Scaling Mount Evans or Why we needed hot chocolate in July

This was the first vacation to Colorado where children’s activities and nap schedules didn’t dictate all of our plans. (A CHEER for family progress!) Finally able to venture a little further from Grandma and Papa’s house, one of our jaunts was to meet my brother Tim for dinner in Idaho Springs, a small mountain town about 45 minutes from Denver.

Tim loves the mountains. As county commissioner of Clear Creek County and a resident of Idaho Springs, Tim has become somewhat of a history buff of the area. When we met at his house, he  suggested that we put off dinner for a little bit and drive to the top of Mount Evans.

And, all of the children in unison said, “NO! We don’t want to go to the top of the mountain! We want a hamburger!”

Tim tried to sway the naysayers with points like, “You know they are talking about shutting down this road because it is deterioating” and “This is the HIGHEST PAVED HIGHWAY in the United States”–all arguments that DON’T work with hungry children. He even threw into the pot, “We might see some mountain goats!”

I just lied, “Well, let’s just go a little ways and then we can turn around.” I HAD NO INTENTION OF TURNING AROUND–even when I did see the side of the road losing its battle with gravity. I thought about turning around. . .I really did.

Echo Lake

Tim narrated our drive to the top of Mount Evans. He would get so excited as he pointed out this or that place or feature, that he was able to keep everyone’s attention.

For instance, this is a Bristlecone Pine tree. They are the oldest trees in North America. The Bristlecone Pine Trees on Mount Evans are about two thousand years old!

Bristlecone Pine Tree

 And, a shedding ewe graced us with her roadside presence. Her kid was just a little ways over the hill.

Mountain Goat

When we saw her, and she was shedding, I noted the temperature in the car. Forty-eight degrees! People who are visiting Colorado from Texas aren’t shedding anything when it is this cold!

Car Temp

Reaching the top was both an accomplishment and an act of bravery. At this point the temperature was a brutal 41 degrees and the wind was blowing so hard that the wind chill was probably in the 20’s. It was also at this point that Scott said to me, “You brought my fleece vest, right?” Ah. . .no.

Of course, Tim was not wearing a coat and I think he called us “Texans” in a rather derogatory way.

Tim's not Cold

The views were stunning.

From the top of the world

Here is our one family picture at the top of the mountain. There was a restaurant up here that burned down in the 1970’s. We were standing in it’s ruins. . .note the blanket that Scott is gripping tightly.

A Cold Family

After this picture, Will decided that he was too cold and too hungry to endure this any longer and he returned to the car. So he missed the next family photo op in front of the Mount Evans sign. I think I have the same frozen face pose in both pictures, “See, isn’t this fun, children?!”

Mount Evans

Oh, we were on the top of that mountain for all of five minutes before we jumped back into the car for the ride back down the mountain to Echo Lake Lodge, near the bottom of Mount Evans.

Echo Lodge

The lodge was welcoming, a little kitschy, and perfect for some very cold people. They even kept the restaurant open for us.

Echo Lodge Restaurant and hungry patrons

Tim immediately ordered us “Tater Tot con Chili’ which was literally tater tots smothered in ground beef, kidney and pinto beans and chili sauce. It was excellent.

Tater tots con chili

The children, playing up how cold they still were, ordered hot chocolate. Yeah, I know, only Texans order hot chocolate in July.

Hot Cocoa

Will, finally warm and feeling the nourishment of Tater Tots con Chili, told Uncle Tim a joke about a man being chased by a tiger.

The Joke

I’m not sure if the children would agree, but this was one of my favorite memories from our trip. I’m sure in the re-telling of it there will be phrases like, “. . .and the wind nearly blew us off the top of that mountain.” Or, “. . .mom was so scared she closed her eyes for most of the trip.”

I just know that sometimes a little mommy-lie (“Sure, we’ll turn around just up a little further”) can lead to a memorable family adventure.

Ponds and Lakes on Mount Evans

 

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