My oldest son (Knox) is now 16 years old. The conversation and bonding that used to come so naturally seems to have long since passed. We now have just a handful of topics that he cares to talk about… cars and making money are the two that top the short list. And even those conversations can seem like I am digging for gold to get any real response from him.
So I jumped at the recent opportunity to take him to Colorado on a father-son trip to visit one of my business partners. It was the first post-COVID trip we were able to take and it seemed like just the thing we needed. Plus it would be a nice long road trip that would give Knox some good time behind the wheel.
We headed out early on Friday morning around 6:15 AM. I drove and listened to a few podcasts while Knox caught up on some teenage sleep time. We made it to Amarillo around 11:15 AM and had lunch at the Big Texan restaurant (famous for their 72-Oz “Free” steak; it is free if you can eat it, a baked potato, salad, roll, and three shrimp all in under 1-hour).
After lunch we hit the road with Knox as the driver. It took us about 20 minutes to get outside of Amarillo. Soon after we started down one of the back roads that we would be on for many miles, the “low fuel” light came on. He asked me how many miles we had to get to a station once the light came on. I grabbed my phone and searched Google Maps along our route for the next nearest gas station. It was (surprisingly) 38 miles away. The computer on the car said we had 34 miles until our tank was empty. We were now on our first big adventure of the trip. We took all the measures we could to conserve gas. Mainly by driving around 60 mph and turning off the A/C (and it was 95 degrees outside). Eventually we quit looking at the computer estimate for miles of fuel remaining…it was getting too depressing. We were contemplating a long and hot walk to find gas and get it back to the car. Luckily we rolled into the gas station (on fumes) and were able to fill up. It was a great lesson on checking the gas gauge every time you get behind the wheel! I suspect he will remember that lesson!
More hours of driving and we eventually made it to Denver, CO and arrived at my dear friend (and business partner) Jason’s house. He had dinner prepared for us and then we hit the hay for some much needed rest and sleep.
Saturday morning we headed up the mountain roads towards Copper Mountain. The drive through the mountain passes was absolutely breathtaking. It rained on us for much of the 1.25 hour drive from Denver to Copper. Once we got settled into our condo we went for a walk around the resort property. It felt a little like a ghost town as there were a fraction of the people that would normally be at the property. However, the beauty was stunning and we were happy to be there. While walking around the property it started to rain on us, lightly at first and then a strong downpour. We ran back to the condo to find shelter from the storm.
Once the rain finally passed we decided to go on a hike. We drove into the town of Frisco (about 15 minutes away) and hiked the Royal Mountain trail. While hiking we passed several old abandoned mine shafts. It took us about 1.5 hours to make it to the summit and the view was beautiful. At the summit it was very windy and it started to rain on us, so our stay at the summit was only about 10 minutes. It took us around 1 hour to make our descent. We passed several other groups of hikers, including one “runner” and group of folks with three dads carrying their kids (1-2 years old) on backpacks. Now THAT is a workout. It was a solid hike and a great start to our time in the mountains.
After the hike we came back to the condo to cook steak and baked potatoes for dinner. We also played Monopoly for about 3 hours. It was a HIGHLY competitive game with lots of bartering back and forth. There were some aggressive negotiations, and I’m pretty sure that Knox and Jason conspired to take me out of the game.
The next morning we woke up around 6:30 am to gather our things and get ready for the day. We drove into Breckinridge to the Mountain Anglers fishing shop. We met up with our guide, Derek, and followed him to Lake Dillon in Frisco, CO (about 15 minutes away from Breckinridge). Derek took care of setting up all our rods with flys that were designed to work in the environment. He went with pink double worm flys. We donned our waders and put on some layers of clothing. The water was COLD. At first it wasn’t too bad, but after standing in it for over an hour we could hardly feel our toes.
I caught the first fish of the day. It was a small rainbow trout. Throughout the day we caught a variety of rainbow trout and even one Arctic Char salmon. We remained primarily in one location which was an inlet where a stream fed into Lake Dillon. Knox hooked three different fish, including one that was so big that it broke his line (4.6 lb test line). We had an amazing day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. My buddy had suggested that fly fishing could be a meditative experience. After spending a little time doing it, I completely agree.
Our fishing trip wrapped up around 1 PM and the three of us were all pretty exhausted. We stopped at a local pizza shop in town and then headed back to the condo for a nap! That evening we cooked dinner at the condo and watched Monty Python’s Holy Grail for some comic relief.
Monday morning both Jason and I had to work for the first few hours of the day. We let Knox get some extra sleep while we made our calls and Zoom meetings. Once we wrapped up, we cleaned up the cabin and headed out for another hike. It was a beautiful day with sunny skies and 60 degree temperatures.
We hiked up Lily Pad trail to the Lily Pad Lakes. It was a beautiful hike without too much of an elevation gain. There were quite a few people out hiking the trail, including a couple of runners and several older folks. The lakes were both beautiful and peaceful, and the temperature was a welcome respite from the 95+ degree weather in Texas. We even did our exercises by the side of the lake – push-ups, squats, and jumping jacks.
After the hike we headed back to the cabin to rest for a bit. Later that evening we headed into the town of Leadville for dinner. Leadville is an old mining town that was once the largest town in all of Colorado. Today it is a destination for outdoor adventure speakers. Lots of climber, cyclists, white water rafters, and other outdoor enthusiasts. We ate at a restaurant called Tennessee Pass Cafe. It was located in an old building that was probably constructed back in the late 1800’s. By the time we left the restaurant the temperature was dropping rapidly. We headed back to the cabin and watched “The Big Lebowski” before crashing for the night.
We woke up Tuesday to a great surprise. It snowed throughout the night and there was about 4 inches of fresh powder on the ground. We had breakfast and coffee while we made our plans for the day. Our first stop was near the Hoosier Pass. We went exploring and found the old Magnolia Mill, and abandoned mill that used to process gold and silver back in the 1930’s. It was cold and windy, but beautiful nonetheless. We saw rushing water, we found a remote cabin, and we even found the entrance to one of the old mines. Jason was an outstanding guide and his years of training and climbing experience came in handy for us.
After the hike around the mill we decided to take the long way back to Copper Mountain. We made a quick stop in South Park, CO (namesake to the famed South Park animated comedy). We had lunch at a hamburger stand in Buena Vista (a really cool little town that is a hot spot for white water rafting). Then we took a quick detour to check out the Twin Lakes (Pop. 23) area. Twin lakes is a gorgeous area that sits on the mountain pass that leads to Vail. It is a hot spot for cyclist and outdoor enthusiasts (thank you Jason for all the local knowledge).
That evening we cooked fish tacos for dinner and watched the movie “Airplane” for our evening entertainment. Then we packed up our things and hit the rack by 10 PM. We woke up at 5 AM on Wednesday morning to hit the road by 5:45 AM. It was a pleasant treat when we stopped for lunch in Dalhart, TX at a local dive BBQ joint and not a person in the entire restaurant was wearing a mask. In some ways, it was great to be back in TX. Knox did a fair amount of driving on the way back home (at least 6 hours) to help him prepare for his driver’s license test. We finally got back home around 7 PM Wednesday evening.
The entire trip was really special. Our conversation flowed much more naturally and the outdoor adventure and shared experiences are something I will forever treasure. I am grateful to Jason for being an outstanding host and guide for us. And I am particularly grateful for the time to bond with my son.