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Hike-a-thon, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier

Noble Knob

Sometimes I think I bestow too much emotional significance on Noble Knob. It’s too much for such a humble summit to bear, and sooner or later it’s bound to disappoint. Well, maybe not disappoint, but…underwhelm. This was that time, sort of.

Noble Knob 007

I’ve been in love with Noble Knob since September 2007, our first mountain backpacking trip. We got a late start and the sun was setting just as we reached the foot of the Knob, so knowing nothing about leave no trace principles (or about the existence of a mighty fine tent site up on the Knob), we hurried up and pitched our tent in the middle of the meadow, had dinner, and went to sleep. Except I couldn’t sleep at all, terrified by the thought of marauding bears and the sound of gunshots in the distance…in a display of absolutely horrid timing, JK had told me about the Pinnacle Lake murders as we were hiking. Ugh.

Rainier at sunrise

But oh, the next morning! We hiked up to the summit and sat there in awe as Mount Rainier was painted bright pink with alpenglow. It was pure magic, and I fell for hiking, hard.

Noble Knob 027

I’ve been dreaming about bringing our kid here for years, and this summer we finally have an excellent baby to schlep along. We had originally planned to car camp at Corral Pass and hike to Noble Knob in the morning, when the light is best, but the road to Corral Pass was closed this year. Boo. So instead we drove a confusing network of logging roads to an alternative trailhead. This took us on a short, wooded trail instead of the fabulous, mostly open ridge walk from Corral Pass, and I realized that I love that trail as much as I love the Knob itself – without those wide-open views from the start, Noble Knob lost a lot of its appeal. If you haven’t hiked to Noble Knob before, I recommend waiting until the road opens again.

Noble Knob

After a year of almost no rain (thankfully it’s pouring down outside as I write this), everything was dusty and dry and beige and hot and blah. Nora took a short nap in the carrier, and I put in headphones to listen to my Autumn playlist – I am so over summer at this point. Enough with the heat! I want slippers and hats and pumpkin spice cardigans or whatever.

Noble Knob Paternity Leave

We made it to the Knob and decided to eat lunch by the rocks so we could find some shade when the heat got too intense. I had this image in my head of getting the perfect portrait photos of me and Nora in front of Rainier, but she was consumed by the presence of magnificent sand! and rocks! everywhere, and therefore refused to indulge me in my fantasies.

Noble Knob

(Of course in hindsight I can see that these photos ended up much cuter than the posed photos I had wanted.)

Noble Knob 196

Nora hadn’t slept in the car and only caught a 20-minute snooze in the carrier, so after lunch, we could tell she was in need of more rest. We headed out, assuming she would sleep the entire way, but no. Not a wink. Then we drove home, thinking she would maybe sleep at least a little bit, but no. When we realized she wasn’t planning on sleeping at all, we kept her happy and distracted by playing You Are My Little Bird, which we all love, plus a few songs from Alphabutt, which is hilarious. As we got close to Redmond, the only thing keeping a massive meltdown at bay was playing Nora’s number one favorite song, Dyrene i Afrika, over and over and over again. The poor nugget was so overtired that she woke up 547 times that night, and I felt guilty and grumpy. The magic of Noble Knob had failed us!

The next morning I could see things in perspective. Nora was back to her happy self, my brain was no longer overheated, and it dawned on me that if this is what I think of as a bad hike, I am both very lucky and very very spoiled.

(But srsly, don’t visit the Knob until Corral Pass is open again.)

Hike-a-thon, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier, Top Trips

Tolmie Peak Lookout

Can all hikes be like this one?

Tolmie Peak Lookout

Nora has suddenly started sleeping in in the mornings, which is glorious and luxurious and amazing, so we’ve been getting a late start on our hikes. I would rather get that extra snoozage in the morning and deal with starting our hikes at noon, so it’s all good, but it does mean we have to stick to shorter trails in order to enjoy ourselves and still have time to get back home in time for bed. I don’t mind that either – there are lots of gorgeous short trails in this state.

One of those is Tolmie Peak Lookout, which somehow we had never hiked before.

Tolmie Peak Lookout 036

The drive was just long enough for Nora to take a nap in the car (only 20 minutes, but it’s better than nothing), so when we pulled up to Mowich Lake, the whole family was in an excellent mood. On clear days, you can see the top of Mount Rainier peeking out above the hillside, but today she was shy, hiding behind a fig leaf of clouds. No worries – our eyes were busy scanning the bushes for huckleberries anyway.

Tolmie Peak Lookout

After hiking up and down and up again and feasting on an especially tasty patch of hucks along Eunice Lake, we reached the lookout.

Tolmie Peak Lookout

I instantly fell in love with these little mountain goat cutouts. Adorbs!

Tolmie Peak Lookout 088

We sat down to eat our lunch, resigned to the idea of a volcanoless view, when lo and behold, Mount Rainier decided to reveal herself after all! Nora was very excited.

Tolmie Peak Lookout 069 Tolmie Peak Lookout 152

Much photography ensued before we decided it was time to put away the camera (for the most part) and just sit down and enjoy it all – the view, the sun, the togetherness. And the huckleberries.

Tolmie Peak Lookout 124

Nora is one lucky girl to have this as her playground!

Tolmie Peak Lookout 139

This hike is going on the repeak list for sure.

Tolmie Peak Lookout 182

After a while, JK couldn’t resist the alluring waters of Eunice Lake anymore, so we packed up and headed down the trail so he could swim.

Tolmie Peak Lookout

I wish I could have joined him, but I had forgotten my spare set of skivvies and there were too many people around to swim in the buff.

Tolmie Peak Lookout

Next time, next time.

Tolmie Peak Lookout

Nora fell asleep a couple of minutes after we started hiking again, and snoozed all the way back to Mowich Lake. JK and I put in headphones and cruised along the trail, getting lost in the flow and the tunes. So good.

Tolmie Peak Lookout 256

This time I joined in on the fun and went swimming myself – going commando for the drive home was a small price to pay for the pleasure of a mountain dip.

Nora was obviously the one who should have gone swimming after she discovered the joys of digging in the wet dirt by the lake. Happily, a warm bath was but a car ride (a scream-free, joyful car ride!) away.

Lakes, berries, a lookout, a big, majestic, amazing volcano, huckleberries, naps, a very happy baby. Everything worked out so perfectly! Seriously, can all hikes be like this?

Tolmie Peak Lookout | 7.5 miles | 1100 feet elevation gain –

Tolmie Peak Lookout

Click click click to support me in Washington Trails Association’s Hike-a-Thon!

Hike-a-thon, Hiking, Hiking with baby

Hike-a-Thon 2015

This is my fifth year participating in Washington Trails Association’s Hike-a-Thon! Every August, hikers from all across Washington sign up to grind out the miles and raise money for WTA to protect and maintain our beloved trails and wild areas.

Lake Valhalla

I usually set a goal for myself, like hiking 100 miles, but 2014 and 2015 have been a little different. Last year, I waddled around as best I could, hitting the trails right up until I went into labor on the very last day of Hike-a-Thon – I had to keep bracing myself against trees along the trail, wondering why my Braxton-Hicks were suddenly so painful that I couldn’t walk through them. Heh.

Lake Valhalla Lake Valhalla

This year, the resulting 11-month old is along for the ride. I’m not setting any goals, except to get out there and introduce Nora to some of our favorite places. Babies love the outdoors, and I want her to keep that feeling with her as she grows up, gaining the kind of confidence you get when being out in nature is, well, second nature.

Lake Valhalla

So this year is not about pushing myself physically or hiking just to hike, it’s simply about being out there, smiling, laughing, singing (endless renditions of Dyrene i Afrika, a Norwegian classic), eating huckleberries, and swimming in mountain lakes, all while helping support my favorite organization in hopes that these places will still be accessible when my baby is all grown up. (Sniff sniff.)

If you want to help support me and Washington Trails Association, click here! And if you would rather donate your time and muscles instead of moneys, you can volunteer on a trail crew – it’s nature’s Crossfit!

Lake Valhalla 058

Our first “real” (non-Watershed, non-Tiger) hike after our vacation took us to Lake Valhalla. It’s been so warm here that a trip to our favorite swimming lake was in order…and yeah, the water in this alpine lake was actually noticeably warmer than where we swam by my parents’ summer house in Norway. That probably says more about the summer in Norway than it does about the summer here, but still. Bananas.

Lake Valhalla | 7 miles | 1500 feet elevation gain –

Lake Valhalla

Hike-a-thon, Hiking, Mount Rainier, Pregnancy, Top Trips

Bench and Snow Lakes

34 was the week I went from feeling amazingly energetic to feeling really, really…pregnant I guess, at the drop of a hat. Actually it was at the drop of a baby – she’s shimmied down low, ready for her big arrival, and in the meantime I’m waddling around like I’m carrying a bowling ball betwixt me legs. Our 35-week Hike-a-Thon hike needed to be short. Short, but awesome.

View towards the mountain

We got a late start after going to a birthday brunch at Plum Bistro (where my gestabetic self made the ultimate sacrifice by not partaking of the mac n’ yeaze – see, fetus? See how much I love you already??) before driving down to Mount Rainier to a new-to-us trail – Snow and Bench Lakes.

Berry delay Pretty trail

The hike was a success right from the start when we found huckleberries lining the trail. Apparently we were gorging ourselves with such concentration and gusto that we missed seeing two bears that were hanging out a little ways off the trail, but oh well.

We finally hiked moseyed waddled on when I decided I was way too hot and needed to cool off in Snow Lake post-haste.

Double cooling

…and what an efficient cool-off it was. I don’t know why, since it’s a shallow lake and not at a terribly high elevation, but this was one of the coldest lakes I’ve ever been in – much, much colder that the turquoise, glacier-fed lakes we’ve been in before. Brr.

Cooling off More bump, always

We hung out in the water until our feet started going numb, then had our late lunch on the way out instead of at the lake, which was the one place on the trail that was buzzing with mosquitoes. When we got to the overlook where we sat down to eat, fellow hikers informed us that we had missed a bear wading in the pond below us by a total of two minutes. Aargh, seriously??

Our luck turned a little while later when a shrill marmot whistle alerted us to the presence of another bear – it was way off in the distance and scurried off into the trees before we could get a good photo, but still. It was a bear. And we actually saw this one!

Distant, blurry bear...

I have to say, I’ve loved this summer of hiking. We haven’t covered the miles we usually would have or been out as often, but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and tried out a bunch of new, family-friendly trails that I think we’ll return to again and again in the future.

We’ve seen wildflowers and marmots and bears, jumped (and awkwardly slid, respectively) into lakes, and seen some excellent views. SPD made hiking a bit more difficult than I had hoped, but between my support belt and the natural high I get from endorphins, it was totally doable…and totally worth it. Have I mentioned that I really love hiking?

Bench and Snow Lakes | 2.6 miles | 700 feet elevation gain –

Hike-a-thon, Hiking, Mount Rainier, Pregnancy

Waddle-a-Thon 2014

I had three hiking-related goals for this summer: to cool my bulging belly off in a lake, to hike to Noble Knob, and to see at least one marmot. Check, check, and check!


I didn’t realize I would still feel this good in my third trimester, but since I have energy to spare, I decided to add another goal to my list and sign up for Washington Trails Association’s Hike-a-Thon again. I won’t exactly be pounding out the miles this year, but that’s what I love about hiking, especially in Washington – there are countless options for amazing wilderness adventures out there, no matter what your shape (round, mine is very round) or life situation happens to be like.

34 weeks down, sixish to go!

At 34 weeks, JK and I drove to Mount Rainier to look for my marmot friends. We always see them in the area around Sunrise (and the walking is easy), so we moseyed along towards Skyscraper Pass, listening for whistles and looking for lazy, flat marmot rugs hiding in the shade.

Towards Skyscraper

My wish was granted when one of the biggest marmots I’ve ever seen suddenly appeared on the trail right in front of us. There was much snapping of photos and squealing (from me, not the marmot). Just look!

Totes adorbs

Very fur! Much obese!


Such handsome! Wow!


We found a lunch spot where I could keep an eye on our corpulent friend and several of his cousins, and then we turned around and hiked back towards Sunrise. It felt weird to just turn around without having reached a real destination, but since my marmot goal had been fulfilled and the heat was getting to both of us, we decided it was for the best.

Happy hiker

Happily, there were more wildlife sightings to be had – more marmots and some cliff-scaling mountain goats! There were lots of human wildlife sightings too, now that it was later in the day. Sunrise really does lend itself best to early mornings (unsurprisingly, given the name) – the light on the mountain gets washed out later in the day, and the hordes come out to play. It’s wonderful to see so many people out enjoying our national parks, but we were very thankful not to be sitting in the line that reached from the park entry almost all the way to SR410!

Go home, goat. You're drunk.

The wildflowers, on other hand, were rather lacking. The last time we hiked this trail, it was a veritable wonderland of blooms, but I think it’s just been too hot, dry, and generally un-Washingtonesque this year.


– Sunrise waddling | 5 miles | 700 feet elevation gain –

I did manage to squeeze into my Hike-a-Thon shirt for a quick photo op. For obvious reasons, my hiking effort will be rather subdued this year, and after 36 weeks, I should start staying closer to home (and to the hospital) in case…things start happening. Luckily there’s an “urban hiking” category this year, so hopefully I’ll be waddling down my local trails until the end! Here’s a link to my previous years of Hike-a-Thon trip reports, back when I could cover more miles than a toddler but, ironically, could never quite fit into my Hike-a-Thon shirts.

If you’re a fellow lover of trails, please consider a donation – WTA does amazing work, both physically on our trails and for outdoor advocacy. If hands-on volunteering is more your thing, I recommend signing up for a WTA trail work party, which a) is like a free Crossfit session b) is surprisingly fun (you’ll hear some great stories from really interesting people) and c) you’ll leave with chocolate in your belly and a shiny new halo hovering around your head from all the good work you’ve just done.