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!
In 2010, Tyla and I attempted to drive up a forestry road off of the Mountain Loop Highway but got turned around by snow. This past weekend, I finally got to attempt it again. Logan, Tyla, Elijah and I headed up there to hike to Coal and Independence Lakes.
The drive up the forest road is one of the highlights of the trip for me. It’s not for the faint of heart (or the low of ground clearance.) Much of the road is a single lane with no space for two cars to pass unless one is willing to plunge many hundred feet down the mountain. I was happy to have plenty of ground clearance though we never needed four wheel drive.
We parked at the first parking lot, walked up the trail and immediately found Coal Lake. There wasn’t much to see because the whole mountain was enshrouded in a cloud. That’s when I looked at the map and realized that we hadn’t actually hit the end of the road where the Independence Lake trailhead is, so we hopped back in the truck and drove a couple more minutes to the end of the road.
It’s only about a mile to the lake, but it took us ~40 minutes because Elijah had a tough time climbing up and over all the big rocks and roots that were in the trail. On the way back, I carried his hiking pole and we made it back in just about half the time. I think he gets distracted by where to place the pole sometimes.
Independence Lake was disappointing as we couldn’t see anything due to the fog/clouds. The trail goes on to North Lake but that’s not something Elijah would be able to handle so we had a little snack and turned around.
I don’t think Elijah was all too thrilled but I enjoyed it. I loved being on a hike that wasn’t crowded with people in flip flops carrying tiny dogs. I want to go back again on a clearer day and hopefully make it to North Lake as well.
A few pictures are included below along with our dashcam video of the drive up the road.
Lake 22 is one of the more popular and well-known hikes in the area. That’s usually for a good reason so Logan and I decided to check it out. Popular also usually means “crowded trail” so even with a ~75 minute drive to the trailhead, we were on the trail by 7:20am. Most of the hike is on rock either because it was naturally there or because it was placed there to help avoid damage from the endless streams of water that cross the trail. It’s 2.7 miles and 1350 feet to the lake, but we added some more by walking around the whole lake. I highly recommend that as the opposite end of the lake has a great view looking almost straight up a huge rock face. Our trip down took quite a while as we stepped aside for the never ending stream of people coming up. While we both enjoyed the hike, it’s not very high on our repeat list. There are so many other great hikes with fewer crowds.
Up until this year, I’ve been carrying Elijah in a hiking backpack when I go on hikes. He finally got too big for it, so this is the year he transitions to walking. While I enjoyed being able to take more adventurous hikes last year, I’m excited to see if he’s still interested in hiking when he has to do the walking.
I decided to start off with Twin Falls for his first hike. I believe I’ve done it three times before and there is a lot to see along the whole trail. It starts off following a river, climbs up a hill through some big rocks and then quickly ends up at the falls. He did great on the entire hike, never complaining. I had told him that he could say when he wants to turn around and he asked for that about a tenth of a mile from the first waterfall. I encouraged him to keep going and we made it. That first set of falls has about 100 stairs going down to a great lookout, so I told him that if he walked down, I’d carry him back up. We didn’t make it to the bridge a little farther up the trail but I’m still calling it a success because, other than the stairs, I never had to carry him. He hiked quite a bit faster than some older kids who started at the same time as us too. I didn’t have my Garmin watch with me, but I’d guess we covered about 2.5 miles.
He hasn’t asked for another hike yet, but I’m hoping to get him out at least once more. I picked up a hiking with kids book to get some good ideas. Maybe next time I’ll work on picking out clothing that doesn’t clash so badly.
It all started at the church Christmas party in December. Logan was talking to DaveK about his incredible weight loss and he mentioned that getting up to Camp Muir was his “man mission.” Dave said, “Great! Let’s do it!” That’s the point where I walked up and said, “I’m in. What are we doing?” “Camp Muir!”
Fast forward to August and I was waking up at 4am to meet Logan, Dave, TimK, and Pastor for the drive down to Paradise. We arrived in the parking lot at 7:45 and we were on the trail by 8:15.
Skyline Trail up to Pebble Creek is one of the most popular hikes from Paradise. It’s about 1800 feet of elevation gain (from 5400 feet at Paradise up to 7200 feet) in around 2 miles. We maybe stopped once but we were up to Pebble Creek very quickly. We took a break there to refuel, change our clothing a bit and get ready for the snowfield.
From Pebble Creek, the route goes straight up the Muir Snowfield. It’s about 2.2 miles and 2800 feet up to Camp Muir from Pebble Creek. And it’s on snow. And the snow is slushy from the sun. And oh yeah, you’re going up over 10,000 feet so you rapidly start to notice the decreased lack of oxygen.
At this point we spread out a bit, set our own paces and got in the zone. It’s hours of staring at your feet, concentrating on your breathing, and taking tiny little steps up the mountain. I don’t know what the “hardest day hike” in the area is, but this has to be a solid contender. In addition to the physical challenge, the immense scale is psychologically frustrating. You put your head down, slog away for 20 minutes, look up and realize that your goal doesn’t look any closer than it did before.
But we all made it! Logan was first up with a total time (from Paradise) of 3:26. He probably could have shaved off another 10 or 15 minutes but he stopped to wait for us at one point on the snowfield. Pastor and I clocked in right at 3:30 and Dave and Tim came in at the 3:45 mark. My previous time was 4:10 so I was very happy to beat that.We hung around at the camp for about an hour enjoying the incredibly clear views. Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens were clearly visible. The temps were perfect and there wasn’t a lot of wind. I couldn’t have dreamed up better weather.
Eventually we made our way back down the mountain. We all brought something to slide on. Most of us brought trash bags but Dave had snowpants (the smart choice) and Pastor had a tarp. Glissading down was fun for a while, but it was pretty painful. The chutes were all too narrow and the icy sidewalls would hammer our thighs. We got pretty soaked in the process too. But it sure beat the effort it took to go UP! The video below is not representative of most of the glissading. This one was right near the bottom so it was well-used and dug out by people who just came up to see the snow.
After another stop at Pebble Creek to switch into some drier clothes, we hoofed it down to Paradise dodging the enormous hordes of people who had made it to Paradise and were exploring the trails.
I’m really happy with how good my muscles felt after the hike. I had very little soreness aside from the bruising caused by the glissading. The worst part was that I think I got some altitude sickness this time. Thankfully it didn’t hit me until we were resting up at Muir. I had a bad headache and started feeling nauseated and lightheaded. The latter two went away as we descended bu the headache stuck with me well into the night.
In my blog post on the last hike, I had some good notes that were helpful for planning this trip, so here are a few more notes in case I do it again:
I used about 3-3.5 liters of water. Last time I used 5. I think 4 would be a safe amount. I used two Camelbaks and had a half gatorade, half water mixture in one. I would do that again.
I threw some summer sausage, cheese and crackers into a cooler with extra gatorade and water. That was a huge hit when we got back to the truck.
Getting on the trail around 8 felt like good timing. There were plenty of people who left ahead of us, but it was not too crowded. On a weekday you could probably leave a little later, but on a weekend, stick with 8 or earlier.
I took a bandanna with me and suck it in the back of my hat. It did a great job keeping the sun off my neck.
Thanks to Logan for suggesting this and to all the guys for banding together to make this a reality. It was awesome to see Logan beating us all up the mountain. Two years ago I don’t think anybody would have believed he could get in such good shape in such a short amount of time. Kudos to you Logan!
Saturday is our first attempt at Camp Muir (depending on the weather) so Logan and I wanted to squeeze in one more hike. We went for Mason Lake because it wasn’t too far away and it was relatively easy. The trail climbs up to the top of a ridge and then drops down a couple hundred feet to the lake. We were almost the first ones to the lake again (another guy beat us by a couple minutes) and we got to enjoy it in peace before the crowds came up behind us. We made it there very quickly with only one stop to remove our pant legs and convert to shorts. Since we were still feeling fresh and it was only 8:30am, we decided to take another fork of the trail and go up to the top of Little Bandera Mountain.
Whew. It was STEEP.
My GPS watch has been pretty accurate on our hikes and it reported 980 vertical feet over 0.6 miles. The trail isn’t traveled very much and after just a little bit, the trail builders obviously gave up on the switchbacks and just went straight up the hill. It was a slog but we made it scrambling up on all fours. I included a chart from our trip in the photos below. You can see the hike up to the peak and notice how much slower we went on that part with frequent stops. The third picture was also take on that steep slope but it’s always hard to see slope in a photo. Just note how close Logan is but yet how much lower he is! You can click on any of the pictures for a bigger view.
The view at the top is supposed to be incredible with Mt. Rainier standing proudly for you to enjoy. Unfortunately there were a lot of clouds to the south, but the view to the north was great. We looked down on Mason Lake where we had been earlier that morning.
All in all it was a great hike and hopefully we’ll be ready for Camp Muir on Saturday!