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Walking with Kids

For my wife and me, walking is something we look to do consistently for the benefit of our health and the health of our relationships. Our daily goal is to get out and walk two miles each day. We do not always make our goal, but we have found that when we do go for a walk, we feel good about it and we miss it when we do not go out for a walk.

We also enjoy walking with our adult kids, and this year we took a few fun walks with them where they live.

Walking in Charlotte, NC: 7 miles, about 1 mile per walk

We were able to walk the Charlotte Greenway, which is near where the kids live in Charlotte. The greenway is a great option as the paths are wide and easy to follow. We also took walks around their neighborhood.

Walking the Charlotte Greenway

Newport, Rhode Island: 5.5 miles of walking (one day tour)

We were excited to visit Newport, taking in the sights by walking around and going on a 90-minute boat ride. While we were in Newport, the weather was perfect and the walking was good.

In Newport we took advantage of the nearby Cliff Walk after our boat tour. The Cliff Walk is a National Recreation Trail in a National Historic District. It was a good hike and one that should be on a list to take from start to finish.

Along the walk we saw several mansions and beautiful ocean views. I was wondering what kind of wealth it took to build and maintain one of these mansions. Even today, some are still are offered for sale. We found that some belong to a local university. Another option to pay for the upkeep is to open to the public for tours.

Providence, Rhode Island: 13 miles of walking in and around the city. The city is vibrant and easy to walk. We enjoyed the people bridge and viewing the gondola boats on the water.

Colorado Springs, Colorado: 45 miles walking. The first time this year we came to Colorado Springs was to celebrate the birth of our newest grandchild. We spent about a month in total in Colorado over two trips. Baby, mom and dad are all doing well. We took several walks with and without our children and grandchild.    

Other walks:

St Louis Walking:

It is not just with kids, but parents as well as our kids. I was able to take a walk with my in-laws and one of my kids in St. Louis, visiting for a few days. It was great to have the family walking time in the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Boston walking:

I also enjoyed a long walk to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox with family. Always a good walk from the train station.

Lessons learned
Always be flexible. Find a path that works, and if you can find it on a nice warm day, an ice cream shop.

Take a detour or get off of the planned route. In Newport, we meandered and still saw most of the sites and had a great relaxing day of walking with our family.

Other Fun

Going to a baseball game with our grandchild at the beginning of the baseball season in Colorado.

First baseball game

Earlier this summer when I was in Providence, RI, they had the weekend Al Fresco outside dining on Federal Hill, which was very enjoyable. The next time we were in Providence, we caught the Columbus Day festival and enjoyed walking around with live music and terrific food from the local restaurants.

On the way to the Cliff Walk we stopped at an enormous rocking chair. Kids, will be kids.

As a follow-up to an earlier blog, he did ask and she said yes.

In addition to walking, I went running with two of my kids (and my wife). Three of us were able to run on the Charlotte Greenway and enjoy some family running time together.

My son and I ran in Providence and my wife and I also ran in Providence. Just not all three of us at the same time.

I was able to run the FCC Cincinnati 5k with my son and his friends.

No biking, just walking and running.

A Sampling of the World’s Best Disc Golf Courses

We all have the stereotype, retire and play golf every day. That is not me, although I have made no secret that I enjoy playing disc golf. My kids all know that on road trips we often would “find” a disc golf course near the highway that we could stop at and stretch our legs and play a few baskets. In college, way back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I played with friends as a diversion–the object being to hit, with a frisbee, pre-selected landmarks like dorm walls and trees on campus.

I read an article this summer attesting to the best disc golf courses not just in America but in the world. Well, I wondered if I had ever played any of them. In a recent drive up to Rhode Island I was able to tackle the top course in the world with one of my kids; I also found out that I live near the #9 course in the world.

Here are the article’s current top 10 that I played in 2021:

1. Maple Hill in Leicester, Massachusetts 

My favorite course has to be the number one course, Maple Hill. My son paid for the round and we played the old glory course following the red, white and blue tee pads. It was challenging; I did lose one disc on the course, not in the many water opportunities to lose it but in the pine trees.

I was able to play Maple hill twice this year on two separate trips, one with my son, and one with my wife where I played just the red (or easiest course layout) tees. Both were great experiences and I can see, based on my travels, why this is the number one course. It has water, hills, clear direction between holes and is well maintained. I have not felt rushed or pushed to play on this course due to their reservation system. The pro shop was great and they were able to quickly retrieve my disc that I lost in August.

If you play disc golf and are in Massachusetts, it is well worth taking the trip over to play. Playing in mid-October, we were able to experience all of the colors. We had a perfect day to see the reflections off of the ponds and just enjoy the hike through the woods.

7. The Diavolo Disc Golf Course at New Hope Park in Cary, North Carolina

It was pouring rain on me when I ended my round in Cary, NC. This course is free and open to the public to play. Some of the holes were bunched up, but since I was alone, I was able to play quickly and go around any groups.

This is a beautifully maintained course and it was also diverse and challenging. Although I lost a disc here to the water, the course was well marked. It was easy to find the holes, always a good sign for me of the quality of the course.

9. Idlewild in Burlington, Kentucky

I have played this course several times over the years, and it is challenging for someone with my talent (or lack of talent…). The opening tee shot is over 600 feet, which is long, as I can throw about 200 feet on a good day. With Idlewild it is hard not to play all 24 baskets and spend about 3 hours playing this course.

Now that I have read the article and played the courses, I agree with the ranking I have seen. My criteria for the best courses include:

  • Fun and challenging.
  • Hills so I can have a beautiful long downhill shot.
  • Trees for shade, and generally I like wooded areas.
  • Open sections so I can find my discs.
  • Options for experienced and beginners on the same course.
  • I prefer a free course but will pay for a well-maintained challenging course.

All told I have played this year in seven states (MA, RI, NC, KY, IN, AR, MI). A good year. I only lost a few discs and have come away with uniformly good impressions not just of the ratings supplied on the courses but how friendly everyone is on the disc golf course. 

Lessons learned:

Disc golf is better with someone. A friend of mine plays the local courses with me near where I live and I have played with two of my kids this summer and all of them in the past. My wife has joined me for a round or two even though it is not as enjoyable for her as it is for me. My future son-in-law enjoys playing and recently received new discs that should improve his game and make it so I cannot beat any of my kids and their spouses.

Take a look at the listing of courses on the way and stop and enjoy a new course. I have a few more stops to make along the way for my next adventure thanks to the article, and I will look forward to playing at some of the best disc golf courses in North American.

Other fun:

The only ace I have ever made was that course in Michigan, and that was only because the basket was 4 feet from the tee pad and no directions were given.

I was able to play rounds with my wife, my friends, two of my kids and my future son-in-law and his grandfather as well as with my father-in-law and my wife’s siblings. My mom joined me on one of the courses in Arkansas, so it has been a family fun experience.

I made it a point to stop at the BC3 Disc golf course (#47 on the top 100 listing) and was not disappointed. They even had a large tool that could be used to pull discs out of the water. I did not need it, but it was nice to see the tool. The course itself was hard to find on some back roads. I had the course to myself and enjoyed the layout.

I have played some really good tee shots, including one that landed next to the basket in Nashville, IN. It would have sailed past, except I hit a tree and it landed within a foot of the basket.

Best Tee Shot of the year for me

I won’t talk about my poorly thrown shots. I need some more practice sessions.

I played on one island, Martha’s Vineyard, and could have played on Mackinac Island except they had bad reviews. Besides, we had other fun activities planned for that adventure. 

I enjoyed playing Martha’s Vineyard’s disc golf course. Yes—I placed a couple of discs in my back pack before leaving for the island so I could play during my day on Martha’s Vineyard.

I turned a wedding dress shopping day into a disc golf day with my future son-in-law and his grandfather.

In addition to the courses above, this summer found me playing out of state at:

Slater Park in Rhode Island

Eager Beaver at Elon Park, North Carolina

  • A few former golf courses:
    • North Cove Disc Golf, Marion, NC — a really nice course in the mountains on a former ball golf course. It was misting and the course was wet, but it was a fun course to play. I did have the course to myself as the weather did not encourage the locals to come out to play. Fortunately, the course was well marked and I only got turned around once looking for the tee box. The last hole (#18) was memorable as you throw to the roaring creek and then across the creek to the basket. I was fortunate that I cannot throw in one shot all the way to the creek, so laying up was not an issue.

Branch wood DGC, Arkansas, is near my mom’s house and is on a former 9-hole ball golf course that I have played with others in the past. I lost a disc in the woods here, and was able to turn in someone else’s disc that I found in looking for mine. It is a long course; the people playing appeared to really like the course.

No bike rides in this posting. I have been riding, just not while playing disc golf!

Day Tripping Mackinac Island

A few years ago, my wife and I biked on Washington Island in Wisconsin. This year, we biked Mackinac Island. If you have not biked on an Island, even better an island without any cars, it is a fun treat. We did not take our bikes to Mackinac Island as we thought we would have a better time with rental bikes for just a half day of riding. It was a good choice for us.

Every journey to the Island involves a boat ride. We had an enjoyable ride and were dressed for the cool weather on the lake. In the past we have had to purchase sweatshirts after arriving on the island, so we knew what to expect and were prepared for the winds on a cool northern Michigan day in the middle of summer.

Our first stop in town was renting some bikes and getting them set for the exploration. It was cool when we arrived, but the day warmed up and was enjoyable. We were happy they included water bottles and helmets with the bike rentals along with a good map of the island for biking.

We would have circumnavigated the island, except a part was closed for repairs. We did get as far both ways as we could. We also rode on the interior of the island, more akin to hiking or mountain bike trails that made us happier to have rented the island bikes.

Our first ride was to Arch Rock as the road was closed after this point. We decided to get off the bikes and climb to the top of the rock up several stairs.

Ride to Arch Rock

When we got back to the bikes, we noted that from the road we also had a great view up to the Arch Rock formation.

After viewing Arch Rock from above and below, we biked over to the British Landing, an easy ride on Lake Shore Boulevard, State Highway M-185, that wraps around the entire island.  This was the other road closure point, preventing us from the 8-mile loop on M-185.  

With the road construction and after exploring the British Landing, we needed to find out where we wanted to go. We decided to bike the interior of the island. We headed to the interior of the Island from the center of town as the Landing Road posted no bikes (my guess is the hill is too steep for most bikers). From the center of town, we biked past the Grand Hotel and the Fort ending on Arch Rock trail. We followed the Arch Rock trail toward the airport where we saw the crack in the Island and then back to town for lunch and a change of pace to walking.

Our walking tour was after lunch. The whole town was in full bloom and it was good seeing how many other people were out enjoying the island.

All in all, we saw a lot on the island. I had not recalled seeing the miniature Statue of Liberty on the island. It has been there since before I was born, so it must have been present. We had all been to the island before and were amazed at how full the shops were in summer.

We have spent the night on the island and it is worth the experience. The island has a different feeling once the last ferry boat leaves. A one-day visit was all we needed to get refreshed and enjoy the beautiful island between Michigan’s two peninsulas. After a perfect day exploring the island, we got back on the boat for the lake crossing.  

On the boat ride back from the Island

Lessons learned:

A family bike ride on a vacation island is not a race; the pace is designed to take in all of the scenery that I would not normally see on some of my rides. As I look back to my normal routes, this was by far the prettiest of the summer, being surrounded by the Great Lakes and the view of the Mackinaw Bridge.

Other fun:

We brought back fudge, still the best I have tasted since I remember going to the island to eat fudge as a kid.

We sent a picture of the fort to our oldest as the memory of “shooting” off a cannon at the fort would still be a pleasant memory. They now offer, for a fee, the ability to load and fire the cannon. We did not visit inside the fort as we had done so many times before.

No cars and a lot of fun biking the Island

Prelude to a Proposal

We went out to see our daughter in North Carolina. We were supposed to get together with her and her boyfriend earlier but COVID got in the way. This was the next best opportunity for all of us.

One of the reasons for the visit was so her boyfriend could ask my permission to ask her for her hand in marriage. My job, knowing what was coming, was to find out if he will take care of my daughter and that he is the man to do it. Spoiler alert—I gave my blessing and I trust the proposal will have occurred by the time this is published. We did manage a 9-mile hike in the South Mountain State Park in North Carolina. We began hiking together on the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail and really enjoyed the 80 foot high waterfall. The weather was perfect and we had a good view of the falls from the trail.

Other fun On our hike with my prospective son-in-law, we were talking and having fun and not paying attention to a map. As a result we went on the Saddleback equestrian trail.

When we had to take off our shoes and socks to wade across the river as no bridge could be found up and down the river bank, we should have turned around, except we were already 6 miles into our hike. No bridge, no big deal in August. But when the river is running in the spring it is a bigger deal. Here is the trail description from the website—wish I had read it prior to setting off: “The trail crosses the Jacob Fork River and ascends to Raven Rock Trail. This narrow trail is single track for horseback riders.”

We were able to visit some friends of ours in South Carolina, just south of the boarder. The visit was fun, and as he is a bee keeper we were able to enjoy local honey. They raise bees on their property and it is quite the operation. Check out his site: https://bigbeedaddy.blog/blog-feed/

Lessons learned:

Next time, read the guide prior to setting off on the hike! Review and follow a planned hiking route.

Staying at a hotel for the first time in a while was a good experience. We had contactless check in and out and my smartphone served as our key. It was simple. Even breakfast was a go bag and it was easy for us to move about. People were enjoying the pool and the lobby as well.

Being ready to answer a question makes you a poor conversationalist. A 9-mile hike with getting to know a prospective son-in-law makes me a worse communicator. I appreciate his respect for me and my daughter that he wanted to ask, and I am excited to welcome him to our family.

No bike rides on this trip. The bike is all tuned up and ready to go once the weather cooperates.

Happy Holiday from Shawnee State Park

The weather outside was not too frightful. We decided we would spend a few days at the end of December hiking in Shawnee State Park. The park is next to Shawnee State Forest located at the eastern edge of Ohio at the beginning of the Appalachian Mountains.

During Covid-19 as our traveling has been limited. A close by state park with over 60 miles of hiking trails sounded to us like just what we needed. So we packed up the car and headed to the hills.

I have long defined vacation as doing something different. This was a wonderful getaway. Hiking out in the woods is not our normal walk around the block.

The drive to the park was pleasant and it had snowed in Ohio right before Christmas. No snow where we live, but as we got closer to the Appalachian Mountains, more snow and colder weather were evident. We were only at over 600 feet above sea level at the start of our hikes and did make it over 1,000 feet above sea level on occasion. Ohio’s highest point is 1,550 feet above sea level so we were not at the peak in Ohio hiking on this trip.

We had several pleasant hikes in the State Forest and the State Park. All of the trails were well marked and the paths easy to follow. The weather was close to freezing. At times we wished it was below freezing because the paths were muddy, especially dangerous when you are not paying attention to the fallen leaves on downhill trails. We did fall once and it was no big deal. We were careful.

I think our favorite hike was the hike around the lake. We had great views and yes, part of the lake was frozen. This was a good all day hike. We even stopped for lunch (that we carried in) and enjoyed the scenery.

We started our adventure with the simple lookout trail that is near the lodge. It was an easy mile or so hike.

The hiking trails and the entrance to both the State Park and Forest were free. We hiked several miles in the park. The long hike was too long for our visit in December and will have to wait for another time. We did hike several trails and see the disk golf course, which looks very challenging. The trails benefited from the CCC workers and they did good work in this park. It is amazing to me that after so much time the work that was done is still in use and serviceable.

The lodge inside the park was richly decorated for the season and the rooms were pleasant. We enjoyed the more than 50 Christmas trees on display inside the lodge. The local garden clubs assist with the decorating and it either took a lot of people or a lot of time.

Other Fun We managed to have a wonderful shake at the Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio. We drove by on the way to the park and could not resist the building on the way back.

I will be excited when the sign on the door no longer requires a mask inside. It was not an issue, just saying, like the rest of America is saying, let’s get this COVID-19 behind us and move on with life.

Lessons learned

Go out and do something different. People were at the parks. Not too many on the trails with us as it was cold. We were happy to see others out enjoying the Lodge, and I am sure the employees were as well. We felt like we were away and yet we had not gone too far.

Walking into the Past at Shaker Village

A fun get away for us, not involving a plane, train or even a bike, was a visit to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.

Main Street

Each day we walked along the main street from our East Family dwelling to the Trustees’ office. As we walked the former highway, we looked back at what life was like for the inhabitants at the time and what life is like now in the Shaker Village.

Each building was equal reflecting one of the primary values of the society that all, male and female, regardless of race, are equal with each other. All of the main buildings had two doors and sets of stairs for the separation of the sexes even though they were living in the same house. One side of the buildings were designated for the males and the other for the females. Both were under the same roof, equal and not together. Anything one had, the other did, down to the square feet of each room and the furnishings.  

Our group of friends decided that the Shaker Village would be the place to gather and celebrate life.

One of our highlights was the Hard Cider Bash put on by the Village. It was a lively time in the old barn on the property. We enjoyed the band and the food. Some of the offerings were local dishes and most of the food was from the area. I had never heard of or seen Kentucky Burgoo prior to the bash. Many of my friends really enjoyed it. The hard cider was not all that great for my tastes. My friends did find several beverages they liked.

We walked the grounds of the village. When it was thriving, and the village was thriving at one time, it was hard work farming and keeping men and women apart all while making the village profitable. The grounds are very attractive; we enjoyed our hikes around the grounds.

Walking in the village we learned about how the Shakers lived and worked. It was a fascinating tour. Unfortunately for us, no crafts or displays were in operation due to Covid-19. We still had a great time exploring. I would like to have learned how they made the stone walls.

Our hike on the morning of the hard cider bash led us to the barn for our evening activity. We had fun walking with friends and taking a pleasant walking tour for several miles along the property.

We did manage to have good food and we got into the music on the lawn near the restaurant. We ate at the trustee’s Office. All of the settings were well done and the meals were locally sourced. The spiral staircase in the main dining area was really well done and an example of the skill their craftsmen employed.

We stayed at the East Family Dwelling. That building was over 200 years old and very well built. I liked the craftsmanship.

Lessons learned

The Shakers were a group committed to their ideals and had several things going for them. They did not survive because their utopian society was an idea humans can never put into practice. All utopian societies have succumbed to similar fates as we are all human.

The Shakers were unable to adapt their strict belief system as society changed and opportunities for work grew.  How different will we look 20 years from now looking back on the things we do, like wearing masks while walking on a main street and other odd Covid practices? No bike riding on this trip. We had plenty of hiking and exploring as well as learning some history.

Summer Sledding in Colorado

I have wanted to go to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve for a few years. It was more fun than I would have thought thanks to my daughter-in-law who recommended we rent sleds for the dunes. Who knew you could rent sleds and “sand” boards and go sledding on the sand?

This is a relatively new national park (2004) and is only a few hours drive from Colorado Springs. For me the drive down was well worth it. We rented our sleds at the Oasis store just outside of the park entrance.

Outside the Park–Next to the Oasis store

The dunes look big close up. As you are driving to them, they look small in comparison to the mountains. Even the mountains look small from a distance. Once you are on the dunes and realize just how big the dunes are it is startling. This is the biggest dune field in North America.

 It took a while to hike out to a good spot for our sledding adventure.

Walking to the dunes

We had good instructions; more wax makes the board go fast.  Going downhill was fun. The hard part of the day was walking back up hill after the downhill run. Too bad there was no ski lift for us.

Walking back up to the start after a good downhill ride on the sled
Sled Ride on the dunes

A side benefit was that it was not too hot. The sand, according to the NPS, is much hotter than the air. Since it was cooler outside the sand was not too hot to touch. We know as we all fell off of our sleds.

After a hard day of sledding

The entrance to the dunes is over Medano Creek that apparently runs right across the only way to the dunes. We did not have to cross the creek; it was dried up in August. It would have been a nice relief to our feet to wade through the creek on the way back.

Traveling during COVID

Glen at the airport

It has been a while since I was on an airplane, okay, early in March. I remember that after September 11, 2001, I took a business flight right after the skies re-opened. I was flying to Denver from Boston and saw a lot of changes mainly with security. The military was out in force at Logan and hardly anyone was flying. At the gate there was a large collection of pocket knives and nail clippers that travelers were still used to carrying on board. The airport in Denver after 9-11 was almost deserted. More people were waiting to get us through security on the return trip than we saw going through security.

In the same way, we experienced several changes on our flight in August to Denver. Everyone was wearing a mask and the Public Address system talked about cleaning. Markers were on the floor to give us a distance marking. Everyone appeared to do their best, although at times (think trains in the Denver airport) circumstances do not allow for the distances being asked for.  We were happy not all seats in our row on the airplane were filled. It was a good experience and I again felt safe flying.

I did fly direct to Denver and then drive to Colorado Springs to avoid more time in airports. I will look to fly again directly as much as possible. We were handed sanitizer for the seat and given a beverage and a snack in a plastic bag along with more sanitizer. I appreciate the front line workers at the airline and the airport. You are all coming into contact with a lot of us each day. Some can work from home but the hospitality business must show up. Thank you for showing up for us.

Bike Riding in Garden of the Gods

First time riding a bike to this spot!

We have visited Garden of the Gods more than once. I think our kids all love the location as do I. Prior to this trip I had not ridden a bike in the park. That all changed thanks to Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours. We had a beautiful clear morning riding in the park with our guide. We have been on bike tours before. This is our first tour with just a guide and me and my wife. It was enjoyable riding as we went at our pace and saw the sights we wanted to see.  We rode over 20 miles in about 3 hours.

Our guide, Nate, was very knowledgeable and friendly. The highlight for me was taking the mountain bike trail in the park (Ute trail) that I had used for an indoor biking class. We had hiked this trail before. This was a better experience than I had described to my class. We managed to go on the trail a few times.

On the Ute Trail in the Garden of the Gods–Mountain Biking

After our ride we went to the gift shop to have an ice cream. What a nice location and the ice cream was good as well.

 Paint Mines Interpretive Park

I had never been to Paint Mines in Colorado before. This is a local (El Paso County) park. We were amazed at the rock formations and the colors. The picture I took does not do it justice. Once you have biked in Garden of the Gods Park, also in El Paso County Colorado, taking a hike in the Paint Mines is the next best adventure to tackle.

On the trail

We enjoyed our hike among the painted rocks. The rock colors were hard to believe. It was an easy hike and a well-marked path.

Other Fun

This was funny to us, as we have never experienced a hail storm like they do in Colorado Springs. We were out for a walk around the block and it was cloudy. I guess you can buy anything. I had never seen a hail protector before.

We think it is a pick up truck–not sure

It was nice to see our son dressed up for the day—someone has to work.

Going out to breakfast in downtown Colorado Springs during the week was a treat. We were safe while enjoying a good breakfast.

Downtown Colorado Springs

The city has closed several streets to allow people to get around downtown. Much different from our last visit to downtown Colorado Springs.

We enjoyed walking along in the Fountain Creek Regional Park. This has several miles of walking, horse, and mountain or gravel bike trails.  This was an enjoyable park for all sorts of athletic activities.

We had a couple of hikes in the nearby Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Each hike was enjoyable and moderate. It was good to get out and hike. We found this park the best marked park we have hiked in yet. Every time we came to an intersection, we found a marker.

Cheyenne Mountain
Out for a hike!

Our travel to Colorado was very relaxing. We did manage to play bridge, laugh and enjoy spending time with family.

Altitude is Real

You already know that I am not a runner. Happy Thanksgiving and let’s run a 5K race in Colorado Springs almost a mile higher in elevation than where I live. I can see why the Olympic athletes train here, once they are acclimated.CS Mountains from Condo

This was not our first family visit to Colorado Springs, just the first time visiting when it snowed in the city. We were fortunate to have a day without snow and had a nice time in Acacia Park and walking downtown Colorado Springs.

Here are a few before and after views from our condo (Airbnb) before and after the snow:

 

I have stayed at my home for many years now, avoiding traveling at Thanksgiving. When my kids were younger, I sometimes took the family to the in-laws or my parents. They have also come to join the six of us at our home. More often, we stayed at home for Thanksgiving. We have several years of Thanksgiving memories where we hosted local “orphans” or were hosted by other “orphans” who did not have other family in the area.

CS Thanksgiving shot

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we traveled to Colorado Springs to visit and celebrate Thanksgiving. As I am older, so are the kids. They are now in the position that I was when I stayed at home. Thanksgiving happens over a few short days. My excuse for not traveling at Thanksgiving the limited time and because of the limited time frame many travel during the few days of this holiday.  We stepped up as mature adults and enjoyed the travels to the kids, including bringing one with us.

The retirement benefit is leaving the weekend prior and leaving after the holiday rush. Even on Sunday traveling by airplane was already busy. We were prepared for the lines and the hassle of Thanksgiving holiday fun. It was an easy experience traveling and the airlines and airports were well staffed and handled the crowds with ease. We also made it into Colorado before a big snowstorm and left after the next high wind and snow could hit. We had an enjoyable week of travel to and from Colorado.

 

We were happy that our kids invited one of their friends to join our holiday meal. It is good to welcome the “orphans” to the Thanksgiving dinner and keep the tradition and we hope someone did the same for our one kid who couldn’t make it to Colorado.

We had the pleasure of taking one of our kids who flew in for Thanksgiving to the Garden of the Gods. It was beautiful all covered in snow.

If you have not been to the Garden of the Gods, you are really missing out.

This was my first time seeing it in the snow; I appreciated the snow and the red rock combination.

GG G K

One of my kids suggested, in August, that we all sign up for a family 5k run. I believe her words were “No one listens to me, so why now?” So, we all signed up as (much to their dismay) a team for the Colorado Springs 5k Turkey Trot.

 

We received a message the night prior to the run advising us that the road conditions were less than ideal and we should be prepared for cold weather and ice on the road.

CS Walk to the starting line

Our two oldest walking to the starting line

We did have cold weather (about 21 degrees Fahrenheit when we began) and ice, slush and snow was on the ground. It was also a little foggy when we began.

 

The crowd was just about half of the runners who signed up for the event, or about 2400. I am happy to say that I did finish and stayed upright on the ice and snow the whole time.

My time to finish was less than 36 minutes, about 10 minutes slower than the two oldest kids who ran.

 

Lessons learned:

Altitude is real and takes your breath away when you are participating in the family 5k. Okay, I only managed to “run” a quarter mile before walking, much sooner than my normal 1 mile before I have to walk. I did manage to finish 1077 of 2409. The training I did was okay, but I was unable to train for altitude. The reward is the same; I was not going to win, even my own age group, so finishing the event was the key. No matter what place, I completed the race.

 

Traveling is good to do when you visit with family. We did sit and enjoy the company of our kids. Spending the holiday with family was all it was supposed to be, including snowball fights on a walk around the neighborhood and a wishbone pull after Thanksgiving dinner. I am so happy to have spent the time with the kids.

Other fun

Our day trip to Denver was cancelled when they received over a foot of snow. We had planned a fun adventure but were able to spend the day preparing for Thanksgiving and playing games. I learned how to play Catan. We also managed to get in a Euchre tournament and play some bridge.

Bring Kentucky holiday cheer; it is great for an unexpected snow day.

CS Kentucky Fun

 

Looking at the Garden on the Gods through the eyes of a first time visitor enhanced the hike in the snow. A first time visitor brings wonder and a lot of appreciation when this magnificent garden is first viewed.

 

Everyone thinks of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. We enjoyed a tour of Ft. Carson Army Base. We were surprised how large the base actually is. It does make sense for tank training. We heard the bugle call reveille each morning from the fort at 6:30 AM from our place; it was a good reminder of some other things that are going on in the world.

 

No bike riding; too much snow, and we did not have easy access to bikes.

 

Bike End No Ride

Before leaving for our Thanksgiving feast, we walked a few miles in our local Arboretum. The trees even after the leaves have fallen present themselves with a beauty and wonder. We liked the Larch and did not recall seeing the yellow needles on our prior visit.

Smoky Mountain Retreat

Now that the long bike rides and triathlon are over, relaxing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sounded like a good time.GSMNP Sign

When we booked our cabin and planned the trip we were unaware that October is one of the busiest times for the park. We also did not know that this was the busiest National Park. One of the benefits of retirement travel is going during the week. We were surprised at all of the people gathered in the park and Gatlinburg. I guess Columbus Day is a popular time for schools to take a break; we visiting the week prior to the break. We thought traffic and the number of tourist picked up as we got closer to the holiday weekend.

View of Gatlenburg

One of the downsides was that parking to hike was at a premium. However, like a good restaurant that is always full, we found that the experience and scenery were worth the hassle.  Traffic in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge was also heavy as we went through town. We have been to the park before. This time we were happy not to see any bears as we were hiking

We had a cabin away from town and up a hill so we could enjoy breakfast and linger a little out the front porch. The cabin had large windows and offered a great view of the mountains. We did see the “smoke” in the mountains in the morning that looked inviting.

View of the smokeSM View from Cabin 3

Our afternoon hikes were good. We had spent most of our previous time in the southern part of the park (Cades Cove), so we hiked in the middle of the park this time.

Hiking in the SM Alumn Cave trail

We noticed that the signage on the hiking trails in the park was lacking or had been removed though too much use, but it was easy to find our way as several other hikers were on the trails with us.Hiking in the SM--view from the trail Kim

We enjoyed the hikes and the views. It was great to have some hand holds as we went up and down near the edge on the hikes.

The National Park Service has done a good job keeping the trails in good condition given all of the traffic on them we encountered except for the signs while on the trail. Hiking in the SM--view from the trail-4

There are plenty of hikes we have not yet taken in the park. We will have to come back and enjoy some of them on our next visit. Now we know to schedule the visit outside of October.

The colors had not yet come out to the park. We did see some of the trees turning early here and there. The week after our visit was probably a peak time for fall colors. We enjoyed the lush green views and left the pretty colors for the visitors for the following week.

We purposely went back home on the back roads from the Smoky Mountains National Park (which is in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina) so we could stop at the three state Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

CG Sign Glen

The weather on the Saturday when we arrived in Kentucky was cooler than it was in Tennessee as we were leaving. Our first stop in Cumberland Gap was at the only visitor center. This is a large park and it was important to know that there is only one visitor center.

We were happy talk with a couple making apple butter over an open fire and dressed in period costumes. It looked like hard work. They assured us that the taste was worth the work on the open fire. We liked the warmth of the open fire.

Making apple butter

We were immediately stuck by how few visitors were at this park, just a few miles (85 or so) up the road from the Smoky Mountains. The ranger we spoke to at Cumberland Gap indicated that over 11 million visitors go to the Smoky Mountains and about 1 million visit Cumberland Gap. We really enjoyed hiking in Cumberland Gap with well-marked trails and easy parking.

We took the tri-state trail and hiked up and stood in the three separate states at the same time (Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia). It was interesting to see the contour of the land and to know that many western settlers had journeyed across the mountains where we were hiking.

When looking at the road into the gap we wondered how much harder the mountain pass must be, as this was not an easy climb. We do not have wagons with all of our possessions and have no real idea of the hardship.

CG Tri state trail 2--all 3 states

The Civil War had a lot going on in Cumberland; we enjoyed the side spots where we could see evidence of the forts and the places where some of the troops moved through. It did make sense that the troops came by and through the gap in the struggle to move across the country.

CG Tri state trail 4 Civil war cave

Spot where union troops blew up ammunition

I recommend driving up the road to the pinnacle overlook, although it twists a whole lot. At one point you can see the road next to you as the road almost doubles back on itself.

CG NP MapThe paved paths along the viewing area made the walk out to the view easily assessable. Unfortunately, the view was one where we could see the clouds as the weather was not in our favor. We caught glimpses of the surrounding area and will look forward to coming back for a better view in the future.

Lessons learned:

We can get to the Smoky Mountain National park in about 5 hours. We should plan to go before or after the peak times for the park, staying away from October (Columbus Day for example) and school vacation week in the spring.

Both Cumberland Gap and Smoky Mountain National Parks do not require admission fees.

Cumberland Gap has hundreds of miles of hikes available. We are thinking about spending more time visiting this park in the future.

Other fun

We enjoyed two dinner shows and would have liked to have gone for another. We were amazed at the horse handling skills demonstrated during the show at the Dolly Parton’s stampede  and the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. The dinners out were fun and since it gets dark in October so early we had to leave the trails earlier than we would have during the summer. DP Stampeed

Our preference was the Dinner Feud. It was a little smaller theater and we had a lively and interactive server. We found that we liked the food better at the Hatfield’s than the Stampede. The musicians for the Stampede put on a great show prior to the dinner and gave an amazing performance. Of course, the horse-riding feats were exciting to watch and they were well executed. We appreciated the good clean family entertainment at both shows.

We did not come for the town, so Gatlinburg was lost on us. A sea of people walking up and down the main street near the Park was interesting to see. I believe we would have enjoyed the walking in town had we been staying in Gatlinburg.

No bike riding in the mountains where the roads are narrow and winding. From the Cades Cove camp grounds areas you can go biking a few times per week. As we have seen bears in this area, we did not think we should tempt fate by riding bikes near the bears. It might be fun…with a group.

bike in garage

Bikes left in the garage