Edit Note: I wrote this post on the Monday after Thanksgiving, as we had just spent the weekend at the second YMCA of the Rockies location. Since the trip was a sponsored press trip, I waited to post this until the story for the publication that sponsored me went live. You can find the complete Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Rewards story here!
Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, loves! Our little family was lucky enough to try out the second YMCA of the Rockies location — this time in Estes Park — the weekend after the holiday. (You can find information on our stay at the Granby Ranch location here.)
While similar in many ways, and with many of the same amenities as Granby, the Estes Park location did feel slightly different. There is less property at this location, which means the cabins and activities are closer together. This is nice if you’d like to opportunity to walk around more easily, but the vastness of the Granby location also had its perks. Whichever you visit, you honestly can’t go wrong. Grace spent the entire first-day-back-preschool-morning-check-in walking up to her little friends and her teacher and saying, “I went to the YMCA of the Rockies!”
It obviously had a lasting impact. Here’s a little bit why …
And that was our action-packed, amazing trip in a nutshell, my friends! Check out the YMCA of the Rockies in the Good Housekeeping travel awards here.
Happy Thanksgiving week, my friends! We have been battling all the illnesses over here lately (just like literally everyone else in the world, I know), but we did manage to pull it together this past weekend for a quick press trip out to YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO.
As you’ll recall, we are already big fans of Granby, but the YMCA property took that love to a whole other level. I won’t go into a ton of detail here (because all of that is covered in the actual story that the press trip was for, which you can find here), but I’ll just say, this is the best, most upgraded camp experience you could ever have, dropped right in the middle of the most majestic mountain setting.
Some of our activities included:
Meeting the sled dog team and going on a little ride
Checking out the Kiva/Rec Center
Making crafts in the Craft Center
Smoresing and bonfireing
Building a float for a mini Thanksgiving Day parade
Enjoying our SPECTACULAR mountain views
We feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this iconic spot.
We stopped off in Idaho Springs on our way home, as well, and had lunch at Beau Jo’s <3
I hope you guys are staying healthy and have some relaxing and fun holiday plans ahead. Until next time … bis bald!
I mean … G is barely even in this photo, but you get the gist — Colorado is amazing in the summer, and summer is right around the corner! I mean, it’s pretty amazing all of the time, but the summer is a great time to check out the mountains, lakes, hikes, breweries … and everything in between.
To help you out if you happen to be in the hood, here are a few of our fave hangouts when the weather gets warmer:
Well friends, we did it — Lotte’s first camping trip! And we survived! (Mostly.)
This weekend we packed up our Forester (which seems to be getting smaller and smaller on us, theses days!) and joined my cousin and her family and some of their friends out near Boreas Pass Road at Selkirk Campground for some straight-up tent camping with our 10-month-old.
I can hear you now saying we’re crazy, and maybe a small part of us is, but we just had to give it a try! We settled on one night — Saturday — to ease ourselves into it, and while Chris gave the overall status of the trip a 60% grade (more on why later), I’d say it was more like a 75%. Don’t get me wrong — the daytime was amazing, an A+! The night, however … well that was another story.
Here’s a couple things I learned from camping for the first time with my 10-month-old:
One night is not enough for everything you have to do to get prepped for camping. With all the food and gear and baby gadgets we had to get together, I felt like we should be leaving for a month, not 24 hours. Still, I think having just the one night ended up working out okay since, as I mentioned above, things didn’t go so well at night. However, if/when we camp again, I think we’ll shoot for at least a 2-night minimum.
Prepare for all contingencies. Anyone who has gone camping will already know this, but when you have a baby with you, put that on your list three times. I had checked the weather before we left and saw it was meant to dip down to the lower 40s at night, so we were ready, but it actually ended up dipping to the lower 30s (?!?!?! That’s mountain life for ya!), so I was extra happy we were prepared.
Don’t think you’ll sleep. At all. Get in all the rest and relaxation in the days leading up to your camping trip that you can, because camping with your baby will not be relaxing. As I mentioned already, our night wasn’t so great. Lotte was up about every two hours, and while she mostly went back down relatively easily, still, she was up crying every. two. hours. So no sleep was had by anyone (including the family in the tent closest to us … sorrrryyyyy!). I don’t think she was cold, necessarily, since her nighttime attire included a long-sleeved onesie, socks, fleece pajamas, her winter sleep sack, socks on her hands, her winter hat and a fleece blanket (plus eventually we brought her over to our mattress to sleep with us, so she had our blanket on top of her, too). I think it was just the overall weirdness of being outside and in a tent that she just couldn’t get used to. Whatever it was, she wasn’t having it!
Be down for anything. For as frustrating as our night was, the day was gorgeous and filled with fun. We hiked and watched the sunset and made smores and they had hammocks and there was a beautiful stream, so it was very fun. The one thing I hadn’t really thought about, though, was that at this crawling age, we couldn’t really put Lotte down anywhere (dirt, and anything else, goes right in the mouth these days), which meant Chris or myself was holding her all day long. Again this was fine, especially for one night, but it definitely wasn’t something we thought of ahead of time.
Anyway, after unpacking when we arrived, here’s what we actually got to see and do. It was pretty spectacular …
^^ I am never not taking glorious mountain photos from the car window when we drive places around here!
^^ My cousin’s daughter is one year almost to the day older than Lotte, and they are just the cutest together!
^^ The relaxin’ in a camp chair in the sun part of camping? Lotte had that part nailed 😉
^^ Look at these glorious views! I would definitely recommend this area for camping, just be sure to bring your rugged, all-terrain vehicle because some of the roads were quite bumpy to navigate.
^^ There’s my man, settin’ us up for the night. We actually don’t have any camping gear ourselves besides one cooler … is that crazy? We borrowed this stuff from our camping-pro friends, though, and it was pretty amazing.
^^ This. Little. Face. All dirty and scratched up 😉
^^ Dubious tent face :/ A sign of things to come!
^^ These two <3
^^ When Lotte wouldn’t sleep, we went for a walk with her, which at least meant we were able to catch this glorious sunset … so thanks for that, Lotte!
^^ We woke up to 34 degree temps, and I needed to breastfeed Lotte, which I was not about to do in that frigid weather. So we started up the car, put the heat on and Lotte and I hung out there for a little bit in the wee hours of the morning. Oh, parenthood 😉
^^ Maxin’ and relaxin’ while we all pack up.
^^ My cousin with Lotte. We were so thankful for the invite and had so much fun tagging along the trip … thanks Court!
^^ We made a few pitstops on the way home to take in the views, too.
And that was our camping in a nutshell! Super gorgeous, very fun and entirely exhausting 😉 And would I do it all over again? You bet I would!
I hope everyone has a fun Fourth of July plans. We’ll be heading out of town to the Twin Lakes area to check it out. Until next time, bis bald!
After settling into our amazing tiny house last Wednesday, we woke up bright and early Thursday morning, ready to tackle the awesome splendor that is Grand Teton National Park. We got up around 6 a.m., made some coffee, and sat on our front porch overlooking the Tetons while we planned our day.
Here’s how the day went:
We started with breakfast at a cute little bakery right in the downtown part of Jackson called Persephone, where we ordered coffees, breakfast sandwiches and scones to go. It was busy, but we didn’t have to wait too long, and the food was amazing, so I’d highly recommend checking this place out if you’re in town.
After grabbing breakfast, we headed across the street to an outdoor store and grabbed some bear spray.
A note about the bear spray, people — it’s expensive, but it makes all the difference in terms of comfort level when you’ll be hiking (or even just standing!) in areas where there has been heavy bear activity, like there has been this year in both the Tetons and Yellowstone. For example — we ended up seeing four bears in Yellowstone … but that’s a post for another day 😉
Anyway, after breakfast and bear spray, we started the drive out to the park. The road we originally wanted to take was actually closed down due to bear activity (see!), but no matter where you drive around the Tetons, you’re sure to see some amazing stuff.
^^ After our hike, we stopped off at Dornans to have some drinks overlooking the mountains.
^^ Doesn’t get much more Wyoming than this.
On our way back to our tiny house, we stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some veggies and smores to grill and some wine to drink. Chris was dying to try out the outdoor grill that came with our tiny house, and I was dying to stare up at the stars all night long — so it worked out well for both of us!
We also decided to try out The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, right in downtown Jackson, which is about as cowboy/Midwest as you can possibly get. It’s definitely worth a stop-in for a drink if you’re in the area!
^^ You can’t really tell from this photo, but we’re actually sitting on bar stools that are saddles. Fun!
^^ Grilling for dinner right next to our tiny house. It was the perfect way to end our day full o’ fun at the Grand Tetons!
The next morning we would be up early (again!) to head over to breakfast at The Bunnery in Jackson before driving about an hour or so to start our Yellowstone adventure.
But more on that to come later, my friends. For now — bis bald!
Now, I’ve heard a lot about these “tiny” houses over the past few years, but to be honest I hadn’t paid a ton of attention because Chris and I have managed to live in cities where, for the most part, our living spaces have been what can only be described as “tiny”. Having said that, there is something altogether different about the likes of the Wheelhaus tiny house that we were lucky enough to stay in through Fireside Resorts. These houses, while tiny, are not only beautiful and state-of-the-art, but the views simply couldn’t get any better.
Here’s a bit of what the inside looked like:
^^ We arrived Wednesday after dark, so our first impression of the campground was through the soft lighting of the resorts. That, plus the incredible starry sky, was all the welcome I needed to know this place was going to be amazing.
^^ The master bedroom had a closed-off porch attached, which was right next to the grilling area and a babbling brook. Talk about idyllic!
^^ The loft upstairs held two beds.
^^ The next morning we were able to see what the view from our cabin truly was …
^^ And take advantage of the coffee machine, of course 😉
^^ Ahh, tetons. I could stare at you all gosh darn day!
^^ The brook next to our cabin.
^^ Our first morning at the cabin was happily spent sipping coffee on the front porch, overlooking the Tetons, while planning our trip to the National Park that day.
^^ When the keys to your rental come attached to a Swiss Army knife, you just know your stay is going to be bad-ass! ^^ A side view of the house.
I have more to say about this amazing place, but I’ll go ahead and talk about some other things we loved about it in future posts. For now, I’ll just say that if you have ever considered renting a tiny home in lieu of a regular hotel in the past, now is the time to do it. Seriously, do it! You won’t regret it — I can promise you that 😉
Bis bald, friends! I’ll be back tomorrow with everything Grand Teton related!
^^ A little view on our way to Aspen last weekend.
So this past Saturday Chris and I decided to stop off in Aspen on our way to Glenwood Springs to hike the Hanging Lake trail. Aspen’s about four hours away from us in Denver, and neither one of us had been before, but it’s only about an hour from Glenwood Springs, so we figured Saturday would make the perfect time to do a little stop off.
At first we weren’t sure what to check out since we would have limited time, but after a little research, I determined that seeing the Maroon Bells was absolutely what we needed to do. According to some sources, these mountain ranges are the most photographed mountains in all of North American — and now we know why.
During the summer the trail into the Maroon Bells site is closed to individual cars from 8 to 5 p.m. (unless you have a child under 2, or a few other contingencies), but you can catch a bus for $6 per person from Aspen Highlands, and they have free parking for Maroon Bell visitors as well. The parking lot does fill up quickly though, so you kind of need to test your luck. We did get lucky, though, because we arrived around 2 and were able to find a spot right away.
It was meant to be.
Here’s a bit of the (spectacular) views …
^^ This lake on the way into Aspen was too pretty not to pull off to the side of the road and photograph.
^^ The Aspen Highlands, where we parked and caught the bus into Maroon Bells.
^^ Gorgeous mountain views.
^^ So about these mountains. The Maroon Bells are two peaks in the Elk Mountains — Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak — separated by about a third of a mile. You can hike them (they’re considered ’14ers’ — aka the name that Coloradans have given to certain mountains in the state that are above 14,000 feet), but the terrain is very difficult, so you should definitely do your research and train beforehand.
^^ There is another little hike, about 3 miles, running away from the mountains, that Chris and I will definitely be back to do at some point in the near future.
^^ Loved these wildflowers!
And that was Maroon Bells, kids. We spent a couple hours there, and then hopped back in the car to finish the hour drive to Glenwood Springs. I’ll be back tomorrow with more on our evening in Glenwood Springs and the Hanging Lake hike.
Last Friday Chris took a half day from work and we took off in our little Matrix hatchback filled with camping gear to cover the approximately 5-hour trip from Denver to Moab, Utah. We would be camping with three other (way more experienced than we are, thank goodness!) couples, and they had all headed up the day or so before to grab us what turned out to be an amazing camp site in some backwoods area off the beaten trail.
So I wish I had been able to take some decent photos of the car ride out to Utah, because I think it’s safe to say the gorgeous scenery starts pretty much as soon as you hit the mountains on the way out, and only gets prettier and prettier. The five hours seriously flew by, since we were down in the depths of canyons, passing through arid desert, traipsing through small mountain towns …. basically it’s a breathtaking and incredibly entertaining ride the whole way.
But wahoe, my friends! It only gets prettier the second (and I do mean second) youenter Moab territory. Red rock canyons for as far as the eye can see. After about 10 miles of hairpin turns and rocky climbing which I wasn’t totally convinced Manny the Matrix could handle (and which she did, with aplomb), we made it to our camp site.
Behold our home for the four-day camping trip:
^^ Meet the Avocado, the adorable little camper one of our camping companions purchased a few years back for $4 grand and remodeled into an adorable little compact camping van. Doesn’t she just seem like she belongs out there?
^^ That’s our little Manny, next to the tent we had to borrow from my sister’s sister-in-law, since we currently have no camping gear to call our own. Thanks, Rachel!
^^ The view from our tent every morning. Le sigh.
^^ Enjoying smores by the camp fire.
^^ Sunsets each night produced this halo effect on the surrounding canyons, making it appear as if they were lit on fire from some unknown, hidden source. Breathtaking.
^^ On our last night we hiked up onto one of the closer canyons near our campground and had a fabulous 360-degree view of our campground and all of the surrounding area.
^^ Gloriousness all around!
So now comes the adventure part of our little trip. I’ve learned a lesson here, my friends, and it’s this: When you’re traveling with friends who are all marathon runners, take whatever fitness level they tell you the upcoming hike you’re about to partake in will be and multiply it by 10, and you’ll start to come a bit closer to what an average person would call the strenuousness of said hike.
That’s not to say that had they accurately described any of the hikes, that I wouldn’t have gone on them, but it’s just something good to be aware of, going into such physical activities.
For our first hike on Saturday, I’d call it a moderately strenuous rock climb. The first portion (and therefore last as well) consisted entirely of climbing up pretty vertical rocks, which I actually don’t mind doing, believe it or not. The views, of course, were unparalleled. Here are photos from that first hike, called the Hunter Canyon Rim Trail.
^^ Cactus makes sense in the desert, but we were even more surprised by some of the random trees and wildflowers that grew out from the rock, clay and dirt. How do they even manage to live there? Nature is amazing.
^^ Spectacular canyon views.
^^ Feelin’ pretty happy with myself, if I’m being honest 😉
After our three-hour hike we headed into the town (which, by the way, is totally adorable) and had lunch at The Spoke on Center Restaurant. My house-made veggie burger was something spectacular (although to be honest, at that point I was so hungry I probably would have eaten dirt), and they’ve got lots of local beers on tap, too.
Here’s actually a nice place to segue into some of the craziness of Utah. In a state whose population consists of many, many Mormons, it only makes sense that some of these laws would involve drinking. (Take, for example, the fact that beers are not allowed to be poured in front of the general restaurant — all of that has to be done in a kitchen, away from the eyes of the people eating.) In addition to the drinking rules, though, come some doozies like the fact that husbands are responsible for the criminal acts that wives commit in their presence, it’s a felony to persistently walk on the cracks between paving stones on the sidewalk, and women are not allowed to swear in Logan, Utah.
Oh, and dancing is illegal in Saint George, Utah, as well.
Sheesh. There’s too much to love about the outdoors in Utah to care about their crazy rules, though, so moving on …
On Sunday we hiked what’s known as the Top of the World Trail — a consistently uphill 4-mile (although this link says 5, so guess somewhere in between) trek to some of the most spectacular views you’ll find anywhere, ever, in your life. Be warned, though …. this hike isn’t for the faint of heart. The entire time it took us to hike it (about 3.5 hours up and back), we never came across any other hikers. Everyone else was riding up on either 4-wheelers or in their Jeeps or such, although we did see a few mountain bikers who I think were just about as crazy as we were.
This hike is also not for those afraid of heights. I mean I guess it’s okay to do the hike, but you definitely shouldn’t look at the end view if you’re afraid of heights, and if you can’t do that, well let’s be honest, what’s the point. From the Top of the World you can see Titan Tower and Fisher Towers, as well as a whole big huge portion of Utah in all of its splendor. We had picked up some bagel sandwiches from The Red Rock Bakery & Net Cafe in town before heading out, so we housed those in about 10 seconds flat, took in the amazing scenery, and then made our way back down.
This was our reward after all that crazy hiking (which, I cannot lie, may have caused me to shed a tear or two in leg pain anxiety … totally worth it!):
The next day we were up early to head out to Arches National Park. Since it was Memorial Day and we had been told this was one of the busier ones that people in town had ever seen, we were a bit worried that we might have to wait in line quite a while to get in, but lucky for us, the wait was only about 10 minutes before we could ride right in.
You can choose to drive all the way around the park, if you want, and you can even see Balanced Rock this way (pictured below), but the best thing to do is drive some and get out and hike a bit. You’ll have to hike about 3-miles roundtrip (which includes some pretty hefty uphill rock face climbing on the way there) if you want to see the Delicate Arch, but I would highly recommend doing this — it’s more than worth the leg pain …
^^ Balanced Rock from the road.
^^ And the big kahuna — Delicate Arch. See what I mean — how amazing?!
^^ Be sure to take the short trail off the Delicate Arch path to see the Moab Indian Rock Art that dates back to the late 1800s. It’s amazingly cool.
And that was about it, my friends! A short but totally jam-packed and beyond amazing camping trip. We have to really, truly thank our friends from NY for inviting us and showing us the ropes. Moab is huge and intimidating and extremely free-form … and Chris and I both agree that we probably would have wasted a lot of time trying to find our way around a map on our first trip out had it not been for our friends. So thanks guys — and please feel free to invite us back on your yearly Moab camping trips any time!
Happy Memorial Day weekend, friends! I hope everyone has awesome plans! While I must admit that the above photo is stolen from a friend’s Facebook page (thanks Joe!), Chris and I will soon be heading to Moab, Utah, to meet up with said friend, and a few others, for a long weekend of camping.
I haven’t been camping since … oh … I think maybe the summer before my senior year of college? Sheesh. Wish us luck, friends! I’ll be back Tuesday with a 52 Project Photo of Moab, I’m sure, and then a longer post on the trip later.
Welcome officially to summer! I must admit something that I realize makes me relatively unpopular — I normally hate the summer. (My husband is either laughing or shaking his head right now. We have a running joke that he’s going to count the number of times I complain about summer this summer. If you’re reading this husband: This doesn’t count …)
I know, I know. Summer means visits to the beach and sleeping under the stars and spending hours outside in the sun. Problem is … when you live in New York City, it can be hard to fill your summer days with these activities, and if you instead end up spending most of those summer days within the confines of this concrete jungle (Jay-Z’s words, not mine), those days are actually nothing short of hot, sweaty and stinky.
I’m sorry, but it’s true. I have no illusions of what the city is like in the summer.
So my solution to my souring mood in the summer is to plan lots of exciting trips for this year. Next weekend my sister and I are heading to Bradley Beach while my sister-in-law (who’s visiting with her boyfriend from Australia … a wahoooo!!!) are in Boston, and then Chris and I fly out to Arizona to visit an old friend of mine for the long July 4th weekend.
In fact, said friend just sent me and Chris the itinerary for our trip. It includes a 4 a.m. wake-up call on July 4th so she and Chris can run this race, followed by a barbecue and swimming and lounging about with drinks in-hand. Then on Friday we’ll be heading to Strawberry, AZ, to hike Fossil Creek Canyon. I’m beyond excited for this outing … I just hope I can keep up with those two, who are, let’s say, slightly more in shape than I happen to be at the moment. Dinner Friday night will be in Old Town Scottsdale, which sounds lovely as well.
Needless to say, starting the summer out with some trips planned outside of the city makes me able to look forward to this season a bit more than I have in past years.
And speaking of trips … Chris and I have started working on what could potentially be some very exciting travel news in the upcoming months. I’m not going to share here just yet, since we’re only in the very beginning stages of planning, but let’s just say … I really, really hope we can make it all work! Promise to share more details as soon as we know more about what we’re actually doing.
Okay bis bald, friends! Hope you all have some amazingly fun plans for the summer, as well!
Then, Chris and I booked a trip out to Arizona to visit an old friend of mine for the weekend of July 4th. Neither one of us has been before, so we’re super excited. We’re going to go camping and hiking, and visit Lake Powell and Havasu Falls:
September will be a big month for us, too. We’ll be heading to Australia to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, and then taking a couple-day honeymoon to The Great Barrier Reef:
^^A little memory from our last trip to Australia (written about here and here). That’s Shawn the Koala, the subject of my soon-to-written children’s book series. Seriously. It’s coming.
There will be another trip in September two weekends before Australia, but that’s super secret for now, as it’s a surprise trip in honor of Chris’s 30th birthday. Let’s just say—I’m super excited about it!
And that’s about it (for now)! Bis bald, friends! I’ll catch up with you again super soon …
Okay, so this past weekend I headed upstate (it took us about 7 hours to get there, with traffic, on Friday!) to New Hampshire and Rockywold-Deephaven Campgrounds for my cousin Courtney’s wedding. The cabins and grounds here mostly surround the fabulous Squam Lake, which makes for an awesome time of fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming.
Which is exactly what we did:
So Friday night, after arriving a little after 7 in a car full of strangers (who, by the way, all turned out to be totally rockin’!), we all quickly changed and headed over to the area where the barbecue was being held. And although it would have been awesome, the only thing that we weren’t able to do because of the weather for the entire weekend was a bonfire on Friday. I don’t think anyone missed it.
Then Saturday, after a morning of canoeing and swimming and sunbathing and hiking, we all started getting ready for the 3:30 p.m. ceremony.
Now, getting married outside can be tricky business, right? But let me tell you something, this weather was specially tailored for Courtney and Charlie last weekend. The ceremony, held right on the lake, was breezy and beautiful, sunny and fabulous. Then, just about everyone got to take photos outside before it started pouring down rain. And even then, when the rain came, it stopped again right before we all had to head out to the place where the reception was.
So overall, I have to say that this campground is a fabulous place to get married, to bring your significant other, and even to bring the family. The kids in our family who joined in on the weekend festivities couldn’t have been happier.
Bis bald, friends! And get out there and go camping this summer!
As you may or may not remember, I headed a bit up North this past weekend (six hours up North, to be exact) to New Hampshire and Rockywold-Deephaven Camp on Squam Lake for my cousin’s wedding. Well I’m back—and it was awesome! I haven’t had a chance to download photos yet (and unfortunately my camera batteries were acting up, so I don’t have that many photos at all), but I’ll tell you this much—there was hiking, and fishing, and lake swimming, and canoeing.
Alright friends, I’m off tomorrow morning to Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in New Hampshire for my cousin Courtney’s nuptials. If we are lucky enough to get fabulous weather, it appears there will be a lot of drinking by the lake, smores, campfires, games, and general merriment all around.