While traveling on our 2021 family vacation, I began a travel journal more as a way for me to remember and record God’s goodness as we traveled on our longest trip yet. So many people enjoyed our journeys, so I decided to put it in one massive post here, just for fun.
I tried to share our agenda, our RV mishaps, as well as what we ate / cooked most days in case that’s helpful for others in planning their own adventures.
Days 1 & 2
To the mountains we go! We arrived yesterday in Colorado Springs, our first stop.
Here are some pics from our first few “moving days.” We stayed night one in Amarillo at Oasis RV Park – it’s a favorite while passing through- concrete pads, full hookups, quiet and lots of space.
We needed a new air hose for the hookup from RV to truck as part of the tow package. We learned not to drive the RV without towing without unhooking the hose 🤪 so we spent a few more hours in Amarillo while Nick shopped for the right size hose and fixed it. Always an adventure with a house on wheels!
After arriving at Golden Eagle Campground, we walked, biked and checked out the playground before eating our first meal outdoors and enjoying our first campfire.
- Sunday night: chili soup in slow cooker
- Monday morning: frozen, prepped breakfast burritos
- Lunch: leftover chili soup
- Dinner: taco salad (meat made in instant pot) followed with s’mores!
- Garden of the gods
- Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings
- Downtown Manitou Springs
Whew! Today was a full day that began with the kids awakening at 6:45 😅 Thankfully Nick and I were already awake and reading because he awoke around 5am and smelled gas. 😳 Since we had the water heater replaced before the trip, we are unsure what’s up with our propane tank, so we decided to leave off the gas heater until an RV tech comes to check it out tomorrow. But because of that, we tried our electric heater tonight- it works! 🙌🏻
The day started with baseball, bikes, walks and the playground while Dad did a few hours of work. Then I got in my first run since April 😰 and loved the Cheyenne Mountain View’s around me.
We then packed up and headed to Garden of the gods and had a blast! We did a stroller friendly/dog friendly paved trail, went by Balanced Rock which I remember visiting as a girl, and stopped at the Trading Post where I took all the kids in so Nick and Rio could nap in the truck. 😂 They were exhausted!
We then visited the Cliff dwellings and went by a lovely little park and playground near downtown Manitou Springs, before finding a neat restaurant that was dog friendly with a great patio. They even brought a bowl of water for Rio!
Early showers, some reading aloud and early bedtimes for everyone!
- Breakfast: prepped egg and bacon burritos again (they are still requesting them!)
- Lunch: packed picnic – crackers, salami, pepperoni and cheeses, trail mix and banana bread. I also baked several sourdough bread loaves before the trip and sliced and froze them, so I just pulled them out for sandwiches and they were thawed by the time we ate!
- Dinner: planned to eat out!
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo 🦒
- May Natural History Museum 🐜
- Golf range ⛳️
We started the day doing a natural history lesson outdoors with our Burgess Bird book, the only subject from our last moving day that we didn’t finish. Why not enjoy it in the mountains during Dad’s work time?!
Okay, so the zoo did not disappoint! Several friends told us to be sure not to miss this incredible place nestled into the mountains with an amazing view- we spent four hours there (10:30-2:30)! I love that you can move slowly through this zoo and never have to retrace your steps! We made it 3/4 of the way through before we stopped for lunch at Pizza with a View, which was incredible! We ordered meatballs, a pizza and salad all to share.
We then returned to the RV park where 3/5 of us napped. The RV tech visited while we were at the zoo and fixed a valve from the propane tank to the hot water heater. 😅
Afterwards, we walked to the base of our RV park, which houses the May Natural History Museum – google it! It’s the neatest bug collection ever with a cool story behind it. Over 100,000 specimens! I learned so many cool facts about creatures like owl moths, Hercules beetles, multi-colored butterflies, walking sticks, and even spiders. Truly fascinating!
We ended the day at a golf range for the three guys. Sis and I sat and enjoyed the weather, the view and drawing. ❤️
After seeing such majestic creatures and intricately designed insects, today was truly a day of reminders of how creative and amazing our Creator-God is! I don’t see how anyone can watch a giraffe walk or study the tiniest slivers of paint and color on a butterfly wing and not acknowledge and worship our awesome God. He truly created a breathtaking creation. It was fun to see part of it today. 🙌🏻
- Breakfast: instant pot healthy apple oatmeal
- Lunch: 🍕 with a view
- Dinner: leftover taco salad outdoors at RV park
- Green Mountain Falls – The Pantry 🏔
- Garden of the gods (yes, again!)
- Black Bear Coffee and Tea Lodge 🐻
- Fishing and Baseball ⚾️ 🎣
- Focus on the Family
- Dinner with friends
I have a friend whose advice I always follow when she recommends a place to eat. So when she told me that breakfast at The Pantry in Green Mountain Falls was a must, we planned it! I awoke everyone at 7am and told them to get ready to leave immediately! We loaded up and enjoyed the most beautiful drive through the mountains into the most picturesque little town of Green Mountain Falls. Nestled beside a small pond inside the mountains, The Pantry is the sweetest little cafe with outdoor seating next to a moving creek. We ordered and shared two plates of the Cinnamon Roll French Toast, a fresh vegetable omelet, and huge breakfast burrito. Since the boys were slightly chilled from the mountain air, they each enjoyed cups of hot chocolate topped generously with whipped cream. I loved every moment and cannot recommend it enough!
We then walked around the pound, and out under a gazebo in the middle, chatted with some military veterans who were fishing. Next time we plan to bring fishing poles. A lady at breakfast told us she used to ice skate on the pond as a girl and then would come to The Pantry (50 years ago) for hot chocolate. We concluded our time by letting the kids play on the nearby playground for a while.
Then, we couldn’t help but return to Garden of the gods! We first visited the nature center and the boys loved reading the exhibit displays. Then we loaded back up and drove to park at the Siamese Twins Trailhead, where we hiked to the top and took in some incredible views (while making sure Behr didn’t climb too high 😅). We finished our time with a picnic lunch, and Behr climbing a very tall tree (see if you can find him in the pictures).
On the way back to the RV park, we stopped for some coffee and yogurt parfaits so Dad could get some emails sent, and then it was time for sis to nap while the guys went fishing in a small pond near our RV. They didn’t have any luck and concluded they had the wrong bait, so instead played baseball for a while.
We then loaded back up and drove into CS where we made it to Focus on the Family for 20 minutes before they closed. The kids played at Whit’s End, walked through the Narnia experience, and enjoyed seeing replicas of stories they’ve heard (Nick also visited here growing up!).
Lastly, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the home of some sweet friends who we did life with for several years, and whom we have not seen since 2016! It was such a sweet time of visiting, catching up and remembering together while the kids played.
- Breakfast at The Pantry
- Lunch: picnic packed meats, cheeses and crackers
- Dinner: steak and salad hosted by friends
Moving day! Today we headed out to our next stop!
The day began with Dad working and the rest of us preparing the motorhome to move and enjoying a few more hours in our spot in the Cheyenne mountain area!
We then pulled out around 10am and stopped for gas at noon in Denver, when I pulled out sourdough bread slices from the freezer and made everyone sandwiches with a side of fruit and trail mix. C napped the next hour or so in her bed until we arrived in Estes Park, where we will stay three nights.
Maybe it’s because last summer, the first time we visited, the sky was super hazy due to fired, but I do not remember it being SO beautiful here. It really is amazing and pictures don’t do it justice. We returned to Elk Meadow RV resort and we have the most gorgeous view of snow-tipped mountains in the Rocky Mountain National Park because it snowed the night before we arrived!
It’s definitely cooler and windier here- we pulled out all our jackets!
After settling at camp, we loaded up to go on a hike we remembered from last year that begins downtown, only to discover that no dogs were allowed on the trail. So we drove by the lake, grabbed a few things at the grocery store, and then returned to camp. The boys played a round of putt putt, I started dinner (lazy veggie stew in instant pot), and we played at the playground until it was ready.
Although we were all chilled, we ate our steaming hot soup outdoors and then I surprised everyone with a tray of hot chocolate topped with marshmallows.
More playground time followed until well last nightfall, and each child wandered in cold and ready for hot showers and their choice of hot tea! We read a chapter from Farmer Boy, and then the boys slept with their curtains open so they could see the mountain outline by light of an almost full moon. 🌝
Today started with Nick and Beau playing 9 rounds of golf on a beautiful course here in Estes Park. C slept late and I did some reading and planning while Behr did a 100 piece puzzle all by himself. I also washed and dried all of our clothes and towels!
We enjoyed another instant pot meal for lunch outdoors on our picnic table- white chicken chili, and then we loaded up and headed into the Rocky Mountain National Park for our 1pm reservation!
We started out at Alluvial Fan trail and enjoyed a short but rewarding hike with waterfalls- Nick and I both said we could have napped there, it was so pleasant!
We then decided to drive Trail Ridge Road and had no idea the adventure and treat we were about to experience! This is the highest paved continuous road in the United States, at over 12,000 feet! It was the most breathtaking drive and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Nick kept saying it well, “I feel so small.”
Our drive was interrupted near the top by elk crossing the road- who were not in a hurry at all! We got a great look at them. The temperature once we reached the Alpines was 46 degrees, and after a few windy pictures, we went into a cafe and chose the perfect window seat to enjoy hot chocolate, tea, coffee and banana nut muffins! ☕️
The drive down seemed much easier and we listened to an audiobook about George Muller on the way. There’s something so inspiring about listening to a good story while driving through the mountains like that!
We returned to the park and walked around, drove the RC car, played at the playground, and then went into town for dinner. Once we returned, I put C to bed and the guys visited a concert at our park for a little bit before retiring for the night. 🎶
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt and honey with toast and strawberry jam
- Lunch: instant pot white chicken chili
- Dinner: local restaurant
Today was Behr’s turn to play 9 holes of golf with his Daddy! ⛳️ Beau, Carmen and I played several rounds of putt putt in our RV park, and spent time on the playground while we waited for them.
Then we got to livestream our church’s worship service- it was pretty neat to sing songs like How Great Thou Art outdoors while we looked at the surrounding mountains. 🏔 We also enjoyed hot chocolate and marshmallows while listening to the sermon. So good, but we definitely missed being with our people today!
After lunch the boys dug a major hole at the playground while sister grabbed a nap. I rearranged and played house in our RV because why not? I’ve done it since I was a child and still can’t stop. 🤣
We then loaded up and headed into town to the Sugar Shack for some ice cream on waffle cones. We walked around downtown and played “Pooh sticks” on a little creek bed/bridge. Our reservation into the Rocky Mountain National Park began at 4pm, so we arrived in plenty of time to visit the Bear Lake Corridor. We walked around (and climbed rocks near) both Bear Lake and Sprague Lake, and made note of some longer and tougher hikes we hope to make when the kids get a little older. The views were simply beautiful!
We arrived back at our RV park in time for dinner, which was a beef chili that had been cooking in our instant pot since noon. We enjoyed it outdoors of course and then played horseshoes, putt putt and returned to the playground.
Last summer when we were here, a couple from Virginia was parked near us whom we got to know- Larry and Alice. Larry would go fly fishing each day and come home with his catch and stories for the boys. He gave them a net that they still keep in the RV.
We looked for his red moped 🏍 when we arrived to the park and saw what we thought was their motor home- eventually we heard and saw his moped, too! This evening we went by their site and visited with them a little bit- it was so sweet! Alice shared some chocolate cookies with the children, who gobbled them up.
Our time in Estes Park has been sweet and too short, but tomorrow we head to another favorite place. ❤️
- Breakfast: burritos, yogurt, toast and grapes
- Lunch: cleaned leftovers out of fridge!
- Dinner: slow cooker beef chili
Last night on a whim, I bought one more pass to Rocky Mountain National Park – for 5-7am today. My thought was that I would go for a run early and see the park one last time before we left, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to experience it with my family instead of alone.
So I awoke at 4:30 and then awoke everyone else at 5:15, surprising them and telling them to quietly get dressed warmly and choose a blanket to take along on an adventure. Nick and I grabbed mugs of steaming coffee and we headed out. I had googled the best place for a sunrise in the park, and Sprague Lake kept showing up, where we had visited the night before. So we followed the light of the (maybe almost) full moon to the lake, clambered out with our blankets, and located the perfect log bench facing East. It was cold and we sat for about half an hour, but the glass mirror of a lake reflecting the surrounding mountains and trees as the sun slowly rose was breathtaking!
(Be sure to note the picture where Behr wrapped up to get warm in his blue wolf blanket 🤣.)
We were glad to return to a warm truck (it was a chilly 41 degrees outdoors!), and I read Psalm 19 and Psalm 100 as we drove back into town. We made it to a local breakfast cafe – The Egg – by 7am, and enjoyed eggs, waffles, omelets, French toast, breakfast burritos and fresh fruit. We also let the kids each get hot chocolate with whipped cream since they were still chilled.
The kids then played on the playground while I cleaned up the RV and Nick worked a little. We loaded up and, after refilling our propane tank, checked out right at 11am!
Due to our early rising and a very large breakfast, every child was asleep by noon and slept hard for two hours. We were glad because this was the most intense part of our drive – through Pike National Forest and San Isabel National Forest. Nick did amazing and I helped him drive with my facial expressions, I’m sure. 😅 He kept having to check the temperature of the engine as well as the water as we drove through so many steep mountain passes. The one I caught on video is the beginning of a 7 degree grade. 😬😳 We also battled the wind at points but Nick kept our rig super steady. Overall the drive was breathtaking and equally awe-inspiring and terrifying. 😅
We scattered a day’s worth of school throughout the morning and drive- we did our morning time before we left camp, then the boys did their independent Math and Language Arts lessons towards the middle of the trip, and we concluded the drive with our natural history reading for the day. Chapter books and Audiobooks via audible were scattered throughout as well, and Carmen flipped through her three main treasuries I brought for her- Beatrix Potter, Brambly Hedge and Little House on the Prairie.
We arrived at Fun Valley near South Fork around 6PM! This is our third summer here- the previous two summers we stayed in Aspen Park, but this time we were able to secure a place near the fishing pond – although it’s close to the front activities, it seems more secluded since there aren’t any RVs directly beside us. I think we love it already!
We parked, set up camp and Nick actually grilled burgers despite his tiring day of driving! I foresee lots of campfire time during our last few days here. 😍
For breakfast we continued to eat prepped breakfast burritos, Greek yogurt and honey, and toast with jam (each person has their favorite / choice).
There are two options for fishing here- the pay pond, which we’ve done the last two summers, and the other ponds and river that require a permit. Since we have a few who love to fish, Nick decided to learn today how to clean fish and we got all the gear we needed for trout fishing. I’m always amazed at how my husband learns new things- especially because he loves his boys and wants to be a part of what they love.
So today was a lot of fishing in random spots and intervals! They caught 8 total and cleaned them- since this was a first attempt only 4 made it to the freezer. 🤣
Carmen and I walked around practically everywhere. The highlight of her day was riding the train around the campground- I’m sure we will do it again before we leave.
I delivered lunchboxes with sandwiches and treats to the boys while they fished, and a burger for Dad. Before dinner we took the RC car to the RC track and each took turns driving it. We also spotted an unusual critter, and a lady in a nearby RV told us it was a marmot- what they call a whistle pig. We had actually read about marmots in our Natural History Burgess book last school year so it was fun to observe one- they’re pretty huge!
For dinner Nick grilled delicious steaks and corn on the cob. I hopped on a zoom call for an AWANA leader meeting for our church, and then we all sat down for dinner by the campfire. 🔥
After dinner we sat and read/recited Rudyard Kipling’s poem, IF. It’s our goal to memorize it all together so we read it as part of our morning time review every couple of weeks, and just felt led to read it tonight. Look it up- good truth.
We started today with breakfast outdoors – some oversized sourdough pancakes and plenty of syrup – my favorite! 🥞
Today was very similar to yesterday- lots of fishing! Total, our family caught 9 fish, tangled several lines and Behr caught a hook in his clothes at least twice. 🤪 But they must enjoy it because they kept returning to the ponds.
Carmen and I rode the train two times and enjoyed every moment of seeing the Rio Grande river and the mountains. ⛰ She could have ridden all day, I think. 😍
As they usually do, the boys made friends with some other kids here- another homeschooling family. They invited our boys to tube the Rio Grande with them, which they thoroughly enjoyed! They didn’t mind the cold water one bit, and we enjoyed riding around with the mother of the other family and getting to know them a bit as we watched them float the river!
Once the boys dried off, we loaded up and drove 30 minutes through the mountains past Wolf Creek and into the edge of Pagosa Springs where we hiked Treasure Falls. Some dear friends, the Daniel family, told us about this place and that they hiked it last summer with their son Trevor, who passed away this past June. We walked it and prayed for their family, and I thought a lot about Trevor’s journey and how his life and death still teaches us and points us to Jesus.
On our drive back we pulled into Big Meadow reservoir, which I instantly recognized from my childhood. When I remember Colorado with my family growing up, I picture my Daddy fishing at a body of water, sitting in a chair and wearing a black coach’s jacket as it drizzled on him a bit.
Today we found that exact place.
I also recalled throwing a softball and playing catch with my grandfather in a nearby meadow. We grilled for lunch that day and I remember it smelled so good.
Following thoughts about Trevor, the visit was filled with many emotions and thoughts and thankfulness over three individuals who are now with Jesus. They each left this earth at different ages- one in his eighties, one at 59, and one at 12. Each life was faithful to God, and pointed to what really matters, what is really worth pursuing, why we exist- to worship our only Creator God and to orient our life to his kingdom work.
I am grateful to have these thoughts on my mind as we conclude our final day here in South Fork. Pretty appropriate as we return to daily life and duties and responsibilities. What matters? It’s really quite simple.
No matter the situation, the circumstance, as I was reminded recently in a book, our responsibility is simple:
Turn your eyes toward Jesus.
It’s not cliche. It’s truth.
May we all do that more and more, and we will know exactly what to do and how to live our lives, however long or brief they may be.
- Sourdough pancakes
- Burgers from local grill at our campground
- Steak Fajitas at 9pm because our hikes lasted so long, haha
Days 12 & 13
We enjoyed one more morning at Fun Valley before we check out at 11am. I already booked our spot for next year! 🎉
We did most of Day 4’s schoolwork on this drive after first going through some intense mountain passes: San Luis and Raton. The wind was pretty rough and there was some lightning and clouds in the distance, but thankfully we only experienced a few raindrops at random times.
We made it to Amarillo by 7:30pm, and ate dinner outdoors one more time / night away from home. My plan was to make a stew/veggie goulash in the instant pot, but I didn’t take into account that the bumpiness of driving would break the seal and release pressure 🤪 so I switched it instead to slow cook and thankfully it was still ready when we arrived in Amarillo!
Friday was our final driving home- pretty uneventful- except for the fact that the wind kept blowing our diesel tank lid open and we would have to pull over and close/lock it again. 😳😂
We finished our final language arts lessons for the “week” of school we covered over our moving days of two weeks being gone. The boys listened almost the entire drive to a new audiobook by Jonathan Auxier, and we arrived home just in time for them to dress a s go to baseball practice. I unloaded and washed clothes and cleaned, and cannot believe our nearly two week trip is over!
I’ll soon be sharing some celebrations from this trip – things we learned and that worked well- both about life as well as simply logistics. Thanks for following along our journey with us. It was fun to write daily and remember the Lord’s goodness through so many memories and adventures.