When you’re happy like a fool
Let it take you over
When everything is out
You gotta take it in.
~One Republic, “Good Life”

No offense Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, but I think we have a favorite neighbor right now.  

Driving through Monarch Pass from Gunnison

This past week, we took a road trip to western Colorado to spend some time with my family, and it now ranks as a favorite vacation for us.  Thanks to my mom, our destination was chosen to be Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colorado, which is owned by a high school friend of my mom’s, and she happens to be the sweetest hostess.  This perfect little slice of heaven of a resort features everything from cozy cabins, to outfitting, to bingo on Thursday nights.  I know if we find ourselves in the Gunnison/Crested Butte area in the future, we will be staying here again! 

The main attraction for us was whitewater rafting.  When I was growing up, most summers were spent visiting our family in southern Missouri and floating or canoeing the small, lazy rivers down there, so we felt somewhat prepared for whitewater rafting in Colorado! Three Rivers Resort sits at the intersection of the Taylor, East, and Gunnison rivers, and although the Taylor river is a much chillier 45 degrees compared to what we’re used to in the summers, the exhilarating rapids beckoned nonetheless.  Our first trip out proved successful, as it was an easy 1.5-hour float through Taylor Canyon, appropriate for the smaller kids to ride and enjoy.  We followed it up the next day with a slightly more difficult Class 3 rafting trip with just five of us adults on the upper Taylor.  It was hard work and it was cold, but it was the best time!  Our guide had us paddling in sync and ducking under low bridges, and we all thought we were Lewis and Clark by the end of the two and a half hour trip.

Another highlight of the trip was the fishing!  My brother is ever the avid fisherman, and on this trip, he and Justin were able to fish amongst the beauty and serenity of the Taylor Park Reservoir, as well as catch trout on Spring Creek.  In between activities and while some of us were rafting on day two, my brother and sweet sister-in-law enjoyed fishing with all the kids at nearby Roaring Judy State Fish Hatchery where there were several smaller ponds to fish.

Leading up to our vacation, I was excited at the prospect of doing a little hiking, even though I knew that wouldn’t exactly be Justin’s and Cora’s cup of tea.  Unexpectedly, on the day we were out and about exploring Curecanti National Recreation Area, we found ourselves hiking down into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison river.  We had a picnic lunch there, and although the fishing wasn’t great, the views were spectacular.

Now, it is not a vacation without some stellar food to write home about.  We went out a few times on the trip; during our one-night stay in Colorado Springs, we checked out the Airplane Restaurant.  Cora loved getting to sit in the cockpit of the 1953 Boeing aircraft tanker the restaurant is built around, and then getting to eat supper in the airplane’s cabin!  For a night out from the resort, we visited Crested Butte and enjoyed some sensational pizza at Secret Stash.  But the best part is a favorite pastime of our large family vacations, when each family of my three siblings will take a night and cook supper for the whole group.  Even a simple meal like spaghetti is made special because it’s eaten together and informally, and with the 18 of us, that’s obviously no easy feat in a public restaurant.  During our group meals, the adults get to share in cooking together, the kids get to tell silly stories, and all of us get fed, both in body and soul. 

Cora at the helm of a Boeing KC-97 tanker
Secret Stash…yum!

Though we were missing my oldest sister and her family to a previously planned trip to Montana, we easily fell into routines typical of our large family trips. Our downtime at the resort was spent visiting with each other outside our cabins sitting on picnic tables or camp chairs.  The kids played at a swing set and tether ball court that was located just down the hill, between our cabins and the resort general store.  One night, the whole family (minus Grandma and the little girls) played several games of volleyball and exhausted ourselves from laughing (and for some, being out of shape).  The weather was unbelievable – I don’t think Kansans know what to do with no humidity and 50-degree mornings in the middle of July, which is perhaps why we enjoyed ourselves so much. 

Elise & Justin with Elise’s sister-in-law and brother in Black Canyon

Even in the simplicity of our downtime, I was reminded of how good it is to go on vacation and to log new experiences.  Long ago, it became a habit of mine at certain points during a vacation to become super focused as to conjure up the memories later.  I can recall focusing on being present in the moment, whether that was sitting on a sandy beach watching kids play, or sitting in a canoe on a river listening to frogs croak.  I would look around, and almost as though seeing what was happening in hindsight, prepare for how I would remember it the following week as I would be back at my desk at the office, back at work.  As I get older, I can safely say I’m thankful to have both – the ability to be present on vacation, as well as the memory to reflect on while being present in routine life.  The idea of a perfect vacation for me is not to escape normal life or get away from responsibilities, but to reset and refresh, which makes normal life that much more enjoyable.  As our little family of three logs more of these new experiences together, sure, we are somewhat sad when that special time is over, but we are so grateful for the blessing of the time together and all we have to look forward to together.  The song I referenced earlier sums it up perfectly: the hope is we have so much to feel good about.  

Finding a reference to my favorite movie at Three Rivers Resort.