Jul 31, 2018

Glenwood Springs Vacation

Last year, our 'vacation' entailed moving across the country and then moving Gavin across the country to settle into his first year of college. There wasn't much money or time left to take a break from life. But that's okay. We made both of those opportunities awesome adventures and made the most of exploring our new surroundings. Truth be told, living in Colorado is like being on vacation all the time. We get to look out and see those majestic mountains any time of the day. And most places we want to go hiking are within a few short hours from us. Not having a vacation last year wasn't a huge disappointment.


So it was with much anticipation that we headed off to Glenwood Springs, deep in the mountains, for this year's vacay. In true Mallott style, it was all about the adventure....hiking, kayaking, and as much time spent outdoors as possible.


On our first day, we chose to drive to Aspen, eat lunch there and visit the famed Maroon Bells. We had yet to visit this well known town and it was only an hour away from our destination, so we decided to make it our first stop. The town itself was quaint, but way too over-priced to really enjoy it. A few miles outside of town we spotted a little hiking spot that didn't look too busy. We made a mental note to check it out later. After eating lunch and meandering through town for a while we decided it was time to get our hiking on. For some reason, we weren't able to figure out how to get to Maroon Bells. So we decided to check out that side of the road hiking spot. Boy, did we hit the jackpot!


After parking and grabbing all our gear and heading back into the trees, this is the first sight that greets us. We instantly knew this was going to be an epic hike. I can still hear the sound of that rushing water. Ahhh....so peaceful. 


The trail itself was gorgeous....everything we love about hiking. Not too steep, a path of pine needles to tread upon. The tall pines giving us the perfect amount of shade. It felt like room temperature outside without a drop of humidity. Not alot of scraggly bushes. Plus, we were the only ones there. 
Then all of the sudden, the path came to an end and we were treated to the unexpected sight of this gorgeous lake. And just to one side of the lake was a huge boulder field. My people had a hey day! They scattered in multiple directions climbing their little hearts out.


Gavin at his perch.


Bennett high on a hill.


Chloe on her boulder.


After aimlessly bouldering we realized we had no idea where the trail was anymore. We were officially "off-trail". This is one of the hallmarks of a Mallott hike. This picture above shows what we walked out of after finally locating the 'lost trail' again. It was a mess. Bennett, per the usual, was paranoid about poison ivy the entire time we were off-road in the bush. Thankfully, there wasn't any. But you can be sure that he didn't touch one green thing the entire time. 


After coming back down the hill, we came back to our starting point and decided to off-road it again. The river was calling our name. If there's danger involved, my boys are all over it. This log spanning the raging rocky rapids was calling out to them: cross me. So of course they did. Chloe and I sat on the side and watched. It never called my name.


Chuck, on an adrenaline high after his ominous river crossing.


Once all the boys made it to my side of the shore, we just sat on the rocks like lizards soaking up the sun, listening to the roar of the river, and taking mental pictures of all the beauty around us.


We sat in hushed revere.



And that was just the first day!




This was the historic hotel we stayed in while in Glenwood Springs. It's called the Hotel Colorado. It was built in 1893 and has been a cultural icon in the town for 125 years. As such, it didn't have any a/c - but it did have window fans, so that was nice. We were really excited about staying in this place with so much history but the current owners seemed to have remodeled in the 80s and left it as is. Architecturally, it's stunning. It's decorating left much to be desired though, unfortunately. However, that did not deter us because it did have the MOST IMPORTANT THING and that is: 4 beds. No one had to share (except mom and dad). We were able to look past the mauve paint, hunter green carpet, and lack of a/c save for this one amazing feature.



The entire next day was spent at the famed Hot Springs Pool. It had two pools, one that was more like a hot tub that was set at a constant 104 degrees. The other pool, slightly larger, was at a meager 90 degrees. It was 95 degrees outside the day we visited. You do the math. 


The excited bunch of people ready to spend the day playing in the pool. Even I swam. I'm not a huge fan of pools, but these were hot springs. There was all kinds of minerals in the water and it wasn't cold - which is my biggest complaint of pools aside from the chlorine that itches my body. 


One of the best parts were the slides. They had cold water, which we actually craved after a while, and were super fast and fun! 



Since the pool was getting a little hot, we decided to take a break in the middle of the day and go to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park



It was high atop a mountain. The only way up was through the gondolas. Again...no a/c and 95 degrees. But it only took 20 minutes to get to the top.


However, the views were breath-taking. This is the Colorado river that we would end up kayaking down the following day.


Only crazy people ride this ride. We did not!


And a lovely view of our hotel without a/c. It's the one with the red tile roof.


One last view before we descended into the caves.


They took our picture upon entrance to the lovely 54 degree cavern.


We had THE BEST tour guide. She was hilarious. She sang parody songs, danced, and was just a riot. Our favorite part of the tour was when she turned out all the lights, put on a black light and drew designs on the cave wall with flashlights. The phosphorescence on the cave walls glowed purple with the design. Super cool!


This is what you look like when you are told that the gondolas are not operating at the moment due to high winds and lightning. We stayed in this line for an hour. That was fun.


So many crazy pictures were taken to help fill the time. After surviving the unexpected delay, we realized we were starving and headed to a fantastic Thai restaurant (that we went to twice in 3 days).


We then headed back to the hotel to play some cards and wait until night-fall. Our plan was to go back to the Hot Springs and sit in the super hot pool and gaze at the stars. Unfortunately, during the long wait, two of us got really tired. And there was a live band that wasn't there during the daytime hours. And the pool was FULL of people. We did not factor any of that into our relaxing, fun evening of gazing at the stars. I don't think we saw 1 star. We lasted maybe 30 minutes. I got way too hot and dizzy and had to sit out the rest of the time. Bennett was paranoid of mosquitos. And Gavin just wanted to go to bed knowing we were requiring him to get up extra early tomorrow for a hike. We were super fun people. 


The following day we got up early to do the Hanging Lake Trail. This is a very famous trail that is a must-see for the area. Parking is very limited and in the middle of the summer you want to hike at the coolest part of the day - which is early in the morning. Thus, the reason for getting to the trail at 7:30am. It was already full. 


I just love the morning sun against the mountains!


Here we go, ready to hike one of the most strenuous trails we've ever hiked (save "The Bubble Mountain" hike in Maine that Chuck, the boys and my Dad did). 


This is exactly what the trail looks like the whole 1.2 miles up. Add to that an elevation gain of 1000 feet within that 1.2 miles and it's a killer. It took us an hour to get to the top. Lactic acid was burning every muscle we had. You can't carry enough water. We had to stop multiple times to catch our breath. I didn't get a picture of the very top, but once you reach the summit, it's stairs carved into the cliff face with a rod iron rail for you to hang on to for dear life. Steep is not an accurate enough word.


The sights along the way were beautiful if you were able to take your eyes off of the rocks in front of you long enough to look side to side.


This is almost at the top. We're on the steps carved out of the cliff face here.


TADA!! We made it. Such a pristine lake. Worth all the huffing and puffing. Plus, there was a bench we could sit down on...so that was nice.

After hiking another 45 minutes back down (with shaky leg syndrome) and everyone's ankle's in tact, we drive through the beautiful Glenwood Canyon just admiring it's sheer cliff faces on all sides and the beautiful Colorado River winding through it. We head back to the highway and take several different exits checking out if there are other things around to explore. 

We stumbled upon a rafting company. We had planned on going white water kayaking the next morning as we left to head back home. But we thought we'd check out their prices to see if they were better than other places in town. Turns out they were. We booked our kayaking trip and went in search of lunch. 

It's really unfortunate that we didn't bring any cameras on the kayaking trip because it was THE BEST part of the entire trip.  Chuck and Chloe shared a double kayak and the boys and I each had our own. We put in at the part of the river where the rapids were only Level 1 or 2. But even the level 2 rapids gave us a huge adrenaline rush. We continued on down the river with the Rafting groups. It was nice to have a guide close by incase things got hairy. We could have done this all day long. It was that much fun!! 

We slept in the next morning and drove straight to Chuy's in Denver for lunch. The perfect end to another Mallott vacation. 
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