We’ve had a full week with friends at Snow Mountain Ranch. This week flew by with all the activities we were able to share with the Beintums (friends from high school), Bloomquists (friends from home who have since move to Springfield), Doogans (friends from church), and Weavers (a family we have met through boy scouts over the years). We love starting our journey here because it eases us all into roughing it in the national parks and other faraway places. It’s easy to be here, with all the options for activities and proximity to Denver and big grocery stores. The hardest part is always saying goodbye after all the fun was had.
We had an early start from home after a late night of getting everything in order back home.
We find that it get harder and harder each year to find time to pack up amidst all the closing activities.
Our first night’s stop was the Walmart parking lot in Ogallala, Nebraska, which turned out to be a bust. The huge pot holes in the gravel parking lot adjacent to Walmart were a minor problem compared to the windy dust bowl amongst the semis.
It was so hot when we tried to stop at 7pm, we decided to drive on to Sterling, Colorado before breaking for the night. Thankfully, that allowed us to take the drive up 70 the next morning before the heat rolled in again.
The Beintums were with us for almost 3 weeks last summer, so camping together has become the norm for the kids, as well as us. We were able to coordinate one week together this year before our paths separated. Every year brings a different focus, and this year, aside from “hanging with the huskies,”
mini golf, rock climbing (first time for the girls, and despite the 30 MPH wind and shaking, Ellie made it to the top),
cooking over the fire with the pie irons, tubing,
and craft center projects,
we were able to take the waterfall hike and trek up Snow Mountain before more guests arrived. This was the first time we have taken the new trail on the short 2-3 mile waterfall hike.
We were able to relocate many of the geocaches we planted last year also.
Snow Mountain was still very snowy this year, which compounded the difficulty.
The 2000 foot climb is always hard with all the downed trees,
and gravelly non-maintained trail, but this year was even trickier with the snow fields, forcing us to go further off trail. The girls entertained themselves by talking to the big kids on the walkie talkies as we walked (and around camp).
While Chuck’s Garmin showed about 5.5 miles, Kristin and my fitbits showed 8. We all agreed, whatever the mileage, this 6-8 mile high altitude hike is harder than the long 17 milers we put in during our stay in Glacier. We all had to wear our “Beast Mode” shirts created for our trip to Disney earlier this year (will have to post on that soon too).
We were so proud of the 8 kids for braving it up that mountain with few complaints. The kids came up with a new hobby called “sheeing,” skiing down the snow fields in the shoes.
We even caught sight of an eagle near the reservoir.
Shortly after all the fun we squeezed in the first couple days at Snow Mountain, two other families joined us. While I absolutely love sharing this magnificent place with other friends, I always worry about balancing everyone’s needs within such a big group, whether it is to be with or without us on their vacations. Both families went their separate ways for some activities, including horseback riding, taking the chairlift up Granby Ranch, rafting, and the alpine slide at Winter Park, but we were able to coordinate more tubing, a hike up 9 Mile Mountain,
a trip to the cave,
painting a pony (as well as feeding dandelions to the goats),
and a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park to Adam Falls and beyond,
with a visit to Grand Lake for ice cream and the beach. Rich and Chuck spent an afternoon helping Steve (the chaplain at SMR) build a new fence for the sled dogs at his new home
while we played on the beach, ate ice cream,
and took a trip over to the favorite Granby Park.
Every year, there is a new favorite activity, and this year’s winner was gaga ball by the program office.
We played once along with one of the program leaders, and quickly realized our group was big enough to organize our own game. It got everyone’s competitive juices going, and got everyone covered in dirt. We established “dirt shirts” just for playing in the crazy dust pit, similar to a pig pen. Once the Weavers arrived, the party was in full swing. Evenings up by the fire and campground provided grills were filled with laughs.
Everyone was always on the hunt for free wood,
and the kids continue to build animal houses for their favorite camping toys.
It was so fun to meet up with the Weavers here too, who were able to camp right next to us for their stay. While they were busy with wedding festivities for their cousin and other family members, it was great to squeeze in some time with them around the fire, at the campsite, and more.
Rich and Steve developed a special bond, and I think the Beintums may be abandoning camping with the Hoffpack for the Weavers 😉
The last days for these families were spent squeezing in all the fun we could, down at the homestead,
hiking up Granby Ranch,
lollygagging with llamas Lightning, Luscious, and Linnemon,
and playing with our scooters and the trikes at the trike park.
Aside from the one windy day when we huddled up for a movie and games in the camper,
the weather couldn’t have been better.
The kids loved squeezing into the Beintum van.
As the Bloomquists and Beintums left (after a short birthday celebration),
we squeezed in our last bits of friend fun with the Doogans and Weavers,
as well as a night with our favorite locals, the M family and neighbors.
Today, we say goodbye to the Doogans and Weavers, ready for a whole new shift of family coming in today!