S: 2011 Schuster Family Vacation - Going West
BC: Created by: Brian L Schuster 01-02-2010
1: Most of our trips start the same way, a long drive filled with lots of sleeping... except for the driver (Brian).
2: Our journey started with a fun stop at a rest area south of Des Moines, IA for a little shut eye in the camper. After a short nights sleep, we were awaken to the sound of a severe thunderstorm complete with lots of wind and hail! Oh well, on to Oklahoma and beyond!
3: While traveling toward Oklahoma, we decided that we would make a small detour off the interstate to take witness of mother natures fury, we thought we were prepared for what we were about to see, but that would be the understatement of the trip. We saw that Joplin, MO was the hand of God at work.
4: On May 22, 2011 Joplin Missouri was struck by a powerful F5 tornado, resulting in more than 160 deaths and over 900 people injured. Thousands of homes were lost, along side numerous businesses and St. Johns Hospital, part of which took a direct hit. Words cannot describe this disaster. These pictures were taken on June 25, 2011.
6: As always, the girls get tired and Carmen continues to suck her thumb. Old habits die hard. | After we headed out of Joplin, we finally got to Tulsa. When we got there, we were already feeling the heat, which according to the van had gotten to 97 degrees. What a fun time this will be!
7: Our first full day in Tulsa was spent heading over to the Tulsa Zoo where Anna had spent the summer of 2003 working for her internship. Unfortunately, there was no sign of her artwork there any longer, but the girls had a blast visiting all the animals.
8: While in the zoo, we were able to see many species of animals. | The black bear we got to see was constantly moving, probably cooling down!
9: One of Anna's items that she remembered most was the penguin statues, one of which is above.
11: Our final night in Tulsa was spent with Anna's family. | We ate at a local Mexican restaurant... yum!
12: The following morning was spent getting ready to go, saying our farewells, and heading out. | Originally we were hoping to travel to one of the Tallgrass Prairies in Kansas, but we decided head straight to Chris's.
13: On the way, we stopped at Kingman State Fishing Lake & Wildlife Preserve to eat lunch. They even had a small Prairie Preserve. | Chasm even got to stretch his legs and roam around while we ate. This little stop was well worth it, and a nice break from a long day of driving. | Using the camper for a nice lunch!
14: While unplanned, our journey through Kansas took us through another devastated town, Greensburg, KS.
15: After a long day of driving, we reached Colorado. It was not long after that we passed by an Earth Home along the highway. On to Colorado Springs!
16: No matter where we are going, a lengthy drive will always produce goofy and sleepy kids. Thankfully, we didn't have too much of the cranky times!
18: We got to Chris's house late and hung out for a short bit before heading in to the camper for some shut eye. The next day, we took a trip over to the Garden of the God's!
19: What an amazing area, with breathtaking geological formations and endless recreational opportunities!
20: What is better than walking amongst the beauty of nature hand in hand with your sister? These ancient sandstone formations were caused by uplift of the Pikes Peak massive. | Walking amongst the ages, you can see evidence of ancient seas, alluvial fans, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, and past sand dunes.
21: The Garden of the Gods Cathedral Valley has numerous types of formations including hogback and spires. There are plenty of places to stop and take a picturesque snapshot of some one of a kind attractions.
22: Receiving a kiss from your one year old daughter is something to cherish forever! All in front of the Kissing Camels formation. | The Garden of the Gods is a magnificent area, a place you can truly feel the presence of God. One great part is that Chasm can enjoy it with the rest of us!
23: While Audrey is only a year and half old, you can tell that she is studying the surrounding area. I think she was also in some awe from the beauty of the land. | Taking it all in while being pulled along by Chasm-now that is a family vacation! Sometimes you have to stop and scan the area.
24: The Central Garden Trail has so many impressive formations to view. It is also the only handicap accessible trail within the park and was an easy hike for the kids to take. And with the heat as it was, there was no need to stress Chasm much more than we did.
26: Chasm takes a little break from the relentless sun while Carmen and Audrey have a little fun in the surrounding rock formations. | All Carmen wanted to do was climb the rocks, and all Audrey wanted was to go with her big sister!
28: From the visitors center you can see North Gateway Rock, South Gateway Rock, Kindergarten Rock and various other formations in the area. Even the sign is made of the signature sandstone found throughout the park.
29: On our way to the visitors center! | All Carmen wanted to do was climb! | And so she straddles buffalo statue. | Here is a shirt Brian saw and liked. | After Garden of the Gods it was time to eat, and what better than Goodtimes? Chasm even got some ice cream to go with his Bambino.
30: Once back at Chris's, the girls had some fun creating a bed for Chris to sleep on out of pillows and cushions. We had a delightful supper with Chris and Kelly and witnessed another one of Natures furies, this time in the form of some wicked wind. After the storm blew over, we said our good-byes and headed North to Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
31: Another destination means another round of travel delights. Of course, this usually means the kids pass out while watching a movie. Either way, we are now on our way to our next destination, Rocky Mountain National Park.
32: We arrived at the campground after hours and needed to pull in and setup in the dark. | The next morning we got settled and ready for the day of hiking to come.
33: Our first stop was taking the bus from our campground up to the Bear Lake Trailhead. From there, we headed up to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and finally Emerald Lake. We have a hike ahead of us, so lets go!
34: The first leg of the journey is always the worst, mainly because of the break-in mile. However, after your body gets in motion, everything begins working like a machine. Even after this, sometimes you still need to pick your butt!
35: Sometimes the simplest things, like crawling on an old dead log or climbing on a large boulder, can be more fun than the fanciest gizmo or gadget. It is times like these that you realize what truly makes you happy in life and that you can cut out all the nonsense of technology.
37: Our first stop along the way is Nymph Lake, the smallest of our three lake hike, and the perfect stop for a quick rest. Small or not, it still gives us a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Just past this lake was the first sign of snow on the trail as well.
40: Snow in June...what a lovely surprise! While it is always expected to encounter at this elevation this time of year, there was an unusual abundance of it this season. The rather large drifts over bodies of water are always a great place to stop to snap a few photographs from. Carmen definitely loved it!
42: Once we reached Dream Lake, we gave Audrey a chance to walk on the snow covered trails, it was quite adorable. | Dream Lake gives great views of Hallett Peak (left) and Flattop Mtn. (right)
44: Wildlife is always present in the park, and this Steller's Jay gave us a great chance to snap a few photographs. Dream Lake was in fact quite dreamy. | At 9,905 feet in elevation, Dream Lake was our second lake of our three lake hike. After Dream Lake, most of the trail was covered with snow. | Heres Anna taking a few photos.
45: The trail stayed pretty close to the lake on the way to our final destination, Emerald Lake. At times, it got a bit dicey where the rotten snow was very slick and you felt as if you would slide down into the lake. Anna cursed at me for allowing her to wear the shoes she chose for the hike, while I was comfortable in my Chaco's.
47: About 3/4 of the way between Dream Lake and Emerald Lake is when Audrey finally fell asleep. She started dozing while on my shoulders and I pulled her off and cradled her in my arms for the remainder of the journey. So cute!
48: At 10,080 feet, Emerald Lake is a beautifully situated in the valley between Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. It is located 1.8 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead at 9,475 feet.
50: Emerald Lake is a breathtaking body of water nestled in the mountain between two towering peaks. While the lake is usually thawed by the time July hits, this year it was still covered with ice. This only made our experience that much sweeter.
51: While at the lake, Carmen and Brian did a little hiking up a scree slope. | Once up the slope a ways, we found a beautiful stubby Limber Pine nestled in the rocks. What a find!
52: Before we left, we got to meet a little chipmunk that was obviously fed numerous times and had no fear of humans. On the journey back down, we had to travel down the slippery snow covered trails that were a pain to walk up. Anna had some fun with her slick shoes and we managed to get some great video footage of her sliding down the trail.
54: One part of the trail had a downed log to walk over so you didn't walk through the creek. Since there was plenty of snow melt at the time, the little stream wasn't so little, so Anna and Carmen used the log to walk across. You can see Dream Lake in the distance.
55: Some of the times there would be actual bridges for us to use to cross the streams. These were the streams that run year round and have enough water to justify the building of such a structure there.
56: Crum-faced Audrey! | With the beauty of a natural waterfall, it is a perfect spot to stop and take a family photo. | With all the snow melt, the streams were pumpin'!
57: The person who had the best seat in the house was Audrey. She got to take it all in while riding in style. She even had a nice little spot to sit on the backpack to give a more comfortable ride. But even with that, she still succumbed to nasal joy, yummy snot!
58: On the way down we stopped at a wicked root wad. | And so we make our way down. In reality we made awesome time descending. | Carmen and Audrey posed while standing in front of it.
59: We are almost back to the trailhead and Anna feels great. She is now remembering just how crappy she felt on the way up for the first mile. Now, on the way down, everyone feels great! On to the Visitors Center.
60: Completed in 1967, the Administration Building is nationally significant for its architecture. | Back at the Bear Lake Trailhead. | Bear Lake area trails and info. | At the camper, watchin' a flick! | We got back to the trailhead, went to the visitors center, and got back to the camper for supper.
61: The following day we headed over Trail Ridge Road on our way to Grand Lake, Granby, Fraser and Winter Park. There was still plenty of snow left at the higher elevations.
62: There are a few places to pull off while driving Trail Ridge Road, one of which gives a great overlook of the Never Summer Mountains. Great views!
63: The Alpine Visitors Center is also a popular place to stop for some information and memorabilia. Plenty of snow left this year.
64: Once on the west side of the park, we got to see lots of wildlife up close. Here we have a beautiful bull elk. It was almost as if he was purposely posing for us visitors and reminded me fondly of when we lived in Grand Lake...I miss wildlife!
65: After leaving the park, our next stop was to take a peek at our past houses. The one above was our last residence before moving, and all the trees are now gone. Thanks Mountain Pine Beetle!
66: In Winter Park we got together with Anna's old co-workers, Alex and Enrika. We met them at one of Brian's past favorite restaurants in Winter Park, Smokin' Moe's. While the food was not nearly as good as it once was, the company hadn't changed and we had a great time chatting with old friends. Fun times!
68: When we were finally heading back toward Rocky Mountain National Park, a storm started to brew. When we got to Grand Lake, there was a definitive front moving through. Behind the front was some fierce wind, rain and small hail. When Brian got out to take a photo of Grand Lake, he was pelted with the hail that was driven by the strong winds.
72: At the Estes Park Mountain Shop, Carmen finally got a taste of what indoor rock climbing was. While a little scared, she did fantastic for her first ascent. Great job!
73: After rock climbing we headed back to the park for one last night of joy and a family enjoyed meal. On the way, we got to see a nice mountain sunset, but we didn't get the best picture. | Once back at the camper, it was spaghetti time. Couple that with great root beer and you got yourself a meal fit for a family of four on a camping trip!
74: Once the kids were packed gently into their sleeping bags, it was time for a relaxing night by the fire. Chasm took the easy route and took a siesta nearby, while we sat nestled next to the warmth. It was such a peaceful night, and as always in the mountains & stars were amazing! That never gets old.
75: The following morning, we packed up and stopped by the ranger station on the way out. Junior Ranger time. | Carmen showed the ranger her Junior Ranger book and got her picture taken with her. What a great experience! Time to head out.
76: One of the stops we had to make while back in Denver was to show Carmen where she was born. Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital in downtown Denver. She hasn't see this hospital since she was born and I doubt she remembers it.
77: After Denver, it was on the road again for the last time until we were home. | We stopped at the Colorado welcome center before crossing the state line into Nebraska.
78: We stayed at a rest area near North Platte, where we had some burgers and a good nights rest. Throughout the night we kept waking to the sound of Semi traffic right next to the trailer. The next morning we got up and finished the last leg of our journey home. What a great family vacation, now on to the next one!
79: The Great Platte River Road Archway is a Transportation and Communication History Museum located just East of Kearney, Nebraska. While we have never been to it, Brian always tends to take a picture of it when traveling back to Iowa.