We had planned on leaving Wednesday night, but I had work to do on Thursday before I could go out of town, so I clocked out a little after 2PM, then began prepping for the trip. We pulled things out from our stash of camping gear, loaded the tent, the sleeping bags, the stove and assorted paraphernalia, packed food from the pantry, stuffed the cooler with a few things, then loaded up and headed out. A quick stop at the church to help out our youth pastor (a WONDERFUL soul to have as a friend!) setup for the Ladies meeting, then to help with the changing of a tire on Lisa's Explorer, and off we went. Normally, this is where I say, "We traveled without incident to St. Elmo, one of the kid's favorite spots to camp.....", but an incident DID occur, Claire had pulled a sequin off of her shirt and got it stuck in her ear! So, Dad just pulled over at McDonald's, whipped out his trusty Leatherman, and operated. Well, it was more like a procedure than an "operation", but I got it out very easily with the pliers. We grabbed so chicken nuggets (Dr's orders: Take two of these and call me in the morning...) and traveled on from there to St. Elmo, one of the kid's favorite spots to camp...... only to find that the campground was FULL. So we headed out to another spot we knew of, Clear Creek Reservoir. After the fun 30+ mile round trip to St. Elmo, we arrived and searched out a spot. We found an empty clearing with a fire ring right beside the creek, setup the tent, unrolled sleeping bags and soon were fast asleep. It was chilly when we were setting up, and we figured it would be pretty crisp....And guess who forgot to pack a jacket, socks and long sleeve shirt, even though Dad said, "Be sure that you have a WARM jacket and long sleeves for this trip. Oh, and don't forget SOCKS. Corey....Claire....Did you hear me?" "Yes sir" in unison....I can still hear their replies as I look in disbelief at my youngest son, sleeping fully clothed with his jacket and two pair of pants on... I put my fleece lined jacket over Claire, and then we all went to sleep.
We awoke to all of us seeing our breath. It was REALLY chilly, and no one wanted to be the first to get up and abandon our WARM beds! When we went to sleep the night before, we were all pretty much spread out across the octagon 8 person tent, but each had migrated towards each other and we all awoke in a pile of intertwined fabric, Holofill and limbs! The sun was already shining and it was getting warmer by the minute, so we all got up and I made breakfast....Ok, I really opened a box of pop-tarts and the kids scarfed them down, then Nutra-Grain bars, and finally for those who were still hungry, some instant oatmeal. After about 30 minutes it was warm enough that we didn't need jackets anymore.
We knew that we were going to spend the day in St. Elmo and the surrounding area ("Chipmunkville" as the kids call it), so we filled our vacuum insulated water bottles and headed south towards Chipmunkville. As we left the main road, we saw several pronghorn antelope and other wildlife on the way. We broke off of the gravel road and took the north road "the back way" to the campground that was full the night before to find it....mostly empty?!?! It seems that most were just there for the night and had up and left with the sun. We filled our water jug and empty water bottles from the squeaky and well used hand driven well pump at the campground, then drove on into St. Elmo.
St. Elmo is one of a few remaining "ghost mining towns" in Colorado. They have recently received grants to restore as historical places, and have done a really great job in restoring what has been done so far. However, the biggest attraction that St. Elmo has to offer is "Chipmunkville" as my kids call it: A colony of chipmunks and ground squirrels that call St. Elmo "home". These little bold critters will jump right up on you, with no fear whatsoever, looking for a sunflower seed, conveniently sold across the street at the St. Elmo General Store for the low price of 50 cents per bag. After purchasing a bag, you can almost feel as if a hundred little chipmunk eyeballs have been immediately focused upon you, forcing you to cross the street uncontrollably by the gravitational pull of the cuteness that these little vermin possess in great quantities. Now, we've been here before, but the kids are now three years older, a lot more patient (except Corey!), and a lot more still when feeding these little adorable creatures. Kaye was able to actually PET one, Corey had one on it's way to another destination bounce off his head while he was laying down with seeds on his tummy, and later had one stare him in the face! I believe his comment was, "IT TICKLES, IT TICKLES!", immediately followed by "I can smell it's breath, EWWWW!" Claire had to try to one-up Corey and not only had one eat seeds off her tummy to, but also completely NINJA'D a 'munk and grabbed him in mid air!
After all the Chipmunkville festivities, we emptied our seed bags, and then headed up the road to Pomeroy Lakes, a couple of lakes at around 12,000 feet in Elevation. We were going to see if we could get closer than we did when my sissy little siblings visited here in 2018, but made it to same place and decided to stop, as the ground clearance on the Adventure Machine isn't much higher than the Honda Pilot we brought up two years earlier. One of these days, we might get a lift on the Adventure Machine, but for now little Claire can barely get in as it is, even with the side steps (which are pretty much the only thing that keeps us from really going places where we can get in trouble! They drag at some points along the trail....as if it were an Early Warning Ground Radar.....). We hopped out of the truck, made lunch, and filled the hydration packs. While we ate several folks passed by, some had commented how they couldn't believe we had even made it this far! I only stopped because it was getting REALLY rough up the trail, and we even watched as a guy made an attempt (with PLENTY of ground clearance on his Toyota), and then backed back down after encountering the same obstacles that I decided not even to attempt. They, as well as us, had opted to hike the rest of the way to the lakes.
We started up the road, and I soon realized how wise the decision to stop was. There were rocks that there was no way that I could have gotten over, then add the steep inclines, and it would have made for a very difficult, if not impossible path. On the trip before, a couple had told us that we were at least two miles from the lakes, so with the out of breath flatlander sisters gasping for every breath, we had decided not to hike it. The kids and I are well accustomed to higher altitudes, so we kept going this time. Little Claire boldly took the lead singing "A hiking we will go, a hiking we will go, hi-ho-the-dairy-oh, a hiking we will go!" for at least 100 yards, followed by "I'm tired, we need to rest!", and then repeated that every 20 yards after. I will say this though, she made it all the way to the top (only about a half mile to the top, not even close to the "two miles" the folks told us on the previous trip), and she didn't even ask for me to carry her! On one of our rest stops, she got her hydration pack caught on the rock she was sitting/leaning against, and threw her hands in the air and said ,"I guess I'm just gonna have to stay here Daddy!" We were soon on our way though, as I rescued her from the clutches of the rock.
We made it to the top, and took in the scenery, what a gorgeous place! Beautiful crystal clear water, and oh what a view! The kids kicked off the shoes and socks and went wading in the cold alpine water, it was quite chilly, especially with the wind that was blowing at the altitude we were at 12,140 Ft. We walked around for about an hour, took some pictures, then headed back down the mountain to the truck. On the way down, as well as up really, we had to move aside and were passed by several ATV's. We made it back to the truck, shed the hydration packs, grabbed a quick snack, then headed back down the rugged trail to the county road that led to St. Elmo. On the way down, we encountered an old structure that used to support the cables that would carry the ore out of the mines and down the mountain. My oldest quipped ,"Pioneer cell tower?" and then we all had a good laugh. We were passed by a few vehicles coming up the mountain as we were heading down, each time precariously perched on the side of the trail with huge drop offs on our side!
We made it down and back to St. Elmo, then headed to camp to make dinner consisting of hot dogs, brats, chips, and S'Mores! The fire ban was lifted, so we enjoyed at least two each, then I put the fire DEAD OUT because I didn't want to be THAT guy.
Fridays are Movie nights, so I had brought along my iPad with a downloaded episode of the "Sugar Creek Gang" that the kids like, it's a series that they like watch on RightNow Media. We opened up the iPad to find that....the downloaded episode was no longer downloaded. Many sighs later, I just happened to try the cell service on the iPad, and it miraculously found a 4G signal, so we streamed the episode instead! Corey and Jesse fell asleep after the first few minutes, but the girls were troopers, staying awake until the very end. After the episode was over, I put away the iPad and bluetooth speaker, then we all went to bed, tired from the day's events. We knew it was going to be chilly based on the previous night's experience, so we bundled up a little more and fell asleep very quickly. A new day tomorrow, and we have to pack up and travel home.
Well, it was chilly. Not as frigid as the previous morning, but it was chilly. We all got up, and I made breakfast, a hearty helping of biscuits and gravy....Mountain House style. The kids all sat down by the creek on the bank and scarfed it down, then began to "explore". They each found a stick, and then Jesse found some fishing line, so the all tied a four foot strand to their sticks and pretended to fish! Shortly thereafter, a fellow camper and nice lady from Monument helped the kids out by actually outfitting their makeshift rigs with a hook, sinker, and even a worm! They were fishing for real now! I packed up while keeping an eye on them, and told them they could remove their shoes and socks and wade in the creek to get to a better fishing spot, which they quickly shed and of they went. I finished packing, then offered our spot and left over firewood to a passing couple. Found out that they were from the Springs, so I invited them to church, then took off to gather the barefooted and now wet nearly to the seat of their pants children. Pulling them from the water was like removing super glue; let's just say it was very difficult without the proper motivation.....lunch and a promise of ice cream later in the day. We finally got dried off or in dry clothes and headed towards the house. We stopped at Pancho's in Buena Vista, where we had some great food and the kids met a Buena Vista Police Officer, who gladly posed for a picture with them. I don't care what others say, our police officers deserve our utmost respect. For those who don't respect our law enforcement officers, I'll just say this: play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Enough said about that.
We arrived home about 5PM, unloaded, had dinner and then unpacked from another great trip to God's Creation that we get to enjoy from time to time.
Praise the LORD for his mercy and grace!