Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Visiting Family and Friends in Colorado, Part 2

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Visiting Family and Friends in Colorado, Part 2

Coming from Crested Butte, we passed through Colorado Springs.  The vast facility of the Air Force Academy, where future officers of the US Air Force are trained (equivalent of West Point for the Army and Annapolis for the Navy) dominated the landscape. The Chapel, a 2-level structure that is reminiscent of hands clasped in prayer, has worship sections for the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist faiths.  A computerized reconstruction of the Shroud of Turin is displayed at the Catholic section.

So after visiting with high school friends in Crested Butte, we must now tell you about our wonderful visit with family! 75 miles north of Colorado Springs is Westminster where Bill’s second child Suzanne lives with her two kids, Devin, 11, (my constant chess and games partner) and Cassie, 9, (my constant playmate), husband Dean, an executive at an information and communications technology firm, and Bella, their Australian kewpi. It is both fun and relaxing to be with family, especially the Happy Harpers! 
Central to their fun is tennis (or skiing during winter). We watched Dean go to the semi-finals of a local tourney, Suzanne in a winning run of matches and Devin and Cassie go through their summer lessons at the Ranch, the country club to which they belong. Another family activity is making meals.  I made chicken pancit bijon, Hainanese chicken, and shrimp fried rice and Bill grilled burgers and dogs.  Suzanne made spaghetti with meatballs, a special chili dish with Devin’s help, and potato leek soup with Cassie’s.

We also had fun eating and taking out meals …first to a Czechoslovakian restaurant, a belated birthday gift for Suzanne, then a Syrian restaurant, and finally Qdoba, a Mexican grill chain.  Ooooops, I almost forgot the hot dog/hamburger lunches at the Ranch and BlackJack pizzas at the Apex Water Park. That is where I had my first experience at dropping down a water slide through a dark, ominous tube.  My screams must have been heard all the way to my home country, the Philippines.  It was an experience!

The highlight of our visit was our overnight camping at Standley Lake, only a few miles from their lovely home. Bill, Devin, and Cassie fished to their hearts’ content from shore.  Unfortunately, it was so warm that the fish were probably hiding in the deeper cooler waters. Next year, Bill promised the kids that we will have an inflatable boat that we can all use to go out to the lake for better chances. Then by nightfall, over a glowing campfire, we happily roasted marshmallows and made sinful s’mores.

Last year, Suzanne took us to Mt. Evans, a Colorado fourteener, where North America’s highest highway almost reaches the summit.  There we found a great view and a herd of mountain goats. We also visited the Garden of the Gods, which, though smaller than Arches National Park, is as spectacular with its red rock formations. This year, we went to the Cabrini Shrine where America’s first saint found an eternal spring of water for her Sacred Heart Ministry. 300 steps lead to a large statue of Jesus at the top of the hill where Mother Cabrini’s heart of stones lies.

The last day of our Colorado sojourn was spent camping at the Rocky Mountain National Park. As our photos show, the mountain range is indeed made up mostly of igneous rocks. It also gives Colorado a median elevation of 10,000 feet (with the highest being Long’s Peak at 14,400 feet), making it the highest state of the nation.   We travelled the whole park (also through the Roosevelt National Forest) from the South Entrance to the North as we made one mistake after another, trying to find our campground.  But it was well worth it.  Even the Visitors Center is special, a legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright.
We vowed to come back before or after another visit to Suzanne and family next year or so.  We have yet to cover more of Colorado Springs, visit other cities like Boulder and Estes Park, and hike at the Park trails to see falls, lakes, and more wildlife (we saw a coyote eat his breakfast, a ground squirrel!).  We may also get another chance to revisit their cabin at Breckenridge, another ski resort near Aspen and Vail. Colorado just has too much to offer, including the ubiquitous prairie dogs!  We are so lucky we can keep on coming back to visit family and friends!
Next Stops: Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks