family camping trip 2016

The last weekend of June Danny and I met my parents (and for parts of it, my brother, Eric, and his fiancée, Megan) in the mountains for three nights of camping, hiking, sitting around the fire, and spending time together.  We stayed at a campground, that, in theory, is fairly quiet and secluded, about 20 minutes outside of Estes Park.  However, the first two nights we had a rowdy group of young children for neighbors and the last night we had a guy with a bit too much to drink move in.  Things certainly weren't dull, that's for sure ;)

D - I love camping with the Jones Clan for many reasons: the camaraderie, the time outside, the food, and more!  It's especially awesome because we/I don't really go camping all that much apart from our time with Shannon's family.  

Danny and I left after work on Friday and arrived just in time for some dinner, a walk around the campground, and of course, s'mores.  

Saturday morning we had some pancakes outside on the picnic table before we met Eric and Megan in Estes Park to drive up into Rocky Mountain National Park all together.  We seriously lucked out with a parking space so we could ride the shuttle up to Bear Lake and from there, hike up to Emerald Lake.  The trail passes Nymph Lake and Lake Haiyaha along the way, but the grand finale really is Emerald Lake.  The mountains are grandest and closest at Emerald and last summer my mom even had a marmot encounter there while she was hiking with my aunt!  

D - It's always a surprise to me that camping menus can be so diverse!  Nancy really knows how to put together an outdoors spread!  Family hikes are also a lot of fun for me because if I were left to my own devices I probably wouldn't hike too much.  Going with Shannon's family has allowed me to see so many beautiful sights that I never would have seen on my own.  (Unfortunately no marmot sightings this year, but we did see several elk and a chipmunk who was pretty good at posing).

After our hike we drove into Estes Park for a picnic along the river, a game of mini golf, and ice cream before Eric and Megan left for the day to go take their engagement pictures.  

D - This was perhaps the greatest game of mini golf I've ever played.  Though I had a colossal meltdown near the end of the front nine, I shot six under par on the back nine which was good enough to secure a tie for second place with Eric (Tom always wins, and though he acts like he doesn't care I'm sure somewhere inside he relishes in his mini golf dominance).  We always go to this great place in Estes for mini golf and it brings back a lot of good memories for me, especially since we used to go to the same place with Christian Challenge when we were in college. 

The four of us walked around downtown Estes Park for a little while, then headed back to the campground for dinner, a walk, and a campfire.

In the morning, Eric drove up and met us at the campsite to join us for the remainder of the weekend.  We drove to the Wild Basin trailhead and were very fortunate to find a parking spot (again!  two days in a row!) and began our hike to Calypso Cascades.  The trail stops at Copeland Falls along the way, and follows the river for the majority of the hike which we really like.  Being beside water is just the best.  

D - As usual, photos just can't capture the beauty of our hike.  Go do yourself a favor and check these places out in person!

After we took a bit of a rest at Calypso Cascades, the three of us 'kids' continued on to Ouzel Falls.  It was 0.9 miles farther, and roundtrip it took us about 50ish minutes.  

After our hike we had a picnic at the trailhead, and then drove into Estes Park to check out the Scandinavian Festival that was going on.  It was kind of a disappointment, but we did get into the dancing, and I think that if Danny (or my dad...) had the correct attire, they would have given it their best shot ;) 

D - I think all of us had higher expectations for Scandy Fest 2016 (my name) so that was kind of disappointing but also pretty funny.  The most exciting thing that happened was probably when one of the old people dancing fell down (which I missed).  Unfortunately, at the time of our visit, the Viking reenacters were reenacting lounging around camp instead of an epic battle.   

In all these years I've known Danny (nearly seven, and dating for just over six - can't hardly believe it!) we've never made it to one of my favorite places in Rocky Mountain National Park - the Alluvial Fan.  We almost made it a few summers ago, but then a really awful storm rolled in and we had no choice but to turn around.  This year it was almost too hot so we mostly stayed in the shade.  It was certainly a different experience, though, from times I've visited with my family in the past due to major flooding in September of 2013.  So, even though the look and the feel was quite different (and will likely never be the same), it was still nice to stop by and Danny even led the way and crossed the river (brrr!).  

D - I love getting in the water (I wish I brought my swimsuit!) so I wasn't going to miss this opportunity!  Either I naturally have a pretty high tolerance for cold (but not freezing) water or it's a really lame super power.  

Afterwards, we got pizza in town and took it down to the river and then went for a walk behind the shops along the river.  That's the best part of Estes in my opinion.  The shops are okay, but the river running through town and the path along it - that's where you want to be.  

When we got back to camp, Danny and Eric set up the badminton net and hit the birdie around, and then we had our final campfire of the trip.  A couple more s'mores, and even a new rendition: the Oreo s'more.  Danny's verdict: original is best.  

D - There was something wrong with the Oreos we had though and they tasted funny, so the Oreo s'more may still be redeemable.  At any rate though, yes, I do love the original recipe.  Since our time overseas, I've really come to value it as a true American Treasure.  

In the morning we finished off all the breakfast food, packed up, and played some corn hole.  My mom and I were on a team with my brother vs. Danny and my dad.  We were seriously doing quite well (and no, it wasn't just Eric carrying the team for those who might be thinking that!) but then at the very last second Danny and my dad won it in the third game!  I was kind of surprised!

D - Clutch.

On our way home, Danny and I stopped in Boulder and went on a hike in Chautauqua and had lunch at Rush Bowls.  It was so hot though that our time outside was slightly miserable thus why we sought out something cool (açai bowls!) for lunch.  We were making our own last summer and they were good but goodness...these were amazing.  Hands down best thing I've had since being back in America.  (P.S. You better believe I just Googled "açai bowls Madrid.")  Chautauqua is such a great place though, and I hope we can go back again sometime when it's not quite so sweltering!

D - Yeah, we seriously highly recommend Rush Bowls!

D - For too many reasons to list, I really feel like I hit the in-law jackpot.  Our family camping trips are definitely one of those reasons.  Thanks for including me in the family guys (even though I routinely talk as much as everyone else combined and am weirdly competitive at mini-golf)!

I'm so glad we were all able to be together for a couple of days and able to spend time outside at the same time.  I know it will end up being one of the highlights of our year, so thanks to my parents for organizing it, bringing all the food, and getting everyone to come ;)  Can't wait for the next trip!