Colorado Saturday 3 June 2017

Mom, Dad, and I flew to Denver this morning from Nashville. Derek, Jenni, and Eleanor flew there from Louisville. Ruth gave them a ride there. Both flights arrived early and Louisville flight arrived only a few mins after us. We met them outside their gate, picked up our luggage and went to Hertz to get our 2 cars. We rented a Nissan Quest minivan and a Toyota Camry. When Mom added all of us to vehicles and I filled out my paperwork, I found out that my license expired when I turned 25. So I can’t drive this trip, but oh well.

We drove from the airport to The Bagel Delicatessan (or The Bagel Deli & Restaurant) in Denver that was on the way. I navigated for Derek and Jenni in the minivan. I found it from the Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives list online. It’s a Jewish Deli and everyone liked it. Mom and I shared a corned beef sandwich and I got a potato knish. Dad did too along with chicken noodle soup (Derek and Jenni did too). Eleanor ate fries. Derek got a bagel with strawberry cream cheese which was really good. Jenni got some kind of sandwich. After the meal we bought other stuff from the deli including 7 bagels of various types, chicken noodle soup with motza balls, Jewish rye bread, and Plain Kichel.

From there we drove to Colorado Springs. I again rode with Derek and Jenni. We looked around the house and moved the luggage to our bedrooms. Soon enough, Dad, Jenni, and I hiked around Pulpit Rock open area, which is in the backyard of our house. We should’ve walked down the street first but didn’t. We went on a trail in the backyard, but there were a good number of parts where there wasn’t really a trail at all. On the bright side we got to see lots of wildflowers. Eventually we met up with the main trail. We did a good amount of the main loop, but took 2 shortcuts. One was intentional and one was accidental. It was a good hike with a lot of varied terrain. There was good views from Pulpit Rock.

When we got back to the house Derek, Mom, and Eleanor had gone to a few grocery stores to get supplies. Derek and Jenni fed Eleanor yogurt (yowi) and took her to bed. For dinner Dad cooked some broccoli and also a mix of small potatoes, onion and bell pepper. I chopped all of it and he cooked it. Derek also ate some soup from the deli since he’s still sick and he also had some tea.

Colorado Sunday 4 June 2017

Dad and I left first to go to Garden of the Gods. We stopped at the visitor center to get a trail map and see if there was a trail we could do, and what we should do once the rest of the group got there. One of the workers told us to do Central Garden with the group. The Visitor Center is located on the Upper Terrace, which gives a good view of Pikes Peak. We took some pictures in the good morning light and left.

Dad and I left to do a trail, but when we got to the parking lot Derek, Jenni, Eleanor, and Mom had arrived at the Visitor Center and needed the stroller that was in our car, so Dad drove back to meet them. I did the Siamese Twins Trail, an easy 1 mile loop with 150ft elevation. I saw the Siamese Twins monument and took pictures of it and Pikes Peak through the window of it in the great morning light.

At the Visitor Center Derek, Jenni, Eleanor and Mom stood on the upper Terrace and glanced at exhibits before Dad got there.

Derek, Jenni, Eleanor and Mom went to the Central Garden. Mom stayed in the car while the others hiked it, an easy paved trail with Eleanor in the stroller. Dad picked me up from my hike and we went to park for Central Garden. By this time the park had gotten very full and we had to circle around to get a space in the lot. We saw Derek, Jenni, and Eleanor on the hike as they were going out. There was a pretty cool dirt trail Dad and I went on, which was our fav part. Another good view of Pikes Peak and some red rock. I got my first good view of the Manitou Incline there.

When Derek, Jenni, and Eleanor got back from their hike, they went to the Trading Post. Eleanor played with some rocks and flowers. They saw ppl horseback riding on a guided tour. When Dad and I finished Central Garden we met them at the Trading Post and ate lunch. Balanced Rock Cafe is known for bison burgers so a lot of us got one of those. I got a southwest version of it which had a good poblano pepper. Eleanor of course got fries, and the onion rings were pretty good too. Their chips were not. Dad’s veggie wrap were good.

After lunch, Mom, Derek, and Eleanor headed back to the house since Elenor needed a nap. Dad, Jenni, and I took pictures of Balanced Rock as we headed out of the park. We went to Red Rock Canyon Open Space and did a hike. We took Mesa Trail out and Greenlee trail back to the car. We walked about 2.75 miles with 370ft elevation change.

After that we headed back to the house. All of us went to REI for Jenni and Derek to get hiking shoes. My parents payed as early birthday presents for both of them. We went to Sprouts for groceries and had chicken and frozen vegetables for dinner.

Colorado Monday 5 June 2017

We all left the house earlier around 7:20 to drive up Pikes Peak. When we arrived at the toll booth to pay, they gave us some brochures. We stopped a couple times going up but not that much. It’s a 20 mile drive up with great views. Everyone had their ears popping a lot. Mine did too, but probably not as much as everyone else’s. Dad drove at first, then Mom drove the rest of the way. There was the Summit House at the top, which was a gift shop with some food. We took pictures on the observation dock on the right side of summit house. Eleanor kicked around some cigarette butts so apparently some people smoked, despite the elevation. I also walked on the snow on the left of summit house to get some pictures.

Mom drove on the way down and we stopped a lot more at the pullouts to enjoy great views. The visitor center close to the bottom was another gift shop as well. Derek really needed to pee going down so he went in a gatorade bottle lol. We were able to see the Rocky Mountains in the distance going up and down Pikes Peak.

We went to Caves of the Wind to eat at the cafe. Derek wasn’t feeling well and Eleanor needed a nap so they and Jenni went back to the house in one car while my parents and I kept the other car. The cafe there was just ok, and lower quality, not like the Balanced Rock Cafe. After a late lunch Mom and I did the Terror-dactyl while dad watched. The first drop was completely awesome, a great adrenaline rush. I screamed and Mom didn’t. After that it wasn’t very trill seeking. It was still cool to look around of the scenery while we were hanging directly over Williams Canyon.  It was all about the first drop. All 3 of us watched the video of Mom and me afterwards, but didn’t feel the need to buy it.  Besides, Dad took an iPhone video of us.

These 2 girls went after us and one of them only weighed 96 pounds, so she didn’t meet the 100 lb minimum requirement. We let her borrow all 3 of our jackets, which let her be 100.8 lbs so she ride. Dad took a video of them riding it, and eventually sent it to one of them via airdrop.

I took pictures of Williams Canyon and we lounged around while we waited for the Lantern Tour of the Cave to start. The Lantern Tour was very good. You carry a lantern through a dark cave, so it’s a different experience than the usual lit cave tour. The first 200 ft, we bent over at the waist due to the top of the cave being short. The rest was fine and it made it interesting. The tour guide gave a lot of information about the history of the cave including who found it, and his friends and wife. There were a lot of ghost stories that were told about how you can see/hear them sometimes ha. Our guide was a great storyteller and he was pretty entertaining. Mom had a little trouble due to her knees, but she had a trekking pole to help her out.

We headed back to the house for the night and ordered Papa Murphy’s pizza.

Colorado Tuesday 6 June 2017

Derek had a fever yesterday and wasn’t feeling well, so he, Jenni and Mom decided to take it easy today. Derek, Jenni, and Eleanor went to the doctor and he got antibiotics and cough pills.

Dad and I went to do the Palmer Trail (section 16) Loop. It’s 5.2 miles with 2,119 ft elevation change (that includes every time you go uphill, not high-low point). We took the trail right first, as there was an uphill part we wanted to do closer to the beginning of the hike. There was a pretty uphill part for a while (about 900ft over little less than a mile). I had to go slower on it than I would in TN, due to the elevation here. However, I didn’t have to stop. Though Dad stayed behind me, he didn’t have to stop either. I saw him a decent amount of times on straightaways or when I turned for a switchback. After the climb I took a picture of the view. We stayed level for a while and eventually went back down.

With only about 1/4 of the trail left, we started getting turned around. The All Trails app map I had showed us not being on the trail. On Dad’s phone it didn’t either. A lot of times the phone’s gps on it would have us on different trails. He ended up using another app to get us out. We’d turn one way, realize we were going wrong way or had already been on that part of trail, then turn around. We ended up taking a dirt road and then paved road back to the parking lot. It added almost an hour to our hike and we walked a little over a mile more due to this confusion. It was because they had part of the former trail blocked off “due to restoration” and didn’t give another route to take.

Once back to the car, we decided to head to Garden of the Gods for more hiking there. Stopped at Visitor Center to get another trail map. We did the Ridge Trail Loop 1/2 mile roundtrip with less than 150ft rise. It gave us the feeling of being among the red rock, and let us view the other side of Sleeping Giant.

On the other side of the street, we hiked some of the mountain biking trails. There actually weren’t that many bikers on it and we saw some other hikers as well. We did the trails on the edge of the park, so right on the border between civilization and park. We saw the visitor center from part of the trail. A Park ranger had told us there were lots of fossils on the rock on this trail and told us a little about geology of how rock in the park was formed. I’m sure he’s right about the fossils, but Dad was only able to spot one and I didn’t see any. It was good just to walk around though. We headed back to the house stopping at drug store and grocery store along the way. We got all our stuff inside the house just before the rain hit.

Derek had made Tuna Casserole while Dad and I were out. We had some after getting back as a late lunch, and it was good. Jenni and Dad looked at her pictures and talked photography. I looked at some of them as well as Garden of the Gods and Colorado picture books in the house. For dinner we had Stouffers frozen lasagna and Kale. Derek did the lasagna, while Dad and I did the Kale and garlic bread.

When it started getting dark, Jenni and Dad set up his tripod on the deck for long exposure pictures of small sunset and night/late dusk pictures. I tried a few pics with it on mine, but for the most part they used it. Derek and I set up the ping pong table. We played 3 games with breaks in between. He beat me all 3 times, but it was very fun getting to play again after all this time. I played one game with Dad and beat him pretty bad. The 3rd game I played with Derek, Jenni was watching with Dad taking pictures. Jenni’s reactions were pretty funny.

Colorado Wednesday 7 June 2017

Everyone left to go to Helen Hunt Falls. Dad brought his tripod for taking long exposure pictures. We stayed around the waterfall, both at the bottom and top, for a while. There weren’t that many stairs to the top. We tried to take a family picture at the beginning of the trail, but it was hard to get everyone to sit down and there were too many people passing by.

At the falls, I saw a sign saying there was 1/3 mile trail at the top of the falls. I thought just Dad and I would go on it, but surprisingly everyone hiked it, at their own pace of course. There was a small cascade at the end of the trail that Dad, Jenni and I took long exposure pictures of. We got some family pictures up there as well. We headed back down and looked in the shop they had at the bottom of the falls.

Derek, Jenni, Eleanor, and Mom wanted to get lunch so they parked in the lot for Seven Falls, and went to a restuarant in the Broadmoor called the Golden Bee. Derek had scotch eggs, a hard boiled egg with sausage and a fried breading around it, which was really good. Then they took the shuttle to Seven Falls, and took the tram.

Wanting to beat the rain, Dad and I went straight to Seven Falls after Helen Hunt Falls. We parked in the same lot as the others, but took the shuttle while they ate. The shuttle dropped us off and we bought tickets. There was still a walk to the falls on the paved road. There was a “tram” on the ground that you could pay extra to take to the falls. Dad and I just walked. Each of the seven falls had different names, and we took a few pictures by them. Wanting to train for The Incline though, once I started walking the 200 something stairs, I didn’t stop until I got to the top, other than when I got caught up behind ppl in front of me at the end.

We did the Inspiration Point trail at the top. It was a mile long and seemed to climb the mountain a decent amount. This was good to get my heart rate up as well. We went back and did the Midnight Falls Trail, an easier 1/2 mile trail that was much flatter. We took pictures of this waterfall and just as we were turning around, we saw Jenni coming. We were surprised, since we weren’t expecting to see her. They took a few more pictures but it had just started to rain. Once we got back to Seven Falls going down the stairs, the rain picked up. Jenni and I headed down faster, while Dad took his time taking pictures despite the rain. I took a couple on the way down, since I didn’t stop going up, but only a few because of the rain. I met Derek, Jenni, Eleanor, and Mom under the pavilion at the bottom, while we waited just a few mins for rain to pass.

It stopped but I was afraid it was going to rain more, so I initiated walking back to take the shuttle. We were running back to the car, just as it started to rain harder again. Since we hadn’t had lunch yet, we went to El Super Taco, a local mexican restaurant. It was casual dining and the menu really looked like a legit mexican place. There was some stuff on the menu I didn’t know what it was. Dad and I each got a fish taco and I also got a tostada, while he got a tamale. They had a counter where they had limes and some pretty spicy pepper I took, among other things. You could pick your salsa at the countertop. I was in a rush towards the end of the meal, to make the Olympic Training Center tour, and forgot to take pictures of the food and menu when it came out.

We went to the Olympic Training Center for a tour. It started out with a video of olympic moments. Then we walked around to a few different buildings. There was a high altitude room people train in, which probably would’ve helped us for Pikes Peak. This facility does Men’s Gymnastics, Men’s and Women’s Swimming, Boxing, Wrestling, Fencing, etc. They do 10 sports of the 40 or 50 something total olympic sports. Mostly indoor summer sports. They had flags from many countries along the sidewalks outside. Dad got a hat there, as he’s needed a new one the whole trip and these were only $5.

Next we went to Garden of the Gods to watch the Geo-Trekker video they have about geology of how the rocks formed. Not all of it was understandable to me at first but what one of the rangers said the other day gave me a general idea. Dad told me a little more after the video.  We looked around at the exhibits after the video. I learned more about the Utes (Navajo Indians are descendents of them), plants, and geology. We stopped at a Albertsons and Walgreens on the way home. This was my first time in an Albertsons.

After Seven Falls, Derek, Jenni, Eleanor and Mom went back to the house and took naps. Jenni, Eleanor, and Mom went to Sees Candy and Goodwill. This was Jenni’s first time at a Sees Candy and she really liked it. They played with Eleanor using chalk on the sidewalk.

When Dad and I got home, Derek and Jenni were playing ping pong. All of us ate leftovers. I played ping pong again with Derek. Two games and he beat me again of course.

Colorado Thursday 8 June 2017

Derek, Jenni, Dad and I left at 8:30am to go to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  We took two cars so we could split up after the zoo if we wanted.  Mom wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed home.

We arrived at the zoo at opening time, 9:00am.  After purchasing tickets, we headed to the aerial tram to get an overview of the park.

After that we visited exhibits until 3:00pm.  We went to one of their talks/shows of the snow leopards, which was cool. Eleanor ended up crying during it though.  There was just a little bit of rain later when we were all hungry. We ate at a place in the zoo that wasn’t just your typical zoo food. I got a burger with a pepper on it, and side of vegetables and hummus. Dad got a southwest salad with cornbread crutons. Derek and Jenni got burgers with chips. Eleanor ate pretty good this meal.

Of all the animal exhibits we saw, the giraffes were the most memorable.  We were able to touch, pet and feed the giraffes.  Eleanor was able to feed them and seemed to really enjoy it. Jenni fed them some too. The rest of us took pictures and videos of them. We were able to get close to a lot of animals at this zoo. Overall, they were a lot closer than normal to us, whih was cool.

After the zoo, we went to the Will Rogers Memorial.  We were surprised that it was a six floor building dedicated to Will Rogers’ life.  We’d also seen if from lower when we were at the zoo though. The views from the various parts of the memorial were spectacular. You’d stand in one spot and see completely flat plains, while you look the other way seeing big mountains.

After the memorial, Derek, Jenni and Eleanor went back to the house.  Dad and I stopped at Garden of the Gods Visitor Center to buy souvenirs at the gift shop. I got a shot glass and playing cards.

We returned home and got ready to head to Rasta Pasta in downtown Colorado Springs.  Dad, Jenni, and I ended up getting the same meal, jsut different versions of it, such as spice level and what protein. After a good meal there, we headed back home to finish the day looking at the days’ pictures and playing a few games of ping pong.

Colorado Friday 9 June 2017

Mom went to the doctor. She was afraid she had strep throat, but she didn’t. They said she had allergies and a virus. After Derek and Jenni got back from Manitou Springs, she hung out with Eleanor and Derek at the house. Jenni took a nap.

Derek and Jenni watched Eleanor while Mom went to the doctor. When she got back, Derek and Jenni went the fancy Goodwill Dad and I saw the other day. It had a cafe and separated the name brand stuff. It also had a hiking section. It looked very nice but Jenni didn’t think the selection was any better than another Goodwill. She bought a shirt and skirt.

Derek and Jenni went to Uncle Sam’s Pancake House for lunch. Jenni got all you can eat pancakes and french toast. The pancakes were wonderful, french toast was just ok. Derek got a burger. Eleanor wouldn’t eat a bite of her food before they gave her a french fry. She screamed and she eventually did take a bite after Jenni took her outside. They walked around downtown Manitou Springs. Outside one of the mineral springs, they had some car ride toys that took change. Eleanor rode an airplane for 1 min and drove a car for 1 min. They didn’t make it very far with the heat. They tried to go to an arcade but strollers weren’t allowed. Tried to get ice cream but they were out of the strawberry they wanted, so they went home.

When I got up in the morning, Dad drove me to the Manitou Incline. It is a trail that goes straight up 2,000ft in less than a mile. I took the Barr trail down which is 3 miles. By the time I stretched, took pics from the bottom, etc. it was 8:15 when I actually started the trail. I got to the top at 9:20 so it only took one hour and five mins; less than I thought. It was stairs the whole way, as far as you could see.  It started out not as steep then got steeper. There were a lot of people on this trail. There were only a few ppl on it that looked above 40. For the most part it was a younger crowd.  I did tortoise and the hare with one guy there. I heard another guy say he did the Incline 2 times a week. It was funny cause he’d walk fast ahead of me, then wait for his 2 guy friends to catch up. He didn’t seem to mind, since he does it all the time. Said he respects anyone that does the trail. It didn’t seem like I stopped as often as other people. I did stop sometimes, but only briefly to get water, take a picture, etc. I didn’t stop long enough to let my heart rate go down too much.  People didn’t talk that much to me on the trail, but they were very nice. When I got to the top, I was confused thinking it was the false summit that I missed earlier. That explains why the last few steps seemed steeper than the rest. People were right there saying “congratulations”, “you made it”, etc. I saw the top of Pikes Peak as well as many forest mountain views, and good view of the city. The walk back down was pretty. I stopped and took pictures more than going up.  Saw Red Rock Canyon, Garden of the Gods, the cog railway parking lot, as well as other things. I did the Barr trail faster as I went on. It was not as crowded as the Incline going up.

After Dad dropped me off at the Incline he went to Garden of the Gods and did the Siamese Twins Trail. He got to see it in the good morning light like I did. Then went to Central Garden and walked around the paved trails a lot in the good morning light.

Dad picked me up and tried to solve the problem of my camera sd card not having enough space left on it, when I hadn’t moved over the pics from yesterday to my laptop. We ended up going to a Best Buy by the interstate exit north of the house, and got a bigger sd card. Then we went to the Carl’s Jr. close to the house. Their menu was different than Hardee’s but at the same time similar. They didn’t have the mexican stuff the way Hardees does. I got their basic burger combo. The fries tasted similar to Hardees, though not as thick. The burger tasted like Hardees. Dad just got onion rings.

He went to the house to pick up some things for me, and took me to the zip line parking lot, the same lot we parked in for Seven Falls. I borrowed some sunscreen from some people and checked it at the booth. There were 2 couples on the trip, so 5 of us total, with 2 guides. Once I got the hang of it again, it was easy. I did the combo course, their most expensive one. We did all of the woods course, and the best 3 of the more adventurous fins course (skipping the starter baby first 2). The first zip line we did in the woods course was wimpy but it got better. We stayed in the woods above mountains. We started in private Broadmoor property, and gradually went into the Seven Falls public area.  The 2nd longest zip line I was looking over Midnight Falls that I hiked to yesterday. Was going fast but then the wind started turning me sideways and I wasnt able to correct it. I stopped short and had to go by hand a little ways, no big deal.  Later we were at one of the overlook stops to Inspiration Point. We got off the platform and hiked that last part of the trail to the point, where we got on another platform. On the Fins course we walked on 2 bridges to get to get to one of the platforms. They explained that the platform didn’t go all the way to the bottom and was actually held in by steel screwed into the rock.  Other people were scared on the bridges and various things but I wasn’t. At one point we sat down on the rocks and let our feet dangle over the edge.  We were over the rocks in the Seven Falls area after the shuttle ride, before the falls, on that road.  We crossed the road a couple times.  I liked both guides pretty well. Since I was the one with no fear, I went first on the repel. Apparently Seven Falls admission is included in the ziplining cost. I went to the rock store at the top of some stairs that we didn’t get to go to the other day due to the rain. It was pretty cool. I definitely did more hiking in the zip lining thing than I’d planned on after the incline, but it was fine. After seeing the rock store, and Seven Falls from a different view, I took the “tram” and shuttle back to the parking lot where Dad was.

When Dad picked me up after the zipline, we went to Manitou Springs for me to pick out an Incline souvenir shirt. I got it from a place that made the shirts themselves and printed the picture/words on there, which idk if I’ve ever had a shirt like that before. It was pretty cool.

Once I got home we had leftovers in the fridge. My parents got me a raspberry mousse/cake while I was ziplining that said, “Incline? No problem!”. Had some white wine, and all of it was celebratory.

Colorado Saturday 10 Jun 2017

Packing day. But first, Jenni, Derek, Teagan and Eleanor went to the Garden of the Gods for some last-minute recreation and gift-buying. Richard and Linda worked on packing at the house.

When the Garden of the Gods group returned, it was a real packing frenzy interrupted occasionally with dessert breaks to finish up Teagan’s celebratory Incline mousse cake from the night before.

The full group convened on the upper deck for attempts at a family picture with a backdrop of the Front Range/Pikes Peak around 12:15pm. The harsh noon Colorado sun with fill-flash produced mixed results.

Teagan and Richard took off to visit the Air Force Academy while the rest finished packing. Teagan and Richard watched the 21-minute movie about a year in the life of a cadet at the Visitor Center before proceeding to the Cadet Chapel. The Chapel is essentially an A-frame building festooned with number of tetrahedra (as explained in the Visitor Center) to produce an amazing architectural wonder.

The full group reconvened at Bagel Deli in Denver to relive the excellent visit from last Saturday. Matza ball soups, chicken noodle soups, latkes, knishes, kishkes, and breakfast burgers were flying.

After the meal, everyone headed to the airport. Derek, Jenni, Teagan and Eleanor were dropped off at the airport while Linda and Richard returned the rental cars. The Lexington group had a flight 15 minutes earlier than the Nashville group, so they proceeded to TSA first. They hit a few snags and ended up barely making their flight. Things went more smoothly for the Nashville group, but we all returned home safely.