Colorado or Bust! Pt. 1 (AKA Kancation 2.0!)

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.

I had no idea there were cacti in Kansas!

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…



If you know my husband, you probably know him as a quirky, witty, easygoing, funny guy. When we got married four and a half years ago, I moved to his hometown, and I had multiple people ask me what it was like being married to Thad—he’s a character. That’s the Thad I saw on our first date as he danced in Dunkin’ Donuts. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of him. It wasn’t until we faced challenges that I saw there was more to him than his surface level quirkinesses. He had depth and wisdom. Over the last four and a half years, I’ve learned something else about my husband: he is a hard worker.

From working multiple jobs to pay off debt to talking with overseas factories in the evenings, he works hard to take care of our family while still making time for bike rides, walks, and outings with the kids and me. Because he’s in sales, getting away from the office is tricky. If he’s not working, he might miss an order and could lose the order and/or the customer. If there is an issue with the order and he’s not available to fix it, he could lose the customer. Since he’s almost entirely commission based, fewer sales and customers negatively impact his salary.

So in the time we’ve been married, he has never taken a vacation. Sure, we’ve gone out of town, but he typically works remotely while we’re visiting family. He even responded to a few emails and took a few calls on our honeymoon. If anyone needed a vacation, it was Thad.

Recently his stress level had increased, and he had a couple of panic attacks. He hardly talked to the kids or to me. As his wife, it was difficult to see him struggling. Thankfully, his boss recognized his need for a vacation and told him he should take a week off.

Last week, my mom came to get our kids and take them to my grandparents’, and Thad and I embarked on what I’m calling a Kancation. We stayed at three beautiful places in Kansas and had such a lovely time.

We left on Monday afternoon and headed to Vassar, Kansas for a bike ride on the Flint Hills Trail. According to, this trail is built in an old railroad corridor that dates back to the 1880s. The trail stretches for 117 miles, and Thad insisted I’d be surprised by how far I could go.

As we started out, my hands and ears began to hurt because of the cold. Thankfully, it warmed up a little, which made the ride more enjoyable. However, I quickly proved Thad’s statement wrong because I was not at all surprised to find that I was getting winded and exhausted.

Towards the middle of our ride, we saw some beautiful scenery, and we realized how incredibly quiet the trail was. There were no cars or houses around us, and even the cows were silent. The silence was a little eerie, especially after living in a house with two toddlers!

By the ninth mile, I felt like I was dying. We made it a total of 12.86 miles in an hour an thirteen minutes. Our legs felt like noodles as we walked back to our van. I cannot imagine riding the whole 117 miles!

The first night we stayed at a tiny house on a 60 acre lake in Lyndon, Kansas. It was brand new, beautiful, and so peaceful. We both slept well, despite not being awoken by cries of “I want Mama!”

Our hosts left a gift card to an adorable local coffee shop, True Brew, and after stopping for coffee the next morning, we headed towards our next stop.

For our second night, Thad booked a room at a bed and breakfast. I’d never stayed at a bed and breakfast, so I was a little apprehensive. We stopped at Chase County State Lake and hiked to the waterfall. Unfortunately, we found it to be a water trickle because it hadn’t rained in a while…

After our hike, we arrived at the beautiful Clover Cliff Ranch. The owner, Susie, met us at the door and gave us a tour before showing us to our room. The original part of the house was a one room cabin built in 1860, and two more additions completed the house by 1883. We headed out for a hike around the ranch’s 4,000 acres and then went for dinner.

By the time we returned from dinner, the other couple staying at the ranch had also returned and were watching TV in the front living room. We said “hello” in passing and went up to our room. I have to confess, after seeing the other couple, I started wondering if we were entirely safe. What if they were serial killers and we were alone with them in a big house, in the middle of nowhere? Susie had mentioned there was wood ready for a fire out back, as well as everything we needed for s’mores, so out we went!

After making s’mores, we spent some time by the fire, and I was disappointed. Part of the draw of being out in the middle of nowhere was having a better view of the stars. But for the second night in a row, the sky was cloudy, and we couldn’t see a single star. I realized I needed to pray that I’d be able to see the stars the next night. I thought about asking my mom and grandma to pray as well. A little bit later, I looked up, and the stars were starting to peek out from behind the clouds. Within a few minutes the sky directly overhead was full of stars, and I was filled with awe and thankfulness for a God who knows the desires of my heart.

The next morning we went down for breakfast. Susie served us coffee and a beautiful, delicious berry trifle for the first course, and mentioned she had been praying I would be able to see the stars.

As we were eating the trifle, the other woman staying at the ranch came down for breakfast and she started talking to Susie. While they were talking, I overheard they were in ministry, and I felt silly for having been fearful the night before. The second course was an amazing breakfast sandwich with sausage patties, egg, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, and some sort of a sauce. We want more of it!

We talked with the other couple for over an hour. We heard their story: he was a former Muslim who came to Christ a couple of years into their marriage, and within the last decade had left his high paying job to become a missionary to Muslims. They prayed for us. I marveled again at the goodness and faithfulness of God for ordaining a time of refreshing and encouragement in the middle of nowhere Kansas, and I hated to leave.

After leaving the Clover Cliff Ranch, we drove to Hutchinson, Kansas to tour the salt mine. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up watching movies from the 30s to 50s, and I find those decades fascinating, so I was pretty excited when I heard the portion of the mine covered by the tour was from the 40s and 50s!

While the enormity of the mine was interesting (each pillar was either 40 ft by 40 ft or 50 ft by 50 ft), what I found most interesting was the fact that the miners’ trash was still left laying on the ground where they had left it. It is more cost effective to leave things in the mine than to bring them back up to the surface, so what comes down to the mine stays in the mine. Because the mine has no humidity, the temperature is consistent, and there are no pests, things are preserved really well, and their trash was fascinating to look at.

From the salt mine we got coffee and went to Ellsworth, Kansas where we stayed in a limestone cabin from the 1800s.

The owner, Linda, said the farm had been in her family for over 100 years. The cabin had been run down for as long as she could remember, and a few years ago, when she was having work done on another part of her property, the contractor kept coming back to the cabin and encouraged her to restore it, so she did. She believes the lower level may have been a barn and the upstairs may have been used as a living quarters while the main house was being built.

Whether it was a cabin or a barn, it was charming. From a ladder used as the stair rail to her mom’s laundry washing tub used as the kitchenette’s sink, Linda had so many special touches throughout the cabin.

Despite the cold and foggy night, the wood stove kept the cabin surprisingly cozy! When the fog cleared the next morning, we were able to see the beautiful view.

Our plan had been to travel to Little Jerusalem State Park from Ellsworth, but when the weather was cold and windy that morning, I had to ask Thad if he thought we would enjoy it in that weather. We made the decision to wait to visit Little Jerusalem until the weather was nicer and to surprise our kids and my family instead.

On our way to my grandparents’ Thad drove us to Wilson Lake State Park, and I am so glad he did! I could have easily said, “Thad, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” It was beautiful and felt much more western than the parts of Kansas I have seen. My pictures do not do this place justice.

Thad had heard of the park because there is a black diamond bike trail there. When we stopped, I assumed we were stopping for a hike. I was mistaken. We had stopped to go mountain biking. I should tell you, until last year I hadn’t ridden a bike in over a decade. Until Thad bought me a bike this spring, I hadn’t ridden since last year. I had never gone mountain biking. Our ride on the Flint Hills Trail was my first experience riding on an unpaved trail. Thad insisted we were taking the easy/kids trail. Within the first minute of mountain biking, I announced I was not enjoying it. It was bumpy! My hands and arms started hurting. I struggled to stay in the narrow rut of a trail, and I had to walk my bike up some of the steeper parts. But I did it! Would I do it again? Yes! The views were gorgeous, and we hope to go back. Sometimes changed plans are surprisingly fun!

As we traveled on to my grandparents’, we saw a sign for the “Geographic Center of the Continental US”, so we made another quick stop before being reunited with our babies.

While at my grandparents’ we finally got a picture of my grandma, my mom, my daughter, and me. I’ve wanted to do it since my daughter was born, but we’ve forgotten to do it every other time the four of us have been together.

We had such a nice time on our Kancation! I’m including the links to the places we stayed in case you would like to take a Kancation of your own!

Tiny house in Lyndon
Clover Cliff Ranch in Elmdale
1800s limestone cabin in Ellsworth

Special thanks to our families for making our trip possible!