Thursday, September 22, 2011

Colorado Trip: Part 1 - Manitou Springs & Colorado Springs

Last Wednesday, we headed to Colorado for our first real travel adventure since Alice was born. Alice had her first plane trip and got to meet a bunch of the Clark clan (and even a David, too)! Here is part one of the photos and highlights from the trip!

Alice was a really big help packing, but I somehow managed to get everything zipped up. We even left for the airport on time (more or less)! I was pretty nervous about flying with her - the very night we bought our tickets, I had a nightmare that she screamed the whole way there. Everything went really well, but I would have preferred 100% more sleeping on the plane (from Alice!). We got through security without any catastrophes and let her walk all over at the gate in the hopes that she'd wear herself out. We timed our flight to coincide with her morning nap, but alas, there was just too much excitement. My family had gotten on the plane in Oakland and then stopped in Burbank to pick us up so they were waiting for us on board. Jon went ahead and got the car seat all situated and then I followed and buckled Alice in. She spent the flight tearing napkins into confetti and reading the seat back materials, including the safety instructions, in-flight menu, SkyMall Catalog and my personal favorite, Spirit magazine. There was only a bit of fussing but I don't think it bothered anyone. She fell asleep just as we started the descent, but every little nap helps.

After we picked up our rental cars and stopped for lunch, our little caravan set off for "the Springs." It was overcast when we landed in Denver and it rained pretty heavily and steadily on our drive which obscured the mountains and the views. It also made for more exciting driving conditions than I'm used to (poor visibility! standing water on freeway!), but helped to lull Alice into a nice car nap. We made good time though and arrived in Manitou Springs (at the base of Pikes Peak) right on schedule.

We planned to spend two nights in Manitou visiting my dad's sister, and were thrilled to be able to book rooms at the inn she runs with her husband. My Aunt Gwenn and Uncle Randy are the hospitable innkeepers of a lovely property, The Avenue Hotel Bed and Breakfast.  My family had stayed there last year, but Jon and I were seeing it for the first time. I may be a little biased, but the hotel is really beautiful. We were lucky to arrive for check-in before any of the other guests, so we got the grand tour of every room. We heard a bit of the building's history and got to really admire all the work they've put into it.
Some of the less animated figures around the hotel.
My family stayed in the main house, with my parents in the Canon Room and my brother and sister just upstairs above them in the Manitou Suite. Alice, Jon and I stayed in the Carriage House, a separate building behind the main house, in the lower level suite. We loved our little apartment and it became the place to congregate for wine, cookies, and conversation. I should have taken more photos, but I was too distracted chasing Alice around. I was also pretty distracted by the two adorable dogs and two sweet cats who live at the hotel, and by the amazing breakfasts Gwenn cooks each morning. Lucky for me, she posts some of her recipes online but I don't think I'll be able to recreate her heavenly apple crisp or Morning Glory muffins! 

I had to splice two photos together...
The Carriage House. left: bedroom window & hot tub. right: front door and walk.
After we arrived and got the tour, we settled in and relaxed with some wine after our day of travel. Then we all headed across the street for dinner at the Stagecoach Inn. Pheasant chowder, anyone? We put Alice to bed and my mom monitored the baby monitor while the young folk soaked in the hot tub with a pair of newlyweds who'd said their vows at the top of the peak earlier that day. We totally crashed their romantic party. In the photo above left, you can see the hot tub in the corner and our bedroom window a few feet away. Alice slept just below that window air conditioner, but not even our hot tubbing could keep her awake. 
Back in the saddle at the Stagecoach Inn. Alice isn't nearly as excited as my dad...
After a delicious breakfast on Thursday morning, my parents took us all up the mountain to see the cabin where they lived as newlyweds. My dad was living here, rent-free when he met my mom, and that's where they came home together after they got married thirty-three years ago. They'd stopped by the cabin last year when they were visiting and left a note, and got an email reply from the current owners who use it as a weekend vacation home. We forgot to plan ahead and let them know we'd be visiting again, but someday it would be really great to talk to them and get to look inside. My parents said they've made significant improvements from the days they remember. 
Thirty-three years later. I hear the antlers and skis are new...
I was but a twinkle in my parents' eyes when they lived here. And now I have a little twinkle of my own.

the ridge: view from the cabin's front yard
Once we'd seen the cabin from every angle, we headed back down the mountain and out to Colorado Springs to visit my Grandpa. We all had a nice lunch, conversation, and some baby playtime but the real scene-stealers were Grandpa's squirrel friends. There were three brown squirrels and a black one that would dart up to the glass and make frantic and twitchy requests for nuts. As soon as they heard the back door slide open, they would all come running. We all had a great time watching Alice watch them, and feeding them peanuts.
Four generations of Clarks.
left: Alice also enjoyed splashing in the freezing rainwater in Grandpa's wheelbarrow.
right: Alice watches the squirrels.
On Friday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel's main dining room. We ate at my Grandma David's dining table where my dad and his brother and sisters (including Aunt Gwenn!) ate and played as they grew up. I last ate at that table eighteen years ago, during my last visit to the house where my dad grew up, before my Aunt Bee and Grandma moved to another city. 
Aunt Gwenn, being super modest about the amazing breakfast she cooks every day.
We were happy that the weather finally improved and the clouds parted just enough to finally prove to Jon that there were, in fact, mountains concealed behind them. We could see Pikes Peak, but unfortunately didn't have enough time to venture all the way up there. We'll just have to go back and ride the Cog Railway someday when Alice is old enough to appreciate and remember. Then we could relax and explore Manitou and Old Colorado City a bit more, as well!
Pikes Peak, seen from the rear balcony of the Avenue Hotel.
Before we bid farewell to "the Springs," we took a scenic drive through the Garden of the Gods park. We didn't have enough time to stop for a hike, or even to really admire the amazing rock formations, but we did get a few photos. I remember being there at our last family reunion (I must have been 14?) and being completely unimpressed and unamused. This time, winding slowly around the enormous rocks, I was really disappointed that we couldn't join the other folks hiking, jogging, and taking photos. We'll have to make sure that we dedicate some time for outdoor exploring the next time we get back! Here are a few of the photos we snagged on our scenic drive.
 After we looped through the park, we hit the road for Denver. I'll share photos of our weekend with the Clark clan as soon as I have the time to get organized!

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