Sample Camping

We finally did it! After lots of “should we or shouldn’t we?”, we actually got the kids out camping. I’m calling it a sample because it was only for one night with a very basic itinerary (eat, sleep, play). No grand hiking adventure, only a short distance from home and a strong backup plan of just continuing onto Keystone.

Since this is Colorado, campgrounds fill up faster than a mall parking lot so we opted to reserve a spot at a tent-only campground at Golden Gate Canyon State Park to avoid driving around blindly hoping for an open site. The sites here were mostly well-spaced and the rainy weather must have discouraged our nearest neighbor from showing up at all. It definitely discouraged me and to be honest, I was not committed to camping until we actually got to our campsite and confirmed we would not be in a storm or a flooded tent pad. Once we saw how nice our campsite was, we went all in and started unloading the car while the kids explored. As it was already getting late and storm clouds gathering, we hurriedly set up the tent and started the fire for cooking.

Watching Daddy do his fire magic

Watching Daddy do his fire magic

EAT
This part can be as hard or as easy as one would like. One of my fondest recollections of cooking breakfast while camping is preparing a full pound of bacon with a Coleman grill for a dozen people. I’ve made gourmet omelets with last night’s grilled leftovers. I discovered the possibilities of a pie iron involving Nutella. This time I opted for very, very easy. Hot dogs for dinner, marshmallows for dessert, and cereal for breakfast… plus some doughnuts we bought at 7-11 along with our firewood. Done.

Getting settled into bed

Getting settled into bed

SLEEP
The sleep plan was by far the one that stressed me out the most. How would they stay warm throughout the night since they both reject the idea of staying under a blanket? What if they cry the whole night and wake our neighbors? What if it rained all night and all my efforts in waterproofing and seam-sealing the tent were useless? And we would be without the comfort and routine which we heavily rely on at home (night lights and sound machines) to induce the perfect sleeping environment. We were prepared for utter misery.

As it turned out, we had little to worry about. Bedtime was super late, which I was hoping would compensate for everything else about bedtime being out of sorts. We layered up the kids in two sets of pajamas (a two-piece under flannel footies) and had winter hats at the ready. The kids were set up in toddler-sized cots with their regular pillows and our old sleeping bags with the bag excess tucked under their cot. We read a few books to wind down some very excited children. We hung glow sticks around the tent so that it wouldn’t be completely dark. The only incident was Cooper waking up crying around one in the morning where I attempted to shush and console him but he ended up getting right back in his cot after a few minutes, slept peacefully the rest of the night, and was last to wake up in the morning.

PLAY
There was a cavernous tent. There was fire. There was dirt. There were puddles. There were rocks, both big enough to climb and small enough to throw. Done and done.

REPEAT

We are calling this an absolute success and I am so ready to do this again. A whole new world has opened up! But next time, I want to get there earlier, stay there longer, and cook some real food over the fire.

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High Country

We finally got the chance to get back up to our place in Keystone but of course it couldn’t just be for the fun of it. So what does Mike do when he is in between Ironman races? He supports other athlete friends who are even crazier than him. And by support, I don’t mean holding a banner or cheering from the sidelines. I mean actual work. Mike signed on to be on the pacing team for a friend who was competing in the Leadville 100, a foot race of 100 miles on mountain trails all at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. His particular job was to run alongside him during miles 76 to 87, which also happened to be in the middle of the night. Before his “shift” started, we were able to take in the beauty of the Leadville area and cheer for the other crazy endurance athletes.

The next day, we scooped up Mike (exhausted, sleep-deprived, and chilled to the bone) and spent the rest of the day in Breckinridge. As we have recently learned, there is no rest for the weary.

Sunday Hike

It was a hot sunny day. It was shortly before lunchtime. Initially, there was lots of excitement. Then there was lots of whining. Amidst the ongoing encouragement, there were promises of sports drinks, snack, and treats. It was a big deal for us because only one child was carried on this hike and the other child logged over 2 miles and over 500 feet of elevation gain. Not to say there weren’t lots of sighs and claims to be melting. But in the end, we finished what we started.

Found some shade halfway up

Found some shade halfway up

Someone is feeling strong. You know, the same one catching a ride in the backpack.

Someone is feeling strong. You know, the same one catching a ride in the backpack.

Daddy and Maxon go a little further up the trail to Flagstaff's Halfway House

Daddy and Maxon go a little further up the trail to Flagstaff’s Halfway House

Relishing the moment

Relishing the moment

Palm Coast, Revisited

We headed back to Palm Coast, Florida for the biannual Irons family reunion and it did not disappoint. Everything was more than before. The house was bigger. The pool was bigger. The kids were bigger. The beach was closer. The weather was hotter. There were more people to meet. And we had a fantastic time!

And sometimes you can bring all the books, trucks, and puzzles you can fit in your suitcase but it still can’t beat finding an empty box.

Spring Vacation

Things tend to snowball when we plan trips. Our spring trip started out as just attending Dziadzie’s surprise 70th birthday. Our first attempt at simplifying the trip was to only have Mike travel for the party, but since we are realistic, we knew that everyone would be pretty disappointed if the kids didn’t make an appearance too.

The boys found an unlocked gymnasium next to the party room.

The boys found an unlocked gymnasium next to the party room.

So once the whole family was signed up for the trip, it seemed pretty silly to not see my family too. And do you know what’s worse than one cross-country flight with two toddlers? Two cross-country flights. So we tacked on a drive up to VA after spending the weekend in NC. And since we were driving up such beautiful country, we thought we’d make a quick stop at Natural Bridge, which was also naturally halfway between Gastonia and Sterling.

The Natural Bridge Hotel

The Natural Bridge Hotel

The boys at a creek feeding the New River

The boys at a creek feeding the New River

Since a main road is built right on top of it, I'm sure it's not that impressive from the top. But you can appreciate its grandeur when you walk through it.

Since a main road is built right on top of it, I’m sure it’s not that impressive from the top. But you can appreciate its grandeur when you walk through it.

"Maxon, you keep a good hold on your brother for a minute."

“Maxon, you keep a good hold on your brother for a minute.”

Once in VA, we couldn’t just leave well enough alone. We checked out Great Falls, which was raging from the torrential downpours that caused major flooding in the entire area. And then the kids got reacquainted with the Paulins (Pseudo-cousins? Betrothed best friends? What is the relationship called when lifelong best friends have children about the same age and the same amount of cuteness?) and spent an afternoon at the local petting zoo.

The raging waters of Great Falls

The raging waters of Great Falls

Brothers

Brothers

Team Hybrid

Team Hybrid

OMG I looooooove these people!

OMG I looooooove these people!

Getting on the kid's level

Getting on the kid’s level

The next day we ventured out to the Old Town Alexandria waterfront and took a ferry out to the National Harbor and even caught up with old college friends of mine. Oddly enough, I didn’t get a picture of THAT reunion!

The Awakening at National Harbor

The Awakening at National Harbor

A wildly successful trip! But of course, we’ve upped the ante again. We are going on that second cross-country flight after all. Florida here we come!

Easter and the Outtakes

Sometimes the moment isn’t perfect but the memory you capture can tell the story perfectly.