Colorado July 2020

Dates: July 19-28, 2020

People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Jonah, Seth, Anya


  • 7-19 (Travel Day)
  • 7-20 (Travel Day)
  • 7-21 (Family Day)
  • 7-22 (Harvard Lakes Backpacking)
  • 7-23 (Mt. Harvard Traverse))
  • 7-24 (Silver Creek Hike)
  • 7-25 (Great Sand Dunes NP)
  • 7-26 (Kroenke Lake Hike)
  • 7-27 (Travel Day)
  • 7-28 (Travel Day)


We had goals today to make a big dent into our drive out to Colorado. We had set an initial goal of making it to West Des Moines which was roughly a 9-hour drive. We also set a plan in motion to be all packed and ready to go by Saturday so we could leave promptly on Sunday. All of this worked like a charm. I got home from church around 11:30a and we were on the road by noon.

Google Maps suggested the I-94 route so we stayed in Michigan for awhile to start. We made a gas stop in Albion but otherwise made great progress. On the approach to Chicago we hit some pockets of traffic but maybe only lost 10 minutes or so. As we made our way by Chicago it became evident that we would be able to go further than Des Moines if desired. So we updated plans to attempt to make it all the way to Council Bluffs, another two hours or so.

Mid-afternoon we made a rest area stop halfway across Illinois for bathroom and a diaper change. After that I began investigating supper options in the Quad Cities area and happened to discover a Portillo's on the north side in Davenport. We chose that for our supper stop.

We got to the Portillo's just before 6p and sat outside to enjoy our meal. It was interesting to see the different ways places were handling the COVID-19 epidemic. While at supper I was able to find a good hotel at the Comfort Suites Omaha. Rate was around $60 for a 2 queen bed suite with a sofa sleeper. We made our second gas stop just after supper in Davenport and then hit the road again. I had Sarah driving after supper.

We made two quick hours after supper until we made a short stop to calm Anya down. She had decided she was done riding for awhile. The boys were all great today and they are perfectly good travellers now. They keep themselves pretty occupied and self sufficient.

Sarah ended up driving us all the way to Omaha from the Quad Cities. We rolled into our hotel at 11:15p (Central) after about 12 hours on the road, with stops. But it was great to have made such progress today and set us up for an easier tomorrow.

We got checked into the hotel and carried in the bare minimum. Anya was delighted to be out of the car and play in the hotel room for awhile.


We were up early today hoping to hit the road and make progress toward Colorado. I was up 6:45a and soon was getting everyone going. We had targeted being on the road by 8am and it was about 7:40a when we left the hotel. We hit breakfast at a Chick-fil-A on the west side of Omaha. We had a morning gas stop at York, NE which I remembered from my cross-country trip a few years ago. Our next stop was a rest area to hit bathroom and we got Anya out to walk around and get fresh air for a bit.

We did lunch in North Platte at a Qdoba. We ate outside and enjoyed the frseh air. We were back on the road with Sarah driving to give me a chance to take care of business on my computer. We made a gas stop once we made it into Colorado in Wiggins, a very small town. It was getting pretty warm out by now. We picked up some ice cream at the gas station.

Temps were in the mid 90s when we hit Denver. Thankfully the traffic on I76 and I70 was pretty good and we rolled through town down to US285. We hit some traffic on 285 getting stuck behind slow vehicles in a number of places but overall made good time. The temps dropped into the 70s and in one spot just west of Trout Creek Pass the temp momentarily dropped to 59. We were back up to 80 degrees when we hit Buena Vista.

It was 5:45pm (mountain) when we made it to the house. David's group had already been there around an hour. We had fun seeing everybody. Mom had meatloaf, corn on the cob, baked potatoes and of course good beer waiting for us all for supper.

In the evening we took the kids for a walk out into the meadows at the low end of Game Trail. We found some bones and antlers and enjoy the exploring.


Today was our first full day out in Colorado. It was slated to be a family day. We had breakfast at the house. I had considered going for a run but opted to take it easy. At 9am we went to a mule farm. One of the members of the check here is raising two mules and Dad worked out an appointment for us to see them and for the woman to show off the mules. She named them Dazzle and Sarah. Everybody got to pet them and feed them. The kids all had a chance to sit on one while saddled.

At 10am we meet Uncle Bob and Aunt Joyce at Columbine Park in town to visit and have a picnic. We spent a good time on the very nice playground there. We had a picnic lunch at some of the picnic tables. We visited with them till around noon and then headed home.

Once home we had decided that I would make an initial hike up to Harvard Lakes to carry tents and set them up. This would allow us to grab the site at the lakes we thought we would want. I made the roundtrip hike and was home around 3:30pm. We did some more quick packing and had the whole group ready for the hike by 4pm. Only mom, Sarah, and Anya would be staying home.

The stay-home group helped drive us all to the trailhead. We would only be keeping Dad's Ford Explorer there overnight, the other vehicles were coming home.

Harvard Lakes Backpacking - And a Missing Hiker


We were back to the house before lunch time today. That worked well to give us the rest of the day as family time as planned. For lunch there was chicken nuggets and tots as well as a chicken casserole w/ broccoli in it.

For the afternoon we took the boys over to Cottonwood Lake. The younger girls were taking a nap at first, but they later joined us as well. We had two plastic kayaks and two inflatable kayaks which were all a hit with the boys. They all quickly realized the two inflatables (Intex K1) were just not as much fun as the hard plastic Pelican kayaks.

When we got over there to start out it was a cool 50 degrees and storms were still overhead. We had to wait things out about 20 minutes in the car. Every afternoon would turn out like this, and worse, this week. But we ended up with plenty of good time to enjoy the kayaking and fishing. We even let my brother's youngest boy Ames try his ways in a kayak. His short arms made paddling hard for him and he eventually needed some guidance back to shore.

The girls joined us around 4p and I tried Anya in a kayak again. She absolutely didn't want the life vest on so I let her sit vest-less in my lap and we just paddled about 10 feet from shore. The waters were only 2-3 foot deep there so we played it very safe. A rain shower just after 5pm finally chased us to the cars and back home.

My dad, David, and I headed into town for groceries next and then picked up a couple of pizzas from Elkhorn Pizza. After supper we sorted out who was hiking in the morning and what we would do. Most of the young ones bailed on our plans so it turns out it would be Dad, Luke, David and I. We changed course to do Harvard tomorrow and Dad decided he would drive us but not hike. So it was David, Luke, and I getting ready and packed tonight for a big hike in the morning.


We were up at 4:30 a.m. to start getting ready for the hike up Harvard. we had a little bit of breakfast before we left and we were able to get out the door by 5am. Dad drove us down to the four-wheel drive road which begins the Frenchman Creek Trail. We drove up the road almost two miles until we had a spot where Dad was pretty certain there were big rocks and he couldn't continue. We helped him turn the vehicle around on the narrow road and then we departed onto the trail.

Mt. Harvard Traverse

We returned to the house just after 2pm and scarfed down some leftovers and other food for a late lunch. We decided on a drive down to the St. Elmo ghost town for our afternoon activity. We drove all three vehicles down there to get everyone to fit. St. Elmo is west of the Princeton Hot Springs. It was a neat little town with a number of historic buildings. Its also a popular launch area for 4WD vehicles and ATVs heading up the road for fun.

We were intrigued to see some marmots lingering around town looking for food. They also had this little area with a couple dozen chipmunks and people feeding them with sunflower seeds. The chipmunks seemed to be tamed enough they were biting people. They were even crawling up on people's legs as they sat and sitting in their hands. I'd never seen anything like it. Outside the general store they also had some hanging feeders for humming birds and nearly a dozen of the beautiful little birds hovering around.

Back at the house for supper Dad was grilling chicken and we had Sarah's custom mac-n-cheese to go with it. We ate very well.


I was up at 6:10 today. Enjoyed sitting on the back porch for a bit to take in the morning. There was a bad weather report for today so we really didn't get any hiking plans made up the night before. There were a lot of clouds already at 6 but no rain.

I waited for others to get up to see who was going to hike and where. With the poor weather report we were pretty sure a 14er summit would be out. It was finally past 8am when we got a basic hike planned out. David and I would make a simple hike to Kroenke Lake being able to stay below treeline and have options to retreat if the heavens opened. We also talked about this as an easy, fast hike so we could be home by lunch time.

While David and I hiked the others all went to a goat farm nearby in Buena Vista.

Silver Creek to Pt 12505

We were all home by 12:30p or so today. Jonah helped cooked lunch today and did it breakfast style. There was bacon and sausage and pancakes. The little girls went down for naps after lunch while boys all went over to Cottonwood Lake to kayak and fish again. Luke caught a nice fish and saw a moose in the Aspen meadow on the southwest corner of the lake.

After the time at the Lake we met the girls in town at the t-shirt shop next to Biggie's to get t-shirts for the kids. We then went back to the house for family pictures on the front porch.

For supper we grilled burgers and brats on the grill and reheated Sarah's custom mac-n-cheese. We spent the evening watching the Cubs versus Brewer's opening day game where Kyle Henricks threw a 3-0 CG 3-hitter for the Cubs.

The kids played all evening, even Anya and Etta played together. They played in the kayaks together in the garage for a half hour. Boys played hide and seek outside. David spent some of the evening packing for his family to be able to leave for home in the morning.


David and Megan had goals of driving as far as Central Oklahoma on their way home today and so asked if we could leave early for the Great Sand Dunes. This really worked out overall as getting to the Dunes early was the right move on several fronts. It avoids the entry line and it avoids the parking issues.

We left the house around 7:10 and got some gas in Buena Vista on the way out of town. This put us about 7 minutes behind David's car for the drive down. We had myself, Sarah, Mom, Anya and Seth in our vehicle. Jonah and Luke rode in Dad's vehicle. The drive down was wonderful as I hadn't been in the San Luis Valley to see the Sangre de Cristo range since possibly 2009. That was our last hike down there and I don't believe we've driven through since.

We made it down to the Dunes just after 9am and hit a very short line to get in. Mom was in our car so we could use her Senior Pass for entry. We stopped by the Visitor Center but the interior was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. They had a small tent outside for some basic services. We moved onward to the Dunes Parking lot. We were fortunate to get a spot as it filled up and then some as the morning went by. Medano Creek was dried up by our late July visit so no water to play in before the dunes. It supposedly dries up by the end of June most years. It was about a quarter mile walk on the sand from the lot out to the edge of the dunes. We brought some blankets along to sit on and some cups for the kids to play in the sand.

High Dune Hike at Great Sand Dunes NP

When we arrived back from the hike we found the younger kids had been having a blast playing around in the sand and running up and down a small hill. We decided it was time for lunch and so walked out to the lot. I walked over to the picnic area and was fortunate to find a spot with a double picnic table and no parked car taking up the space. Everyone else drove the vehicles over and we had lunch there. There were constantly new cars about looking for parking spots. Right around noon David's family had finished up eating and had to hit the road. The rest of us discussed our next steps. We debated going to the Gator Farm on the drive out but decided to head back to BV. It was a beautifully cloudy drive back.

We spent the afternoon lounging around. We talked of plans to hit Cottonwood Lake but the weather was keeping us home. We decided to try an early supper and then hit the lake after. We did leftovers for supper of brats and burgers and Sarah's mac-n-cheese. At 6:20p we headed back over to Cottonwood Lake. The clouds were thick but we were hopeful the precip would hold off. It was just Dad, myself, and the boys heading over.

Luke and Dad used the pelican kayaks. Jonah and Seth fished form shore and we decided not to pull out the inflatables. I was tempted but a light drizzle continued to come down the whole time and my interest waned. Jonah and Seth had no luck with the fishing and eventually abandoned it to just play around by the shore. Dad and Luke were out fishing over an hour with little luck. As dark neared we headed out for the drive back to the house. The weather just isn't cooperating this year.


Dad and Luke and I were up at 5am today for one more hike. We got things ready and grabbed a bit of food to be out the door by 5:30am. We headed up N. Cottonwood road one more time. We hit the trail at 5:50am for Kroenke Lake

Kroenke Lake and Brown's Pass

While we were hiking the others slept in and then did church virtually watching the live stream. Our group after hiking headed back to the house and change out some clothes. I had really wet shoes and socks. We met up for lunch at Biggie's and they were really busy. They also could only allow 10 people inside at a time (Due to the pandemic) and so there was no interior seating. Most folks were taking food to go. We got our orders together on my phone outside and then Dad and I went in to order. I tried the gyro today and it was pretty good. As a family we all shared a biggie fries and that was about the right size.

After lunch we came back to the house so Anya could nap. We watched the Cubs v Brewers game. We were watching weather as the afternoon went on to see if another window would open to go to Cottonwood Lake. The weather never relented.

After supper we pulled our van into their garage so we could get all of our things loaded for an early start to driving in the morning.


We were up at 4:30am today targeting a 5am departure. We had the car packed up well the night before so it made this fairly easy. Even so, by the time we got all the kids moving and loaded it was 5:11am when we finally hit the road. We shot 285 out of town and up and over Trout Creek Pass to make our way towards the Springs. The early driving went well with some moments of beautiful pictures through South Park as the sun began to rise.

We made it through the Springs doing some zig-zagging on city streets to gain I70 heading for Limon. It was in Limon at 8:15am that we made our first stop for gas. It was quite foggy in the area. We drove on again for another several hours and made it to Wakeeney, KS for lunch. The options out there were very thing. From lunch I drove another hour+ and then we stopped for a bathroom break and then Sarah took over driving. It was about 2:04p central here.

Sarah drove us an hour to our next gas stop in Junction City, KS. She took us another 2 1/2 hours from there to our next rest area stop in Concordia, Mo where we did bathrooms, diapers, and a quick walk break. Sarah then took us one more hour to our supper stop at Chick-fil-A in Columbia, MO. We grabbed it to go and then went to a little park about 5 minutes away that I had looked up on Google Maps. It was called Again St. Park. We ate there at a pavilion and then allowed Anya a short walk to a playground which she enjoyed for 10 minutes. This stop lasted us about an hour, but we had been making such amazing time today we had some to spare.

I drove us from Columbia and we made one more gas stop in Lake St. Louis. From there it was just under an hour along the north side of St. Louis til we finally made it to the Kern's at 10:06pm central. It was nice to have a little time there to unwind before bed. Anya enjoyed getting out and exploring the house. We were amazed the muggy humid air at that time of night. Our bodies had definitely been adjusting to the cooler dry mountain air.


Our final day and more driving to go. We were happy to have made it to Sarah's parents last night as that gave us a comfortable place to stay and some time to visit with family. It was a 7:40 drive plus losing an hour to the time zone.

We were up shortly after 7am to get ready to leave, have breakfast, and visit. It was a warm and muggy morning in Southern Illinois already. We had the car ready and let Anya do some exploring outside and meet Marty the peacock.

We left the house at 8:30am to hit the road for our final drive. We rolled along well the first two hours making our first stop in Greenup, IL for bathrooms. We made it all the way to our typical stop at Fishers, IN, on the northeast side of Indianapolis, for lunch at Portillos. This tie around we made initial stops at the Qdoba and Subway to allow Seth and Jonah to get food they liked, then hit Portillos. We all sat outside together to eat in their patio seating.

After an hour in Fishers in was 2:27pm eastern when we hit the road again. I drove us another hour and a half up to New Haven, IN where we stopped for gas and some ice cream. Sarah picked up our driving from there and she got us the rest of the way home. Anya travelled fairly well today having just a few rough, fussy spots. It was 6:12p eastern when we finally hit home. We had had some time pressure as we had a 7pm board of Education meeting at church we wished to make.