Monthly Archives: August 2012

Colorado, Part 2!

As I mentioned in my last post, we got Saturday morning off to an early start. Our rafting tour was actually out in Fort Collins, so after a 5:30 wake up call and breakfast in our cabin, we hit the road. Now I have to say, I was a little worried about this rafting. I had been once before during my semester abroad in Chile and it was quite an experience… as in while it was extremely fun and exciting, it was also slightly terrifying. For those of you who haven’t heard this story, this is the best memory I have of that afternoon:

Rafting in Chile

If you’re curious, this is what the next picture in our rafting sequence was…

Men overboard.

… that’s right. All of us, except for the guide, flew out of the raft (and I got a nice ankle injury from that). So when my mom first told me she had signed us up for a tour that got up to grade 4 rapids, I was initially a little concerned since our raft in Chile had emptied out on a big grade 4. No offense to my sweet mom, but I wasn’t sure she would be able to handle that! Luckily our Colorado rafting was less intense than I had been expecting for several reasons.

1. The river’s water level was pretty low since there hadn’t been a whole lot of rain recently, so all of the rapids would be a little less intense than normal.

2. We really liked the company we went with (Mountain Water Descents) and were impressed by their very qualified guides. It’s pretty easy to tell that they all know the river really well and have their favorite paths chosen for how to get around all of the giant rocks. They’re also really good at yelling commands, which is crucial for a successful rafting trip.

3. The safety briefing for Mountain Water Descents was pretty extensive and took at least 10-15 minutes. Compare that to my Chilean safety briefing that took maybe 2 minutes and really just covered how to row forward, backward and duck into the raft. So with that, I felt pretty confident that these people knew what they were doing and would make sure we had a great time.

After our safety briefing we all took a bus over to the river and got set up in our raft. We were brave and didn’t wear wetsuits to protect us from the cold water, but we did borrow the company’s splash jackets. The five us were able to stay together in one raft and I have to say, we did a pretty awesome job. We all paddled fairly well together and got through the river without getting stuck between any rocks, like some of the other groups did. The only hiccup we ran into was at the end… we were going through a part they refer to as “the roller coaster” and while we were getting over some of the last rocks, my dad got bumped out of the raft and flew into the water. We soon realized my dad was no longer in the raft and while we listened to the guide for directions on where to paddle so my dad could get back in, my mom burst into hysterics. She laughed so hard she fell backwards into the raft like a turtle and in the process of trying to get back up, she tossed her paddle into the river. Way to keep it together, mom. Thankfully, the rafting company has people taking pictures and video along the route, so we have this moment forever captured :) If you want to see more pictures from this excursion, scroll all the way down to this post.

Can you find the yellow helmet in the water?

We were able to get my dad in the raft again and in true papa bear fashion, he laughed about it more than any of us did. We had a great time on this tour; it was such a great balance of having fun and getting your adrenaline rushing but it also had some really tranquil moments where we could just enjoy the landscape around the river and sit peacefully.

After our rafting tour finished, we drove back to Estes Park for lunch and some time to rest. By early afternoon, we were ready to take advantage of our last day in the park and decided to go for a drive along Trail Ridge Road. Fun Fact: Trail Ridge Road is located in Rocky Mountain National Park and is actually the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. How high, you ask? Well, we drove up to about 11,000 feet before we decided to turn back around but there was still plenty of road further up the mountain. The views from this road were absolutely stunning. I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road

Rocky Mountain National Park

Old habits die hard

Smiling for mom

We had all been hoping to seem some wildlife during our trip to Colorado. Apart from some turkeys on our hummer tour and some little gophers during our drive, we really hadn’t seen much. Well, we lucked out on our way out of the park. As we were driving back into Estes Park, my mom spotted something along the side of the road… elk! We were first told by someone else that had pulled over that it was a deer (which made me think Texas deer were tiny in comparison), but we later found out they were definitely elk. Chip tried several different animal sounds (including a duck quack) to get the elk to look at us, but sadly none of those attempts worked… can’t imagine why :)


The elk eventually went back into the trees where we could no longer watch, so we all got back in the car and made our way over to dinner. Another tripadvisor find, we went to Rock Inn Tavern for dinner. If you’re going there, be sure to get the ribs. So good!

Sunday morning was our last bit of time in Estes Park. My mom had booked the guys a fly fishing tour and some massages for us. I think we got the better end of the deal :) We finished our massages before the guys were done with their fishing, so we took care of packing up our cabin and got us all checked out of Rams Horn.

Getting all their fishing gear on

Looking like real fishermen

We went and picked the guys up in the afternoon and heard all about their fly fishing over lunch before heading back to Denver for the evening. My brother was flying out first, so we dropped him off at the airport and then met Teresa’s dad and brother for another great dinner. It was so great getting to see them again and share some seriously tasty food. I sadly can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was extremely delicious; we all cleaned our plates!

Dinner in downtown Denver

Chip and I flew back to San Antonio Monday morning and my parents flew back shortly after that back to Tucson. It was such a fun trip and I’m so grateful we were able to spend so much time with my family. Mom, you did a great job planning this vacation! Where are we going next year? :)

Rafting safety briefing

Ready to go!

Off we go!


Out on the river

Such pros.




Colorado, Part 1!

Chip and I just got back from one of the prettiest places we’ve ever been to: Colorado. We spent four days there on a family vacation with my parents and brother. With Chip and I living in San Antonio, my brother spending the majority of his time in Omaha at school and my parents in Tucson, my mom really wanted us to all take a vacation so we could spend some time together apart from the holiday season. She’s had most of this trip booked for months, so we’ve had plenty of time to look forward to this trip! (I’d like to take this moment to thank Tripadvisor for all the tips and recommendations my mom found through this site)

Chip and I flew in to Denver Thursday afternoon and met up with my parents, who had arrived a few hours before us, and my brother Alex, who landed around the same time we did. I do have to say that Denver was not what I expected when we first flew in. I clearly haven’t looked at a map of Denver before, but I really thought we would land in a city completely surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains. Truth is, the landscape looks a little bit like Kansas when you first land. I had a Home-Alone2 moment where I was convinced we had accidentally gotten on the wrong flight, but luckily the flight attendant announced that we had landed in Denver. Lesson learned: Denver is not, in fact, nestled in the Rockies.

After getting through a bit of traffic, we made our way to our hotel to check in. We lucked out and got to stay at a great Embassy Suites downtown. Turns out all those trips to visit us kids in San Antonio and Omaha had paid off and my parents got to use all those hotel points for our stay in Denver. Once we dropped everything off at our hotel, we made our way over to dinner to meet up with my brother’s girlfriend’s dad and brother for drinks and dinner. My brother has been dating his girlfriend Teresa for a year now, so it was so great to meet her very kind dad and smart brother (he starts his college freshman year this week!) and hear stories about what a wonderful woman her mom was. After dinner, we walked over to Coors Field for a Rockies game. Now the Rockies aren’t having their best season, but we lucked out and saw them actually win a game! We also had some great seats along the first base line… so good that we were in foul ball range and actually had a ball land two rows in front of us. I would like to thank Chip and Alex for allowing me to pull them up off their seats and block me from this potentially dangerous baseball :)

Coors Field

At the Rockies Game

With my brother and mom

O, Christmas Tree

We started Friday with a great breakfast at the hotel; really, Embassy Suites have the best continental breakfast around. We then made our way over Estes Park where we would spend the majority of our vacation. Estes Park is a little over an hour away from Denver and is a very pretty drive. As we entered Estes Park, the road was lined with different pine trees, which I loved. For those of you who don’t know, I’m mildly obsessed with Christmas. And by mildly obsessed, I mean I wouldn’t stop talking about decorating as many trees as possible if I lived in Estes Park. There were also very beautiful wildflowers everywhere. Not going to lie, I was pretty jealous of all the colorful flowers in Colorado while I thought about my dying flowers in Texas… *sigh*

Enjoying some wild flowers


It was too early to check into our hotel when we got into Estes Park, so we went and had some lunch at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ. It wasn’t quite Bill Miller’s BBQ, but it was still pretty tasty.

At Smokin’ Daves

My parents at lunch

Hummer for our tour

After lunch, mom mom had booked for us an off-roading Hummer tour of the national park with Rock Mountain Rush. In true momma Lopez fashion, she had seen great reviews of this company on Tripadvisor, and specific positive feedback on one of the tour guides, Dave. So naturally, my mom booked us a tour with him. Dave was awesome. It was easy to tell how much he loves the land and he was able to teach us a lot about the national park, including these two tidbits:

– If you rub an Aspen tree, you can use the powder as a light sunscreen.

– There was a serious pine beetle problem going on and was the cause for many of the fallen pine trees in the park.

Dave also let us know that he has been off-roading since he was 14, so he definitely had a lot of experience under his belt. He’s great at reading the dirt roads and bumps and successfully got us pretty air-born on multiple locations (he called it the roller-coaster tour). It was such a fun excursion and we would definitely recommend this company (and tour guide!) to our friends.

Dave, our tour guide

At the top of our tour

I love this guy.

On our park Hummer tour

View from the top of our tour

View from the top of our tour

Rams Horn Village

After our tour ended in the afternoon, we went over to Rams Horn Village to check in for the rest of our time in Estes Park. Another find on Tripadvisor, my mom really liked that at Rams Horn we could all stay together in one cabin as opposed to being in a hotel. This place was awesome and we absolutely loved that it gave us a home-away-from-home feeling. We quickly went to the grocery store to stock up on some food for the weekend and got back to make dinner. While the guys grilled steaks outside, my mom and I made a salad, sangria and some cookies for dessert. We haven’t all been together since Thanksgiving, so it was a lot of fun to just sit around the table and enjoy a meal together (and in true Lopez form, tease everyone a bit, too).

Welcome sign on our cabin

The guys working on dinner

Dinner is definitely cooking!

Thankful for family meals

We called it a night early… we would be getting up on Saturday at 5:30 to get ready for our rafting trip!