Monday, October 25, 2010

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater

Are you wondering if our nature-lover let a chipmunk into the house? Luke carefully selected this tiny green pumpkin, passing over all the farm’s larger, orange ones in favor of his (current) favorite color. But before it made it home I looked back to see it firmly locked in our little boy’s jaws! Of course I hastily snatched it away, and Erik almost swerved off the road as we both shook with laughter at its chewed up condition. We’d had pumpkin ice cream the night before, so maybe that gave our child the idea that pumpkins are tasty? Luke had generously applied this pumpkin principle by giving his other green one to the goats at the farm. But the goats ate much less raw pumpkin than Luke did!

While raw pumpkins may fail to intimidate us, the hayride earlier that afternoon was a more harrowing experience. We had watched as trailer loads of farm visitors enjoyed the scenic loop atop hay bales. Quaint, we thought, but perhaps a bit boring? Luke’s enthusiasm for the tractor convinced us to take a turn ourselves anyway, so we piled into the trailer’s last seats. With a lurch, the driver started down the path, and as we approached the heavily rutted lane he only sped up! Occasionally we’d come to an especially deep rut and instead of lurching over it, he would brake swiftly, causing everyone in the trailer to slam into each other. Below you see our little boy looking rather concerned, and if you could see my face it wouldn’t be looking too pleased either! As we were walking off the trailer with sighs of relief, another passenger told us that this was not the normal hayride driver who had been giving rides all day. Clearly some sort of hayride driver’s license should be offered by the DMV/MVD!

With the exception of the hayride, we enjoyed a very pleasant, relaxing autumn afternoon. Of course we took plenty of photos of our favorite pumpkin patch peruser…

 All against a gorgeous mountain backdrop!

When we weren’t picking pumpkins this weekend, we were working on a number of house projects. Maybe I’ll post a recap of those soon too. In the meantime, there are plenty more pics of our autumn outing here!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Luke at the lake (Grand Lake part 2)

Grand Lake 10-2010 425 Before Grand Lake, any hikes longer than three miles with Luke included a guaranteed five minutes of crying. These crying spells were especially painful for Erik whose ears would be fixed just a few short inches from Luke’s wailing lungs! We continued to take the babe on hikes, knowing that each crying spell could only last so long and then our child would resign himself to the hiking pack, fall asleep, or we’d reach our destination. But they still felt awfully long, and we always felt bad for the other hikers who had planned a quiet afternoon amidst nature only to encounter a Lukan soundtrack!

You can imagine our delight when the little boy transitioned to an enthusiastic hiking companion during our Grand Lake vacation! The many chipmunks, squirrels and birds that we encountered captivated our little naturalist. He spent most of our hikes sitting straight up in the backpack, with his eyes wide and his pointer finger ready, looking around for his forest friends. Hearing their calls would elicit his own happy squeals, and the few times he started to whimper, all it took to shush him was the reminder that his crying would scare away the animals. Then when we stopped for breaks he’d gleefully pursue his forest friends himself:Grand Lake 10-2010 558 On Monday we took a leisurely hike along the Colorado River Trail and reveled in the happy spirits of our budding hiker. Then on Tuesday we chose a more ambitious trip, an almost ten-mile loop that passed by several mountain lakes and waterfalls. We had hiked a variation on this loop five years earlier on our honeymoon, and remembered it fondly as our favorite trek of that trip. To our surprise, Luke thoroughly enjoyed the entire hike! He loved stopping at lakes to throw in stones and scramble over rocks. And he continued to be entertained by the wildlife provided that we pointed out animals to him and handed him a leaf or stick to hold from time to time. He delighted everyone else on the trail as well by waving and sweetly saying ‘hi’. Then he peacefully drifted off to sleep in the pack without any fuss at all. Two days later he made more forest friends and then slept blissfully on a seven-mile hike to Cascade Falls. What a transformation!Grand Lake 10-2010 759 The other major Luke development on our trip was leash-training! We fit in perfectly with all the dog walkers in Grand Lake by strapping a baby leash onto our little boy whenever we went out to stroll the town or lake.  He complained a little when we pulled it over his head, but once it was on he seemed to enjoy walking on his own. We maintained the hand-holding rule for crossing streets and appreciated the leash’s security and ease. Here Luke waves ‘hi’ to a fellow leash-wearer:

Grand Lake 10-2010 695

We also found the leash to be a handy way to keep the little guy from taking a swim.Grand Lake 10-2010 775pspWe came to Grand Lake expecting pretty rivers and gorgeous mountains, but a wonder we didn’t anticipate was their fire station open house! After seeing it advertised in the town square, we decide to stop by for the benefit of our little fire truck enthusiast. He had a terrific time sitting behind the wheel in the trucks (video here) and getting a fireman hat, but I don’t think he could fully appreciate the fire station Shangri-La that Grand Lake holds. Not only did they have an enormous hook and ladder truck, a regular truck, and an ambulance, they also had an impressive fire boat, a mountain rescue truck, and a forest fire fighting truck! All that plus Smokey the Bear and a Dalmation! What more could a little boy ask for. Grand Lake 10-2010 820 We happened upon another unanticipated treat during our trip back to Albuquerque. In a very remote part of southern Colorado, we found ourselves driving by a National Historic Monument, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Station! We were intrigued and Luke was getting antsy, so we pulled in, strapped on his leash, and let him marvel at the enormous steam trains moving slowly through the train yard. At first, he was brimming with excitement and delight, waving furiously and trying to approach the trains as closely as we would permit. Grand Lake 10-2010 844 But then one started moving a little more quickly and making very loud noises, which didn’t sound anything like the ‘chug-a-chug-chug, choo choo!’ that he’s accustomed to in storybooks (see video). After that he was ready for a little more distance from the trains and enjoyed checking out the decorations by the gift shop. He’d been so well-behaved for the trip that we decided we couldn’t leave without a little forest friend for our nature lover. He was thrilled, and here you see him playing with his chipmunk back at home. He seems to remember that chipmunks typically live outdoors and keeps trying to smuggle it out when he goes in the backyard. Or maybe he’s been listening closely to the lyrics of Raffi’s Joshua Giraffe song…

Grand Lake 10-2010 791

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Great times in Grand Lake!

Grand Lake 10-2010 037pspThe secret to a restful family vacation with a toddler is a kitchen and two bedrooms! We just returned from a wonderful trip to Grand Lake, Colorado and were fortunate enough to stay in just such an arrangement. We mostly ate in, visited in the off-season, and our only activity expense was the entry fee to the Rocky Mountain National Park – all of which enabled us to rent a fabulous condo for the week. There we could relax without germ worries while Luke played on the floor. If he spilled his food or made enthusiastic bird noises during dinner, there was no restaurant guilt. Luke and I both slept through the night better with a few walls in between us. Best of all, Erik and I could watch boats whizz by on the lake and the autumn aspen leaves flutter in the wind (see above pic from the condo’s deck), all while our little guy peacefully caught his afternoon zzzz’s. No matter how fancy a standard hotel room is, the bathroom is never a place you want to hang out in for a toddler’s three-hour post-mountain-fun nap.

Despite the delights of our home for the week, we did get out to explore the stunning Rocky Mountain surroundings. My parents and brother Sam joined us for the first weekend of our stay. Having been to Grand Lake before, they were able to suggest some great hikes and outings. We even cooperated by getting up at 6 am on our first day for a dawn hike in hopes of spotting wildlife. Here you can see Luke geared up for the early morning chill. We called him the blue oompa loompa! Grand Lake 10-2010 030psp Unfortunately we didn’t see any larger animals on the trail, but we were treated to viewing a herd of elk in a meadow alongside the road. It happened to be the elks’ rutting season, which features the warbly high-pitched mating call of the males. You can listen to it yourself in this video that Erik took – you can also listen for Erik’s return call, more of a honking noise really…Grand Lake 10-2010 176 cropped

That afternoon, we had a very pleasant time strolling along Grand Lake’s wooden boardwalks. Erik has many inspiring talents, but shopping isn’t at the tip-top of that list, so I especially appreciated having my mom there to browse the art galleries and home furnishing shops with me. Meanwhile the guys undertook thorough field tests to determine which shop in town offered the best ice cream in the largest quantities – Polly’s Sweet Shop was the clear winner:Grand Lake 10-2010 050pspLuke enjoyed exploring the town playground with Uncle Sam and we all appreciated the autumn beauty on a little late afternoon hike to Adams Falls. We’re now thinking Luke will call my mom Nika (pronounced Nee-kuh) but it’s been hard to settle on the best ‘grandma’ moniker for her to go by. Nika is short for Granny K, taking the ‘nee’ sound at the end of granny and pronouncing the K as ‘kuh’. Anyway, here you can see Nika teaching Luke how to throw rocks into the river.

Grand Lake 10-2010 093psp Then Papi and Luke looked for chipmunks nearby:

Grand Lake 10-2010 072psp We got out early again the next morning and this time were rewarded with an exciting animal sighting – a black bear just a few dozen feet from the door to our condo! He was clearly making the town dumpster circuit to ensure that all the bear locks were up to code. We hopped in the car and followed him until he disappeared onto private property. Erik caught a shot of his retreat. Grand Lake 10-2010 155 croppedThen we drove up Trail Ridge Road to take in the views from some of the highest points in the park. There were several short paths out onto the high alpine tundra and majestic overlooks. By late morning the freezing temps and biting winds had drained all of the energy that our chocolate chip cookie breakfast had provided, so we headed back to Grand Lake for a nice lunch at the same venue where my parents had danced the polka during a town festival a few decades previous. That afternoon we took a little lakeside walk, plus a few pics on the beloved rock where my parents and brothers had spectated the Fourth of July fireworks of 2000. The Ferry rock of Grand Lake:

Grand Lake 10-2010 298 cropped  Grand Lake 10-2010 320psp We were sad to see Papi, Nika, and Uncle Sam leave the next morning, but glad to get to stay on to further explore the area. Plus I still had bargaining to do at the local art gallery! Check back soon for a post on the rest of our week and click here for many more trip pics!