For Fall Break this year we decided to take a road trip! Get ready for a LOT of pictures.
Our first stop was Manitou Springs. Ben had the kids try the local mineral water. It was not well received.
We were too early for the arcade and most shops, but it was fun looking in the windows. We also got some crepes to stave off hunger for the morning.
Day 1 Adventure was to tour the Cave of the Winds! This was the first cave for the boys. Ben was unimpressed, compared to others he has seen. But I enjoyed it quite a bit and I think the kids did too (though Sam was “done” when we still had 20 minutes left).
Phone camera pictures were unsurprisingly terrible (my attempt with a flash above). So I splurged and bought the staged photo they make everyone take on the way inside.
We drove on for the rest of the day, mostly stopping for bathroom breaks. In Trinidad we stretched our legs at the local library before getting pizza dinner.
After we passed the New Mexico border, after the sun finished setting, we pulled off the highway onto a dirt road and drove out a quarter mile. Just far enough to stargaze. The boys were impressed with the Milky Way, not ever really seeing it where we live. They were astounded by the depth and multitude of stars. We identified Scopio and the Big Dipper, Jupiter, and the North Star. We would have researched and looked longer but it was SUPER cold and we were ready to sleep in Santa Fe. Onward!
Our Big Adventure for Day 2, Meow Wolf, had tickets at 11:00. Until then we wandered around the Plaza of Santa Fe. The kids were not too into the historical sites or the art galleries that ring the plaza. But they got a good sense of the local adobe architecture and I helped them tour the cathedral, getting a basic understanding of cathedral beauty. Then we went to the local Railway Park to let Sam run in circles. He was so AMPED for Meow Wolf. (On the other end of the spectrum, Jack was cold and bored and Ben was fighting off a virus that had attacked last night).
Finally it was time for MEOW WOLF!
What is Meow Wolf? “An immersive environment that is part haunted house, part choose-your-own-adventure, and part jungle gym.”
My pictures are very blurry, it was mostly dim and I was literally chasing Sam through most of the rooms. At the start I quickly decided I should split off with Sam so he could frantically explore at his own pace, while Ben and Jack could experience it more slowly. Later, as Ben’s flu took him out, I went out with both kids, letting them take turns being the leader.
It’s probably best to look at the website for better images and videos, but I have mine here to show us actually there 🙂 It was really incredible. I can see why adults go slow (and stoned) and take a long time exploring. They have hidden stories, puzzles, and clues for guests to work out during return visits. But with my crazy dudes we took a whirlwind approach, probably covering all 70 rooms in under 2 hours.
Strobe stop-motion scene behind this doorway
This and the above two photos were Sam’s favorite room, a bus that had been upended and converted to a space ship that you could use to make light and sound effects with a control panel.
Weird tiny diorama that I liked.
Jack found a couple strange pianos on this trip.
Spot the Ben trying to power through his flu 🙁
My favorite: the smoke-filled electric harp room.
Mammoth skeleton drum and keyboard
Touch sensitive walls make light and sound.
After Meow Wolf we took Ben back to the hotel to rest. Over lunch I polled the boys how to spend the rest of the day. Jack and I wanted to see the Puye cliff dwellings, but Sam was strongly opposed to the trip. If Ben had been there we would have forced him, but I wasn’t up for the long drive and battle of wills all by myself (I had hardly slept the night before, and was running on fumes all day). So instead we went to see a movie, Abominable, at the local theater. Abominable was actually really good! I assumed it was another trashy kids movie. Instead I was pleased to find it was clever and patient and well written. The kids both loved it and have been quoting it ever since.
We got sandwiches to eat back at the hotel and were all ready for an early bedtime.
Happily we woke mostly refreshed Sunday morning. Ben and I were both capable of driving (I wasn’t sure if I was getting sick or just exhausted the night before – turns out to be just exhaustion). The kids had a final hotel morning of cartoons + continental breakfast, then we hit the road.
Instead of coming down I-25, we looped the trip using back highways. This allowed us to see such sites as Cano’s Castle:
And the Big Adventure for Day 3: The Colorado Gators Reptile Park!
Ok, I guffawed during our trip-planning when Ben suggested this place. But it was super cool. It was that kind of old-fashioned place, run down, scrapped together, and has faith that its visitors will use their common sense. After several hand-painted signs reminding you that this is a dangerous place, you are told to watch your step around the “tortoise fences.” Puzzled, we quickly discovered these fences are planks set on their edges around the property to keep the roaming tortoises in their place.
The first roaming tortoise we found.
My kids love all cats. This one is living a dream-cat life on this reserve.
Many terrariums of snakes, lizards, salamanders, and the like. Each labeled with footprints to tell you which make the best pets, and which make the worst pets. They had all levels of pet-titude at the reserve.
Shortly after arriving, this guy pulled a croc out of a bin and asked if we wanted to touch. Seconds later, we were all holding him and posing for pictures!
The boys knew I was super squeamish about reptiles. Snakes especially, but I’m not thrilled about gators either. They didn’t push me, I was brave on my own. It was so so so so icky, but I did it!
So cold and smooth and plasticky and heavy. Ick ick ick ick ick ick.
The boys got a certificate of bravery (MY name should have been on it!). To make it official, they have the beast notarize the certificate with his teeth.
High on adrenaline, we explored the remaining displays.
Don’t step on a turtle!
Little snake crawling up to say hello.
Ben was chatting with the parrot, when his foot got stepped on!
The reserve is built on hot springs. Initially this was built as a fish farm. They brought in some gators to eat the dead fish, and the gators did so well, they expanded to taking in illegal pets, or other unusual origins. The also sell plants grown in the green house, which help filter the water. I was tempted to take home a fig tree, but I’m sure I would have killed it.
“Elvis the King of Croc,” one of their biggest creatures.
They are helping to house some wolves while their permanent home is being built elsewhere.
There were many bold emus. They came right up to the fence looking ready to bite if our kids got too close.
Morris the movie star croc was hiding underwater when we visited.
Nile crocs posing with open jaws.
After the Reptile Park we pushed north to Buena Vista for lunch, then over Kenosha pass to Denver. It was strange driving by Amanda’s old school, coming from the backside.
There was a snowstorm coming to town and we got home just as it was getting started. Some blowing snow on the road through Conifer, but not too much trouble.
And that’s the end of our trip! The cats missed us (as much as we can tell). We had today (Monday) off of school as well. It’s been nice to sleep in during the morning snow and take it slow, putting the house back in order.
I think everyone had a pretty great trip. It’s too bad Ben had to deal with the flu while we were there, this trip was really his baby. But he was able to do most everything we planned and have a quiet day at home recovering today.
I hope the snow is mild tonight so Sam can go on his class field trip tomorrow. Wednesday looks like another blizzard and I expect a delay or closure for school. Either way, we can plan on a cold, snowy Halloween on Thursday. I’m glad I got long johns for both kids to wear under their costumes! October is a strange weather monster in Colorado.