Will & Ellie's First Hike!

As we drove into Estes Park on our first evening, we got stuck in traffic.  We weren't sure what was going on but we couldn't believe that in off season there would be so much traffic!
Turns out - the elk are running right now.  Which means they are everywhere!  The've come down from the high mountains to mate I think.
This huge bull elk was on the side of the highway so cars had slowed to take pictures!
R is now openly mocking my love of these creatures.  
They are huge and majestic and fascinating.

This one was stopping traffic on our first night.
(Sorry - photo grabbed with my phone & R wouldn't stop.)
Ps - Don't worry -with my new found love of elk & the abundance of them around here right now, I have more photos.)
(you're welcome.)

on our cabin front porch... ready to go hiking!
on our cabin's front door

Junior Ranger Will at the Ranger's Station
When we went to purchase our week long parking pass to use the Rocky Mountain National Park, the park ranger noticed our kids.
And he handed back our money to R & this id card...
Each of our children now has a free pass to use any national park or forest for the rest of their lives for FREE!
It's a disability pass and I suppose the point of them is to encourage those with physical challenges to get outside & use parks and forests that they might be intimidated by because of unique challenges.  
Or maybe it's just that someone is being nice.
I looked at the forest ranger & as Will said thanks (& proceeded to tell him he is four & is going on his first hike) I mentioned that this must be one of the perks to having a disability.  
I mean, how great is this?!  A lifetime pass and it includes anyone who is with them too!
R & I were discussing it later and even though sometimes we might prefer that this wasn't an option - that we didn't know about these sorts of perks - we wouldn't change anything & we are so thankful to live in a time and a country in which those with disabilities are not outcasts or looked down upon.  We are so thankful for little moments like this that give hope & just make us smile.
So thanks, US Government!
We've got a lifetime of exploring parks ahead of us!  (Or, you know, 2 lifetimes.)

Not that Will's differences slowed him down one little bit. If anything, wow!  That kid hiked a national park with prosthetics on his legs!

a girl & her daddy at the trailhead
"This smells like Christmas!"

Will - our hiking "line leader"
my favorites & my favorite trees- Aspen - just starting to change to bright yellow
checking out the views
(When Will sees a mountain he shouts, "I see a Rocky Mountain!"

looking for trout

a boy and his dad exploring
I love this picture because it is so typical of our life... I thought the rocks were in a cool formation - R cut them out of the pic... Ellie's eyes are hidden & Will is making a funny face
Oh well
Will walked most of the hike up the mountain but towards the end we put him in the backpack carrier to make better time.  He giggled non stop.
His laugh is so contagious & I noticed that as we passed other hikers, they would chuckle too-
you can't help but smile and laugh when you hear him!
We fed our wildlife atop a huge boulder
& we fed Chipmunks!!!

Will wasn't scared at all!  Neither was Ellie for that matter.  
Ellie tried to eat her peanut so we relegated her to observing.
Will, on the other hand, did great about offering the peanut to the chipmunks
Daddy helped Ellie

So fun!  We loved these little chipmunks!  We also saw trout, elk, and pikas while hiking on our first day.

Crossing a creek

Hitching a ride

Finally - we made it to the top - 
Alberta Falls.
Beautiful waterfall!

Halfway back down, Ellie fell asleep

and stayed asleep even on the hiker's shuttle back to the park and ride
hiking wore the girl out!

We are so proud of our junior rangers for completing their first ever hike!

I ran to the grocery store after our hike & looked what was outside the store!
An elk "cow" (female) (actually there were 2)

 playing ball with daddy while mommy made dinner 
We have a great cabin - 2 rooms plus a kitchen & dining room.
And R found it & was able to negotiate 40% off!  Yahoo for off season!
Last night, Will said, "Mommy!  I didn't even know there was a room upstairs!"  Not sure where he thought R & I were sleeping.
Anyway, we've been cooking our meals - making picnic lunches for our hikes & making dinner here (except for one night when we have big plans for dinner.)  I'm making simple recipes - ones I know by heart - so that I can spend time with my family.  Adam gave me lots of fresh veggies from his garden & I have to admit I like cooking sometimes in a little kitchen - it makes it fast when you never have to move more than two feet!  It's been nice to just be in the evenings - no agenda - just playing & eating together & hanging out.  Last night, we borrowed some movies & Twister the game from our cabin's checkout center.  Loving this time just being together.
Last night, just after I put Will in the bath, a neighbor knocked on our door.  There was a huge bull elk on our porch!  R & Ellie headed outside to watch him & naturally, I grabbed Will out of the tub, threw his dirty clothes on him & we ran after the elk with my phone.  Should have grabbed a camera with a flash. Sorry.

Here he is as he left our cabin
These seven female elk were outside our cabins this morning.  (Elk travel in a herd.  The females are called a harem.  My four year old now knows the word "harem."  Hopefully he won't repeat that in preschool next week.)
Here's the bull.  Right smack in front of my car.

Sorry.  I realize I might be a bit excessive with my elk pictures.  They are just so beautiful.  And huge.  And they make the coolest bugle noises - very high pitched.  (Google or youtube it - so cool.)  It woke Ellie & I up at 4:30 am bugleing right outside our cabin our first night.  We slept last night with our windows open and I loved hearing them throughout the night.  Just amazing.)
While praying last night, Will said, "God, please be quiet in my heart tonight so I can listen to the elk buckle."  (buckle=bugle)
I tried to stop the laughter & told him that even with God talking to him, he could still hear the elk.  I told him that even the elk praise their Creator. He thought that was cool.

Ok - no more elk pictures (today.)

We are having a lovely vacation.  Just together time.  Time outside & laughing & exploring & learning new things.  It's quiet and we needed that.  There's something about exploring God's creation and watching the discovery in the eyes of a one year old and a four year old as they see rushing rapids in a river or thick clouds of snow on the mountains (Will said he can still see the mountains with his x-ray vision powers through the snow clouds because he is eating power bars to give him special powers.)  or hear the elk bugle or feed a wild chipmunk or climb high up on boulders.  
It's just a precious time for our family of four - something we've needed and I think it's been so good for us already.

2 thoughts:

Sarah Kovac said...

I loved, LOVED this post! I feel like I've met a kindred spirit. I am from the Kansas City area, but almost every Summer of my life, I've spent vacationing in various cabins in the Rockies. I knew about the free Natl Park passes for those with disabilities, but unfortunately I never have made it to one, yet. Are you from Colorado, or were you vacationing there?

Scott & Shelby Peschel said...

Love it all! Our fav place in all of Colorado for sure! Your kids beat mine to it! I know they had a blast!

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