December 2015 – Glenwood Springs

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For the first time ever, we were spending Christmas as just the 4 of us. So we thought it would be fun to get away on our own little Christmas Vacation! We had originally planned to leave for Universal Studios in Orlando, FL on Christmas Day, but because of our move and Brian’s new job, that trip wasn’t going to work out. I knew the kids were disappointed, so I wanted to at least go somewhere, even if it was closer to home. So Glenwood Springs it was! Since we left on Christmas, I might as well include Christmas morning in the tale.

As usual, no one slept in much since it was Christmas! We were up around 7am, I think. Owen was anxious to run straight downstairs and see what Santa had brought, but Lily seemed more hesitant, like she was wanting to savor the moment a little more. I did my usual pre-run downstairs to turn on lights and Christmas music.

Neither of our kids are big on reactions, so I’ve learned not to be disappointed when they don’t seem outwardly thrilled at the first sight of their loot, But we had a nice hour or so opening presents. Santa had wrapped more of his presents than usual, so there was a lot of unwrapping to do, and clean up!

A few highlights – Owen got a bunch of raccoon stuff for his new room, transformers toys, a globe, Minecraft stuff, and several stormtroopers. And a marble ramp -he had been asking for a toy roller coaster, but that was the closest thing Santa could come up with!

Lily also got some stuff for her new room (she’s going for a “grown up princess” theme), also some Minecraft stuff, a Chromebook (laptop), various paraphernalia from her favorite TV shows, Bearpaw boots, and assorted “girly stuff”.

After presents, I made a breakfast of eggs, biscuits, bacon, etc. And then it was time to pack! There was some winter weather moving in, and I decided that we needed to get on the road a little sooner than I had planned. So it wasn’t quite the peaceful, idyllic morning I had pictured, but still nice to be on our own schedule for once.

I also made lunch before we left, knowing we might have trouble finding much open. Just a simple chicken stir-fry – we were saving our big Christmas Dinner for the evening!

The road wasn’t bad until we got into the mountains. It was definitely slow-going, and I was glad I had given us extra time. Coming down Vail Pass was no easy feat, luckily we ended up following right behind the snow plow truck so that made it easier. As we were driving, something suddenly seemed to streak across the windshield, and it took a few seconds to realize that it had just cracked! The cold was too much, I guess.

We arrived at our hotel around 5pm, and had just a little time to settle in before heading to dinner. We were staying at the Hot Springs Lodge, so we would get to do plenty of swimming!

We found our way to the Rivers Restaurant, one of the few places in town open tonight. It was good I made reservations weeks ago – they were completely full! It was a large, winding restaurant, spanning several rooms. Very quaint and Christmas-y feeling though. Overall we had a nice meal – our server was very attentive despite being so busy and everyone enjoyed their food. Owen of course was already severely attached to his new raccoon, and had even brought him to dinner.

Once back at the hotel, we got our swim stuff together and headed to the pool. Not too many places in Colorado where you can swim outside in the winter, especially in the middle of a snow storm! The pool is heated naturally from the hot springs, and is like the biggest hot tub you’ve ever seen. Actually, more like the biggest pool you’ve ever seen, filled with hot tub water!

We got ready in the locker rooms, which were inside. The only unpleasant part of this was the short walk out to the pool. The ground was covered in ice, and by the time we made it the few seconds to the pool, my feet felt like they were going to fall off! But the water on that end of the pool was the hottest, being the closest to the spring, and suddenly it was a choice between freezing or scalding! I loved the sudden sensation, but the kids were a little more hesitant.

The pool was very full- we weren’t the only ones with this idea! After a few minutes, Brian and the kids wanted to go farther down the pool where it was cooler. I went with them for a while, but soon got cold and spent some time on my own in the hot part while they played. The whole pool area was so foggy and dark, it made it very hard to find each other when you split up. There were a couple of lifeguards there, but I’m not sure how effective they could be given the visibility. I’m actually surprised they are able to keep the pool open at night, it seems like it would be a huge liability for them.

The whole thing was a little surreal though – basking in the huge hot tub on Christmas night, with Christmas music blaring in the background, and snow falling on our head. I guess this is what we came for! I hadn’t thought we would stay that long, but before we knew it, they were making the 10pm closing announcements. We got dressed in the locker room again and headed back to the room. (We were staying at the pool’s lodge, but still had to climb a hill and cross a street to get to our building so we weren’t going to walk back wet, in the snow!)

The next morning, we enjoyed the free, made to order breakfast at the hotel, then Brian headed off on a hike. He wanted to climb hanging lake, and while it would have been a fun family hike in summer, I had read that it was far more treacherous while iced over in the winter. So he was going solo this time.

I figured the kids might want to swim, but it turned out they were content just to hang out in the room and spend some time with their new Christmas presents (many of which had made the trip with us)

Brian came back in time for lunch, and we ventured out into the city on foot, crossing over the interstate on a pedestrian bridge. We ended up in a little local restaurant nearby. Lily’s mood hadn’t been great, and even after getting back to the room, she was still grumpy. But we had plans to go to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, hopefully she wouldn’t ruin it.

We got our tickets and headed up the gondola. We tried to ride the alpine coaster, but sadly it was closed. They were actively working to get the track unburied from snow and gave us hope that it would open later, but it never did. A bummer, because that’s one of the things Owen was really looking forward to. Oh well.

Owen played around in the shooting gallery, but Lily was getting really grumpy by now. Mostly I think she was just cold. She is in the phase of wanting to dress far more for style than comfort, and the fashionable green jacket she had chosen was not enough for the weather. Her choice, though unfortunately it still affects the rest of us.

We decided that we could just barely make the next cave tour, and at least it would be warmer inside the cave. This was the Kings Row cave. A neat guided tour took us deep inside several rooms, and our guide explained some of the history of the cave’s exploration. I can’t even imagine being one of the people that will spend hours descending a 6-inch wide crack, just hoping to find something bigger on the other side! I’m way too claustrophobic, lol!

The boys wanted to play laser tag, but Lily just wanted to get a snack and chill, so we split up. I don’t mind laser tag, but it isn’t something I’m sad to miss, so it was fine to spend some time with Lily and try to lift her mood. Afterwards, we watched the 4-D movie – just a short video-game like clip of riding on a track through the jungle. Everyone really enjoyed it though.

With the coaster still not operating, Owen wanted to do the zip line ride instead. I was a little hesitant, since I have just a teeny little fear of heights. But Lily wanted to do it, and you had to go in twos (and an adult would have to go with Owen), so I ended up agreeing to go with Lily. Brian and Owen went first. We had to wait in a rather long line, so by the time our turn came, we were quite cold already! I was dreading how cold the wind was going to be on the ride. They came back, and Owen had apparently loved it.

I noticed Brian didn’t really say anything to me in between turns, he was trying to avoid me because he already knew this was way over my fear threshold and didn’t want to say something that made me back out, lol! I figured I would be okay if I just closed my eyes, it would be over soon enough, right? I sends you backwards, up the mountain a ways before zooming back in, and my mistake was that during the few-seconds pause before changing directions, I instinctively opened my eyes briefly to see why we were stopped. Pretty much every explicative imaginable came out! It was the single most terrifying moment of my life, suspended what felt like miles above the icy ground. From the launch point, you can’t really see where it takes you, if I had known how high it went, I never would have agreed to this! Of course I immediately closed my eyes and held on to Lily for dear life, and she assured me that everything was fine. Who’s supposed to be comforting who, here? I can’t believe we let Owen do this. Well, at least that was over and we somehow all survived. Never again, lol!

I think Lily was wanting to leave after this, but the boys really want to do the other cave tour, which once again we could just barely make if we hurried. Lily was almost in melt-down mode by the time we got there, and the first part of the tour was stressful trying to keep her from making a scene in front of the group. She kept wanting to get away from us, and take Owen with her. It was a battle of how much we were willing to let her get away with to keep the peace, I guess. She was calmer by the end, but sullen. It was dark by then, and we did get to see the pretty lights they have up, at least.

We made our way back down the gondola, ¬†and then into town to find dinner. The first restaurant we tried was too full, so we settled on a Mexican place nearby. It wasn’t anything special, but it got us out of the cold anyway. And Lily finally started cheering up partway through the meal. So the adventure park hadn’t gone quite as well as I hoped, but we did still have some fun.

And we made a repeat of the previous night once we got back- heading over the pool, and again closing it down. We only ended up swimming after dark, but it was a cool, if foggy, experience.

The next morning we were heading back home, but stopping to do some cross country skiing first. We had another breakfast at the hotel, then got on the road. It was several hours to the Frisco Nordic Center, and since we were short on time we decided to forgo lunch and get some snacks later. Last year we spend New Years weekend at the Frisco and Breckenridge Nordic Center, and all had so much fun that I was anxious to repeat it.

Unfortunately, as I have learned, trying to repeat experiences just doesn’t work. Whatever magic had been surrounding us on last year’s trip was no where to be seen today. Everyone seemed grumpy and on edge, and while we did get in some good skiing, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as last time. Oh well. You win some, you lose some, I suppose!

Overall, I’m still glad we got away for a couple of days. I know the kids would have rather been in Florida, but st least this way we still have that trip to look forward to next summer. And Glenwood can finally be checked off my bucket-list!