• caseychapmanrossph

Mountain Time: YMCA of the Rockies welcomes you home

Updated: Feb 9

Featured in the Austin American Statesman (Summer 2020)

Whether it’s your first visit or it’s a long-standing family tradition, you immediately feel a change in the atmosphere arriving at the YMCA property in Estes Park, CO. Driving up the hill, you're transported into a world of wonder where simplicity meets convenience, play meets nature, and everyone in the family can breathe easier.

Our family of five has visited this special property five times since 2018. But this year it was something different. Amidst the pandemic, we placed our home for sale in Austin, TX this summer. Earlier in May, we decided playing it safe meant cancelling our annual trip. Although a few months later, we quickly realized we needed a safe escape more than ever. So I called the Y to see if there were any last minute options left for us.

Of course, there are always options, at the Y and in life. Lodge rooms and cabins opened this year with new disinfecting measures and strict staff safety measures. Even with a constant flow of bookings and cancellations due to the uncertain times, the Y reservations department was all smiles and unwavering patience as we worked through a solution that felt right for our family. With a car full of disinfectant wipes, a gallon of sanitizer and all the food we needed for the two day road trip, we set out to Estes!

Even with the day camps closed we quickly found so much to participate in given their high standards of safety. The staff wore masks one hundred percent of the time, no matter whether they were guiding indoor or outdoor activities. While we got to do everything we wanted, the activities were limited in attendance, almost exclusively outdoors, and by reservation only.

Horseshoes, science experiments, painting, frisbee, mini-golf, tennis, basketball, disc golf, mountain bike riding, rock wall climbing and hiking, you name it - we did it! My ten year old’s favorite activities were ax throwing (and I still can’t even believe I’m saying that but it was great!). He also loved roller skating. With the playlist and disco ball almost all to himself, I think he appreciated the solace. The thrilling, horseback trail ride led by Jackson Stables, with its series of switchback turns along Glacier Basin into Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a close tie to the dimly lit cabin, with witty, Harry Potter themed escape room mysteries that spellbound my seven year old. And my three year old was perfectly happy with her pony rides with Nibbles and Buttons, spotting wild turkeys, rabbits and chipmunks that hang by the barn, and painting for hours on her ceramic Dory bank at the crafting center. As the mama of this crew, my favorite part was seeing their eyes sparkle doing what they love, sometimes for hours, exploring new adventures that put some thrill in their hearts. Of course, I was always up for playing frisbee in the perfect grass lawn by our fire pit and laughing as we avoided stepping in the Elk poop! We were out of the house, enjoying the most amazing weather, and reconnecting as a family despite the craziness and uncertainty of the world, in a place that was safe both physically and emotionally.

Ultimately, the universe had other plans for our housing situation and we didn’t sell. Given all we had been through to try, we were devastated by the loss. We worked through the disappointment by playing in the big field, climbing boulders, looking for bears (none to be seen) and chasing ground squirrels. As I told my husband, being at the Y during this time was like being with a best friend when you get bad news. It was as close to a hug as we have had in a long while. Our focus quickly shifted and our disappointment was humbly put into perspective. Family comes first and the Y helped us see that so clearly when our thoughts had become clouded.

We drove back home the fifteen hours dusty, wind burned, and probably smelling like a combination of campfire and horse pen but with a new fullness of heart, appreciation for our health and appreciation for each other. I cannot imagine having to completely recreate the way you do business overnight, but the Y has done it and our experience this year was as good or better than it has ever been.

Their traditional moto “your home away from home”, has never been so deeply impactful. And their new motto, “You are the reason Y” brings tears to my eyes. We, as a family and a society, truly need them as much (or more!) as they need us. Thank you YMCA of the Rockies, for the big, symbolic bear hug this Texan family needed so badly. We are so very grateful to you this year and for all the wonderful years with you that we promise will follow in gratitude.

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