My Parents Annual Visit

I'm sure some of you noticed a drought in the blog. Things have been hectic at work, with a lot of 10 hour days and even a few hours here and there on the weekends to make enough hours to get overtime pay. Hey, at least I am getting paid for it! Maybe some new ski gear is in my future! This past weekend my parents and nephew were in town for a visit. Actually they arrived last Wednesday. That evening we had pizza and ice cream and headed over to Wolcott Boulders for a little scrambling. The first face was a little too steep for my nephew, but we found a few easier boulders for him to scramble up. In between work meetings, we managed to have some fun! Thursday work was having a Rockies outing, so my parents and nephew headed down to the game too. They bought "rockpile" tickets, which is the upper bleachers. They tickets were $4 each for my parents and a mere dollar for my nephew, parking at most ballparks is more than the 9 bucks they spent on tickets! For the record we found parking for the game that was $5. The Rockies won, bumped off Arizona in that game. On the way to the game we stopped at Dinosaur Ridge, a rock outcropping off the highway that has fossilized footprints and bones of dinosaurs. My nephew is a dino-nut so seeing real fossils in a natural environment was pretty exciting for him. Friday I had a morning meeting, but took the afternoon off to take my family over to Vail. We walked around the village a bit then took the Gondola up to Eagle's Nest for some great views and to give my nephew a chance to play paleontologist. They have a "dino dig" for the kids, its just plastic bones buried in a sandbox, but the kids seem to like it!

The weekend it was the National Park tour. Saturday we started driving south to do some site seeing in the Sawatch Mountains. We started with some shopping in Leadville and then as we had lunch in Buena Vista it started raining. At least we got some good burgers and ice cream out of the deal! We kept driving south to try and get out of the rain and after some real heavy stuff over Poncha Pass it started to lighten up in the San Luis Valley. At this point we were only an hour from the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and decided to visit Colorado's version of the beach. The dunes are kind of a weird feature, there is a gap in the mountains they are up against and it draws the winds across the valley. The sands the winds carry then cannot get up over the mountains and it gets deposited at their base. That is kind of over simplifying it, but you sort of get the idea. Some of the dunes are over 600 feet high, and it really feels like a small desert in the middle of the mountains. After a brief tour of the visitor's center and a short nature hike we drove over to the base of the dunes. My nephew and I braved the scattered rain showers and started climbing. We didn't go all the way to the top, but we got into the dunes enough to get the feel of being in a desert. Unfortunately the rain picked up while we were out there and we got soaked on the way back to the car. It was a fun experience though, and I had never been to that park before.

Sunday was National Parks Part 2 as we headed northeast from my house to Rocky Mountain National Park. We started our journey with a visit to the west side visitor's center before heading over the Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park. The road crosses the Continental Divide and tops out above treeline with a traverse of the tundra at elevations of nearly 12,000'. Along the way lucky visitors can see wildlife ranging from chipmunks, pikas and marmots to deer, elk and moose. We didn't see any deer or moose, but saw all the others on our drive! There is a vistors center at nearly 12,800' that we explored and had lunch in. The views are great, expansive mountain views above the trees, just the way I like it! From there we took the little hiking trail up to the ridge crest at 12,005' for some more great views and some scrambling on the rock outcroppings. A little further down the road was another such tourist trail that topped out at about 12,300' with more rock outcroppings to play on. The clouds of our typical afternoon storms were starting to roll in though, so we headed back down. After a few more stops at the view points on the road we headed to Estes Park. Just before town we saw three more elk grazing in a field near some houses, the elk sure are friendly in Estes! We walked around town, did some shopping and then ate dinner and headed back. I had to work Monday while my parents and nephew enjoyed Beaver Creek Village including some mini-golf and my nephew got to climb on their climbing wall and do somersaults on the bungee trampoline. The next day we had lunch at our favorite local pizza place before they hit the road for the long drive back to Chicago. All together I think they all had a great time, and I really enjoyed their visit too! Time to start planning activities for next summer's trip!