Hear about my top adventures from 2023: the good, the bizarre and the family friendly.
From Goodwin Greene Hut to Glacier National Park, 2023 served up some great adventure trips for my family and I. Many of the outings I share about were family friendly…at least five of the nine.
Considering I’m in the thick of raising young kids, I’m especially stoked on the family ones.
Here’s my top adventures from 2023, in no particular order:
1. Ringing Rocks (the bizarre and family friendly).
I often read a devotional with my kids by Louie Giglio, “Indescribable” and “The Wonder of God’s Creation,” which covers many topics related to science and the Bible and often features bizarre and interesting places.
They mentioned a spot near Whitehall, Montana, where there are “singing rocks” or “ringing rocks.” These rocks contain enough iron ore that they sound almost like a bell when you hit them with metal object like a hammer, which they actually provide at the trailhead (no kidding). My family and I were intrigued, so we decided to visit there last summer, on our way to a work trip near Glacier.
Driving the rutted and steep road to get there in our aging Outback proved the true crux, and we ended up playing it safe and hiking the last mile.
This bizarre and off the beaten path place did not disappoint. Check out this video.
2. Goodwin Greene Hut Trip (the good).
This past February, I headed on a 10th Mountain Division hut trip with some Colorado Springs friends. This year, we headed to the hard-to-find Goodwin Greene Hut. The setting proved remote, the camaraderie fun, and the powder skiing epic.
Especially during the second ski day, we found some couloirs that were less than 30 degrees and filled with plenty of untouched fluff, up to 18 inches of the deep stuff. You can read a longer post about this adventure here.
3. Socorro Spring Break (family friendly).
Where the heck is Socorro?
Over spring break, we sought warmer weather with one of our favorite camping families…they have five kids under the age of 12, which makes for a lot of fun combined with our family of four.
We planned to camp in Moab, but the forecast called for highs of only upper 40s, which would not make for fun nights, especially with kids. So, we opted for New Mexico, where the temps would be 60s and even 70s.
We ended up at the Box Canyon, near Socorro, which has some good sport climbing and boondock campsites, and a gravel road with plenty of room for the kids to roam and bike around. Just mind the cactuses.
Socorro is not an up and coming spring break destination per se…which was exactly the point. We navigated very few people. And the town offered its fair share of charm with its river bike path (full of goatheads) and $5 green Chile burritos at Sophia’s Café.
4. Memorial Day Weekend at Vedauwoo (family friendly).
Over Memorial Day Weekend, we headed with two families to Vedauwoo, Wyoming, a place known for off-width climbing and mountain biking. We hoped to skirt the crowds in Colorado and it turned out to be a good decision. While many of the campsites were full, they were so spread out we never felt crowded.
We were able to camp right at the base of some climbing, which also proved a good spot for kids to roam and run wild—a key consideration at this stage of the game.
A friend and I did get a chance to sneak in a 3-pitch climb on the last morning, Edward’s Crack, which included a quintessential Vedauwoo offwidth pitch.
5. Pikes Peak Skiing (the good).
This deserves a longer post in the future. Ever since I first moved to Colorado Springs, I have wanted to ski Pike’s Peak. Not just as a novelty, but to dig in, get to know the mountain and find the goods. However, beta is not easy to come by. And with the limited hours of the toll road, it might just be one of the most complicated places to ski backcountry, eh roadcountry…or however you would want to classify it.
Well, my friend Q, who lives at the base of the mountain and who has been skiing it for decades, was happy to show me the ropes.
If you recall, Colorado Springs had an unusually wet spring this year, so we went a handful of times. While it was raining in town all May and part of June, it was dumping snow on the mountain. Conditions remained quite good.
I’m thankful to have skied classics like Big Blue, Little Italy and Y Couloir. With Pikes Peak Highway a mere 15 minutes from my house, I have my eye on this gem for more fun in the future.
6. Crested Butte Trip (family friendly).
While heading to this ski mountain Crested Butte last March was not a “new” adventure per se, I always love skiing this resort that is the birthplace of “extreme skiing” and boasts 561 acres of expert terrain.
I worked at the mountain for a year while attending Western State College, and I always love a little nostalgia combined with some steep no-fall skiing.
The place also has some good family friend terrain, and Elizabeth and the kids and I fully partook during the day and enjoyed a hot tub at night. One afternoon I did get to ski many of the classics, after the family had their fill.
7. Glacier National Park (family friendly)
This park remains my favorite in existence. As a student at the University of Montana, I would often venture there with friends for a weekend backpacking trip or to kayak on the Middle Fork, which is also where I worked as a river guide for two seasons.
Speaking of which, one of my college buddies who owns a raft took our families down the Middle Fork, which was super fun.
Though, GNP is way more crowded than my college days of yesteryear. Like many parks dealing with the post covid boom, the reservation system offers a mixed blessing—a little pain to plan ahead, but a less crowded user experience.
8. Colorado Cragging at an Unknown Spot (the good).
In early August, a buddy and I explored an off the beaten path crag near Old Stage Road. A tricky and lengthy approach brought us to a beautiful rock amphitheater, with great views of the lesser mountains and foothills of Pikes Peak.
We climbed three routes on solid stone, including an 8+ hand crack, a 9 sport climb and a 10b offwidth. It was a great experience over all, with one small exception.
I perhaps trusted the rock of this newer granite crag too much. Climbing an arete, I grabbed what I thought was a solid nob on the face, but soon dislodged the grapefruit sized rock that sent me swimming in space. The rock bounced clear of my friend by a mere 10 feet; I’m thankful this proved nothing more than an interesting anecdote.
9. Peak Bagging in Lake City (the good).
In mid-July, my parents offered to watch our kids for four days, so Elizabeth and I did what any responsible kid-free couple would do: we took our camper to Lake City, Colorado, to hike some 14ers—something we rarely get to do these days.
We camped at a quiet spot off County Road 20, and then started early to climb Whetterhorn Peak, named because of it’s similar shape to the Matterhorn.
While I had climbed it before, it was Elizabeth’s first attempt. This peak offers lots of bang for your buck, including an exciting and exposed third class pitch near the summit, not to mention stunning views of dozens of peaks and remote valleys.
About ten years ago, I guided some college students up this peak, but one guy got sick, so we bailed and did not attempt the second peak: Umcompahgre.
This day, Elizabeth wasn’t up for double duty, but she was happy to let me go for it. The guidebook says hiking both would cover 11.6 to 16.5 miles, with 5,550 to 5,850 elevation gain. However, my total from Strava, ,after completing both with a shortcut was: 17.57 miles, 6,402 feet of elevation—a bit more than I bargained for.
Though Umcompahgre felt like a slog toward the end, I’m glad I linked them. The weather held beautifully…no thunderstorms storms, which is pretty rare in this part of Colorado. And this time I didn’t strand the second peak.
I’m thankful for all the adventures I had in 2023, including the bizarre and family friendly, and looking forward to 2024.
What about you, what have some of your top adventures been in 2023? What’s next for you this year?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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