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Avalanche Ranch: A Cut of Crystal River Valley Heaven – Part II

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Editor’s note: This family travel feature will not make any sense unless you first read Part I. Plus, who would want to miss the memorable details of our sleepless night and a sordid discourse on kissing cousins.

As an adventure-travel writer, I was always traveling…and adventuring. If I wasn’t backpacking, I was skiing, hiking, canyoneering or biking. Respite and recovery were never on my agenda.

Until I had children. And then R&R became my life’s mantra.

I had plans for our trip to Avalanche Ranch. Big plans. Our little family would go sledding, skate on their pond and snowshoe along Avalanche Creek. We would then sip hot chocolate by the fire and venture into Aspen for some gastronomic delights.

But then we got three hours of sleep and I realized what family travel is really all about: survival.

We drastically amended our itinerary. We visited the animals at the ranch’s stable and drove up the Crystal River Valley past the crimson cliffs cloaked in snow, the commanding Redstone Castle and the frigid Hays Creek Falls. We gazed down upon it all from our perch atop 8,755-foot McClure Pass…as the kids whined about being sequestered for more than 5 minutes.

[photopress:IMG_8476.jpg,full,pp_image]When we arrived back at our cabin, I was resolute that Haddie and I needed an adventure so I introduced her to snowshoeing. She looked to me as her Snowshoe Sensei as I judiciously instructed her how to not fall on her face. She did a great job trudging around the grounds and we designated the skating pond as our turnaround point.

We arrived at our destination, scooted around on the ice for a while and turned back. We had gone about 100 feet when I looked down and noticed I was missing one of my snowshoes. Figuring it must have slipped off somewhere around the pond, I looped back but found nothing. I started to worry it was buried somewhere beneath two feet of snow and would not be found until spring.

Hadley started doubting me. “How do you lose a snowshoe, Mommy?”

I was losing face with a 3 year old.

“Sometimes snowshoes just like to play hide-and-seek in the snow.”

She didn’t buy it.

After a 20-minute search and rescue operation, we found the subversive snowshoe perched on a snow bank. A snow bank we had scaled shortly after setting out, which meant I had done the majority of my tutorial sans snowshoe – definitely a credibility crusher.

Perhaps Avalanche Ranch should substitute “Slow Parents” for “Children” on their sign….


Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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  • comment avatar Kari January 22, 2008

    Ahhhh, survival. I should have KNOWN the secret was survival!

  • comment avatar Kari January 22, 2008

    P.S. Fun wrap-up. That picture of Hadley in her snowshoes is cute!

  • comment avatar Caroline January 22, 2008

    Losing face is something I do on a daily basis. But I’d rather do it at a gorgeous place like that!

  • comment avatar Cherhell January 22, 2008

    There is a distinct difference between a “vacation” and a “trip”. I believe you’ve figured it out.

  • comment avatar Shannon January 22, 2008

    How does one get to be an adventure travel writer? Sounds like a dream job to me!

    Thanks for sharing the secret…and cheers to you for introducing something new and fun to your daughter! I hope to do outdoorsy, wintry activities with my little ones too.


  • comment avatar Amber January 22, 2008

    Trips are for children. Vacations are without.

    Thanks for the distinction, CherHell

  • comment avatar Amber January 22, 2008

    Oh, and how to become a travel writer? Have no clue what you want to major in until the university forces you to do it. Study something you do not use after graduation. Land a job as a publicist at a ski resort, host all kind of journists. Think “Hey, I can do that” and voila, a career is born. 🙂

  • comment avatar Dedee January 22, 2008

    Hilarious story. I’ve never been snowshoeing, but it sounds like you had a blast!

  • comment avatar Ana January 22, 2008

    You are ambitious to take a 3 year old snowshoeing but it sounds like at least one of you did great. 🙂

    Avalanche Ranch sounds WONDERFUL!

  • comment avatar Damselfly January 22, 2008

    Sigh. I used to adventure, too. Since Fly was born, I have canceled more adventures than been on adventures. People keep telling me, “OH, there will be lots of time for that when he’s older.” In the meantime, *I* am getting older….

    I hope Papa Canuck gets better.

  • comment avatar MommyTime January 22, 2008

    I LOVE to travel. Before children, Husband and I went to the Yucatan and New Zealand, lots of shorter trips to National parks, I taught in Europe for 3 weeks, etc., etc., etc. The best vacation I’ve ever had in my whole life, though, was in Hawaii with an 18 month old. Why was it the best? Well, first redefine best as “most relaxing while yet being interesting” as opposed to “did the most incredible stuff possible on the planet.” Give yourself up to the time-table of a toddler. Wake up early, explore with glee (beach, hiking, you name it), take a long time eating lunch, have a nap, explore with glee (a different beach, a reef you can wade out to), watch the sunset, eat more… We didn’t get to kayak. We didn’t make it all the way out to the volcanoes, fearing walking back over 2 miles of hardened lava with a sleepy toddler in our backpack. We didn’t swim with manta rays. Pre-children, this would have been a BAD trip if we hadn’t done these things. But we did do a lot of snorkling, spend a whole afternoon taking turns swimming with sea turtles, eat a lot of shave ice, hike up gorgeous passes, and enjoy quiet nights on beautiful balconies overlooking the sea. I think travel with kids requires two important things: a s-l-o-w-i-n-g down of pace and expectations, and accomodations that have a sitting room in which to enjoy grown-up time after the kids are asleep. Palm trees, orchids, and sea turtles don’t hurt either.

  • comment avatar nikko January 23, 2008

    I agree, there’s a difference between a vacation and a trip. Glad to see Hadley is so adventurous!

  • comment avatar Guinevere Meadow January 24, 2008

    I’ve never been snowshoeing, but I imagine you must have an EXCELLENT pair of boots to not feel the difference!

  • comment avatar imaginary sarah January 24, 2008

    Argh! I want to go snowshoeing again! For a 7-month-old, do I attach him to just one shoe?

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