LYONS — “Medium push or big push?” I ask as I pull back on the thick cord of the zipline and get ready to launch my two daughters.
“Big!” they shout in unison. They are straddling the swing seat, facing each other with enormous smiles, and they’re off, skimming across the fresh carpet of wood chips until the swing hits the spring at the end of the line with a wild, nearly upside-down kicker.
We are at LaVern Johnson Park on business. We used to come to this park in Lyons before the 2013 flood, when it was stilled called Meadow Park (which is what the sign at the entrance still reads), with its old-school slides and climbing equipment. My children are playground connoisseurs, so when we heard about this new opportunity in Lyons, we felt it was our duty to buzz up U.S. 36. to check it out.
LaVern Johnson Park is part of Lyons’ ongoing flood recovery efforts since the disastrous events of September 2013. It just reopened in September (2016), and, in addition to its new name (which honors one of the town’s beloved citizens), the city put in a state-of-the-art, plastic-free climbing and play area, integrated beautifully with the existing landscape and hugging the bank of North St. Vrain Creek.
After a few more zipline thrills, I chase my kids to the water’s edge, then our shoes are off, and we are climbing over enormous sandstone blocks and into the cold water. “Look, that’s where we’re staying tonight,” I tell them, pointing across the creek to a row of different colored little structures.
WeeCasa (weecasa.com, 720-460-0239, from $139/night), a self-described “tiny home hotel,” is another brand-new feature in town. My girls beg me to let them run across while I drive the car around to meet them. I refuse, even though I’m excited by the proximity of everything. Because of its busy main drag, Lyons isn’t necessarily a walkable town per se, but most everything we need to visit is nearby.
Just upstream, some fly fishermen are standing thigh-deep in the water and casting; behind them, a few climbers are bouldering on the giant red-rock wall that towers above the whole scene. After three hours of hard playground research, we are ready for a bite.
For many, Lyons is simply a gateway town, somewhere to stop for a meal on your way to adventures at higher elevations and in Rocky Mountain National Park. But Lyons deserves some credit as its own destination, partly for this new park, the tiny-house hotel — I’ve heard amazing things about the cute new library, too — but also for its restaurants.
On this evening, we decide to play it safe with a place we already know. We head upstairs at Oskar Blues, an old Lyons standby with a southern-tinged, meaty menu and balloons for the kids. I go for a pint of Black Perrin and Iowa Style whiskey-smoked pork chops over an arugula salad. Then we retreat to our tiny pocket of coziness for the night.
Wee Casa 3 was built by Sprout Tiny Homes in LaJunta and sits atop a wheeled trailer, in the shade of a few trees. It is one of 22 tiny homes laid out on a loop drive, like a campground. The wood-dominated interior is 170-square feet, plus another 70 square feet in the sleeping loft, and has a kitchenette, bathroom, shower and heating. It kind of feels like an RV, but not quite, and a little like a cabin, but … different. My girls head straight up to the loft with their dolls while I stretch out on the queen-size murphy bed below, reading until I hear their stories trail off into sleep.
Next morning, brunch is an easy choice: We walk across the street to the Lyons Fork (450 Main St., Lyons, 303-823-5014, brunch on weekends begins 9 a.m.), which is inside the town’s oldest saloon building (built in 1881!). My girls chow down on baguette French toast while I dig into a bowl of Chile Colorado with locally raised, roasted pork green chile, two eggs and cornbread.
I want to stay longer for more coffee and maybe a house bloody or two. But my daughters are raring to get back to the playground, to continue their work.