Our second day in Silverthorne, Colorado was even better than the first. We had a lazy start to the day. We ate breakfast and then played a board game. After the board game we got everything ready and started out.
Since we had the entire day, we picked a longer hike into the wilderness. The Mesa Cortina trail is an approximately nine mile hike that ends in a waterfall. And whenever you can end a hike at a waterfall, it’s immediately a winner. Kids love looking forward to the waterfall and it always seems like a reward for your efforts. So, we started off.
Mesa Cortina Trail to Willow Creek Falls
The Mesa Cortina Trail to South Willow Creek Falls is an 8.9 mile out-and-back trail in Silverthorne, Colorado. And while it was a fairly long hike, especially with little ones, it really didn’t seem like it. The two steepest parts are right near the beginning and right before the waterfall. The one at the beginning is when you are the freshest and excited to be out there, so it doesn’t seem so bad. And the second one is right before the waterfall so you are more excited about being able to hear the waterfall and being so close that you don’t really notice the elevation gain.
Plus the scenery is beautiful and ever changing. One minute you are meandering through meadows, the next you are balancing on log bridges over rivers, and before you know it you are hiking through towering forests or under massive cliffs. The trail has a little bit of everything. And our family loved it.
We began our hike at the trailhead and quickly progressed to one of the steep parts of the hike. The kids didn’t seem to notice the steepness as they cheerily bounced up the trail, continually pointing out fun things to see to each other. As we descended into a little valley, I began to believe that I was transported into The Sound of Music. And I may, or may not, have sung while running through the meadow with my arms outstretched.
Luckily, that was quickly over and I resumed hiking with the rest of the family. Aspen loved finding the baby trees and comparing herself to them. And she was thrilled whenever she found an “Aspen-sized tree.”
One of our favorite parts of this trail were all of the river or pond crossings. I don’t know what it is about a log bridge, but it’s just really fun to cross one. It makes the hike seem ten times more adventurous while not increasing the danger or difficulty at all. And if you’re really hot, you can always take some of that river or stream water and splash it on the back of your neck, which Tye did to himself and the kids. They told me that it was cold, so I opted out.
I really just loved all of the bridges. (I’m a bridge person.) And this trail had nice straight ones and wobbly wooden log ones and long ones and short ones. It was awesome!
Due to the length of the hike, we took plenty of breaks. And because there was so much shade along the way, most of those breaks happened in the cool shade where we could hydrate and eat some snacks. Because you have to have snacks.
At one point I did feel like the sun must be getting to some of us as Tye, Xander, and Selene tried to present Aspen to the forest creatures as their new queen. But that didn’t last too long. And I made sure that Aspen wasn’t left behind with the squirrels.
As we neared the waterfall, we stumbled upon some leftover snow and just had to stop. The kids loved running their hands through the snow, feeling the icy crystals on a hot June day. We thought about building a snowman but we were so close to the falls that we decided to press on instead.
After winding through the many aspen groves, crossing the open meadows, and climbing up the pine-lined gorge, we reached the waterfall! It was a huge waterfall with several layers. The kids scampered around putting their hands in the water and throwing in small sticks to see them go over the edge. We hiked up to the middle of the falls and found several large, flat rocks to eat lunch on.
As we ate lunch we were soon joined by a very friendly chipmunk. The kids wanted to feed the chipmunk cookies but we thought that dried berries and nuts would be more appropriate. We named the chipmunk, Chip, but then quickly discovered that it was a nursing mommy chipmunk so decided upon a more feminine name.
When it was time to head back we grabbed our hydration bags out of the river. Tye had tied them up in the river to get our water cold again, which is a great way to not have lukewarm water on a return hike. It’s nature’s natural refrigerator.
With our ice-cold water back on our backs, we headed down the trail. And even though we were going back along the same trail, it seemed different somehow. Our perspective had changed and we noticed things that we had not seen the first time, which is one of those really cool things about life. And it’s why you can read the same book over and over again but always be learning something new. And it’s why you notice the really cool cliff face with the amazing hand holds to climb on that you didn’t notice the first time you passed by. And it’s why the meadow looks just as beautiful and amazing the second time you see it.
As we descended the trail to the trailhead below and discussed Napoleon and European history (that long of a hike can lead to all kinds of topics), I thought about how lucky we were to be hiking as a family that day. I love spending that kind of time with my husband and children and being able to hear their ideas and watch their minds and hearts grow as we explore together.
And that’s why we do all of this. That’s why we are trying to ignite adventure in our family, so that we can have fun and learn and grow together. Because the more fun you have with your family, the more you want to be with them, the more you want to turn off the TV or put down your smart phone and spend time with the ones you love.
After our long hike we cleaned up, had a yummy dinner, and went back to the pool. And there’s nothing quite like relaxing in a hot tub after an entire day of hiking.