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!

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