their 12 Days of Christmas was wrapping. We delved in head-first: Casting protective enchantments a.k.a learning to cast a fly rod, which was no less magical than at Hogwarts.

Hadley got a fancy camera for Christmas so she and Jamie attended the photography seminar held from The Broadmoor’s acclaimed photographer, Mic Garofolo. We adore this man! He has been the most delightful paparazzo as he’s followed us around the resort taking pictures of our family for years. He’s so generous that he offered them a private session the next day and she is SUPER excited to delve into learning more about photography.

It’s been four years since we’ve been to The Broadmoor around the holidays so we loved checking out their Gingerbread Village, which was actually a life-sized candy train in honor of the the 125th anniversary of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway Steam Engine, the world’s highest cog train.

We were thrilled to finally stay in the renovated West Tower and it was just as beautiful as we imagined despite the crummy lighting in this picture. And Bode’s awkward pose.

As we settled in, I heard Hadley scream “this is the best mirror EVER!”

As if she already didn’t spend HOURS getting ready, this built-in TV just made it 10 times worse.

We’d hoped to take the shuttle to see the Winter Lights at Seven Falls but it closed early due to the holiday so we drowned our sorrows at our favorite restaurant, The Summit. Hadley tried escargot for the first time, and we all indulged in Beef Tenderloin au Poivre, Slow-roasted Monkfish, Cinnamon Crème Brûlée and Apple Mille-Feuille as we discussed Jamie’s no-sugar challenge.

That began upon our sad, sad return to reality.

The next day was uncharacteristically low-key. I arose early to do my traditional solo hike up North Cheyenne Canyon. I chased the sunrise and the entire canyon was glowing when I arrived at the base but was gone by the time I’d hiked far enough for a view. 

Life lesson for 2017: Don’t blink or you’ll miss it but what remains is pretty darn spectacular.

Meanwhile back at The Broadmoor….

When you have a tomboy mom who is clueless about being a real girl, I highly recommend their spa’s introductory makeup tutorial. 

And also their 50-minute massage (Jamie) and glorious facial (me).

Following lunch at the Golden Bee English Pub, we split up. While Hadley and Jamie were at Mic’s photography session, Bode and I headed over to Broadmoor Outfitters where we went on a scavenger hunt. I’ll admit I wasn’t too enthused but as it turns out, scavenger hunts have gone high-tech and are much more fun than those of my youth. We downloaded the app, Scavenger Ox, and set about to discover The Broadmoor in a hilarious new way.

The resort is know for its upscale clientele so Bode and I aren’t proud of some of the things we did that included asking a stranger for a piggy-back ride and singing “Let It Go” whilst outfitted with my own Elsa braid graphic but it was all worth it for the win. Err…right?

That evening, we bowled to our heart’s content at PLAY. We’re out of focus in this picture and my eyes are closed but that’s just a detraction from the fact I bowled my worst game ever: 49 in the eighth frame.

And the fact that on our fun final round, Bode actually bowled BETTER with his eyes closed and with his left hand.

Somehow because it was at The Broadmoor, it all just made sense.

Monarch Mountain: A perfect family ski vacation

I learned to ski on a tiny two-lift hill within Calgary, Canada’s city limits. As much as I love exploring large ski areas, I feel drawn to these smaller homegrown resorts that are solely about the skiing without the pomp, circumstance and inflated prices. A place where everyone knows your name…and that I don’t drink beer and my name is not Norm.

Monarch Mountain is such a place. Located 150 miles from Denver via U.S. 285, this small ski resort has soaring elevations, stellar family terrain, unbeatable views and big snow (it is second only to Wolf Creek for the biggest snow totals in Colorado). Unlike Summit County’s sardine-packed resorts, Monarch has no neighbors and there’s nothing fake about it—including the all-natural snow.

Click here to keep reading about our many adventures on the mountain, as well as our glorious stay at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort.

A Colorado New Year

As we were making our plans for the Winter Break, I looked at the looooong 2.5 weeks ahead of us and declared a road trip to Colorado was in order. Of course, the kids were game–they miss their friends desperately. Jamie was slower to bite but when when I received a magazine assignment from The Broadmoor to sweeten the pot, he was ALL IN.

We stayed two nights at my beloved Colorado Chautauqua’s darling cottages, two nights with our friends the Larsons and two nights at The Broadmoor. Our trip wasn’t too long, nor too short, it was just right. #CallMeGoldilocks.

Tired boy, warm fireplace

We had a rough reentry to Colorado. There are two driving routes–one through Colorado’s mountains and the other through Wyoming. Colorado’s mountain passes are sketchy in winter and Wyoming’s winds and ice are what nightmares are made of. We checked the forecast and declared Colorado was the better route and all was going smashingly until my friend Tina texted me that I-70 was closed down at Vail Pass. Now, I’m not going to start a tirade of my bitter hatred toward this freeway which is a billion dollar NIGHTMARE for Colorado’s tourism industry. We decided not to take a long detour and just hope for the best and miraculously, Vail reopened and traffic was moving! Until we arrived in Frisco (outside of Breckenridge) where we went at a snail’s pace for hours thanks to ski traffic.

We arrived much later than anticipated, checked into our cottage at Colorado Chautauqua and headed straight to dinner at their historic Dining Hall. It’s my favorite ever patio dining ever and in the winter, there were cozy fireplaces and charming Christmas decorations as we downed cornbread with apple butter, shiitake mushroom risotto and gourmet burgers with fresh tomato preserves and horseradish ranch. We went to bed completely exhausted but full to the brim.

I’ve been missing my Colorado hiking trails so much, especially since my friends and I hiked the Mesa Trail straight through to Chautauqua last summer.  Though Colorado hadn’t received much snow up until that point, it was cold and portions of the trail were icy. So, that morning when I woke up in my cozy cottage, I literally had to drag myself out of bed. And I’m so glad I did.

That network of favorite trails has raised my children. I first discovered it with my mom hiking group when Hadley was 3 months, I almost passed out trying to climb it when I was pregnant with Bode, I’ve struggled up steep pitches pushing them in their double stroller through snow, we’ve participated in their memorable theater hikes and I’ve loved seeing them reach summits of their own.

But that day was the first time I witnessed the sunrise there, making me believe I’d never really SEEN Chautauqua until that moment.

We met Tina and her kids at Country Road Cafe and happily stuffed our faces with Crispy Waffle-battered Sweet Potato Fries topped with eggs, ham, cheese, hollandaise and honey drizzle. 

We’d planned to skate Evergreen Lake but it was closed due to Denver’s lack of snow so we took the kids to their favorite bouldering location at Three Sisters/Alderfer in Evergreen.

It warmed my heart as as were hiking back to the car and Hadley pointed out the Bluebird Meadows trail sign and reminisced, “Do you remember when there was a blue bird sitting on this sign?” So many wonderful memories.

More wonders: so many friends organized parties for us. We dropped Bode at his buddy Porter’s Nerf Fun War Blowout, Hadley went to a girl’s night out part at her friend Maeve’s while Jamie and I had game night with her parents and Bode got invited for a sleepover with his besties. As we pulled up to the house, I saw the silhouettes of four ecstatic boys–Nicky, Vinnie, Curtis and Zach–waiting for him and their sheer joy of being reunited was one of my favorite moments of our trip.

And then I’m sure these gamers stayed up until I-don’t-want-to-know-how-late.

The next morning, Jamie, Hadley and I went for one last hike at Chautauqua before checking out, whereupon we disagreed about who was the most out of shape.

Hint: It wasn’t these two billy goats.

My friend Eva organized our 2nd Annual FHE Showdown with several families at the church. Last year during the inaugural event (read all about it in the FHE Musical Chairs of Death), Jamie and I had just made the decision to move but did not tell anyone for a couple of months. We walked away from that insanely fun evening saying “How can we possibly leave these amazing people?” We still feel the same way after a night of dodgeball, blood, games, basketball, a ripped shirt and a competitive game of musical chairs whereupon Jamie was dethroned.

Kids musical chairs

Adult musical chairs

Fortunately, he didn’t throw out his shoulder playing dodgeball; he only saves that for marshmallow wars (see previous Musical Chairs of Death post).

Clear Creek

We had a low-key and fun New Year’s Eve with friends, took a memorable walk along the now-frozen Clear Creek and I got up early for a walk in Van Bibber Open Space. This was the outdoor playground closest to our home and I pondered how many hours have we spent jumping, splashing, bike racing and tree climbing there?!

Then I got tired of my deep, effusive thoughts and spent the rest of my explorations cracking ice puddles like the five-year-old I am.

We went back to Arvada 2nd Ward for church and it felt like the rest of our trip: like we never left. I had so many hugs and “welcome homes” from those beloved people.

I asked Bode his thoughts about coming back and he said it was both better and worse than he anticipated. The better: wonderful friends organizing sleepovers, game nights, lunches, Nerf gun showdowns, girls night out, Country Road Cafe breakfast, Chautauqua and Evergreen hikes, comfy beds and late nights. The worse (according to Bod and us all): Leaving.

But one thing that was confirmed is that Colorado will always be home.

Stay tuned for fun at The Broadmoor.

A frightfully fun haunted hotel memory

I was doing a write-up last week on Denver’s haunted hotels and happened upon our fun frightmare at the Curtis Hotel back in 2013. Shamefully, I never blogged about it here so thought I’d republish. Enjoy!

After a while, Halloween memories start to blur together. Dress up, trick-or-treat, gorge on candy. Lather, rinse, repeat. But last weekend, my family experienced a Halloween event we will never forget. We attended the Nightmare on Curtis Street at the Curtis – A DoubleTree by Hilton. Each year during the month of October, the Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado transforms its 13th floor into a haunted house for a most memorable Halloween.

Curtis – A Doubletree Hotel

This family-friendly, pop-culture hotel is dedicated to all things quirky. Case in point: last summer’s pop-up, inflatable room that rose 22 feet in the air.

The hallway of each of the 16 floors boasts a different theme, like One-hit Wonders, Big Hair, and Dance. The playful lobby hosts impromptu hula hoop contests and offers board games for check-out as well as a small book-filled library.

The 13th floor’s theme is Horror. I’m not the ghost-hunting type and at ages 7 and 9, neither are my kids. I’d think twice about staying somewhere that claimed to be legitimately haunted but I took a gamble that my family would love Nightmare on Curtis Street.

Eerie elevator operator at the Curtis Hotel's Nightmare on Curtis Street

The 13th Floor

Upon check-in in the late afternoon, the 13th floor’s transformation was already underway. We walked through hallways dripping in cobwebs and filled with creepy decorations. A fidgeting fake rat was caught in trap while a macabre black cat plotted his next move. An unearthly motorized Carol Anne from Poltergeist alternately stared at us and a television. Redrum “murder” was scrawled on our bathroom mirror and our sink was teaming with plastic spiders. The kids were curious but not overly freaked out.

After dinner in the nearby Larimer Square, one of Denver’s hippest and most delicious areas, the sun had set and we were ready to continue our spooky staycation. At the Curtis we found a cadaverous woman guarding the lobby elevator. “This elevator is only going to the 13th floor,” she announced.

Nightmare on Curtis Street at the Curtis Hotel in Denver, Colorado

We timidly boarded. When the blood-lined elevator doors opened, the 13th floor had come to life; or had converted to the death zone. A sinister-looking lady was serving treats and shots…in the head. Ghoulish characters roamed the hallway but none were more unsettling than a perma-grin clown and two ghostly little girls. We interacted with them all and squealed as we dodged around the cobwebs, finding refuge in our hotel room.

“I’ll give each of you a dollar if you run to the end of the hall all by yourself,” my husband announced to the kids. My daughter, Hadley, was the courageous first, reluctantly followed by her little brother, Bode. They quickly realized it was all in great fun and this was the impetus to a hilarious night.

Our hotel neighbors got into the spirit of the event too. At one point, I heard a man recoil in fear as he screamed, “Someone is coming out of the room. It’s so hideous!”

It was cherubic-cheeked Bode.

Then, there was a knock on our hotel room door.

Creepy playdate at Nightmare on Curtis Street

Creepy play date at Nightmare on Curtis Street

When my daughter opened the door she found a strange character had stopped by, perhaps for a play date from hell.

When the kids returned from their haunted hallway adventure, Hadley cried, “Dad, why didn’t you open the door? Couldn’t you hear us screaming?”

My husband just grinned, relishing it all and said, “Yup.”

And then there was The Clown.

Creepy clown at the Curtis Hotel's haunted Halloween event

This won’t give him nightmares, right?

Murder Mystery Solved

To wind down, we headed to the lobby to check out Clue, the murder mystery deduction game. The kids had never played before and they loved trying to solve the mystery of who done it, with what, and where, as their game pieces moved from room to room in the board game’s mansion.

Our findings? It was the Clown. With the revolver. At the Curtis Hotel‘s Nightmare on Curtis Street.


Side note: The next day at church, Bode was coloring as usual. What wasn’t usual was when he later handed me his artwork…and it was all black squiggles with the repeated phrase “I’M NOT SAFE.”

The good news is he didn’t need therapy.

The Colorado Sisterhood

When I first moved to Colorado 13.5 years ago, it took me a while to adjust. I’d left a thriving career and fun social circle in Salt Lake City to a place where I knew no one apart from my new husband, whom I was still getting to know. I didn’t fit in with the women my age in the ward who all had children, it took me a few months to find a job and I spent a lot of time on my own hiking and [sad confession] watching the entire series of Dawson’s Creek. I don’t really mind being alone–in fact, I quite enjoy it–but I definitely felt lonely as I struggled to carve out my existence here.

Six months after getting married, I got pregnant with Hadley. It wasn’t until after I become a mom that I finally started making friends, the first of whom was my dear friend Tina through our hiking group, Colorado Mountain Mamas. When we moved into our house, I hated the Arvada 2nd Ward–it was the smallest in the stake and struggled a lot. My now-friend Lisa decided to do something about it and formed a dinner group with couples who have now become our very closest friends.

As the years have passed, that circle of friends has grown. I have gone from feeling like an outsider to being the includer–organizing events and gatherings for anyone who will come. I love that this group of people we are blessed to call friends are so involved in each other’s lives. My children have grown up with their children, I thought they’d be teenagers together and maybe even date and marry. I envisioned going to lunch as old ladies with Lisa, Eva and Jenn, sharing all the minute details of our grandchildren’s lives.  These friends have become part of our DNA and that has been, hands down, the most difficult part of leaving.

I started an informal hiking group a while back and it has become a come-if-you-can weekly adventure.  In May, I vowed I would finally do a hike that has been on my bucket list for years: we would hike the entirety of the Mesa Trail in Boulder. It’s a 14-mile round-trip trek and, though I’ve hiked numerous portions of it, I’ve never hiked it straight through. And as much as I love hiking, 14 miles is a beast so I decided to cut it in half by parking a car at the end of the hike and then circling back and planting another car at the beginning, the South Mesa Trailhead.

I put a call out to friends to see who would be interested and six answered the call on that Thursday: Debbie, Jenn, Lisa, Sheree, Tina and a new friend, Melissa. It wasn’t an easy hike and by the end, I was limping but the time flew by during those 3.5 hours as we hiked, chatted and marveled at the sheer majesty along the trail that day. Chautauqua Park has been a special place for me since my early days in Colorado and I’ll never forget my first hike there with my hiking group as I was blown away by the stunning terrain and historic cottages and Dining Hall heaped in history.

We laughed at the memory of when, earlier in the year, we’d hiked a portion of the trail when it ran into an unnavigable river. Or so we thought until Debbie insisted we bushwhack downstream, find a rickety log to cross, and it was Debbie who ended up falling in.

Fortunately this time, there was a new passage in place across the creek.

When we finally arrived at Chautauqua nearly 8 miles later, we were tired, dirty and sweaty but that didn’t stop us from eating lunch on the Dining Hall’s gorgeous patio overlooking the Flatiron Mountains and a torrent of flowers on the expansive lawn. For two hours, we laughed, ate and certainly didn’t disagree when Debbie strongly suggested topping off the day with peach and huckleberry cobbler. When we weren’t looking,  she covertly slipped the waiter her credit card to cover the bill and I felt like smooching her right there if I hadn’t been covered in dirt and berries.

Sitting on that deck in the most gorgeous settings with women who are numbered among my dearest friends (and knowing there are so many more who couldn’t join us), I just felt gratitude for this life I have been blessed to live for 13 years. I know new friendships will develop in Utah but I need to remember it will take time and that what I have here will never, ever be replaced.

I couldn’t help but think how far I’ve come…and how far I still have to go.

And how darn grateful I am to have shared this journey with so many wonderful people along the way.

A Night Under the Stars at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA

“Mom, can you believe these stars?!” My son Bode raves as he peers through our friend Bryan’s telescope while standing on his back. Riding low in the summer sky is the constellation Sagittarius, looking like a teapot and containing some of the finest deep sky objects in our 360-degree panorama.

yurtvillage2Plunk a city kid into Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA’s new yurt village near Granby, Colo. and an entirely new universe is unfolded to him. Literally. The Milky Way’s eruption of stars shooting out of the Rocky Mountains isn’t the first time we are awestruck that weekend.

Bode and I are numbered among the first lucky visitors to stay in the Schlessman Family Yurt Village, a smattering of 12 canvas yurts that include such amenities as Wi-Fi, electric outlets, interior lighting, windows with screens, ceiling fan, retractable skylight, lockable doors and outside decks. Each yurt sleeps up to six people with one queen bed and two bunk beds, a microwave, mini-fridge and prep tables. This is “glamping” at its finest.

I have had only one previous yurt experience–a backcountry structure near Sun Valley, ID that came equipped with stellar views of the Sawtooth Range, along with derelict conditions and plenty of mice turds. I haven’t been in a hurry for a repeat experience but quickly learn not all yurts are created equally. Though we’re still in a campground setting, our Colorado Yurt Company structure feels more like a weather-tight cozy cabin.
When we arrive, Bode transports our suitcases and sleeping bags in the luggage carts to our yurt about 200 feet away.  The exposed framing and heavy-duty canvas shell provide a soft blend with the natural surroundings as we settle into our home away from home. Nearby is a shade shelter with with two gas grills and fire pit–the perfect gathering place for friends in the evening.

We spend the weekend conquering a sliver of what 5,100-acre Snow Mountain Ranch has offer.  We enjoy a new program, Lollygagging with the Llamas, where we learn how to pack and hike with the llamas. We careen down the Summer Tubing hill made of Snowflex®the first ever in Colorado.

We race across the Forest Zip Line, channel our inner Merida in Archery, conquer the aqua climbing wall at the indoor pool, come in way over par at miniature golf, fish at Gaylord Reservoir and explore the myriad of trails around the property.



We top off our day with Sombrero Stables’ hay ride.  As our draft horses leisurely lope along, the sweeping views of the Continental Divide reflexively cause a deep, whistling intake of breath. Our descent into the postcard-perfect Rowley Homstead is effortless, the mountains growing larger until we are swallowed by their shadows as we stop to enjoy a campfire, s’mores and cowboy humor.

What started as a stunningly sunny day turns into a crisp, clear evening. As we settle into our comfy yurt later that evening, we fall asleep gazing through the domed skylight at the stars, marveling at the vast nocturnal paradise that almost seems close enough to touch.

I’m sure even Galileo would have approved.

 Know Before You Go

  • Yurts are $99/night are are available year-round.
  • yurtvillage1The exterior of each yurt includes a fire ring, a charcoal grill, a picnic table and a 2-person tent pad.
  • The structures are not heated. Linens and a light blanket are provided in the summer but bring a warm sleeping bag.
  • Pets are allowed with a minimal pet fee of $15/per night per pet.
  • The Mac and Shirley Burgher Yurt Village is adjacent to the new Schlessman Family Yurt Village and offers an additional 12 yurts that opened in 2010. Each yurt village has one handicap-accessible yurt with a ramp and each village has a central bathhouse with private restrooms, showers and sinks for drinking water and washing dishes, including a handicap accessible restroom/shower.
  •  Most of the activities at Snow Mountain Ranch are free or require a nominal fee, making this an affordable family vacation. Thank you to the YMCA of the Rockies for hosting.

The Broadmoor’s Bliss

I’ve long stated how much we love AAA Five-Diamond  The Broadmoor and I feel honored to write for the resort’s magazine. For every visit I make on-assignment, we are spoiled to receive another trip just for pleasure. For the fourth Memorial Day weekend in a row, we returned to what has become our favorite place in Colorado.

Saturday morning, Hadley and I woke up early to conquer the Manitou Incline. The holy grail of extreme trails, this beast climbs 2,000 feet in 1 mile and we joined the rank of Colorado crazies who have done it. And never will again.

The Pool

The rest of our Broadmoor vacation was full of rest, relaxation and lots and lots of eating. Their pool is a lesson in luxury with poolside service and we even rented a cabana one of the days.

A Taste of the Good Life

Our BFF Cabana Boy feeding our virgin Miami Vice addiction

May we just take a second to talk about this man of mine? After a few hours at the pool on Saturday, he wanted to go back to the room to rest. We only had one key between us and the kids wanted to stay and play so he needed to go to the front desk to get another. The problem: he was in his swimsuit and didn’t have his wallet so he came up with a brilliant plan. When he walked up to the front desk clerk, she predictably asked for identification.

“I don’t have any. I left it in the room.”

“I need some ID from you, Sir.”

“Do you have a copy of The Broadmoor Magazine? There is a picture of me with my name in it.”

Talk about name-dropping.

The clerk looked at him, startled. And ended up sending someone with him to open up the room where he then needed to prove his existence apart from magazine evidence. So much for his “don’t you know who I am?” approach.

The Gourmet Food

Jamie made us diet the week prior to The Broadmoor, which was particularly difficult because we had an endless stream of graduations parties and a reception with gooooood food. His reasoning? Lose a few pounds so we can gain back 10 at The Broadmoor.

We made sure to hit all our favorite haunts, starting with bowling at their upscale alley Play, stuffing our faces with milkshakes and retro Americana favorites. I even played passably well and bowled a couple of strikes while Jamie had a gutterball on almost every turn…and yet he still somehow pulled off a win in the 10th frame.

I’m not bitter.

A trip to The Broadmoor would not be complete without room service.

The Summit is our favorite restaurant at The Broadmoor and their crème brûlée is worthy of the very best belated birthday celebration.

But not to be surpassed: The Brunch with the most amazing spread of gourmet food I’ve ever seen, easily the best brunch in Colorado.

Following Colorado’s destructive floods a few years ago, The Broadmoor acquired the popular tourist destination Seven Falls and in typical 5-star fashion, restored it to to an even more glorious condition. There are seven beautiful falls that cascade 181 feet down a solid cliff of naturally-carved Pikes Peak granite. We climbed the steep stairs, relishing in the refreshing spray and views, followed by an indulgent dinner in their new Restaurant 1858 at the base.

So Long, Farewell

With all that eating, I needed to burn off some calories and energy. On Memorial Day before dawn, I set out for my traditional trek up North Cheyenne Cañon, easily my favorite hike in Colorado. I relished being completely alone in that special place that, in a few hours, would be overrun with outdoor enthusiasts. I thought the views along the lower trail could not be surpassed.

Until I climbed higher and higher.

I touched magic that day, just as we do every time we are privileged to stay at The Broadmoor.

7-Eleven Day at Play

One of the things I’ll miss the most about Colorado is our posse of friends. I love that when I get one of my hairbrained ideas, I can send an email out and my friends respond. In droves!

July 7 is the hallowed day when 7-Eleven offers free small Slurpees. The kids and I wanted to bike over to get one so why not make an event of it? I invited our peeps to come hang out and then play in Van Bibber Creek with us afterwards.

Best. Friends. Ever!
The girls look sweet but they were actually plotting a movie party at our house the next night. Sucker that I am, I obliged.

We introduced many of these friends to our secret spot in Van Bibber Open Space and I was surprised so few knew about it. In fact, my friend Amy rides through there a lot and didn’t even know there was a creek. I felt honored to pass the torch to the new generation.

Of course, a Van Bibber adventure isn’t the same without a Bike-off where we compete to see who can make it through the creek without falling off. Shockingly, everyone made it through multiple times without incident, even when I did a couple of runs as The Mom Representative.

Bode’s crossing

Kids being kids, they decided to up the degree of difficulty and had splashers on the sidelines.


But in the end, they were the ones who got sprayed the most…and none of us minded one bit.

My love affair with Evergreen, Colorado

The prospect of leaving Colorado physically hurts me sometimes. I’ve loved on this place hard and while there are still so many things on my bucket list, I have zero regrets that I’ve left any major stones unturned.

One of my favorite places in Colorado is Evergreen. Just 30 minutes from our house, this gorgeous mountain hamlet is tucked away in Colorado’s mountains.  Evergreen Lake was named one of the top ten most scenic places for ice skating in the world and is bordered by mountain parks with miles of trails.

Lo, do I know those trails. I’ve spent countless hours exploring them and have only one major item left to conquer, Bergen Peak, which I vowed to do when I picked up Hadley from Mount Evans Outdoor Lab. But my irascible knee was not cooperating with this 10-mile hike so I had to resort to something different; a trail I’d never hiked. I first called the chamber for advice, then the ranger’s station, then the open space and no one could help me. I finally found some luck when I talked to a woman from the Evergreen Recreation District. I described all the hikes I’ve done in the area –from the extensive network of trails at Alderfer/Three Sisters to Dedisse Mountain Park to Elk Meadow Park to Evergreen Lake.

She responded, “I have to tell you that you’ve done more exploring here than most of our locals.”

I’ll wear that observation like a badge of honor.

She recommended the Beaver Brook Watershed, a little-known trail that is part of a 20-mile wildlife corridor between Elk Meadow and Mount Evans. I was in!

Early that morning, I took my friend Amy biking along Ralston Creek Trail and then my friend Lisa and I drove up to Evergreen together. We were limited on time so only did the 1.8-mile round-trip hike to the reservoir but I was blown away by this gorgeous, easy hike dotted with aspens and a dense forest.

There’s nothing like saving [one of] the best for last.

Kids Adventure Games: A Parent Butt-kicking to Remember

“I wish I could do that.”

Thus were my famous last words as my children competed in the Toyota Kids Adventure Games in Vail last summer. Now in its seventh season, these games are the only national outdoor adventure series just for kids and this year, the organizers experimented with a new race: the Family Adventure Quest. Held in the Village at Copper, this race paired one adult/teen and one child together to navigate an adventure course with zip lines, mud pits, slacklines, cargo nets, trekking, biking, water obstacles and a variety of other unique challenges.

Bode and I a.k.a. “Team Dominator” participated in the optional adventure-racing clinic the day prior where we fine-tuned our blow-dart, rock climbing, orienteering and mountain biking skills. The actual Quest featured two categories, a timed category for more competitive duos or a non-timed “fun run” for those looking to tackle the course without pressure. If I was a sane person, I would have signed up for the latter but the competitive waves worked better with our schedule so we found ourselves at the starting line mingling with seasoned adventure racing parents. “We’re going to have fun, right?” I reminded Bode but mostly I was trying to comfort myself that we were definitely not in it to win it.


Our bib number was called and we lined up with an 8-year-old cutie wearing a sparkly helmet while her dad looked like he stepped (no, ran) off the pages of Outside magazine. That was the last time I saw them as they sprinted from the starting line toward our first obstacle about .5-mile away: Blow Darts, the perfect way for non-seasoned adventure-racing parents to gain false confidence that they could conquer the course. We blew threw it with ease (pun intended), hiked uphill to the Cargo Net and carefully navigated the obstacle before racing to the Grease Wall.

glacierclimbI took one look and knew there was no way I would be able to climb it without help. I boosted Bode up, he hoisted his leg over and teetered on the top. “Good job, Son,” the race volunteer cheered. “Now, stay up there and help pull your mom to the top.” This was sure a flattering sentiment that my 9-year-old could hoist me to the top but reality bites. After several failed attempts at trying to pull myself up (it’s called the grease wall for a reason), I called it a no-go. Spoiler alert: This would not be my first #EpicFail that day.

We were starting to get into the rhythm of running together and next we tackled the Glacier Climb where we clung to a rope as we navigated a set of icy stairs up, across and down a massive “glacier” of snow (by far my favorite challenge).

From Ice Capades, we turned to mud where two slacklines were stretched parallel across a sizable pit.  Bode had a plan: “You lean over, grab my shoulders and I’ll grab your waist. I’ll tell you when to step.” Our synchronicity was downright inspiring as we flawlessly inched across the narrow webbing without landing in the muck.


For the first time, I realized I was having fun even though it had started to lightly rain. We grabbed our mountain bikes to tackle the next series of challenges: we biked up a muddy trail, Bode did an American Ninja-style obstacle course involving small tunnels (that only one teammate needed to complete), we showcased our orienteering skills that led us to a hidden marker, we maneuvered across a rope suspended in the trees on the Jungle Walk and catapulted water balloons, followed by more biking adventures.
If there was one obstacle I was worried about, it was the Tyrolean Traverse, which involved using a fixed line to cross from one point to another over the river. While wearing a harness, we clipped onto the rope to pull ourselves backwards. Bode had struggled with this challenge last year but I was pleasantly surprised when we both sailed across with ease, likely due to the slight decline in the angle.

By this point, I was feeling pretty indomitable. Sure, we weren’t winning and were getting passed up by stronger teams but were keeping a respectable pace and bonding.

Enter: The Darwin Dash.

A series of connecting foam pads were stretched out across West Lake and I blame the Spartan-racing father-son duo in front of us for my #EpicFail because they bounded across those things with the ease of kangaroos in the Outback. Bode went first, slipping, sliding and sometimes crawling but he eventually made it across. I gingerly stepped onto the mat, causing it to sink a couple of inches but I had no worries. Back in The Day, I took second place in my city’s long jump finals so I knew I had the fortitude to make the leap between pads. What I had not factored into the formula: everything else.darwin

In long jumping, you step as close to the takeoff board as you possibly can so that was the strategy I took and quickly realized the error of my ways when my foot sunk into the water, causing the rest of me to slip off. I desperately grasped the pads but I was waist-deep in water when I pulled myself out. Then panic set in: my cell phone was in my pocket. Though I had wisely left my backpack on dry land, I had forgotten about my phone. A spectator on the shore told me to toss it over to him to see if he could salvage it but I was rattled. Already down on my hands and knees, I was advised to crawl across.

That strategy worked poorly and I narrowly made it across to the second pad. I guardedly stood up, like a baby learning to walk, and attempted another leap but my water-logged shoes slipped off the edge and I landed squarely and completely in the dunk.

I was done. Bummed by my failure that resulted in the demise of my phone (and all our pictures from the race), I swam to shore where I met my sympathetic and sweet teammate.

“Don’t worry, Mom. That was the last obstacle. Now we run to the finish line.”

My drowned rat appearance wasn’t quite the triumphant finish I had envisioned but in the end, it didn’t matter. Participating in the Quest with my son is one memory we’ll never forget as we learned to work together on building confidence, teamwork, communication and, most importantly, having fun.

And I can’t wait to do the Kids Adventure Games’ Family Adventure Quest again next year.

Be sure to checkout my kids’ adventures last year and the fun video we pulled together here