September Adventuring

I know, I know. I still haven’t posted about summer in Canada and here I am sharing about our fall adventures? Getting caught up is still at the top of my to-do list but my laptop problems persist. After Jamie downloaded Windows 10 (DON’T DO IT), my computer starting having major problems. Then it caught a virus. And  now I can barely use it at all because I can’t upload photos and am having a myriad of other issues. So, I’m back to using my trusty OLD laptop I won from Microsoft Office when I went to the 2010 Vancouver Games.

I’ll be honest that September 2015 hasn’t been my favorite ever, mostly due to my relentless allergies and the persisting 90 degree temperatures. Last week it dropped down to the 80s but if I wanted this kind of climate in fall, I’d move to Arizona. One of Jamie’s top clients pressured him about moving our family down to the Phoenix area and I said “even if he offered you a half a million dollars, there’s no way in hell.”  I’m assuming he phrased it a bit nicer to the client. That said, I’m still obsessed with doing a home exchange abroad. Just  not in the devil’s summer home.

We haven’t been on as many fall adventures as I’d prefer but a couple of weeks ago, we drove to Kenosha Pass (about an hour from Denver) for some quality leaf-peeping. We’ve had the strangest weather in Denver. May was a deluge, which caused a lot of problems with the trees and now that we’re in a drought (September was one of the driest on record), the colors aren’t as brilliant.  Regardless, those shimmering golden aspen leaves still stun.

Now that school is back in session, I’ve also been trying to hike with friends on Thursdays if I’m a good girl and get my work done (at least that’s what I tell Jamie). Last week, we went to Golden Gate Canyon State Park and I regretted that it’s been years since I’ve taken my family because it really impressed.

In my defense, the only two times I’ve been to Golden Gate have been for not-so memorable camping trips so I have some pent-up angst.

Two weeks before that, we conquered Chief Mountain and it has become my favorite hike on the Front Range with gorgeous 360-degree views at the summit.

And took these newbies to Country Road Cafe.

A few other adventures included our annual hike to St. Mary’s Glacier. 

Jamie wasn’t feeling well so Bode hung out with Jamie at the base of the glacier while Hadley and I summited, no small feat. Next time, I’m playing sick.

October is my favorite month of the year with sweater weather (Denver, consider that a threat), cozy soups and pumpkin weigh-offs galore. This weekend, we’ll be juggling the Ringling Bros. Xtreme Circus, Elitch Garden’s Fright Fest, our school’s carnival fundraiser and General Conference.

October, we’re so ready for you.

The Colorado Bucket List

I complained to Jamie last year how we rarely get visitors. We live in Colorado, for heaven’s sake, not Kansas. People should be lining up to discover our state’s glory!

As it turns out, we’ve finally had a steady stream of friends and family staying with us and I couldn’t be more delighted. Our most recent were my brother Pat and his wife Jane, who have not been to Denver since my wedding 12 years ago. Jane surprised Pat with an item on his bucket list: to attend a Broncos game and spend a couple of days with us. Clarification: The Broncos game was the bucket list; hanging Chez Johnson was a huge bonus.

I was initially at a loss how to entertain them. Though they live near the Canadian Rockies, every spare moment is spent on the water but Jane soothed my concerns and told me they wanted to experience “My Colorado,” which is another way of saying they value near-death experiences.

Day 1

So, on Day 1, I took them to Chautauqua Park in Boulder. They’re not hikers so we did a moderate one-hour loop but when Pat smack-talked me “Is that all you’ve got?” it made me vow to kill them off next time around with a more strenuous trek. At least him; Jane is much more accommodating.

We spent the afternoon strolling and lunching along Pearl Street Mall.

The real highlight (for Jane at least) was to treat the whole family to Casa Bonita that evening! When she was doing her research on Colorado haunts, this Mexican restaurant was listed as one of the nation’s Top 10 Roadside Attractions, evidence that list had a very low standard. Don’t get me wrong. Casa Bonita’s pageantry–divers plunging into a pool below a 30-ft. waterfall,  fire jugglers, strolling mariachi bands, a pirate cave, magicians, puppet shows, skee-ball machine, puppet show and arcade games–are fun but the food is terrible, with the exception of their sopapillas.  But if you drown enough of them in honey, you start enjoying yourself in that cheesy Mexican funhouse!

This picture is blurry due to my sheer terror in Black Bart’s Cave.

Day 2

Boulder’s Flatirons are the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. For Pat and Jane’s second day in Colorado, I wanted to expose them to Colorado’s extremes.

We started at Red Rocks, which is known nationally for its famous music venue. For athletes, it is a haven for pushing the limits. From “Red Rocks is known nationally for its famous music venue. For athletes, it is a haven for pushing the limits in the altitude. Sitting at 6,000 feet high, Red Rocks has two staircases on either side of the amphitheater that rise from the lower parking lot to the upper concession level, each with about 380 steps. There are two interior stairways on either side of the bleachers each with 138 steps from the stage to the top. Red Rocks features 69 rows of seats in the venue, which equates to running approximately three miles on an ascent or descent of the bleachers. Add in 21 planter boxes for plyo jumps, side stairways that climb from the stage to the upper parking lot with 83 steps, which then connect by way of an ascending quarter-mile ramp to 62 steps straight up to the upper concession area; you have a challenging workout amidst some of the best scenery in the Rocky Mountains.”

Sounds fun, right? I didn’t want to kill us off so we hiked the amphitheater loop and then did a few rounds up Red Rocks’ stairs. Believe me, that was plenty!

We felt a bit less guilty about indulging at my beloved Country Road Cafe. Jamie always orders the Breakfast Burrito but I like to test out new menu items and fell in love with the Berry Bush, potato pancakes topped with cream cheese, sausage patties, two eggs, hollandaise and blackberry-sage drizzle. It was delicious but the real show-stopper was Jane’s “Holy Cow,” a heap of mashed potatoes topped with a scramble of eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, country fried steak, sausage gravy and crispy onions surrounded by french toast. 

Aptly-named “Holy Cow!”

I kid you not: her plate was triple the size of our already-huge portions and her leftovers fed my entire family for dinner. And a small nation.

From there, we were 14er-bound to drive to the top of Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. We popped some Tylenol to battle altitude-induced headaches during the circuitous drive but it wasn’t until we got out of the car to hike a few hundred feet to the summit that the elevation started to wreak havoc, particularly with Jane. 

Pat had another issue: he’s deathly afraid of heights and there was something about looming 14,000 feet above the valley floor that was unsettling for him. Go figure. Regardless, the views stunned but poor Jane passed out driving down and upon arriving home, this is how I found them.

If this isn’t a raving endorsement for “Come to Colorado and I’ll show you a good time,” I don’t know what is.

In my defense, this is what I look like after spending a day on the boat with them.

Camping, hiking and redemption at Brainard Lake

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Booking the camping trip early, that is. Brainard Lake Recreation Area is a popular outdoor Mecca for locals but you will rarely find any out-of-state license plate in the parking lot–tourists congregate at nearby Rocky Mountain National Park and I’d prefer to keep it that way.

We’ve long wanted to camp at Brainard Lake but the problem is the Pawnee Campground fills up several months in advance. There are a few first-come, first-served campsites but unless you can come mid-week (we never can), you’re out of luck. So, on Dec. 31, 2014, my good husband somehow finagled us a campsite before the reservations opened for 2015. Don’t ask me how he did it; he has his ways.

Set in a glacially-carved valley, the craggy peaks of the Continental Divide are the backdrop for this azure lake that boasts a variety of year-round recreation opportunities in the Boulder Ranger District. It is open year-round but Jamie had reserved the campground’s opening day. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground and the early-season weather was iffy. Our last several camping trips have either been rained, hailed or pooped out so I braced myself for whatever catastrophe would come our way. Though the temperatures were cooler and the sky overcast when we arrived, the weather held out.

The problem with booking something for June 26 six months in advance is he had no idea that the kids and I would leave early for Canada that year, just one day after camping. It’s rare that I have a bad attitude about getting outdoors but I had one about this trip. I was busy prepping for our month away and to throw in camping on top of it? I got over it really, really quickly.


Moose in the trees

Following our hot dogs and s’mores dinner, Jamie and I ditched the kids and went for a romantic stroll through the subalpine forest set in a glacially-carved valley.

That’s my kind of date night.

Brainard Lake at dusk

There are two things I hate about tent camping and hundreds of things I love. Hate: Sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag and inclement weather. If we had a trailer/RV, crummy weather wouldn’t be such a big deal but I have never been able to sleep through the night in a sleeping bag. Stomach sleepers of the world can assuredly relate.

Despite a sleepless night, the next morning dawned bright, clear and beautiful as Brainard Lake looked like a completely different place.

We’ve had four attempts at hiking 6 miles round-trip to 11,355′ Blue Lake.

First Attempt

Jamie and I were newly married and we successfully hiked to this gorgeous area.

Second Attempt

Late-June 2014. There was still a fair amount of snow during our daytrip, which put a kibosh on our high-elevation hiking plans. Hadley used to throw tantrums when she wouldn’t get her way. Now, those fits are about our refusal to hike through muck and snow. We made it as far as the moderate 1-mile hike to Mitchell Lake, which occupies a broad, marshy flat at the base of Mount Audubon before we made her turn back. Cue: Bode’s relief.

Third Attempt

Our trip in June was officially Hadley’s second attempt and I prayed the trail would be more clear so as to avoid tween tantrums. It didn’t happen. Upon reaching Mitchell Lake again, snow was a concern but a ranger we met en route warned us of the dangerous, icy conditions ahead getting to Blue Lake. It was like an episode of Groundhog Day and we made her turn back.  I promised her we’d return late-July and even invited some of her friends to join us. Cue: Bode’s Relief Part II.


Mitchell Lake


Trail conditions

A girl in her element? No, a tween tantrum

Fourth Attempt

Upon returning from a road-trip to Canada, Bode stayed an extra week in Canada with Grandma. Despite the fact that Hadley bagged her first 14er on that Saturday, she practically begged me to make the 1.5 hour drive back to Brainard Lake to hike Blue a few days later. Our friends we’d originally invited just happened to be camping in the area at the same time but were non-committal about their plans so we decided to go it alone because it was too difficult to coordinate schedules.

The hike to Blue Lake is 6 miles round-trip but the problem is the Mitchell Lake Trailhead has either been closed or full every time we’ve attempt to hike it. So in keeping with our luck, the parking lot  was full so we had to park 1 mile down the mountain. Because why hike 6 miles when you can do 8?

I debated making a final outhouse stop in the parking lot but opted to wait until we reached the trailhead and wouldn’t you know it, my bladder was inspired. As I walked to the outhouse, I heard my friend Lisa call out to me–they were waiting in a wooded grove to hike Blue Lake! Finding the parking lot was full, their husbands had dropped the families off, driven back to the Brainard Lake parking lot and biked back up the road (stroke of genius).

We had such a great time hiking with friends! As soon as we passed Mitchell Lake, Hadley caught fire–we were finally going to summit! There was a profusions of wildflowers as we passed through patchy krummholz before catching our first few of Mount Toll’s conical summit.

After a series of switch backs, we cleared treeline and we were greeted with 11,355′ Blue Lake, which frames a large rocky cirque with Mount Toll, Mt Audubon and Paiute Peak standing sentry.

Hadley and I stayed for about an hour as we soaked our feet in the blue-green water while lunching and watching a lovely waterfall flowing down from the south-side cliffs.

As we hiked the four miles back to the car, I observed, “Aren’t you glad you have finally done Blue Lake?”

“Yes, but now we have to come back and do Upper Blue Lake,” she said, referring to the 0.6-mile scramble up a steep traverse through thick willows, across the snow field, and up the rocky mountainside to see the smaller hidden lake.

I started to protest that she isn’t ever satisfied until I realized she finally *gets* what mountaineering is all about: you’re never really done as there are always mountains to climb.

Lessons learned with the young women

I’ve somehow become known as an avid hiker (weird, right?)  So when my friend Sheree, the Young Women’s President in our ward, asked me for hike recommendations, I jumped at the chance to take the group of girls (ages 12+) to one of my favorite hikes in Denver’s Front Range. However, an hour before departure, storms raged in south Denver, east Denver had tornado sightings, and as we were driving toward the mountains, a light drizzle surrounded us so we debated bagging the whole thing. When we arrived at the trailhead, the weather had cleared to cool, overcast conditions that are perfect for hiking so we bit–hard.

Though Hadley is not yet old enough to be in Young Women’s, I brought her along on the hike and she trekked with her friend Alex, my friend Lisa’s daughter who, too is underage but who goes on activities because Lisa is a leader.  We followed a seasonal stream up a pretty valley for about a mile, followed by two forks in the trail, the latter of which led us up some steep terrain to the summit with stunning views of Mount Evans and Continental Divide. We were having a great time chatting and laughing in the outdoors!

When we were going up, the girls were great about staying together and waiting for everyone to get caught up. But as we started descending, Hadley and Alex (the fleetfoots in the group) took off. There were enough winds and turns that I didn’t realize it until we reached the second fork in the trail and they were nowhere to be found. Then panic set in. Had they seen the not-so obvious turnoff? It was growing dark and I can honestly say it was my first major freakout moment in the outdoors with my kids.

We dispatched Sheree and Lisa’s daughter Whitney to run ahead on the wrong trail to see if they’d followed it while another leader Kayla took off the mile down the canyon toward the parking lot. Lisa and I spread out in between them all. Echoes of our pleas reverberated off the canyon walls. “Hadley. ALEX.” I blew my emergency whistle, all of which was met with stone-cold silence. I had a mix of emotions that vascillated between anger and fear. She knows better. How many times have we been hiking and she has been told to stay within sight of the group? And then, guilt. It was my kid who wasn’t even supposed to be here who is causing this horrible emergency. What happens if we can’t find them and we have to call 911? What could happen out here at night?

It was the most panicked half-hour of my life. As I rounded the bend to the parking lot, relief set in as we saw Hadley and Alex sitting there absolutely clueless of what they’d put the entire group through. My anger washed away to relief as I hugged her and let loose a verbal scathing like no other. It was only then that she realized the seriousness of her trespass. Jamie later said he thought we were overreacting but it was nighttime that motivated our sense of urgency.

Remorseful, she apologized to the group. I started to hike back up to find Lisa, Whitney and Sheree and she asked to come along. It was completely dark by this time so I brought out the flashlight I always keep in my backpack until we met up with them. Back in the parking lot, we shared a prayer of gratitude that they were safely found. Stories abound in the news like the little 5-year-old Colorado City boy who wandered off from his family’s campsite this week and was found dead a few days later.

One of the other girls commented, “You see, this is why I don’t like hiking. It’s too scary,” which made me sad because it’s one of the most joy-filled ways to connect with nature. But I didn’t correct her.  We’ve spent so much time hiking and camping lately that it is easy to become comfortable–too comfortable. Last night was a sobering reminder to respect the outdoors, always stay together and to never take it for granted.

Hadley’s first 14er!

My 11-year-old daughter Hadley has always been a strong hiker but I was surprised when she announced she wanted a climb a 14er this summer.

I was a bit worried about her readiness but mostly about my own. I’ve “bagged” a dozen of Colorado’s  54 peaks that rise 14,000+ feet above sea level but it has been several years since my last climb.  In the interim, I’ve grown dazzlingly wiser, impressively slower and more cognizant of my own mortality because, if you’ve ever climbed a 14er, you know there are moments when you feel like you’re going to die (or that death might be more enjoyable than this).

Most mountaineering enthusiasts recommend starting with Mt. Bierstadt or Grays Peak but we opted to hike 14,036 Mount Sherman, a rounded peak that looms above the western edge of South Park. There are no easy 14ers (with the exception of driving to the top of Mount Evans and Pikes Peak in your air-conditioned car). The pitch isn’t the only factor that makes them tough, it’s the altitude. The barometric pressure decreases when you climb, causing air to expand in volume and decrease the amount of air you take in on each breath.

Case in point: We climbed famed Ha Ling Peak outside of Banff National Park in July and the trail was much more challenging, but Mount Sherman’s elevation made us feel like we were summiting Everest without oxygen. Or a sherpa. And with a 50-pound bag of rocks on our backs.

There are two standard routes up Mount Sherman and we chose the route accessed via the Southwest Ridge from Fourmile Creek outside of Fairplay, Colo. The hike is 5.25 miles round-trip from the gate but parking along the road is minimal and our 9 a.m. (relatively late) arrival forced us to park a mile away.  5.25 miles + 1 mile just to the trailhead + that same mile back to your car = seriously considering the virtues of hitchhiking.

My husband Jamie, Hadley and I have very different hiking styles. He is more of a sprint-and-stop kind of guy while I am slow and steady with minimal breaks and Hadley is somewhere in between. We started at about 11,500 feet so there was no time to acclimate to the altitude. Hadley and I slugged along the windy rock-strewn road past Dauntless and Hilltop mines,  gasping for air but after 20 minutes we were breathing more regularly as the trail narrowed. Despite the commanding views at the top, I am not partial to 14ers for their beauty. Part of the reason is you are doing the brunt of the climb above treeline and, call me crazy, but there is little innate beauty about rocks, particularly when that is all you see for hours on end.pond

First glimpse of the summit

First glimpse of the summit


However, when we arrived at the snowfields, I was missing those rocks.

We generally carry an altimeter but it wasn’t needed on Mount Sherman–the summit is in view for most of the hike. If you’re not familiar with altimeters, they help you ascertain your elevation and avoid something agonizing called false summits: thinking you reached the top, only to find the real summit taunting you in the distance. For further clarification: Baby keeps you up for first six months of her life. Finally sleeps through the night. Parent thinks HOLY CRAP, BABY SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT. I HAVE ARRIVED! Next night: Baby wakes up every hour. False summit.

There were a number of families hiking with elementary-school-aged children but very few made it past 12,500 feet and many looked downright miserable. Soapbox: Do not EVER climb 14ers with a baby in a backpack. We always take an ibuprofen preventatively when we begin hiking and again at the first sign of an altitude-induced headache. Just imagine how much worse it is for a little one who can’t voice how the altitude is impacting them.

As we hiked to the saddle between 13,748-foot Mount Sheridan and Mount Sherman, Leadville and Turquoise Lake gleamed in the background ensconced by an army of 13,000 and 14,000-foot giants.


At that point, Hadley got summer fever and boldly forged forward up the most difficult part of the climb: a narrow ledge of scree. I got an illness of a different kind: altitude sickness. Jamie–knowing he will be stuck with me long after his daughter flies the coop–wisely stayed back with me  to ensure I didn’t become one with the glacier-scoured valley below.  summitpush

When we reached the summit, we joined an elite club of folks whose altitude sickness made them forget the misery of the climb as we marveled at the 360-degree views of the Mosquito Range’s craggy peaks, aspen groves, boreal forests and profusions of wildflowers as chirping pikas played peek-a-boo in the rocks.





Hadley’s biggest advice for climbing your first 14er? “Don’t die.”

Though those views really are to-die-for and I can’t wait to do Mount Bierstadt with her next year.

Summer Fun in Colorado

For the next several weeks, posting will be sporadic as the kids and I embark upon our month-long adventure to Canada and back again.  Summer is flying by waaaaaay too quickly and when we return we’ll already be planning back-to-school.

A few highlights: Taking Hadley to KURIOS - Cabinet of Curiosities. It was a crazy, stormy night and we were warmly tucked away inside. This was my fourth Cirque du Soleil performance but my favorite part was watching Hadley’s reaction. She’s such a creative, imaginative kid who’s constantly shot down in a linear world. It was magic to see this dreamscape unfold where creativity is rewarded and heralded.

Now that it’s summer, I’m not super strict with bedtime and she’d stay up all night creating and drawing if I’d let her.

Adventures near Clear Creek following Avid4 Adventure day camp. Sadly, they weren’t in Clear Creek…the water levels as just too high!

And yep, Avid4 Adventure was a blast!

Summer hiking group at Evergreen Lake

and another at Maxwell Falls.

We had an amazing trip to pickup Hadley from Camp Chief Ouray. More details next week but we had a blast ziplining, canoeing, summer tubing and more at our beloved YMCA of the Rockies! First, at Snow Mountain Ranch.


Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the U.S.

Then, at the Estes Park Center.

Gaga Ball

Bode: ruining iconic photos

We had a blast previewing the Children’s Museum of Denver’s new 30,000-square foot outdoors playscape Joy Park. Bode and his buddy Porter were the very first kids to ride the mini zipline!

The favorite features were that zipline, building a dam in the stream and digging a volcano in the sand dunes and filling it with water. My kids were the dirtiest and messiest out of anyone. I’ve decided to view it was a talent, not a curse.

Until laundry time.

White Fence Farm opened up Granny’s, a new candy shop, that we just had to check out as well.

Here’s for hoping the hoping the rest of our summer is just as sweet.

It’s Bode’s first ever guest blog post

And that boy doesn’t disappoint as he tells it straight about his Avid4Adventures:

From stinky, dead bloated fish.

To the girl who wiped out mountain biking and her “skin folded off.”

To his hiking bathroom breaks.

To freaking me out when he rocked the boat.

To kicking his sister’s butt rappelling.

Read all about it here.

Happy Places with Lady Luck

While the rest of Colorado is complaining about our wet spring, I’ve been rejoicing. Rain means lack of heat which means happy me. We’ve had many adventures in our burgeoning creeks and blissfully emerald mountains. I can’t remember Colorado ever looking so beautiful and I’ve felt so darn blessed.

The only problem is I’m not doing a very good job of balancing work and play now that the kids are home for the summer. We leave for Canada in two weeks and I have so much to get done including fixing car problems, selling that car, not knowing if we can afford a new one, making room for Jamie’s sister to move in with us, hospitalization and continued health issues for my mom…life’s list just goes on. The good with the bad, always.

The other day, I dropped the kids off at piano. I had an hour to kill so decided to trek through our nearby open space park but as I was driving over, a few raindrops splattered on my windshield. Should I or shouldn’t I? I certainly wasn’t dressed for the conditions but a little bit of rain has never been a deterrent–hail and lightning are another story. I went for it and conditions were dry for the first 20 minutes but just as I reached my turnaround point, the sky unleashed on me. I started to walk faster, then ran. Then I laughed.  And kept laughing. It felt so gloriously cool and like a blanket had been lifted from me. Note to self: go for more walks in the rain. On purpose.

The following morning, Bode woke up sick and Hadley’s appointment canceled. She was invited to a roller-skating birthday party later that afternoon but I texted my friend’s teenage daughter asking if Hadley could come over and play with her little sister Alex. Sure!  We drove over but no one was home. Psych. They were still at camp.

I’d planned to go for a quick hike at North Table so asked Hadley if she wanted to come along. She was game but more lukewarm than usual. As we waited in traffic construction, she observed “This day just isn’t going our way, is it Mom?”

We decided we try to track down a cossetted waterfall we discovered a couple of years ago, which was more of a trickle at that time.


Usually Hadley blazes past me but that day, she was dragging her heels.  Though it was only about 70 degrees, the air was muggy, the hike was unshaded and she wasn’t into it. The trail to the Mesa Top has been closed for two years due to flooding. We ignored the signs, climbed over the barrier and after another 15 minutes of steep terrain, we discovered our secret spot, which was so much more than a trickle–it was a full-blown waterfall.

I just love when Colorado pretends it’s Maui!

The entire tone of our hike changed. She came to life and I was invigorated by her exuberance. We splashed and played for a while and there was a new spring in her step as we descended. The wildflowers seemed brighter, butterflies and birds surrounded us as she collected ladybugs. It doesn’t matter where we go in the outdoors, she can spot them a mile away and they are drawn to her. I told her about my boot camp instructor Robyn who swears that dimes are her good luck charm…she finds them everywhere in the most obtuse places and sees them as little signs from heaven. “Maybe ladybugs are your sign from heaven,” I told her.

“They mean good luck, you know.”

“That makes it even better.”

This free-spirited girl of mine isn’t an overly sentimental, affectionate kid and she desperately craves her independence. So little moments like these are sheer magic when I get them.

As we walked to the car, she casually commented, “Mom, I’m glad Alex wasn’t home today.”

“Me, too, Lady Luck.”

3rd Annual Birthday Celebration at The Broadmoor

This was Hadley’s third birthday we’ve celebrated at The Broadmoor, which means it’s a tradition, right?  While my previous trip was a working vacation for my write-up about Broadmoor Outfitters, this one was all relaxation and play.


We started with bowling and delicious food at their high-end alley PLAY. Something you should know about the boys: they’re sore losers and were grumpy that Hadley and I started out strong.  Of course, we didn’t rub that in one bit.


Everyone had a strike near the end of the game except for Bode. He grabbed Hadley’s jacket and bowling ball and, with it awkwardly tucked under his arm, he chucked the ball down the alley. We tried to stop him…until we realized he had just bowled his first strike. I’m not sure what to make of that other than maybe having her vicariously closer to him was like a security blanket?

Fly Fishing

Usually, we spend a good portion of our day lounging poolside but with Colorado’s rainy weather, we had to get creative. We played a lot of heated Checkers matches in the lobby and teamed up with Broadmoor Outfitters for a  fly fishing expedition at the Lake House. This Adirondack-style lodge is adjacent to a scenic lake stocked with carp, rainbow and brown trout on one of the resort’s famous golf courses.

We had only fly fished once before at The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley a couple of years ago so we welcomed our guide Tyler’s expertise. As he was just about to explain how to strip the line to reel in the fish, he got a bite and was able to not only explain but show us how to do it. The guides are just that good. And so are the views. Can you see the deer on the shore just behind Bode?

The fish must have received the memo it was Hadley’s birthday because she was reeling them in like crazy! Jamie and I had quick success as well but then there was poor Bode who couldn’t even get a nibble. We’d have him switch places to where Hadley was finding all the fish and he’d get nothing while Hadley would catch them in his previous spot. With rain clouds about to burst, he’d about reached his breaking point when I uttered my first fisherwoman’s prayer: “Dear Lord, if you’re listening and able, could you please help The Boy catch a fish?”

Within a minute, he caught one hook, line and sinker. Turns out fisherwoman’s prayers really work.

The Others

We were pleased that The Broadmoor opened a game room specifically for Memorial Day weekend and we had a fun playing ping pong, air hockey, bean bag toss and foosball. This photo was supposed to be representative of Hadley and Bode learning to play pool.

But really, it’s all about Jamie’s photobomb.

And even though the Memorial Day carnival was moved indoors due to the weather, the kids had a blast.

Who am I kidding? We all had a blast going down that slide and launching into the pit.

We had a brief window of sunshine on Saturday so we swam.

Or rather, the kids did. It was still a blustery 50 degrees so Jamie and I joined the other lame, fully-clothed parents on the chaises while a small a handful of hearty kids played.

Later that afternoon, we stopped at the resort’s eco-chic eatery Natural Epicurean that features organic food. How often do you have the chance to eat healthy desserts that look like this?

We were so nice that even though Jamie didn’t join us, we ordered an extra treat. P.S. Don’t tell him that.

Believe me, we weren’t lacking in food. One night, we ate at Ristorante Del Lago, the resort’s newish Italian restaurant inspired by a luxurious villa in Lake Como. It was there that I informed Bode “Did you know if you can tie that maraschino cherry stem with our tongue, that means you’ll be a good French kisser?”

He’ll never order a Shirley Temple again.

As we lounged fireside after dinner, the kids played tag with Jamie and roasted s’mores. I am 100 percent grateful every time we’re privy to The Good Life and observed, “I know we’ve had an amazing day but just remember that money doesn’t buy happiness.”  Hadley responded: “Could have fooled me.”

Note to self: Save life lessons for when they are not currently in the moment.

The Brunch

The Broadmoor’s brunch is, hands down, our favorite part of every trip with more than 150 enticing choices alongside sculpted ice and live piano music. Jamie ensured he was first in front of what he deemed “the gateway to heaven.”

Now I know what the pearly gates look like. At least there won’t be all the calories in heaven, RIGHT?

We all enjoy the brunch but Hadley LOVES it and eats more than any of us with favorites being the pastries, breads and bananas foster.

This picture is very telling of our brunch experience:

Hadley is in sheer bliss, Bode (my pleaser) is posing but really thinking “hurry up and take the picture so I can get some more food” while Jamie has a mouthful of it.


I always wake up at dawn to hike North Cheyenne Cañon by myself and this time, I was so overwhelmed with its forested red-rock beauty (it’s one of my Top 10 Hikes Ever), I did a second trip with the family. The Broadmoor offers a free shuttle to the Starsmore Discovery Center at the mouth of the canyon.

If you’re going to build a nature center, I highly suggest you do it in this beautiful setting.

The Birthday Girl

Hadley’s birthday fell on Memorial Day so she requested a room service breakfast of Belgian waffles and we were happy to oblige.

For presents, we bought her some clothes, a weaving loom, the Maze Runner movie and book series, some drawing paper and sweet Bode gave her a purse he had woven in art class.

I’ve long wanted to climb the Manitou Incline a.k.a. The Holy Grail of Cardio, which gains almost 2,000 feet of elevation over less than 1 mile. Hadley agreed to do it with me and it was to be our day of triumph!!  Until it wasn’t. You see, the Incline is one of the most unique and challenging trails in the country, attracting runners, Olympic athletes and cyclists from around the world. By the time we arrived at 10 a.m., the base area was a madhouse. We circled around for 45 minutes trying to find parking before finally driving down the mountain and parking in town. The problem: what comes down must go back up so we had to trek about a mile to even get to the start of the Incline. By then, I could tell Hadley wasn’t doing very well, complaining that her throat hurt.

“Let’s just hike a little bit and see how you’re feeling.”

It was steeeeeeeeep. Could we have done it? Sure. Hadley is in great shape after training for a Pentathlon all year and while I’m not where I was physically at this time last year, I could have toughed it out. But after climbing 1/5 of the way up, she looked miserable. If it wasn’t her birthday, I would have pushed her farther but I’m glad I didn’t–she spent the next day in bed with a cold.

At that moment, I noticed the sun was shining for the first time. “Here’s a plan, Hadley. Why don’t we race back to The Broadmoor, hit the pool, order lunch and strawberry milkshakes before going home?”

If there’s a way to salvage a birthday, that is it.



Adventuring with Broadmoor Outfitters

For the third year in a row, we were able to return to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for Hadley’s birthday. As I was going through my pictures, I realized I never posted about our previous trip–waaaaaaay back in February when I was asked to write a story for their magazine about Broadmoor Outfitters, their onsite outdoor adventure company.

The funny thing is, we had better weather in February than we did over Memorial Day weekend. OK, it’s not that funny. We’ve had a month of non-stop rain, a real rarity in Denver. And though I’d much rather have inclement weather than 100-degree days, I’m ready for my trails to dry out.

During our visit a few months ago, we did it all:  Geocaching at The Broadmoor, a snowy hike and geocache up North Cheyenne Cañon, a mountain bike ride down Gold Camp Road, topped off by rock climbing Garden of the Gods.


It started with our leisurely treasure hunt around the grounds….

From there, we drove up North Cheyenne Cañon, grabbed our GPS units and hiked up Gold Camp Road, a former narrow gauged railroad bed that hauled ore from Cripple Creek to Colorado Springs. There were occasional patches of snow but when we crossed North Cheyenne Creek to start hiking the Seven Bridges Trail, I could have sworn we’d passed through an antique wardrobe into a frosty Narnia forest of ice demons, fairies and a snow queen.

We traversed a couple of the hike’s seven bridges before our GPS unit alerted us we were close to our cache…but then the arrow pointed us off-piste. And way up.

“Wait, we’re supposed to ditch the trail and hike straight up this steep slope?” I queried.

Audacious Hadley didn’t wait for the answer as she and our guide Kurt forged up the mountain in knee-deep snow. Bode and I (the more cautious ones) applauded their progress from the trail while Jamie (maybe the smartest of us all) rested on a boulder. 

And yep, that’s my kid in a T-shirt. She’s half-Canadian.

Mountain Biking

From there, we grabbed our mountain bikes. Though the pitch was moderate, the serpentine, mucky road’s precipitous cliffs and snowy patches still thrilled. I nervously barreled through pitch-black Tunnels 1 and 2 and I vowed to have my eyes checked after my blind foray with the dark side. 

At one point, Kurt pulled off the road, stashed his bike and beckoned us to follow him down the Columbine Trail, a route which leads all the way to the Starsmore Discovery Center at the base of North Cheyenne Cañon. We only hiked a couple of minutes but earned the view of a thousand hours of exertion. The canyon was a staggering cacophony of glimmering snow, velvet-green forests and Pikes Peak Granites’ milky and smoky quartz, pink feldspar and black mica.

From our perch, we could see where the mountains met the foothills and plains with The Broadmoor in the epicenter of it all.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is not my outdoor-loving family’s forté but I knew if we were to be successful, it would be with Broadmoor Outfitters.  We were given our choice of four main routes and I opted for the easiest with nothing to prove beyond having a positive experience and staying alive. Our guide climbed up and built an anchor off the bolts that are secured into the sandstone, gave us some final safety instructions and Hadley generously volunteered me as the guinea pig. Gingerly, I shouted “on belay” and started climbing.

Unlike North Cheyenne Cañon’s granite, Garden of the God’s blush-colored sandstone felt more forgiving with plenty of ledges to rest and “flakes” to grab onto. It didn’t take long before I summited and dizzy with excitement, I marveled at the expansive red-rock sea that had been created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago.

The rappel down was my favorite part and I was greeted by a shocked Bode. “You didn’t think I could do it, did you?”

“I gave you about a 50-50 chance.” He looked ill with anxiety. Vertical rock climbing walls are the nemesis of a judicious kid.

Jamie at the summit

Jamie and Hadley easily reached the top but Hadley froze during the rappel and it took a while to coax her down. And then there was Bode. To combat his apprehension, he had been bouldering at the base envisioning himself as the first American Ninja Kid Warrior. When it was his turn, he tore up and down faster than anyone and was dumbfounded when his feet touched down.

I see a future for him on Mount Midoriyama.

Valentine’s Day Weekend

It was Valentine’s Day and after a full day playing in the outdoors, we were thrilled to have our first 5-star dining experience at The Broadmoor’s Penrose Room. The whole evening is a blur–from the moment we stepped off the elevator and Bode exclaimed, “this is faaaaaaancy,” to the Caesar salad they prepped right at our table to dancing to a live band with mortified Bode (Hadley was equally embarrassed to be swung around with her father) and being so proud of them for their good manners.

Of course, it helped that we had schooled them for a month about proper etiquette, threatening any lapse would be not “Penrose Worthy.”

I think it’s important to expose the kids to different beliefs so we opted to go to a non-denominational service at the Pauline Memorial Chapel located on property. The founder’s wife Julie Penrose oversaw its construction in 1919 and between the considerable collection of religious art and artifacts from Europe, dramatic bell tower and high high buttressed walls,  it reminded me of the early Christian basilicas. It was such a beautiful, moving experience!

The Broadmoor’s famous brunch wasn’t too bad, either. Unless you’ve spent the entire weekend stuffing your face with gourmet food.

At one point, Bode put down his fork, let out a big sigh and said, “I’m not full but my mouth is tired from having so much delicious food in it.”

First World Problems at The Broadmoor.