Visiting Colorado every summer has been a staple of our family since my husband and I were footloose, childfree, and courting. Our first visit together was in the summer of 2009 when we took 2 weeks (2 whole weeks!) to tour around the south western part of the state. That trip was amazing...and complicated. We brought ALL the toys. Mountain bikes, backpacks, canoe, fly rods, the works. Not to mention two dogs.
These days, both work schedules and having a 2 year old means that we only have a week, and we need to be a little more targeted with our activities. But we still have a blast and always leave feeling relaxed and inspired by the incomparable beauty of The San Juan Mountains.
Because we frequently bust out of town on weekend jaunts, our usual getting packed up routine is done in bits and pieces during the evenings and early mornings of the week before, with one final push of stuff gathering, dish washing, and chicken feeding done at the crack of dawn before we leave. While this method works for getting us out frequently on weekend adventures, it can leave us a little frazzled and short tempered before we ever get rolling. This time we made an uncharacteristically sensible and relaxed decision to spend Saturday packing and cleaning rather than make ourselves crazy packing in advance. For two perfectionistic, overcommiters with serious workaholic tendencies, this approach was somewhat revolutionary.
Our first day was spent making time across the high desert of northeastern Arizona to cross through the four corners. This would otherwise have been a somewhat unremarkable day. A drive with a number of lovely views, that we have done a million times before. THIS year, however, we had a new joy to experience. In the week leading up to our trip, our previously reluctant toddler had declared that he wanted to wear big boy underwear! (Of course...because when ELSE would he decide to try that besides three days before a long car trip?...sigh) In any case, we decided we would go ahead and try this “no diaper” business on the drive. I am notorious for excellent hydration habits and a tiny bladder so we figured it would be no big deal. Little did we know that our kid would be the one little boy on planet earth who wants NOTHING to do with peeing outside. Nothing. And the long, hot, dry stretch across the minimally developed Navajo Nation offers few opportunities for toilets. Four hours and 157 attempted pee stops after leaving home we were having visions of him falling asleep and turning our truck into Lake Powell. Thankfully we had brought along some diapers. I would love to tell you it was at this moment that we just switched to diapers the rest of the trip...we were not that clever.
We made it to Durango in about 67 hours (thanks frequently potty stops!) the last hour and a half of which our little dude was “reading” his books to himself in the backseat. An activity so endearing it kinda of made our hearts hurt. We headed up into the forest above Purgatory (now called Durango Mountain Resort. But I will never call it that...NEVER. It is Purgatory. Period.) and found a sweet little camp with a stream running right through it. The afternoon was spent exploring the verdant green slopes around camp, munching on wild strawberries, learning that not ALL wild berries should be put in our mouths (YIKES!), and throwing pebbles in the stream.
One of my goals for the trip had been a mountain bike ride on some of the trails around the city of Durango. I’ve heard much about the riding in the area and hadn’t ever experienced it. The second day, we drove back down into the town to drop me off at the Telegraph Trailhead, while the boys went out on a requisite excursion to Maria’s bookstore and Gardenswartz. For bibliophiles unfamiliar with Maria’s in downtown Durango, it goes on your “must visit” list. It is the kind of cozy, local bookstore that every town wants, but few seem to be able to support. Tall polished wooden bookshelves speckled with the colors of a thousand binding edges. Tables in the center of the space with employee picks, an inviting and colorful children’s section that carries both classic favorites and newer pieces of excellent children’s literature, and a staff that seems to know every book in the store and can point each unique customer to a selection that will delight them. My favorite features of Maria’s by far though, is their extensive section on travel/adventure/and local history. I always seem to find some awe inspiring read (or three). It was here that I found the book Wild Mama during our anniversary trip a few weeks earlier, which could easily be a personal manifesto. A must read for all adventure loving moms. (Full review coming soon)
While my boys explored the town and dropped a sum of money roughly equivalent to a semester of in state college tuition at the bookstore, I rode my steel pony up the telegraph trail. It wound it’s way through the flats and up the side of a mesa following, unsurprisingly from the name, an old telegraph pole alignment. The route up the hillside had the typical Colorado fall line approach to trail building. Steep, straight up hill with no contouring, and heavily eroded. The top of the climb had a welcoming spot to eat lunch in the shade overlooking the La Plata Mountains. I descended the seemingly even steeper and more eroded Anasazi Descent and swooped out the banked turns of the Meadows Loop. A delightful introduction to the trails of Durango, though perhaps not the first one I’ll ride next time.
That afternoon, I took over the parenting duties while the hubs worked on some “gratuitous building” projects. As a carpenter, he spends his days fixing things that need fixing, or building things to someone else's specifications. Getting to just tinker for the fun of it is rare, and makes him really dang happy. Tag teaming personal projects, is key for keeping both parents fulfilled.
Meanwhile, the Little Bear and I headed out for an afternoon hike from the back of camp. I would love to tell you it was all giggles and wonder in a moss covered fairy land. Sometimes hiking with him is, but that day he had bucked his nap altogether and was exercising his personal independence to a level previously uncharted. Poisonous mushrooms (and trying to put them in his mouth) were the focus of his activities. Being asked not to touch mushrooms in the woods resulted in maniacal laughter and doing exactly what he had been told not to do. Between fear of imminent death-by-toadstool and the fact that his aversion to outdoor bathroom visits had led to wet pants yet again drove us back to camp a bit early.
Back at camp, I rummaged through the truck trying to organize a few things before launching into dinner prep. My little one, still not out of steam for mischief, climbed into the front seat and peed all over my brand new book. I. Lost. It. Having invited him to go to the bathroom multiple times and being refused AND having JUST changed wet pants, this was just too much. Steam fumed out my ears, I raised my voice, and had to walk away for a while to cool down. It was the most infuriating combo of parenting failure and what felt like and intentional naughtiness from him. When I finally calmed down, I was able to get the clarity to realize this was honestly all my fault. I could have anticipated that he might want his potty while traveling and packed it. Learning to be in underwear AND learning to go outdoors is a lot for a little person all at once. AND I should have taken the hint from the day before and just let him stay in diapers for the trip. He was clearly uncomfortable with handling bathroom needs outdoors. This was my bad...not his. I apologized for losing my temper and decided that regressing to diapers for the week wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
There was a lesson for life in this mundane and frustrating parenting moment. We can do anything and everything we want in this life, but we can’t do it all at once. He will, we assume, get the hang of no diapers, and I would bet with parents like us he will also get the hang of outdoor bathrooming. But trying to do it all at the same time? A recipe for failure and frustration. This is a lesson I seem to need to learn over and over again. I can have a life with a child, career, adventure, rich friendships, time for my spouse and extended family, volunteer work, a spotless home, plenty of sleep and self care, and homemade gourmet dinners. But is it reasonable to do each and every one of those things every single day in equal measure? No. Of course not. But for a type-a go getter like me, it feels like I should. I can get pretty hard on myself if my unreasonable check list of 35 things doesn’t get done every single day. Breathe. Pick three things that will get the majority of your attention today and do those. Let everything else go. You will get to the other things, but maybe not today.
Part 2 coming soon!! Stay tuned!