Mountain Hiking – Good for My Soul

‘He put an arm around me and we looked out, feeling the mystifying affinity with the universe that mountain trails can bring.

“When we get back home and life gets busy again, we have to stop and remember how we feel right at this moment.”‘ – The Gratitude Diaries

Hiking is good for the soul
Hiking pre-children with my husband.

Do you dwell in your favorite vacation memories? Today, I’m stopping and remembering what it is like to hike a long mountain trail with my husband. We are lucky to go to our favorite place (Rocky Mountain National Park) pretty often. I’m glad we get to share these experiences with our little ones. We can’t hike as far, but it’s a new adventure each time.  I’m counting down the days until our family is back breathing in the mountain air!

Sometimes You Have to Say ‘No’ so You Can Say ‘Yes’ to Dream Vacations!

Weddings, bachelorette parties, wedding showers, baby showers, kids birthday parties, friends birthdays, house-warming parties, family visits…. this summer is booked. I don’t want the invitations to stop because I want to be present in my loved ones’ lives. However, I can’t attend everything and still have enough time and money to go on great vacations. The big question I’ve been wrestling with is, when should I say ‘no’?

Know Yourself– One of my favorite podcasts is ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’. Gretchen and her sister Liz frequently ask thought-provoking questions that help listeners know themselves better. My question is based on a belief that people view booked calendars in different ways. Does a booked calendar excite you or leave you feeling stressed out?

Know What You Want– In his book, Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, author Greg McKeown speaks of the advantages of clarifying your top priority. If you want to prioritize a vacation, write down the concrete objective such as, ‘I want to take a week-long trip to Estes Park this summer with my immediate family’. Sharing your goal with others is a great way to gracefully decline events and combat your fears of missing out. Try saying, “Thank you for thinking of me, I would love to go to your birthday dinner but I’m saving money for my dream trip to Australia.”

How Do You Know What You Want? Listen to your body’s reaction to an invitation suggested Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of  Wild and co-host of ‘Dear Sugars’ in her two-part podcast titled “The Power of No”. The podcast featured an interview with Oprah who admits struggling with saying ‘no’ for years. Oprah spoke of the importance of asking yourself the intention behind your actions. If you are accepting an invitation because you want to be seen as a nice person, that’s not a good reason.

Don’t Become A Resentful Friend and Family Member– a ‘Catholic Stuff You Should Know’ podcast – episode, “Kristen’s Resentment” helped me to see that feeling out of control leads to resentment which is toxic to long-term relationships and leads to feelings of revenge, anger, malice and envy.

Consider Other Ways to Show You Care –  You can offer to watch a friend’s pet when they go on a honeymoon; watch their kids so they can go out on a special anniversary dinner; bring them soup if they are filling ill; or send them a postcard from your vacation destination.

Pay Yourself First – it’s a popular financial investment idea but can be applied to vacations if they are an important investment to your life. Fill out that vacation request today and fill in other activities around it.

Our Adventure on The Estes Park Aerial Tramway

Iconic red trams go up and down Prospect Mountain over Estes Park, Colorado. According to their website, the Estes Park Aerial Tramway was built by Robert Heron who gained experience during World War II and studied tramway design in Europe. The Estes Park tramway opened to the public in 1955 and has safely carried over 3 million people! The tramway is still owned by the Heron family.

Our Trip on The Estes Park Aerial Tramway

The lines can get long for this popular attraction. The website suggests going in early morning or late afternoon. Our line wasn’t bad because we went early in the season, but according to some reviewers on Travel Advisor, getting there before the doors open is optimal. The 2017 tramway schedule is: 9 am to 6 pm from May 27th through September 4th.

lines for estes park aerial tramway

The tickets are $14 for each adult. Our kids are both under 5, so they rode free. It’s hard to guess how children will react to heights, crowded spaces and strangers. I was a little nervous but mostly excited when we boarded our tram with a few fellow visitors. The kiddos both did great. The windows were open which was nice for airflow. I held on extra tight to them and let bigger kids and adults stand closer to the windows. The ride was fast and smooth.

views from estes park tramway

At the top we enjoyed sweeping views from the platform, looking around the small souvenir shop, sipping our drinks and sharing cookies at the Tram Top Coffee Shop and hiking around the family-friendly trails a bit.

prospect mountain estes park aerial tramway

chipmunks estes park aerial tramway

The coffee shop stays open until 5 pm, but peanuts are sold until 5:30 pm. Chipmunks are friendly up on Prospect Mountain and I’ve read they may eat peanuts right from your hands. I’m sure our toddler would love that!

tram top coffee shop

hiking estes park aerial tramway

On the way back down the mountain there was a misting rain so the windows to the tram were shut. If weather gets bad the trams shut down until it clears to ensure rider safety, so make sure to pay attention to the weather forecast.

kid friendly activities Estes Park, Colorado CO

The Estes Park Tramway is located at 420 Riverside Drive in Estes Park, CO. You can learn more about the history, pricing and even wedding information at http://www.estestram.com.

A Trail Less Traveled

Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular vacation destination. The month of July is especially busy. According to an article in the Coloradoan, a record 912,507 people visited the park in July 2016.

In my last post I mentioned that crowds were one of my least favorite parts of our July trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the solutions for us was finding less popular trails. One morning we woke up a little late and couldn’t find parking at Bear Lake, Glacier Gorge, Bierstadt or even the Park and Ride. I’m glad we didn’t give up looking, because we eventually found a spot near Sprague Lake.

We decided to give it a go and hike from Sprague Lake to the Glacier Gorge trailhead via the Glacier Creek Trail. If you are in the parking lot and looking towards the lake, you will find the trailhead to your right. From here, head uphill and follow signs leading to Bear Lake.

The further we hiked, the prettier this trail became. Two miles in we discovered a little lake covered in lily pads blooming with yellow flowers. My daughter nicknamed it Minnie Mouse Lake.

Lake on Glacier Creek Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

We also passed over a wooden bridge with a roaring mountain stream classified as a ‘loud waterfall’ by our toddler.

Roaring Mountain Stream in Rocky Mountain National Park

We turned around 2.8 miles into our hike. If we continued we would have made it to Bear Lake or Alberta Falls in less than a mile. The return hike was even more enjoyable because it was a downhill slope.

Trail Signs Rocky Mountain National Park

We really enjoyed our hike and will keep this less trafficked trail in mind for days when the park is busy!

Hiking with Kids Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Gear Highlight – Hiking Boots: The dusty first section of this hike inspired me to ditch my running shoes and buy new hiking boots with good wool hiking socks. In downtown Estes Park I noticed a sale sign on the window of Plum Creek Shoe Station. The selection of boots and customer service was amazing. I was given options in my price range that fit the hikes we go on. I’m so glad I bought from a local shop so I could ask questions rather than buying online. Having good hiking boots and socks that fit makes a world of difference!

Get the Most out of Your Rocky Mountain Vacation by Avoiding Crowds, Bugs and Carsick Kiddos

If you are planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, you are going to create wonderful family memories. My whole website is dedicated to how amazing I think Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are.  I think it’s also helpful to know the less than spectacular parts of a destination that might come up so you can plan ahead.

#1: Crowds – I’m not the only one that loves the Rocky Mountains. I have to share my favorite place with a ton of fellow tourists who come when it’s most convenient – holidays and weekends. That means during these busy times, we have to wake up super early and try to get the kiddos packed and fed so we can get into the park before 7AM. That sounds terrible, but it’s worth it especially if we are trying to find a parking space near some of the most popular destinations like Bear Lake and Alberta Falls.

How to avoid the crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • hike in less popular destinations
  • go (really) early in the morning
  • hike on week days
  • pre-purchase your park pass online
  • help lines run faster by asking questions at the visitors centers instead of the park entrances
  • ride the shuttles

#2: Mosquitos – I don’t think I’m alone in my hatred of mosquitos. I noticed more of them on our trip this July, especially in hikes around lakes such as Bear Lake and rivers such as our trip from Fern Lake trailhead to The Pool. You might not want to avoid these beautiful destinations on your trip, so my suggestion is to wear bug spray. If you have babies and are breast-feeding like I am, go for sprays without DEET.

If anyone has a favorite brand of natural bug spray that works, let me know! 

#3: Less wildlife – Compared to May and October, I feel like we saw less wildlife on our trip this July. We got to see an elk really close up on Old Fall River Road and two moose near Grand Lake, so this ‘complaint’ is pretty minor. Could be the warm weather? Could be the crowds? Male Elk off Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

#4: Carsick Kiddos – Winding mountain roads sometimes make my toddler car sick. This time we weren’t prepared and the cleanup was awful. Next time we go on a trip to the mountains I’m bringing a carsick kit with:

  • bucket
  • towels
  • Clorox wipes
  • trash bags
  • bottle of water
  • change of clothes for everyone
  • pretzels/saltines/ginger snacks

Waterfalls, Wildflowers, Weather and Wine – Why I love the Rocky Mountains in July

The Best of Rocky Mountain National Park in July

We just got back from a trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park and I already miss it! Here are the 4 things I loved most from our July trip to the Rocky Mountains:

#1: Weather – it’s hot, hot, hot back home in Kansas City. The mountains welcomed us with sunshine, cooler breezes and the occasional refreshing rain storm.

#2: Waterfalls – in the early part of summer the snowmelt is still strong, creating impressive displays.

Alluvial Fan
Alluvial Fan
Chasm Falls
Chasm Falls off Old Fall River Road
Wild Basin Waterfall
Wild Basin Waterfall
Waterfall near Alberta Falls
Off trail waterfall near Alberta Falls

#3: Wildflowers – blooms in yellow, white, purple, blue, red and pink created colorful carpets beneath scenic mountain landscapes and surrounding our favorite lakes.

Wildflowers near Horseshoe Park
Wildflowers near Horseshoe Park
Flowers Near Lily Lake
Flowers near Lily Lake
We love wildflowers
We love Rocky Mountain wildflowers

#4: Wine – the wine at Snowy Peaks Winery in downtown Estes Park, Colorado tastes even more delicious when your toddler is happily playing in the adjacent children’s area.

Snowy Peaks Winery and tasting room in Estes Park, Colorado
Snowy Peaks Winery and tasting room in Estes Park, Colorado

Snowy Peaks Winery in Estes Park Colorado

Planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park? Later this week I’ll let you know about my least favorite parts of our trip and how you can avoid them.

Estes Park Summer Bucket List

My Dad always said planning a trip is sometimes more fun than the actual vacation itself. I don’t know if that’s always the case, but I love to research fun, new activities to do on our famiy’s trips to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I never run out of options because there is so much to do in this quaint mountain town and in the nearby National Park. Here are some of the top things on our Estes Park Summer Bucket List in 2017:

Eat an ice cream cone at Hayley’s

The delicious smell of waffle cones wafts out the door as you enter our favorite ice cream shop. It’s tiny inside so we choose our favorite flavor and take it outside on a stroll down the river walk. Hayley’s is located at 102 W. Elkhorn Avenue in downtown Estes Park, Colorado.

Best Icecream in Estes Park, Colorado

Pikas in the Park

What’s cuter than a pika? nothing! I’m so excited to participate in this new scavenger hunt activity. Just download an activity guide at visitestespark.com and start looking for 12 bronze pika sculptures in downtown Estes Park.

Be a Junior Ranger

We will head to the Fall River Visitor Center to pickup the Junior Ranger packet for kids 5 and under (they have packets designed for older kids too). The visitor center is open from 9am-5pm every day during the summer. You can pick up packets at any of the park’s visitor centers. Here is a link for more information about Rocky Mountain National Park visitors centers locations and hours. You can find more information about their Junior Park Ranger program here.

Bonus: While we are at the Fall River Visitor Center, we will enjoy a delicious breakfast and spectacular views at the attached Trailhead Restaurant. After dining, we will let our toddler play at the little playground right outside to burn off some endless energy.

rocky mountain national park visitor center playground area

Go on a boat ride

We want to spend some time on the water. Last year we rented a pontoon boat for a half hour ride on Lake Estes. This short amount of time was perfect for our little one’s first boat ride. Lake Estes is beautiful, conveniently located and rentals are fairly inexpensive. The marina website has rental information listed.

Another option is to drive over Trail Ridge Road to get to Grand Lake. The drive could take an hour or two depending on traffic. The boat rentals seem to cost a little more on this side of the mountain and I haven’t found rental options for under an hour. But, it’s always fun to try something new and we could easily make this a full day trip with stops along Trail Ridge Road and visiting attractions in the town of Grand Lake, CO. Two marinas we are considering renting boats from are Trail Ridge Marina  or Grand Lake Marina.

Rent Boat at Lake Estes Marina

Enjoy a Rocky Mountain waterfall

There are many amazing waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park. This year Chasm Falls is on the top of my list. The falls are located right off of  Old Fall River Road, a one-way gravel road which travels all the way up to an elevation of 11,796 ft at the Alpine Visitors Center. The road is scenic and enjoyed at a leisurely pace (15 miles per hour speed limit). It’s a good idea to check park Road Status Reports before heading up.

Gaze at the stars

One of the best things about being further away from the city is being able to see stars light up the night sky. We are excited to attend a “Stories Behind the Moon & the Stars” program at the Moraine Valley Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. The events will take place around 8:00 on Fridays June 30, July 7, August 4 and August 11 in 2017. You can learn more at angelsabove.org

Hike to a mountain lake 

It’s hard to pick a favorite mountain lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, but this year we are going to attempt a family hike to Mills Lake. The roundtrip journey is roughly six miles. We can start at the Bear Lake trailhead and pass by Alberta Falls on our way up.

Mills Lake RMNP

Watch fireworks

We are going to grab some lawn chairs and watch a spectacular fireworks show over Lake Estes on July 4th. The event begins at 9:30PM.

What are you looking forward to this summer? I’d love to hear about your bucket list!