A Return to Colorado: The Keystone Edition

We were in the car for much of our trip to Colorado. In addition to the 9-hour drive from Utah, Keystone Science School was about 1.5 hours away from Denver and Crested Butte was another 3 hours away (where Jamie and I spent Tuesday through Friday). Early Friday morning, we made the 4-hour drive from Denver to pick-up Hadley at the airport (stopping at Country Road Cafe in Kittredge en route to brunch with my dear friend Tina). Then it was another 1.5 hours back to Keystone. We picked up Bode on Saturday and drove to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, another 2.5 hours. And then there was the final 9.5-hour drive back to Utah at the end of it all.

That’s 30+ hours of driving. Fortunately, I had downloaded Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home, the survival story of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed somewhere deep in the Andes. The intersection of much of our trip was off Highway 285 in the heart of 14er country so it was fascinating to have this backdrop as we listened to this harrowing story.

As we crafted our Colorado itinerary, we knew we had to plan our activities around picking up and dropping off Bode at Keystone Science School so that involved spending two nights in Keystone. I’ve always enjoyed this area. With easy access to Denver–just 75 miles away– and surrounded by the 2.3-million acre White River National Fore, Dillon Reservoir, a fabulous network of trails, popular mountain towns Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon, there is always something to do.

Bode’s KSS drop-off was at 10 a.m. Monday morning. Or so I thought. We pulled up and started unloading his gear but it was weirdly quiet and devoid of the frenzy you’d expect. As we came to find out, Hadley’s small group was supposed to report at 10 a.m. and Bode was at noon. Imagine how thrilled he and Jamie were to learn yes, we’d woken up early but HURRAY, we had two additional hours to explore this beautiful place!

We hiked to Sapphire Point (though I’m not sure I’d call it a hike; it was more of a 1.5-mile stroll) to the most beautiful overlook of Dillon Reservoir, hemmed in by the Gore and Tenmile mountain ranges  (along with several tipi structures for kids to explore along the way).

We also climbed to the top of Loveland Pass overlooking the Continental Divide.

“One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king…everything the light touches.”

OK, more like Jamie was relaying the time we froze our butts off on the chairlift as the winds whipped the Continental Divide at Loveland Ski Area.

Once we finally got around to dropping off Bode at Keystone Science School, he went on to have a fabulous week! (Read the details here.)

7-mile Challenge Hike (in red hoodie)

Jamie and I had a fabulous time as well! We lunched in Breckenridge….

And then returned to Keystone to check into our SummitCove condo overlooking Keystone Lake with excellent access to the Summit County Paved Recreation Path System, a paved network of 70+ miles of trails that connect Keystone, Dillon, Frisco, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Vail. After dinner, we biked from Keystone to the reservoir and tried to spy on Bode (we could see the camp from the trail) but to no avail. We went for a leisurely stroll along the pathway at dusk just soaking in the beauty of the area.

The next day, it was off to Crested Butte but we returned four days later after picking up Hadley at the airport. While Jamie rested, she and I enjoyed Keystone’s Friday Afternoon Club atop Dercum Mountain. Friday foot passenger lift tickets up the River Run Gondola are free, and there are complimentary outdoor games like cornhole, slacklines and horseshoes, food and drink specials and live music. And the views? They speak for themselves.

Cornhole with a broken arm for the win

For our final night in Keystone, we stayed at The Springs near the base of River Run Condo. Not only was the location spot-on but there was an awesome pool and hot tub area, a home theater room, playroom, workout room and more.

Here we are practicing stellar parenting. It’s important to ease yourself back into everything after having the week off. 

In honor of Canada Day, I woke up early the next morning to go for a walk. Alberta is “Wild Rose Country” and the trail was bursting with them.

I get it, ‘Merica. You’re pretty darn awesome, too.

A Return to Colorado: The Jet Boat Edition

It has been almost a year since we moved from Colorado. In some ways, it has become much easier but in others I’m still mourning it like a death in the family. When other people move on (and feeling like you should, too), you’re still stuck in the past.  My Facebook memories are an almost daily reminder of my kids’ magical childhood and I miss those days when our summers were fueled entirely by adventure and imagination.

When Bode and I Hadley were invited to attend Keystone Science School (KSS), I knew we had a plan a Colorado vacation around it. We would spend a few days in Denver with friends, drop the kids off at camp, Jamie and I would enjoy alone-time in Keystone and Crested Butte and we’d all reunite at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

All was going to plan until Hadley broke her humerus  and we were in a predicament. She obviously couldn’t go to KSS because they were whitewater rafting, camping and horseback riding all week but if she came with Jamie and me, she’d be stuck in our condo because we had an equally active itinerary. Thankfully, Jamie’s sweet mom offered to take her despite the fact it was a very busy week as she helped her 90-year-old dad move into a care center. Thank goodness for Grandma!

Jet Boat Colorado

Bode, Jamie and I kicked off our Colorado adventure with Jet Boat Colorado. Actually, our adventure started well before we hit the water. Its location is in De Beque, a historic community nestled near the Roan Plateau. I calculated it was about the half-way mark of our drive from Midway to Denver but I should have Google mapped it because it was actually about 40 minutes past Grand Junction (the true half-way mark). I made this realization at about 1 hour before our 12 p.m. departure time and we were about 1.5 hours away.

Enter: Jamie “Mario Andretti” Johnson who put the pedal to the metal–driving at speeds up to 90 mph–and we miraculously arrived just a few minutes late.  Oh, and did I mention our gas was below empty and running on fumes? Another miracle: there was a gas station in De Beque, Colo.

I had never heard of jet boating until a friend went to New Zealand last year and posted a video of her 45 mph adventure through narrow canyons as their boat barely skirted the banks of the river. I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to try it out myself until I learned Jet Boat Colorado offers Coloradoans the same adrenaline-charged adventure as our Kiwi counterparts on a slice of the Colorado River.

I don’t yet have any pictures of our experience because cameras were strongly discouraged (you’ll see why in this video). Lots and lots of water…and laughter.

I’ve driven through this part of Colorado many times and had written it off as a barren wasteland but was fascinated to learn De Beque’s rich old west history with ferry sites, homestead stories and fascinating geology. At one point, as he pointed out two eagles’ nests with Mama Eagle and her very large “baby” standing sentry, it was confirmed to me this was an experience like no other and quite the “Welcome Home” party for Colorado.

But it only got better….

 

My return to rollerblading glory

I’ve lived in Midway almost eight months and had yet to go rollerblading in my favorite place: Provo Canyon. When I was at BYU, I fell in love with the Provo River Parkway and would park at the base of the canyon and rollerblade up about 10 miles past Bridal Veil Falls to Vivian Park and then race back down the canyon. There is a slight incline the entire way making it a great workout but the ride down was sheer bliss.

Since moving to Colorado almost 15 years ago, I would occasionally come back and rollerblade it so I’ve been chomping at the bit since our move but between unpacking, two feet of snow and trail closures and flooding all spring, the timing wasn’t right.

I decided to make the timing work for me so I woke up one morning last week to go. I grabbed my helmet (something I never wore before), wrist guards and thought I was set. Turns out I should have brought full body armor as well. I made some mistakes on my triumphant return and they included:

1) I forgot I’m not 20 anymore. This covers all subsequent observations.

2) What goes down must come up. When I was in Provo, I started at the base of the canyon and went up. This is how I prefer to do everything–there’s nothing more miserable to me than starting a hike going downhill, only to save the climb for the end. The problem is Midway is at the top of the canyon and I really didn’t want to drive all the way down, rollerblade up and then back down and then have to drive back up. Make sense? It sure did to me. At the time.

2) My rollerblades are about 20 years old and are dire need of being replaced. The wheels are so worn it made climbing the hills really tough. Being out of shape didn’t help either.

3) The cruise down vacillated between being empowering “I LOOOOVE THIS!” and moderately terrifying in places. If you’re never rollerbladed before, there’s really no great way to stop on steep terrain. I used to know every curve and bend so would just go with the flow but I was rusty so had to inch down a few sections like a baby learning to walk.

4) I somehow made it down the canyon without falling and then came the moment of truth: going back up. That’s usually my favorite part and I love the burn of the climb! Rollerblading that 20 miles has never been an issue but between being rusty, out-of-shape and having old roller-blades, it was a tough go. I even debated calling Jamie at one point but powered through it (albeit on a low battery).

A few things I learned before going next time:

I need to buy new rollerblades. Period. I should have replaced mine years ago but I never really went in Denver but now that I live next door to an amazing place, I want back in.

I need to start at the bottom of the canyon and work my way up. I bit off waaaaaay more than I could chew so next time I’ll start mid-way up the canyon and slowly make my rides longer.

My before shot as I exuberantly started out:

My after shot:

 

x

 

Yep, that about tells the story.

That time we were featured in the Wall Street Journal

A few weeks ago my friend Eileen Ogintz, founder of Taking The Kids and a syndicated columnist, emailed to ask if I could put the word out to my friends that a reporter from the Wall Street Journal was looking to interview families who let their kids help plan the vacation. I put the word out on Facebook but nobody responded so I acquiesced to be interviewed by Sue Shellenbarger. I really didn’t think much would come of it–maybe she’d include a quote in her article–until she emailed me again in a panic saying her editor wanted her to interview my kids as well. So on Friday after school, Bode and Hadley casually talked to the a reporter from the biggest newspaper in the United States. No biggie.

If you are questioning the reliability of journalism in this day and age, rest assured the Wall Street Journal is the most fact-checked newspaper I’ve ever seen. For our small quotes in the article, Sue emailed me several times.

Anyway, here’s the link to Dare to Let the Children Plan Your Vacation and I’ll include screenshots and our quotes below.

And yes, Bode totally talks like a 40-year-old man.

 

 

The Johnson family of Denver is planning a car trip to western Colorado this summer. Amber Johnson says her daughter Hadley, 12, persuaded the family to go jet-boating, racing over the Colorado River at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour in boats driven by professionals.

It’s a plan Ms. Johnson and her husband Jamie would never have chosen for the family. But Hadley sees children’s museums as cheesy. “I’m kind of growing up and everything,” Hadley says. “I’m a little more crazy and adventurous than museums.”

Bode, 10, says he was nervous at first about jet-boating. But Ms. Johnson reassured him that the boats have seat belts and life jackets. Now he’s on board with the plan. “I think I might actually learn something, including having a positive attitude and being willing to do new things,” he says.

Giving the children a voice keeps them excited and interested, Ms. Johnson says. It also means suffering through their mistakes. Bode and Hadley picked a hotel online for a road trip last summer because it had a big pool, says Ms. Johnson, editor of Mile High Mamas, an online community. She suggested they might want to do more research, but “they jumped on it because it looked really fun,” Ms. Johnson says.

When they arrived, the pool was closed for renovation. Ms. Johnson sees such “soft failures,” or missteps with minor consequences, as learning experiences. “We would call ahead and do more research” next time, Hadley says.

 


Maximum Interlodge at Alta Ski Area

My family was first invited to Alta Ski Area when we lived in Colorado. Though we tried to visit during Spring Break last year, we couldn’t coordinate our schedule so just opted to visit after our move. It would take several months of back-and-forth to determine a time because the kids had six weeks of ski lessons at Sundance through our recreation program. 

We finally decided staying overnight on the weekend just wasn’t possible until late in the season so opted to drive to Alta on a Sunday night, sleep at Goldminer’s Daughter and hit the slopes on Monday (the kids had a day off). There was snow in the forecast but we weren’t too worried. Were we not, after all, skiing?

Our hour-long drive was seamless. We unloaded, checked in and ate a delicious gourmet dinner at Top of the Lodge Restaurant as the wind and snow howled the only visibility the distant light of the snowcats grooming the 36 inches of snow from the latest storm…and more was expected the next day. The kids were nervous; they’ve never skied conditions like this.

Tales were flying from real-life storm chasers of epic powder and the previous day’s “interlodge” where people were required by law to stay indoors as avalanche crews blasted the hanging faces of Little Cottonwood Canyon. I wasn’t sure if we’d get snowed in but one thing was for sure: those kiddos would never forget their first time attempting Alta’s legendary powder.

We spent an uncomfortable night in our room, groggily waking up to even more snow. We made our way to breakfast, still uncertain how the day would unfold. As we were indulging in delicious pancakes with cinnamon cream cheese, it was then that we learned Alta had declared “interlodge” and Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed–no one could come or go.

The day was still not lost. There was a chance the resort would reopen and we would have all that glorious powder to ourselves.

Until we learned it got even worse: UDOT declared “Maximum Interlodge,” so not only were we quarantined indoors but we could not go near any doors or windows due to extreme avalanche danger.

Guests in other lodges were led the basement and huddled together for several hours to wait it out. Fortunately, Goldminer’s Daughter’s recreation room didn’t have any windows so we had fun ping pong and pool tournament sand mother-daughter weight room showdowns. There’s nothing like forced bonding but we had a blast!

We had bought some lunch and were trying to select a movie “The Shining,” maybe? :-) , having resigned ourselves to staying in our cramped quarters another night when, miracle of miracles, the canyon briefly opened for downhill traffic.

We quickly packed up and joined the legions of skiers trying to catch shuttles to make it back to the airport. Jamie left us to grab the car and after 30 minutes of waiting, I finally went to find him…and our car…stuck under a few feet of snow!

Jamie and an Alta staffer pushed us out while I drove and that was only the beginning of our adventures. The conditions and whiteout were among the scariest I’ve ever experienced (and that’s really saying something when you’re raised in Canada). Jamie did a great job driving and was tempted to turn back a few times but without a safe place, we were forced to resume our perilous drive. It was one craaaaazy experience.

UDOT posted this video of an avalanche near our lodge that same day.

Just a taste of the extensive avalanche results we saw from control work this am 1/23/17 LCC

A post shared by udot avalanche (@udotavy) on


We were later told that Alta regularly experiences “interlodge” but “maximum” is much more rare. What are the odds that during our family’s first visit together, that is exactly what happened?

Don’t answer that.

Family Fun at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs

I watched as Hadley brazenly stepped into the Wolf Tail launch pad at Great Wolf Lodge. This was a slide unlike any I’d ever witnessed. She followed the staffer’s instructions to cross her arms and legs and wait for the countdown. Then just like a magician’s trap door, the bottom DROPPED out and she free-fell 20 feet before being catapulted around a 360-degree high-speed loop.

Bode was almost purple with worry and we made a pact. “Don’t worry, Bode. I’ll only go if you go.” Surely, there was safety in numbers when my cautious son was involved?

Despite the certain death that awaited us on the Wolf Tail, my family was having a fabulous time at the grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs’ expansive indoor water park, fun-filled attractions and family-focused entertainment.

CLICK TO KEEP READING

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 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.

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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.

Top 15 Park City Adventures in the Fall

I’ve long skied Park City in the winter, cruised down the alpine coaster in the summer but have never been there in the off-season.  Park City’s fall has unfolded like a gorgeous wave, starting with the crimsons and burnt oranges of the oaks and maples, and ending with the pure liquid aspen gold.

Though I’ve wanted to adventure daily, I’ve been limited on time between chauffeuring kids, household chores and work but I’ve made a point to get out at least a few times a week. Near the end of our stay, I stopped in to White Pine Touring for a map of area trails and was pleased to discover I’d managed to hit all the major hubs. Not bad for a rookie!

Here’s a recap of my Park City adventures:

1) Biking around the base of Park City Canyons Village did not suck. Their $21 hamburgers did. 

2) Biking the Millennium Trail from the townhome to Gorgoza Park. This paved trail system provides connectivity throughout the Snyderville Basin and Park City and goes for miles.

3) Willow Creek Trail. This was a fun one to unearth. I was planning to explore the trail that winds down to Historic Main Street when I discovered the Willow Creek trail system that winds around 66 acres of undeveloped open space under a conservation easement with Utah Open Lands. Willow Creek Park is one of the best in Park City.

4) No worries, I took the trail to downtown Park City another day and was not disappointed.

5) Nighttime strolls up to the base of Canyons Village and fun photo filters. This was taken literally right outside our door.

6) Shoe Tree Park. This one was a delight to uncover during my bike ride along the McCleod Trail/ Willow Creek/Hwy 224 Connector  that extends from Kimball Junction to Downtown Park City. You know a town is cool when it has a funky park with shoes, cowboy boots and even ski boots in the trees.

And strange red moss nearby.

7) Deer Valley is a splurge but for girl’s night, we had a glorious time exploring the trails adjacent to the St. Regis. Luxury ain’t free but these fall colors were.

8) If you’re going to do just one exploration in Park City, I highly recommend following the paved trail to the picturesque white barn known as the “McPolin Farm.” Heaped in history, this 100-year-old barn received national status as an Historic Landmark.

Launching kids in the air en route: highly recommended.

9) Most of my mountain biking expeditions had been on paved or easy trails but this was my foray into singletrack and it might be my favorite fall ride ever! Skid Row: I highly recommend it. #ThingsINeverWould HaveSaidBeforeMovingtoParkCity

10) One of my longtime bloggers connected me with her sister Sheri who moved to Park City last year. You’ll never find me in her hot yoga class but a friendship was borne as we climbed Ecker Hill.

11) Trailside Park. I took a different route home from dropping off the kids and stumbled upon an irresistible network of trails and bike park. When I got out of the car to explore in the rain (without the proper gear, of course), the song “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder” played on the radio. No chance of that with wonders around every corner in Park City.

12) My friend Kristen lives in my dream home in Jeremy Ranch. Literally right at her fingertips is the Glenwild Area’s expansive network of trails. She, Lexi and I had so much fun exploring one day…

…that I had to return a few days later to explore the Flying Dog Trail. 

13) Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway connects Heber to Park City to Salt Lake City. I have only three words for this view of the Heber Valley: Oh. My. Gosh.

14) Round Valley wasn’t particularly scenic (unless you like sage brush and scrub oak) but for the novice mountain biker, it’s a pretty amazing place. I tackled a couple of different trailheads: hiked from The Cove (and got a bit lost before meeting Jamie for lunch) and mountain biked Silver Quinn–the paved trail from Quinn’s Junction–to City Park and then hopped on the adjacent singletrack for a wild ride on Rambler. 

14) The Rail Trail is a highly-touted abandoned railroad corridor-turned-non-motorized path that travels 28 miles out of town. I biked 6 miles from the White Pine Touring trailhead to Prospector and it was so underwhelming (unless you like cows that run in front of you) that I did a big loop by biking along the Old Highway 40, crossing to the other side, following Silver Quinn through City Park and then reconnecting with the Rail Trail. At least the ride back was considerably more scenic. Sorry, bovines. You needed to MOOOOVE over.

15) Mid-Mountain. My friend Dave has been raving about his love for mountain biking the famed Mid-Mountain trail at Park City resort for years. An intimate and spectacular trail that sits at about 8,000 feet, it spans 28 miles. There are many options for places to start, one of the most popular being Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley. Since we lived at the “finish line” a.k.a. Canyons Village, I planned to do it backwards…but didn’t realize it’s quite a trek just to reach mid-mountain. And so I did a couple of mini-treks that started right in our Sun Peak neighborhood at Rob’s Trail. The problem: I was always short on time so could only hike a couple of miles. 

On another day, I set out to walk around the Sun Peak neighborhood when I discovered a higher access point for Rob’s trail so did a big loop but was frustrated not to have time to reach Mid-Mountain. I came home and ranted to Jamie [without taking a breath]: “I started to take a neighbor walk but then discovered even more trails and I had to take them even though I didn’t have any time, water or supplies and there are even more trails I have to go back and explore because I couldn’t hike them all today and I’ll NEVER be able to hike them all and…curse you, Park City!”

Jamie [without flinching]: “I don’t know if you’re lying to me or you’re lying to yourself.”#TheEntireDynamicOfOurMarriageSummedUp

A week later, I set out to hike that higher access point for Rob’s Trail off Bear Hollow Drive. I was pressed for time: we had our house’s walk-through that afternoon so I needed to make it quick. From the very beginning, it was absolutely my favorite hike in Park City.

I was having a grand ol’ time minding my own business when, for the first time, I saw the turnoff for Mid-Mountain. Could the Holy Grail of Park City backcountry be near? I checked my watch; I was running out of time. I was determined to get as far as I could and, if needs be, turn around. I ran into two women who’d just returned from Mid-Mountain and I breathlessly asked how much farther. They checked their altimeter. “You have about 1 mile to go.” I kicked it into high-gear with a faster hiking pace and nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for what awaited me when I turned the last bend to see the very cradle of the mountain in a pathway of golds and greens.


Mid-Mountain was everything I’d dreamed of…and so much more. I could have explored for hours but I was on deadline. For the first time in over a year, I ran. At first, I was tentative to spare my knee but after a few minutes, the familiar rhythm returned to me and I blissfully raced down the mountain, rejoicing how much I missed this freedom of flight and I NEEDED to get back into it.

Until I woke up the next morning and realized I had twisted my uninjured knee and it took me a full week to recover. But you’d better believe Mid-Mountain was worth it.