About a year ago, my parents presented us with the option of receiving a family vacation in lieu of Christmas gifts from them. I wasn’t sure about it when they first mentioned it. My parents lived almost eight hours from us, and visiting them required planning, vacation time for my husband (although, let’s be real, he’s in sales, so “vacation time” really meant “working remotely”), and a somewhat exhausting drive with three kids under four years old. Money was tight, and if we were going to take a vacation, I kind of wanted to pick the place.
My siblings, parents, and I started discussing destinations. My parents and most of my siblings love the beach. Unfortunately…I’ve never been a fan.
We lived on Terceira, a volcanic, mid-Atlantic island in the Azores archipelago, and I loved visiting the lava beaches and tide pools. We lived in the Florida Panhandle, just north of Destin, and…I was never very excited to visit the beach. My childhood fear of “sharks, crabs, and lobsters” morphed into an apprehension of sharks, sting rays, and jelly fish (and maybe seagulls). I despised the feeling of sand between my clothes and skin. It was not my favorite place to be, and beaches are not on my top lists of places to go on a vacation.
I lobbied against a beach destination. My beach loving mother had also dreamed of going white water rafting and she had heard both me and my sister sing the praises of Zion National Park. Zion, however, was not within driving distance for my three kids ages four and under. With the uncertainty of Covid regulations, I wasn’t comfortable committing to a vacation that required flying to, so we settled on something a little more easily accessible: Colorado! My parents rented two cabins on 40 acres in Florissant, Colorado, and invited all of my siblings and their families.
The cabins were rented from August 18th through the 23rd. Knowing how many stops my kids tend to require, and having experienced 7 hour trips that turned into 9 or 10 hour trips, we decided to leave a day early and make a few stops on the way.
About two years ago, my husband and I took a “Kancation”, and one of our favorite discoveries was Wilson State Park. If I had been blindfolded and dropped into the park, I would never have guessed I was in Kansas. It’s pretty much in the middle of the state, but it looks more like Utah or New Mexico. When we stopped in 2020, my husband and I took a bike ride on one of the easy trails. This year, my husband had done some research and found a highly rated hiking trail he had to try. Another stop we planned on our 2020 trip was to Little Jerusalem State Park in Oakley, KS. Unfortunately, the day we had chosen stopping at Little Jerusalem was cold and rainy. We planned to stay the night in Oakley before driving the rest of the way to Colorado.
The day before we left, the tire pressure light had come on in my van, so the next morning, my husband took it in to have the tires checked. Our front tires needed replaced. $350 later, we finished loading up our suitcases and headed to Rock Town Trail at Wilson Lake with our three kids in tow.
Tip: Have your vehicle checked out before a road trip!
My daughter had been fussy all morning, but wouldn’t say anything other than, “I want to sit by you!” By the time we reached the trail, we had discovered the reason she was so fussy: she had a stiff neck. After taking a picture, we put her in the stroller and headed down the trail.
The trail was beautiful. In the middle of the hike, there is a really cool rock formation and a sand beach. The kids enjoyed getting their feet wet in the lake, and it was a nice resting place. However, a few minutes in to the second half of the hike, I was starting to get a little angry with my husband for insisting we take that particular hike. It was hot. There are very few shady spots on the trail, and several of the hills were sandy. If you’ll remember, we had our daughter in the stroller. Sand and our stroller do not mix. Sand and our stroller up hill especially do not mix. By the time our van was in eyesight, I was out of breath and leaning on the stroller as I walked. My four year old was the only one who brought water, and we were all parched. Beautiful hike, but 3 miles, with three kids under the age of 5, one of with a stiff neck in a stroller, in the heat, up sandy hills made for a less than ideal hike.
Tip: Bring water. Bring something to wipe your feet off with if you plan to dip your feet in the lake. If you must take a stroller, try to find one that is able to be used in sand. Use sun screen.
After hiking at Rock Town, we headed toward Oakley. By the time we got to Hays, my daughter was even fussier than she had been. We ate dinner and took her to urgent care. The nurse practitioner who saw my daughter was concerned by the possibility of meningitis. She instructed us to take her to the ER if she didn’t seem more like herself within a few hours of taking ibuprofen or if she developed a fever. We decided to stay in Hays to keep close to civilization. Thankfully, she started feeling better and was even up to going swimming that night!
We headed on to Little Jerusalem the next morning. The land had been private property until a few years ago, and in order to get to the park, you have to drive on a gravel road for a few miles. Aside from two other tourists from Missouri, we had the park to ourselves.
There are two paths you can take at Little Jerusalem. One path is .25 miles, and the other is 1.2 miles. Even after our exhausting hike the day before, we chose the longer hike. We didn’t regret it. As we started down the trail, I admit, I was a little nervous. The park feels so remote, and the landscape is harsh and desert-like.
However, the hike at Little Jerusalem was much less strenuous. The path was pretty flat, and it was clearly marked. There were even drainage tubes under some places to keep puddles off of the paths. The view from the observation point was pretty cool. While Little Jerusalem is not somewhere to spend a ton of time, it was worth seeing, and if you’ve ever wanted to eat inside of a Sonic, Oakley has an eat-in Sonic.
Tip: Take the longer path. The observation point at the end of the shorter path doesn’t see the more impressive canyons.
Bonus Tip: If you happen to eat inside of Sonic, be ware the women’s restroom. The door does not lock.
To Be Continued…
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