Colorado Jul-Aug 2010

Dates: July 25 - August 5, 2010

People: Mark, Luke, Jonah, Seth, Denny, Marcia, Grandpa & Grandma Witte, Grandpa & Grandma Wachtel, Matt H.


  • 7-25 (Travel Day)
  • 7-26 (Travel Day)
  • 7-27 (Co Spgs/Frisco)
  • 7-28 (Mt Royal/N Cottonwood Approach)
  • 7-29 (Harvard/Columbia)
  • 7-30 (Biking Breck/Frisco/Vail Pass)
  • 7-31 (Democrat/Lincoln/Bross)
  • 8-1 (San Luis)
  • 8-2 (Maroon Bells)
  • 8-3 (Pikes)
  • 8-4 (Travel Day)
  • 8-5 (Travel Day)


This was our meeting day at the Farm. For the group headed out from Chicago they went to church in the morning and headed down right-a-way after lunch. For Sarah and I it was lead church/Bible Study in the morning at Grace and then head out.

Sunday's driving: approximately 400 miles

We left our place at 1:15pm and headed for Ft. Wayne first to pickup Grandpa and Grandma. We grabbed them at 3:35pm and left 10 minutes later. With them we made just one gas stop along the way and Grandma was great enough even to grab Subway for us before we left. So we were able to eat that in the car. We made just one other rest area stop just past Plainfield, Indiana and were able to make it to the Farm at 7:30pm central. We arrived to find Papa and the boys swimming in the pool and we spent an hour out there with them and Connor who was also swimming.

We stayed up just late enough to get the cars situated with luggage for an early AM departure in just a few hours.


The goal for this day was to make it to Colorado Springs where we had hotel reservations. We had everyone (except the boys) up about 3:15am to get things going. The boys we carried out to the car and turned on the DVD players to keep them happy. It was 4:03am when we left the farm. Most everyon (but the drivers) went back to sleep.

We hit the Missouri state line and St. Louis at 5:26am. It was 7:15am when we made our first stop. We hit the Burger King in Columbia, MO where they had a huge playplace which was a good energy break for the boys. The inside of this Burger King was like an ice chest though, it was freezing! The playplace was indeed huge and the boys had a blast climbing all over the place while we ate. Dad and I each got the vehicles gassed up as well while the boys played.

Monday's driving: 909 miles

We passed the rest of the morning with a rest area stop just west of Concordia, MO and then hitting the Kansas state line at 10:09am. We did lunch at Arby's in Junction City, KS and were surprised to find all their pop machines were broken. They had 2-liters sitting out on a table for customers to use.

We did gas again in Ellsworth, Ks and a rest area at Grainfield, KS. We hit the Colorado state line at 4:40pm mountain time. We had debated taking US40 west out of Oakley to hit the springs but with our hotel being on the north side by the Academy we bailed and ended up heading for Limon on I-70.

We did supper at Burger King in Burlington, CO. We had originally stopped there thinking we'd get an ice cream snack and then supper in CO Springs. But as we looked at the time and the hungry tummies we ended up doing a full supper. They had a tiny playplace the boys killed a little time in. It was 8:15pm when we made it to the Sleep Inn in Colorado Springs.

We planned on doing some basic swimming after check-in and getting luggage to the rooms. This Sleep Inn was next door to a Comfort Suites (also owned by Choice Hotels) and so the pool was actually in the Comfort Suites. As we headed up there we were greeted by an amazing surprised: an indoor water slide plus an indoor/outdoor connected pool. Surprisingly it took some convincing of the boys at first to give this a try. I finally convinced both boys so I took Jonah and Dad took Luke down the slide. They loved it! And this was the beginning of an evening of fun. The boys did this slide like 40 times by the end of the night. Luke made it to the point of going by himself and hit water wings helped him make it through the landing pool at the bottomm. Jonah did it solo once or twice until he had me go with him again. This led to a small accident. As he went with me, he started going a second ahead and I would catch him halfway down. Well the last time he tried this as I started to catch he got got turned around and he went into the landing pool headfirst and went under on his own. Luckily I was right behind him and pulled him up within a second, but he got pretty upset about it. He was fine a few minutes later and back on the slides with me. We did this til it closed at 10pm.


This morning we took the luxury of sleeping in til about 8am after the long day we had yesterday. We had a nice continental breakfast in the hotel, another plus from the Sleep Inn. We headed out at 9:15am for a very short drive to Focus on the Family. We spent a good two hours there predominantly in the kids area. Luke was just tall enough to give a try on their 30 foot slide with part of it going outside the building. He did that twice and seemed to lose interest. They had other play areas in their lower level including a room devoted to Narnia, a room with toddler climbing stuff and a larger room with a drama stage and costumes. The boys enjoyed this and Sarah enjoyed actually having a stage which is more than she has for drama back home. On our way out we spent 20 minutes in the bookstore grabbing a few nice items.

Tuesday's driving: 133 miles

Sarah, the boys and I left at 11:30am headed for Castle Rock. We went to the Chick-Fil-A there and met up with Ed and Jenna Maanum, friends of ours from Concordia. I was a classmate and friends of Jenna all four years. Ed was a year behind us and got to know him through other friends as well. Ed also went to seminary, like myself, and is now a pastor down in Pueblo. We enjoyed meeting for the first time since we all saw each other at our friends Jake and Gretal's wedding. We also enjoyed seeing each others' kids. They have a 1-year old named Ephraim and a newborn named Tabitha. Our boys played in a small playplace there while the rest of us talked for a couple hours. After lunch they took us to the outlets at Castle Rock and we shopped there together for another hour.

We left our friends at 3:30pm and began the drive to Frisco and the condo. There, in the meantime, Mom and Dad began the massive grocery shopping for the weekend while the grandparents settled in at the condo. We made it to the condo aruond 5:15pm, just before Mom and Dad arrived with the groceries.

For supper we made frozen pizzas as a quickie, easy meal. We spent the evening relaxing and playing lots of foosball. Luke, Jonah, Seth, Mom, Dad and I took a walk down the street in Frisco. We ended up on the bike trail and even found the trailhead for Mt. Royal. We hiked a tenth of a mile up the trail to scout things for morning and get the boys a-moving. As dark approached we headed on back to the condo.


In the morning we got up by 7am to begin a hike up Mt. Royal. We found a good path back to the bike trail and then onto the Royal Trailhead. We left aruond 7:30am up the mountain. This morning's hike included Luke, Jonah, Mom and Dad. No Seth this time. We moved at a fair pace keeping the boys interested in the hike. Jonah ended up being carried by Mark for a good 2/3 of the climb up Royal. Luke did well enough to walk the entire way. The boys took turns carrying their new REI kids backpack and drinking out of the hydration pack.

We summited around 9:15am and Mark continued on hiking east along Royal's ridge to another rock outcropping with a good view of Frisco. As Mark did that the others spotted a fox on the trail who came up pretty close. We were atop Royal for a good 30 minutes before heading down. Jonah did much better on the way down. Mark carried him on his shoulders down through the steepest portion of the trail and Jonah then walked the rest of the way down.

We were back to the Condo by 11:30am so Mom could get lunch and get ready to leave for the afternoon trip. Mom, Grandp and Grandma Wachtel, Jonah, and Seth all left for Mom's cousin Linda's place for the afternoon. Matt also arrived at the condo around this time having made great time from Denver International after his flight arrived. Mark, Sarah, Matt, andd Dad did a Walmart run to grab supplies for the next hike.

Wednesday's driving: 67 miles

At 3:00pm Matt, Dad, Luke and I left for the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead. Along the way we grabbed supper at Subway in Leadville. This we took with us to the trailhead where we arrived around 5pm. We ate our Subway there and prepped our gear. For Luke he was just carrying his backpack with water in it. I carried his sleeping bag and clothes for him. We left the parking lot at 5:45pm for a good hike in to camp the night. We hiked till 8pm and got sprinkled on lightly for 20-30 minutes at the end. We found a good campsite about 2 miles in at 11,000 feet. It had an established fire-pit and decent tree cover for a tent. The tent pads were small so we had to get our vestibules situated just right while also working with the slope. We spent a good deal of time finding firewood that was dry to make a fire and after quite a lot of effort we got a fire going.

As we got the fire going a man named Hank stopped in looking for a place to camp. We were kind enough to let him camp near us as it was starting to get dark. Luke and I hit the tent around 10pm and Luke fell asleep after his hard work.


Matt and I awoke at 3:30am and got the food bag down for some snacks and breakfast before hitting the trail. We let camp at 3:55am with headlamps on and were on our way up Harvard. See my trip report on for all the wonderful details of this hike.

The following thumbnails are Google Terrain and Google Earth snapshots of our track.

Mt. Harvard/Mt. Columbia Trip Report

Dad and Luke slept in this day at camp til almost 8am. Luke was definitely tired last night from the hiking and the sleeping at high altitude. They spent the morning hiking up to about 11,700 feet in the Horn Fork Basin. They enjoyed talking to us on the radios until we went out of contact behind Columbia's ridge. As we took quite a long time on the traverse they began to wonder where we were at. We finally made contact again on our descent from Columbia. As it rained on us on the descent they started taking down camp. By the time Matt and I arrived at camp again they had the tent down and nearly everything ready to go. They actually took off down the trail out while Matt and I got our daypack gear into the big packs and re-packed things. We ended up catching them on the hike out and we made it to the car without stop or incident. We made it out just early enough we decided to hit the condo for supper instead of stopping along the way. The news that Sarah was making rotini-sausage pasta for supper also helped with this decision and we made it to the condo around 6:30pm.


This was another easy morning sleep-in and supposedly a rest day for us. I started the day on the netbook digesting data and photos from the Harvard/Columbia hike. Somewhere in the midst of our conversation we got talking about biking and getting outside for some fun. Matt quickly did some Google-ing and found that Rebel Sports in Frisco had good bike rentals. He and I were quickly walking down the road to rent some bikes for the day. About 10am we got down there and for $15 for 2 hours plus another $2/hour past that we were off. We hopped the trail in Frisco and headed for Breckenridge. There was a brief climb and then a downhill in the forest heading south out of Frisco. The rest was a gradual climb down to Breckenridge. This took us nearly an hour to reach Breckenridge where we stopped near downtown and the first gondola ride.

Friday's Biking. First image is the Frisco to Breckenridge Trek of 10 miles. Second Image is the Vail Pass to Frisco Trek of 13 miles.

We turned around after a snack and enjoyed the now gradual down-slope back to Firsco. We cruised on this part and stopped just once for a picture. The up-climb back into the forest near Frisco was a challenge. We made it back by noon for lunch at the condo. We inquired at Rebel Sports about their "free" shuttle up to Vail Pass but that was only valid for people paying the daily rate. We decided to hitch a ride in one of the minivans for Vail Pass in the afternoon.

The Vail Pass idea was enough to get Dad on a bike. He quickly went down to the shop and rented a bike of his own. We found Sarah to be kind enough to drive us and so we loaded three bikes into a minivan and were off to Vail Pass. With me as driver I messed up and missed the exit for Vail Pass which meant driving another 7 miles on to Vail itself, u-turn, and then back to Vail Pass.

Matt, Dad, and I began the great descent from Vail Pass. This was a blast as we were able to cruise almost the entire way down to Copper Mountain, riding the brakes through several portions. We only had to actually pedal 2 or 3 short times to get to Copper. In Copper we had to slow down consider as the bike trails wound through the small town. The rains started on us as we hit the east side of Copper. We stopped under a gas station canopy to stow our electronics in our backpacks and then hit the trail again. The rain was just light enough it didn't kill our traction on the bikes, but we did have mostly sprinkles the rest of the way to Frisco. As we arrived back at the condo around 3pm, Bob, Joyce, Grandpa and Grandma Witte were arriving, so we decided to return the bikes.

Bob and Joyce spent the evening with us at the cabin. Sarah cooked stir fry custom for each of us for supper and this was fantastic. Bob and Joyce left us shortly after supper. Dad, Sarah, Matt, Luke, Jonah and I spent some time int he hot tub in the evening for 45 minutes to get the leg muscles relaxed and loosened. All in all we were more than pleased with the day and the great biking we had. We got in a solid 34 miles.


This was another hiking day so we were up at 4:30am to get ready for the big DeCaLiBro hike. This time we even had Luke up early and he did pretty well getting going with a small breakfast of powdered sugar donut so early. We got out of the cabin a little after 5am and began the drive past Breckenridge and over Hoosier Pass to Alma. From Alma the dirt road to Kite Lake begins. It was rough for the minivan with some dips and bumps but it survived.

Saturday morning's driving: 30 miles each way.

We made it to Kite Lake to find the parking lot full and even a few cars already parked along the road. We even had 4 pick-ups behind us looking for parking. We parked about 20 yards down the hill along the road and paid our $3 vehicle fee. We all left Kite Lake together at 6:30am with an already growing crowd of others. There were two stream crossings we hit right away, one of which I literally had to carry Luke across as the rock steps were not near each other. Luckily, we all still had dry shoes to go forward with. At this point Matt and I separated from the others and went on ahead. Dad, Mom and Luke would spend the day hiking at their own pace. The rest of the hike and plenty of other pics and data can be found on in my trip report:

Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Bross, Mt. Cameron, Mt. Democrat Trip Report

After successfully getting everyone up and down their chosen peaks for the day we made the drive back to Frisco. Luke was out pretty quickly in the car. We arrived at the condo at 2pm and Luke continued a good hard nap for a few hours. Dad also joined him for some sleep.

For supper this night we grilled chicken outside and had rice with it. We attempted to do this somewhat speedily as the guys had a long car ride to come. Around 7pm Dad, Matt and I left for the San Luis hike with a car-camping adventure in mind. We hit rain almost the entire way. Matt drove us as far as Pagosa Springs where we got gas. I took over driving after that and the adventure was just beginning. On our way up to Monarch Pass we saw three guys stopped in a vehicle trying to flag down help. We stopped and the one ran up to Dad's door saying they needed a phone to call for help as their vehicle was dead. Dad helped them call 911 who then tied us into a tow truck company and they got help on the way. We proceed forward.

The drive up and over Monarch Pass was a fright. Heavy rains and fog made visibility poor. The rains were also causing rocks to fall on the road, which coupled with bad visibility, made for a slow, attention-grabbing drive through the Pass. As we proceeded further west the rains followed us all the way to the turn south on CO114. On CO114 we had less rain and no rocks on the road but they had open range cattle in there and we had a close encounter with one cow standing on the very side of the road whom we came upon after some tight curves.

Saturday night's driving: 187 miles

The drive back into the Stewart Creek trailhead involved about 27 miles on dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. And driving this for the first time in the dark was especially interesting as we could not make out what the surrounding scenery was like. We were using a combination of Dad's old Nuvi and Google Maps on my Nokia N800 to make sure we were on route. It was almost midnight when we finally reached the trailhead. We decided to park along the road as it nearly took 4WD to actually get into the parking lot. We came prepared for car camping this time and had blankets and the horse-collar pillows to help out.


Matt, Dad, and I left the Stewart Creek TH for San Luis at 4:40am for another walk in the dark. We were quickly passed by a young couple who were flying on the trail. We would later catch them and find out they were from Illinois. The rest of the hike can be found in my trip report on

San Luis Peak Trip Report

We returned to the car around 11:40am. We head out from the wilderness finally enjoying the beautiful terrain aruond us this time, with the daylight and all. The drive also seemed to go quicker as we could see things going by, and drive faster with better visibility. We stopped in Gunnison on our way out (even though it was abotu 10 miles west, out of our way) for some lunch. We ate at the Ole' Cowboy Steakhouse. We had some fantastic burgers and beer there. Mine was loaded with sauteed onions and they were some of the best I'd ever had. Not long after we left Gunnison I finally fell asleep for my first afternoon nap of the trip and as I awoke near Leadville we were in the rain, yet again. We arrived back to the cabin around 5:30pm.

The others spent this day going to church in the morning at an LCMS church in Edwards, CO. It was a very contemporary LCMS church, to put it bluntly. After church they headed towards Rifle and met Rachel and Ryan at a mexican restaurant for lunch. They spent time with them including getting peaks at their schools and a playground at Rachel's school. They also got a quick look at Rachel and Ryan's 3-bed apartment.

Once we were all back at the cabin for the evening, Sarah was once again our cook and she made us some awesome tacos. The other notable thing from the evening was Mom and Grandpa Wachtel having to take Grandma Wachtel to the ER because her one leg was swollen. They went to the hospital in Frisco and after a few hours there the tests said Grandma was mostly fine, no clots or anything. They sent her home not entirely sure what it was.


This was our second major free day of the trip. And once again we took advantage of it by resting in the morning and having a good breakfast of sausage, pancakes, and eggs. Felt good to sleep in after several full days of hiking behind us. We also knew this coming night would be short for us so sleep was a precious commodity.

We also decided it would be nice to get everyone out of the condo together for once and so it was off to Aspen and the Maroon Bells. We left about 10am for Aspen. For once we weren't getting poured down rain upon us. Once on CO82 it was neat to get some of the views past Twin Lakes and headed for Independence Pass. We even took a quick boys bathroom stop at the trailhead for La Plata. On top Independence Pass we hopped out of the cars to walk around and take some pictures. The boys enjoyed climbing on the small rocks adjacent to the walking paths. Even Seth was starting to look like a mountain goat, moving around on the rocks rather well.

Monday's driving: 88 miles each way

We arrived in Aspen around 12:30pm. We went to the station for the bus ride to the Bells and realized we’d forgotten much of our picnic lunch at the condo. Decided to have Dad go buy some bread and snacks while the rest of the group bus-ed up to the Bells. As we were doing this we realized that vehicles with child car seats could drive up to the Bells and just pay the $10 vehicle fee at the NFS station. We decided to do this and headed up there when Dad arrived back with the food reinforcements.

At the Bells we drove up to the main parking lot just below Maroon Lake. We had a picnic lunch at a nice table day use area. Saw a marmot nearby and took some pics. Walked to Maroon Lake and took pics of the Bells whose tops were in the low-hanging clouds at the time. Dad, Matt, Luke, and I decided to attempt a hike up to Crater Lake. Jonah, Seth, Mom, Gma Witte hiked with us to the end of Maroon Lake and turned around there. Sarah hung around and took photos. We hiked to within range of seeing Crater Lake when it started raining on us. We turned around immediately and started hiking down. We hiked the whole way to the car in the rain. Matt and I had no raingear so we took off at high speed, stopping occasionally under large trees to stay dry. Dad and Luke hiked normal, safe pace with an umbrella and rain gear. We got to the cars and left around 5pm.

Leaving the Bells, we debated taking Independence Pass again or going to Glenwood Springs, but decided weather was even worse heading west to Glenwood and so over Independence Pass we went again. Rained the entire way back to Frisco and was even raining there, ruining our grilling plans. We got back after 7pm and did leftovers for supper. Dad, Matt, and I headed to bed by 10 or so for a short night.


Dad, Matt, and I left the condo around 2am for the drive to Manitou Springs. We stopped at a gas station in Woodland Park for cold meds and breakfast. We arrived at the Barr Trail TH just before 4:30am. There were several cars in the parking lot but we saw nobody around. It wasn't until we were about 25 minutes into hiking in the dark that we heard another car pull into the lot. We ended up leaving the TH at 4:33am. For the complete hike see my trip report on

Pikes Peak Trip Report

The hiking guys were arriving to the top of Pikes in the vicinity fo 10:30am. Weather was holding up great for them aside from rolling white puffballs coming up and over the summit. Sarah, Luke, and Jonah arrived on the top of Pikes around 11:45am. They walked around and hit the gift shops with us. We spent another 45 mins up there or so taking pics and enjoying the Summit House. Sarah picked up a fun "Marmot Crossing" sign. Dad met a family he knew from CUC as well as Dr. Stadtwald and his family from CUC. We left the summit around 12:30pm and drove down. Got stopped at the checkpoint on the way down because our brakes were too hot. They were wanting everyone to stop and wait about 30 mins but we sat for just under 10. We got lunch at McDonald’s in Woodland Park on the way back to the condo.

Wespent the evening packing and resting and getting ready to head out the in the morning. We finally got to grill again with the weather cooperating and so we threw all the meat we had left ont the grill and did burgers for supper. Once again we also had things going on with Grandma Wachtel. She has woken up this morning not doing well at all and could barely get out of bed. While we were on the Pikes Peak mission they had Grandma into the ER at Frisco again. The Frisco hospital didn't like what they saw so they had her ambulanced to Denver. Grandpa Wachtel was able to go with her and this left Mom in a tough spot. She wanted to join them but if she took the silver van the rest of us would need another vehicle. We finally worked a plan to load the silver van with as much gear as possible and send Mom to Denver with it. Dad would hitch a ride to Denver with Matt in the morning. This would leave our family and G&G Witte in the green van to possibly return home without the others.


Matt and Dad left the condo early aruond 5:30am. Matt had a rental car to return before his flight and also dropped Dad off at the hotel where Mom & Gpa Wachtel were on the way. Sarah, the boys, G&G Witte, and I left the condo around 7am.

Stopped at a Burger King in Dumont, CO along the way for breakfast. Spent about 30 minutes there. Talked to Dad along the way to see if and when Grandma Wachtel was getting out of the hospital. The consensus seemed to be she was getting out, we just didn’t know when. Our group decided to do the I-70 route with the hopes they would catch up to us.

Wednesday's driving: 800 miles.

So we continued on and breezed through Denver and eastern Colorado. Stopped for gas and lunch at McDonald’s in Colby, KS for about an hour. Stopped at a rest area in Russell, KS for about 35 minutes. We figured out that the latter group was only about 40 miles behind now. Decided we could meet up in Junction City finally for supper. We stopped at Family Buffet in Junction City, KS. Waited a little over 30 minutes for them to arrive and had supper together.

We drove the rest of the evening in caravan. Had a struggle through Kansas City in the dark with lots of construction and lane closures. We arrived in Columbia, MO around 11:30pm and got checked in at the Quality Inn which was a former Holiday Inn Holidome. Mark and Dad each did all the of the 800 miles of driving for their respective vehicles this day which made for a *lot* of driving.


We had a nice breakfast in the hotel in Columbia, MO at 6:30am and were pushing to get on the road quickly. We left the hotel by about 7:30am. We made the morning drive pretty quick and were arriving at the Farm around 11am. There we ran into Gary and Lynn and Bailey. We had lunch together with everyone out at the poolhouse (for space sake) eating leftovers from our cooler. While there Bailey gave the boys rides on the golf cart.

Thursday's driving: 610 miles.

Our car of our family plus G&G Witte was on the road again a little after 12:30pm. We stopped again just NE of Indianapolis for gas and a bathroom break. We arrived in Ft. Wayne around 6:15pm and left again 20 minutes later. The boys had a chance to play some frisbee out in their backyard and split some mint ice cream sandwiches, yum!

From Ft. Wayne we made quick work of Ohio on the new US24 and arrived in Maumee around 8pm for a long-awaited supper at Salsaritas, more yum! It was about 9:45pm when we *finally* made it home. I did all the driving again today which meant the two day total of driving for me came to roughly 1410 miles. Glad to be home and done with driving, but dearly miss the mountains already.

The End.