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Posts Tagged ‘YMCA of the Rockies’

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While most people spend their Christmas among crazy chaos and lots of people, we go the opposite route.  Part of it is that it’s not feasible to go back home again to CT, we both have VERY small families and my parents go to Florida while my sister stays in CT and celebrates with her husband’s side of the family.  So it’s just us and the pups.  Staying at home sometimes makes me a little sad and so this year with David off from work, we decided to go away for Christmas.  It was also a make-up trip from our 10 year wedding anniversary in May (a trip that we kept having to reschedule) so it had been a full year and a half since David and I vacationed and very much needed.

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DSC_0641We chose to go to a familiar, quiet place where we know our dogs are welcome and we could cozy up near a fireplace: the Estes Park YMCA at Rocky Mountain National Park.  Every year we go we are amazed at how big this complex is getting; it’s not your typical camp – it’s a booming conference center with hundreds of cabins and lodging rooms and has a skating rink, sled runs, horse stables, indoor swimming and tons of activities.  But even with all the options, we chose to hold up in our cabin and celebrate the holidays quietly…playing rounds of Monopoly, Words with Friends and Uno…reading books aloud to each other…challenging our brains with puzzle books and taking lots of frigid walks with our pups (some days the windchill was below zero!).

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We spent some time in town as well on the charming main street visiting little shops, stopping at our favorite independent coffee shop and grabbing some local food.  And of course there is Rocky Mountain National Park (though most of it is closed, the couple miles that you can go in are still beautiful).  Good all around.  Very low key, very relaxing (when our anxious pups weren’t misbehaving), very much our style.

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And while I often wish I had this big gregarious family to go home to for the holidays, complete with cousins, aunts, uncles, lots of siblings and nieces and nephews and all the nostalgic visions that the holiday movies portray, the reality is that neither of us have that, so we have to make our own holiday tradition.  So tranquil holidays come in as a great second choice.

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Whether yours were crazy or calm, hope your holidays were enjoyable. ♥

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Finally a clear day and the sight I woke up to on my birthday

I’m back and what a great week it has been!

Of the 5 days we spent in Estes Park, CO, only one of them was a beautiful, clear sunny day and I’m fortunate it was on my birthday.  I’m kinda spoiled like that.  Growing up in New England, I was always used to having beautiful weather on my mid-May birthday, but since moving out to Colorado, it’s been hit or miss.  Yesterday was picture perfect.

Entrance to RMNP

We woke up to a beautiful view of the mountains, brilliant blue sky dotted with puffy clouds and took the opportunity to head into the park.  Because of the time of year (and the snow earlier in the week was not at all uncommon for that area), most of the park is sadly closed until June.  The week before we left, David showed me a picture he found online of the visitor’s center at the top of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park and the snow pack was to the roof line, about 16 feet and it’s not uncommon for the roads to be covered in 20+ feet of snow; thus they only keep the perimeter, lower altitude roads maintained for year-round visitors.


And the entrance fee is not reduced ($20) even though you can only go in about 1/16th of the park, but I like to think of it as our annual donation to the national park system (and frankly it’s worth it!).  We had a great time and were able to spend a good 4 hours in the park, admiring the views, breathing in the pristine air and spying on some of the wildlife.

The dogs were ancy (and aren’t allowed on any trails in the park, just perimeter parking areas), so we dropped them off at the cabin, headed into town where it felt luxuriously warm at nearly 60 degrees and dined on sushi outside near the river that runs behind the main street.  Afterwards, we slowly traipsed our way in and out of little shops, supported the local economy with a few small purchases and enjoyed ice cream in the sun.

We ended the afternoon at our favorite independent coffee shop where they serve up a delicious Mexican hot chocolate and authentic chai (dolloped with fresh, thick whipped cream).  Mmm…

We returned back to the cabin where the sun was setting, dined on nachos on our picnic table and didn’t say much trying to soak up the beauty all around us as well as the awareness that it was our last night there.

This morning we awoke to a frigid 30 degree fog and made our way home where we’ve been greeted by a heavy snowfall.  And as much as we loved our retreat, it was nice to come home and jump into our large, cozy bed where we are permanently parked for the rest of the day.  Perfection.

Whatever your plans are for this year, I hope you make some time for yourself, shut down from technology and spend time in nature, even if only in your backyard or local park.

Of course, if you can make it to the Rockies, that certainly doesn’t hurt the cause either… ;)


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Longmont, CO where we first lived when we landed in Colorado weeks after our wedding in 2002; it’s a beautiful location, close to the mountains, close to Boulder and among farmlands – and every time we drive by on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, we miss it incredibly!

Last year David and I embarked on a new tradition that we plan to keep yearly so long as we are living in Colorado.

Our 9th wedding anniversary is on May 31st which is a great time of year but often falls on Memorial Day Weekend which equals holiday prices on travel and lots of crowds, neither of which we are particularly fond of.  So instead we opt for treks earlier in the month and last year we found the perfect location – Estes Park, Colorado.

For those of you unfamiliar, Estes Park is the town at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Not only does beauty abound, but there’s a main street with cute shops and restaurants, lots of places to admire nature, tons of recreation and one very simple but lovely YMCA camp that is open to the public.

This camp is huge and not just your typical kids camp.  I had the opportunity to spend lots of time there with a previous employer who had several work retreats there.  They have nice, simple lodges (that feel like motels) and cabins from 2-10 bedrooms.  And you don’t need any affiliation with the YMCA to partake.

Our sweet 625 sq. ft cabin is the perfect size (there is no downstairs, just storage)

To top it off, the prices are cheap prior to Memorial Weekend ($99/night and the 3rd night free) but more importantly, they allow dogs!  We hate to travel without our pups – we miss them, we worry about them when we’re away (we’ve had several mishaps with regards to their care in the past), not to mention that it’s very costly to board them or have a house/pet sitter stay with them.  Any chance to bring them with us is always the top option and the fact that this place is well within driving distance and we aren’t capped at having only 2 dogs, makes it ideal for us.

View from inside and this place has wall to wall windows

Oh and did I mention that it’s super serene and beautiful here?  It’s forced relaxation at it’s best.  There are no TVs, no internet even (at least in our cabin, but there is access at the main lodge which looks like a tiny version of the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone)  so it forces us to slow waaay down.

It was sunny and dry when we arrived on Tuesday; then we woke up to a blanket of snow in the morning and an additional 6-8 inches during the rest of the day

The days have a rhythmic quality to them…and although this may not be some people’s idea of fun, it’s simply divine to us and we so look forward to our time here.

First off, we sleep in as long as we can until the aging bladder of Sierra wakes us.  We leash everyone up and go for a walk.  Breakfast is cooked up in our cute lil’ kitchen room.  Since we have limited plates and silverware, we are forced to clean up right away and I kind of like it that way…no chance for laziness to kick in leading to a pile of dishes at the end of the day.

View from the kitchen looking toward main area of cabin

We have our laptops with us so music is generally piping with an eclectic mix of Ray Lamontagne, Johnny Cash, Diana Krall and Lorenna McKennitt, among others.  We pass time reading (alone and to each other), doing crossword puzzles together, walking, hiking, napping, and admiring the wildlife everywhere.

Yikes, there's a coyote in the kiddie park!

We walk the main street, and of course, spend time in the park (weather permitting!).  In the evenings, we go to the lodge to spend a little bit of time on the internet, grab a coffee from their cute lil’ cafe and sit in the adirondack chairs in front of the giant hearth fireplace soaking in the radiant heat of the roaring fire.  We also bring a couple DVD’s with us and might watch a movie back in our cabin if the urge strikes.  To keep costs down, we cook most meals in the cabin and only eat out a couple times during our stay.

A break in the snow and blue sky! Only for about 2 hours then the snow commenced.

We go to bed early, we sleep ridiculously long hours and we totally relax.

A break in the snow allowed for a nice walk with the pups

My friend Jess pokes fun at us.  “You guys are the only people that I know who live in a cabin in the woods but choose to vacation in a cabin in the woods!”  Yeah, I suppose it’s kind of silly, but whenever we come here, we completely turn off.  Kind of like I was mentioning in my post last week about our adventure without power for a weekend, it’s hard to force a technology shut down even though we appreciate the original break.  When we come to Estes Park, we know it’s going to force us to slow down, unwind and, as my other friend Peg says, it’s a nice change of zip code.

We love a lot of vacation spots for what we can do or see, but we love this spot for what we don’t do, if you know what I mean.  And there’s nothing like spending time in nature to ground you, to remind you of why it needs protecting and why choosing to live a greener and simpler life, while not always convenient or popular, is a great way to live.

Sierra just LOVES to be outside

So while you may not be fortunate to live close to something as splendid as RMNP, try to even spend just 5 minutes outside in nature everyday.  Whether it’s out for a walk or standing out of your front door.  Stop, take a deep breath in, listen to the sounds surrounding you and watch intently around you – you know, the things we take for granted in our everyday rushed lives.  Sometimes its cathartic just watching a bird digging around the earth or listening to the trees whisper in the wind.

Where are your favorite down-time getaways?

(p.s. hope to have more in-town and park photos tomorrow if the weather clears up, otherwise, it will be more photos of snow!)

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