After one particularly challenging camp site where I ended up leaving a tent stake or two, I searched around on the web and found a better solution. I didn’t come up with this but I’ve used it for the past few camping trips, and it has worked wonderfully! Take a small diameter PVC pipe and cut a length about as wide as your palm. Run some paracord through it and tie it into a loop. Voila! Pull as hard as you want on that PVC pipe without hurting your hand and direct all the force right where it needs to go.
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.
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.
As Tyla and I struggled with what to get Elijah for his birthday, he was regularly asking us if we could go camping. We have a couple trips planned this summer, but then we had the idea to go camping for his birthday. Mid-June can be cold and wet but then we hit on the idea of renting a cabin at a state park. There are quite a few options but we ended up at Bay View State Park. You can check my Instagram account for more photos, but I wanted to share a little more about the trip here.
When we pulled into the park, I said, “UH OH! Elijah! I didn’t pack the tent!” Then we turned the corner and saw the cabins. He got a kick out of that, and the cabin was fantastic! It’s about a 12×12 room plus a covered front porch with a swing. It rained a lot for the first evening, night and and most of the next day. We were very thankful for the dry area! It was just the right size for the three of us (one more kid would have been fine too.) The cabin had power, lights, and a heater. We didn’t see it listed before went, but it also had a fridge/freezer and microwave. We didn’t make use of those since we hadn’t planned to have them available. We ate our meals on the front porch when it was rainy and we were able to play some card games there too.
The park itself isn’t huge but it wasn’t very full and we generally had the shore area to ourselves. We spent a lot of time throwing rocks into the water and exploring at low tide.
We drove a mile or two down the road to Padilla Bay Shoreline Trail. As I parked at the south end of the trail, I noticed fresh glass by our spot… and the spot where the next car would be, and the spot after that… and all ~5 spots in the parking area. We got back in the truck and parked on the north end of the trail which was in a more populated area. Elijah was able to ride his bike and we walked the ~2 miles down to the barn along the trail. If you’ve been in our house, you may remember the barn photo that’s above the half-wall in our living room. I took that photo about 8.5 years ago when Tyla and I visited her family who was camping at the park. Tyla was pregnant at the time so it was fun to go back with Elijah and take a family picture in front of it.
I kept thinking about how perfect the cabin rental was this weekend. We might have canceled the trip due to weather if we had planned to use a tent. It didn’t take us long to start searching to see what other parks have cabins and yurts available for rental. I think this might be something we explore more in the future.
Last weekend was our second camping trip of the summer. I was a little nervous going into the weekend because it looked a bit wet, but if it had to rain, it worked out perfectly. It rained Friday night but didn’t start until around 10:30pm and stopped before we got up. It was wet when we woke up Sunday morning too, but other than giving us a messy tent to clean when we got home, it didn’t impact our plans at all.
This was a pre-COVID-planned trip with Tim, Chelsea and the girls. It’s hard to believe that it has been over 9 years since our last camping trip with them! Our two families have added three kids since then.
Since then, Tim and Chelsea’s have also added a fantastic new camper. We’re still rocking the Cabela’s tent but it was good to us yet again. It rained quite a bit on Friday night but we stayed dry. 5 stars. Would recommend. I also recommend camping in a site next to someone with a camper. Ha!
We headed to the beach early on Saturday and then left when it started getting too busy for our liking. We spent the rest of the time talking by the fire and enjoying delicious food.
Camping can be a lot of work, but I’m so thankful for these trips. It feels like a responsible way to stay within the current guidelines, socialize with a small group outside, and get away from the house. We’re already thinking about what to book for next year and wishing we had more land to park a camper on.
Getting a couple camp site reservations at a state park in Washington generally requires booking very far in advance, so late last year, we booked two sites for a camping trip with Tyla’s family.
Fast forward to now and, well, COVID. Don is still quarantining out of state. We talked about canceling the trip but we were all jonesing for some time away from our houses so we went for it as planned.
The campsites were at Seaquest State Park which is on the road to the northwest corner of Mt. St. Helens. The main observatory there is closed but we were able to do a hike up in that area and get some great views of the mountain on a clear day. We also spent some time down by the river at a nice spot called Harry Gardner Park.
It was different just having Logan and Megan there without Don and we missed him, but I think we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The weather was perfect and the park was really nice. I had been there before but had forgotten many things about it. Elijah had a blast riding his bike around and driving his remote controlled car. Since we had planned to have a camper there, one of the sites had electric and water hookup so he was able to recharge the car.
There had been some concern before the trip about how busy the bathrooms would be or what the rules would be for distancing. I don’t know about the other bathrooms, but the one we chose to use was always empty. I was never in there when anyone else was there so that worked out nicely.
We have one more pre-planned camping trip this year and I’m already looking forward to the break. It’s so nice to see something other than our house!
Tyla and I hiked up to the Heybrook Lookout fire tower back in 2009. This past Saturday, I got to do it again but this time it was with Elijah.
Earlier in the week I had given him a choice of a waterfall or a fire tower. The fire tower was a two mile round trip with almost 1000 feet of elevation gain so I knew it would be a stretch but he could do it with a good attitude. So all week I pumped him up by talking about going on an adventure to a secret tower in the woods. I later realized that he wasn’t very excited so I asked him why… turns out the idea of a secret tower in the woods sounds a little scary to a 6 year old.
With that mistake rectified, and after waiting for some morning rain to clear out, we hit the trailhead around noon. He was getting pretty tired by the time we neared the top but his pace was good. We passed a few groups and never got passed ourselves. He made it up in 55 minutes. We climbed to the observation deck of the tower but it was pretty chilly in the wind with our sweaty shirts so we snapped a few photos and went back down to eat lunch on the picnic tables.
The trip down took about 40 minutes which felt slow. Going up was easier for him because there were some pretty big wet rocks to climb back down and that’s tricky when you’re only 3.5 feet tall. We stopped at DQ in Monroe on the way back to celebrate our adventure. The trip was a total success!
Back in 2011, Tyla and I went to a sled dog race near Lake Wenatchee with Tim and Chelsea. That’s the only time I’ve been near Lake Wenatchee State Park, but a couple weekends ago, we went back with Elijah and Tyla’s family to camp at the state park.
As the name implies, Lake Wenatchee State Park sits right on the lake. We booked pretty late (only seven months in advance!) so we got the runt of the litter for campsites but they ended up being pretty nice. We were warned in advance about bugs by numerous internet reviews but thankfully we hardly saw any.
This was our first camping trip trying to sleep on cots instead of air mattresses. Tim and Chelsea loaned us two normal sized cots and I bought an ogre sized cot for myself. I think we might add a thin pad or air mattress on top of them in the future but they worked great! They take up the same space as our air mattresses did but it opens up all the space below the cots for our bags so it is a lot easier to navigate the tent.
Last year around this time, we tried to go on a hike at Crystal Mountain with Tyla’s family. That was canceled because of some really bad wildfires that got very close to the resort. We decided to give it another shot recently and it went much better.
The day started off cloudy so we just caught glimpses of Rainier off the top of the gondola, but it was nice to not be in direct sunlight for the first part of the hike. We took the Crystal Mountain trail which comes off the top of the gondola, across Lucky Shot and over the top of Bear Pits, under Forest Queen, out past the Queens and Tinkerbell runs into the woods to a couple lakes, and finally past the old mine and under the Gold Hills lift. The trail map claims it’s 4.8 miles but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a tad longer than that.
The hike is all downhill so I figured Elijah would handle it ok, but I forgot that it’s a bit too technical for him. There was a lot of loose gravel at the beginning and then the second half had some big roots. Thankfully he did incredibly well and only started getting tired on the last mile or so. I did have to carry him for a while but I still give him an A for the day.
It wasn’t a super photogenic day due to the clouds at the beginning but here are a few photos from the day. Be sure to look at the upper ridge in the last picture. You can see how far down the slope the fire got last year. It was VERY close to the resort!