Colorado or Bust Part 2

In my last post, I shared about the first part of our trip to Colorado. Only, at the end of the post, we were still in Kansas, Toto. Oakley, Kansas to be exact. Actually, inside of the Sonic in Oakley, and if you happen to visit that particular Sonic, please do not forget that the door to the women’s restroom does not lock.

Shortly after we arrived at Sonic, a couple of school buses pulled up. A school about an hour away had taken a field trip to a bowling alley and was stopping for ice cream before they headed back to their town. The kids, though loud, were surprisingly well behaved. Kudos to their teachers!

Speaking of their teachers…I owe one of them an apology. My daughter and I were headed to use the restroom, and the door to the restroom is deceptive: it looks like it’s an outer door to a restroom with multiple stalls. In reality, it is a single restroom. If you’ll remember, the door does not lock, and I happened to open the door a little while one of the teachers was inside. I’m so sorry!! Surprisingly, despite hearing the voices of multiple elementary age students outside, the door remained closed the entire time my daughter and I were inside the restroom.

My parents met us at the Sonic, and because of the number of stops my kids required, they beat us to the cabin. I really thought we were past the stopping every five minutes stage. Silly me!

On our first whole day in Colorado Springs, we visited the Garden of the Gods. We started out at the visitor’s center and crossed the street to the Garden. Little did I know, danger was waiting. Shortly after we made it to the other side of the road, my brother held me back. In front of me, right where I had been about to step, there was a tiny rattlesnake. It was the first rattlesnake I had ever seen. I was terrified and fascinated at the same time. It slithered away, into the grass, before I could get a picture. Ironically, we had hurried through the last half of Rock Town Trail two days earlier because I thought I heard something that sounded like a rattlesnake.

Garden of the Gods was beautiful. It was free. And…it was busy. If I had it to do over again, I would have brought another stroller or two, or maybe our wagon. I brought a double wrist leash for my older two kids, but they were less than pleased to be leashed, and my son sat down on the path, blocking traffic, and at one point turned around and ran into a lady. Better a lady than a snake!

The next day my husband, my sister, and two of my brothers attempted to climb Pike’s Peak. My sister is a travel nurse, and loves to adventure. She has hiked at several National Parks, so my husband and younger brother both expected my sister would be the most prepared for making it to the top.

They left before 6AM, and around 9:30AM, my husband called me saying he was slowing the rest of the group down and he was turning around. He said he was going to call my sister to let her know. When he said that, I assumed he needed to call her because she was so far ahead of everyone else. A few minutes later, my sister walked through my bedroom door announcing herself as a member of “The quitter’s club”. My sister and I drove back into Colorado Springs to pick up my husband from the parking lot they had tried and failed to park in. They both reported the hike to the trail from where they had parked was the hardest part of the hike.

The next day my mom got to cross an item off of her bucket list as they went white water rafting. My kids were younger than the required age to go rafting, so we got to do our own thing! After some searching, we landed on going to Cripple Creek to ride the train.

Our train was engine No. 3 and had been used to haul lead and zinc.

Cripple Creek was an interesting town, and as we learned on the train ride, it had an interesting history as well. The town had been a gold rush town, and half of the town had burned down one day, and within a few days, the other half burned down. As a result, all of the buildings were required to be built of brick rather than wood. Not surprisingly, the town also housed numerous houses of ill reput. We learned of a madame named Pearl de Vere whose family thought she was a seamstress, and when they learned of her true line of work upon her death at age 37, they disowned her and refused to provide a burial.

We saw mines that had produced millions of dollars worth of gold back in the 1890s, an active mine that employs 700 people and currently produces $500,000,000 in gold per year, and we saw some of the most beautiful views of our time in Colorado.

After the train, we decided to take a tour of the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine. The mine claims to be the “only vertical shaft gold mine tour” in the nation. We descended 1000 ft on a small elevator with a total of four adults and four kids. It was tight, yet the other elevator had either six or eight adults!

Tight spot!

The tour showed us the progress mining equipment had made since the start of the mine, and we learned that the mine was the first mine claimed by a woman in Cripple Creek. At the end of the tour, we were each given a piece of gold ore. My youngest son fell asleep towards the middle of the tour, and amazingly, he stayed asleep through the demonstrations of the mining equipment! The sleepy little guy didn’t wake up until we returned to the surface at the end of the tour!

The next day was our last day in Colorado, and we all went to visit Seven Falls. Going into it, all I knew was that there were about 300 stairs, and there were waterfalls. My little family and I started out following my parents, but we all made a pitstop on the way, and somehow we ended up taking the lead. We followed my phone’s GPS to a parking lot, and I got a phone call from my mom asking why we turned. Their GPS was showing Seven Falls was still thirteen minutes away. We saw signs saying “Seven Falls Parking”, so my parents and sister and my brother and his family all drove to where we were. My dad pulled up next to us and asked, “Where are the waterfalls?” Despite my phone, and every search online, saying the address we were at was the correct address, we followed them to the location that was 13 minutes away. We arrived at Seven Springs and were informed there was no parking on site. Instead, there was a parking lot with shuttles to the falls.

We drove back to the parking lot we had originally been at, and waited for the shuttle.The first shuttle was full by the time we were at the front of the line, so we waited for the next. Once we reached Seven Falls, we made the hike up to the base of the falls. We had heard there was an elevator that took people to the top, and a few people in our group were leaning towards the elevator instead of the 300 stairs. Stubbornly, I decided I was going to take the stairs.

Surprisingly, my daughter also wanted to take the stairs. It had rained earlier that day, so the stairs and rails were wet, which made the trek up feel a little more dangerous than it would have otherwise. Despite the wetness, a slow three year old, and wearing my youngest in a sling, we made it to the top! My husband is not fond of heights, and was more comfortable sitting on a bench, away from the edge, so we rode the elevator back down.

A little farther, there was another set of stairs that ran parallel to the falls. There were more steps than the set we had climbed, and there was one less stopping point than the other set had. Five of us decided to make the second trek up to the top. It was a little strenuous, but I pushed myself when I passed older people who were on their way back down the stairs. If they could do it, I could too.

This is the view of the second set of stairs from the top of the first set of stairs.

At the top, my sister and I saw there was another trail that went farther up the mountain, and we wanted to hike it. Our six year old nephew wanted to stick with us, so the three of us headed up, past the stairs. It was beautiful. I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that we were hiking up a mountain with a six year old. He did really well!

Also surprising was the fact that walking back down the stairs wasn’t as bad as I had feared! It took no time at all, and at no point did I feel like I was going to fall down, face forward. My calves were tight for a couple of days afterwards, but overall, I would recommend Seven Falls

We’ve been back home for a few days now, and though we liked our time in Colorado, ‘there’s no place like home.’ My four year old keeps asking if we’re ever going to go back the the cabin we stayed in, and my husband is making plans to reattempt Pike’s Peak. He wants to work on doing more cardio, and he’s decided he’ll take less water next time.

Since it seems we will be going back, is there anything we missed visiting that you would suggest we see next time? Let me know in the comments!


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…