It has been a busy two weeks, focused on my nephew Max’s visit this past week.

This was a big deal. It was his first solo trip. And it was my first attempt to create a fun adventure for an 11-year-old. My sister and I had been talking about it for a while and I was determined to make it a trip filled with adventure!

I had quite the agenda laid out for us. When I wrote it all down, it seemed slightly ridiculous even to me. But I plowed ahead anyhow. We would camp. We would mountain bike. We would paddleboard. Max would spend one day at rock climbing camp. NO PROBLEM!

Max was flying in on Sunday. Saturday morning, I drove all over the place scouting for an available camping spot. Camping is popular here and it can be a challenge to find a spot. I was nearing despair when I drove to one designated area and saw that a prime camp spot had been cut off by fallen trees. This meant you couldn’t pull the car right up to the camp site – apparently this deterred everyone else, but it was solid gold for me! It was a beautiful spot in the trees.

I set up the tent and a camp table and only felt slightly bad that I was taking the spot a day earlier than we would use it. I decided this was acceptable when your 11-year-old nephew is coming for his first camping trip.

Saturday afternoon I made the dinner we would have on our first night, to ensure it was edible. And then I tried making s’mores in the skillet. With a fire ban in effect, we would not have a camp fire to roast marshmallows. The skillet s’mores were a rapid failure: burnt graham crackers and cold marshmallows. I decided I would prebake s’mores in the oven. There was no way we weren’t having s’mores on Max’s first camping trip!

The baked s’mores turned out pretty well. I had to sample several of them to be certain.

On Sunday we all anxiously tracked Max’s progress to Montrose. He had a long travel day, but he arrived on time and in good spirits.

Our adventure officially began! Here is how the week unfolded:



We drive 2 hours from the Montrose airport to Crested Butte, pick up Max’s rented mountain bike, drop stuff at house, grab Puck and head to our campsite. Once we finish setting up camp, we cook dinner (a hit) then go on a post dinner bushwhacking adventure. Back at the camp we eat s’mores (bigger hit). Then we retire to the tent for the night.



I’m up so early that I have time for multiple coffees; I love early mornings at the campsite. Once Max is up, we eat lots of pancakes, then load up and head in to town for our first mountain bike ride (our campsite is only about 45 minutes out of town).

The road is pretty rough for several miles. As we near the end of the roughest section and are driving down a steep hill, I hear a bad sound. I know what it is, but since the tire pressure sensor takes several seconds to register a tire pressure of zero, I have several seconds to convince myself that sound wasn’t what I think it was.

Our ride to town

When the tire pressure sensor alert ruins my blissful ignorance, I pull over and see that the left rear tire is pancake flat. My car doesn’t have a spare tire; instead they give you a sealant/pump system. I have used it before since it seems I have an inordinate number of flat tires in this car. I can’t see any foreign objects in the tire. The fact that it went completely flat in several seconds is concerning, but I hook up the sealant system and hope for the best. As the sealant and air goes in – and right back out – I locate the source of the leak. I can’t see it, but I can feel it is a large gash in the sidewall.


Nothing screams tourist like RENT ME

Luckily, I have cell phone reception. I start making calls. Of the friends I feel comfortable calling to rescue me, Alexis is out of town and CJ is in the ER with her daughter. 30 minutes later I have Plan B in motion: the large tow truck is on his way; I have ordered 4 new tires that will arrive Tuesday; I have rented an Adventure Jeep to get us through Monday; CJ is going to lend us her car for Tuesday. 3 hours later we are back in business: A little hungry but otherwise in good spirits!


It’s time for our first mountain bike ride. I take Max on the only beginner trail in Crested Butte for his first ride. He gets the hang of it right away. Puck is with us today, so we take prolonged stops at the river. It’s a good ride and Max seems to love it. We end the ride at the ice cream shop in town. Perfect!

First mountain bike ride!

After that we shop for dinner (grilled cheese) and head back to the camp site. Aunt Cary’s back has developed a strange spasm and Max and I chuckle every time I make a funny sound as it catches me off guard. Our post dinner walk is on the road to save my back. We are all exhausted, so we hit the sack. At some point in the night, Max tosses his sleeping pad on top of Puck. As Puck tries to figure out what happened, I sit up to sort out the situation. While I am sitting up, Puck decides my sleeping pad looks really comfortable and makes himself at home on my pad/pillow. By the time all is said and done, Puck is comfortably asleep, I am crammed on half my sleeping pad with my head on Puck’s butt, and Max is lying on the ground wondering why someone stole his sleeping pad. I wish I could have taken a photo.




Tuesday morning is a little hectic because I have to take down camp, get all of us and our camping stuff home, then return the Jeep before 9 after washing it and filling up the gas. I manage to shove all our camping stuff (and Max and Puck) in the jeep. I dump everything unceremoniously at the house – the garage looks like a camp site exploded in it – wash the jeep, gas it up and have it back just in time!

I walk home via the coffee shop.

Max nearing the top!

Time for our second mountain bike ride. I decide we are going to try a different trail today – it’s slightly harder and includes a climb. It’s a short climb by our standards but it is still a real climb. I tell Max we can bail if he hates it; but he sticks with it. And when I am behind him yelling “pedal pedal pedal!!” on the harder sections, he doesn’t stop and throw his bike at me. Success! As I predicted, he loves the downhill but is a little bummed at how much faster it is to go down than to go up.


More coffee and muffins. Then we load up CJ’s car with our two paddleboards. I am taking us paddleboarding at a lake that we have to hike to. It’s about a mile hike uphill. I have found a cool roller thingy, so I can pull both paddleboards, but I haven’t tried it out yet. Between the two of us we manage to inflate the boards relatively quickly. We load them onto the roller and hope for the best. Miraculously it works great. It’s still a hard hike up, but we make it. It is worth it to be on this beautiful lake.

A beautiful day to paddle!

For the next couple hours, we paddle (Max takes to it much more quickly than Aunt Cary did), Puck swims, Max jumps in to the very cold water and then realizes we don’t have any towels! Luckily it is warm and sunny. The lake is lovely and peaceful. It is a perfect afternoon.

Puck the water dog

Once we make it back to the car, we have to rush to town where I drop Max and Puck and paddleboards at the house, then run to catch the bus that will take me to pick up my car.


It’s pizza for dinner. I am on the “eat every bad thing I never eat” plan by now and loving it! After pizza we start working on a jigsaw puzzle until bedtime.



Today is Max’s day to go to rock climbing camp. It works out well because CJ texts at 4:30 a.m. She has been throwing up all night, so I am going to coach her CrossFit classes that morning. Between classes, I manage to string up all our camping stuff in the driveway, wash it off and leave it to dry. It looks like a vagabond camp, but I don’t care at this point.

I pick up Max at 3:15 and we head straight to donuts. Yee haw! After donuts, we go on one final mountain bike ride, sticking to the easier trail this time. We finish the last day of Aunt Cary’s Adventure Camp with leftover pizza and more jigsaw puzzle.

Miraculously we have done everything I had on my ridiculous list. We had a ton of fun in the process. I don’t know about Max, but Aunt Cary is exhausted.


Thursday we drive to Montrose where I send Max off on his journey back home.


It was a great week! Hopefully the first of many adventures to come.