My Ultimate Colorado Experience

Last week I went vacationing with my husband and in-laws in the great, majestic state of Colorado. Will’s family has been vacationing there for years and knows the place pretty well, while I, on the other hand, have never been to Colorado once. In fact Colorado is the furthest west I’ve ever been. Having grown up in Georgia, our family vacations were usually somewhere along the East Coast. It wasn’t until I moved out to Oklahoma for college that I experienced such mid-western states like Texas or Kansas. I had always wanted to visit Colorado for its purple mountains, fresh air and perfect scenery but never had the chance until now.

View from our condo Photo: Will Kooi
View from our condo
Photo: Will Kooi

My in-laws rented a condo for the family in Breckenridge, a quaint town 80 miles west of Denver and over 9,000 feet above sea level. The location of the condo gave us an incredible view of the Rockies and seemed (to me, the newbie) to be in the center of the surrounding, popular towns like Frisco, Dillon, and Vail. Between various World Cup games (Go USA & NED!), we spent our time wandering through these unique places, poking our heads into funky consignment shops or taste-testing olive oils and homemade dips. To me, this was a Colorado vacation – wake up, watch a bit of soccer over a cup of coffee, tour a new town, do some shopping, play family games as the sun sets over the mountains, bed, repeat. But after several days of this routine, I was informed that this way of vacationing was not true Colorado style. When you’re in Colorado, you’re apparently supposed to go out and, you know, see nature. And when you go to see said nature, you make a cool drive out of it.

Or we could've just gotten more free massages...
Or we could’ve just gotten more free massages…

If you’ve read my latest post, you know already that the word “driving” alone is almost like a curse word for me. I don’t normally go on drives for kicks and adventure. But that’s what you do in Colorado, and for want of not being a party pooper, I very sheepishly agreed to go on a mountain road drive with the fam. They chose to go see the beautiful views at Piney Lake, a lake high up in the Rocky Mountains, about an hour away from Breckenridge along the interstate – plus the x-amount of time it would take to actually drive the trail to get to Piney Lake. Before we hit the unpaved path of the mountain, my father-in-law reminded me, “Now Holly, if you start to feel sick, just tell me.”


So we drove. And we drove. And we drove. The path became bumpier and bumpier, and we drove higher and higher. The height of our drive came as a giant, scary surprise to me, but I guess I just didn’t think things through every time someone said “mountain drive”. Luckily my father-in-law was on the cliff side as we drove up the mountain allowing me to cling for life on the “safe side” of the mountain while reciting comforting passages of scripture to myself. We hit potholes and rocks of all shapes and sizes as we slowly curved and winded our way up to Piney Lake. We even drove through a small stream. If this wasn’t the ultimate road-tripping Colorado experience, then I didn’t want to find out whatever the ultimate experience was.


Meanwhile, my 28 week old baby, who still lives in my stomach, was having a field day and spent the length of our road trip kicking and punching and probably doing somersaults. With one arm wrapped around the outside of the passenger side window and the other around my jumping stomach, I tried to keep myself sane, my baby still, and my stomach from getting sick. My lovely, sweet family thought my reaction to the whole trip was hilarious. And though they understood my fears and newness to such an adventure, they did occasionally use this time to say things like, “Look how steep this cliff is!” or “I hope a tire doesn’t slip off the side…” or “Holly, we’re probably going to fall off this mountain.” They love me so, so much.

After what felt like hours had passed, we finally made it to our destination. But of course, of course, we drove on up to find this:


Silence fell upon our SUV as we mulled over the meaning of the sign. If the ranch, our gateway to Piney Lake, truly was closed, then our mountainous road trip had been for nothing. Well, the family would have thought it was for fun family time and the experience of the beauty that surrounded us, with an added “scare Holly out of her mind” bonus. But I would’ve felt like we drove all that way for just the “scare Holly out of her mind” bonus. We parked the car, and Will and my father-in-law walked a semi-lengthy walk down to the ranch to see if we could get a peek at Piney Lake. They returned about 10 minutes later with the news that we could see the lake after all. Hooray! So we got out our packed lunches for a lakeside family picnic, and then…


Rain. Dark, dark clouds, and rain. Our picnic was moved into the car as we waited for the rain to at least stop long enough for us to run over to the lake, snap some pictures, and run back. The weather allowed us to do so, then we headed back down the mountain, this time with me on the cliff side of the mountain, or the “we’re all gonna die” side.

So steep
So steep
Proof of my father-in-law enjoying my struggle
Proof of my father-in-law enjoying my struggle

I wrote this blog post, which means we successfully made it down the mountain and back to the condo. I spent the entire next day in my pajamas recovering while the men did more Colorado-y adventure stuff. I like nature. I like mountains. I like adventures and new experiences. But I think it’s safe to say, for now, that I may not be cut out for the state of Colorado. Or at least not the cool, nature side of it. I do think I could survive life with the people in Boulder pretty well. It’s safer there.

Made it to Piney Lake
Made it to Piney Lake

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  1. Sounds like quite the adventure! I hate driving up mountain sides too. It seems just too easy to slip off :S I hope the view was worth it!

  2. Glad you made it back safely! I still have yet to visit Colorado, but I will heed this warning before I take any drives through the mountains 🙂

    1. Author

      Me too. Happy to help with your future mountain drives.

    1. Author

      Indeed it was. Colorado is pretty breathtaking though.

  3. Wow Colorado looks beautiful. I definitely don’t think I would have enjoyed that drive either, I’m the type of passenger who covers their ears and keeps their eyes shut on journeys like that hah!

    1. Author

      Probably wouldn’t recommend that kind of a drive for you then! Colorado is definitely worth a gander, though.

  4. I’m heading to Colorado on Wednesday for a week, and I must say . . . I can’t wait to drive up those mountains!

    1. Author

      I was thinking about you specifically as I wrote this. I’m certain my bravery lessened after we went to different schools.

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