On our last day in Colorado, I asked each of the kids what their favorite memories of this year's trip were. Without a pause, all three of them said "the 4-wheelers"! We are so fortunate to have friends who trust us not only with their mountain cabin, but also with their toys while we're up there!
We 4-wheeled every time the sun peeked from behind the clouds. Most days, we just hit the mountain roads around the cabin, enjoying the cool air, watching for wildlife, stopping to photograph the wildflowers, splashing through the mud puddles.
Darren, Dani and I each drove one. Since Darren drove the beast with the foot gears, making it near impossible to have anyone sitting in front of him, it was often up to Dani and I to transport the boys. Ian rode with Dani, and Aidan rode with me. It worked out GREAT. The 4-wheeler I rode idled too low, and would die if I let off the gas. For that reason, I couldn't take photos while we were riding (the gas "pedal" is operated with your thumb), so I left my camera in the (turns out very capable!) hands of my 6-year old, who wore it around his neck and snapped away. He took almost all of the photos that we have on the 4-wheelers, including this one:
But not this one.
We were heading up to the top of Terrible Mountain, elevation 12,105. We were almost to the summit, preparing to go around a tight, steep curve. Darren was in the lead, Dani and Ian were behind him, and Aidan and I were bringing up the rear. There was a big mound of rock right in the middle of the road. Darren had gingerly ridden over the top of it, but doing so made his 4-wheeler tilt to the left, toward the drop-off. Seeing that terrified Dani, and she came to a complete stop, screaming, "DAD!!!! DAAAAAAAAAD!! What do I do????" But Darren was already around the corner and didn't hear her. She turned to look at me, and I was struck by the terror I saw on her face.
The truth is, the drop off isn't as steep as it looks in this picture. I mean, you wouldn't want to go rolling down it. It'd be a long roll! But it's not like you'd fall to your instant death or anything. Even so, it's very intimidating, being up there. I urged Dani to just take it slow and trust herself. She's actually a more conscientious, careful driver than I am; I wasn't too worried. She took a good breath, carefully hit the gas, and made her way oh-so-carefully around the bend, avoiding the rock altogether. Since we were completely stopped, I was able to snap the photo, which turned out to be one of our favorites.
Something happened to ME, though, as she and Ian worked their way around the mountain. I realized, as if I hadn't noticed this fine detail BEFORE, that two of my precious children were on ONE 4-wheeler. I prayed then and there. Not kidding. I literally prayed, out loud. "God, be with them. Keep them safe."
He did. Once we all made it to the summit, we hiked around a bit, explored some mine ruins, set up the camera to take our only family picture for the trip, marvelled at the adventurers who climbed Fairview Peak on THEIR 4-wheelers (most people park at the base of the summit and hike up), and watched a storm move in from the west.
We decided to head back down rather than try for Fairview Peak, just a few more minutes up the trail. We knew we needed to get to treeline before the storm hit. We made it, but barely. Just as we arrived at the first trees, I felt the first raindrops. Within seconds, they were no longer raindrops, but ICE drops! Aidan snapped this photo on our way down.
Darren and I didn't notice that the rain was so close, because we were watching the road and not the sky at that point. When we saw this photo, it was cool to see the rain RIGHT there. See the "fog" on the left of the photo? (you can click to enlarge) That's rain. ACTUALLY, it's sleet. Or small hail. Whichever.
It sleeted on us all the way back to the cabin. At one point, Aidan and I had to stop, remove his sweatshirt, tuck the camera down over his t-shirt, and put his sweatshirt back on over the camera to keep it dry. Aidan had a hoodie on, and kept his head down, so he was largely protected from the pelting ice. I, on the other hand, was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and nothing else. Everytime the sleet would zing my face, I'd yelp, "OW!!" Let me tell ya. Sleet, while flying down a mountain road, even at only 22 mph, HURTS. A LOT! "Ow! Ow! Ow!" I yelled, between fits of laughter. Here, you can see the red marks,still visible long after we'd changed into dry clothes.
We arrived back at the cabin safely, cold to the bones, rubbing our stinging welts from the pelting, and dripping wet. And LAUGHING. We were ALL laughing. Hooting, even. What an exhilarating ride! It's one my kids will never forget. Someday, when they all have kids of their own, and we're all sitting around at Christmas talking about the good ol' days, I KNOW this is a story we'll retell. Makes me happy just thinkin' about it.