The first vacation that I can remember taking with my family was our trip to Colorado the summer after I was in sixth grade. While we had traveled places before, that was the first trip during which I learned I love to take pictures of and write about my travels and the trip I point to as the initial spark of my love of traveling.
Since that summer, my family and I have traveled to Florida, Missouri, Califor?nia, Indiana and more together. This summer we decided it was time to venture back to Colorado. So we planned a last-minute trip to the north part of the state only a handful of days before school started again.
Rather than leaving early in the morning, like we usually do on family trips, we packed the van and headed west as soon as my sister and I got home from babysitting on a Friday evening. After waiting out a storm in Wakeeney, we made it to Limon, Colo., at about midnight and spent the night at a hotel.
The next morning we drove north to Brush, Colo., where my dad had to make a stop to look at a trailer, before driving into the majestic Rocky Mountains.
Our home for the trip was a quaint, rustic cabin located right along the Big Thomp?son River three miles out of Estes Park. While the cabin itself wasn?t anything fancy, the river view off the back deck was so calm and relaxing. The first thing we did when we got to the cabin was throw off our shoes and wade through the river.
We spent the evening exploring Estes Park, which pretty much meant perusing through all the T-shirt shops trying to decide what souvenirs to buy.
The next day was full of amazing views.
In the morning, we took the Estes Park Aerial Tramway up to Prospect Mountain, where we had a great view of the town and the mountains. We hiked the path to the summit of the mountain and spent time taking pictures and enjoying the view.
After taking the tram back down the mountain, we entered Rocky Mountain National Park and started on Trail Ridge Road. This road, which connects Estes Park and Grand Lake, is the highest continually paved road in the country. And it is home to some spectacular views. As I stood at one of the higher points of the road and looked at the jutting peaks surrounding me, I felt so small and so in awe of God?s creation.
We spent our second full day in the mountains rafting the Poudre River. This was my first time white-water rafting and I instantly loved it. While none of us fell out of the raft, my mom came close several times and provided us with hilarious memories of our adventure. We all had a close call at the most intense rapid of the trip, but our awesome guide, Caroline, got us through unscathed.
The next day, which was our last full day in Colorado, we drove to Fort Collins for the morning. There, we checked out bikes from the Fort Collins Bike Library. After navigating the short few blocks to the restaurant where we ate breakfast and breaking many biking rules along the way, we realized city biking was not our strong suit. Instead, we found a nice, paved trail along the Poudre River and biked with a view of the mountains.
We then explored more of Fort Collins?on foot this time. Fort Collins was one of the cities that provided inspiration for the Main Street USA in Disneyland, so I was excited to see the buildings that inspired Walt Disney.
That evening we spent more time in Estes Park and said our goodbyes to the mountains before we headed home the next morning.
The adventure wasn?t over though, because after smelling something funny and seeing smoke under the hood of our van, we pulled off the interstate in Wakeeney?a town that apparently wasn?t our friend on this trip?to find out we wouldn?t be able to make it home in the van. My aunt came to the rescue and drove all the way to pick us up and drive us home, ending our vacation a few hours later than expected.
Despite this bumpy ending, our family trip to Colorado was the perfect getaway to spend time together and make memories before everyone became busy again with school and work.
Bailey Kaufman is a Hills?boro High School alum who is studying this fall at Tabor College. She can be reached at baileykaufman21@?gmail.com.