Rocky Mountains Labor Day

Feedback me: Do you prefer 1 giant post or break trips like this into 3 day shorter posts?
TLDR: For those who don’t like to read, we went to the Rocky Mountains over the weekend with the girls and it was awsome. Lots of good pictures if your a skimmer. 

Friday after work and school we went into super-duper rush mode. We emptied the basement fridge into a cooler, tossed it in the van with all the other last minute stuff. We had a last minute checklist and we checked off each thing got them into the cooler and hit the road. We made our way to 70 and headed west. We had a lot of west to go. We tried to hold off a dinner stop as long as we could but just made it to Topeka before stopping for some Red Robin burgers.

Dinner was good and the place was packed but we were fed pretty quick.  Pumpkin and I finished first and headed outside to run around a bit while Heath and Bean finished up. Then we hit the road and Heather continued to drive us toward Colorado.  The kids and I did some reading and talking and singing and listening to music and eventually some sleeping. The girls had on their pajamas and we made a late night stop near Wilson Lake to strap a night time diaper on Pumpkin.

After that I slept and Heath drove and giggled to Pandora Raw Comedy.  I think she stopped about 70 miles from Denver and we switched places. I got a small coffee, took her headphones over and listened to some comedy. I got bored and then listened to some Johnny Cash and then got bored again and switched to a robot voice reading me my BOOK.  I started drinking my coffee some and the drive went great. I was full of excitement and not tired. As we got through Ft.Collins and then a bit west the roads got real curvy and fun.  We entered Poudre Canyon and drove along giant rock bluffs on both sides and followed the Poudre River.

It was slow going but I was entertained by my book and by the little scenery I could see.  For over 2 hours I only came across 1 car going in the other direction and none going my way. I passed Glen Echo Resort Campgrounds where our tent site was and kept going. The plan was to drive all the way to a trailhead, where our morning hike and then wait for dawn.  Unfortunately our turn off the highway and down to the trailhead was closed and the road blocked. I got out and inspected and watered a tree and decided we would need to alter our morning plan.

I had passed lots of other trailheads and pull offs and things so backtracked a minute or two and pulled over in one of these. I turned off the car and went to sleep.


We all got up when it started to get light but the sun was still nowhere to be found. We worked on a new plan and decided to head to a little lake just down the road. We parked and decided to hike down for breakfast.

We stuck the kids and the food in backpacks and headed down. It was pretty warm in KC when we left but it was in the 40s F when we got there and the girls were chilly.

The lake was really pretty and we really wanted to see a moose or something but didn’t see any animals. We watched the sun slowly light up places and melt off the dew.

We got out the burner and made oatmeal and coffee.  It was really good and helped to warm us up. We could see the area shaded by the mountains getting smaller and smaller and we decided to warm ourselves up some more and hike around the mountain toward the sunlight and the dam.

There was no trail but the lake was pretty and we saw some chipmunks and stuff and kept hoping to see something bigger. We passed a few fishermen and everyone was really excited and in good moods. Shortly after getting in the sun we got hot and had to start shedding layers.

The dam was not as cool as we hoped but we got a good view of the lake and cooled off a bit before turning around and heading back.

We hiked all the way back to the van and then loaded up and headed toward the campsite. I thought that maybe the hike we wanted to do was just closed off at night and would be open but it was still bizarrely closed.

We drove for a little bit and watched the great scene out the windows. It was still really early in the morning and we were not sure when we could check into the campsite so we pulled off at a good looking random spot with a trailhead and got ready for another hike.

We took some snacks and got going. This hike was awesome we followed a river and everything was really pretty.

Pumpkin was in a great mood and wanted to hike a bunch of it instead of ridding.

The river was really pretty and we took lots of breaks to watch it.

We had a hard time stopping and turning around but we knew we were bound to get hungry and tired before long. We hiked back to the car and everyone was really ready for lunch. We had a bit of a drive still to get to the campsite so ate tortillas filled with peanut butter and raisins while we drove.

We got to the campground and checked in and got directions to our site. We had mixed feelings at first. Our site was cool in that it was on a little island and we had to walk over a little bridge to get to it.

It was really pretty but we were pretty exposed and it was both hot and windy.

Heath and the girls checked out the 6 other sites on the island and they were tiny and really stuck into the trees. We paced off a few sites and thought our tent would just fit. I moved loads of stuff from the car to the island and Heath and the girls went to ask if we could have one of the other sites.

We found all but the tinyest one reserved and decided to make our big exposed site work.  We got the tent up and steaked and tied down good so we would not have to fight the wind with it. We didn’t have much to tie a tarp too but we got a little creative and got one up. We moved some things around and the site we originally didn’t like turned out great. We had river on 3 sides and trees on the 4th.

We left the site and decided to head to Estes Park and kill the afternoon playing there. We drove a little way and realized with the windy roads and the holiday traffic we would kill all day driving to and from the park. Instead we pulled off the road and headed down a trail to the river.

The plan was to splash and play but the water was freezing. Pumpkin didn’t mind and immediately got in and got totally wet and muddy.

With the cold she didn’t last long and shortly later we were crying and cleaning her up and then heading back to the campsite. We had some drinks and relaxed and then started our fire.

Our breakfast and lunch had been a bit light and it was kind of early for dinner but we were on central time in our brains and got busy cooking.  First we got sweet potatoes baking, then we started making brown rice with chicken broth and cheese, we warmed up some green beans and then grilled some thin pork loin steaks.

Some magic must have been involved because we pulled everything off the fire at the same time and it was all hot and cooked perfectly. We opened our taters and some packets of BBQ sauce and dug in.

That’s Pumpkin’s leftover mac and cheese mixed in with our rice.

I ate 2 steaks, Heath 1 and Pumpkin ½ and we all just about cleaned our plates. We were a little bit delirious with being tired and worn out but I think it was an amazing meal.

We recovered a bit and then built up the fire a bit more and started cooking dessert.

(side note: Pumpkin’s shirt is from Japan, it says “A head is long, I love Giraffe”)

Pumpkin helped out a lot and the marshmallows were a bit stale but they turned out good.

It was not dark and just after 7:30 when we finished our smores and saw the clouds rolling in. We packed up the campsite and got it safe from animals after our food and a potential rainstorm then climbed into the tent.  At about 7:45 it started pouring rain and I fell fast asleep. I think Pumpkin and Heath read a book before falling asleep.


About 10 hours later my watch alarm goes off and I wake up. It was just before 6am mountain time and pretty cold out. The sky was starting to lighten up.  Most of our stuff was already in the van so we just had to grab the kids and a few things and hit the road. We had high hopes for seeing some wildlife on the early roads but didn’t find much.

We did see some great views and some wildfire leftovers.

We had a long drive to our hike but we ate breakfast on the way and stopped for gas and stuff. Eventually we arrived at The Bean Mountain Trailhead.

We were pretty excited when we got there. We packed the girls and packs and hit the trial. From descriptions I had read ahead of time I knew we had about a ½ mile of easy hike and then a mile and a half of tough climbing. We let Pumpkin start out hiking and she was less into it then the day before.

She tripped a few times, got hot in the sun and cold in the wind and didn’t want to sing any hiking songs.

After a bit we got her cheered up some with snacks and drinks.

After the ½ mile or so she moved to my back and Bean moved to Heath’s back.

The elevation, the quicker pace and the incline hit us surprisingly fast. It was tough going and we had to take lots of breaks and drink lots of water.

We worked our way through the switchbacks and talked with Pumpkin about lots of things between gasping for breaths. Eventally the trail got really hard to follow and we were just climbing mini boulders and logs and making our own way up the mountain.

For quite a while it had seemed the summit would be just over the next hill but now we knew it was right there.

We carefully climbed and shortly later we hit the top.

The top made all the hard work well worth it. We could see really far in all directions. It was warm but had a really refreshing breeze. It was a little disorienting being on the windy peak so we sat on the ground to hold on and eat some snacks.

We had some Japanese potato chips from our trip there and some other treats.  We made some friends on the top and then decided to get our fearless 2 year old off the top of the mountain.

Our friends took some pictures of us and off we went.

Once we were off the big rocks we stopped to feed the baby, pee and prepare for a quick trip down.

Heath had drank all her water and mine was about gone but the trip down was way easier. We hardly ever stopped for breaks unless we had to water a tree or check out some animals.

We were really ready for lunch when we got to the bottom.  We loaded up the van and drove about 2 minutes down the road to Bean Lake.

We were not interested in sticking the kids on our backs, or being on a table right by the parking lot so we stuck the girls in the stroller and speed walked to the backside of Bean lake.

We found a great picknick spot.

We had brought the stove with us so fired it up and started making our creation. Pumpkin wanted oatmeal so that was easy. Heath and I mixed a box of mac and cheese with a can of black beans, 2 cans of tuna and a little bit of yogurt. We had no oil/butter or milk with us.

The black beans made the dish have a weird dark color but the flavors all worked together and it was great. We ate and ate and ate. We think I got something like 50 grams of protein from the dish and Heath over 30. We had a coke and some other snacks before packing up our picknick.

We walked around the lake some more and got some pictures for Bean of her lake.

I got a voice mail from Tony recommending a burger and a candy apple in Estes Park so we decided there was no room for burgers but we could do a candy apple and if they had ice cream and beer nearby we could find room. We headed into the city and shortly after we pulled over to watch some nature.

(Are these mule deer? They had much different antlers then the ones on the drive and the ones in the woods on our hike. Also we saw really small looking deer shortly after this. None were white tail but all different)

We got into the city and a huge pile of holiday traffic. I guess everyone wanted a beer or ice cream or candy apple. We sat through half a dozen cycles of a traffic light slowly making our way into the crowd. Both girls fell asleep and we decided it would take forever to get a treat.

We made a U turn and headed back to the campsite. I drove, the girls napped and Heath read. When we got back to the campsite the little ones were well rested I was ready for a beer and Heath was feeling exhausted and ready for a nap. We left her in the tent with Bean and Pumpkin and I walked up to the office store. We got ice for the cooler, ice cream for Pumpkin and some beers for me.

We had a few chores around the campsite then put a beer in a cup and took Bean to the playground. Bean and I tried to fix some problems with my cell phone and Pumpkin turned into batman and played in the fort and on the swings. We played and played and played. At 6 my stomach had forgotten all about our good lunch and wanted dinner. We went back and woke up Heath. She really wanted a shower. The girls and I worked around the campsite some and gave my stomach another beer.

We decided it was too late to start cooking dinner and we walked up to the office restaurant after Heath’s shower. The place was nice enough and we ordered chicken nuggets and fries for Pumpkin and nachos and fish and chips for Heath and I to split. We played eye spy while waiting on our order and laughed about our day and adventures. Pumpkin got twice as much food as the menu boasted and ate nearly all of the dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and fried strait snakes (french fries).

After dinner it was dark and barely sprinkling. It rained several times while we were in Colorado and this one like all of them only lasted a few minutes and looked like a big storm but was not much of anything. We walked back to the campsite and got a fire started and built up really quick. Bean went to bed right away. We built a big one and had fun with it.

Then we cooked more smores.

They were even better then the ones the night before.

After dessert the rain came back and the sleepies were getting me so we joined Bean in the tent. I was out immediately but Heath  and the girls had a bit of trouble going to sleep.


I woke up around 7am pretty squished into the side of the tent. I remembered around Midnight waking up as Heath brought one or both girls into our bed. I remember hearing Pumpkin coughing some.  I wiggled around some and tried to go back to sleep but didn’t have any luck. I tried to carefully sneak out and grab some clean clothes and stuff. I headed to the showers and got cleaned up.

Then I cleaned out the van and started organizing and packing things up for the trip home. I took some things from the van to the campsite to be better packed and other things from the campsite to the van. I was expecting to start cooking breakfast at 8:30 and wake everyone up at 9am but instead at 8 they all got up in great moods.

I continued to get stuff packed in the van and Heath got the inside of the tent packed up and ready to go.

We got most things ready then took a break for breakfast. I had nothing on the menu knowing we would have lots of leftovers to work on.

We also had coffee and oatmeal. The rest of the packing up went great and the van was really well organized and cleaned out, ready for the trip home. Pumpkin was down to her last outfit so we rinsed some pants in the river and got them drying in the windshield just in case.

It was too hard to head home so on the way out we decided to stop at Dadd Gulch for 1 last hike.

We waned to tire Pumpkin some so she hiked for a lot of the trail.

Bean didn’t need any help getting tired and could barely keep her eyes open.

This hike was pretty good but nothing amazing like the others. There were a lot of other hikers with kids and we did get some good exercise and had fun crossing a bunch of little streams.

Since the day before we climbed Bean Mountain, we had to call the hills around us Pumpkin Mountains.

We got to the car about an hour after we started and everyone was ready for some AC and to head toward home and lunch. Both girls stayed awake for a while through the winding roads out but then fell asleep. A few hours later we stopped at our favorite Colorado restaurant, Corona’s Mexican Grill just east of Denver.

This was our 3rd road trip stop at this place. They have really good food and offer some seriously spicy stuff. My last meal there was both tasty and painfull so this time I stuck to the medium level. Heath ordered a chicken and avocado burrito and was done driving so ordered a margarita about as big as her head.

Camera 360

I got my first torta. It was some really soft and crispy bread filled with marinated steak, onions, refried beans and cheese. It was really good. Pumpkin got a bean burrito and rice and did a great job eating.

After lunch I drove and drove. We stopped more then I wanted but we had awake kids and needed to keep them happy and full and gas in the van. Our best stop was a gas station in Colby that had a great playground. We got home at about 1:15 and the girls went right to sleep and Heath and I followed shortly later.

It was a super rushed trip but well worth it.



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