Colorado April 2018

Dates: April 1-7, 2018

People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Jonah, Seth, Denny, Marcia


  • 4-1 (Travel Day)
  • 4-2 (Family Day)
  • 4-3 (Ski Cooper)
  • 4-4 (Monarch)
  • 4-5 (Mt. Yale)
  • 4-6 (Family Day)
  • 4-7 (Travel Day)


We left home around 2:10p here on Easter Sunday with the hopes of making it to Lombard to get to bed at a reasonable time. The drive went pretty smoothly. I started exploring meal ideas and realized Portillo's was the obvious answer. We stopped there upon arrival in Lombard and had a wonderful supper. It was about 6:30p central when we made it to the house after supper. I had a checklist of a few things Dad wanted me to get for him and work on and I took care of them first. This included working on their Ring Doorbell which had malfunctioned.

The house was very cold at 58 degrees when we arrived so we turned that up some to make things reasonable. With a very early morning we targeted getting to bed early, and it was about 9:30p when we all went to sleep. Four of us slept in my old room where they still had a bed. Luke slept in David's old room where the bed had been removed and sent on to Buena Vista.


We were up at 3:05am today to get moving. We had everything pretty much ready to go so we got the boys up and were in the car by 3:30am to drive to Midway. We arrived at the long-term parking lot, Midway Park-n-Fly at 4am and were directed to a spot. The shuttle was there waiting for us, and grabbed a half dozen others, and drove us over to the airport, only 7-8 minutes away. At the airport we got our bags checked and made it through security with decent lines. We were out to our gate by 4:50am. The flight left just a few minutes late after 6am. They had ice on the wings that needed to be de-iced first.

In flight I watched the movie Dunkirk and had an OJ. We landed in Denver just a few minutes behind schedule. By the time we hit bathrooms and rode the trains out to the terminal our bags had already arrived at baggage claim and were on the carousel waiting for us. We grabbed them and then hit the shuttle to the rental cars. We rented from Fox Rental who were fairly cheap for this trip. We had a standard SUV for $201 for the 5 days. We had to wait 15 minutes for our vehicle to be ready but finally we got into a silver Dodge Journey. It had no bells and whistles and was hardly worth the extra $30 I paid for the SUV. We may have gained slightly more trunk space but that was about it. No 4WD, not even an AUX port or bluetooth to play music.

We drove on I70 with some Denver traffic and headed for Leadville. We had a late breakfast at Chick-fil-A on the west side of Denver. It was the first time I wasn't impressed with their food as the proportions were small and taste only average. We arrived out at Leadville at 11:25a about 10 minutes ahead of Mom and Dad who we would meet there. We decided to head to Bill's Ski Shop to see if they were open. The sign on the door said they were closed for the season but Paul was gracious enough to still work with us. We had been e-mailing with him over the last few days with measurements. He was there and so we went in to get the boys and my gear. Dad showed up not too much later. We got all the ski rentals settled and then headed over to Subway for lunch.

After lunch we headed over to the Leadville Fish Hatchery with the intention of snowshoeing on the trails there as Dad and I had done last year. When we arrived we found a few people coming off the basic nature trail and they said no snowshoes required. In fact, the snow was quite compacted on trail and with air temps around 50 degrees it was starting to soften. We decided to just boot hike the 1-mile nature trail loop. Sarah started with us but soon bailed when the cool air affected her asthma. The beginning part of the trail climbs for awhile until flattening out. Several sections of trail were steep and the snow firm enough they made for slick climbs. We passed several of the beautiful ponds and had wonderful views of Mount Massive. The boys stayed entertained enough talking and exploring a bit. Jonah and I enjoyed stopping at and reading each of the interpretative signs about different animals and trees. He is really into that stuff. We started at the upper lot and the loop trail spit us out at the lower lot near the fish ponds. It ended up being just over a mile.

After the hike we spent a little time watching the fish and checking the ponds out. Several of the hatchery workers were there feeding them and that really had the fish popping on the surface of the water. It almost looked like the water was boiling. We then drove on down to Buena Vista and went to Mom and Dad's rental house. We got settled in there for an hour or so.

We drove over to the new plot of land and checked it out. It has beautiful views of Mt. Princeton and also the Arkansas River Valley. Just the day before they got the basic layout staked into the ground so that building can commence very soon. We then went back to the rental house and started cooking pizzas for supper. I got a 3-mile run in the meantime. After pizzas, around 7:30p we drove over to a fitness gym with a climbing wall and the boys worked on that til it closed at 9p. I helped belay them. We all had good fun.


I was up at 6:30am today which is typical when we are out in the mountains. We started getting the boys up about 7:15a to get breakfast and finish getting our ski gear together. We wanted a full day at Cooper. We left the house at 8:05am and made the drive up to Tennessee Pass. It was really cold out, like down to 14 degrees when we arrived at Cooper. A number of areas of US24 had some frost and possible black ice on them. We all bundled up warmly to start ont he ski hill. We had double up gloves, I wore my turtle fur neck warmer, and the boys all went with balaclavas. We each had two baselayers and then jackets over them. As cold as it was I still didn't resort to my fleece layer as thankfully the winds weren't bad. We got to Cooper right at 9am, and we got lift tickets at the wonderful price of $25 a piece. This was last week of the season and so things were really discounted.

There was about 2 inches of fresh powder on the mountain on the slopes that weren't groomed. We immediately started on Molly Mayfield and had a difficult first run, especially Seth. It was hard getting the ski legs. Mom and Sarah both got settled in the upstairs of the lodge and waited for boys to come in for breaks. We skiied a quick morning til about an 11:15am lunch.


  • Molly Mayfield
  • Sitzmark
  • Homestake
  • LUNCH - 11:15am
  • Treasure Trove -> Lower Burnout
  • Trail's End -> Peak-a-boo
  • Tenderfoot -> Lower Eagle
  • Tenderfoot -> Motherlode Flats
  • Motherlode -> Motherlode Flats
  • Trai's End -> Peak-a-boo
  • Pando
  • Black Powder
  • 10th Mountain

We skiied til 4pm when the lifts closed. This year instead of bringing the GoPro camera along I carried my Samsung Gear 360 camera and that worked really well. It'll be interesting to get the 360 views of the different places on the mountain to review. It also takes video. After leaving we headed back to the rental house. I ran another 3-mile run while supper was being cooked. Tonight we had sloppy joes, tator tots, and green beans. It was a relaxing evening otherwise where the boys watched a movie on TV.


This morning began much like yesterday in targeting a similar 8am departure to head to the ski resort. We had debated whether to do Cooper again or whether to try Monarch. Cooper was cheaper but everyone decided that having something different at Monarch would be the finer choice. It would also set us up to go to Salida afterwards. So we got ready and left the house just a few minutes slow, at 8:10am, to drive on down to Monarch. It was warmer today and the temps just above freezing when we arrived at the ski resort.

We wore similar clothes to yesterday, minus the balaclavas. This involved two basic top layers and a jacket. We skiied til an 11:25am lunch.

Ski Runs - MONARCH

  • Bunny Hill
  • Skywalker -> Sleepy Hollow -> Glade
  • Roundabout -> Sidewinder
  • Roundabout -> Drifter
  • Sleepy Hollow -> Beeline
  • Great Divide -> Snowburn
  • LUNCH - just after 11:25am
  • Ramble On
  • Little Mo
  • Romp -> Toddler
  • Freeway
  • Roundabout -> Liberty
  • Sleepy Hollow -> Freeway
  • Beeline
  • Quick Draw -> Sleepy Hollow -> Glade
  • Great Divide -> Ticaboo
  • Great Divide -> Snowburn
  • Romp -> North Forty
  • Sleepy Hollow -> Little Jo

We skiied til the lifts closed at 4pm. We then made our drive into Salida. We hit Wallbangers for supper. I had a Voodoo Ranger IPA to drink. They had buffalo wings on special so I ordered 12 of them with buffalo garlic and hot sauces. They had a nice smoked hint to them. After supper we headed to the Aquatic Center and started in there at 6:10pm. We all hopped in the pool. We had a nice volleyball game. We swam til they closed at 8pm and then made he drive back to Buena Vista. We spent the remainder of the evening relaxing and packing up for the Mt. Yale hike in the morning.


We were up at 4:45am to get ready for the hike today. We had our gear all ready so it was mostly about getting dressed, hitting the bathroom and grabbing a bite to eat. It was Luke, Dad, and I who all were gearing up. For breakfast it was some light donut holes, a CLIF bar, and I think I found a banana. It was cold outside, but not unreasonably so. It was perhaps low 30's. We got out the door at 5:20am which was close to our target. We had a relatively short drive this time compared to many other 14er approaches. We had a few back roads to take from the rental house out to CR306, the Cottonwood PAss Road, and then about 10 miles up that road to the Denny Gulch Trailhead for Yale. We were to the trailhead by about 5:50am and on the trail 5:58am.

Mt. Yale Winter Ascent

We were back to the car at 5:29pm, after a full but very pleasing day. The weather had been good to us and we were surprised to have snow flurries coming down at the end. In fact, as we drove out to the Valley we saw most of the Sawatch Range was in clouds with snow flurries falling. We drove on back to the rental house to hook up with the others. They had gone down to Salida to swim more today and hadn't been home long when we also arrived. We showered up when we got back and then drove into Buena Vista to try out the relatively new Eddyline Restaurant in South Main. We had done the Brewery before, which was very small for seating, but the restaurant makes things more possible for families. We mostly all tried their wood-fired pizza, except for Dad who tried the calzone. The pizza was great. I also tried their Jolly Roger Black Lager.

After supper we went back to the house for a relaxing evening. The boys watched Home Alone. I had intentions of starting to pack things up but that didn't quite happen, so we left it for the morning.


This was my first morning in a long time that I didn't set an alarm and didn't have a specific time I wanted or needed to get up. It felt pretty good. Having said that, I still woke up fairly naturally around 7:30am. Most of the house was waking up around this time and were slowly getting the day started. I ate a couple of donut holes and got my running clothes on and went out for a 5 mile run. It seemed the family plan had become to take it easy today and possibly go for a hike in BV. When I got back from my run I ate up a bowl of cereal for breakfast. We then all went into full on packing mode to get ready to head out. We were heading to Denver and the train while Mom and Dad were getting ready to head home to Lombard. When I packed up all my hiking and snow gear I put it in one of my large REI duffels and I had some of the boys gear. We left this duffel with Mom and Dad to take home in the truck. This would help us immensely not carrying it around on the train.

Late morning we drove into BV and made ready to hike on the Barbara Whipple trail system. We did this a year or two ago and I believe today we hiked the same loop as last time. We took one of the northern loop trails up to the county road, walked it for nearly a mile, and then hiked down one of the southern loop trails. We got in 2.5 miles. The boys did fairly well except for Seth who felt he was bored. Luke and Jonah enjoyed playing Pokemon Go as we hiked. The weather must have been around 50 degrees and mostly cloudy.

Back at the house we did all sorts of leftovers for lunch, trying to clear out the frig. I had a roast beef and cheese sandwich. We finished this up and got our packing complete around 1pm. We begaan to say our good byes and we left the house heading for Denver at 1:20pm. We drove US285 into Denver and things went fairly smoothly. When we passed Kenosha Pass the temps dropped and we began to get flurries. The roadway didn't have any snow but we could see the hillsides had a dusting. As we neared Denver the temps were upper 20s. We had moderate traffic in parts on US285 but mostly made good progress. In Denver we hit a little traffic right around the I70/I25 junction but got onto surface streets pretty quickly. We hit plety of traffic around Union Station and had to loop around the block once to get into position to hit their dropoff spots out front.

We had put together a plan that involved me dropping off the group at Union Station first while I drove up to the Airport to drop off the rental car. I would then ride the RTD train back to Union Station to join up with the group. This involved time. It ws 3:55p when I dropped the group off, just over 3 hours before our train departed. After dropping them off I had to work through a bunch of traffic on I25 and I70 but Imade it up to Pena Blvd and then over to Tower Road for gas fillup. It was 4:50p when Imade it to Fox Rental Car for the return. That went quickly and I boarded their shtutle for the airport. They dropped me off at United which was very near the Transit Center. Once Ifigured out where I needed to go and saw I had some time I went into the terminal and had a quick supper at Panda Express. I then headed to the main floor and exited the terminal near the security check to walk to the escalator down to the Transit Center. A train was just departing butI still needed to purchase a ticket. I did so and then stood out in the cold until Icould board the next train. It was 15 minutes til the next one departed. It was mostly like riding the L in Chicago. On this line you could board the train before they ever checked your tickets. They had a security person do this twice during the ride into Union Station. There were 6 stops along the way. I made it to Union Station at 6:18pm. The main hall was pretty packed with people. I took some boys to the bathroom and then went outside with Jonah to check out the tracks. On Track 4 it was evident this was for Amtrak and I saw the signs that said "Coach" passengers line up here, and then "Sleeper Car" passengers here. it was about 6:40p and a dozen or so people were already in the coach line. So Jonah and I went back inside to gather up the others. We went back outside to hop in the line. It was really really cold out and light snow was falling. We must have stood in that line 20 minutes at least. The train finally showed up and slowly backed into the loading area. An Amtrak person started checking tickets and then gave us white cards with our train car number and destination on them. They would serve as boarding passes at our car and then we would mount them by our seat numbers to show the conductors those seats were occupied. We were on Car 610.

We enjoyed a peaceful evening moving eastward on the train. Somewhere near Fort Morgan we seemed to stop and then move along slowly for quite sometime. Over the speakers they offered a brief explanation at one point but the volume was so low we couldn't hardly hear it. We walked around and explored a bit. There were two cars of coach seats behind us. The car in front of us was the lounge car with observation seats and tables on the top level, and more tables and the snack bar on the lower level. The car in front of that was the dining car. In the lounge car at the tables we noticed a family or two had brought a "picnic" supper of sandwiches and were eating there. Not a bad idea given how expensive the food on the train is.

Around 9:30p they dimmed a number of the cabin lights leaving just some dim lights for the walkways. Saarah and the boys went up to the lounge car and played games for an hour while I stayed back and watched our stuff. I was mostly watching the Cubs game. Around 11p we all started to find a way to get comfy and headed to sleep. I had brought a pillow case and sweatshirt for pillow, that mostly worked. The boys had small camp pillows. We had brought two small blankets but didn't use either. They were still a good idea. I slept off and on through the night waking every hour or so to try and reposition.

Train 6 - California Zephyr


We spent the night getting some sleep. I felt like I was getting decent rest and sleep when I was out, but I also woke up frequently to reposition and find a new comfortable spot. Thankfully by morning I didn't feel overly tired.

We arrived Omaha around 7am. At about 6:30am I was woken up by a conductor and I was told I might/would have someone sitting next to me since that spot was free. This is what ultimately got me up for the day. At Omaha we must have stopped for at least 20 minutes and a number of people boarded there but I remained neighbor-free. They made a handful of calls in the early morning for certain Sleeper cars that their meals were ready. I believe that the meal plans come with the sleeper roomettes.

The train spent the morning rolling through Nebraska and then on into Iowa. We'd slow down now and then, usually in small towns, or for the occasional stop. I spent time loosening my legs and walking around. I also watched a movie and read magazines. Sarah and the boys spent more time playing games in the lounge car. Around noon they brought me up a Hebrew National hot dog which was microwaved, but still tasty as usual. I had been snacking on the many snacks we brought along as well.

By mid afternoon it was quite evident we were going to come in late. At least an hour late, but it kept building up to as much as two hours. We'd slow down at so many little towns that it felt like we were losing time, although one would think those stops were built into the schedule. As we rolled into Chicago it was evident we were going to be at least two hours behind schedule. In fact, they made an announcement that it would be 5pm for our arrival and that turned out to be accurate.

When we neared downtown and were about to enter into the massive trainyard the train made a southward turn, just after passing I90 and Canal St. and move slowly south to the bridge over the Chicago River just south of 18th St. This then allowed the train to back up into Union Station which eventually took us underground. When the train finally pulled into station people all got up and lined up near the stairs to head down and out the door. We waited til the line moved, grabbed our bags and proceeded off the train. It was an easy walk to escalators which got us up to street level and out.

We walked out the Clinton St. side of Union Station and up to Adams St which we took East, over the river, to Wells St. We got to walk by the Sears Tower. At Wells we went south a block to Quincy where we would hit the Quincy/Wells EL stop. We had to go up a few flights of stairs to reach the EL, bought individual tickets ($2.50/piece, plus a $0.50 paper surcharge) and then waited for our Orange line train to Midway to arrive. It was 5:26p when we board our train. It was 5:58p when we arrived at Midway. We departed and followed signs down several long hallways and through the edge of a parking garage to reach the main terminal area near baggage claim. We then followed the signs out to the streets for remote parking pickup. Thankfully a shuttle for Midway Park-n-Fly was there and we boarded. They had us to our car at 6:25pm and we drove on out. On the drive home we hit Culver's on 49 in Chester, Indiana. Otherwise it was a reasonable drive home and we arrived at 12:40am eastern time. Sarah ended up driving from Airport Hwy through Toledo to give me a final break.

The End.