Kids’ Birthday Parties in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Windsor

So Jaron is turning five in April! Rather than keep track of scrawled notes on paper scraps for years to come, perhaps this is a good place to jot down my birthday party research. Prices from February 2012 unless noted otherwise.

happy birthday cropped 1024x393 Kids Birthday Parties in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Windsor

Fort Collins:

  • GK Gymnastics
    $150 for 1.5 hrs, up to 8 kids, $10 per additional kid; incl. 1 hour gymnastics & tumbling activities, private party room, party favors, refrigerator available; children should wear gym or dance clothes; for ages 2-12
    We love GK Gym and Melo has attended birthday parties here and all 3 of the kids have taken gymnastics lessons. They are very good at engaging the kids in group activities. Parents are not allowed in the gym area but there are a lot of windows for viewing either in the lobby on the main floor or upstairs from the party room. Highlights include a zip line and jumping off a platform into a foam block pit. The birthday child’s parent is allowed in the gym to take photos. Other regularly scheduled classes and coaching will be happening concurrently.
    Update – TJ had his 6th birthday here and all the kids had a super time. The gym was nearly empty except for us! They did the zip line, Tarzan jump, foam block pit (including races), rope climb, trampolines, obstacle courses, and a timed “Wipeout” game. The party favors were cheap and tiny stuffed animals with a paper roll of info about the gym including a coupon for a party discount. You may want to bring nicer goody bags.
  • Fort Fun
    $16.99 per kid (8 kid minimum) for 1 hr host, winter discount Sept. – Feb. $13.99 per kid, private party room upgrade $15; incl. drinks, pizza, ice cream sandwich, 3 attractions; choose from mini-golf, go-karts, laser tag, bumper cars, giant slide, arcade points, bumper boats, paddle boats; some attractions are seasonal; unlimited 2-hr or all day packages available; no outside food allowed except cake; prices January 2016
    Melo attended a 7th b-day party here and loved it, especially the mini-golf. She begged the family to go again and we enjoyed a few hours although it was more difficult for Jaron & especially TJ to keep interest. It’s more appropriate for age 6+ I think. The little guys just wanted to keep pushing tokens in a 3-horse merry-go-round over and over!
  • Rollerland
    $129 for 1 hr reserved party area & 1 activity, up to 10 kids, $11 per additional kid (maximum of 14); incl. soda & table settings; choose from skating, laser maze, playground (under 12), arcade; larger packages & private parties available; check coupon mailers for discounts; prices January 2016
    Can you believe we’ve lived in Fort Collins for over a decade and still haven’t been to Rollerland?
    Update: We finally did check it out and the kids had a great time. Skating was difficult for the boys (ages 6 & 8) but they found that rollerblades were easier than regular skates. Same for our friend’s preschooler. Exchanging the skates at the counter was no hassle. There were some “walker” type supports available as rentals, which I thought should have been complimentary. There was a “beginner” practice/learning zone separate from the main rink. There were intermittent games hosted by Rollerland staff which were fun, especially for older kids. And yes, we did the Hokey Pokey!
  • Lee Martinez Farm
    $90 for 1.5 hrs, up to 8 kids, $10 per additional kid; incl. hayride, lemonade, bandana for each kid, farm tour, party host; $98 + $11 add’l kids for pony rides instead of hayride (pony rides available age 5+); books up quickly
    Melo’s 5th birthday here was a hit. Guests gather in a little white farmhouse & then begin the party with the hayride or pony rides. After that they tour the farm animals and return to the farmhouse for cake and gifts. Our hostess was great with the kids and facilitated the gift-opening with a game. They do not cancel for poor weather. Pony rides can be done indoors if necessary.
  • Chuck E. Cheese’s
    $13 per kid for 2 hrs; incl. drinks, pizza, tokens for kids; extra food, cake, & goody bags available; more expensive options ($25+ per guest) available
    Two party experiences as guests here – lots of fun for the kids but loud & chaotic and seems over-priced. The party favors were cool though.
  • Sykes Martial Arts
    $199 for 2 hrs, unlimited kids; incl. guided games/activities & party time, birthday child can cut cake (not provided) with a real samurai sword; books up quickly
    I found this with a google search. We haven’t been here but whoever I spoke with on the phone was very friendly and helpful. He said they commonly host parties for ages 3-16.
  • TCBY
    $10 per kid, up to 12 kids; incl. unlimited frozen yogurt, chef costume, store tour, goody bag; contact local stores for details; prices August 2013
  • Cool Beans Playhouse
    $60 for two hours decorated party room; $5 per kid admission for unlimited play time; $10 per kid incl. meal & drink; $12 incl. balloons also; private rental & food platters available; may bring cake but no other outside food; prices January 2014
    We’ve gone to drop-in play time a couple times. This is designed for kids up to age 6. They have some climbing/exploring activities and lots of  hands-on toys and dress-up clothes. The cafe food is good. Reservations fill quickly so schedule ahead! We missed out on having TJ’s 5th b-day here in 2014 because it was fully booked.
  • Gardens On Spring Creek
    $70 for 1.5 hrs, up to 7 kids, $5 per additional kid (limit 10 total), birthday child age 2-9; incl. gazebo-sheltered picnic table, scavenger hunt, children’s garden play time, craft/activity, time for gifts & food (not provided), plant for each guest to take home; Deluxe Package $90 + $7 add’l incl. goody bags, paper products, personalized cake, drinks; prices June 2013
    Melody truly enjoyed her 6th birthday here! The craft was making a necklace with a bean seed that could be planted at home. There is a water table play area, nest/cave made of sticks, koi pond with a bridge, and a small playhouse to explore. It’s all outdoors so keep weather in mind.
  • Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
    $200 for 2.5 hours, up to 12 guests age 4-12 and 4 adults; includes private room and museum admission; cake & decorations allowed; $30 refundable damage deposit required; available Sundays 2:00-4:30 pm only; prices January 2016
    We’ve been to the old Discovery Center a few times and it was great for kids who like hands-on exploring and science. There were many themed rooms to discover. I think it’s best suited to elementary school age kids but the younger ones still had fun.
    Update: The “new” museum is full of fun hands-0n experiences that are fun for kids and adults. In the “Music Garage” guests can jam together with a variety of instruments. There are gravity and physics experiments, farming and wildlife exhibits, and experiments with color, light, and sound. I think it’s still geared more toward elementary school level but there’s a lot to do for all ages.
  • Chipper’s Lanes
    $13 per guest for 2 hours; incl. table set up behind lanes with plates, forks, and napkins, unlimited bowling, shoe rental, soda, 1 slice cheese pizza (toppings $.50/kid), T-shirt OR free game card for birthday child; arcade games and laser tag packages available; may bring cake & ice cream but no outside food & drink (cafe on site); $75 refundable deposit at booking; adults play at regular bowling rates; check coupon mailers for discounts; prices April 2016
    Our family visited Chipper’s on Melo’s 8th birthday and the kids have been begging to go back! They have bumper guards and ball slides for younger kids. Laser Tag and Arcade scheduled to open April 2014.
    UPDATE: We held Jaron’s 9th birthday here and it was the kind of noisy, disorganized fun that kids love. I reserved for 8 and had 10 participate. It was a bit of a hassle to add seats and pizza on the day of the party. I’d suggest reserving for your max expected number as it is much easier to adjust downward same-day, and you will only be charged for the final head count. I did have issues with the balloons. They were on removable plastic sticks that many kids immediately turned into toys and weapons. Many balloons were popped before the party was over but Chipper’s gave us more. The balloons were at each chair place when we arrived and I would highly recommend collecting them all right away and saving them out of reach until the party is over.
  • Mountain Kids
    $145 for 1.5 hrs, up to 12 kids, $195 for 13-20 kids; gymnastics or dance theme party for ages 3-12; incl. 1 hr gym activity, 1/2 hr party area, party favors; Sat/Sun only, full price non-refundable deposit required when booking; prices January 2015
  • Mulberry Pool
    $60 up to 10 swimmers, additional kid $2.75 or adult $3.50; incl. 1 hr party room, unlimited swimming, aquatic play features, and bouldering wall (in one of the party rooms); prices June 2016
  • Michael’s
    $50 + craft $ for 2 hrs, private room, up to 12 kids or so, incl. party host, craft time, printable invitations, thank-you cards, apron souvenirs; goody bags, face painting, balloons, decorations also available
    Update – we held Melo’s 8th birthday party here – they painted wood wall hangings that she chose and it was a nice party. The kids had fun singing “Happy Birthday” over the store loudspeaker. 
  • Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
    $125 for ~2 hrs, up to 8 kids, $10 per additional kid; incl. invitations, party room, instructor, project/craft, cookie decorating supplies (bring your own treats to decorate)
  • foodies! Culinary Academy
    Themed cooking parties for up to 24 kids (Pirates, Princesses, Cake, Fondue, Iron Chef, American Girl); incl. decor, music, food, dessert, treat bags, and of course the kids do the cooking; call for pricing
  • Piano & Guitar Institute
    $75 for 2 hrs, up to 6 kids, $5 per additional kid; incl. singing, dancing, games, party room, party gift for each child, individualized to age and interests; prices January 2013
  • Philomusica
    $225 up to 20 kids; contact Philomusica for more information; prices January 2013
  • The Edge Sports Center
  • $135 for 1 hour on 1/3 sports field & equipment plus 1 hour party room, up to 22 kids; $160 for 2/3 field; $185 for full field; choose from flag football, baseball, softball, kickball, soccer, T-ball, whifflle ball, volleyball, tennis, ultimate frisbee; you provide supervision & food; sports instruction available for $40; prices March 2015
    Jaron enjoyed soccer lessons here one summer.
  • Qdoba Events Center (Formerly OD’s Sports Crossing) $110 for 1.5 hrs, up to 12 kids, $3 per additional kid; incl. 1 hr of half-rink activities (field turf or sport court), 30 min party area, pizza, soda, party wishes on scoreboard; other party packages available incl. Subway package $136, Qdoba “kids” (under 12) package $170; prices April 2013
  • Fort Collins Club
    $12-14 per kid for 2 hrs, choice of Clubhouse, Climbing Wall, or Pool; $15/hour for climbing instructor or lifeguard (required for kids under 12); free use of conference room or picnic area; enjoy 2 activities for $15-17 per kid; pizza, soda, & party bags available; club membership not required; prices March 2015
  • Pottery Studio
    $14 per person (5 guest minimum) for 1.5 hrs; incl. tour, pottery instruction & supplies; bring own cake & refreshments; prices June 2016
  • Poudre Fire Authority
    Free group tours 30-45 minutes, maximum 30 people, minimum age 4, chaperone required per every 5 children; party groups welcome but no festivities or food allowed on site; available to PFA service area residents; must request online at least 3 weeks in advance; January 2014
  • Ripple Effect Martial Arts
    Call for details
  • Fly High Trampoline Park
    $35 weekday or $55 weekend + $10-12 per guest (6 guest minimum) for 1.75 hrs; incl. party area, tablecloths, napkins, cups, plates, utensils; free future pass for birthday child; bring your own cake & ice cream (freezer available); pizza & drink options; prices June 2015
    All three of my kids have been to Fly High parties for ages 7-13 and it’s a confirmed favorite! They have 2 “mini-flyers” areas for kids under 42″, foam pit with trampoline entry platforms, lots of picnic tables and cafeteria style tables, trampoline dodge-ball area, and an open trampoline area with rectangular trampolines and wall-bounce and jumping platforms. Be aware that many guests (think teenagers) do flips from tramp to tramp, often over the separating platforms. Jumping over the platforms is not allowed, but I didn’t see this rule enforced. It’s daily luck whether the party area will be shared with a rowdy group, but most of our experiences have been great!

Loveland:

  • Jumpin’ at Centerra
    $60 Mon-Fri for 2 hrs party area & all-day play pass, up to 6 kids, $90 Sat-Sun, $8 per additional kid, adults free; incl. balloons, water bottle & future free pass for b-day child; check coupon mailers for discounts; prices January 2016
    Jaron went to a preschool birthday party here and had fun although it seemed somewhat difficult to keep track of the kids. The party areas are next to the play area and therefore noisy. I just asked Jaron if he remembered the party and he started jumping up and down with twinkling eyes. I like the price and I’m thinking we’ll probably celebrate that upcoming 5th birthday here.
    Update – yes we did and it was a great choice! Although the price has gone up a little since then.
    2014 update – We had TJ’s 5th birthday here and he was quite happy! Unfortunately *many* guests showed up without notice and some brought siblings, so we didn’t hand out any party favors because we hadn’t prepared enough, and we nearly ran out of food. Not sure why people think that is ok. ALWAYS RSVP!! Seriously.
  • Premier Gymnastics
    $100 for 1.5 hrs, up to 15 kids, $5 per additional kid (max 25 kids); incl. 1 hr private gym w/ instructor, 1/2 hr party area; $20 for extra 1/2 hr gym instead of party area time; $25 non-refundable deposit at booking; prices January 2014
    Update – TJ attended a preschool birthday party here and it was loads of unstructured fun. The kids basically had free play time in the entire gym. At age 3-4, most of them spent it jumping into the foam block pit from waaay up high, swinging on ropes like Tarzan, and butt-bouncing on the trampolines. There was a safety monitor but she did not engage the kids. The party tables were set up in the entry lobby where there was plenty of space.
  • Battle Zone Arena
    $210 weekday or $275 weekend for 1.5 hours, up to 12 kids age 6+, $15 per additional kid; incl. party host, nerf gun war, party area, decorations, table settings, bottled water for each guest, nerf upgrade & t-shirt for birthday guest; cake, food, and upgraded packages available; no outside food; prices October 2015
    Jaron had a great time at a 9th birthday party here and said they had a glow-in-the-dark war. I would think it’s best for age 8+. They have more challenging options for teens.
  • TCBY
    $10 per kid, up to 12 kids; incl. unlimited frozen yogurt, chef costume, store tour, goody bag; contact local stores for details; prices August 2013
  • Loveland Laser Tag
    $179 up to 10 kids, $17 per additional kid; incl. party host, reserved lobby seating, pizza, soda, 2 activities (laser tag, laser maze, rock wall, ropes course, arcade), flashing led cup for birthday child; larger packages available; private party room included for packages with 3 or more activities; cake available separately; seasonal discounts (check web site); prices June 2016
    Jaron attended two birthday parties here (ages 7-8) and he says it’s awesome.
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop
    $12 and up per kid; incl. invitations, party photo, party favors; prices January 2015
  • Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
    $125 up to 8 kids, $10 per additional kid; incl. invitations, party room, instructor, project/craft, cookie decorating supplies (bring your own treats to decorate)
  • Rocky Mountain Cheer and Dance Company
    $85 for 2 hours, up to 10 kids age 5+, $95 up to 15 kids, $115 up to 22 kids, $125 more than 22 kids; preschool parties (age 2-4) are 1.5 hrs and start at $75 for 10 kids; incl. organized tumbling and gym equipment activities, music, party room
  • Chilson Center
    Party room, kid-friendly indoor pool; call for pricing
  • Fiona’s Fairy Garden
    $25 per guest for 2 hour workshop, minimum 5 guests, max 10 guests; incl. fairy garden expert and fairy garden starter kit with container, 3 plants, and a garden accessory; additional plants and accessories available; prices April 2016
    Fiona’s Fairy Garden says: “Children leave with their own planted garden that they assembled and decorated themselves. Good for all ages, boys and girls.”

Greeley:

  • Family FunPlex
    $140 for 1 hr plus unlimited play time, up to 10 kids, $10 per additional kid; incl. 1 hr reserved table, birthday cake, party supplies, invitations, choice of activities: swimming or mini-golf; $165 for access to both activities; children under 5 must be supervised in the pool at all times; prices March 2015
  • Greeley Ice Haus
    $140 for 1 hr plus unlimited skate time, birthday child and 2 adult chaperones free, up to 10 guests (age 3+), $7 per additional kid; incl. 1 hr party room, public skate admission/rental, invitations, cake, drinks, party supplies, birthday gift, balloons; additional food & party amenities available (no outside food); prices March 2015
  • Greeley Recreation Center – Pool Party
    $90 for 2 hours, up to 10 kids (age 6+, under 6 requires adult supervision in pool at all times), $3 per additional kid (max 20); incl. invitations, 1 hr reserved decorated table, cake, party supplies, party host, open swimming; additional food available (no outside food); prices March 2015
  • Greeley Recreation Center – Tumble Party
    $125 for 2 hrs, up to 10 kids (age 1-5), $3 per additional kid (max 20); incl. 1 hr decorated table, invitations, cake, party supplies, party host, 1 hr tumble room activities; additional food available (no outside food); prices March 2015
  • Greeley Recreation Center – Rock Wall Party
    $125 for 2 hrs, up to 10 kids (age 6-12), $3 per additional kid (max 12); incl. 1 hr decorated table, invitations, cake, party supplies, party host, 1 hr climbing on rock wall, belay ride for each child; additional food available (no outside food); prices March 2015
  • TCBY
    $10 per kid, up to 12 kids; incl. unlimited frozen yogurt, chef costume, store tour, goody bag; contact local stores for details; prices August 2013
  • Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
    $125 up to 8 kids, $10 per additional kid; incl. invitations, party room, instructor, project/craft, cookie decorating supplies (bring your own treats to decorate)
  • Chuck E. Cheese’s
    $13 per kid for 2 hrs; incl. drinks, pizza, tokens for kids; extra food, cake, & goody bags available; more expensive options ($25+ per guest) available
  • Chipper’s Lanes
    $13 per guest for 2 hours; incl. table set up behind lanes with plates, forks, and napkins, unlimited bowling, shoe rental, soda, 1 slice cheese pizza (toppings $.50/kid), T-shirt OR free game card for birthday child; arcade games and laser tag packages available; may bring cake & ice cream but no outside food & drink (cafe on site); $75 refundable deposit at booking; adults play at regular bowling rates; check coupon mailers for discounts; prices April 2016
    We held Jaron’s 9th birthday at the Horsetooth location in Fort Collins and it was the kind of noisy, disorganized fun that kids love. I reserved for 8 and had 10 participate. It was a bit of a hassle to add seats and pizza on the day of the party. I’d suggest reserving for your max expected number as it is much easier to adjust downward same-day, and you will only be charged for the final head count. I did have issues with the balloons. They were on removable plastic sticks that many kids immediately turned into toys and weapons. Many balloons were popped before the party was over but Chipper’s gave us more. The balloons were at each chair place when we arrived and I would highly recommend collecting them all right away and saving them out of reach until the party is over. Possibly Greeley has its own variation.
  • Colorado Model Railroad Museum (Greeley Freight Station)
    Call for group discounts, private tours, or facility rentals; March 2015

Windsor:

  • The Summit Windsor
    $180 for 1.5 hrs, up to 10 kids, $7 per additional kid (up to 2), $90 additional lane (up to 5 guests); incl. party space & host, 2 lanes bowling, shoe rental, 2 large pizzas, 2 pitchers soda, paper goods, balloons, future bowling pass for all guests, bowling pin water bottle for birthday child; laser tag + arcade party $190 for 1.75 hrs, $18 per additional kid, 44″ minimum height; deluxe packages available; check coupon mailers for discounts; prices January 2016
    Melo went to an 11th birthday here. The bowling was fun but she didn’t care for the loud and dim environment. For party favors, the birthday family bought bowling pin water bottles for all guests and filled them with candy. The bottles were very cool. All day Wednesdays laser tag & selected games are half price – just FYI, not an official party package… 
  • Windsor Gymnastics Academy
    $130 for 2 hrs, up to 10 kids, $8 per additional kid; incl. 1 hr private use gym activities (obstacle course, jumping castle, trampoline, bouncing, tumbling, foam pit), 1 hr party room; $25 non-refundable deposit at booking; prices January 2014
  • Piano & Guitar Institute
    $75 for 2 hrs, up to 6 kids, $5 per additional kid; incl. singing, dancing, games, party room, party gift for each child, individualized to age and interests; prices January 2013
  • AmericInn Hotel – Pool Party
    $75 for 4 hours, up to 30 kids; Sat. 11 am-3 pm only; incl. party room & indoor pool; prices March 2013
    Jaron attended a 6th birthday party here and had a great time. There’s a good sized meeting room with a door directly to the pool area. The party was from 1-3 pm and that was plenty of time for kindergartners. The pool has a wide step entry and ranges from 3-5 feet deep. Jaron said it was plenty warm. There’s also a hot tub. No lifeguard.
  • Windsor Community Recreation Center
    $40 for 2 hrs party room, up to 10 kids, $50 for 11-20 kids; incl. tablecloths, banner, 1/4 sheet cake (1/2 sheet for larger party), and open gym access if available; choice of climbing wall ($30 max 10 kids), critter visit – reptiles ($45 or $55), or science experiment ($45 or $55); pizza option; Sat-Sun only; prices January 2014
  • Party Planet
    Themed birthday parties for children; call for pricing; March 2015

Other Local:

  • Bounce To Go
    Available rentals include 18′ slide, basic bouncers, 3-in-1 bouncers, large obstacle course; call for pricing; 2014
    Bounce play center in Loveland closed in 2013 due to flooding and reopened in 2014 as an inflatable rental company.
  • Bricks 4 Kidz
    Lego brick building/play party – comes to your location or local pizza restaurant; Deluxe party 90 minutes, up to 10 kids, incl. Lego games & challenges, motorized build, custom mini-fig for each guest, t-shirt for birthday child, invitations; Premier party up to 12 kids, incl. all above plus Lego book bag for each guest; Works party 2 hours, up to 18 kids, incl. all above plus additional motorized build, t-shirt and mini-fig head cupcake for each guest; call for pricing
  • Little Angels Pony And Pals
    $150 per hour and up for various options such as pony rides or cart rides at your location, “unicorn” rides, portable petting zoo, live “pretty pony” decorating, party and games at Little Angels farm in Fort Collins ($150 up to 8 children, $5 each additional, $25 extra activities); serving Fort Collins, Windsor, Loveland, Wellington, Berthoud, Longmont, Boulder, Denver, Cheyenne; trip charge outside Fort Collins
  • TumbleBus
    $100 for 1 hour, up to 15 kids; comes to your location; incl. instructor-led gymnastics and tumbling activities, t-shirt for birthday child, gold medals for guests; serving Fort Collins, Windsor, Loveland area; prices March 2015
    The TumbleBus is best suited for children ages 2-8.
  • Eaton Recreation Center
    Facility rental and bouncy castle available; call for pricing; March 2015

Not-So-Local:

Horsetooth Rock & Roll of Thunder

P1030850 300x225 Horsetooth Rock & Roll of Thunder We got a late start and I knew it. Kids hike slowly. But I was finally going up Horsetooth Rock! I hate to admit I’ve lived here eleven years and hadn’t climbed it before. We stopped for lunch during the best part of the day with a bright view of Horsetooth and hikers appearing and disappearing in silhouette on the top of the stark ridge. Dark clouds manifested as we scurried toward the tooth and just as we reached the base, it began to sprinkle lightly. I deemed the final climb unsafe for the boys, so they started back down the trail with Dad. Melody and I made the scramble up, and she found a secure, sliced-out shelter to enjoy the clouded view while I explored across the top. Just then burst out a roll of thunder, and the sprinkle turned to rain. I know about lightning strikes on Horsetooth; I know too about fatal falls. Suddenly that lichen-clad rock was fast becoming slippery as slug slime.  I dropped to my hands and knees and tried to fend off panic as I inched back toward Melody, still patiently sheltered near the exit pitch. I flipped over and scooted down the wet rock on my backside, afraid to move, terrified to stay. Soon we were climbing down, and the storm began to pass. Perfectly wrong timing. So now I’ve been there and done that. The kids (even the boys) love to point out the mountain from Fort Collins and say they climbed it, yet for me it is still an unfinished story. I need to conquer it and stand firmly on the top gazing at Longs and Meeker with my head high, fearless.

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Melody (7), Trevor (2), Jaron (4)

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Hamilton Mountain for Two

It’s practially impossible to hike mountain peaks with preschoolers. Technically, they can ride along in a [very heavy!] child pack and I guess one could stuff in earplugs after the kids’ patience limit expires, but seriously, a 5-hour hike is sooo much more fun for two. And on a weekday, we mostly had the trail all to ourselves. Not once did I feel sorry for my three kids spending the day at an amusement park with “Gramma and Bocca.” Sorry for the grandparents, maybe, but not the kids!

We hiked Hamilton the day after arriving in Oregon on our road trip from Colorado in August. What a great way to stretch the legs after four days of travel! Hamilton Mountain is in Beacon Rock State Park, on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

Going up, we took the loop direction marked “more difficult” (the other was marked “difficult”) and passed Rodney and Hardy Falls. We reached a high grassy knoll around lunch time and thought we had summited well ahead of schedule. We enjoyed lunch and explored a bit, and as I turned the camera vertical to take a photo of Richard, I realized there was a striking peak behind him… yeah we had to hike down a dip and up again to the real mountain top! Duh.

From the top we had a nice view of Table Mountain and Bonneville Dam but there was too much vegetation to truly see the Gorge – that view was much better from the bluff. The return portion of the loop, once we finally found the correct trail, was less pretty than the ascent but easier on the knees. We found a picnic table in a little valley clearing. As we began passing people on the way up in the afternoon, I contemplated how it was completely unlike Colorado where afternoon lightning storms encourage early ascents. In fact, The whole morning was overcast in the typical Northwest fashion and the clouds began burning off to blue sky mid-day. We had been the second car in the lot at 9:45 but it was almost full when we returned.

Too bad I didn’t think to photograph the plentiful salmon berries! I made quite a feast of them on the way up!

Horsetooth Falls

Horsetooth Falls family hike, May 2011 – pics only until I have more time on my hands!

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Fun stuff!

West Bank Dignity

Jalazon is a refugee camp
where stones and ashes are as common as bread
where Arab children scatter like stray cats
from the fire of God in every rifle shot

In Jalazon hot dust falls upon
three feet of rubbish once three stories tall
torn from the alley like a missing tooth
like a gravestone tipped in a childish prank

A bent man stumbles on a broken stone
a young boy stoops to place it in the trash
nevermind the shattered millions more
one stone makes a difference in Jalazon

 


Based on a true scene I witnessed in Israel (West Bank) in 1994, this poem still feels to me like it should go deeper. There is much more to say. This draft was actually “finished” in a hotel lobby in Atlanta the night before I was supposed to deliver a presentation entitled “Stones and Ashes: A Poem or Two” at the Alpha Chi National Honor Society conference in 1995. Yes, I titled the presentation after an unfinished work, and even had the audacity to board the plane to Georgia without a complete manuscript! After my talk, someone asked for a copy of the poem and I gave him my handwritten original, thinking I had written it down elsewhere; I never found it. I later sat and wrote it out again by memory. I have a feeling that if I ever do finish this poem properly, it may run quite long. But for now the seed lies dormant and I have the sense not to water it. I feel it may be a work that will consume me until I master it, and that will have to wait for another season.

 

Mountain Cabin Anniversary

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Annie's Mountain Cabin

Ten years of marriage! Although the official date was back in January, we just had the opportunity to celebrate with a kid-free overnight vacation in March – in fact our first “couple” escape since having kids almost seven years ago! We rented Annie’s Mountain Cabin on the Big Thompson River.

We spent day one snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, another first for us. We started by traversing the frozen-over Bear Lake, where we found a fascinating ice flow formation on the far side. Then we headed up the trail to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes.

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Richard on top of Bear Lake - notice the scoop shape in the mountains behind


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Ice falls on the far shore of Bear Lake


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Me climbing the trail


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Richard at Dream Lake - nearing the scoop


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Emerald Lake at the base of the scoop

And then we snowshoed back, ate dinner by the window at The Other Side Restaurant with Canada Geese peering in just a few feet away, and soaked some tired muscles in the hot tub.

The next day we did the tourist thing in Estes Park. First off we saw a stone structure on top of the hill behind the main parking lot, so we went looking for a trail up. It turned out to be an old stone dwelling complete with a fireplace and chimney.

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Me at the stone ruins


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Fireplace

Ok, so now I’m going to divulge a little secret. I’ve had a fixation on Palisade Peak ever since the Devil’s Backbone trip last summer where I saw the photo identification map of several Front Range peaks. I’ve searched the internet for information about climbing it but aside from two accounts of actual trips, there’s not much to read. But I’ve been stalking this peak. I’ve taken multiple photos of it. I notice when it’s encircled with haze or fog or rays of setting sun. My eyes occasionally glance off the road while driving I-25 just to admire its fascinating shape, which oddly reminds me of a graph I saw in a book a decade ago. I imagine myself up there.

Well anyway I got it into my head to try and locate the “trailhead” which is supposed to be an old service road. So we turned off Hwy 34 at Drake and headed up a dirt road on which 95% of vehicles were 4 wheel drive, unfortunately not including us. But we made it to the top and it opened out into a relatively flat plain with a whole neighborhood up there. We continued hoping to find a way up Palisade but there seemed to be “No Trespassing” signs everywhere! Finally we found an old road without such signs and decided to give it a try.

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Unmarked road - could this be the one?


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Western view of Palisade Peak

So we began to make our way up the dirt road. Eventually we came to a clearing with man-made structures and had to acknowledge the fact that we were indeed trespassing private land, posted signs or not. We returned to the car defeated but inspired. Climbing Palisade has become my personal mystery to pursue.

Climbing Quandary

IMG 5422 300x225 Climbing QuandaryOn Saturday I disappeared into thin air. Well I didn’t disappear, but anyone on the trail thousands of feet below would have seen nothing more than an ant trudging up a giant anthill. Anyway at 14,265 feet up, the air is indeed thin, and the views breathtaking. Or should I say breath-catching!

IMG 5427 300x225 Climbing QuandaryHere I am celebrating an arduous climb to the summit of Quandary Peak, my first 14er, those tallest kings among mountains that Colorado is famous for. I and six girlfriends left the trailhead in the valley at 7am and 5-1/2 hours later this was our reward.

I’d expected to do the whole hike, up and back, in that amount of time! Some of our husbands had done it a month ago in 5 hours. But unfortunately two of our group suffered bad altitude sickness requiring a slow pace and frequent rest stops on the ascent. (One did feel a little better after throwing up. That bad.)

IMG 5419 300x225 Climbing QuandaryAround the same time I took the above photo looking up and the summit felt sooo far away, I turned around and looked down to the highway where I’d come from. Wow. It really boosted my mood and confidence when fatigue was taking a toll.

I also contemplated the golden value of such friends I have. No one had an ego to show off. No one was trying to prove anything. There was nothing but patience and encouragement for those who were lagging. (Little did I know that would be me on the way down, running out of water two hours early and bad knees screaming their displeasure at the steep rocks.) I realized that I myself was far more flexible and patient than I used to be, willing to stay with my friends at the end of the line or offering to share my hiking poles. That’s big for me, someone who has always been highly competetive. This was just not the time for that.

IMG 5418 300x225 Climbing QuandaryI love my girlfriends, their strength, humor, complete support and solidarity. Only recently have our friendships gone deep like this, and it’s like drinking cool water from a deep clear mountain spring. I will take care of them. Frienships like this should be nurtured. As a Nigerian proverb says, “Hold a true friend with both your hands.”

IMG 5423 150x150 Climbing QuandaryBut my friends weren’t the only ones that amazed me. And I’m not talking about the guy who passed us early on wearing a kilt. (We asked if it was a skirt or a kilt and he said, “It’s only a skirt if you have something under it.” Eeek.) I was truly inspired by a Chinese grandfather and his seven year old grandson who held hands most of the way up the mountain. Their pace was slow like ours, so they passed us, we passed them, repeat, and it wasn’t until the final and steepest stretch that they went up without us. This photo shows the two of them resting a moment (with mom) and you can see how steep the trail gets. I just accidentally typed “trial” but maybe that really isn’t a typo after all.

IMG 5424 300x225 Climbing QuandaryThe high elevation made me far more emotional than I generally am. I nearly cried when I heard other hikers talking about an accident on the top involving a two year old girl in a child backpack that we had seen leave the trailhead on her father’s back just before we did. Apparently he had set down the pack with her inside and she kicked her legs enough to topple over forward, hitting her face on the rocks. I didn’t see them coming down (I believe I was squatting behind a big rock, he he) but my friends said she had bandaids and blood across her forehead. That was it, tears in my eyes. I have kids. I hate it when kids get hurt. I honestly felt like scurrying back down the trail to see if she was alright. I also got teary watching a big black dog of all things. The poor animal looked disoriented and thirsty and had run ahead of its owner down the mountain. It kept running ahead of us and behind us looking for a familiar face.

pika c 150x138 Climbing QuandaryBy the time we got back to the car it had been an 8-1/2 hour trek. I took some time to reflect on observations about myself. Right there in the back seat I wrote a list, so might as well share it that way.

  • I’m easily obsessive. I spent more time on 14ers.com than facebook the week prior, reading trip reports from Quandary and other peaks and searching for advice. I memorized the driving directions even though I wasn’t driving. I printed a trail map even though it would be impossible to get lost with weekend crowds. I packed extra clothes, first aid, rain gear, and twice the food I needed. I spent two hours loading my backpack just right.
  • My exercise classes all summer have paid off! I felt much better than I expected. On the other hand, I still have far to go to be as fit as I want to. This was good motivation to stick with it.
  • mtngoat c 150x150 Climbing QuandaryI still have a sense of wild adventure and spontaneity even though I haven’t been able to live it out for many years. I hope this is just the beginning of rebirthing that aspect of my heart.
  • I’ve lost my fear of indecent exposure when nature calls. There was a time when I probably would have chosen extreme bladder discomfort rather than crouching behind rocks and trees without worrying about what people think. It’s liberating.
  • Lastly, I observed that I tend to be a bit self-promoting and I need to learn to listen and engage others without talking up myself. It seemed that so often when one of my friends was telling a story, I would push my own similar stories into the conversation. I’m not as good a listener as I want to be. As I think about it, I realize I frequently do the same thing when commenting on blogs or facebook. That’s kind of hard to admit, but it’s something to work on.

IMG 5416 300x225 Climbing QuandarySaturday was a special day – my first 14er and the first time I ever spent a whole day with girlfriends. We climbed a mountain together, and I climbed a personal mountain, that of bonding with a spectacular group of women. We scaled so many rocks that we all called each other rock stars! Our next adventure will be awesome, I am sure.

Beaver Creek Trail / Comanche

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Melody, Jaron, Trevor ready to hike

My husband was sure the trail wasn’t too long, and was relatively close to Fort Collins. So we planned a hike to Comanche Lake for a picnic lunch after church in mid July. In the car I took a look at his handwritten directions. The first thing I noticed was that the cumulative mileage was over twice what he had mentioned at home. The drive time ended up tripled, but more on that later. The second thing was that yes, the Comanche Lake trail may be short and easy, but it starts 3.7 miles in from a separate trailhead! That would make it nearly 10 miles round trip if we got to the lake. It was written in his own writing, but he was ever so surprised when I pointed this out somewhere along Hwy 14 heading into the Poudre Canyon. However we were already committed to a trip by that point, right?

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Comanche Reservoir

Since the drive was longer than expected, we pulled off to a picnic area beside the Poudre River for lunch. While there, a rafting tour bus offloaded and we watched about half a dozen rafts set off down the river. Further along, we turned up Pingree Park Road and that’s where the driving got fun. Now Pingree Park Road, though gravel, is well maintained. But it’s long, and definitely slower than the highway.

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Starting up the trail

When at last we reached our forest service road turnoff, we were greeted by a sign warning about a “class 4″ road. We had no idea what that was… we found out that it means lots of rocks and bumps, actually really big rocks and holes in the road. It also means a few miles add another half hour. The last thing it means is that we should really consider 4wd if we’re going to make this a habit. Whew!

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Jaron with the reservoir behind

As you can see by the pictures, we did eventually find the trailhead. Knowing we wouldn’t make it to the lake, we decided to hike as far as Comanche Reservoir, which the trailhead sign said was just two miles up the trail. We saw it through the trees as we hiked along. Trevor rode in the backpack and Jaron had some difficulty with the rocky terrain. There were a lot of dead trees (pine beetle damage) and it was definitely not one of the prettiest hikes. There were a few nice views though.

One cool thing we found was a gentle waterfall that simply disappeared into a hole, apparently crossing the trail as an underground stream.

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Waterfall disappearing underground

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Into the hole

I could not see an outlet on the other side, though there was evidence of a dried up seasonal stream bed. Here’s a pic of the hole where the stream went subterraneous.

The kids were getting worn out and we still hadn’t reached the reservoir. Bear Creek curved near the trail at one point and Melody wanted to go touch the water. Then of course the boys wanted to touch the water too. Realizing that everyone was tired and not really knowing how much further it was to the reservoir, even though we guessed it to be maybe only a quarter mile away, we decided to celebrate the stream as our accomplishment and turn around.

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Where we turned back

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Melody carried all the kids' water in her pack

Jaron was especially tired and Trevor was restless in the child carrier backpack, so the boys swapped positions. Trevor was a happy little hiker even though he kept tripping on the rocks.

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The return trip

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Trevor in his own little hiking world

Although our original goal was too ambitious for the kids, this was another great day spent as a family enjoying nature. We’ve talked about returning for an earlier start when we’re better prepared and the boys have more endurance. And although Jaron complained on the trail and said he wanted to go home, in the weeks to follow he frequently told us he wanted to go hiking again!

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Looking forward to more family hikes!

Cactus Lesson at Devil’s Backbone

As long as there are bugs, plants, and critter noises scattered about, young children will be entertained by the wild. On Saturday July 24, 2010, we just looked out the window at breakfast and decided it was such a beautiful day that we had to do something! We hit the trail for Devil’s Backbone near Loveland at about 9:45.

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Being a short hike, we thought the baby could handle it without a kid carrier backpack. I’m certain that he’s plenty strong. That 17mo body already wears size 2T. But we quickly ran into problems with his mood; he just didn’t want to hike that day. As a result, our arms got a bit more workout than expected! Here we are starting roughly northward.

My other two kids, however, were fascinated by ants, dragonflies, beetles, and the like. I spotted many scrunchy little cacti clumps in the grass and asked Melody if she knew what a cactus looks like. She thought she did, you know, tall with a couple of fat monkey-arms out the sides. I said not all cacti look like that and challenged her to find some along the trail. I gave her clues about size, shape, and color and we passed many clumps before she recognized it. After that, she pointed it out at every turn, so proud of her new knowledge of “cacti” which was a new word to be proud of too.

The trail is very easy in the lower half, being well worn and relatively free of tripping hazards. There is a bridge or two to cross and some actual steps to ascend. The kids did better climbing up along the side because they kept tripping on the steps. The trail is shared by mountain bikes and horses; some sections are designated for foot travel only. The foot travel portions get a bit more rocky and uneven.

IMG 5343 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneWe reached the Keyhole and were rewarded with a nice view of the valley to the west of the ridge. There is a little room to walk down through the keyhole and explore the rocks, being mindful of course of the posted dangers of rock instability. Behind the south edge of the keyhole is a well-worn rock face begging to be climbed by small children, and mine was no exception! There’s a sort of hollow “nest” at the top.

IMG 5348 225x300 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneMelody starts up the rocks

IMG 5349 225x300 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneGetting higher and eyeing the “nest”

IMG 5352 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackbonePersistence pays off

IMG 5345 c 252x300 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneWhen she got back down (with a little help) we took a few more pictures on the rocks and headed back.

IMG 5347 150x150 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneThe views were pretty, though not spectacular as the farmland in the valley is inhabited. The best part of the view is that it’s a break from looking at the side of the rocky ridge through most of the hike, and you can see the skyline of the Rocky Mountain range. Many major peaks are named on an info sign at an earlier viewpoint. (Okay, yes there are also views to the east of the trail but those are mostly hills, and also inhabited. There is a clear view of Mariana Butte to the south as well.)

IMG 5331 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneI was pleased to see this sign at an observation point as I had searched unsuccessfully for just such a map on the internet a few days prior. I took several close-up photos so I can try to learn the peaks at home.

IMG 5353 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneHere you can see more of the ridge on our way back to the trailhead. Daddy’s taking a turn hauling the little muffin. He really did hike some, but was just having an off day. We sure wished we’d brought the baby backpack!

It was lunch time and since the whole trip was spontaneous, we hadn’t packed a meal. We decided on the way down to stop at a Chinese buffet in Loveland.

IMG 5354 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneBy now the kids were hungry, which slowed them down. We kept promising that the faster they could get to the car, the faster we could go out to eat. They love restaurants, so that proved to be good motivation. Here’s a final shot looking down the south end of the Devil’s Backbone. They did great and love talking about our summer hikes this year.

As for me, I got a little emotional on the way down thinking how blessed I am to finally be enjoying frequent nature outings with my family, a dream I’ve held for several years. This summer has been a turning point, now that we are done having children and nobody is pregnant or age two. One more summer of “age two” next year and we’re out of the woods! Or more likely, headed into the woods more often.

RMNP With Friends (photos)

What fun to host old friends visiting from Oregon a few weeks ago. We spent a day touring the Rocky Mountain National Park, following Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor Center where Richard and I got engaged ten years ago. Of course we stopped at several lookouts on the way up and back. It was by far the best weather I’ve seen up there with no ominous clouds  rolling in at lunch time. Our intention was to hike around Sprague Lake in the afternoon but spending over two hours at the Visitor Center and slowly enjoying the observation points left us no time to spare getting home to host our church cell group that evening. (We arrived with fifteen minutes to spare!) We gave our guests directions to Sprague Lake and left them to finish up the afternoon by themselves before continuing their journey toward Colorado Springs.

IMG 5224 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)We climbed The Dam Store tower heading into the canyon

IMG 5225 225x300 RMNP With Friends (photos)Gabriel enjoyed climbing rocks wherever we stopped

IMG 5228 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)Melody in the mountains

IMG 5233 225x300 RMNP With Friends (photos)Gabriel and his dad, possibly at Many Parks Curve?

IMG 5234 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)Mama and Trevor, at Many Parks Curve?

IMG 5235 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)Jaron climbing around too

IMG 5236 225x300 RMNP With Friends (photos)Gabriel and Melody make it to the top

IMG 5238 225x300 RMNP With Friends (photos)The vastness of RMNP

IMG 5243 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)Lightning safety talk at the Visitor Center
Gabriel is wearing raingear and sitting cross-legged on top of a backpack

IMG 5244 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)View probably from the Gore Range viewpoint

IMG 5247 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)Field of elk

IMG 5248 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)Melody and Trevor at Rock Cut, one of my favorite viewpoints

IMG 5249 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)All of us at Rock Cut

IMG 5251 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)Marmot peeking out from the rocks

IMG 5252 300x225 RMNP With Friends (photos)Trevor and the Continental Divide (the section straight above his head)
This is my favorite picture of the day!