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we were a third of the way into our summer before marty and i got enough of a pause in the whirl to ask one another if we would be taking a family vacation this year. in consulting our finances which could, given eight years of living on one income, be best described as a meager, the answer was no. a few days into this revelation (truly read despondency) i recalled an email i received earlier in the year from a high school friend. in the message she announced the completion of a mountain home she had mentioned to me at the last class reunion. additionally she said to drop her a line if we'd be in the area and interested in using the cabin. leap forward a few emails and a cross country drive in a bubble-topped minivan to this, the entry made in the guest book after our week-long visit in a singular couple's mountain spot (designed and built by them, one board, stone, and tile at a time).
in recapping our week-long stay in this home, it's hard to know where to begin as each day was rife with adventure. to begin, on saturday we were welcomed into our hosts' personal home in fort collins after our all-day drive from saint louis. on sunday we were given some tips and pointers for our week stay in the cache la poudre before heading up. then our week:

on monday we played on the rocks of the poudre falls followed by a hike around trap lake (off of long-draw road @ mm 70 on 14). we then drove into fort collins to eat at yellow sub and catch a movie at the drive in (a first for our three kids - the smurfs).

on tuesday we celebrated my youngest son's fifth birthday and then headed back to long draw for the neota trail. we never ended up making it there as we were distracted by moose on the side of the road (a first for my wife and kids) and a large swath of snow which we stopped to play in. the reservoir tucked back in there was a pleasant surprise as well. we then came home, ate dinner and enjoyed the incredibles on one of the most comfortable family couches we've ever watched a film from.

on wednesday we:
  1. hiked a few miles of the roaring creek trail (great small falls in there)
  2. drove into fort collins to eat (again) at the yellow sub (yes, it is my favorite lunch place in the country)
  3. continued onto denver to the natural history museum (amazing museum that sadly closes at 5pm)
  4. stopped and ate dinner with my boyhood pal dave plisko (also got to see his mom, his sister leah & her new baby)
  5. made the two hour drive back to the canyon (nighttime drive up the canyon was crazy peaceful as i only saw three other cars but many foxes)

on thursday we drove to estes park (via CO-27) to hike the lily mountain trail. this is a two mile, moderate difficulty climb that puts you on top of lily mountain and offers the best view of the peaks of rocky mountain national park. we went on this hike because anthony, who turned five on tuesday said he wanted to climb to the tippy top of a mountain. and now he has. all three of our children struggled at points but marty and i coaxed and cajoled them on, which at times struck us as futile. but after we made it up and then back down, there was a lightness and giddiness to the spirits (after we got a bit of food and water in us that is). all of us mid-westerners clearly felt proud and accomplished at having made the summit.

on the drive home, in estes, we saw a small herd of elk grazing by the road (in people's lawn's really). there were two massive bull elks both near or even bigger than the one hanging on the wall here. cars stacked up on the side of the road to get a better glimpse, some even jumping out with cameras. the elk didn't seem to mind one bit. the large bulls walked slowly with their heads high as if they were royalty. also at the base of the big thompson, we saw a large group of big horn sheep on the side of a very sheer cliff. we even saw two males that were down at the water climb up the entire rock face. after the ascent, one of the males stood perched on a bit of jutting rock, perfectly silhouetting himself against the blue sky. like with the elk, he had the air of royalty about him.

on friday, i biked to poudre falls, which is fifteen miles up-canyon. on the way down something happened to my front derailleur but i was able to get into the top cog to keep going. then at the market just up the hill the derailleur gave out completely and left me unable to peddle. fortunately i had enough momentum to bring me to the drive of the house and ended my ride in a perfect two hours.

our first rain of the week moved in after lunch so we spent a quiet afternoon playing chess and the wii. we had an early dinner and watched shrek 2, again on the uber-couch and then got the kids to bed on time in preparation of our thirteen-hour straight-through drive home.

this has easily been one of the most relaxing, vibrant and productive vacations my family has ever enjoyed. i attribute this fully to (a) this smart and warm home, and (b) the easy and inviting manner of our most generous hosts, liz and john. also, i'd be remiss to not mention that this has to be one of the best-stocked fridges anyone could ever run into, traveling or not. thanks for the memories. they will be shared and relived by my family for many, many years to come.

troy, marty, bella, alex, and anthony
of saint louis, missouri.




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