One of the activities at Trail West Lodge is a 4×4 Jeep tour up to St. Elmo, a real Old West ghost town. We jumped on board. St. Elmo used to be famous for mining, now it is famous for chipmunks. Oh, how time changes us all. 🙂
Let me just recommend Jeep tours to anyone with a kid who needs a good nap. We did a lot of off road driving in Colorado and New Mexico, and it was the Bear’s kryptonite. He couldn’t fight it. Out like a light every time.
The Bear, on the other hand, was a bit suspicious of the little critters. He really liked them, laughed and pointed, but wanted no part of them touching him. It was probably better that way.
Jed even fed the little buggers. This is a huge deal for a non animal lover.
The second most popular thing about St. Elmo is the scenery. It is serene and so beautiful. A lovely mountain stream flows through the middle of town, and mountains surround you on all sides.
Even the one room schoolhouse has an alpine view. How did teachers educate a room full of kids of all ages? This mystifies and amazes me. My grandmother taught in a schoolhouse much like this in El Paso, Arkansas.
The pioneer cemetary is on your way in to town, if you come up the jeep route. The graves reside among lovely trees in an aspen grove, and date back to the mid 1800s.
This is a replica of what the inside of the courthouse and jail looked like around the time of the town’s boom (late 1800s).
The original Miners’ Exchange building is now home to the St. Elmo General Store. There you can buy a snack for you or for the chipmunks, books about the town and Colorado history, postcards, and lots of souvenirs.
There are so many of the original buildings still standing. We really got a glimpse into mining life during the gold rush. As we walked the dirt streets we pictured miners and their families grinding out an existence high atop a mountain in rugged Colorado.
On our second trip up to St. Elmo, my parents joined us. I inherited my history nerd gene from both of them, so they thought it was awesome. My dad was a big fan of the cable series Deadwood, and we could picture that kind of action happening on the main street. It was a great little outing for the whole family.
Hiking is one of my favorite activities in the world. Jed and I have loved hiking together since we first started dating. Many of our first dates included exploring the mountains of western North Carolina together. We were excited to take The Bear hiking for the first time during our trip out west. He LOVES being outside, so we thought he would really enjoy it. We were so right. We took many hikes with him this summer and while we did some things right, we made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot about hiking with toddlers.
5. Know exactly where you are going. Ah yes, our biggest mistake. We got lost. For a long time. With a one year old. Not good. We had a map but forgot it, and decided to keep on going. This was not a wise decision. Thankfully we finally ran into a family on four wheelers that pointed us back to civilization, but it could have gotten ugly. From here on out we will always have a map or a well marked trail to follow. Even if you are an experienced hiker, don’t take it for granted that you won’t get lost. It happens all the time. We’ve been hiking for years and it happened to us and was pretty scary.
This is the Bear’s “I’m trying to figure out what the heck is going on face.” He was enthralled by everything from the mutton bustin’ (little kids riding sheep) to the serious cowboys riding buckin’ broncos.
The one downfall of the rodeo arena was that the fence was not exactly toddler proof. Look how far apart the slats are – perfect for a 1 year old to climb through.
He was loving it. One great thing about a rodeo is that it moves fairly quickly because they are trying to cram in tons of events. Jed and I couldn’t believe how much the dude on the left in the brown cowboy hat looked like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.
It was a constant flow of entertainment for all. Calf roping, rodeo queens, barrel racing, and bronco riding kept us cheering for several hours. Sadly, just before the bull riding, a HUGE storm rolled in and we had to abandon ship and head back to camp. I’m pretty sure several of the work crew and summer staff (high school and college folks) still haven’t forgiven me for making them leave.
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We are packing our bags and finishing up details for our trip right this minute. I hope to chronicle it for you here on the blog. We have our housesitter lined up, and Jackson the Wonder Dog is at Camp Grandma and Grandpa for the immediate future. There was a small baby biting incident a few weeks back that I’ve yet to write about. Let’s just say Jackson is lucky that my parents love him and have a big backyard. We have a big checklist going of all the things we need to do and pack before we leave. The excitement is building.
We’ve had a TON of questions from friends and family about our trip, so I decided to address a few here.
Where are we going? Our first stops will be Amarillo, TX, and Salida, CO, on the way to Young Life’s Trail West Lodge in Buena Vista, CO. I will be working at Trail West for a month as the women’s summer staff coordinator. After our month at Trail West we will be staying a week in Vail, CO, possibly a stop to see friends in Pagosa Springs, CO, then almost a week in Red River, NM. We will then head to Little Rock, AR for a wedding and to see family. After that there may be a beach trip involved, but that is yet to be determined.
Wait, I thought you were becoming a stay at home mom. What’s with working all summer? Yes, my last day as a Young Life staffer is June 30th. I will be working at Trail West as a volunteer. We believe in the mission of Young Life wholeheartedly and are thankful for the opportunity to serve at Trail West. After that I will be a full time mama.
How can y’all afford this? Did you throw the Dave Ramsey budget out the window? Nope, we budgeted FOR the trip. That’s the beauty of a budget, you can add stuff to it. We have a vacation fund as well as some very generous friends who are loaning us places to stay. Our month at Trail West is free because we are working, and our gas to and from camp is reimbursed. We budgeted for food, gas to other places, hotel stays on the road, and incidentals. We plan to do lots of free stuff and have lots of free quality time. If you have free fun ideas for us in any of the places listed above, PLEASE pass them on by emailing me, tweeting me, or commenting below. Our neighbors are also housesitting for us in exchange for lawn mowing services. Thanks neighbors!
That’s great and all, but are you seriously hauling a one year old across the country? Yes, yes, we know it is crazy and we think it will also be awesome. Our little boy is such a joy and hopefully we be so on the road with lots of park stops on the way and hotel pools to swim in. I will be tweeting all summer with the hashtag #toddlertravel so you can see how it goes. If you have any travel with toddlers advice, I’d love to hear it.
What about your life in Dallas? How can y’all just pick up and leave for 2 months? We will obviously miss our friends here. I have a gypsy soul and need to just GO sometimes. Dallas is hot as hell in the summer time, and sooo humid. We live in an old rent house that is very difficult to keep cool. Jed is a teacher so he is off til mid August. I love being able to just leave. For years I kept my passport in my purse, just in case. That habit faded with marriage, a child, and a job that needed me 24/7. My longing to wander will be satisfied for a little while by this adventure.
Do you think we’re crazy, or do you wish you were packing right now, too?