Category: travel

Family Travel: Hiking the Continental Divide at Cottonwood Pass

I am in love with Colorado in the summer.

Hiking is one of my favorite things in life.  Walking around in beautiful places makes my heart so happy.

We were so blessed to travel for 2 months this past year and experience so much beauty.  While we were staying and working at Trail West in Buena Vista, Colorado, we hiked Cottonwood Pass three times with our whole camp group.  It is a super easy hike for families.

We hiked with babies and kids of all ages as well as adults with all kinds of health problems and an 84 year old grandmother.  She loved it.

The hike doesn’t take long but you get a fantastic payout at the top.  There is a 360 degree view of the Collegiate Peaks and Taylor Reservoir.  The pass is open in the summer, and you can find more about closings and see tons of pictures and videos here.  The trailhead is about 19 miles west of Buena Vista and the pass is used as a route from BV to Crested Butte.  The pass was used in the USA Procycling Challenge, so Jed felt like Andy Schleck when he rode his bike down the mountain.

   For kids under 3 I would highly recommend hiking with an Ergobaby carrier or some other type of backpack type carrier.  Bear was obviously too little to do it on his own, and we saw many a preschool get a bit tired and whiny on the way up.  It’s just how they roll.  The hike is quick and easy, but you do climb to 12,600 feet so you will feel it.

No matter how warm it is at the bottom of the mountain, bring lots of layers for yourself and your kiddos.  We learned that lesson the hard way on another hike with the Bear.  I did not win Mom of the Year in 2012, and I blame that hike among many, many other things.  You can read more about our adventures hiking with a toddler here.

Have you taken your whole family hiking?  Share any tips or what holds you back in the comments section below.
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Summer Flashback: On the Road from Buena Vista to Vail

As a hazy shade of winter makes me sleepy and cold temperatures keep us indoors, I think wistfully back to our summer adventure. Here are a few instagram pics from one leg of the trip.

As
Sweet sleeping baby
A bike race through the pass
Not the Tour de France, but fun to watch all the same.
Downtown Leadville, Colorado
A lovely alpine lake

Our next adventure will be adding a new member to the family.
What is your next adventure?

Best of Bare Feet on the Dashboard: Travel Edition

Oh the places we’ve been…
In celebration of three years of blogging I’m sharing some of my favorite posts with you this week.  Today’s edition is all about travel.  We’ve traveled abroad, traveled in the states, traveled as a couple, traveled with an infant, and most recently traveled with our toddler.  Here are my favorite travel related posts of the last three years.  
 The Ancient Mayan City of Tulum
Our Top 8 Frugal Family Travel Tips
Hiking with Toddlers
Playa del Carmen – Our Mexican Beach Adventure
Navarre Beach, Florida, Post Oil Spill
Taking Your Own Travel Photos 
Without Hiring Pros or Harassing Strangers
A Rustic Bachelorette Weekend in Arkansas
Babymoon in Glen Rose, Texas
Looking back through these posts made me nostalgic and realize I still have a ton of travel adventures to share.  Thanks for reading Bare Feet on the Dashboard and sharing my journeys.
What’s your all time favorite travel destination? 

Daddy and the Four Wheeler

 Jed was so excited to take the Bear on his first four wheeler ride when we visited the ranch over Thanksgiving.  Don’t worry, he was just planning on circling the driveway.  The Bear was not equally excited, and you can see below how things played out.  He started out a little nervous.

 Then he progressed to uncomfortable and tried to escape.  Then the whole situation escalated into a full scale meltdown.  Needless to say, the Bear’s first four wheeler ride will come sometime in the future.

Toddlers and Tractors

 The Bear’s obsession of the moment is all things farm.  When we were invited to the Goertz’s ranch for Thanksgiving, he was in heaven.  Not only were there big tractors, cows, horses, and 4-wheelers, there was also a pint sized tractor perfect for him.  He spent hours on this thing.

He also loved watching his big cousins, Preston, Parker, and Noah, do fun big kid stuff.  You know, like drive full sized gators around.  

Look at the pure concentration on Preston’s face.  This kid is going to be an awesome driver by the time he turns 16.  

Now I just need to find one of these mini tractors for our backyard.  Craigslist is calling…

Double Rainbows in Colorado

We took an amazing road trip through the western United States this summer with our toddler on board.  You can read more posts about our travels here, and more about Colorado here.  Everything about Colorado has this magical quality, even the weather. Storms move through fast and are unpredictable.  From our view at Trail West we could watch storms roll in over Mt. Princeton almost daily.  

 These rainbows appeared one afternoon and alternately faded and glowed as the storm took its course.

 You can see some of the collegiate peaks in the background, and the base of Princeton is just to the right.
Below you can see the storm over the top of Mt. Princeton.  Princeton is over 14,000 feet high, a true Colorado fourteener.  The summit is completely covered by the storm.

Family Travel: Visiting an Old West Ghost Town

Ghost towns dot the map of the United States, and extremely prevalent in the former wild west states.  As a card carrying history nerd married to another history nerd and world geography teacher, historic sites are a big part of our normal travel itinerary.  Ghost towns in particular have long fascinated me, so much so that I did my senior history thesis on Cadron Settlement, a long lost Arkansas ghost town.    

 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 most popular thing to do in St. Elmo is feed the chipmunks.  I freely admit that I enjoyed this more than anyone else, maybe ever.  I had a Disney princess moment, y’all.  

 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.

Do you or your family enjoy historical travel? 
What’s your favorite history travel outing?

Family Travel: Hiking with a Toddler

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.

Our Top 5 Hiking with Toddlers Tips
1. Bring a comfortable carrier – comfy for you AND your wee one.    
2. Be prepared to go slow and stop a lot to play.  
3. Bring snacks and drinks – for all of you.
4. Layer clothes and sun protection.
5. Know exactly where you are going.

I’ll explain a little more about each tip.  Some might seem like common sense, but believe me when I tell you we had to learn some things the hard way.  
1. Bring a comfortable carrier – comfy for you AND your wee one. We love our Ergobaby carrier.  I won it off a blog giveaway and it is by far the most comfortable one we’ve tried for big babies.  With a toddler, a carrier with a back carry option is going to be your best bet.  Front carry will kill your back after a few hours.  We were able to hike comfortably with the Bear (27 lbs) for 3-4 hours wearing the Ergo.  We loved the Moby Wrap when the Bear was teeny, but he weighs a lot more now and we need more structure.  We also used our Bob stroller (handed down from Sam and Michelle) for flatter trails.  It was awesome.  To push a hiking/jogging stroller up or down any kind of incline you need serious strength, so be prepared for that.  Always use the safety strap.     
2. Be prepared to go slow and stop a lot to play.  If you are used to hiking pre-baby, the pace is going to be completely different.  The Bear can go for 3-4 hours happily if he gets to get out and play every 30 minutes or so.  We hold his hands and let him walk for a bit, throw rocks in creeks, throw sticks, explore, etc.  This makes a HUGE difference in his attitude.  
3. Bring snacks and drinks – for all of you.  On one hike we packed plenty of snacks for the Bear, but not enough for us.  We were starving and cranky by the time it was over.  Not fun.  Bear loved hiking with his snack trap full of cheerios, and a few chipmunks may have been fed during the process.  Water is so important for the whole family, especially at high altitude.  Bring more than you think you need.  
4. Layer clothes and sun protection.  When you change elevation, the temperature can change quickly and drastically.  We knew this but sort of forgot during one hike, and the poor Bear got so cold.  I felt like such a rookie.  The sun is also more powerful at higher elevations.  We used sunscreen and hats for ourselves and the Bear.  We love Babylegs legwarmers for layering.  We use a pair that is breathable and SPF 50, as well as the regular cotton pairs.  They also have ones with bug protection now, but we don’t have those yet.  They are great because they make on the trail diaper changes super easy, and are easily removed and stored if the temp rises.  

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.

Have you ventured onto a trail with your kids?
What hiking tips do you have to share? 

Family Travel: Baby’s First Rodeo

When you’re traveling with wee ones, entertainment that satisfies the whole family can be hard to come by.  While we were at Trail West this summer, the assigned team decided to take all the work crew and summer staff and assigned team families to the local Buena Vista rodeo.  Big fun.  It was awesome.  The Bear loved it, and so did the whole group, which consisted of all ages from 0-65.  We had tons of little kids, 30 high schoolers, 20 college students, and a bunch of adults with us, and everyone had a blast.  

 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.

I tried to get a better picture of homeboy with out being too creepy.  Look at the pic below from Legends of the Fall and tell me they aren’t twinsies.  He’s just above Bear’s head to the left with the long hair.  
Anyway, I digress.  

 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.

 Calves after calf roping
 Rodeo Queens on parade
Buckin’ Broncos
We all loved the rodeo, and I’m hoping to take the Bear to another one this year closer to home.  Mesquite, Ft. Worth, and Houston all have big ones, and the Texas State Fair is coming up soon.  
Have you ever taken your family to a local rodeo?
Do you check out local festivals when traveling?

Frugal Friday – Our Top 8 Frugal Family Travel Tips

Here’s our little family high atop the continental divide near Cottonwood Pass in Colorado.  We took an incredible 8 week road trip this summer and spent as little money as possible.  We mulled over what we did right and how we screwed up and decided to share the good with you first.  Drumroll please…
1. Bring your own food for the road.
2. Grocery shop and cook at “home.”
3. Find FREE entertainment wherever you are.
4. Make the trip the thing, not souvenirs.
5. Ask for favors.
6. Utilize local resources.
7. Find travel deals online.
8. Piggyback on a work trip.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
1. Bring your own food for the road.
We packed lunches for driving days, kept an ice chest full of drinks and snacks, and brought reusable water bottles.  If we hadn’t prepared we would have spend an average of $5 per stop on snacks and drinks and $15-20 on lunches.  That adds up really quickly.  The bonus to this tip is that you can make the snacks and meals as healthy as you choose and not be bound by whatever fast food you can find.  If you do order fast food, order a bigger meal for yourself and share it with your child (if they are small enough), rather than ordering a kid’s meal.
2. Grocery shop and cook at “home”.
Stay in places with kitchens or kitchenettes whenever possible.  You will save so much money cooking at home.  Grocery stores in tourist towns can be pricier than at home, but most chains are interconnected so you can use your saver cards from home.  We meal planned throughout our time so that we wouldn’t waste food and wouldn’t be caught by surprise when dinner time came around.  We did go out to eat several times, but we used online menus to check out the restaurants beforehand.
3. Find FREE entertainment wherever you are.
Hiking, biking, exploring, window shopping, cruising around, and seeing the sights are all usually free.  Pick one activity that costs money and try to make the rest of your fun free.  We paid for one activity the whole trip (riding the ski lift at Red River) and it was well worth it.  Look for local entertainment guides that often contain coupons for activities.
4. Make the trip the thing, not souvenirs.
It is incredibly tempting, especially when traveling with kids, to become convinced that you must buy that t-shirt/stuffed animal/taxidermied jackalope/etc.  You don’t need it.  The trip is what you came for, not the junk.  You took your child on an amazing vacation.  They don’t need anything but memories to prove it.  If you love souvenirs, pick one thing that will remind you of your vacation to take home.  I like shells found on the beach, river rocks, and other found objects.  I also love a good Christmas ornament.  Magnets and coffee mugs are good, cheap reminders of your trip that you will actually use daily.
5. Ask for favors.
We asked our friends for help, and they responded generously.  What do I mean?  We ask to borrow houses, stay on couches, and get “friends and family” rates on vacation rentals.  A friend’s guest room is way better than a hotel any day of the week.  You would do the same for them.
6. Utilize local resources.
Ask locals for help with recommendations, must do activities, restaurants, etc.  They will usually be excited to help you.  We also found the welcome centers and Chambers of Commerce to be helpful in several towns.  Become a pamphlet reader.  Look for local blogs.  Do your research.
7. Find travel deals online.
We used Travelocity‘s Secret Hotel deal, Priceline’s Name Your Own Price app, and the GasBuddy app, several times.  We used VRBO to find rentals.  Read reviews online and listen to them.  We got burned by ignoring bad reviews of a hotel.  There are tons of great online resources for couch surfing and house swapping as well.  Again, do your research.
8. Piggyback on a work trip.
I know this may seem random or complicated, but it worked really well for us.  I had to be in Colorado for a month for work, so we planned our crazy road trip around my work trip, because my company paid for our mileage there and back.  This won’t work unless you travel for work, but might be easier than you think.  Our friends the Mitchells took their family to Disney World and got their mileage and most of their hotel paid for by his work because he decided to drive to Orlando for a conference instead of flying by himself.  Genius.
There you go friends, our top 8 travel tips for now.  We’ll be back later with our top blunders and screw ups.
What’s your best frugal family travel tip?

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