Picture gallery at the bottom of the blog!
Ben flew in on Thursday morning and took the train from the airport to Union Station. While he was doing that, Amy, Leah, and I had an amazing breakfast at the ART Hotel and enjoyed the art. We arrived at Union Station just as Ben’s train pulled in. The beautifully restored station evokes train travel at its best. Like St. Louis’s grand train station, it also has a hotel immediately connected to it. Long a train enthusiast, I will be looking at a way to come here by train and staying in the hotel. What a fun place to reunite and get the band back together.
We visited at the station for a bit to catch up and plan our day. For the long Memorial Day weekend, we booked a place at a resort in Breckinridge. But first order of business was to introduce Leah to the Western mountains by driving to Estes Park and through the Rocky Mountain National Park. Our hope was to take the road that traverses the entire park, then loop back from the western entrance to Breckinridge. The road is usually opened by Memorial Day, but due to a late snowfall last week, it is not yet passable at the highest elevations. So, we enjoyed going as far as we could, having a spirited snowball fight, Ben making a snow angel, and coming back out the east entrance. The drive down from Estes Park to Breck was magical as the evening fell on the mountains.
It was blissfully cool when we awoke surrounded by a forest of pine. I went out to the balcony to read and noticed a fox trotting along the edge of the trees. A woman walking her dog had trouble keeping the black lab under control as he wanted after that fox in the worst way. Mr. Fox was nonplussed; if anything, he seemed to be taunting the dog! A family with young children were below and the children were playing Marco Polo in the hot tub while the parents put breakfast food out. Mr. Fox thought that he was invited too, so he came across the road and onto the patio, not 5 feet from where the dad was putting the food out. He looked up at us, was obviously disappointed that this family wasn’t going to share any food with him and slunk away back into the trees. Such a sweet beginning to what would be a wonderful day.
It was another long day of exploration. We took a long drive through state roads over the continental divide down to Pike’s Peak. Snow-capped mountains were all around us as we drove through valleys and finally make the climb up to Pike’s Peak. They just started timed entry yesterday and being there early afternoon the only time slot we could get for the uppermost part was 4:00pm, so we opted to drive just 13 miles in and stop at an elevation of just over 11,500 feet, missing out on the last 3,000-foot climb to just below the summit. It was clear when we started, rainy when we got to the top, and clear by the time we returned to the bottom. Still, what amazing views and opportunity to explore this glorious county together.
I first was introduced to the Western mountains the summer of ’83 when I worked at a KOA Campground in West Yellowstone late in the season for a seminary classmate’s relatives who owned the camp and needed some help. We went out after doing our summer Greek and Hebrew and worked August into September after which we did a 3 day back country hike in the Grand Tetons up over the Continental Divide. All through my first two years at Seminary I listened to classmates who had grown up in the Pacific Northwest tell tales of the glories of their mountains. Finally seeing them had me hooked. A bit later, in the early ‘90’s, I rented Eugene Peterson’s lake home on Flathead Lake, Montana and spent part of two summer vacations exploring Glacier. Introducing Amy and the kids to these beautiful spaces has been a priority. Amy and I took Ben to Park City, Utah and drove to Boise two summers ago; watching him delight in the vistas was pure joy. Witnessing Leah’s similar reaction this trip has been the best.
From Pike’s Peak we headed to Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods. But first we stopped for a late (and very unusual lunch!) to visit with one of Ben’s Rhodes teammates, Katie, who is in CS doing a gap year before med school. She had suggested a French restaurant, but when we arrived, they were just closing. They had a bakery, so we each ordered pastries, which we ate outside while we visited. It did my heart good seeing Ben keep up with his friends; it looks like I passed on the salve amice gene to the kids! Across the parking lot there was another restaurant that was all about pierogies. So, we ordered enough to share in the car on our way to Garden of the Gods. Such unusual, ancient, red rocks that changed color as the light from the sun cast late afternoon shadows across the rock face.
One of Leah’s close friends from Brentwood High School went to Colorado College in Colorado Springs, so we wanted to tour the campus. It turned out to be so much more beautiful than we had imagined. Set in a part of the city surrounded by lovely Victorian and Queen Anne homes the college was impressive. We all fell in love with the city of Colorado Springs and now know why my friend Rev. Quinn Fox enjoyed his time on staff of First Pres CS so much. The church just celebrated its 150th anniversary and takes up at least a city block. We all agreed that we’d like to come back and spend more time in CS.
We arrived back home to Breck after a very full and enjoyable day, grateful to be together as a full family again. Times for exploration and laughter are a gift and we relished the chance to explore new vistas and make new family memories together. God is good and we give thanks.