Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Catslab

John had a nice 6 day off stretch and we were determined to make the most of it.  We had already camped and climbed and gone bowling but we really wanted to climb some more.  It turned out to be one of the best climbing days EVER!  We went to Catslab, a nice climbing area along highway 6 along Clear Creek.  It is a nice place for beginners as it has some easy going routes and a nice big base area to spread out in.  We've been here once before with the kids and knew it was an easy hike and had room for a pack and play.  Yes, we are gear nerds and look like we are moving in whenever we go climbing.  But what are you gonna do?  We have 5 people and a fur kid.

We packed the night before so that we could get an early start, afraid that the rock would be crowded like Devil's Head was.  We managed to get there by 9am.  That's pretty good for us!  There was no one on the wall so we set up our pack and play and spread out.  The kids had TONS of snacks so they never went hungry.  I packed toys, snacks, and her blankie for Chloe and she was happy as a lark the WHOLE time we were there.  She is such a good baby!!  We got her out a couple of times to walk around but for the most part, she hung out in that pack and play all day and even napped! We were there from 9am to about 3:30.

Aaron was so excited to climb.  And we fed off of that, encouraging him to go first.  John quickly got set up on an easy 5.4 that he knew the boys would successfully make it to the top of.  And he was right.  Aaron shot up that thing like it was nothing.  We want to get a bell or squeezy toy to put at the top of our climbs so the kids can make noise when they get to the top.  After Aaron, Bubs went.  He seemed a little more nervous that day but made it to the top as well.  I went up once on the top rope and then I gave lead climbing a go.  It was a great place to learn and practice.  John even taught me how to repel.

By this time a few other people had joined us on the wall.  It was time to move up to something a little more challenging.  So we went for Skimbleshanks - a route on the end that went up 104 ft.  That's taller than anything I've climbed yet.  The climbing gym peaks out at 60 feet.  John had to lead climb it to get set up.  It was very intimidating and he was a little nervous going up.  He did GREAT though and got it all set up.  Both boys made it about half way which was still pretty high!  Then it was my turn.  I was fine until I made it to this one spot with an overhang.  Instead of going straight over it, I went to the side and cheated a little.  Only my rope got stuck and I had to climb back down a little to get it unstuck.  That is where my mini panic attack happened!  I am fine climbing because I generally am looking up or at least right in front of me.  I feel safe and I know if I just don't look down (until I make it to the top!) that I will be just fine.  But in that moment I had to look down and figure out how to back track.  I just hung out there, hugging the rock - probably 85 feet up at least as I was very close to the top. I couldn't move for a few minutes.  John was hollering but I could barely hear him.  I knew I was 100% safe and I wouldn't fall even if I let go.  The worst I would do was swing a little and have to climb back up what I had just climbed.  It's such a mind game.  BUT, I overcame!  After collecting myself, I down climbed, loosened up the rope and made it to the top.  All 104 feet!  There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment.  Of not giving up even though it would be easy to do.  I made it down - still shaking but feeling stronger and braver than ever.

The kids did so great - and Cinder is an excellent "crag dog". She is turning out to be such a great dog for our family.  We had just an amazing day.  All of us.  It's going to be hard to top.  But I'm up for the challenge.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer Family Bowling

So last month I found this deal online for a "kids bowl free all summer" deal at local bowling alley in Evergreen called the Wild Game.  We have never been there before but Aaron loves to bowl.  In fact so does Ethan.  And they both had bowling at near the top of their list for the summer bucket list.  There was no catch.  Kids could bowl free as long as you register them in the system.  But then there was a deal to add adults on for $30.  I thought, $30 bucks an adult is a great deal for unlimited bowling over the summer right?  It was $30 TOTAL for up 4 adults in the family!  What?!  Yes please.  I was still looking for the catch though.  Oh shoe rentals were not included.  They'll get us there.  Nope.  Shoe rentals are only $3 per person and they only charge for adults.  So a one time $30 fee up front.  And $6 for shoe rentals each visit if we go with all of us.  That's a crazy awesome deal!

But what if this place was one of those kind of dumpy bowling alleys?  Nope.  It was super nice. Clean, full service wait staff, yummy menu, classy even.  We had such a great time and look forward to going a lot this summer.  Even Chloe bowled.  It was great.  They even had her shoe size.  I love that we can do things as a family and include everyone.   Next time we might go for dinner too!


Saturday, June 4, 2016

1st Camping Trip of 2016

Today we got home from our first 2016 camping/hiking/climbing trip.  We are pooped!!  But in an oh so good way.  We decided to go to Devil's Head and explore the Rampart Range which is located between Denver and Colorado Springs in the foothills.  We first explored this area shortly after moving to Colorado.  Back then we hiked the 5 mile round trip trail up to the fire tower at the top. This time we were there for the climbing.

We left on Friday morning afternoon and headed the back way thinking it would be nice to see the scenery.  It was indeed but it made the trip very long and we didn't make it to set up our campsite until 4pm.  Which when it is a weekend (Friday) that is pretty late to be looking for a free spot.  But we found one and we got set up in no time.  Miss Chloe Bean is quite the adventurer.  We camped with her last year too but she was not mobile!  She ran around like she owned that campsite and had to be watched like a hawk as there were some pretty big boulders that were apparently calling to her.  It was magnetic or something.  Seriously.  I couldn't keep her off the rocks!

We are a little rusty on the camping front and forgot a few key items.  We will be better prepared next time!  Like we'll bring our camping stove.  Oops!  Good thing burgers turned out great in the fire wrapped in foil. And though it was slow, we also were able to make pancakes and eggs on a skillet over the fire.  Our little birdie mouths ate faster than John could cook!

After setting up camp we headed for the trail to do a quick hike and scope out the climbing walls.  We actually didn't make it to the right wall that night but we did get to hike around a bit.  It looked quite different from the last time we had hiked this trail.  That's because there was a tornado last year that caused a blow down.  Upon seeing the sign, Aaron was overcome with sadness to the point of tears in his eyes over the destruction of the forest.  It was so sweet.  John had a good talk with him about how the forest heals and that with destruction from storms or fires comes new life. Such a sweet moment.

Back at the camp site we set up dinner and ate around the fire.  With no smores (a crime in the eyes of our children) there wasn't much to do after we ate.  But then came the best part of the whole day.  We started singing.  At first we sang songs from Awanas (Bible verses the kids had learned) and we ran out of songs that they remembered we switched to worship songs.  I got choked up to the point that I could barely sing when the boys started taking turns singing "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me..." It was one of the most beautiful sounds ever.  And John pointed out to the boys that Jesus was probably smiling at them just thrilled at all the songs. As Chloe started to doze on my lap we switched gears and started singing boy scout songs and camp songs.  It was perfect.  Like out of a movie perfect.  There were no distractions, no electronics, just our family singing songs and telling stories for at least an hour around the campfire.  It was just what we needed.

 Pike's Peak

Our foil Hamburgers

Bed time was rough...  The boys were super excited to get to sleep in their own tent with Cinder.  It took a bit, but eventually they gave into sleep and quieted down.  Chloe was easy to put to bed.  She fell asleep on my lap and transferred nicely to the tent.  But since we didn't have the pack and play, and she's quite accustomed to flailing at night, it was a very long and restless night.  She tossed and turned and it was difficult to keep her covered to stay warm or keep her on the padded surface where she would be more comfortable.  At 5am the boys were up with the sun!  But we convinced them to lay back down as they were not allowed out of the tent yet.  They made it until 6:45.  Breakfast took forever to make on one skillet over the fire.  But John is an awesome daddy and husband and made us all pancakes and eggs for breakfast.

 View from the lower part of the rocks.
 Lunch Time!

Born to climb!

Then it was off to the climbing wall for real this time!  After a short hike we made it to the wall to find it was quite busy.  And more people were coming.  We chose our route and got started.  In order for us to climb as a family we have to first secure Chloe as John and I are both harnessed in at first.  I belay him while he does what's called "lead climbing".  Thats where he climbs to a bolt and attaches a clip to it that his rope goes through.  That way as he climbs, if he falls, he only falls to the last bolt and I "catch" him on the rope as the belayer.  He has never fallen lead climbing yet.  Once he gets to the top he then anchors and sets up a top rope that the rest of us will be climbing with.  Then he repels down.  At that point I can take off my harness and tend to Chloe while the boys get turns climbing.  And on good days - like that one - I get to climb while Chloe naps.  For the average couple (or climbing pair) this process is pretty quick.  But for a family of five, this took us all morning just to get everyone up at least once.  But we still count it a success!  I mean, who takes their three children (one a toddler) and a dog climbing?  We do!!

 Chloe wedged beside me.

 John on repel
 Eman climbing!

Ethan is our little climbing champ.  He loves it and usually has little fear.  He HATES to hike uphill but loves the end result of getting to climb.  Aaron, on the other hand, LOVEs to hike and only mildly likes to climb most days.  But he's getting better all the time which gives him more confidence and makes him like it more.

 Aaron's turn

Aaron finishing up as Chloe fell asleep.  I had just taken her for a walk in her pack and she conked out.  

We had a great time climbing and were all exhausted!  The kids begged us not to go home yet and to let them play around the campsite some before we packed up but by the time we made it to camp they were passed out!  So John and I packed up our tent and loaded up the car.  Pizza and drinks were our reward on the way home.  Such a good trip.  A lot of work.  But worth it.