Sunday, August 10, 2014

Traveling the Wild West: Griswold-style

Warning: If you're one who has an adverse reaction to an excessive amount of vacation pictures, this isn't the post for you!

But, if you're willing to indulge one blogger's need to share, read/look on....

A few months ago, an idea was hatched: let's introduce our children to the West. In their little lives, the boys have never experienced anything west of Chicago.  And so, we (with the help of our sweet neighbor/amateur travel agent Andi) planned a trip to Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

We left a week ago on a flight out to Denver.  An hour into the flight, we noticed commotion and then a call over the intercom "Is there a doctor on the flight?"  Chris jumped up and became the inflight doc (we laughed that the dermatologist behind us didn't move).  He treated the 20-something fainter a few rows up.  The passenger was completely fine; we saw him wheeling his luggage around later.

Once safely in Colorado, we traveled up to Estes Park.  First stop was the convention center where I picked up my race bib and an amazing race-T for the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon.

The next morning, I joined 800 other runners for the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon.  The race offered awesome views like these.

Of course, when you snap pictures while running, you'll take a lot more of these images!

 The race was one of my favorites, despite the challenges of a hilly course and altitude (7400-7900).  I still was pleased to walk away with a 4th place in the master's division (yikes...when did I get this old?) and 3rd in my age group.  

While I was running, Chris and the boys enjoyed the grounds of the YMCA Estes Park, where we lodged for several days.  

After the race, we headed out to Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was beautiful, but packed with tourist.  We had to take the shuttle between hiking locales which provided a bit of a Disney World feel. 

Hiking was mostly successful.  Only one boy fell in the lake after this photo.  He was surprised and dismayed to know Target doesn't sit in the woods where dry clothes can be instantly purchased!

The next day we visited the restaurant voted the best in Estes Park: the Donut Haus.  I tried to be good and munch on a granola bar, but I caved.  I have to say that chocolate, creme-filled donut was worth every calorie and ounce of guilt!

Connor called the Donut Haus the best part of our trip!  (Hard for the national parks to compete with donuts!)

Caleb's favorite part of the trip: earning Jr. Ranger status at five national parks and landmarks.

Rest safe knowing the national parks are under the watchful care of these four Jr. Rangers!

Day two of hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park.  Lesson learned on this day: bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer!  As hiking novices/dummies, we didn't think that maybe, just maybe, one boy would need to (ahem) in the woods during the course of an all-day hike!  Lessons learned the hard way!

But at least we remembered lunch!

And not one boy fell into the water during this hike!

 And they enjoyed the view!

One of those little finds a traveler happens upon during the course of a trip.  As we were driving along, we saw this church.  It's the most beautiful church I've ever seen.  Evidently, Pope John Paul visited this church in the 90s.

The adventurous sons and Chris took this aerial tram up the mountains.

The next day we journeyed through the most desolate (yet beautiful) land in America before landing in South Dakota.  Our first stop in Rapid City was Reptile Gardens.

Reptile Gardens touts the largest collection of reptiles in the world.  It was pure paradise for Caleb, our budding herpetologist.  

The next day we journeyed to Mt. Rushmore.

We were in awe!

And again, they earned Jr. Ranger status.

I think this is as close as it gets!

I promised Chris I wouldn't post this on Facebook (but never mentioned the blog:)).

Another amazing moment, the boys only wished the bison traveled closer to the car!

Custer State Park offered such delightful scenery.

Did I mention the Sturgis Bike Rally was going on during our time in South Dakota?  That meant a half million motorcyclist descended on our little patch of South Dakota.

A scenic trail.

Cooper couldn't get enough of the climbing!  Every time we turned around, he was perched atop another rock.

Our friends, the bikers, joined us at every stop.  They were always friendly, but a few wore attire I wouldn't recommend for my sons (or their future dates!).

Next stop: the Badlands National Park.  It was my favorite part of the trip.  The scenery was beautiful and pretty bare allowing the boys to truly enjoy nature without fighting a mass of people.

Again, Cooper found more places to climb.

We traveled on a more rugged hike.

Right after this picture was taken, Collin's shoe slipped off his foot and plummeted into the cliff.  I have my suspicions that the shoe was tossed since Chris was never fond of Collin's footwear!

Last stop after the park, world-renowned Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota. 

The boys loved Wall Drug Store; Chris said it gave him a headache.

Their last Jr. Ranger "swearing-in" at Jewel Cave.

From South Dakota, we headed back to Denver.

In Denver, we found trees covered with these tags.  Visitors could write "what summer is."

Summer is time for a great vacation spent with family.

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