When we first moved to Colorado two years ago, we made a point of being “tourists in our own state.” It seems so often that we live somewhere and never really get to experience it like somebody who visits. Life always seems to catch up with us. Lord Soccer demands attention, work, school, the house… It’s a never ending cycle of demands on our time. So we’ve tried to keep it more fresh here in Colorado, since there is so much to see out here (despite there not being any measurable amount of recreational water anywhere out here).
This year our tourism slowed down somewhat. Well, maybe a lot. In years past we have done a lot more hiking, and destination tourism in the Denver Metro Area and about 60 minutes surrounding it. This year, however, with the bathroom and deck projects, and with Mireille now needing to amble on her own rather than being strapped to my back, our hiking schedule has taken a hit. Jenny managed to schedule a few good excursions for us, though, and the first of those took us to Snow Mountain Ranch - a YMCA camp near Winter Park.
My day started earlier than normal. A quick trip to Ithaca, New York and a canceled flight meant that I had to get up at 4:30 Eastern (2:30 Mountain) to catch my flight back to Denver. The morning flights went off without a hitch, so I arrived back in Denver by 9:30 AM local time. Time enough for a quick shower before loading up the Flex and heading into the Mountains for our weekend adventure.
It being a Thursday, traffic was very light the entire way up to our destination on a lightly foggy road in the mountains. We have traveled the I-70 route up towards the Eisenhower Tunnel many times, but this time we diverted off the road at Empire, CO on Highway 40 towards Winter Park and ultimately our camp. On the way, we stopped to take in some of the fog covered sights and use the bathroom at Berthoud Pass.
Passing through some interesting mountain towns, our trip was only around 2 hours from door to door. Before we knew it, we were at Snow Mountain Ranch, Elevation 8570. As an aside, if you’ve never been to Colorado, one interesting thing that you will find is that populations are never published on city signs. Instead they publish the elevation of the municipality. Denver, famously, is published at 5280 ft. That same theme carries through at our weekend camp.
To sum up Snow Mountain Ranch, it is like a summer camp for kids, but it is for families. They have lots of really great facilities, including an indoor pool, gym, volley ball courts, roller rink, game room, indoor and outdoor climbing walls, indoor and outdoor archery ranges, tennis courts, mini golf, hotel style rooms, a camp ground, cabin rentals, yurt rentals, hiking trails, a day camp, a canoeing and fishing area, horse back riding, disc golf course, heritage farm… In short, it’s huge with lots of things to do. We had signed up for a number of activities throughout our stay, but on day one we decided we would just explore.
After checking in, our room wasn’t quite ready, so we went to the on premises canteen and ordered some snacks, buffalo wings, chicken fingers, and some onion rings. You know, health food. We quickly downed our food and headed out to explore the expansive property, starting first with the yard games that were setup for anybody to play. Cornhole, connect four, tether ball… You name it, it was available for families to use.
We also quickly discovered the mini-golf course on the property. It turns out, our kids really like mini-golf! There were two courses available to play, both for free. There was a kids' course with wide holes, shorter distances, and nine holes, and there was a more “advanced” course with 18 standard size holes and regular mini-golf layouts. Mireille instantly took to the game, always teeing off first and hitting her ball, but rarely finishing out a hole with her ball in the cup. Quinton immediately began competing with everybody, and of course bending rules throughout. Somehow, by the end of 8 holes, we were all miraculously tied and it all came down to who scored best on the 9th hole to see who would win the round!
After golfing for awhile, our room still wasn’t ready, so we decided to check out the Rec Center. This was a large building with a roller rink, climbing wall, basketball court, volleyball court, and game room for use by all. Since the basketball court was available, we grabbed a ball and started a quick game of 2 on 1, Quinton and Ethan against me. It was fun, but the floor of the court looked like the Hulk had run down the court and stopped just before the basket. It had a major warp there that made any sort of serious basketball game difficult. Since serious basketball wasn’t really in the cards, Mireille joined in on the game with Jenny as well. The three of us took on Ethan and Quinton in what can only be loosly described as 3 on 2 basketball, though Mireille never dribbled, passed or shot - she merely took the ball and ran around until she ultimately fell down or go the ball otherwise stolen from her stick in the mud big brothers.
At long last, after more than an hour, we were alerted that our room was ready for us to occupy it. We were in one of the hotel style rooms, which looks like an oldish, poorly maintained hotel room, but with no TV! It wasn’t a huge deal, actually, since they have excellent WiFi coverage and every one of us has our own tablet. So much for “unplugging” this weekend… Our room was also outfitted with two full size beds and a set of bunk beds. Quinton, deciding to mess with Ethan, walked into the room and called out, “I get top bunk!” Ethan, perhaps heeding the advice of his parents, just went with it and said, “OK.” Quinton got confused by this, thinking perhaps ethan really wanted the bottom bunk, so he called out, “I get bottom bunk!” Again, Ethan responded, “OK.” It was really quite amusing for the minute or so while this continued. In the end, Quinton opted for the bottom bunk and Mireille actually occupied the top bunk where she, of course, had a blast! She learned quickly that she could stand at the top of the bunk ladder and jump onto Jenny’s and my bed just below it.
Mireille Jumps on the Bed
Over the course of the trip we did spend a good amount of “down time” in our room while people relaxed from the many strenuous activities we did. Often times in the room, Mireille would go away and she would be replaced with a doggie. For some reason, that is something she is doing now. For awhile she was doing the same thing but as a lion. She won’t respond to us unless we refer to her as lion, or doggie, depending on what form she has taken. She will also walk around on all fours and either growl or bark depending on what is appropriate.
By 6:00 we decided we would check out the cafeteria. Yes, there is a full service, camp style cafeteria available to campers for a fee. The fee isn’t too terrible, and food isn’t too expensive, mainly due to the fact that purchasing alcohol is not an option there!
After dinner, more mini-golf!
At this point it was getting “late,” probably 7:00, so we headed back towards the room. Jenny and Mireille continued on to the room while Ethan, Quinton, and I decided to check out the game room at the rec center. We occupied ourselves with ping pong and foosball, something that we did pretty frequently throughout the remainder of the trip.
Once we had our fill of games, we, too, headed back to the room. It wasn’t a huge room, so once there, everybody pretty much got in their pajamas, brushed their teeth, and lay down on their beds. By 9:00, everybody was well on their way to sleeping. Good thing, too, because tomorrow the real hard stuff began!
To Be Continued…