So, here goes it! Last July we took our first real family vacation. We've spent years going on mini getaways, usually long weekends, to the family cabin in Minocqua. It's always a lot of fun and the kids love being there. It's chalked full of family memories and history. The roaring campfires and roasted marshmallows end out each day. Sometimes there's even a mini fireworks show. Boat rides, fishing, sitting on the pier, playing in the water... I have years worth of photos and memories to cherish. We've always been grateful to be able to hang out there and it's allowed us to be able to get our kids away from home during the summer on a pretty small budget. I needed something different though, something new.
We booked our Colorado Springs trip probably about three weeks before the trip itself. It was one of those things for me... I was feeling stuck in my life. I was in melt down mode. I needed to go somewhere different. To see some different scenery. I wanted to be able to take my kids somewhere they'd never been to. I wanted a trip they'd remember for years to come. I wanted to celebrate how far we'd come in our lives. I remember there being tears on my end. I remember a lengthy conversation with my husband about how to make this work. When we finally figured out that we COULD make it work, I was so friggin' excited! I felt like the elephant sitting on my chest finally got it's fat butt off of me. We took a lot of time researching what we could do out there and what we thought the kids would enjoy the most. That three weeks flew by so quickly but I had us organized and ready to go by showtime!
We decided to drive to Colorado Springs, for many reasons, but mostly due to not wanting to deal with having to check Mallory's medical equipment. Who doesn't love a good road trip though? I remember road trips to Florida and Missouri and South Carolina when I was a kid. I thought my kids should experience it too. We left in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, knowing we had about a sixteen hour ride in front of us. We had packed most everything in the car the night before so that we could just wake up, put the kids in the car and leave. They all spent a little more time sleeping and when they woke up, we were ready with some breakfast snacks. Well, Pop-tarts, but who doesn't love a Pop-tart?
Mallory sure loves them!
All of the kids did a great job on the car ride!
And this guy right here is who works so hard to make these things happen for our family! Not to mention he drove the entire trip there and back, even though he didn't have to! I told him I would have swapped with him at any time but he knocked it out himself.
Once we finally got into town the scenery made the long drive so worth it! The kids were excited to see the mountains begin to appear along the horizon. Even the near hour long traffic delay due to an accident didn't seem to bother us. We had plenty to look at!
When we finally got to our hotel (and got some kinks worked out with our rooms) it was later than we had planned. We were all pretty tired and very hungry. Frank stepped up again and ran out to get us all some Culver's. We then turned on some cartoons and settled in for the night.
The next morning, we got cleaned up and went down to the hotel lobby for breakfast. (Thank goodness for the Hampton Inn's free breakfasts!) Not before getting a shot of the view from our hotel room!
Then it was off to have some fun! We spent a good part of the day at Garden of the Gods. The kids often talk about this place as being one of their favorite places from the trip. They loved being so up close and personal with the mountains and they loved climbing the rocks. It was also one of my favorite places because I got so many amazing photos! We looked around at the little museum there. We checked out the gift shop and ate lunch. We went hiking and climbing. Lots of sight seeing.
Here's some of the photos from day one (Garden of the Gods)!!!
She's just so cute no matter what she does!
After Garden of the Gods, we made plans to have dinner with Aunt Sue who lives not too far from where we were staying. It was so great to see a familiar face and catch up a little bit! We also paid a quick visit to Cousin Spencer's Boy Scout Camp where he was working. Our way back to the hotel from there gave us this beautiful sunset!
It was a great first day!
On the second day of Colorado Springs, we got up much like the first day. Breakfast in the hotel lobby. Mallory enjoyed a lovely bowl of Cheerios, a banana and some milk!
Then it was off to Pike's Peak! I tried to get a photo of the kids at the Pike National Forest sign but the sun was in the wrong spot, so I got this...
Can't win them all!
We began our ascent to the top of the 14,115 foot high mountain and made stops along the way to explore, walk paths and take more photos!
This was one of my favorite spots heading up the mountain. I wish I could come back in the winter and get the same photo with a snowy backdrop (and do a better job with the photo in general)!
We left our mark....
And got lots of photos on the way up!
We met this whistle pig on the side of the road. This little guy was very curious about our presence and even seemed to want to get in our car!
The view from the top was incredible!!!
We drove back down the mountain and decided it was time for some lunch. We found a pretty delicious pizza place and had a tasty meal.
After the tasty pizza, we decided we needed to go back to the hotel and have some pool time. Oddly enough, the kids were totally psyched about this. I'm being sarcastic because that's not odd at all... but why drive halfway across the country for a hotel pool, right? Haha. Because a pool in Colorado Springs is definitely better than anything in Wisconsin!
It was a great way to cap off the day!
On day three we went to the Cliff Dwellings and the Cave of Winds and ended our final day with a train ride in Cripple Creek.
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings let us walk around and explore the living environments of the Anasazi Indians.
We had a lot of fun there, but it was a pretty quick walk through.
So we headed over to the Cave of Winds next! We started our visit there with a ride on the Bat-A-Pult. Well, Andrew and I did anyway. The scenery was amazing!
Then it was into the caves. Frank stayed back with Mallory. He isn't a fan of small spaces and we figured the hour journey through the cave as well as the abnormal walking scenarios may be a little much for the Lady Bug. So, I went in with the boys! Frank grabbed this cute photo of Mallory while they were walking around outside waiting for us. She was having lots of fun pointing out all of the flowers and smelling them!
Jeremiah manned the camera through the cave and got some pretty cool photos!
By the time we got out of the cave we were all ready for a little lunch. We weren't sure whether we were going to go back to the hotel and maybe spend a little time in the pool again or if we should try to squeeze in just one more activity. We eventually decided on heading out to Cripple Creek to try and catch a train ride!
This was pretty cool as it was an old, restored steam locomotive. It took us on a pretty peaceful and scenic ride. We felt even more cool because we got to share a car with some Hell's Angels!
We did have lots of soot on us by the time the ride was over but the kids had fun, their favorite part being Echo Valley. The conductor stopped the train at the Valley and blew the horn and you could hear it echo, you know... hence the name 'Echo Valley'... haha. It was pretty neat!
The next morning we packed everything up and made the long journey back home. The entire vacation was amazing. The kids spent lots of time talking about Colorado after we came back home. They even wrote papers about it. Frank and I loved it so much that we even considered moving to Colorado. I guess that's probably what most people say when they come home from a vacation, "wouldn't it be amazing to live there?". I suppose that's the great thing about vacations. You get to remove yourself from the normal every day and experience some new things. You get to make memories with your children that they will carry with them, hopefully, forever. I feel very fortunate we were able to take this trip and I hope we can go back again!