Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 5: Gold Diggers

After pulling in late the night before, we slept in a bit and took our time getting ready in the morning. We left the hotel at 9:20 MT, which, compared to our other travel days, was a late start for us. Check out what we saw as we were leaving the hotel.

We headed first to the purple house of some dear friends who had moved from Cincy to the Denver area about 10 years ago. There, we sat down like good little hobbits and had a second breakfast with them. (How could we resist homemade pancakes, fresh fruit, bacon and sausage? My sweet friend sat me at the end of the table next to a tub of Nutella spread and a bowl of chocolate shavings for my pancakes. That, dear readers, is an irresistible situation.)

The weather was only 32 degrees, and though it didn’t feel that cold, our hosts assured us that at higher altitudes, with the wind blowing and the clouds and mist covering the mountains, we would definitely be feeling the cold. Instead of a trip up to Estes National Park, we headed to nearby Flagstaff Mountain….in the “foothills”. (Only Colorado locals would call those mountains “foothills”.)

On the way up to the mountain, Toa and his New Friend rode in our van, while Sweetling and her Purple House Friend rode in the Purple House Peoples’ car. I don’t know what the conversation was in the other car, but in our van New Friend was showing Toa his video game and explaining all the details to Toa. Thus came the quote of the day,

“Only super-monkeys can defeat it.”

You see why Toa and New Friend hit it off right away?

It took quite some time, with the van’s transmission protesting, to drive up the side of the “foothill”. On the way, we had to drive around bikers laboring up, and bikers flying down, all the winding hairpin, cliff side turns of the “foothill”. We didn’t go all the way to the top, just up to a great lookout our Purple House Friends knew about.

It was a gorgeous view.

We got to clamor around this enormous rock cropping on the side of the mountain, which Sweetling and Toa and Mommy all loved. The Jedi loved the view and took several photos and a video for us.

To be honest, we were a bit hesitant about climbing out there at first. (That "we" does not, of course, include the two boys, who would have gladly scrambled out to their doom.) Here is Mr. Purple demonstrating just how safe the outcropping was. This posed shot was one of Toa's favorite things about our trip.

Toa and his New Friend in the background.
Sweetling and her Purple Friend in the foreground.

Needless to say, our hesitation didn't last long.

I saw a chipmunk when I crawled out to take this shot. I tried to lean over the edge to get another glimpse of the little guy, but the Jedi was a voice of caution in that ill-conceived endeavor.
 But that's ok, cause while I had the camera, I snuck in some shots of the Jedi.

The large rocks themselves were run through with quartz….

…and on the trail near the outcropping was a large area of loose rock which the kids loved digging in.

Toa of Boy even found the coveted “gold” he so desperately wanted to discover in Colorado. He found a nice piece of iron pyrate and then he found a rock with a pretty section of “silver” mica crystals.

Sweetling dug up a big piece with a lot of quartz, with help from her dear Purple House Friend.

While we were busy digging, the Jedi went out on the outcropping himself and took some more pictures.

We headed back to the van with our pockets laden down with rocks. (It wasn’t a national park, so a few souvenirs were ok.)

Since digging seemed so popular with all four children, we went from there to Dinosaur Ridge. We just missed the bus ride up the ridge, and so went into their little discovery center to wait for the next bus. The discovery center, though small, was packed full of hands-on activities, and anything hands-on is always a hit with us. Outside of the center was a large sandbox which had been seeded with small fossils. The kids each got to dig up and keep a fossil.

As my sweet friend was giving each of her children their allowance for the week to go spend in the gift shop, Toa, the little monkey, held out his hand too and scored five dollars. Toa was beside himself with joy. I tried to intervene, but was overruled by the giver of the money, who then gave Sweetling five dollars as well to be fair.

By then, we decided that we had “done” dinosaur” ridge, and that a bus ride and guided tour weren’t quite what active, inquisitive children were looking for. So we skipped out and headed to the Colorado Railroad Museum instead.

I, silly me, was skeptical of this choice. I expected several look but don’t touch displays of model trains and maybe one thing for them to climb on. Silly me. This was a huge outdoor museum in a big old train yard with track after track of historic engines and cars, nearly all of which could be climbed in and on.

The kids had a blast. The boys commandeered a small black engine in the middle of the yard and had a grand adventure. I don’t know the details of all the near calamities, but the engine’s bell was constantly peeling and boys were frantically pulling levers and adjusting gauges.

Sweetling and her Purple House Friend explored the whole yard with us, but if I had to guess, I would bet that they had two favorites. One was a red caboose, the entire of which still had all it’s built in furniture for housing the train workers...the bunks, the lockers, the desk, the cupboard with its drop down table door. They both seemed to really enjoy exploring that.

The other thing that really made Sweetling come alive were these two, almost hand carts, that were chained to a short length of track. There was just enough slack in the chain that the carts could be moved back and forth a little bit. Mr. Purple moved the cart the girls were in, to squeals of delighted protesting, then he came around to move the cart the boys were in. Toa was sitting backward yanking on hand levers when the cart suddenly jolted forward underneath him and came to a quick stop. Toa looked up, totally surprised.

“What did you do, Toa?” asked the Jedi, who was wise to the trick being played.

“I don’t know!!!” exclaimed Toa, who then immediately began pulling on the same lever again. Toa of course, wised up himself, and the boys teamed up to move their car themselves.

The girls took turns moving while the other was in it (and stealthily putting on the hand brake while the other was trying to move the cart.) Sweetling would have spend all her time on the carts and in the caboose if she could.

Personally, I loved the reconstructed roundhouse with its working turntable. (Ok, I loved all of it, but I’d never seen an actual roundhouse before. I’m amazed at the engineers who worked out the roundhouse and its turntable as an efficient way to move and manage multiple honking heavy locomotive steam engines. Really, who thinks, oh, lets just make a perfectly balanced teeter totter on a swivel base that can be pushed by hand and turned to line up with whatever track is needed?)

Amazingly enough, despite all the digging and climbing that we had done, we were still presentable enough to go to dinner at Beau Jo’s pizza. Even Sweetling, who was wearing white sweatpants, didn’t look dirty. Why? Because the dry Colorado dirt brushed right off like it hadn’t even been there. (Yeah, only a Mom cares about stuff like that.)

We had Mountain Pie pizza’s at Beau Jo’s, and they really hit the spot after our busy day. Sadly, at the end of dinner, we had to bid farewell to the Purple House People and head back to the hotel for baths and to pack and be ready to depart early the next morning. (And for Toa to make some progress on the lego-like locomotive set that was purchased at the museum with his cunningly gained bonus cash.)

Read from Day 1
Back to Day 4
On to Day 6

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