Family, Parenting, Travel

An Amazing Family Time at Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

To be 100% truthful, hiking is not my idea of a vacation nor is it my first thought on ‘where can I celebrate my birthday.’

The idea to spend my birthday vacation was a combination of visiting my kids in Denver and the news articles I’d read about the 100th birthday of the U.S. National Parks. Sounded like a good idea.

On the two-hour car ride from Denver through Boulder and up to Rocky Mountain National Park, we shared stories of other wilderness adventures, like the king snake in our tent at Refugio State Park, falling over unseen logs, being chased by Canadian geese and the family of deer we once spotted.

The story I didn’t think would come up, but did, was a result of this photo:

UFO Cloud Over Boulder, CO
UFO Cloud Over Boulder, CO. http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

This cloud shaped UFO, although much larger, closely resembled the ‘real’ UFO I saw when I was nine years old. My younger brother and some other kids saw an object hovering above our apartment complex. Not only was it us who saw the object but about twenty other people who were in their front yards, looking up into the sky. A grainy photo of the object made the newspapers, so at least my mom didn’t think I was crazy.

This story fascinated my kids. They’re fans of X-Files so it doesn’t take any convincing about my UFO story to have them believe that I saw what I saw.

Along the way up the mountain, we stopped to take in the gorgeous vista of pines, lakes, and mountains.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

The kids scrambled up some rocks and waved to me to come up and see the chipmunks drinking water in the crevices of some boulders. I made my way up, rested a bit, heard birds singing, looked up and caught the silhouette of this mountain chickadee on a branch.

Bird on a branch
Chickadee On a Branch http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

Our hike on the Alpine Tundra up to the Mushroom Mountains, at approximately 11,500 feet was a little difficult.

The Mushroom Rocks at RMNP
The Mushroom Rocks at RMNP

The hike is short, maybe a mile, but the winds can be 150 miles per hour. On the day we hiked up there it was a temperate 55 degrees with winds at a manageable 50 miles per hour. You have to wear a hooded jacket. The altitude can be tough on people. The air feels so thin you can hardly take a full breath, but my daughter and I trudged step by step and arm in arm behind (way behind) my son who pretty much race walked up the steep trail. On the way down, we heard the whistle of the yellow-bellied marmot.

Marmot sunning on rocks
Marmot on the Rocks, RMNP

We went on to the highest point, the Alpine Visitor’s Center, at 11,725 feet. Way below the deck of the visitors center a group of elk grazed. We couldn’t get a decent photo on our cell phones at that height but at least we were able to see these beautiful animals, the males with massive antlers, through binoculars.

Elk Herd Rocky Mtn. National Park-creative commons photo
Elk Herd Rocky Mtn. National Park-creative commons photo

I felt a little bit of melancholy when I realized that this trip wasn’t about me ‘taking care’ of the family by planning the trip, reminding them to bring this or that, or watching them constantly. Instead, they were the ones who did the planning, encouraged me to keep climbing, and took my hand from time to time.

This is what happens on the long road of parenting. We move from one place and perspective to another. As long as it’s together it makes the trip so much more special.

Inspiration, Nature

A Beautiful Garden of Monarch Butterflies

Welcome, June. I’m enjoying the longer days, slightly warmer weather, and the discoveries in my new garden.

The two milkweed plants in the backyard attracted Monarch butterflies which I enjoyed watching last month as they danced above the blossoms and ducked into the leaves.

After pulling a few weeds, I stopped to admire the Milkweed’s orange-red blossoms, and there she/he was, munching away on a leaf. A gorgeous plump caterpillar.

milkweed plant with caterpillar on leaf
Milkweed with Caterpillar-photo by M.AlvaradoFrazier

In the past few years, I’ve looked for Monarchs in the eucalyptus trees in the next city where they gather during their southern migration from Mexico but I’ve never seen the beginning of their life cycle until now.

Milkweed is the only plant a Monarch butterfly will breed and deposit eggs. Those eggs are now caterpillars and some energetic ones made their way ten feet away and began their next stage on my patio. This one is underneath a patio chair, already in the J stage where it will attach itself with a silk thread. In a couple of days, I’ll gently move the chair into an area where someone won’t sit on it.

monarch caterpillar on patio chair
Monarch caterpillar in the J stage-photo by MAlvaradoFrazier

On Memorial Day, we sat around the patio table and discovered another tiny treasure. Seems like the caterpillar journey wasn’t solitary. Another little guy/gal attached itself to a steel leg at the bottom of the table. At first, I didn’t know what this was until I remembered my friend, Dani, who said Monarch’s have beautiful chrysalis (cocoons). Well, this little jewel is jade green with dots of gold on its rim.

Monarch chrysalis on patio table
Monarch chrysalis- photo by M.AlvaradoFrazier

Dramatic changes take place inside the chrysalis. There are things we can’t see but know are happening. Just like life. Metamorphosis is occurring and with the process, I gain inspiration and hope.

In a few more days another Monarch will be born, fly over to the milkweed, get nourishment and return to Mexico.