Welp, friends, this past weekend consisted of ticking things off the bucket list from left to right and every way sidewise. It was our annual birthday trip getaway for my birthday (if you’ll recall, we’ve made something of a tradition of heading out of town for both my and Chris’ birthdays. Last year was Great Sand Dunes National Park for Chris and Telluride for me), and we headed into the mountains — to Woodland Park, to be exact.
Woodland Park is charming in its own right, but really, the main attraction for people coming to this particular area is the drive up to the summit of Pikes Peak, one of Colorado’s (in)famous “14ers,” meaning a mountain whose summit is higher than 14,000 feet. This particular mountain reaches 14,115 feet … and I had no particular interest in heading there.
Until, of course, Chris mentioned it as a potential spot for my birthday weekend getaway.
Let me back up and start by saying, Lotte has been getting car sick lately. It hasn’t happened every time we’re in the car, but four or five times is more than enough in my book, and the altitude and windy roads don’t seem to make it better. All of that is to say — planning a getaway that revolved entirely around driving up a long, high, and very windy road sounded nuts.
But still …
There was a small part of me that felt like taking on at least one 14er — especially one that you can drive rather than hike up — would be amazing, and to do it with my daughters would be even more so. So I started doing a little research on kids and car sickness and came across these Sea-Band wristbands for children:
You can’t pick the color you get (which apparently made a lot of people angry in the Amazon reviews … ), but Lotte and I both are lovin’ the camo-colored ones she ended up with.
I’ll save you the suspense and just say — these bands are amazing. I think that I put them on a little low in the picture above on our drive out to Woodland Park, which meant that they worked (aka no vomit), but Lotte did still complain a bit about not feeling well.
However, after much hemming and hawing, Chris and I decided to try our luck at driving up the 14er on Saturday with Lotte & G in tow (we had been doubting ourselves all Friday night and decided to make a game day decision), I am happy to report that Lotte not only did fantastic on the trip — both up and down, for a total of about 2 hours of driving, much of it across twisty-turny switchbacks and climbing about 7,000 feet — but she actually seemed to enjoy it!
G, on the other hand 🙁 Poor Grace — we think her ears must have bothered her with the pressure change, so if you do decide to take on this trip, that’s definitely something to keep in mind. We had crackers for both she and Lotte to chew on, and tons of water to drink, so I still feel like we did the best we could, but for older kids, gum would probably be a good idea, as well.
Here’s a bit of our stay in Woodland, amazing 14er included!
^^ We stayed in this mountain cabin, which was wonderful for our little family. The girls sure do love exploring new places, and other than the huge fireplace (which we kept unttouched) there wasn’t a whole lot they could get into trouble with. The only bathroom was in the master bedroom, which would probably be a problem for friends splitting this cabin, but for families, it worked out fine.
After a Friday filled with exploring, we hit the road around 10 a.m. for the 10-minute drive over to Pikes Peak. We had a car filled with snacks and water and hearts filled with anticipation … and hope that Lotte would be okay which, luckily, she was!
^^ Our family selfie game leaves much to be desired these days 😉
^^ The Big Foot sign relatively early in the trip is sure to pique your interest 😉 Check out more about the myth behind the big man and this big mountain right here.
^^ After driving very slowly and stopping as much as possible — for both photos and for breaks for the girls — we arrived at the top! The view is amazingly well worth the drive which, to be honest, wasn’t even as difficult as some other mountain drives I’ve been on to simply get somewhere to snowboard. Here are some of the most important things you need to know about this drive, according to the Pikes Peak site: 1. You drive through four of Colorado’s six life zones. 2. You can actually stop and fish at 9,200 feet. 3. They serve hot donuts at the top! 4. On the clearest day, you can see five states including Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Kansas.
^^ Oh, and you get to snap photos like thisssssss!
^^ AND THIS!
^^ AND THIS!!
^^ Those are donut crumbs on Lotte’s face because, well, you just know we had to get some of those!
^^ After a rough ride up and a rough beginning at the summit (poor thing!), baby G passed out in the visitor’s center at the top. The altitude (and all the crying :/) probably wore her out. I am happy to report that her ride down the mountain was much better. We fed them both lunch on the ride home, and while it may seem counterintuitive, for some reason it always seems to make Lotte (and G, I guess) feel better when eating in the car.
^^ Blissfully uncaring of the fact that she just (accidentally) kicked my brand new cup of coffee off the stool and that it splattered all over the place :/
^^ Doesn’t get much more glorious than this.
After taking our time at the top, we finally headed back to the cabin. Chris took a little walk with the girls, and he surprised me with these amazing shots at the end of it:
Then we headed out to dinner and called it a night.
Sunday we decided to try for a hike in the morning, but about .25 miles in it got too snowy and we had to turn around. Still, it was nice to stretch our legs for even a little bit.
Then, before heading home, we decided to take a drive through Garden of the Gods. It was G’s first visit, and while it was packed, we were able to pull over on the side of the road at one point and snap a couple awesome shots.
And that, my friends, was my birthday weekend! It was a weekend full of fun, firsts and family, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way <3
I’ll leave you with some parting thoughts about the drive up to the Pikes Peak summit, in case you ever want to take it on yourself:
- I’d suggest getting acclimated to higher altitudes as much as possible before driving to the top. In other words — don’t fly into Denver from Florida and drive directly to the mountain. Even though we live in a higher altitude, I still felt dizzy at the top.
- Takes tons and tons and tons of water. We brought full bottles for the girls, a big, full bottle for ourselves and then bought an extra gallon to refill everyone’s stuff along the way.
- Bring snacks. Altitude makes you snackey.
- Have a good car, and know how to drive it. If you’re renting a car, be sure to request one that’s all-wheel drive, and then know how to work the gears. I have never shifted gears in our automatic car, and I’m just glad Chris was there to talk me through it, because burning your breaks on the way down is a very real possibility.
- Dress for multiple climates. Depending on the time of year you go, it could be sunny and warm on the bottom and pretty chilly up top.
Bis bald, friends — I hope you’re enjoying your adventures, wherever they bring you!