I declared last summer the 2012 Summer of Summits, and at the end of the season, Mark and I found ourselves crossing a huge climb off of our bucket list. We attempted several summits last summer, but the most memorable will always be Long’s Peak. This summer, I was casting around for a goal and a theme, but never really settled on one. This week, I realized we had a theme and I hadn’t realized it.
Everybody wants a paddle!
2013 is the Summer of Never Before.
Never Before have we gone mountain biking as a family. Never Before have we tried lift-served mountain bike trails. Never Before have we camped and climbed at Eleven Mile Canyon. Never Before have I considered myself an athlete. Are you noticing a theme yet?
So, this is a long-winded way to say that our family has added ANOTHER new sport to our repertoire. This summer, on top of camping, hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking, we tossed a canoe into the mix.
Never before have I gone canoeing with my husband! Never before have I paddled in Colorado! Never before have we attempted to strap a canoe and canoe-related equipment to our already over-loaded truck and then drive over the highest altitude continuous road in the US.
I had some reservations about paddling as a family, but they turned out to be groundless. The Go-kid loves riding in canoe, splashing in the water and exploring mountain lakes. Mark is an amazing canoeist. He claims to have completed the Boy Scout canoeing merit badge three times, just because it was so much fun. Which is great, because that means I can hang out taking pictures and sun bathing all afternoon, while my husband – the canoe stud – ferries us around the lake.
We have been out paddling on a few lakes in Colorado this summer, and here’s a quick run-down of each trip.
Lake Granby in the morning light
Our first time paddling as a family was on Lake Granby. This huge lake sits on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the second largest lake in the state of Colorado. We drove over the continental divide the night before, and camped on the side of the big lake at the Stillwater campground.
Because we were staying at the campground on the north side of the huge lake, we put in the canoe on the boat ramp near that campground. And we paddled around the north side of the lake. This is not an exciting part of the lake. It was fun to be out in a boat. Gabe giggled and tried to grab our paddles, but did not attempt to jump out of the boat or flip it over. We did a few quick loops in the deep water of the lake and then headed back to camp.
Shadow Mountain Lake on a calm morning
Shadow Mountain Lake
Shadow Mountain Lake is just north of Lake Granby, and we stopped in for a paddle the next day. This lake is large, but surrounded by fishing cabins and resort condos, so we had more trouble finding a place to put-in. We finally decided on a small, disused picnic area on the southwest side of the lake, and WOW, it was beautiful.
We had a clear, calm, perfect summer morning. The lake was clear but reflected the sky like glass. There were no power boaters out on our end of the lake, just a few other kayaks and SUPs. Gabe tried to grab my paddle while I took some pictures, and began throwing a HUGE tantrum when I would not give it to him. So we paddled our family around this beautiful mountain lake with a screaming, crying 2 year old in the middle of the canoe.
Playing on a undeveloped island in Shadow Mountain Lake
He calmed down after a few minutes, but we were definitely “THAT family” for a while. While we paddled around the beautiful lake that morning, we watched many Ospreys fishing and perched above their nests. We pulled up at one of the many islands that dot the middle of the lake and played among the trees and rocks for a while. On the paddle back to the car, we found a shallow region in the middle of cove. The water was barely 6 inches deep and we skimmed over the golden rocks covering the lake bed.
Pearl Lake State Park
We spent a week camping and exploring Steamboat Springs over the 4th of July. And we drove a half hour north on a Summer afternoon and popped the canoe down in Pearl Lake State Park. This lake is the most remote one that we have ever explored, but on this summer afternoon it was pretty busy with SUPs, kayakers, and fishermen floating about in tiny row boats.
Enjoying a day on the water
The scenery surrounding this lake is quite lovely. Wildflowers bloomed in piles, and the distant Hahns Peak loomed in the sky. After about an hour on the Lake, G got hungry and the wind kicked up. Clouds started growing deeper and darker, so we sprinted for the shore. We got everything packed up just before the rain hit, but it gave us a fun, adventurous end to the day.
Lower Cataract Lake on the edge of the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness
Lower Cataract Lake
We pulled the trailer and canoe back into the mountains last weekend, and camped on the side of Green Mountain Reservoir. But rather than paddle on that huge, huge lake, we drove another half an hour west into the Gore mountains and found the Lower Cataract Lake. Our original plan was to walk around the lake, but within minutes of our arrival, a huge family arrived with two inflatable paddle boards. Well, if they were going to do it…
This lake had a quarter of a mile of hiking between the parking and the put-in. Mark actually carried the canoe by himself the whole way on the way in. This was our first trip with the doggie AND child in the canoe, and I did not take a camera with me. I was near certain that we were all going to end up in the lake.
We watched this beaver fishing in the lake all day long
But, we did not end up in the lake. The doggie freaked out and did not move a muscle for the entire trip. The kiddo climbed around the boat, but never tipped it. We hung out with paddle boarders, beavers, geese and fish as we cruised around the lake. Later, we sat in a packed picnic area while half-naked G played in the lake with a pack of other half-feral children from the groups that descended on this little lake. We really enjoyed the party atmosphere that afternoon as more and more paddle-powered boats arrived. It turns out, nobody canoes on Green Mountain reservoir. They all go to Lower Cataract.
Life in a Canoe
It’s been a beautiful summer, and I love doing new things. Our trips out canoeing have all been beautiful, fun, and great adventures. It’s so much fun to be the people out in the middle of the calm, clear water on a sunny morning. It’s great to pull up to places where trails don’t go, or watch wildlife that we quietly glide up to. And it’s great that we can do all of this together as a family.