Texans love Texas. Just not so much in June, July and August. The hot summer months are when our Lone Star love wanes a little bit, and we head to either the beach or the mountains for a much needed escape. Trust me, you can only spend so many weeks watching your landscaping turn brown and die before you’re weeping into your beer, wondering what it’s like to not have to douse your body in Clinical Strength deodorant every morning.
At least that was the dream I had in mind when my husband Chris, boys Sam (13) and Jack (11), and I packed up the Volvo, and headed to Estes Park, Colorado last month. “Drive until Mama sees a goose bump!” I commanded of Chris while we flew through Texas. “Drive until Mama can wear a mohair sweater!”
“Mama needs to calm the hell down,” he muttered, “or Mama’s gonna be left behind at an El Paso Chevron station.”
Roadtrips with me are like, super fun.
But just fourteen short hours of bickering later, we pulled into our destination for the week, the amazing YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. It’s like a resort/Y.M.C.A/family camp/retreat/hide-out all wrapped up in one pine-scented package.
We were delighted to be met by an Elk just as soon as we passed through the main entrance. (The furry kind. Not the kind like my Dad and his drunk buddies from the Elk’s Club.) I tried to get as close as I could to snap a picture of Mr. Elk, hoping I’d then shoot to stardom on the Today Show as “blonde moron attacked during Elk Selfie,” but this guy was pretty sweet and chill. Just like this bunny and fawn playing together at the Y in a video that went viral.
The YMCA of the Rockies has four guest lodges that are like simple hotels, or you can choose to stay in a cabin. The cabins range in size from “ginormous family that’s wearing matching t-shirts” to “teeny family that’s sharing one hamburger.” We stayed in a two-bedroom cabin with a fireplace and kitchen, and it actually would have fit seven people if we’d used the bunk beds and pull-out couch. It was quite nice. Here’s Jack acting like he’s giving away our cabin on a game show:
The cabins don’t have TVs, which is fine. We didn’t drive up to the mountains to watch people exercise on “The Biggest Loser.” (The entire resort does have blazingly fast WiFi almost everywhere, though.) Besides, no TV gave the boys a chance to figure out a more advanced version of UNO that involves wagering and pinning each other down on the ground for hours: PAINO
Most of the cabins are located fairly close to the Y’s main buildings, so we were able to easily walk to the cafeteria-style dining room, or to the smaller restaurants. And, being a YMCA, there are activities all day long, most of them free. Tennis courts, a mini golf course, indoor swimming (with a big slide), horseshoes, wiffle ball, basketball, Bingo, yoga, kickball, hikes, etc. We actually had to highlight what we wanted to do on the schedule because there were so many choices. It was wonderful that we could all do individual things, but meet up right after. The boys would go play basketball, Chris would ride his bike, and I would sit on the porch and contemplate the meaning of life/Ryan Gosling’s abs while gazing at this view:
This is the yucky view I had later that day:
Some of the “for a small fee” activities we did (which, full disclosure, I was given as a comp by the Y) included a high ropes course, a climbing wall, a zipline, massage therapy (soooo good), and archery. We were happily exhausted at the end of every day. However, please note that even if you’re by far the best member of your family with a bow and arrow, it’s never a good idea to yell, “WHEN THE HUNGER GAMES BEGIN, I WILL BE YOUR QUEEN, LOSERS” because nobody will want to sit by you at dinner later. Lesson learned.
One day we took a two-hour guided horseback ride through the Rocky Mountain National Park (which abuts the Y), and my boys were in heaven. Me, not so much after the “trotting” started. I’m much better off riding one of those depressed ponies that slump around in a circle at the school carnival. Less impact on a cowgirl’s nether regions, am I right? But the stable at the Y is really fabulous, as are the trail ride guides. We would definitely do it again.
The weather in Estes Park was in the mid-70’s when we were there, but there was an afternoon rainstorm almost every day. Everyone would then immediately run into the Craft Cabin where (for a fee) you can do everything from mosaics to tie-dye to pottery painting and jewelry design, which Chris loved. I hope this new hobby of his quickly segues into diamond tiaras.
All of the employees at the Y are really, really nice. A lot of them are locals, but a lot are college kids working there for the summer. That helps give it a real “camp” feel, as do other activities like hayrides, drum circles, hikes, and “bird banding” where Jack and I watched a ornithologist put tiny ankle bracelets on birds. Here’s Jack holding a bird before he let it fly off:
Finally, the YMCA of the Rockies is literally right next to the Rocky Mountain National Park, so one day we drove up there to take in the scenery. Remember how I was dreaming about goosebumps? It was 32 degrees up there. I had goosemounds. Do you want to build a snowman? I JUST DID. IN AUGUST, BABY. SO WHAT IF HE’S MISSING AN EYE.
We all had an awesome trip in Colorado, and I highly recommend the YMCA of the Rockies if you’re looking for a place to vacation with your family—big or small. There really is something for everyone, even people who just like sitting inside with a puzzle and a nice drink (my retirement plan). Please take a look at ymcarockies.org for more info because there’s even more to the place that I didn’t mention, plus plenty of lodging specials throughout the year. It’s probably awesome in the winter months, too.
See? I told you it’s fun to stay at the YMCA. And not just because this is the best signage I’ve ever seen, either.
This post was written by Wendi Aarons, your next Hunger Games Tribute and all-around swell human. Read more about Wendi right here.