Blog #198~Nick’s Adventures in Vail
Last week, Nick celebrated his 24th birthday in Vail, Colorado. Nick has Down syndrome and autism, but this doesn’t limit his ability to enjoy life to its fullest. My son loves the Disney movie, Snow Dogs. We made reservations for a dog sledding tour with Mountain Mushers, located in Beaver Creek. Upon our arrival, the dogs were loud and super excited. They barked and howled expressing their eagerness to run. Our guide and musher, Cameron led Nick to Sara, an affectionate dog that would be on our team. Normally Nick gets shy around dogs but he took a liking to sweet Sara.
Nick, Cameron and Sara…..
The dogs are a mix of Alaskan Huskies, all happy, friendly and truly loved by the staff. They were certainly ready to race, as they jumped with eagerness.
Here’s Nick and I, with his Dad posing briefly in the musher position, before we started the tour…..
Our musher, Cameron made sure Nick was comfortable. Before takeoff, he yelled, “Hike” and the dogs took off quickly. Nick loved it, as he is such a thrill seeker. Anytime we ride on a rollercoaster and it ends, he always signs “more”. So, I knew dog sledding would be right up his alley. Once the tour starts, the dogs quiet down and get into a rhythm. At this point you hear their paws hitting the ground in unison, and the sound of the snow crunching under the runners. Mountain Mushers runs the tour on private property, with many hills. We flew up and up and down them, at a rapid pace. On occasion we would hit bumps on the trail. Nick loved that part, laughing and saying “Oh $h*t” each time 🙂
There is something about being in the mountains amongst the Aspen and Pine trees, that is both peaceful and reverent. The views are spectacular, and it was interesting to see the large bear claw marks scraping up several Aspen trees. Halfway through the tour, the dogs get a rest. The staff provided us with a treat of hot chocolate and homemade pumpkin bread.
One of the dogs on our team is blind, and he is paired with his brother, who helps to guide him. Even though this dog couldn’t see, he was right in the mix. Each time our musher called him by name, the blind dog leaped in the air kicking up one leg in elation. It was an amazing experience that Nick and I will never forget. He’s been watching the movie Snow Dogs everyday since.
Vail is beautiful, and the views are serene. Nick enjoyed being with his aunt, uncle and our friends last week. He got such a kick out of being in the hot tub, while snow flakes flew around us. Nick smiled, blinking them off of his eyelashes as the blustery breeze gave us a jolt of coolness while we soaked in the steamy bubbles.
We celebrated Nick’s birthday with pasta and his favorite, chocolate cake!
We wrapped up the week, with a trip to the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass. The resort overlooks the Sawatch Mountains, with many groomed trails to ski, hike and snow shoe, along with other Nordic adventures. Our group took the one mile trail via snow shoeing, cross-country skiing or riding up in a snow mobile.
Nick totally loved riding up the hill, zoom-zoom……
At the top of the hill, we took in a spectacular view, watching the sunset with hues that painted a beautiful canvas in the sky…..
Tennessee Pass provides a unique, fine dining experience inside a yurt. A yurt is a circular domed tent of skins or felt stretched over a collapsible lattice framework and used by pastoral peoples of inner Asia. The resort offers yurts both for dining and sleeping. The yurt is rustic and toasty inside, with an exceptional four course dining menu.
Tennessee Pass Cookhouse Yurt……
Dining in the yurt…..
After dinner, we took a fast pace ride down the one mile trail back to the Nordic center. The stars and constellations shined vividly in the night sky. Nick giggled with delight as we flew swiftly through the darkness, on the snow mobile. It was peaceful and exhilarating all at once.
Our vacation and adventures in Vail were remarkable. I feel blessed to have the opportunity for these unique experiences, and seeing the joy through Nick’s eyes. That’s what is in my noggin this week.
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*Instagram #nickdsautism (I will be posting some video footage of our dog sledding experience, here this week).