A week ago, Kevin and I headed out to Colorado for an engagement session (it was so gorgeous; see it here!). This was the first time that we have both left Henry overnight since he was born, save that one time last New Year’s when we got the flu and my mom took Henry to their house to keep him away from us since we were both unable to even stand up. I won’t lie; leading up to the trip, I was sick with anxiety. I knew he’d be fine at my parent’s house, but leaving him was nevertheless incredibly difficult.
Thankfully, once we hit the ground in Denver, we kept our schedule really, really busy so I was able to stay distracted. We flew into Denver Thursday night, grabbed our rental car, and headed to our hotel for some sleep. Friday morning, we got up early and grabbed some breakfast on our way out of town as we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. The weather in Denver was unseasonably warm (low 70s during the day!), but thankfully we had thrown in some hats and gloves because the temperatures out on the trails and up in the mountains were much lower. We started our hike at the Bear Lake trailhead, where the early morning temperature was about 19 degrees. It stayed pretty brisk with the combination of the day warming up and us climbing higher, but back down at base, it felt great in the mid-40s!
We hiked all morning and ate lunch on the trail before heading back. In the early afternoon when we got back to our car, we drove to another trailhead, Fern Lake, to hike some more. By the time we reached The Pool, we knew we were losing sunlight and that it would get cold really quickly. We had gotten that far though, so we decided to hike another 1.8 miles to the falls. Little did we know that it was a really difficult hike with a steep incline and very rocky path. When we finally made it to the falls, we were able to rest for only a couple of minutes before quickly heading back down. We joked that we felt like the people who climb Mount Everest; after all that, they can only stay there for about 5 minutes before going back down. I also thought that maybe we should’ve planted a flag up there.
We got back to the car just as the sun was starting to dip. We were sore everywhere. My kneecaps were burning. I’ve never experienced that before. My shoulders and neck were sharp with pain (we had to constantly be looking down at our feet to watch our next steps). We ended up hiking almost 16 miles through the mountains that day with over 33,000 steps (my total for the day was 34,114 steps). As with any extensive hiking, even with our bodies being done, the views we had seen during the day were absolutely spectacular. And the snow that I ate to refresh myself on the trail was delicious, even if a bear may have peed on it.
As we were leaving the park, we came around a corner and saw a whole herd of elk grazing on the side of a hill. We pulled the car over and I grabbed the camera. As we were watching, we noticed that on the opposite side of the road, out in an open meadow, there was an even bigger herd of elk. It was so exciting to see (on our last trip to Colorado, we didn’t see any wildlife at all!) and also fascinating to hear them. Did you know that sound similar to orcas? Two young males played together, sparring in fun with their small antlers. One large make tried to mount a female; she rejected him without a thought. We were so incredibly close to them.
The engagement session was on Saturday afternoon so, after sleeping in a bit on Saturday morning, we decided to keep the day a little more low-key while giving our bodies a chance to rest a bit. In search of more animals (particularly bison), we went to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal right outside of Denver. We saw deer, birds, and prairie dogs, but it wasn’t until we were nearly leaving that we finally saw some bison! They were pretty far away, but we were still excited. What we didn’t know was that later in the day we would see some very, very closely out in Daniel’s Gate Park where I was taking engagement photos.
After the arsenal, we went to the Red Rocks. It was so beautiful there, but we were also very fascinated with everyone who was working out in the amphitheater. The way the rows are set up are perfect for a vast variety of working out and lots of folks were running back and forth through the rows starting at the top and snaking back and forth all the way to bottom. Others were doing box leaps row to row all the way up; still others doing side lunges up and down, inclined and declined pushups, stair runs, and planks. It was incredible. I wish so badly we had something like that around here.
We headed over to Daniel’s Gate Park to scope things out prior to the session and came upon these bison. We couldn’t quit figure it out since they were behind a gate; were they privately owned? (We assumed so.) And then we started discussing things like, “Do people out here raise bison like Iowans raise cows?” Unsure. The jury’s still out on that one.
After the engagement session, we headed back to our hotel downtown and ordered pizza for pickup from a place in the pedestrian mall. Our hotel was right there so we were able to enjoy some late evening walking through downtown. We grabbed our pizza and stayed in that night watching football and relaxing.
The time change was Sunday and I still hadn’t adjusted to Colorado time so I woke up at 4:30 (what my body would’ve thought was 6:30). Since neither of us could sleep, we ended up getting up and finding a place to grab breakfast that early on a Sunday. We walked to Snooze (a glorious recommendation from Sally & Erik!) and enjoyed the most delicious breakfast!!! If you’re ever in town, please try it! I got the pancake flight and Kevin got the breakfast pot pie. They were both amazing.
Our flight left Denver at 3:55 and we needed to get the rental car returned a little before 2. We figured we had time for one more quick hike before stopping over at our friends’ house on the way out of town. On a recommendation from Sally & Erik, we drove about an hour to hike up Saint Mary’s Glacier. The hike to the lake was only about 3/4 of a mile, but it was really rocky and absolutely freezing cold. The starting elevation was over 10,000 feet and the car said the temperature was 29 degrees. With the wind chill, it was much closer to 10 to 15 degrees. It sort of took our breaths away, the cold.
We didn’t stay long at the time since it was a) freezing and b) we wanted to grab some lunch to take along to James & Sky’s. We grabbed some food and got to their house around 12:30. James was gone, but it was just so great to see Skylar and meet their brand new baby, Forest (who is absolutely gorgeous and perfect in every way!).
We were only able to stay about an hour before heading to the airport. By the time we returned our car and got the shuttle the airport, we knew we were running slightly behind. Thankfully, the airline opened a row specific to our flight since so many people were waiting to get through so we made it to our gate with about 5 minutes to spare before boarding began (and just enough time to grab a coffee!). By this point, all of our activities and commitments were done and I could.not.wait to get home to see Henry again. My body was just aching to hold him.
Our flight landed a couple of minutes early and we grabbed our bags and hit the road to go pick up Henry. My parents had taken him to their church Sunday evening and mom had him out in the back when we walked in. He saw us from across the foyer and popped up off the floor and starting running to us, shouting, “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” That hug was the best ever. Traveling after kids is a whole different ballgame than traveling before. I was so glad we were able to enjoy beautiful Colorado, but it felt equally delightful to be home again, reunited as a family.