Connecting from Across the World

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Every year, more of our friends and family make the trek out to Snow Mountain Ranch, and this year is no exception.  Over the last month, a couple families have come and gone before we arrived, but we were grateful to spend the last week eating up time with the Dworchaks, Kinsellas, Hoffs, and a few other families that Chuck has taught back in Naperville.  Most of this crew was from back in Illinois, but Kimmy and Ben made the journey all the way from Thailand!  With 24 of us (13 kids and 11 adults) on many occasions, we served as a large group everywhere we went.

We arrived to an amazing campsite bordering the yurt village, which was great for us with 2 of the 3 groups staying there. 

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There was our own little park just below our campsite,

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and a covered pavilion with gas grills to meet in the middle for dinners. 

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I think the Kinsella and Hoff kids could have just stayed in that area in the middle all week building forts and playing board games,

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but there was fun to be had, so we kept them on the go.  Our first evening was spent saying hello to Trueman (the camp director) and staff, learning about birds of prey at the Hawkquest presentation,

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followed by s’mores and mini golf. 

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Late nights ensued as none of us wanted each day to end.

Day 2 included a great dogsled presentation with the YMCA chaplain (and we filled most of the seats!),

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and the kids were able to make their own dog sleds. 

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After more mini golf and a quick lunch, we enjoyed participating in a new SMR activity, ‘Lollygagging with llamas.”

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Everyone took turns walking the llamas through the woods and trying out the string maze. 

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One of our favorite places to take newcomers is the chairlift at Granby Ranch.  To our dismay, they now charge $5 for each person over 5 years of age, but after discussing what to do and the cashier negotiating a lower ‘family price’, we decided to walk all the big kids up,

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and send a few adults up the lift with the littles.  We were so glad we made it work, as the views are amazing and the lift was quite the thrill for many. 

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Snow Mountain Ranch has free s’mores almost every day, so we raced back for another sweet treat.  After dinner, we decided to take the 13 kids on a little adventure to the cave.  It was fun for awhile, but unfortunately, one of the kids was hit with a giant boulder, warranting a trip to the ER that evening.  She was so tough, and even smiled for a picture with that big rock before heading off to the hospital.

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Day 3 was Father’s Day, and SMR celebrated with a free fishing derby.  Even though this is one of Chuck’s least favorite activities, he willingly spent the morning making it fun for the kids.  We didn’t catch anything, but it was a great way to start the day, and a testament to the kind of dad these kids have, which  is something I am thankful for daily. 

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On the other hand, miniature golf is one of his favorites, so Chuck challenged the kids to a quick game before lunch. 

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Steaks on the grill was a great way to celebrate before heading to the trike park,

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followed by ice cream treats from the grandma we were all missing back home. 

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Down by the craft shop, we enjoyed looking for some bugs.

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Lucky for us, Chuck’s mom, sisters, and family all arrived at the ranch shortly after. 

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As luck would have it, they were yurt neighbors to the Kinsellas!  It has been so nice having them enjoy one of our favorite places with us.  The kids were in a big hurry to go down to the Kiva for some roller skating (free for guests), so we raced our new arrivals off to see what this was all about. 

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What a crew we had! 

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We even ran into the Garloughs from Naperville.

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It wasn’t hard to coax this crew out to the tennis courts for a few games of dodgeball.  Back at camp, we all made dinner over the fire, one of our favorites – pizza pie irons. 

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Mary was in her groove by now, and finished off the night with cherry cobbler over the fire in her dutch oven.

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By Day 4, the boys were used to running everywhere on camp, and boy are they getting fast even at altitude. 

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Ethan’s cross country training log is coming along nicely!  Snow Mountain is the only place you can spend your morning painting a pony,

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and the kids enjoyed branding our name on him. 

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After a quick lunch, the whole Hoff crew enjoyed racing down the awesome summer tubing hill, free for Snow Mountain guests. 

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As competitive as Chuck is, his family may be his match, proven during another friendly game of mini golf, also free for guests.  Free s’mores followed, including horseshoes and trying to locate a couple geocaches. 

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In our first couple days here, we offered to get the geocaching program back up and running, so we continue to check to see which ones are still hidden, while others have disappeared.  Back at the campsite, we have been lucky to have a park right between the yurts and our site, which makes for fun during dinner.

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Day 5 was a big day for everyone, as we spent the morning at the homestead making walking sticks,

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getting a tour from Ann, our favorite guide,

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and heading off property to Grand Lake.  I wasn’t sure how it was all going to work to have lunch, hike, get ice cream, and spend some time on the beach with our group of 24, but it couldn’t have gone any better.  We stopped at a favorite park in Grand Lake to eat lunch since there is lots of parking and a picnic shelter with more than enough tables for our big group. 

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It was a gorgeous day, so heading off for an afternoon hike was little risk with endless blue sky.  One of our favorite trails is the East Inlet Trail to Adams Falls

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and beyond to a beautiful meadow. 

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To our surprise, we ran into several moose on the trail!  In the past, we would tell people about how many moose we have seen there, but stopped advertising it as such since many do not see them.  Additionally, we were hiking with the crowds in the afternoon, so we thought it was not the most opportune time.  However, after seeing the first bull moose deep in the meadow,

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we continued on to discover another bull, right next to the trail!

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Thankfully, the rangers were there and allowed us to take pictures and continue on to one of our favorite valleys. 

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On our way back, we came across a female moose grazing in another location. 

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As if all of this wasn’t enough for a day, we ate ice cream at our favorite spot

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and spent the next couple hours on the Grand Lake Beach, with the kids happily engaged in their sand building. 

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All of the adults were able to sit back, relax, and have some much needed relaxation and adult conversation.

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We came back to camp just in time for a late storm during dinner, so we piled the entire Hoff crew in our camper for taco night. 

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We are thankful for this space daily right now!  The best part about these mountain storms are the amazing rainbows afterwards. 

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The skies at sunrise and sunset are also something impossible to capture with pictures, but Chuck’s photographer sister, Kimmy, does a pretty great job as shown below.

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Day 6 was another busy day – sadly, we would be saying goodbye to one of the 3 groups with us, the Dworchaks.  We spent the morning climbing with them and the Hoffs,

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(Chuck’s makeshift band aid so he could keep climbing)

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followed by an afternoon on the summer tubing hill with our giant group! 

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We got rained out during the last few minutes, so we raced over to the Kiva for roller skating, pool, ping pong, and volley bounce before saying our final goodbyes.

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The Hoffs spent some time making crafts while we said goodbye to our friends.

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We are so thankful for the opportunity to have so much fun with our friends, but saying farewell to each of them is so difficult!  Since the Kinsella family decided to stay an extra day after loving it so much here, they moved over to one of the lodges from the yurts, as they are very popular and fully booked most of the time.  After more Kiva fun on another rainy evening, we said another farewell to the Kinsellas before the left early the next morning. 

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I am sooooo happy both of these families were able to make such a big trip happen with us this year, and we hope to see them again!

Day 7 was our last day with the Hoff crew, so we packed it in once again.  Chuck started it off with a run with old college friend, Seth.

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First on the agenda was a hike to the waterfall on property. 

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We had a few injured or tired, so only half of us made the trek, but it was a blast.  From there, we raced off to the Granby Ranch chairlift for the great views. 

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Once again, the boys and us hiked up the mountain and sent the girls up with the family.  We are so glad we did this, as we got some great family pictures on top. 

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After another quick lunch, we made it to archery just in time.

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Afterwards, Jenny wanted to see the mining cave, so we took another little field trip down the road before another storm rolled in. 

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I love how Jenny took advantage of every minute of her time here, soaking it all in, and eating it up.  Zip lining was next on the agenda – it was so fun to see our exhilarated guests and kids (and concerned Grandma)! 

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Dinner, ice cream,

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and s’mores followed,

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but unfortunately, the evening ended before we would have liked with a big storm rolling in.

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We helped the Hoff crew pack up their yurt early the next morning before our final goodbye.

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We feel privileged to have been a part of so many wonderful families vacation so far.  It was so sad to see them go, but we cherish those memories, and look forward to round 2 of visitors coming in this weekend!

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5 thoughts on “Connecting from Across the World”

  1. Ahhhh, SMR truly is such a special place!!! We enjoyed every mei utensils with all of you and can’t wait to go back.

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