Christmas Travel

Traveling over the Christmas holiday has become a bit of a tradition for me and I thought it would be fun to reflect back on some of the places I’ve spent Christmas.  It really started as a necessity, trying to squeeze as much out of my PTO as possible, and using holiday weekends certainly helps!

O'Hare decked out for the holidays

The first Christmas trip I can recall was when I lived in Seattle; my mom and sister were in Illinois and we decided to meet in the middle in Colorado. We spent a couple nights at Glenwood Hot Springs and for Christmas Eve, checked into the Redstone Inn.  I had no idea how wonderful Christmas could be when there are no dishes to wash at the end of the night!  Not to mention hot tubbing in the snow, and a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a neighboring castle!

Christmas Eve sleigh ride at the Redstone Inn

A few years later, before my mom retired, she treated us to a Christmas trip to Hawaii.  This was my first tropical Christmas and I thought I might miss having a white Christmas, but I really didn’t!  We have plenty of winter before and after Christmas, so I didn’t miss the cold and snow at all.

12/22 - Hale Koa luau

Who wouldn’t want to snorkel with dolphins on Christmas Eve?! (in the wild, of course, not one of those places with poor captive dolphins, that’s disgusting)

12/24 - Waianae Wildlife CruiseSnorkeling with Spinner Dolphins

After my sister got married and added another family to the mix, my mom and I flew to St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, two years in a row.  We flew home Christmas Eve, or left Christmas day so we could still celebrate at home as well.  I suppose if you’re really religious, or have a huge family, spending the actual holiday in an airport could be depressing, but not me!  In fact crowds are a bit calmer on the actual holiday as most people don’t want to be in transit.

In 2014, we traveled to the Galapagos Islands over Christmas.  This was a 10 day trip, so traveling at Christmas really helped reduce the vacation days I used at work.  We had planned it more than a year in advance, and ended up celebrating Christmas at my house the day we flew back.  Talk about a crazy day – starting in Quito, Ecuador and ending with pizza and guests in Chicago that night!

Group photo - Randy, Elayne, Leigh, Beryl, Mendel, Diane, Heather, Dieter, Lisa

Penguins

Last year, my mom and I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Panama, so I was actually home for the entire Christmas holiday!  This year, I will be boarding a 5am Christmas flight for Baja Mexico.

As you can probably  tell, I’m not much of a sentimental (or religious) person, so missing Christmas isn’t a big deal to me.  I do miss going to my hometown and getting together with my aunts, uncles and cousins at the holidays, but with everyone grown up, married and starting their own families, it was already becoming so difficult to coordinate so we just get together in the summer!  I don’t think my nephew will remember that we celebrated his first Christmas on the 29th instead of the 25th, and even if he does, I’m always going to be the crazy aunt that misses big events because I’m traveling the globe, so they may as well get used to that while they’re young, right?! 🙂

Has you ever celebrated Christmas somewhere other than home? Any suggestions where I should consider for next Christmas?

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Colorado Hot Springs Weekend

What a setting!

You all know how much I love Colorado and try not to let a year pass without at least one visit.  In 2015, when my backpacking trip was cut short by illness, I spent some time exploring new (to me) areas, like Buena Vista.  On my way out to St Elmo ghost town, I had passed by Mt Princeton Hot Springs and knew I had to come back.  As soon as I got home to a computer, I was checking calendars and availability – a year out, the fall weekends were almost booked up!  I was lucky to snag a condo cabin for 3 nights in October.

The cabin area and road leading to the hot springs

I flew into Denver early on a Friday, grabbed a rental car and hit the road.  Buena Vista is about 3 hours from the Denver airport.  Taking the southern route, 285, is much more enjoyable than the craziness of the I-70 corridor.  Technically, Mt Princeton Hot Springs is in Nathrop, about 10 minutes from Buena Vista.  Buena Vista is where you’ll find a grocery store, gas stations and restaurants.

Friday night I was solo, thanks to a long-time friend (who I hadn’t seen in years), who stood me up because she “drank too much.” So I spent some time in the hot springs pool and used the evening to catch up on work – unfortunately, I was still doing two jobs at work, and this trip came at the end of quarter, so I had to lug a laptop along, which I almost never do!

Catching up on work while enjoying al fresco lunch

Saturday morning, I took advantage of the free yoga class in the pool – I’ve never done water yoga before, and it was fantastic!  It was 50 degrees outside, the pool is around 100 degrees…it made for a great start to the day!  Later in the day, my friend Deborah arrived from Denver and we set out for a short hike at Cottonwood Pass.  We couldn’t find the trail-head we were looking for, so ended up just parking at the pass and following the trail there for a bit.  The view was pretty amazing, as we watched a storm roll over the next valley.

Cottonwood Pass - storms rolling in over Gunnison County

Cottonwood Pass

The aspens may have been a bit past peak, but they were still pretty spectacular!  We made several photo stops along the road on the way back to our cabin.

Cottonwood Pass

When we got back to the cabin, my aunt Norie had arrived from Denver.  We spent the evening cooking dinner in the cabin, and enjoying the hot springs.  Before bed, I gave nighttime photography another shot, but I still need to work on it – nothing share-worthy on this trip (at least I was able to stay up past dark – thank you, shorter days!)

Sunday morning, we had a quick breakfast in the cabin and cruised the web for a suitable hike that would still allow the ladies to get back to Denver at a reasonable hour.  We settled on the Poplar Gulch trail near St Elmo ghost town.  We all had our SLR cameras out, so it was a leisurely stroll through the woods as we each snapped a ton of photos of the changing aspens.

Poplar Gulch Trail near St ElmoNorie and I

St Elmo

Norie and I decided to have another soak before she hit the road, so we went to some of the other pools – we first went to the river, where stones are arrayed to form pools of varying temperatures.  This was a cool feature, but I didn’t love sitting in sand and rocks, so we headed back up to some of the other pools.

Sitting in the river after a dayhike

After both Norie and Deborah had gone back to Denver, I was solo again, with a lot of work to catch up on.  I decided to head into Buena Vista for dinner since the wifi at the resort wasn’t great.  Quincy’s Steakhouse had free wifi and 1 menu choice:  steak, haha!  I was able to finish most of my work and enjoy another soak before bedtime.

I had booked the latest flight on Monday, so I had plenty of time to find my way back to Denver.  I first went into Buena Vista to hire a new realtor for my property in nearby Twin Lakes. (For sale here!)  Once that business was taken care of, I decided to drive up and see the property.  I always love driving through Leadville and this time I got spritzed with snow while the nearby peaks got a dusting of white.

Road between Twin Lakes and Leadville

From there, I headed over to Breckenridge, another of my favorite mountain towns.  I had lunch here and spent a few hours strolling main street, mostly window shopping.  Then, it was time to begin the sad drive back to the airport. I get so sad every time I leave Colorado – so why do I keep leaving?   When will I finally just stay?!  Hopefully soon!

No amount of time in Colorado is ever enough, but this was a great little weekend getaway and I truly loved Mt Princeton Hot Springs resort.  The wifi was bad, restaurant service spotty, but you just can’t beat the setting.  I love that it’s not right in town, but close enough to run in for anything.  The resort offers a ton of different lodging options – we had the downstairs half of a cabin (called a condo cabin.) There are also full cabins, Cliffside and Hillside hotel rooms, and rooms in the lodge.  In the summer, there’s a kid-friendly pool with waterslide, and the main pool and spa area have a full roster of free fitness classes.  Our cabin had a queen size bedroom, plus a pullout couch in the living room.  We also had a small kitchen, which was convenient as the on-site restaurant was pricey and not a lot of variety.

Mt Princeton Hot Springs - 1 Bedroom Cabin Condo

Mt Princeton Hot Springs - 1 Bedroom Cabin Condo

Mt Princeton Hot Springs - 1 Bedroom Cabin Condo

This is definitely someplace I will return to someday and hopefully sooner rather than later!  So…what other hot springs resorts do I need to check out?

For all of my Colorado pictures, click here!

 

 

 

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