Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gem Lake


At 4:45 A.M. Dustin leaves the house. Sometimes I remember him kissing me goodbye; other days I wake up wondering if he has left yet.  Drake is still in dreamland at this point, but in just a couple more hours, he will rise with a cry for “Mommy” crossing his lips.  As I roll over to offer him milkies, I rub my eyes and wonder what the sunrise will look like.  After a few minutes, Drake finishes his milkies, and touches my face with a happier “Mommy”.  Most days it is an, “aw mommy”.  This is the first of many sweet moments that he gives me throughout the day.  Him and I walk to the blinds, open them and he declares “bright!”.  Typically, a beautiful pink, orange, purple and blue sunrise starts the day on a splendid note.

By the time the day gives me a sunset, it still feels like I have an eon before Dustin will stroll in the door around 6:45.  While there are so many magical moments during my day, there are times when I teeter on the brink of insanity.  I want a moment to just look at the mounds of homework strewn across the table.  I want a moment to pee.  I want a moment to sip my coffee or just a fraction of a second to take a bite of my lunch.  At the same time, I love all the moments of play, all the stories, all the snuggles.  It seems as if a year passes in those hours from 4:45AM to 6:45 PM.  A year full of frustration, stress, overabundant joy and a million laughs.  When I say this out loud it sounds like I am talking in a circle, a sign of a crazy woman.  Perhaps I am.  I know my plight is not unique, and I also know I can’t adequately explain it either.    

Negative emotions caused our family pot to boil; something had to be done.  While we drove to get our Christmas Tree I told Dustin that as soon as I entered the high country my problems seemed to melt away; I felt lighter.  I remembered those sentiments I shared with him and made it a priority to get out and enjoy the unseasonably spring like January weekend.  Since Dustin worked on Saturday, we chose Sunday to play.

Glancing at my stack of books on the way out the door, a pang of guilt stabbed my side.  Heading out with all this to do is so frivolous, I told myself.  I should study.  Then I felt all the tension in my shoulders and the strong taste of resent threatening to taint my mouth.  Time to get the heck out of here. 

Gem Lake is a place that I have wanted to get to for quite some time.  I love the rock formations found in Lumpy Ridge, but I also know I would never commit to go to Gem Lake in the summer because the lake itself is barren.  There are no fish to catch.  Although we encountered a fellow hiker armed with his fly rod…good luck.  Since the lake lacked fish, it was always shuffled to the winter destination pile.  This past weekend Gem Lake finally found its way to the “been there, done that” pile. 



The trail is easy enough to find; it is right off Devil’s Gulch Road.  The Twin Owls and Black Canyon can also be reached from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead.  There is no entry fee for this area, but a backcountry camping permit is required during the summer season.  Due to the lack of entry fee and length of the trail, I would guess this would be extremely busy during the summer.  Heck, it was busy on a January day. 



At just shy of two miles, it proved to be a great family hike.  Eager to test out his trail legs, Drake demanded “walking, walking” about a quarter of a mile into the hike.  This gave Dustin and I a glimpse at what this coming backpacking season will look like.  Drake walked almost half the way up the trail.  Last summer he was content to sit snug and cozy in his pack, but fast forward six months and he demanded to walk.  The trail is not steep in the least, but there are some steps to navigate.  Drake did extremely well.  Ice, steps, bumpy rocks…he tackled them all, successfully, for the most part.  Ever curious, Drake stopped to examine different rocks and pine cones.  He identified water, ice and snow.  At one particular vantage point, Lake Estes sprawls out in the valley below.  He pointed to the water and said “fishies”.  The kid loves his fish.



We hiked on January 26th and encountered quite a few spots of ice.  A couple of times I thought about stopping to put on my spikes, but decided it was more adventurous to slip and slide.  When we started hitting ice patch after ice patch, we put Drake back in the pack for safe keeping.  He was none to happy about this, but once I got out of sight and held my tongue for a bit, he nodded off to sleep.

At the last stretch, maybe mile 1.6, we happened upon a privy.  The presence of the outhouse confirmed my assumption of the traffic the trail sees during the summer.  There is also a campsite about .2 miles past the lake; perhaps it is the privy for that site, I can’t be certain.  Either way, I would say be prepared for a lot of company if this is a hike you plan to do during the warmer season.  


A frozen lake framed with a beach and a “lumpy” rock cirque make for a tranquil sight.  Luckily enough, we were all alone at the lake.  I love when that happens.  Dustin commented that it would be a great place to bring Drake in the summer to splash around.  Due to the shallow depth and the easy access, I must say I agree.  Perhaps we will have to forego fishing for a day and take Drake to wet his feet in a high mountain lake.  In fact, I have made a tentative plan in my mind to do just that, then hike up hit Black Canyon and eventually end up at Lawn Lake.  Sounds like a nice 3-4 day trip, doesn’t it? 

On the way down, Drake stayed asleep in the pack until we happened upon some exuberant hikers.  It always surprises me how shocked people are to see Drake. “Oh wow!  Look it is a baby!”  All their revelry makes you think they had just seen a Big Horn Sheep.  Needless to say, he didn’t survive all the boisterous conversation.  After that, he wanted his mommy.  We came well prepared.  The day pack went into the seat of the Osprey, and Drake went in the Ergo on my back.  He was asleep again in no time.  The way down was peaceful, but a little part of missed watching Drake navigate the trail on those little legs of his. 


What made this hike spectacular, besides it being Drake’s first “hike”, were the sweeping views of the Estes Valley, Longs Peak and the Continental Divide.  As if nature intended it, rock outcroppings with breathtaking views were spaced perfectly along the trail.  Most stops had rocks you could climb, flat rocks for sitting or having a bite to eat, and even places for Drake to explore.  Dustin remarked that my parents should do this trail.  The ease of the trail and the views make it a winner, in our book, for all ages.


Unfortunately, my respite from “real” life had to end.  Thankfully, it was just enough to blow some fresh air into my lungs, but more importantly my mind became quiet and I found peace in my soul. 

Until next time,



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tadpole Tales: Zoo Lights

With its balmy 65ยบ breezes and toasty rays of sunshine, January 2nd demanded activities be done out of doors.  A day such as this was such respite from the snowy, cold weather of weeks passed. Not being the type that would look a gift horse in the mouth, Dus and I decided to take Drake to Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo to capitalize on the beautiful weather.  Turns out the rest of the parents in Denver were eager to enjoy this January gift as well; the zoo was packed.


Despite the crowd, lights greeted us right away.  As we worked our way through the zoo, the crowd dissipated.  Luckily for us, most of the crowd was concentrated around the main entrance and ticket window.  In a moment of organized thinking, a rarity for us, we purchased tickets ahead of time.  No waiting for us! 


One would think there wouldn’t be much animal viewing during the night at a zoo, but we were pleasantly surprised by how many we did see.  Last trip to the zoo, Drake didn’t get to see the elephants, but we made up for it this time with a bird’s eye view from Dustin’s shoulders.  Giraffes got up close and personal while getting a snack from one of the zoo staff members.  The hippos chose to stay a bit hidden under the water, but the rhinos were on fully display in their indoor enclosure.  Pretty much every indoor exhibit was open and contained animals to view.  Again, I say, we were pleased with how many exhibits were made available during the light event. 


Drake was able to touch a snake, a turtle and hippo hide.  I can’t comment on how he did with the snake; snakes will forever be a daddy only thing.  I do know he liked seeing the snakes in the rainforest exhibit, however.  I repeatedly heard him say “BIG snake”.  As an added bonus, a male Dall Sheep came out and did some rock hopping.  The lights in the area made it easy for us to see him.  He definitely was an unexpected surprise.  There were also educational presentations and an ice carver.  We wanted to see the penguin talk, but went to the wrong penguin display; Drake loves penguins.  Maybe next time…


Zoo Lights was definitely the highlight of our evening out, but we also discovered a gem.  After having dinner at Chipotle (about the only place that doesn’t make Drake sick), we wondered over to the bookstore.  I’m sure Denverites are familiar with Tattered Cover, but this was our first experience.  I could have spent days in this store.  Heck, Dustin even was intrigued by some of the obscure titles on display.  As usual, Drake was captivated by all the books.  He truly loves books.  The next time Drake has an eye appointment we might have to venture a bit out of our way to include a trip to the Tattered Cover.    


Tadpole Takeaways: Parking at the zoo is really limited.  Get there early, or park at City Park, which isn’t a bad walk.  Admission is 12 bucks for each adult and children under 2 are free.  Zoo Lights admission is a separate fee from zoo admission.  Note: Admission to the zoo does not gain access to Zoo Lights.  Restrooms seemed to be in a concentrated area, plan accordingly.  The Zoo allows drinks and snacks to be brought inside. This is a huge bonus since Drake nor I can eat at the concession stands.  Watch for deals early in the holiday season for discounted Zoo Lights admission.  For $6 a piece, it’s a cheap night of entertainment.  This might have to be an annual tradition for this family.   


Until next time,


Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013: Year in Review–October to December

I did it.  I wrote four posts in less than a week!  Let’s see if I can try to keep this blog current the rest of the year.  Without further adieu, here is the final installment of our Year in Review!

October:  Just as the green leaves faded to a golden yellow, the frivolity of summer gave way to looming due dates, studying and overtime.  Classes began again at the end of September, and Dustin was gone 14 hours a day.  This put him home at 7pm most nights, and gave me just a smidgen of time to study.  Drake started to get a bit more independent and his vocabulary exploded.   Each month seems to be just a bit more fun the last with him.  Maybe fun isn’t the word to use, but different doesn’t set the right tone…

One of my goals for a happy life is to never be so overstrained by adult burdens that I don’t get to enjoy the things life has to offer.  In keeping with that mindset, we made a few getaways to help keep the house calm and sane.  In an attempt to beat the ice for one last fishing trip, we made an easy hike to a lake full of brookies.  Old Man Winter beat us to the punch, however.  Everywhere we looked glistened with ice.  A bummer, yet beautiful at the same time. 

Dustin also was able to go elk hunting with a buddy from work; my parents come out often, and this month their visit really helped me to get a good chunk of studying accomplished.  We even managed to play a little bit.  The following weekend, Dustin, Drake and I went on a family elk hunt.  This deserves its own post.  Perhaps I will get to that later.    

Traditions are something we want our family to have.  We decided that dressing up as a family for Halloween would be a good one until the time Drake starts to think it is pretty lame.  I figure we will have made some great memories by then.  This year, Drake struggled with his molars.  He chose to cuddle and read with Daddy instead of greet trick or treaters.  Either way, a memory made. 

IMG_1794IMG_1762IMG_1771IMG_1805DSCN0371DSCN0439IMG_1732IMAG0319IMG_1935IMG_1897IMG_2004IMG_1877IMG_1750IMG_1809DSCN0133DSCN0151DSCN0063DSCN0051DSCN0068DSCN0082DSCN0096DSCN0160DSCN0189DSCN0226DSCN0242 (1)IMG_2075IMG_2083IMG_2090IMG_2100IMG_2097IMG_0072IMG_0084IMG_0157IMG_0058IMG_0044IMG_0105

November: “Tiss”.  There is nothing better than waking up to kisses from Monner.  For some reason, he just loved to wake up and give “tisses” first thing.  Mornings with Drake, while still snuggled in bed, are some of Dustin and I’s favorite times.  Drake’s still cuddly and a bit tired...  it’s such a positive start to the day. 

As happened in March, Drake really developed a lot this month.  He started using two word phrases, continued to say “spiiiicy” after eating something, well, spicy, counting to ten (we say one, he says two, we say three, he says four…), moving his eyebrows on command, telling us when it was potty time, and he started to have “meltdowns” when things didn’t quite go his way.  We knew they were coming…

Most of November was sweatshirt weather, and we took advantage by playing outside most every day; Drake and I also took a solo trip to the zoo.  Drake could identify almost every animal.  If I told him the name once, he immediately repeated it.  When the rhinoceros would hit the wire on its enclosure, Drake would say “Oh no!”   We also happened upon some pine cones, one of Drake’s favorite things.  Once in hand, he showed everyone that passed, and told them “pine coooone”.  It’s such a blast being his mom.  Every mom says this, but it is true: I have the coolest kid in town.

Thanksgiving came and went with subdued fanfare being as it was just the three of us.  We introduced Drake to Santa Claus through pictures and statues.  Drake would say, “Santa.  Ho. Ho.”  The day after Thanksgiving, I hoped to start another family tradition of cutting down a Christmas Tree.  We traded cuddle time for tradition, and even though we made the trip we didn’t beat the twilight.  However, we had our best dinner out of the year and I had the most delicious margarita that has ever passed my lips.  Pepe Osaka’s of Winter Park comes highly recommended by us.  They even accommodate food allergies!  Perhaps fish tacos and margaritas might become part of the tradition as well.


December: Why not start the month how the last one ended, Christmas Tree Hunting.  After looking at the weather forecast, we decided if we were going to cut down a tree December 2nd had to be the day.  The following weekend I would have finals, temps would be frigid, and then we would be heading to KC.  Leaving a little earlier this time, we packed up the Sube and headed west.  We didn’t find the “perfect” tree like we did last year, but we found one all the same.  Drake seemed more interested in the river and the fishies than the whole tree thing.  Perhaps that was my fault for taking him to see the frozen stream…

Dad made a solo trip for finals so he could spend an entire week.  Having Grrpa here was a godsend.  I wouldn’t done as well as I did if it wasn’t for him entertaining Drake all day.  Getting Nonna and Grrpa to make a permanent residence in Colorado is still a work in progress.

This month, Drake took to picking out his own clothes and tying flies.  During the day, he would go downstairs and knock on the office door and say, “flies, flies, flies”.  He would ask me or Grrpa over and over.  Thankfully, Dustin would get home and appease him.  He loved his books ad cuddling this month as well.  Brining them off his shelf, he would come over to us and say “cuttle. read.”  How great is that?  The color book we bought for Christmas was mastered in two days, he could identify and say every color and object.   The way he shouts his colors makes me laugh.  Also, by month’s end he knew several letters of the alphabet.  Sheesh, he’s growing so fast…   

Christmas morning from this year forward was an affair that we deemed would be spent at home.  We flew to Kansas City the week prior to Christmas.  Time prevented us from seeing everyone as much as we wanted, but at least we are able to spend a little time with everyone.  Christmas Eve turned out to be a rushed, hungry affair, as a flight delay didn’t put us home in time to stop for groceries.  At least we had a bottle of wine to warm our bellies as we got the house ready for Santa.  Speaking of that jolly old fellow, Santa must sprinkle some special “early riser dust” on those children nestled in their beds.  Drake was awake at the break of dawn.  Perhaps years of practice prepared Nonna, because, to my surprise, she was awake when I called her to tell it was time to video chat.  

All of the Christmas magic I enjoyed as a youth filled our house as Drake made his way down the stairs.  Smiles broke across all three of our faces as Drake sprinted to the tree.  Learning toys, fun toys, books, crayons, clothes, trains and trucks soon were scattered all over the living room.  Again, I say, it is moments such as these that makes being a mom so cool.  Getting to experience all the wonder of my younger years, but this time with a different perspective gives me a feeling I cannot adequately describe with words.  As I have said before, Drake hasn’t made my life complete, he’s just added another incredibly fascinating layer.  A year well lived. 


Cheers to a splendid new year,