If you want to be humbled by your relative insignificance in the grand scheme of things, while at the same time being inspired by mankind’s ability to bend nature to our will, have I got the place for you: Vail, Colorado, where my family and I just returned from a week of outdoor fun.
Vail is one of the world’s toniest ski resorts, of course, but I have only gone skiing once in my life, as a young boy on a class trip, and nearly died on my second attempt, as a grown up, so I have no interest in venturing there in the winter. No skiing for me, thanks.
But I do enjoy whitewater rafting and the occasional hike, good food and great weather, and absolutely killer scenery. Vail in the summer offers all of the above in great quantities and a whole lot more.
Let’s spend a moment on the scenery, which Mother Nature has been working on for, oh, about 500 million years. Mountains, canyons, rivers — stunning. How does all this happen? Slowly, I suppose, and you quickly realize that living to 100 is a major milestone for a human, but not so much for the planet.
But, oh, the things we humans can do! There are power lines that go straight up and over those mountains and train tracks that follow the contours of the rivers — massive feats that are a testament to wild imagination, brilliant engineering, and sheer willpower. I kept envisioning some guy in the 1900′s standing in a massive canyon, wiping his brow, and saying, “You know what would be great right here? A four-lane highway! Now, get me the donkeys and some dynamite!”
Here are a few of the things we did…
We did, indeed, go whitewater rafting — twice, in fact. The first time, we splashed through Class 1 and 2 rapids, then we took it up a notch and did some high Class 3′s. The water is frigid, even in mid-August, but a great time was had by all, including my five-year-old, who scampered into an inner tube for a portion of the rapids and, at one point, disappeared from my view as he plunged into a rapid and our raft shot up pretty much over the top of him. Father of the year! All forward!
We went to a free open-air concert at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Playing that night was Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, which I insist you say out loud, immediately, just for the hell of it. They were awesome, though I suspect some of their awesome-ness had to do with the fact that tree-lined mountains were visible in the background and the concession stand stand sold bottles of wine in buckets of ice. Nice.
We visited Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and enjoyed a very cool cave tour, as well as some crazy thrill rides, including the Giant Canyon Swing. “Feel the excitement of the wind in your face,” the brochure reads, “and the thrill of floating with zero-Gs.” I assumed that I would need to remove my baseball cap before strapping in, but knew I was in for it when the ride operator suggested I also remove my shoes, since they were slip-on Merrills. It’s kind of hard to describe, but at the high point swinging up backwards, you are basically looking straight down 1,300 feet into a gorge leading to the Colorado River. At the high point swing ing upwards, I was treated to a lovely view of the horizon upside down. I screamed pretty much the whole time and, I’m ashamed to admit, a lot more than my ten-year-old daughter, who wanted to do it again the moment the ride ended. I love you, my dear. But not that much.
We attended the Beaver Creek Rodeo, a low-end affair to be honest, which featured barrel racing, steer roping, bull riding (the bull owner was awarded the championship buckle at the end of the night, since no rider stayed on any of his animals for the requisite eight seconds), and, best of all, mutton busting. This latter event involved putting helmets on small children, plopping them down on top of big-ass sheep, and seeing which kid could hold on for dear life the longest. Most kids hit the dirt instantly and hard, but this one little guy stayed on top of the sheep for just about the entire length of the arena. When he finally fell off, he landed in a big pile of horse shit. Classic!
All in all, a wonderful week out West.