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A three day weekend is a terrible thing to waste. With the grand State of Colorado at our doorstep, we don’t have any excuse not to get out there and experience it every chance we get.

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Is going to the mountains ever going to get old?

Friday morning brought us to Buena Vista, Colorado. It is an adorable small town on the edge of San Isabel National Forest, and it lives up to its namesake.

Unbenounced to me, it is perfectly legal – even acceptable, to pull off the road in one of Colorado’s National Forests and just live there for two weeks. While there are more than any state’s fair share of regular campgrounds scattered throughout the Colorado wilderness, they fill up fast in the warmer months. Even if we wanted to pay $16 to park the trailer overnight, there wasn’t a single spot available to rent around Buena Vista. I felt a little bit like a hillbilly when we pulled off the state road and built a fire in the middle of nowhere, but by the end of the night, we were surrounded by four other groups of hillbillies.

Not that I was keeping score, but only one of the cars wasn’t equally nice as ours… I’m an asshole for giving two shakes what other people were driving, but it felt nice that I wasn’t hemmed in by homeless squatters in beat-up Chevy Novas. A Nova’s rust-blistered, pea-green paint and I go way back; we had a Nova back in the 80s. It was affectionately known as The Beater. The Beater had separate shoulder belts – which made it exceptionally exciting for a seven-year-old to plant their bottom smack dab in the middle of the backseat and crisscross the two belts from one side of the car to the other. I have zero memories of my mother lowering her standards far enough to ride in it, let alone drive it. If I came across my dad driving the same car (and wearing the same shorty-short brown athletic shorts, striped alligator polo and plastic aviator shades) in the wilderness last weekend, I may have felt the same way as my mom did about that car.

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We hung out most of the day while the kids did little more than roll around in the dirt. We tucked Finny in on the sofa in the trailer when he petered out, and upon investigating a loud thump, we discovered he had rolled off the cushion and into the dog bed. He was still asleep. We relocated a very anxious Waltie and set about making dinner.

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I’ve learned over the last fifteen years to stay out of Nathan’s way when he’s bent over a fire. He was the chef this whole weekend, which was fabulous, but it also meant that the kids and I be located elsewhere while he cooked. I was happy to oblige.

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After dinner, we roasted marshmallows, tucked in the kids and plowed through the remainder of the marshmallows ourselves. Nathan laughed at me while I wondered aloud what sort of animal sounded like it was playing the bongos in the woods (it was the stream behind us). We collapsed into bed and slept until eight the next morning.

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Nae made us pancakes for breakfast and we meandered into the woods in search of raspberries. We found tons of them; and after snacking on a few, we explored the creek bed. A toad startled the daylights out of Finn – Alice wanted nothing more than to pet it and love it and name it Natalie.

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OH GOD. The Dad Shirt is never going to die. I was wrong.

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After trying (in vain) to teach Alice how to use a pair of trekking poles, we packed up the camp and headed into town for lunch. We drove by K’s Old Fashioned Burgers and immediately knew it was one of those places; it was packed. The line wound around the building and as we walked up, the announcement over the loud-speaker made my heart skip a beat.

“Matthew McConahey, your order is ready.”

Wha, whaaa? My common sense kicked in as I realized they used celebrities’ names instead of numbers for the orders. Audrey Hepburn, Vanilla Ice and Sophia Loren picked up their orders just in time for the teeny bopper behind the counter to call for Bruce WILLIAMS. I can’t possibly be getting that old, can I? I live in a world where teenagers don’t recognize the real name of John McClaine?

Oh, Mr. Willis, I apologize to you on behalf of America’s youth.

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They announced Martha Stewart’s order and I grabbed my food and booked to a free picnic table beside the adjacent playground. Finn and Alice ate and ran, then noshed and climbed all the way through Denzel Washington’s dessert. We took the dogs for a walk and rolled out of town. Next stop: Pike National Forest.

We managed to score a site at the Blue Mountain campground. After taking a relaxing break lounging in the trailer and watching half of Rise of the Guardians, we started a fire and roasted some weenies for dinner.



Once our food had settled, we laced up our boots and took a sunset hike up the Hardrock Trail. Finn navigated using his “treasure map” and we arrived at the summit just in time to miss that sunset… But it was beautiful anyway. Upon returning to camp, the kids were exhausted and zonked out.



Nae ran into town while I was getting the kids down and picked up ice cream and wine. Nothing speaks of our high breeding like a King Cone and plastic, single serving bottles of White Zinfandel. We relaxed in the hammock and stared at the stars. It should have been ridiculously romantic, but was mostly filled with musings concerning mistaking rumbling bowels for a vibrating phone in your back pocket and our shortfalls as parents. What can I say? This is my life.

After another round of pancakes, we sucked up the hour drive back to showers and clean sheets… Alice took an epic nap spanning the entire afternoon and Finny vegged in front of the boob tube.

Since no weekend is complete without at lest one trip to Home Depot, we bought a replacement faucet for the leaky one in the trailer (which didn’t fit) and another drop cloth to reupholster the cushions in. Even after all the excitement, Nathan and I were awake until the wee hours of the morning working on our projects that spent the weekend being neglected.

But now we’re back home; where it doesn’t matter that we can see the mountains from the deck or we live two hours from Buena Vista… Whether it is here or Ohio, laundry still needs to be done, meals still need to be cooked and little noses still run. My phone still rings with tidings from Chicago… Or… That could have been the hotdogs from this weekend.

Ah, home is where reality sets back in.