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Hiking

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Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking, TNAB

The ultimate date night

I have a vague recollection of bragging online about the fact that Lily had started sleeping through the night. As any parent knows, the second one dares utter those words, the shit hits the fan in a major way, and illness or teeth or just general babyness swoops in to mess you up and leave you exhausted and probably take years off your life.

This is all to say that my parents’ visit could not have come at a better time. Raising two very young kids without any family around can be incredibly hard at times, and we really needed some kid-free time to just feel like ourselves again. Our first date night since Lily was born was spent at Cafe Flora, of course, but the next night we went big – we went to TNAB.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

…because there’s nothing quite as relaxing as hiking really fast straight uphill and scrambling up mountains and then turning around and doing the entire thing in reverse in the dark. Yay TNAB!

TNAB Rampart Ridge

Okay, so it might not be relaxing, but it’s definitely refreshing.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

And when it’s been a while since you’ve had a big mountain adventure, a night like this will make you feel incredibly high on life.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

There were delicious huckleberries, a distant marmot sighting, and reunions with old friends.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

And – this part is super-cool – hiking straight uphill just isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Man alive, I wish I had been in this kind of shape back when we used to TNAB regularly.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

I could not wipe the smile off my face.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

Rampart Ridge has always been my favorite TNAB destination, and I thank the mountain gods for lining up my parents’ visit to coincide with this very hike.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

(Interestingly, I was less comfortable with scrambling than I used to be. I guess it just comes down to lack of exposure? I mean I’ve always been afraid of heights, but I had tamed it to a certain degree before Nora was born…but I haven’t done anything like this since 2013. I’m out of practice.)

TNAB Rampart Ridge

Wearing my Progress not Perfection tank to celebrate all the strides I’ve made these past couple of years – taking charge of my health, parenting…neither will ever be perfect, but I think I am doing pretty damn good anyway.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

Especially if we can continue getting some time off here and there. We’ve been good about getting our separate alone time after Lily was born, but kid-free adventures together like this never happen. Maybe it’s time to look into getting a regular babysitter.

Date night

This is the absolute best kind of date night.

TNAB Rampart Ridge

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Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier, Top Trips

Marmot Mountain Magic

Summer is coming to an end, I can feel it. As much as I love fall (at least the early fall, before the monsoon begins), I always feel a bit of ennui this time of year. It used to be end of summer hiking burnout, but this year it is the opposite – summer really just flew by and we just didn’t get around to doing a quarter of the things we had planned. Gaah!

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

So now we need to squeeze in all the things, starting with a trip to Paradise. We’ve been planning this all year but it kept getting pushed back due to bad bugs, then a heatwave, then two weeks of wildfire smoke, then sick kids. When we finally made it last week, Mount Rainier decided to hide from us the entire hike, but s’all good – we were there for the marmots anyway.

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

Nora still talks about our marmot hunt last year so she was super excited for this trip. Luckily there were marmots everywhere, so she wasn’t disappointed. Fat marmots, raggedly ol’ skinny marmots, baby marmots, we got ’em all.

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

Paradise was beautiful even without a big volcano backdrop, and there was definitely a feeling of fall in the air.

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

The trees had that autumnal smell that I can’t really describe, and some huckleberry bushes were starting to turn. There was enough of a chill in the air for Nora to put on her adorable little puffy jacket. I see pumpkin spice in our very near future, friends.

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

This was such a good family adventure. At one point, Nora turned to me and said “I LOVE hiking in the mountains”, which of course melted my heart.

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

(She also said that she loves wet marmots, which means she’s obviously never smelled a wet marmot.)

Nora's Marmot Quest '17
She was so proud of herself for walking most of the steep hills, but the carrier was good to have when she ran out of steam at the end. At some point she’ll have to graduate to feet-only hikes so Lily can use the big carrier, so I’m thinking next summer will be the season of one-mile trails.

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

All those steep hills led Nora to actually doze off in the car for once, so we had two glorious minutes or so of complete silence when the girls’ naps overlapped. Aaahhh.

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

Over the dinner table that night, she was talking a mile a minute about our trip – finding marmots, eating berries, hiking the stairs, stamping Lily’s National Park Passport, forgetting her water bottle in the visitor center bathroom – JK and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I love seeing her so excited, especially now that I know that she remembers things for a looong time. I’m going to remember this one too, kid.

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

Nora's Marmot Quest '17

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Health, Hiking, Me

Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago, I was a totally different person. There aren’t that many photos of me from that time because, well, let’s just say I preferred to be behind the camera. Ten years ago was also 65+ pounds ago.

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I don’t remember much of my life back then, partly because – thankfully – it feels like a lifetime ago, but mostly because it wasn’t much of a life at all. I remember staying up all night because I just couldn’t sleep during those bleak, dark hours, then crawling into bed in the early morning, staying there until noon or sometimes even until JK came home from work. Almost never getting out of the house, and not for my normal homebody/introvert reasons, but due to crippling social anxiety and near-constant migraines. Subsisting on a diet of faux-meat “chicken” nuggets, fries, potato chips, Pepsi, and chocolate. Trying unsuccessfully to become pregnant, which in hindsight was a blessing in disguise, because dear lord that would have been a shit show. I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone a little baby.

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2007 was the year that changed so many things for me, all set in motion by that one backpacking trip to Shi Shi Beach, which I somehow, stepping way, way out of my comfort zone, agreed to go on. (Thank you Tom and Amy for reaching out and making it happen!) That adventure sparked a fire in me that hasn’t stopped burning since. Right when I needed it the most, along came this whole new world of fresh air, jaw-dropping views, endorphins, sunshine, and new, like-minded friends. It got me interested in life again. I set goals for myself. I felt immense pride in myself when I reached those goals. I started appreciating my body for the things it allowed me to do.

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Within a month and a half of that trip to Shi Shi, JK and I had visited Mount Rainier, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks. We went to Noble Knob for the first time, gobsmacked by the sight of Mount Rainier lit up bright pink at sunrise. Talk about finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

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Slowly but surely we hiked more and more trails, and I lost more and more weight. That fall, I couldn’t even make it halfway up the trail to Poo Poo Point because I legit thought I was going to have a heart attack, but the following summer, we backpacked to Jade Lake and the Enchantments. We started taking adventurous vacations. We got hooked on trail running. We climbed volcanoes. We finally had our wonderful babies and are continuing our life on trail, albeit a little differently these days.

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This trail hasn’t been without its fair share of setbacks (or should I say switchbacks?). I still tend toward depression if I don’t take care of myself, but it’s no longer a constant, towering presence in my life. Sometimes, back in the day, hiking itself brought out some of my old tendencies – my big depression problem of not feeling like I was good enough would come up whenever I hiked with a group of faster, stronger people (in other words, most other people). But over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the biggest reasons why I feel so happy in the mountains is because I feel competent out there. I feel like I know what I’m doing. That’s not a feeling I’ve experienced much in my life, especially now that we’ve entered the ever-changing world of parenting (does anyone feel like they know what the hell they’re doing when it comes to parenting?), so it’s more important than ever that I keep getting out there, finding myself on trail.

Poo Poo Point 2017 St Edward 2017

Anyway, this was just a long-winded way to say, well, it’s been a great ten years, trails. Let’s have many, many more.

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Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier, Top Trips

Lily Meets The Mountain

Lily has been on a whole bunch of little treks around the Watershed and Tiger Mountain, but our first “big” hike as a family of four – snowshoeing on Mount Rainier – was…interesting. Okay, so it was complete chaos from beginning to end.

Paradise Paradise

We were too tired the night before to start packing in advance, and we don’t yet have a routine down for what we need to bring on a toddler + newborn hike, especially in snow. Then Lily woke up too early from her nap and was cranky and overtired, our grocery/nursing stop along the way took far too long, and we pulled into the Paradise parking lot much later than we had anticipated.

Paradise

Paradise

As if we weren’t late enough already, everything takes sooo. damn. long. when there’s one small child for each adult, especially when one child is a totally helpless newborn and the other is a toddler, intent on creating mayhem wherever she goes.

Paradise

When we finally got our snowshoes on and the kids strapped to our bodies, it was so late that we realized we just wouldn’t have time to have the fancy picnic we had planned and still make it back down the mountain before they closed the gate at Longmire at 5pm. Gaah! So we just hiked up to a spot that was relatively sheltered from the wind, dropped our packs, and decided that we were going to have fun no matter what, damnit! And we did.

Paradise

Nora dug into the carrots and hummus with gusto (and refused to wear her sunglasses most of the time, because toddler) and chatted up a storm about how she wants her own crampons and snowshoes and that she’s going to climb Rainier one day just like pappa.

Paradise Paradise
Paradise Paradise

She also rediscovered the joy of glissading!

Paradise

Lily was still overtired and had her crankypants on until I gave her a pacifier in her wrap, and then she melted into my body like butter. It’s pretty much the greatest feeling in the world.

Paradise

Throughout the whole thing, I had Jason Mraz’s Life is Wonderful stuck in my head, and you know what, it really is. I’m so glad we have these girls and each other and these mountains and this life. And I’m so glad I’m in a mental place again where I can look around at the chaos and say, in total honesty, that even a trip like this is worth it. (I could do without the backseat screaming in stereo, though.)

Paradise

So, lessons learned for next time: (1) Write a pack list. (2) Get everything ready the night before. (3) Enjoy the madness. (4) Bring earplugs for the car.

Paradise

Challenge, Hiking, Hiking with baby

Tiger Mountain Torture

Last week, I started getting that antsy feeling – a combo of needing to kick myself into gear now that we’ve fallen into a pretty pleasant routine as a family of four, and of definitely needing to escape the world of increasingly awful news stories coming at us every day. The solution, as always: trails!

First order of business, getting the girls both dressed up in the matching thermals they got from grandma and grandpa for Christmas. Massive cuteness.

Cable Line 01 Cable Line 01

Since I apparently wanted to go for maximum self-torture, I chose my old friend/nemesis, the Cable Line on Tiger Mountain. It works pretty well for our family since JK and the girls can dawdle around at the foot of the mountain while I climb to the top, so I think this will be my go-to gym this winter. On those extra special toddler days, I’m sure he’ll be working harder than I am, but luckily for me he knows how important this alone time on trail is for me (and subsequently for the whole family).

Cable Line 01

I guess calling the Cable Line a trail is pretty generous; it was as crappy and steep and muddy and eroded as ever, but man did I get a good workout. I reached the top in one of the biggest endorphin highs I have ever experienced to find that (a) it was snowing! and (b) I had made it up in 57 minutes, which is only 11 minutes slower than my PR. Not too shabby considering the past six months plus the fact that this was my first real postpartum hike with any significant elevation gain.

Cable Line 01 Cable Line 01

I kept the endorphin rush going on the way down the West Tiger 3 trail, listening to an excellent playlist and meeting several women adorned in pussy hats.

Cable Line 01

Back down at the bottom I found a happy JK, a Lily who was just waking up from her nap and was ready to eat (perfectly timed with my arrival so we didn’t have to use a bottle*), and a pooped Nora who wanted to ride “on the mamma pillow” the rest of the way back to the trailhead.

(And then I waddled around all happy but outrageously sore for the next two days.)

Cable Line 01 Cable Line 01

*Nora wouldn’t take a bottle so this is new, exciting territory for us. For those with experience in on-trail bottle-feeding, do you just serve it really cold or do you heat it somehow? I can’t really come up with a practical way to do so expect for carrying it close to your body.