Lily had a swim meet in Grand Junction, and since it was during the 4th of July week that Brian had off from work, we thought we would make a whole vacation of it!
On the way, we stopped in Breckenridge for lunch, and we ended up at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory! Not the best food, but fun to eat at such an iconic place. And the kids enjoyed that we sat outside on the second-story patio.
The drive was very scenic, especially through Glenwood Canyon where we stopped for a while at a rest area by the river. But we were getting weary from such a long road trip already, and weren’t even there yet.
The first couple of days were very focused on the swim meet – Lily kept making finals during the morning session, so we just had time to get lunch afterwards then relax for a couple of hours at the hotel before going back for the evening session. (And usually the kids chose to spend the break in the hotel pool, because Lily surely hadn’t had enough swimming already, lol!
She ended up not quite making finals the third day though, so we spend the afternoon exploring the nearby Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. We stopped and got out a few times to walk around and sightsee, and even did a couple of very short hikes. It had been so hot in GJ, but luckily now we were high enough to get some reprieve from the heat!
By Day 4 we were ready to thoroughly slip into vacation mode. We spent the day at Colorado National Monument. We did some hiking early, before it got hot! incredible scenery though – and so different from how you usually think of Colorado looking.
We also watched a movie and looked at some exhibits at the visitor center, and of course the kids picked out some souvenirs. We then went into town and explored the Dinosaur Museum and Nature Center. They were both small, but had some neat exhibits that the kids enjoyed. The Nature center was quite unusual – the owner personally took us around showing all the animals he had in his collection – apparently this is just how he does things! Interesting and unusual, for sure.
Brian did another hike in the Monument on our way back, but the kids and I opted to pick him up in the car on the other side as it was over 100 degrees already.
on Day 5 we headed out of town, making a stop in Aspen for lunch. We walked around Aspen a bit and found a nice little Mexican place to eat lunch. And the kids played on a neat playground.
Then we took the gondola up to the top. It was a pretty ride, but I get so nervous on those things, especially when they get so high above the ground!
We went for a short walk at the top, but Lily got grumpy pretty quickly and needed to use the restroom anyway, so I took her back to the main building at the top (where we got off the gondola) and we hung out and shopped a bit while we waited for the boys to come back.
We took the gondola back down and headed out of town to our next adventure – camping at Lake Isabel! We were a little disappointed to see that our site was so close to another one, and the road, even though it was designated as a “walk-in” site. Oh well.
As luck would have it, this was the one day of the week that the nearby cafe wasn’t open for dinner, but no big deal as we had come prepared to make our own. We explored the campground a little afterwards, and called it a night.
On day 6, we went over to the now-open cafe for breakfast, then rented a row boat to take out on the lake. This was one of the kid’s favorite parts of the trip – they loved slowly cruising around on the water. Though drama-queen Lily got worked up a few times when she thought we were too close to shore, or a fisherman’s line. Still lots of fun though!
We left the lake and drove over to Bishop’s Castle, which was only a few minutes away. If you are unfamiliar with it… it’s a “castle” built by hand by a man named Jim Bishop. We came a few years ago and I remember being particularly freaked out on some of the higher iron work balconies. It was not much different this time!
Jim Bishop is known to be a little crazy, and not exactly into building permits, inspections, and safety features in general. So I think I was right to be nervous, lol! But the kids enjoyed exploring it anyway.
We headed back towards camp and had lunch at the cafe (we would have dinner here later, making it all 3 meals, lol!) Afterwards, Brian took the car to drive to a trail head for a hike, the kids and I hung out in the tent. I wished we had thought to charge up our iPads some more, but oh well. We tried to nap, but this was the moment that Owen suddenly decided to do surprise me with “giddy-up horsey” by jumping onto my back just as I was almost asleep!
Not much else interesting on the trip, we packed up and headed back to Colorado Springs the next morning. But what a great adventure!