We held out for about two years but our whole family finally caught COVID. We suspect that Elijah caught it at school and then, since we weren’t willing to lock him in his room at home for a few days, Tyla and I caught it too. We’ve taken so many at-home COVID tests over the months since they came out that it was odd to finally see positive tests.
We’re in a weird situation now: COVID is still a leading cause of death in the United States, but it feels like we’ve lost track of it. Self-testing is great, but there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on self-reporting a positive test. That makes it difficult to assess the risk level of going out. Hospitalization and death rates in our county have been increasing and that risk measure should be consistent, but what about all the other effects of COVID? How do I measure those risks if I don’t know how many people are currently infected?
There’s also a myth that getting COVID gives you super-immunity. Research shows that the vaccine gives you better immunity than catching COVID. Both wear off over time, and the combination of both is still the best, but this is an example of some basic information that we’re failing to spread in the community.
This won’t be the last time we catch it, but hopefully with our natural immunity, upcoming booster shots, masking in stores, and avoiding big crowds, we’ll be able to avoid it for quite a while. This isn’t something any of us are eager to go through again.
Do you remember the big thing that happened in March 2020? It was HORRIBLE. Our vacation got canceled! (Also, there was a global pandemic.) We had a trip to Hawaii planned and up until a day or two before we left, we didn’t know if we were going or not. The world decided for us and air travel was pretty much shut down. Our flights were canceled and eventually they decided to give us credit for them. Those credits were set to expire this spring so before Christmas, we somewhat randomly pointed to a calendar and rebooked figuring that either we’d cancel again and just forfeit our credits or things would get better and we’d go. Instead of the hotel/resort we had planned before, we booked a condo instead so that we could comfortably eat indoors even if COVID was raging. Days after we booked, Omicron hit but luckily for us, it peaked and by the time our trip rolled around, vaccinations were going well and states were rolling back mask mandates. We were able to take our trip during a very low risk time period just before the mask mandates ended and before the Safe Hawaii (vaccination or testing required) program ended. It was pretty much perfect timing! Ok, I think that’s enough COVID backstory, let’s get to the vacation!
Our direct flight landed on Oahu on Thursday afternoon. The day had started around 4am so Tyla and I were ready to find some food and crash in the condo, but Elijah didn’t want to just SEE the beach, he wanted to swim! So we dug out his swimsuit and he got his first taste of swimming in the ocean, or at least in a sunny, warm ocean.
I won’t give a day by day recap, but each day involved some combination of swimming at the ocean and swimming in the condo pool. The condo was about a block off the ocean so it was a good mix of price and convenience. It came stocked with a beach umbrella, beach chairs, sand toys, boogie boards, and lots of other beach goodies.
We purposely picked this condo because of its location so that we wouldn’t need to rent a car, but a couple weeks before we left, I found a great deal through work. The condo came with a free parking spot (amazing!) so we pivoted and rented the car. That gave us a little extra mobility which helped immediately on our first night because I was able to go to Safeway and stock up on breakfast, lunch, and snack foods. For dinner, we tried various food trucks (Munchwagon and Five Star Poke were our favorites) as well as takeout from some restaurants.
Our condo had a good view of Diamond Head Crater and we since we were still on Seattle time, we decided to get there right around sunrise (6:30am) and hike up before it got hot. Silly us. The lot opens at 6:00am and the lot fills up at 6:00am. The lot attendant suggested that we come back around 7:30-8:00 when the first batch of hikers come back down, so we drove around randomly until then. We randomly ended up at Kawaikui Beach Park and walked down to the beach just as the sun was peaking over a hill! The parking lot had quite a few cars but most of them must have been surfers because there were only a handful of people along the beach.
It was a beautiful quiet spot to hang out until we headed back to Diamond Head. Thankfully the tip was correct and we got a spot. The hike up wasn’t too bad physically, but it was packed. I know I say some trails around here are busy but this was solid people the whole way. We didn’t linger long at the top viewpoints because it was just a mass of hot, sweaty people. But despite all that, we were all glad that we did it and Elijah was really proud of himself for making it to the top. When we got back down, we hit the obligatory treat truck to get a fresh fruit bowl served in half a pineapple and a shaved ice. On our way back, we drove around a bit looking for some place to buy fresh, local fruit. We ended up at Whole Foods which had a decent selection, but you have to be careful to actually find stuff grown in Hawaii and not imported from Mexico or South America.
Another day, we walked over to the Honolulu Zoo. It’s not huge, but it was just about the perfect size. As we finished seeing most of the exhibits, we were all ready to get out of the sun for a bit. The animals were fun to see and Elijah learned about a new species of penguin, but my favorite part might have been the amazing trees!
Other activities included a visit to Leonard’s bakery, boogie boarding in some waves, finding our annual ornament at the Waikiki Christmas Store, geocaching, a second trip to Kawaikui Beach Park, and checking out the Koi pond in the lobby. Our condo was on the 29th floor and our balcony had a nice view of the sunset. I suspect that in a couple weeks, the sunset view would be blocked behind another building, but the timing worked out well for us.
We had four complete days there with a travel day on each end. On our final day, we got packed up and had an extra hour or so to kill so we drove to Pearl Harbor Nation Memorial. It has free parking and free entry. Thankfully we got lucky and found a parking spot so we were able to walk around the grounds. The boat ride to the Arizona is free too but you have to book weeks in advance. I knew that going in and our plan was to just see the area but skip all the various museums and things that required tickets and entry fees. While I’d love to spend more time exploring the museums, I’m very thankful that we got to stop there so I can have a memory of that area. The historical accounts feel even more real when you can remember standing in the spot.
Our flights both ways were smooth and uneventful. We were tired when we got home but we were so thankful to have had the opportunity to take the trip and to get there and back safely and in good health. Aloha!
We took our own family photos again this year and we used that for the front of the card. On the back, I realized that we can fill it with pictures so it was fun to dig through all of those and pic some for a collage. Merry Christmas!
Every year since Tyla and I started dating, we’ve gotten a new ornament as a memory of the year gone by. It has been admittedly more difficult to keep that going the last couple years what with the pandemic and all, but we’re still chugging along. This year we picked up an ornament when we went whale watching.
Today is an exciting day for our family: Elijah is getting his first vaccine shot! We got on the list pretty quickly after it was announced but the wait times were a couple weeks everywhere I called. So three weeks from now he’ll get his second shot. Two weeks from then he’ll be fully vaccinated, and that will be the best (late) Christmas present for our whole family.
On a broader scale, it’s been over five months since my last post and the whole situation has gotten more and more frustrating. Now we’re in an argument about whether or not you can force someone to get a shot. Why is this even an argument? How did we get to a point where people are fighting against helping themselves and everyone around them by getting the shot? I pray that we quickly get to the point where science will outweigh politics, but I think we’re in for a very long haul and we might not have seen the worst of it yet both in terms of infections/deaths and in the economy.
So… woosah… I’m thankful that Elijah is able to get the vaccine now. Thank you to all the doctors, scientists, researchers, manufacturers, and government agencies that have joined forces around the globe to give us this life-saving option. Soon my family will be able to reassess the risks and figure out what things we can do that we weren’t doing before. We’ll be able to do that with much less risk of getting COVID ourselves or spreading it to the vulnerable population that we encounter.
P.S. Here are a few links I’ve found helpful lately:
There are plenty of whale watching opportunities in the Pacific Northwest, but we’ve never taken one as a family out here. A few weeks back, Ken went and not only recommended Island Adventures, but the coupon he gave us pushed me over the edge to book the trip. Unfortunately a couple days before we were scheduled to go, their big boat had mechanical issues but we were able to use a smaller boat instead. I think it actually ended up being a nicer experience in some ways.
We were out on the water for about five hours but the time went pretty quickly. The company posts a summary of every trip so I’ll copy their summary of our outing here because it’s better than I could do:
We headed out into the Salish Sea once again with beautiful weather settling in over the area. Starting the day off, we headed down Rosario Strait and began to see many harbor porpoise popping up all over the place as we made our way down to Colville Island. When we got to the island, we found a few nice bobs of harbor seals before making our way back to the east with reports of animals inside Whidbey Island. After a fun cruise through Deception pass, we headed south and our sharp eyed first mate Brittany found the T37A’s just east of Polnell Point. We had an amazing time with these orcas and got a spectacular show from them as they continued eastbound and up Saratoga Passage. After a great time, we waved goodbye to the orcas and headed for the Swinomish Slough where we took a nice slow cruise through La Conner. We spotted all sorts of harbor seals and great blue herons as we traveled along the channel to the north end. Soon we rounded the March Point refineries and made our way into Cap Sante Anacortes.
It was fun to go under the Deception Pass bridge and then back up the slough past La Conner. They implied that both were uncommon so maybe it’s because we were in a smaller boat?
We didn’t know if Elijah would get seasick or bored but neither were a problem. Even with the cold and wind, he was in good spirits all day and seemed to enjoy seeing the whales. It was fun being the first boat to spot the whales too because we got some time to ourselves before the rest of the boats showed up to check it out. (All the tours are in communication about where the whales are.)
The only downside was the small interior. With it being so windy and cold, it would have been nice to spend more time in the warmth but it was so packed on the smaller boat that we tried to stay outside as much as possible figuring that 30-40 mph winds are better COVID protection.
That blog post linked above has the photos from the tour guides but here a couple that we took:
At a risk of doing too many hikes in a row and burning out Elijah, I decided that Labor Day would be a good day to tackle Red Top Lookout.
We left the house around 7:30 and got to the trailhead around 9:30. Once turning off of Highway 97, the dirt road isn’t too bad, but about halfway, the route turns onto a second dirt road that was rough. I was happy to have four wheel drive and a lot of ground clearance. It took us about 25 minutes to go the six miles on that road, and I posted a video from the dash cam because when I’ve done that in the past, random people have seemed very appreciative as they stumble across it.
The hike was short. Really short. I knew it was short, but it seriously only took us 20 minutes to get from the parking lot to the top. So 2 hours in the car for a 20 minute hike, but still, the view was uh-mazing. The lookout was locked so we couldn’t go up but we still had an incredible 360 degree view, and best of all, there were zero other people on the trail for the entire trip. We had the place to ourselves! There were a few other cars in the parking lot but they were all taking a slightly different trail to look for agates.
Photos don’t do a scene like that justice, but I’ll post some below. This Google Street View photo (I didn’t make it) does a better job of recreating the view, but it still doesn’t capture the pucker you feel standing up there with cliffs all around!
The hike down was easy, the drive down was slow and bumpy, and then we hit some Labor Day traffic in Cle Elum, but we made it home around 2pm. It was too much driving for the short hike, but I think we were all happy to have the memory of that view. The weather was just too perfect to pass up! I will need to make sure I pick a closer hike next time to keep Elijah interested though.
I was really bummed when I got home because I realized that it would have been perfectly legal to fly my drone up around that lookout. It would have been amazing! It will be hard to justify going back just for that, but maybe if we’re already in that part of the state doing something else, we can head back. I need to start thinking about taking my drone on more hikes, but it’s just so unlikely that I’ll be in a place that allows it AND there won’t be many people around so I won’t feel annoying.
At the beginning of summer, I handed Elijah a kids hiking book and asked him to pick out a few ideas. He came up with four. The first one we did was Coal Creek, but this past weekend, we tackled the toughest one: High Rock.
We left the house before 7am on Saturday since there is only space for about a dozen cars at the trailhead. It’s on the south side of Rainier just outside the park. It’s about an hour and 45 minutes to the start of a 10 mile dirt road. Thankfully the dirt road was very smooth and we were able to get down it pretty quickly in the truck. There were quite a few cars there already but we had no trouble parking.
The hike is about 1.6 miles and 1300ft to the top so it’s pretty steep the whole way. The kids hiking book lists it as “moderate for kids” and I think that’s because the bulk of the trail is pretty smooth. There aren’t a lot of rocks and roots to climb over.
The last ~100 feet of elevation is pretty intense for a little kid though. You have to pick your way up a rock face and walk up to the edge of a cliff that falls off hundreds of feet. Up until about a month ago, there was a fire lookout perched up there but they recently had to remove it because of vandalism. (AUGH.) Thankfully they left the wood platform and that made a relatively safe place to hang out to enjoy our snacks and snap photos.
The photos are disappointing though. The enormity of the view can’t be communicated in a photo. There’s just SO MUCH of everything. You can see to the horizon in every direction. You can see straight down the cliff face. You can see Mt. Rainier front and center. It’s incredible!
We had planned to attempt this hike a few weeks ago but canceled because of smoke that was rolling in. I’m glad we did because it sounds like the bugs on the trail have died down since then and we had pretty clear skies and perfect temps.
We didn’t get back home until 3pm and the day took a lot out of us but we were all glad that we did it. It’s one that we’ll remember for a long time!
As I mentioned, the lookout building has been removed. It is being restored by a museum and will hopefully be reinstalled in 2023. That site has some good photos of the lookout and some really interesting history of the lookout too.
I’ll include some photos below but this link should also take you to a quick panorama that I took from the top. If you click all the way into the photo, you can swipe left and right to move around the circle.
One of our go-to family adventures is taking the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, having lunch, and then coming back. We can easily walk onto the ferry so there’s no need to plan ahead or worry about the lines. I’ve shared this with quite a few people individually and realized that I should just have it on my website so I don’t have to hunt for the info every time. So if you’re looking for you own fun lunch, here’s what we’ve learned.
You can park close to the Edmonds terminal, but you have to pay ~$15. If you look at a map, find 6th street. If you park east of 6th street, there is no fee and no time limit. West of that you are limited to 3 hours. You MIGHT make it back in three hours but I don’t like to have that hanging over my head. We’re rule followers so we just park east of 6th and make the ~5-10 minute walk to the ferry.
Walking on the ferry is $8 for adults and $4 for kids. You can buy the tickets right in the terminal but to buy the kids tickets you have to go to the actual ticket booth and not the automated kiosks.
The ferry ride is 30 minutes.
When you get off the ferry, start walking straight up the hill. There are a number of good places to stop:
The Kingston Ale House – This is a table-service restaurant with lots of craft beer on tap.
J’aime les Crepes – You could probably eat a full lunch here but we’ve only gotten crepes and ice cream to go. There’s no real indoor seating.
Mora Iced Creamery – Delicious hipster ice cream.
The Grub Hut – This is a bit farther up the hill but we really liked it! You order at the counter and then go sit down. They had a lot of options on the menu.
There are a lot of other places within walking distance and that strip of restaurants does change. Yelp is your friend.
There’s no ticket booth on the way back. You travel east for free.
If you end up with a bit of a wait for the next ferry back to Edmonds, there is a big grassy park right by the terminal and sometimes they have a little farmers market/craft fair. There’s often a farmers market on the Edmonds side too.
The whole trip usually takes us 4-5 hours including the drive to/from Edmonds.
We get a couple local newspapers and every once in a while I flip through them. A recent article called “Where’s Sara? Bike & Hike Carbon River Road” in Northshore News caught me eye. You can read the article for the full description but basically there’s a road into Mt. Rainier National Park on the northwest side that was washed out in 2006. There was a campground at the end of the road so it’s still popular with bikers and hikers.
There are a lot of things to explore off of the road, but I thought that just making it to the end and back (12 miles roundtrip) would be a big challenge for Elijah. So a couple weekends ago, all three of us set off on the adventure to give it a shot!
The road gets progressively less road-like over the length and there are a few spots where the river has totally washed the road away but it’s never difficult to see where the trail picks up on the other side. The ride out to the campground ended up being pretty tough but we all made it. We locked our bikes up and took a short hike to Ipsut Falls. It was a gorgeous place for lunch and we had the whole place to ourselves aside from about 5 minutes of overlap with another family.
The ride back was significantly easier! Since we were following the river downstream, the road had a slight downward slope that let us coast a large portion of the way.
I was really proud of Tyla and Elijah for powering through and getting all the way to the payoff at the end! Hopefully we can go back some day and explore some more of the sights off of the road.