Fall is my absolute favorite season. I love the smells. I love the colors. I LOVE living in Colorado and watching the leaves change and feeling the chill in the air. It’s that perfect season that isn’t too hot or too unbearably cold and it’s so unbelievably lovely.
But as my children go back to school and into all the activities that are so good and fulfilling and enriching for them — we get harried. I miss the lazy summer days where we can loll around — now we’re rushing from place to place and I’m trying to carve out 20 minutes for everyone to eat dinner between dance lessons and scout meetings. It’s all good but it’s also crazy and I long for the time to just breathe and be still for a few minutes.
So, when we were invited by YMCA of the Rockies to escape to the mountains for a weekend, I jumped at the chance. And it was just what we needed.
The YMCA of the Rockies is in Estes Park, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s the perfect weekend getaway during a frenzied season because all I had to do was pack our bags and show up. No meal planning. No worrying about packing skates or crafts or anything to do — it’s all there already! Wonderful for a busy mom longing for a little rest.
The other thing I didn’t have to do was find a dog sitter! We brought our furry family member along with us and he, along with the kids, had a blast. All the trails at the YMCA are dog-friendly (though it’s important to know some of them can lead into Rocky Mountain National Park, where your furry pal can’t hike). There is also a brand new dog park where he ran through tunnels and over obstacles and we played fetch. By the end of each day, the kids and dog (okay, and I!) were all worn out. It was wonderful.
We arrived Friday night just in time to get settled in our cabin and head out to dinner. After a meal in the dining hall, we considered heading to the Sweet Memorial Building for family games but ended up going back and collapsing in our cabin for the night (I told you we needed a rest!).
Saturday, we got up and after a delicious cafeteria breakfast, we fetched our dog and wandered down to the trail that follows the perimeter of the camp. We found ourselves walking by the Boone Family Mountain Center, which is a fairly new center that’s part museum, part nature center, part gift shop, and part meeting area. The kids had fun looking at all the exhibits and learning more about the animals who live in the area. Like moose.
This was actually a really cool exhibit because besides just looking like moose ears, the kids were actually able to hear more like a moose.
After our pit stop at the mountain center, we headed on our hike and spent the morning just appreciating the trees and the creek and the beauty of early fall in the mountains.
We saw several families on our hike, which was fun and easy for all levels of walkers. The trail follows a creek for a while, linking up with another trail that leads into Rocky Mountain National Park. As we were walking, my son said, “Did you hear that? It sounded like the elk bugle we just heard in the mountain center?” to which I wisely replied, “I’m sure it wasn’t. That was probably a kid goofing off and yelling.”
We rounded a corner on our walk back and in a clearing were about five to six elk, having some lunch. We admired them (from a distance!) and watched them do their elk-like things for a while before heading back for lunch of our own.
Afterward, we took the dog to the new dog park, just a short walk from our cabin.
He loved it. He ran through the tunnel, climbed over the obstacles, and when he was finished, got a nice long drink from the special drinking fountain that had a spigot for humans, and a lower one, with a bowl, for dogs.
Now that Ody had time to run and frolic, it was the kids’ turn. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool, where they splashed down the waterslide, played keep-away with the balls, and floated on the noodles and kickboards available for just that purpose.
After dinner, we sat in front of the administration building, people-watching as the sun got lower (there was a wedding so of course we snuck a peek at the bride!). When the air started to chill, we retreated inside the building, next to the huge fire, where we played checkers and colored until bedtime.
Sunday, after breakfast, we took another trip to the dog park, another walk by the creek (it was just so peaceful and beautiful), and finished off our weekend with a round of mini-golf near the big field. It was the perfect ending to a refreshing fall getaway.
There is one more thing I want to tell you about — just after we left, the new Hostel at Ranch House opened. It’s the closest hostel to Rocky Mountain National Park, and one of the only ones in the whole state. The hostel is in a 1920s-era lodge, with a capacity for 17 people in five bedrooms. There are two bathrooms, a large common area, a kitchen, dining area, and a porch with chairs looking out onto beautiful views. Reservations for one bed cost $29/night and include linens, towels, access to camp activities, and three meals a day at the dining hall. It would be perfect for a family reunion or small women’s retreat, but here’s how I dream of using it:
I keep reading advice from counselors and parenting experts who say moms need to take time for themselves. My dream would be to nab one of these beds for $29 and escape to the mountains all by myself for a weekend. I’d bring a book and sit on that porch or by the fireplace, reading for hours. Maybe I’d do a yoga class, or book a massage, or set aside some time for painting or crafting at the Crafts & Design Center. I’d hike, either on the trails at camp or in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. It would be a wonderful, really affordable, break from all the mom-duties for a weekend.
You can see more pictures and make reservations for the hostel here. .