Wednesday began like every other day - with Jeff preparing breakfast for anyone who would eat. Our friend Quintin jokes about how Jeff is a fighter pilot by day and Martha Stewart by night, but that's just not entirely true. When he's on vacation, he's all the good things about Martha Stewart by day as well. Hungry for eggs? Major Rock is on it. Hungry for toast with butter and honey? Major Rock is on it. Would you like some cream in your coffee. Never fear. Major Rock is in the house.
When we arrived in Breckenridge we learned that the Peak 8 summer activities like the chair lift and alpine slide were closed for renovation. After a trip to the Visitor Center and a little research on our own we decided that Copper Mountain would receive our business for those activities. On Wednesday, right after Jeff fed us all, we loaded up and headed west.
I was nervous about riding the chair lift with Thomas because I wasn't sure how he would react. As anyone who has ever ridden a lift knows, it's a fairly loose kind of system and a loose restraint at best. I was worried he would freak out and we would be left trying to wrangle a panicked toddler 50 feet off the ground all the way to the top. Steph and Jeff were concerned Wyatt would shuck his shoes so we all had our issues.
Andrew opted to ride with Grandma and PaRon and Thomas would have opted for the same but wasn't given a choice. We all boarded our respective chairs with PaRon and crew first; me, Mark and T second; Jeff, Steph and Wyatt last. Thomas did very well on the way up and just took it all in as we cruised along. He was content to sit and grasp the bar with his little fingers and even tolerated both me and Mark squeezing the daylights out of him to make sure we had a firm grip.
About half way up this VERY tall mountain, my parents turned and informed us that Andrew had just asked why everyone else had a bar in front of them. They had failed to lower theirs and were just riding along as if they were daredevil snowboarders who didn't need no stinking safety bar. At that point, I began freaking out about whether they were taking the responsibility of having my firstborn in their care very seriously. When we reached the top and we all safely exited the chairs, I turned to Steph and asked if she could even believe that mom and dad had ridden half way up without the safety bar lowered. She and Jeff both burst out laughing. Apparently we were the only ones who HAD lowered the bar. Mark and I proved once again that being the firstborn is a lot of responsibility as we apparently have to think for everyone.
Once we arrived at the top and skimmed the notices about not feeding the bears, a woman approached us asking if we had any questions about Copper Mountain. We assured her we weren't as lost as we looked (ha! ha!). She pressed on like any good volunteer and casually mentioned that there was a good hike for kids that started about 100 feet from where we were standing. She offered to get us started and gently suggested that we should really give it a shot. Having no better plan, we headed off to hike the Hallelujah Trail with our new friend, Kitty. It turns out that finding Kitty was a stroke of amazing luck. We were definitely in the right place at the right time and sometimes it pays to look confused.
This trail had interpretive signage all along it, which would have been great by itself, but Kitty was a wealth of knowledge about the wildlife and history of the area. We climbed for a bit before reaching a big clearing with a field of thousands of boulders in the bowl of this mountain. We stopped and Kitty pointed out animals like pika, marmots and a type of bird she called a Camp Robber Jay or a Mountain Jay. (Someone correct me if I've got the names wrong. You know me. I'm little Miss Outdoors!) The Rocks had 'Nilla Wafers with them and Kitty showed us how to feed the birds. If you stood very still they would swoop out of nowhere and take the cookie out of your hand so quickly and smoothly you almost couldn't tell what had happened. Again, Aunt Steph and Andrew were first to be all over that. There are some pics in the Flickr badge for proof. PaRon, who does NOT like birds, took one for the team and even helped Thomas hold the cookie so he could be in on the action.
We eventually continued on our hike and had great views of the whole Vail Valley and the Gore Range. We were either a good audience or she was concerned we would get lost, but either way, Kitty decided to accompany us for the whole hike. She was a delight and we learned a lot we wouldn't have otherwise. She even posed for pics with the kids at the end.
After we completed the hike we ate lunch at the Solitude Grill, near the chair lift. They had an outdoor grill and we had the yummiest sandwiches while we enjoyed amazing views. We invited Kitty to eat with us, which she did, and she had Copper Mountain gliders and bubbles for the kids after lunch. It was a treat from start to finish.
We rode the lift back down, with everyone aware of how to operate the safety bar this time. In typical Thomas fashion, he presumably got overwhelmed by the vastness in front of us on the descent and just laid his little head down and fell asleep.
During naps that afternoon, Steph, Mom and I walked along Main Street and were reminded the hard way about how quickly a mountain thunderstorm can boom through town when we were caught blocks from home, on foot, in a torrential rain. Dad came and saved the day with umbrellas and raincoats. Later that afternoon PaRon and Grandma took the kids to the river for rock throwing while Mark, Jeff, Steph and I enjoyed happy hour at the Breckenridge Brewery. From that experience we learned that Mark and I should not eat edamame at altitude.
More Olympics and ice cream eating rounded out the evening.
Mark and Jeff rented bikes again and headed out to conquer something tall. The rest of us took the boys to the park with the plan that I would slip out with Andrew to rent him a bike and when Mark and Jeff were finished killing themselves they would swing through and pick him up for a spin. He was totally excited about riding with them and loved that he was going to have this fun experience that the little boys weren't.
Andrew and I made our escape and headed to the largest bike shop in town. I figured we'd pick up some wheels and be back before the littles noticed we were gone. I should have known that when the bike dude was gone for more than five minutes just to "grab a ride" from the backroom, that we had a problem. Said dude eventually emerges and plops a bike in front of us as he announces that he doesn't think it's going to work. Sure enough, it's way too big. I politely inquire about a smaller bike and am informed that they don't have one and that it's kind of weird for such a little guy to need a bike of his own without training wheels. Dude eventually refers us to a place four blocks away where he thinks they can help.
We arrive at bike store #2 and find that they also don't have the right size bike for a little guy who doesn't need training wheels but this bike dude was helpful and called around and eventually sends us to bike store #3. At this point we've been gone from the park a while, Andrew is sad and I'm frustrated. I've left my parents with Thomas without any snacks, drink or diaper and Steph has her hands full with Wyatt because he was working on a cold and didn't feel well.
We head to bike store #3 and they haul a bike out of the basement for Andrew to try. He climbs up on this thing that's big enough for me and rides about 10 feet before he realizes he can't reach the ground and he wipes out BIG TIME in their parking lot. His palms were roughed up and we were both feeling a bit like we'd been rubbed on the pavement. Mark and Jeff called about then to say they were ready to pick him up and I had to confess we had struck out on finding a bike. They went back to the place they had rented from and had success, which meant that we needed to haul the whole group back to the condo for Andrew to meet them. The final bike was still too big but we saw the old, "when there's a will, there's a way" in action. He was determined and they made it work.
When they returned he reported that he had done alright but was a little down because he "couldn't keep up his speed" with Uncle Jeff and Daddy. You have to love a five-year-old who truly believes he should be able to ride competitively with two grown men.
We lunched on the deck at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company that afternoon and collectively ate enough shellfish to raise the cholesterol of a small village. It sure was good, though.
Our afternoon was rounded out with more goose feeding and more rock throwing as well as another gold for an American gymnast and one more trip to Coldstone Creamery. When it's so close you can walk it just feels like the right thing to do.