Family vacation an adventure

On the second day of vacation, I found myself staring into a vast expanse of blue sky, dotted with the occasional cotton-candy cloud.

Without context, this is not unusual. I often stare into the sky, enjoying the wonder of it. My kids are used to my instruction to look out a window at a cloud, at color-pairings, at a majestic sunset. One of the most relaxing places for me is stretched out on our backyard trampoline, breathing in the night and the twinkling heavens.

But this time, the road we were driving met the sky in an unnatural juxtaposition: vast sky paired with disappearing road.

Our van, containing those most precious to me, was currently angled up the steep, curvy incline toward the summit of Pike’s Peak. My hand was wound tightly around the door handle. My eyes were fixed straight ahead, trying to avoid the drop-off inches to our right. Like a woman in labor, I kept reminding myself to breathe. Rather than filling my lungs with oxygen, I was subconsciously holding my breath. I was also trying to push images of fiery crashes out of my head.

Before proceeding, I need to clarify. My husband is a great driver. I feel safe when he is behind the wheel. But that knowledge temporarily fled as I came face to sky and rocky cliffs. Heights are not my friend.

So really, what was I even doing in the mountains?

Turns out marriage is a whole lot of compromise.

I like the beach. I can’t get enough of the waves crashing against the shore. I am awed by the power and enormity of the sea. Water gives my husband anxiety.

He likes the mountains. He can’t get enough of the cooler temperatures and the grandeur. Heights give me anxiety.

He went with me to the beach. I went with him to the mountains. Plus, it was time our children visited colorful Colorado.

The adventure began a couple months before our trip as we sat down to find a place to stay. All my searches for a decent hotel to accommodate five people came up lacking. Who wants to pay outrageous amounts for a run-down hotel in Colorado Springs? Definitely not me. On top of frugality, I have an aversion to suspicious-looking hotel rooms. Nothing we could afford for multiple nights met my standards.

Striking out, we did what any sensible parents would. We booked a tiny house through Airbnb. The house claimed to sleep six. We had five. Perfect. With a credit card, we closed the deal. Then we waited for the vacation dates to show up on the calendar.

The tiny house was located west of Colorado Springs in Woodland Park. The town is a storybook. All the businesses, including the chain stores, are made to look rustic. I loved the intentionality. And our small-scale house was no different. It was painted a forest green with some wood accents, and the view from the steps drew your eye across a highway right to an unobstructed view of Pike’s Peak. With my feet firmly planted on ground far away from cliffs, I can agree that the mountains are spectacular. The view from Woodland Park is picturesque, and in our opinion, a better stay than in Colorado Springs. “Going tiny” was an adventure of its own, and at some point, I plan to share the experience as well as photos on my blog, www.malindajust.com, so be sure to check it out!

The town also had a beautiful park, again with views of the mountains. Out of everything we did, the park was a hands-down favorite for our youngest. In addition to your typical playground equipment, the park had a built-in creek for youngsters (and parents!) to explore. I kept thinking how great it would be for Hillsboro to utilize the existing creek bed in our park and install a pump to circulate water from the pond. Complete it with boulders and a rock bed, add in some Kansas wildflowers, and it would be perfect for hours of fun and exploration. After sitting three separate times in the Colorado park, I know from experience that it would be a big hit.

Our middle, who is also afraid of heights, found her greatest delights in the tiny house, Cave of the Winds and the gift shops. I remember being that way as a child, as my parents would offer to buy us one trip souvenir. I would be careful and thorough with my selections. So was Miss Middle.

The kids had also saved their own money for the trip. All of them made good purchases and came home with money to spare.

Aside from getting her hand slammed in the van door, our oldest loved every bit of her Colorado adventure. Even though hiking shot up my blood pressure as I tried to stay away from edges, keep calm, keep the kids away from the edges, and calm Miss Middle, watching our oldest discover her love for hiking was fun. She was determined and fearless–a combination that will serve her well.

As for hubby, he found great pleasure in conquering Pike’s Peak. And me? The Olympic Training Center!

I’d say our mountain adventure was successful. Even though we all had different highlights, those differences didn’t stand in the way of making fun, lasting memories. It was wonderful to experience new things together, and expose our children to another locale.

But I’ll admit, my favorite part was coming home and stretching out on the trampoline, relaxing under the brilliance of twinkling stars, far away from steep, precarious drop-offs.

Home is a special kind of sweet.

Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing visit her blog, malindajust.com.