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Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier

Fremont Lookout

Back in June, before our trip to Europe, we decided that we needed a really good mountain hike to see us off. Mount Rainier never disappoints, and the trails around Sunrise had melted out early this year, so off to Fremont Lookout we went.

Mama n' Norbert

A miracle occurred on the way to the mountain – Nora slept! In the car!(!!) For over an hour! This was an excellent start to our day since it meant that she was awake and in a fantastic mood for the entire hike – and, importantly, awake for her first marmot sighting!

We had no close encounters of the furry kind this time, but two sentinel whistlepigs, perched high upon their rocks like corpulent gargoyles, watched over us as we made our way toward Frozen Lake.

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Last time I hiked this trail was almost exactly a month before Nora was born:

34 weeks down, sixish to go!

As much as I loved being pregnant, I must say I prefer carrying her on the outside. Same spot, now with a nine-month old on my back:

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It was a warm day, but since we were above 7000 feet, there was a definite chill whenever a gust of wind came our way. Along the Lord-of-the-Ringsian traverse to the lookout, we were pummeled by a particularly biting wind. Sometimes I feel like we’re overdressing Nora for hikes, but this time we definitely made the right choice by having her in her elf suit and a fleece hat.

Fremont Lookout

At last we made it across the traverse to Mordor I mean Fremont!

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Another hike, another gorgeous nursing view. I really should compile a photo book. Udderly Beautiful Lactation Locations? Hmm, I’ll work on the name.

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We all enjoyed avocado sandwiches while watching tiny little human ants climbing up the Inter Glacier on their way to summit Mount Rainier.

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Nora discovered ground squirrels and was mesmerized.

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Before we turned around and hiked back to Sunrise, she even got to try her hand as a fire lookout.

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One thing I’ll always remember about this trip is that Nora cut her 8th tooth while we were on trail. I knew her left central incisor was about to come through, so I checked to see if it was there before we left the car, but nope, nothing. However, when we were back in the car post-hike, there it was! So cute, even though it meant the end of her adorable wonkytoothed phase. These days she’s looking all grown up with her big, toothy grin. Sniff sniff. She’ll be off to college before I know it.

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– Fremont Lookout | 6 miles | 800 feet elevation gain –

Fremont Lookout 234

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Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Top Trip Reports

Nora the Explorer

Our year of introducing Nora to our favorite trails and places continues! When it comes to Melakwa, it’s definitely more of a favorite place than a favorite trail. I usually visit these lakes when I do the Tuscohatchie loop, so I can’t even remember the last time I hiked the trail back down. It’s pretty rocky and kind of sucks, especially when you’ve become used to the soft, rolling, luxurious trails of the Issaquah Alps. But the destination more than makes up for it – upper Melakwa Lake is one of my Official Happy Places.

Melakwa Lake

The last time I was here, it was just me and Wellie running the Tuscohatchie Loop. I was doing a lot of soul searching, trying to come to terms with the possibility that I might not ever become pregnant. The mountains, the lakes, the sun, the tiger lilies, and one loud marmot were my therapists that day (and on so many others). By the end of my run, I was so high on endorphins that I knew I would be able to handle whatever the universe sent my way.

Melakwa Lake

Thankfully, the mountain gods chose to send us this wonderful little creature. I can’t quite describe the feelings I experience when I return to a place like this with Nora in tow. “All the feels” will have to suffice.

Melakwa Lake

Normally I wouldn’t even be able to get to Melakwa in May (without an ice axe and a sizable pair of ‘nads), but thanks to the low snow this year, it looks like mid-July up there. The parking lot was overflowing by the time we reached the trailhead at 9, but the trail is long enough that it didn’t feel crowded, especially once were past the Slippery Slab which is the destination for most of the families with older kids. That’ll be us in a couple of years, but for now we’re enjoying being able to do regular hikes with a non-ambulatory baby on our backs.

Melakwa Lake

Once we popped out of the woods, we just got roasted in the sun. We worried that Nora would be too hot, but the thin wool layer she was wearing seemed to keep her pretty comfortable. I’m definitely on the lookout for a thin, breezy set of hiking clothes for her for the summer though, something that will protect her from the sun and bugs but still keep her coolish on sweltering days.

Melakwa Lake

She woke up a little while before we got to the lake, and was very…vocal about not wanting to be in her carrier anymore. Luckily she cheered up once we got to the lake, and after eating lunch and getting a fresh diaper, she turned into the happiest baby ever.

Melakwa Lake

Nora <3 Wellie

Melakwa Lake

Whenever we hike with Nora, I go into it with low expectations of how much time we’ll actually get to spend at our destination, but she was happy as a clam hanging out by the lake. I think she likes watching the water. This bodes well for the summer ahead.

Melakwa Lake

Most people seemed to stop at the first lake, so my favorite best-seat-in-the-house rock was available for lunch and playtime. I even got some relaxing done, once I was able to stop manically taking photos of Nora whenever she did something adorable.

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Once Nora started showing some sleep cues (she always begins by subtly grabbing her ear, which quickly escalates to rubbing her eyes and yawning), we packed up and headed back down so she could nap in the carrier. We put in headphones so we could listen to music while she slept, then hiked back to the trailhead, all smiles (except for intermittent grumbles from me whenever I would trip over a rock and curse the fact that I hadn’t brought hiking poles).

Best baby hike yet, rocks and all.

Melakwa Lake

– Melakwa Lake | 9 miles | 2500 feet elevation gain –

Melakwa Lake

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Hiking, Hiking with baby, Teanaway, Top Trip Reports

Mother’s Day Weekend Part Deux: Iron Peak

First of all, before I forget: the Teanaway Road is in excellent condition right now, I have truly never seen it smoother. So go, go!

After having breakfast in camp and getting ready for the day, Nora was overdue for her morning nap. We drove over to the Iron Peak trailhead and got Nora all saddled up in her new ride, the Osprey Poco Plus. Now for the big question – would she sleep in that thing? Dun dun DUUUUN.

Let's do dis

The answer is yes, oh yes. She slept better than she does in the Ergo! In order to let her get the best sleep possible, we put on headphones and listened to some tunes as we hiked instead of talking. I forgot how refreshing it feels to listen to music when you’re all endorphin-high in the mountains.

New pack = snooze success

The only problem with the new pack was that Nora’s sun hat kept falling off, leaving her face and her delicate little skull exposed to the intense Teanaway sun. I didn’t tie the hat under her chin since she kept nodding her head forward to sleep and I didn’t want her to be strangled, but maybe I’m not giving her enough credit now that she’s not a helpless little lump of a newborn anymore. Any tips on how to deal with this situation?

Pretty trail

The trail switchbacked up, up, up as it always does, but it all seemed to just fly by. We kept a good pace, and I was in this giddy state of flow were the world was all glacier lilies and Rainier views and moving legs and a chubby, sleeping baby ahead of me on trail – the cutest dangling carrot ever.

No no no no

Once we reached the saddle, the blue skies and hot sun were replaced by a high cloud cover and a biting wind, so we retreated leeward to get Nora changed and fed while protected from the elements. Apparently milk is no longer a sufficient hiking snack for her, so she supplemented with some trees.

Approaching the summit

We added a wool suit and a warm hat to Nora’s ensemble, plus some stylish sunglasses to protect her eyes from the snow glare, then made our way up toward the summit.

JK, (Nora,) Stuart

The snow level this year is ridiculously low (considering we were hiking Iron a full month before we usually do it), but there was enough of it to be all postholey and annoying. On the way down, I elected to glissade even though I was wearing shorts, because snow up the butt is preferable to repeatedly postholing up to your knees and scraping the bejesus out of your legs. (I have to wear a dress to meet the King, fer chrissakes!)

Ridgewalk

Apart from the postholes, I loved being up on Iron again. We’ve gone every year since 2010 (except last year, because ow), and it never gets old. We usually hike it for my birthday, but since we might not have time for that this year, Mother’s Day was the perfect backup.

Happy hiker

Nora wanted to partake of her father’s summit libations, but had to make do with more milk and some pilfered bits and pieces of our soggy banana sandwiches.

Like father like daughter

We signed the summit register, snapped photos, took in the panoramic views, and just hung out until Nora started to fuss. She definitely needed a longer nap, so we packed up and headed down.

Iron Peak, now with babby

Nora slept from summit to car. Whoa. And we didn’t see a single other human on trail the whole day. Whoa.

She napped the whole way down

Best Mother’s Day ever. Okay, so it’s also my only Mother’s Day ever, but still.

Iron Peak | 7 miles | 2600 feet elevation gain –

First Mother's Day <3

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Challenge, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Issaquah Alps

Week One

Can all weekends be like this one? On Friday night we had Qdoba and finally got around to watching Wild, which was way better than I thought it would be (great soundtrack, too). On Saturday, Nora turned eight months – where does the time even go?? She celebrated by watching her dad play a soccer match, then we had more Qdoba and a visit from a friend. On Sunday, we went hiking in beautiful weather, had Veggie Grill for lunch, and ended the weekend with Game of Thrones. Lots of little moments that added up to perfection.

The makings of a moste excellent Friday night. Finally watching Wild! #qdoba 8 months! She celebrated by watching her pappa win his soccer match and playing with her Italian beau. She was awake for five hours straight without any fussing!! Sometimes I think I have post-colic stress disorder need to remember that we can actually go places now without epic meltdowns and hearing loss. Go baby go!
InstagramCapture_cc921ca6-5428-4904-9c16-78f17b8ce08e #veggiegrill - as if this weekend wasn't already perfect. And now: Game of Thrones!! *hums theme*

The whole week was good, actually. Between watching Fed Up and reading Natural Born Heroes, I’ve had no shortage of motivation. Natural Born Heroes is Chris McDougall’s new book, and just like Born to Run, I can. Not. Put. It. Down… Except that I have to, because there’s this tiny human who keeps demanding my attention. The nerve! Anyhoo, it’s getting me excited about running around and playing in the woods. And rethinking how I do my strength workouts. And strengthening my no-chocolate resolve.

Happily awake again

As far as my challenge goes, I’ll list the good and the bad. Let’s start with the bad so I can end on a high note.

The Bad:

Only one strength session | I was all excited after that first one on Monday, but then Wednesday didn’t happen because I prioritized coffee and general sloth, and Friday didn’t happen because of a nap malfunction.

No running | Oops. No excuses there.

I still really suck at meditating | And when I did try to meditate to sleep better, I just ended up feeling more awake. Meditation just isn’t for me, so I’m glad that part of the challenge is over. I’ll stick with mindful walking in order to feel centered instead.

The Good:

I’m totally rocking this no sugar thing | Every other time I’ve tried to deprive myself like this, I immediately go all rabid and devour all the things, but it just feels different this time. In fact it feels so good that I’ve decided to extend the no added sugar rule until May 17, which is Norway day (and one simply can’t not have Norwegian chocolate on Norway day). I’ve learned that (a) my chocolate cravings are directly related to how tired I am and (b) I’m really addicted to having something sweet with my morning coffee, but a date paired with a couple of walnuts satisfies that craving.

Excellent walks with Nora | Even without any running, I managed to cover 20 miles this week just by walking and hiking with Nora. The best workout was on Thursday, when I packed a picnic lunch and carried Nora on my front, pack on my back, 6.5 miles round trip on hilly local trails so we could hang out in a park. We’ll be doing that again for sure.

Cougar Mountain loop

We knew we definitely wanted to go hiking on Sunday, but we were feeling unmotivated to travel far and deal with potentially not even being able to find parking. The easily accessible trails (with good views) have been so crowded lately that it’s becoming a problem. We decided to just head on over to Cougar Mountain and do a five-mile loop there. We didn’t get any in-your-face mountain views, but we hiked in virtual solitude with green, green, green all around us. I’ll take it.

Cougar Mountain loop

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Hiking, Travel, USVI

#TBT: St. John | Salt Pond Bay & Ram Head Trail

I’ve gone on quite a few vacations and hikes that never made it onto the blog. Since our biggest adventures are happening at home these days, I’ve decided to highlight some of those old trips for Throwback Thursday. First up, one of my favorite areas of St. John, USVI – Salt Pond Bay.

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We first read about Salt Pond in St. John Off The Beaten Track by Gerald Singer – the guidebook for St. John – and it quickly became one of our most cherished snorkeling spots. Places like Waterlemon Cay might have more diverse snorkeling, but Salt Pond has a much better beach on which to relax between underwater explorations, and it also accesses what I think is the best hike on the island.

We stayed in Cruz Bay on our first visit to St. John, so it was a bit of a drive to get to Salt Pond Bay, all the way over on the south end. It’s a beautimous drive, though…

Coral Bay

…with potential donkey delay! (And yes, you drive on the left side of the road.)

Traffic jam

It was raining when we first got there, so after walking the short trail (more like an old dirt road) down to the beach, we kept walking to Drunk Bay to wait for the sun to return. There’s a fairly creepy collection of rock people in Drunk Bay, made even creepier by the gloomy weather we had.

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The sun is never gone for long on St. John, so back we went to Salt Pond Bay.

Salt Pond Bay

Gorgeous white beach and endless Caribbean blue. Heaven.

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As beautiful as the beach is, the really good stuff is underwater. We’ve snorkeled in Salt Pond quite a few times now, and our favorite route is a counter-clockwise loop of the bay. Spend lots and lots of time exploring around the rocks that jut up out of the water in the center of the bay, and when you near the end of the loop, cruise through the deeper center of the bay to look for the turtles and rays that like to hang out in the turtle grass and the sandy areas.

saltpond

In addition to turtles, we’ve seen beautiful peacock flounders and spotted eagle rays every time we’ve snorkeled Salt Pond. Very cool.

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Peacock Flounder

On our first trip, we were in for a treat – we found this beautiful octopus! We could have watched it forever, but they’re pretty efficient at hiding when they’re done being social (like me!).

Octopus on the move Caribbean Reef Octopus

There’s some beautiful coral out there too, it makes you feel like you’re hiking through underwater trees.

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Mukmuk snorkeled too!

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On our second trip to St. John, JK and I decided to swim all the way out to Booby Rock to see if there was any decent snorkeling to be had. I don’t recommend this at all, because a) it would be much better for divers, the good stuff is down too deep and b) if you’re anything like me, you’ll start vividly picturing sharks all around you and OHMIGOD I’M IN OPEN WATER AND JAWS IS GOING TO EAT ME AND MY FETUS. So just stick to the closer rocks instead.

Longest snorkel evahs

Totally unrelated shark story I just remembered: I watched Jaws when I was way too young, and when I talked to my preschool teacher about it the next day, she told me, in Scottish-accented Norwegian, that it wasn’t an actual shark, it was a robot. For the longest time, I thought someone was rowing a rowboat inside Jaws and that’s how they made the movie. Heh.

Cool coral So fuzzy

After snorkeling, in the insanely dry midday heat, we decided to hike to Ram Head, the southernmost point of the island. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our SLR with us. Or any water to drink. #experiencedhikers

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I think the trail is only a mile or so each way, but man alive, that heat. I was parched. If you’re made of smarter stuff than we are, you’ll hike to Ram Head first, then cool down with a nice snorkel afterwards.

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Still, this hike is gorgeous, with a sad but powerful history. Definitely a must if you visit St. John. Just remember to bring water, I cannot stress this enough.

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Calm seas to the left, rough to the right. (You can see Booby Rock out there on the left, probably circled by menacing fins.)

Wonky panorama

Legend says that if you throw a stone from Ram Head and shout a wish as loud as you can before the stone hits the water, this wish will come true. It didn’t seem to work for us at first…

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…but by our trip the following year, it had definitely come true. Thank you, wishing stone! Unfortunately, morning sickness kept me from hiking in that heat on that trip, but swimming was just what I needed (even though I puked in the water every time I put my snorkel mask on, but, oddly, not when I put in my snorkel).

Since I couldn’t hike it again, that means I never got any SLR photos from Ram Head…which means I’ll simply have to return to St. John. The horror!

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