What I learned from Little G this year

November 12, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Fall in Colorado is an amazing time of year. The nights cool, but days stay warm. We wrap up our camping season and focus a bit more on local responsibilities. Pumpkins are picked, our freezer is refilled with beef, huge storms blow through, and my kiddo celebrates his birthday.

Little G turned 4 years old this year. To be honest, he does not seem much like a “little” any more. These days he is learning to sound out letters, learning to ride a peddle bike, learning how to draw recognizable shapes, and learning so many other skills that will take him towards independence some day.

Of course it’s not just what he is learning every day, but what Mark and I learn from him as well. When G was a new-born, we had a neighbor who wouldn’t ask about the most recent “baby first,” but rather would ask me what I had learned from the baby lately. It always gave me a moment of pause and reflection, and a lovely change in perspective that left me feeling less hassled and more grateful for the experience of being a parent.

Because I enjoyed the question so much, I began a tradition of writing out the top 10 things I learned from my kiddo each year on his birthday. You can read year one, year two, and year three if you are interested.

A fourth birthday has come to pass, and so here is my list of the top things I learned from Little G in the previous year:

10. We all can do hard things. It helps when somebody reminds us of that fact occasionally.

9. The most fun way to experience the wilderness is with friends.

8. Is it possible to ask too many questions? We are all on a quest to find the ultimate “WHY.”

7. Barefoot is the best!

6. Explore everything. Explore the sandbox, explore the mountains, explore your food. It’s the only way to discover something new!

5. Dirt is awesome. Water is awesome. Rocks are awesome. Everything is awesome! (One of his favorite songs!)

4. Cool is better than pretty. (Controversial, I know, but G was pretty confidant in this fact.)

3. Rules keep us safe and keep us all working together as a team. It is very important to communicate exactly what we expect from each other, and what happens when we mess up. (Corollary just for me: a quiet, stern voice gets the point across better than yelling it.)

2. Give hugs. Give kisses. Rub the owie. Say “I love you.” The most important thing for everybody to know is that they are loved.

1. Smiling and laughing makes the hard times easier, and the easy times perfect.


September 25, 2014 at 9:28 pm

It’s been a long and beautiful summer. So long, in fact, that I don’t even know what to write about it.

Schoolhouse Beach, Wisconsin

Schoolhouse Beach, Wisconsin

This is probably the longest break that I’ve had with blogging in 8 years. Six whole months with no new posts? Insane!

Canoe Camping on Horsetooth Reservoir

Canoe Camping on Horsetooth Reservoir

I took my blogging time this summer and tried to focus it on work. But we also kept up, maybe even increased, our time adventuring outdoors.

Rock Climbing in Rifle Canyon

Rock Climbing in Rifle Canyon

And, to be honest, I’m not feeling great about writing these days. I would much rather be outside doing something amazing. Photography has been my main creative outlet this summer, and I have piles of new photos and stories to go along with them.

Sunset on Horsetooth Reservoir

Sunset on Horsetooth Reservoir

So, I thought I might try a different tactic this fall. I want to let the photos tell the story, and let my words rest a bit longer.

Happy Dirty Children in Rifle Canyon

Happy Dirty Children in Rifle Canyon

Because this is what inspires me right now. And I hope it inspires you a little bit too.

Is it selfish?

May 6, 2014 at 8:24 pm
Dragging the kiddies to the cliff

Dragging the kiddies to the cliff

You would think the climbing parents would drop the bored kids at grandma’s house or find a babysitter for a couple hours instead of dragging the kiddies to the cliff, but no, they bring them so the three- and five-year-olds can argue with each other, dig holes in the soil, kill ants, break tree branches, and pry off any loose flakes within reach. Do those parents really believe that the little ones like hanging out while the adults go rock climbing?

From Take Your Kids Rock Climbing

We’ve had a really good spring here at Rocks and Sun. We’ve managed to get out climbing three times in the last month, and we’ve had great days each time. I snagged a girls-only day with my friend B, discovered a new family-friendly area on North Table Mountain, and spent last weekend camping and cranking at Shelf Road. And like most of our climbing trips, we brought little G along with us, even though he doesn’t climb.

Is it selfish to bring little kids along on our adventures?

G is 3.5 years old now, and if you asked him what he wants to do on any given Saturday, his answer would likely involve steam trains or the pool slide. His perfect weekend would have no naps or bed times, no baths, and Mommy and Daddy playing with him non-stop. And while he does get a lot of attention at the crag, is this where we’d be if it was his choice? Probably not. His choice would be the Dinosaur Playground.

As parents, Mark and I have often uttered the phrase “The three year old doesn’t decide our schedule.” This is pretty much a lie we tell ourselves, because of course he decides our schedule. He decides when we all wake up, his needs dictate when meals will be, his nap marks a break in every single day we spend together, and his bedtime is the moment parental freedom can begin. But the activities and the adventures that we cram in-between all of those time slots are family activities. And when you do something as a family, not everybody is going to get their way.

But there is a danger in dragging a resistant kid to family activities. More likely than not, this sours them on the experience. A friend of mine recently returned from a climbing trip in South Africa. He visited a family that owned a huge and beautiful tract of land, studded with rocks and filled with climbing bliss. They would take people on guided day trips, and usually brought their son along. By the time my friend visited, the kiddo was 12 years old, and complained the whole day “Do we HAVE to go rock climbing? Dad, I don’t want to climb any more!” My friend, who had no idea climbing was even a sport until well into his college years, found this hilarious. How many kids in the world would LOVE to try rock climbing? And here was one spoiled with opportunity, who hated the whole sport.

There seems to be a fine line to toe as rock climbing parents.

On one side, the family does whatever makes the kids happiest. If this means parents give up their passions, or only practice them on days when grandma is available, so be it. If the kids demand toys, video games and a happy easy life, we should give it to them. If they don’t want to do chores, or eat their vegetables, or get enough exercise, well, at least the kids were happy, right?

On the other side, the family does whatever makes the parents happiest. If the kids don’t want to be at the crag, too bad, looks like they’re going any way. If the parents have a family goal they can do it, and oh well, kid opinions don’t count around here. And if you grow up to resent us, and the sport, and the outdoors because of these miserable experiences, well, at least we parents were happy, right?

There has to be some place in the middle, some land of compromise. Surely we can find a way for everybody to enjoy the things Mom and Dad enjoy. We can find a way to balance the activities our kids love with our desires for them as parents. The fact of the matter is, when three, four, or five people are in a family nobody should get everything they want.

Last weekend, G was the only kid at the cliff. He was excited to go camping, but disappointed that his friends would not be there. Even though he was not happy to go rock climbing, we went together as a family. And we made sure he got lots of one-on-one time with Mom or Dad. When he was cranky in the afternoon and asked to go back to camp, Mark gave up the rest of his climbing day to accommodate the little one. Our goal as a family is to be clear that nobody gets to be too selfish, but everybody gets some time to do what makes them happiest.

Windfilled Desert Dreams in Lake Pueblo State Park

April 23, 2014 at 9:42 pm
This Is Real

This Is Real

I have a reoccurring dream. I’m standing on top of a sandstone mesa in the sun. I can feel the heat burning my arms and cheeks, and my eyes squint in the bright light. In the distance, there is only air and space and land. No buildings or roads. No cars or other people. I hear a noise like a rolling drum that starts quietly and gets louder as it drives closer and closer… And then the wind hits me with sand and desert heat, my ponytail flutters and I take a step to keep my balance. And my heart fills with an intense and powerful joy.

How did I get on the mesa? What desert am I looking towards? It doesn’t really matter in the dream, all that matters is that I am standing in the wind and sun and space and the moment, and that moment is spectacularly beautiful.

Stop For a Moment and Breathe

Stop For a Moment and Breathe

Between the demands of being a mom and being a scientist, I don’t get many moments like these. I think I mostly have to enjoy the ones that come in dreams. But a few weekends ago we managed to pack up the trailer, our mountain bikes, and the go-kid, and drive a couple hours south to Lake Pueblo State Park. We made this trip last year, and enjoyed the adventure so much that we convinced our friend Rachel to come along this time.

We snagged a perfect campsite in the Arkansas Point campground, with a view of the cliffs and where the mountain biking trails passed right by. Saturday was hot and sunny for April, but it was so wonderful to finally feel winter gone for good. Rachel and I cranked out 10 miles in the morning while Mark and G rode their bikes around the campground. In the afternoon, I napped with the kid in the camper while Rachel and Mark put in another 20 miles or more.

Riding Hard in Lake Pueblo SP

Riding Hard in Lake Pueblo SP

And I snagged myself a moment in the sun and wind and desert. We dropped the bikes and hiked to the very end of a precarious mesa. From the top of this cliff, the lake stretched out below and the mountains stretched out beyond, and the wind rolled in from distant desert plains.

The wind that filled my heart with joy and splashed a smile over my face later brought us gifts of storms, downdrafts, and beautiful, menacing clouds. The camper rocked us to sleep that night as the stormy gusts howled around us, and in the morning a drizzle of rain sent us back home to reality. Or as close to reality as you can get in Boulder, I guess.

Desert Rains Evaporating Before They Hit the Ground

Desert Rains Evaporating Before They Hit the Ground

Park Number 4: Lake Pueblo State Park

#COSTAPA Rundown

  • Location: Just west of Pueblo, Colorado. (map)
  • Entry Fee: $7 per Day
  • Camping: 400 campsites available, each with a paved driveway, covered picnic table and fire ring. Some campgrounds offer electric hook-ups, and all have water taps spread around campground. The loops with electric hookups also have bath houses with flush toilets, coin operated showers, and play grounds. Non-electric sites are $16/night and electric sites are $20/night.
  • Facilities: Boat ramps and two marinas (including a little marina store), year round camping, a dump station at the Arkansas point campground, picnic areas, visitor’s center, swim beach, and lots and lots of trails.
  • Activities: Mountain biking (!), hiking or trail running, swimming in the summer, great fishing, boating, other water things, camping, horse-back riding, and small game or duck hunting (according to this site, though we did not see hunters).
Camping in the Wind at Lake Pueblo State Park

Camping in the Wind at Lake Pueblo State Park

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?