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.

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.

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

The perfect winter day near Denver: Sledding Meyers Ranch Park + Country Road Cafe

Have I mentioned how much I love winter and snow? Jamie summarized it best when he said I have a temperate zone of about two degrees and I’m either too hot or too cold…until it’s a chilly 20 degrees F and I’m just right.

On Saturday, we invited our neighbors the Morgans to come play with us in the foothills near Denver. We’ve adored this family since our neighborhood was built 12 years ago but they are always crazy busy–if they’re not working, they’re working harder on extraordinary renovations in their home (it’s Meredith who does the over-the-top outdoor movie nights in the summer).

So we decided it was high-time to relieve them of their overachieving ways and come play. One upon a time, we got into a battle about who had the best breakfast place. We raved about our beloved Country Road Cafe while they boasted McCoys had the best eats in Denver. Eight years ago, we visited McCoys with them (very, very good) and we finally did Country Road Cafe last weekend.

Since Colorado had a glorious dump of snow over Thanksgiving, we decided to hit the hills…the sledding hills to be exact. Meyer Ranch Park in Conifer (about 20 minutes from Denver) has an awesome sledding hill but when we stepped out of the car, we wondered “is it steep enough?” Believe me, when the powder has been compacted, careening down is plenty fast enough.

The kids all had a blast…well, with the exception of 5-year-old Evan who wiped out on the first run and never fully recovered. The rest of us more than made up for him.

Meredith warmed us up with the most delicious hot chocolate as we settled into our cozy outdoor seating.

Hadley soaking it all in. I have an identical picture of her sipping a pina colada poolside at The Broadmoor.

The girls adventured in the forest.

While my little (snow) angel beckoned me, “Mom, you’ve got to lay down beside me and see this.”

The dark green pine forest and pristine white snow field lured me in as I snuggled up to that boy, marveling at the huge frozen bulbs clinging to branches like wasps’ nests against a bluebird sky.

God is an amazing artist.

I somehow convinced Meredith it was a good ideas for us to sled together. With her in front, we barrelled down that hill, laughing ’til we cried as we soared over bumps, her leg got stuck under the sled and a spray of snow gave us a face-freeze near the bottom.

We were such ridiculous fools that we ordered The Husbands to do the same and I wish I’d video taped their run because it was about the funniest thing I’ve ever seen as Andy claimed they set a landspeed record. That wasn’t too far from the truth!

From there, it was onto Kittredge where we played near Bear Creek.

Meredith had an impressive run on the slide at Kittredge Park.

While Hadley was equally as impressive (getting stuck) on the tire swing.

Of course, the climax of the whole day was introducing Meredith and Andy to Country Road Cafe where we devoured fresh cinnamon rolls, fluffy oversized pancakes, breakfast burritos, pumpkin cheesecake-stuffed French toast and the Timber Ridge Tamale Benedict–Two pork filled tamales topped with two eggs, cheddar-jack cheese, green chili, avocado, salsa and sour cream drizzle.

Suffice it to say, our overworked friends are now converts to the playing way of life.

Devil’s Head Tower Lookout’s Cut of Fall Heaven

I’ve wanted to do the 2.8-mile round-trip hike to Devil’s Head Tower Lookout for several years. As one of the last of the seven original Front Range Lookout towers still in service, this hike is a popular one but it’s a 1.5 hour drive from our house. Finding time and willing participants have been issues so 1) we raced over late afternoon after church and 2) I bribed my family to go.

I loved everything about this hike and one advantage of leaving later in the day was we almost had this hike to ourselves. This hike was a new favorite.

From the views of the Rampart Range along the way.

To the fall colors.

To the fascinating tornado takedown.

To the 143 steps to get to heaven.

To the 103-year-old lookout tower that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you’re in the Denver area, this hike is a must. And worth the bribes to get there.

Kids Adventure Games in Vail, Colorado!

“Mom, stop being part of the paparazzi. You’re taking too many pictures!” My daughter Hadley joked as I snapped my camera yet again while she soared across Gore Creek on a zipline.

But I couldn’t stop because she kept right on going in the Kids Adventure Games where kids, ages 6 through 14, experience the thrill of adventure racing in Vail, Colo. And believe me, it was thrilling as you can see from our video:

My children have participated in a number of sporting events but never anything that pushed them to their limits while emphasizing the important of teamwork, problem solving and fun as teams of two tackled a variety of challenges.  From the get-go, this race was different. Prior to getting outfitted in their harnesses, a kids-only safety meeting was held as the racers were debriefed on the race course and equipped with a map. Race founder Bill Mattison later told parents  ”Your kids are capable of doing great things if you just let them go it alone.”

Tyrolean Traverse

Tyrolean Traverse

And great things they did.  My son Bode and his buddy Seamus were ”Team Awesome” while Hadley competed with his sister Maeve as “Adventure Girls.” Anticipation was palpable as they lined up with their bikes at the starting gate beside Vail Resort’s Gondola One. Racers of all ability levels were staggered a few minutes apart. Adventure Girls started 15 minutes before Team Awesome so the boy’s goal was to catch them while the girls vowed not to be caught.

Parents can observe as much of the race as they want but are discouraged from helping; there were race volunteers at literally every turn in the seamlessly organized race. My plan was to follow the girls while my husband Jamie stuck with the boys. At least that was the plan until Adventure Girls raced their bikes along the Gore Valley Trail leaving me in their dust. A fellow helicopter parent pointed up. “There’s no way to keep up with them on their bikes but you can meet them at Gopher Hill Lift.” I took off up the hill, remiss I wasn’t able to witness the first three checkpoints: Ride through Hay Tunnel, watch them navigate the Slick Wall and then carry their bikes through the Skier Tunnel Obstacles.

heavenWhen I saw Hadley and Maeve round the hill, they were covered in mud and delved into the Tyrolean Traverse where they clipped onto a fixed line and pulled themselves across a river. From there, it was onto the Underground River Hike, a Blow Dart Challenge, Jungle Walk and Balloon Launch. I was breathless trying to keep up as they ditched their bikes, grabbed a tube and PDFs as they wound through the village  to the Covered Bridge where they ziplined across Gore Creek before tubing down the icy water. From there, it was onto a climbing wall, mud pit, a cargo net, and they ended with a Slope-N-Slide where all their mud was washed away in their frothy landing (on behalf of mothers everywhere, thank you for that).

My kids had the time of their lives but was it all smooth-sailing? Absolutely not. Seamus crashed his bike as he attempted to descend the loose gravel trail. Maeve hated crawling through the mud. Hadley dismounted her bike to walk down steep sections of the trail while Bode struggled figuring out his technique on the Tyrolean Traverse. The fastest time from some “seasoned veterans” was 45 minutes. My kids posted times that were right in the mix: Adventure Girls finished in 1:16 while the boys were just one minute behind at 1:17.

As they rested and basked in the midday suns electrifying verdant Vail Mountain’, I asked Bode if he wanted to do it again in 2016.teams

“Yes, but next time we’re beating the girls.”

[Kids Adventure] Game On.

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.

The Adventure Converts

In some instances, I’m really good at saying “no.”  Altogether now:

“Mom, can I play eight hours of video games?”


“Mom, can I have my tenth cookie in an hour?”


Easy, right? Where I struggle is when my kiddos are begging for an adventure which, quite frankly, rarely happens. We’re usually just active enough that they enjoy their downtime but on the second week of summer break, Bode came to me complaining he and his buddy Sean had nothing to do.

“Do you want to bike to our nearby open space park, play in the creek and get Slurpees after?”

Slurpees? Creek? Bike? You betcha!

We invited Sean’s sisters Sydney and Maddie, Hadley and our neighbor Sadie to join us. We’re only a 15-minute bike ride away from a glorious 133-acre park with wetlands providing habitat for waterfowl, amphibians and insects, open meadows and a creek. The water is usually very shallow but with all of our rain, it’s a knee-to-waist-deep river.

This picture right here? This. Is. Summer.

Hadley and Bode delved right in but our friends were tentative, not wanting to get their clothes wet, skirting bugs, losing flip flips, squealing about mud. However, after forging through the river, climbing over branches and logs, their adventurous spirits kicked in and they started having a blast.  I took this video at the beginning and I chuckle at their reaction:

And this at the end. They all attempted the river on their bikes except for Bode who was having mechanical difficulties. He won’t get off so easily next time. Here’s Hadley:

Yes, they are obsessed with slow-motion videos and made me capture each of them.

“Next time, I’ll more prepared to get wet,” Sadie exclaimed.

“Yeah, I have some old tennis shoes I’ll wear instead,” proposed Maddie.

“I told you guys we were going to the creek and we’d be getting wet,” I countered.

“I know,” said Sadie. “I just wasn’t expecting this.”

This meaning mud, water, bugs and zero inhibitions. It’s called Adventure 101. Give me your kids and I’ll dirty and toughen them up for the day, so long as you promise to do arts and crafts with mine.

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.