Colorado Springs – Part One

Last month, when we learned that Clay and Weston both had off Columbus Day we thought about where we wanted to travel for the three day weekend celebrating the drunken sailor who destroyed a civilization. While we’re making the most of our Army-sponsored time in eastern Kansas, we’re beginning to feel the effects of living in a land-locked flat state with no large bodies of water nearby. Did I mention that Kansas is flat? So when I casually mentioned to Clay that Colorado Springs is only an 8.5 hour drive from Fort Leavenworth, the lure of the Rocky Mountains was enough to gloss over the idea of spending 17 hours in the car during a 72 hour weekend. And before we knew it, we were planning a quick trip to Colorado Springs!


Before we hit the road, we went to an event for Clay’s small group (i.e. his classmates) at the Fort Leavenworth Hunt Lodge, which was built by military prison inmates in 1919. A staggering number of buildings still in use today were built by military prisoners so it’s no surprise that the post is known for being haunted (furthermore, the Commanding General’s house sits on the former site of the Enlisted Burial Ground {eek} but that is a post for another day). By 5pm, we were leaving the post gates and looking forward to our westward adventure.


I-70 stretches across Kansas for 424 miles. For approximately 420 miles of the trek, the landscape looks exactly like above. Exits are far and few between, especially in the dark of night. Despite not leaving until 5pm, we managed to drive through Kansas before checking into a hotel around 11pm (we gained an hour going from central to mountain time zone) in Burlington, Colorado, a small town just over the border.


Before Friday night, we were unaware that Burlington, Colorado is known for the Kit Carson County Carousel, the only surviving menagerie by Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel. Our hotel was overwhelmingly decorated with carousel details and greatly advertised it’s proximity to the museum. The Kit Carson County Carousel is the only antique carousel in America that still has the original paint on both the scenery panels and on the animals. In other words – it’s kind of a big deal to those interested in the antique carousel world, of which we are totally not card-carrying members. At breakfast, I’m pretty sure we were the only people not in town for the carousel (we were also the youngest by about 40 years) and I think I heard carousel music as I drifted off to sleep (Clay did not – he can sleep through anything, a perk of having gone to war).


By 9am, we were back on the road and excited for the two-hour drive to Colorado Springs. In case you were wondering, eastern Colorado looks exactly like western Kansas. Not a mountain in sight. Womp. Womp.


Woohoo! Our first mountain sighting occurred about 60 miles outside of Colorado Springs. We kept our eye on the prize as we finished the last stretch of the drive – positively giddy after experiencing almost 500 miles of flatland.


Situated on Fountain Creek, Colorado Springs is 6,035 feet above sea level (with varying levels throughout the city) and positioned near the base of Pikes Peak (known as America’s Mountain). Pikes Peak is on the eastern edge of the Southern Rocky Mountains and is the second most visited mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji in Japan. We went to the summit of Pikes Peak the following day so more on that in the next post.


Since we knew we were going to spend the rest of the afternoon hiking in Garden of the Gods, we grabbed lunch at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company. Not only were the beer and food good, the restaurant was extremely kid-friendly as well.


Garden of the Gods is a public park owned by Colorado Springs that hosts breathtakingly beautiful red rock formations that were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Popular with rock climbers, hikers, and even those just wanting a leisurely stroll, Garden of the Gods has more than 15 miles of rugged trails and a 1.5 mile paved trail that winds through the heart of the park and the most iconic formations.


We opted for a more rugged trail because we wanted to climb as many formations as we could (totally encouraged!) and keep away from the tour groups. When we first started, we passed a group on horseback – when the kids are a little older we will definitely partake in such activities but for now, hiking is much more our speed.


Unfortunately, we realized we forgot our Kelty about 200 miles into the trip but thankfully we always keep the Ergo in the car. I carried Violet on my back for the majority of the hike and Weston was a rockstar climbing and keeping up with me and Clay on the trail.


There isn’t one bad view in the park.


Because the weather was perfect, there were many rock climbers on the formations. As long as climbers register with the Visitors Center and have proper gear, climbing is allowed in the park.


We did our fair share of climbing as well because it is pretty much impossible to pass a bunch of giant boulders without giving into the urge to climb them, even while wearing a toddler strapped to your back.


Pictured – baby girl completely zonked out on my back.


The little guy was super thrilled to have climbed this formation all by himself.





We couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon in the Garden of the Gods. We spent close to four hours exploring the park doing one of our favorite family activities – hiking in the fresh air.


While driving almost nine hours one-way just to see mountains over a three-day weekend may seem extreme to some, it is extremely important to us to show our children as much as the country (and the world) as we can. During our hike, I was reminded of a favorite quote by Frank Lloyd Wright – “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” I can only hope that as parents, we foster an environment that encourages our children to be students of nature.


And honestly, I can’t think of a better classroom in which to learn.

Remembering to Climb Trees

The other night, I read The Giving Tree to Violet while cuddled up with her under the covers. Despite reading the well-known Shel Silverstein story to little ears numerous times over the past half-decade, one little snippet caused me to stop my rhythm.

Read Mommy. Read!” our little spirited blue-eyed child pleaded.

I began again by rereading the line that gave me pause.

I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy.


Is that life as an adult? Being too busy to climb trees? Clay and I often joke that we’re not very good at adulting. Yes – we foster a safe and loving environment for our children, pay our bills on time, and file taxes in three (!) states. But we also seem to always be running out of toothpaste, shudder at the idea of a mcmansion, and have no qualms about eating ice cream for dinner. Our approach to life is more ‘let’s see where this wild ride takes us‘ than ‘let’s meticulously plan a detailed future‘ and we never fail to leave the house without turning off the coffee pot.


It’s not that I don’t want to be an adult – being an adult rocks 97% of the time. I’m not Peter Pan, who famously and magically refused to grow up. But rather, I desire to balance the heaviness and seriousness of adulthood with the irreverent and playful attitude associated with childhood.  I don’t want to be too busy or too adult to climb trees. I look at my young children who are blissfully unaware of the mass-shootings that dominate the news cycles, the lack of bipartisanship that plagues our government and stalls societal progress, and the terror and destruction in the Middle East. Their ignorance won’t last for long. As their hearts and minds become heavier with such knowledge, I can only hope that their desire to climb trees doesn’t dim.

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And since the weather is absolutely gorgeously perfect in Kansas today, I can’t think of a reason not to climb trees with the little ones this afternoon. For no reason other than because climbing trees is a hell of a lot of fun.

The Weston Applefest Celebration

Since arriving at Fort Leavenworth in July, we’ve done our fair share of exploring the local area. One of our favorite places thus far is Weston, Missouri – a small town about 10 miles north of post. It’s home to the Weston Brewing Company, McCormick Distilling Company, a handful of nice restaurants, cute shops, and Weston Bend State Park. So when we heard about the 27th Annual Weston Applefest Celebration, we looked forward to spending a nice fall Saturday morning at the festival. Unfortunately, our love for Weston, Missouri wasn’t enough to make us truly enjoy our time at Applefest.


We were surprised by the lack of apples at Applefest. In fact, this was the only display of apples we saw at Applefest that weren’t candy- or caramel-coated. There were a couple of apple-related food items but they were few and far between.


Additionally, the festival was held in such close quarters that it was impossible to move with a stroller through the crowds in both the vendor and food areas. If everything were spread out over a couple more town blocks, it would have made for a much better experience.


We did managed to try the famous apple dumplings with ice cream and I am pleased to report that they live up to their hype. Weston Christian Church has been making homemade apple dumplings for over 20 years as part of their Apple Dumpling Mission. And the people manning the booth couldn’t have been nicer – true examples of being light in the world.


To be honest, the apple dumplings saved our Applefest experience from being a complete bust.


Our less-than-stellar morning at Applefest hasn’t dimmed our love for Weston. If you’re ever in the area, make sure to stop by the charming town. Just make sure it isn’t the weekend of Applefest.