Well we just finished a week long party with Molly's family. Unfortunately, I did a poor job of taking photos. Hopefully some people will post them. Then I will swipe their photos and add them to my blog.
The festivities started on Monday afternoon when Molly's parent arrived after setting a land speed record for moseying across the Midwest of 1.5 days! They were sporting a fancy new silver Toyota Corolla and a 21 pound turkey, frozen solid. Not to mention various gifts of chocolate, jalapeno/cilantro mustard, Jeff Foxworthy jerky, Sterzings (!!) and my personal favorite, snowman Peeps. We celebrated their arrival with some delicious burgers/taco salads at Ed's Cantina.
Tuesday was a workday for the men and a shopping day for the ladies. The project started out as a simple rewiring job for the office. The house was wired such that the fridge, microwave, toaster oven, half of the lights, and 90% of the outlets were on one breaker. This caused my computer to shut off randomly, which resulted in immediate loss of whatever I was working on followed by intense rage. Technically, the original plan was to simply ground the upstairs outlets so that my battery backup would not short out the computers, but when your house was built in 1939 there is no such thing as a simple electrical fix. The day involved several trips to the hardware store, 100 feet of Romex, much crawling and poking around the dark dusty areas of the house, plaster dust in the eyes, and extensive use of a hammer. Now my computers are running clean and smooth on their very own breaker, which feels great! I have not lost any work in 5 days now! Oh happy day!! Molly no longer has to announce when she is using the microwave.
Wednesday started with a delicious breakfast up at the Mountaineer. After a bit of "real" work in the morning I checked the weather for the day. The forecast called for clear skies so while the ladies cooked up stuff for the Big Meal, Mike and I cooked up ideas to get into the mountains. We settled on a 2 mile hike up Lily Mountain. We chose this hike because it was somewhat low in elevation (<10,000 ft) so we wouldn't have to deal with too much snow. Plus, while Mike loves the altitude, it does not love him back. And the trail head is a convenient 10 minutes from our house.
The hike starts from a nondescript pull off near Lily Lake. It is essentially one giant switchback, heading north (and up) for about a mile then switching south (and still up) for the last mile. The first mile is really nice. Evergreen trees everywhere mixed with boulders, cliffs and views. The last mile tends to be thicker trees with less views and steeper climbs, culminating in an outright scramble to a spectacular summit. What a summit! The view to the west is a full panoramic of all the significant summits in Rocky Mountain National Park, starting with Meeker to the south and ending with the Mummy range to the north, all of which were dramatically covered with snow. To the east you could see over the foothills and off into the great eastern plains. And spread out right below your feet was the whole Estes Park valley. Absolutely stunning. However a strong, cold wind kept loitering to a minimum and we were soon descending. As usual, the hike back to the car went much faster and we were soon home, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Joe and fam, who pulled in later that evening.
Thursday was a glorious day of gluttony. Lots of delicious food, laughing, and lounging. Highlights include the kids beating Kung Fu Panda, eating turkey to Bob Marley (guess who got to pick the dinner music?), laughing at the crazy hair on the dogs in the dog show, Elf, Owen doing a perfect impression of WALL-E's digital voice, charades, a roaring fire, and watching Ironman.
Friday was the big shopping day for the ladies so they set off early for the front range, leaving the guys to fend for themselves. We did a tour of Tom's woodshop (our neighbor). Wow, he does incredible work. Joe was feeling a bit under the weather, so Mike and I took the kids up to Lily Lake for a little scrambling. The weather was gorgeous. Isaac and I were down to t-shirts for a bit. The trail above Lily lake wanders through various boulders offering a multitude of excellent "tennis shoe" bouldering. We found small boulders for Owen to summit and taller boulders for Isaac and I to attack. A good time was had by all. We got back to the house and a nap seemed to have fixed Joe's ailment so we decided to build ourselves a "Bachar ladder". This is essentially a rope ladder with rungs made from 2" PVC tubing. It is hung from something high (a tree in our case) and the bottom tied to something low such that the ladder hangs at an angle (another tree). The idea is to "campus" up and down the rungs only using your arms. Essentially a brutal hand over hand pull-up workout. We were successful and I am still sore.
Friday night was the big Estes Park parade. What a great festive event. We all bundled up and walked downtown in the dark. The main street was lit with Christmas lights and lined with people at least four rows deep. Everybody was enjoying the festive spirit and falling snow. It was picturesque: fresh snow, Christmas lights, festive people, steaming coffee, and a parade of elves, police, postmen, pirates (right Kari?), and floats. The Pirates is kind of an "you had to be there" joke. Molly and I swung into Kind coffee to get a round of steaming lattes and missed the start of the parade. When we did find everyone, the nutcracker float was just going by. Being somewhat excited by the great atmosphere and freshly revved by caffeine, I confused the nutcracker for a pirate, to which I started yelling "Arrrr Matey!!" etc.
Saturday started off with the departure of Mike and Gin. They were not sure if they could get back to Iowa in a day and Mike had to be at work on Monday. They got a late start (9am) but make it all the way back home in a respectable 13.5 hours. The weather on Saturday morning was cold and windy with the sun shining once in a while. We kicked around several ideas including bouldering (Joe's finger was hurting), snowshoeing (not enough snow), shopping down at the front range (eh....), roped climbing (a little cold) and hiking (yes!). With the current weather and the fact that the boys got out yesterday, Molly volunteered to handle the young-uns in town while Joe, Kari, and I wandered in the mountains. We settled on a plan that would likely involved a lot of my personal favorites; scrambling and bushwhacking. The goal was to start at Lily Lake, meander up towards Jurassic Park, and then run along the ridge to the summit of Lily Mtn.
I think at the start of the hike we were all a little concerned about the conditions. The trail starts next to Lily Lake where icy cold gale force winds were howling. It would come across the lake and whip up all the snow which stung us in the face like needles. Fortunately, the trail quickly climbed off the lake shore and into the trees, where it was much calmer. We managed to stay on the trail for about 10 minutes but by then the lure of the unknown was too much and we were off scrambling up slabs and wandering among the trees. Along the way Joe and I excitedly inspected each boulder we came too, looking for that elusive secret spot of bouldering. I absolutely love being in the mountains and off the beaten path. After much caressing of possible boulders and ogling over various cracks, we made it to the the summit, or at least our summit. Lily Mtn was a little bit further down the ridge but we were happy with where we were. The outstanding views of the mountains that Mike and I enjoyed a few days earlier were unfortunately obscured by low clouds and blowing snow. However the views to the east were still great. As expected the winds were howling on the summit and it didn't take long to get motivated for the descent. We chose a different path back down so that Joe and I could maximize the possibility of stumbling into the next mecca of bouldering. Towards the end, I think Kari had finally had enough of our wandering path to the car because I heard her say "I hike with morons". That night we celebrated with another feast at Ed's Cantina. To say their fries and burgers were enjoyed that night is an understatement.
Sunday, the last of the Pyles packed up and started the long drive back home. On the way they encountered snowstorms and numerous cars in the ditch but made it safely. Molly and I spent the entire day on the couch and beat Kung Fu Panda. Now the house seems empty, which the cats seem to appreciate but it makes me thing of the next great adventure. Time to start planning...