Finding the Wild Heart of Denver in Cherry Creek State Park

April 2, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Things I never thought I would find in Denver include sandy beaches, low-flying bald eagles, an R/C plane air field, and a huge, clean, spacious and beautiful campground. But a few weekends ago we stumbled across all of these and more while exploring Cherry Creek State Park.

Mark and I have lived in Colorado for nearly 10 years, and we had no idea that Denver held such a huge, beautiful state park within its city limits. But now that we live closer, we decided this would be a perfect place for our first night of camping in 2014. So, a few weeks ago we pulled the trailer out of storage, cleaned and de-winterized it (more on that later), and drove south to explore Cherry Creek.

Park Number 3: Cherry Creek State Park

The campground at Cherry Creek was astoundingly beautiful, and a really good deal for RV’ers. For only $24 per night (plus a park entrance fee), you get a paved level spot with full hook ups, lots of grass and trees, fire ring and picnic table. The bath houses in this park were cleaner than our trailer, with coin-op showers and laundry, and vending machines full of sundries like toothbrushes and ice cream. Oh, and did I mention that these wooded, grassy, inexpensive camp sites are less than 10 minutes away from the Centennial IKEA?

Luckily, we did not burn down the entire city.

Luckily, we did not burn down the entire city.

On Saturday night we shivered in a strong spring wind, but were rewarded with a beautiful sunset over the Rockies and above the huge Cherry Creek reservoir. That night, we snuggled in the trailer, and on Sunday woke up to frosty ground and sun. While exploring the park on Sunday, we stumbled on Suhaka Field, the home of the Denver R/C Eagles. While actual eagles hunted on the lake nearby, Mark and I got our nerd on by talking to a small group of guys taking some really awesome planes out to fly in the morning.

Actual Eagle Fishing in Cherry Creek Reservoir

Actual Eagle Fishing in Cherry Creek Reservoir

R/C Eagles out for a morning flight

R/C Eagles out for a morning flight

Cherry Creek State Park

  • Location: On the south side of Metro Denver, Colorado (map)
  • Entry Fee: $9 per day or a State Parks Pass plus a $3 Water Quality Authority decal good for a year
  • Camping: The campground is open year round and has six different loops, with over 150 sites and three large group sites. Five of the six loops have full hook-ups (including sewer) for RVs, and one has basic sites for tents. Prices range from $16/night for an off-season basic site to $26/night for full hook-ups in summer. For more information, click here or Download a Brochure.
  • Facilities: Amphitheater, boat launches and a big marina, very nice campground, lots of picnic areas, model airplane field, shooting range, a new stable for equestrian activities coming this year, a huge swim beach with a small playground, wedding facilities, and lots and lots of trails.
  • Activities: Birding (watch out for photographers sprinting in front of traffic!), biking (both paved and unpaved trails), boating and fishing, camping year round, cross-country skiing, picnics, photography, hiking, horseback riding, model airplane flying, range shooting, and water skiing! And many more, for sure. What are other cool things to do in Denver’s backyard wilderness?

It’s a Delightful, Dazzling, Dream-Filled, Dirty World

March 6, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Here at Rocks and Sun, we know that life isn’t always smooth and easy. There are bumps and knocks, holes and hills, bruises and dirt. For every summit, there are hours of burning lungs and legs before and after. And for every moment of joyous success, there are hours of practice and falls.

Life is hard. Life is painful. Life is messy.

And we love it that way.

Our goals as adventure parents are not to make life simple and easy for our child. We aren’t taking him into the wilderness for photo ops, and we’re not teaching him about life through a computer screen. When we take him outside, we do it so he can experience the full spectrum of this dazzling world.

When we hike, he learns how it feels to work for a goal. When we bike, he learns how it feels to crash before success. When we camp, he learns about the balance between day and night. And when we climb, he learns to push past fear to find joy in simple, beautiful movement.

Because in the end, hardships make life feel more full. The blood on our knees tells us we are living deeply, daring greatly, and dreaming beautifully. The dirt on our faces make our smiles shine brighter.

Few people live this message quite as well as Jen on the blog Velo Mom. Last year, she lost her youngest son to terrible violence, but has pushed through the overwhelming pain and loss to teach us all about the importance of living life fully. Jen’s passion, and her son’s passion, revolves around life lived by bicycle. On those two wheels, powered by strong little legs, so many adventures can be had and beautiful memories created. To honor the life of little Axel, Jen and her family founded the Axel Project to help encourage families and kids to get active and get biking. On the one year anniversary of Axel’s death, they announced a new project: a children’s book called Zoom!

Zoom On, Little Dude

Zoom On, Little Dude

This book is the story of a little boy and how he explores the world on his balance bike. It is a short, simple, and sweet message about the power that bicycling can have in every life, from the smallest to the biggest. I have kicked in to help fund this project because it truly speaks to the values that our family cherishes. We love our bikes, and little G loves his balance bike. I know he will love this book and its message as well.

If you believe that life is best lived outdoors, in the dirt, and through adventure, then please join me in supporting ZOOM! By Clicking Here to get to Kickstarter.

And we’re not the only ones who feel this way! Here are some fellow adventure families that also support the Axel Project and ZOOM!

  • Tales of a Mountain MamaZoom
  • Mommy Loves TreesMaking Lemonade
  • Expect AdventureZoom! The Healing Power of Two Wheels
  • Chasqui MomThe Joy of Riding, Outdoors, Mud and a Little Boy
  • On the Beaten PathToday is Zoom Day
  • Active Kids, Active FamilyAn Amazing Kickstarter campaign for Zoom & The Axel Project
  • Mommy HikerLet’s Give a Kick Start to ZOOM! The Story of a Boy and His Balance Bike
  • Colorado Mountain MomZoom! Remembering Axel’s Love of Biking
  • Family Adventures in the Canadian RockiesZoom Day – Let’s Get The First Balance Bike Book Published!
  • Make the Days Count

    March 2, 2014 at 2:07 pm
    Dragging the sled with CC skis on the Flatiron Vista trail just south of Boulder

    Dragging the sled with CC skis on the Flatiron Vista trail just south of Boulder

    We have officially reached *that* time of year. You know the one. It’s the hardest time of year for outdoor families. The dark before the dawn. The cold before the thaw.


    This is the hardest part of the Colorado year for me. At this point, we’ve all been covered in coats and hats for so long that our hair is permanently flattened and our bodies are very low on vitamin D. Everybody in our family is sick. We spend weekends shoveling snow and taking trips to the doctor and day dreaming about warmer climates.

    If you don’t ski, March in Colorado is pretty rough.

    It’s easy to feel dismal and depressed right now. The cold won’t leave. The sky is so cloudy. The air is biting and the wind is still frigid. I would love to make one of those advent calendar chains out of construction paper to help me count down the days until warmth returns. Counting the days until the snow melts, the grass starts to green, or the trailer comes out of storage.

    My only sanity right now is in our Crossfit gym, and each day I stop in there, I see a sign (over the toilet!) that says “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

    I think that’s great advice.

    It makes us scrape together what energy we have left and get outside. Even if it’s cold and snowy and overcast. Even if it’s only for a few minutes. Even if it’s nothing dramatic or exciting or spectacular. All it takes is a few little steps. It’s a short breath of cold, dry air that’s scented with evergreen. It’s a taste of snow from spindrift carried down from the continental divide. It’s the sound of a flock of geese heading north on the winds above.

    And in that small moment, you’ve gone from counting the day, to making this day count.

    Sun and Solitude in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    February 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    As I’m crouching at the edge of the frozen lake, I suddenly realize that I can’t hear a single sound of civilization. All of the background noises that we take for granted and tune out all day are missing. No traffic. No planes. No creaking buildings or emergency sirens.

    All I can hear are the sounds of my husband and three-year-old son throwing rock after rock and screaming with laughter as they bounce and shatter off the solid-ice surface.

    Sure, we are alone in a snowy, mountainous wilderness, but we aren’t being quiet ourselves! We’re making quite a racket, actually. Nothing quite echoes around a high mountain valley like the shrieking laughter of a pre-school child.

    Park Number 2: Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    We hiked through a closed campground and down into this abandoned and icy valley as part of our Colorado State Parks Project. On this sunny Saturday, we checked out the Snow Hare Trail on the north east side of Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and found ourselves happily alone in the Colorado mountains. This isn’t our first trip to this state park. In fact, it was one of my kiddo’s earliest adventures as a baby.

    Golden Gate Canyon SP covers the high foothills west of Golden and east of the continental divide. On our short walk down the Snow Hare trail to Dude’s Fishing hole, we walked past huge groves of aspens, thick pine forests, very climbable rock formations, a hundred-year old homestead site, and giant bear tracks in the snow.

    The Snow Hare trail does a big loop through the park, and we only saw a tiny bit of it. This park is pretty local for us, and so quiet and lovely on this winter afternoon. We will definitely be back to visit again this year. I imagine that these campgrounds, fishing holes, and picnic sites are all very popular in summer months. But visiting in the winter was just as pretty, and provided a taste of sweet mountain solitude.

    #COSTAPA Run Down
    Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    • Location: About 20 minutes west of Golden, Colorado (map)
    • Entry Fee: $7 per day
    • Camping: Four different campgrounds with an assortment of tent-only and electric sites. Camping site fees are from $13 to $18 per night depending on the campground and time of year. There are also four hike-in back country shelter sites (in the style of Appalachian Trail Shelters) and 20 back country tent sites scattered through the park. For more information, Click Here.
    • Facilities: Amphitheater, Cabins and Yurts, Campgrounds, Conference Rooms, RV Dump Station, Picnic sites, Horse Trailer Parking, Showers, Hiking Trails, Visitor Center, and even Wedding Facilities. Check it out!
    • Activities: Hiking, rock climbing, fishing, historical sites, camping, mountain biking, and anything else you might want to do on top of a mountain.

    Winter Cragging

    January 29, 2014 at 7:16 am

    North Table Mountain

    routes: Little Ox (5.7) and Big O Flyer (5.8)

    It’s just a short day, a few hours really. A moment in time that is here, and beautiful, and then gone.

    Warm sun and short sleeves. Crusty dry sunscreen scraped from months-old stock. Dirty fruit snacks and smashed sandwiches.

    There’s giggling, belly laughter, and screaming, tired tears. There’s dinosaurs in the dirt. There’s a giant potty accident and no spare pants.

    We feel anxiety, rusty muscles, raw nerves. The moves feel new and old at the same time. Our hands feel soft. Our brains feel foggy. We don’t push limits, we’re not here to prove anything.

    We feel relaxation seep in around the edges of our winter-hardened lives.

    And the sun sets, and the wind picks up, and the kids want naps, and the ropes are packed up.

    Another day in the books.

    Just one more short day in a stream of days that fly by. We try to hold on to them, but they’re gone as soon as they start. And we’re left with the dirt to clean, the child sleeping in the back seat, and the memories of smiles and a day in the sun.