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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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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

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Cabin Trip, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier, Pregnancy, Top Trips

Mount Rainier Babymoon | Skyline Trail Loop

The following morning, after another stop at the Mountain Goat for coffee and glutenous hiking essentials for JK and Nora, we drove up to Paradise to see how the autumn colors were doing. We weren’t disappointed!

Skyline Loop

This was our first autumn trip to Paradise since 2014, when we introduced Nora to Mount Rainier for the first time. Can you even believe the tininess?

Skyline Loop Skyline Loop

Our main goal for this hike was for Nora to see marmots up close. She has inherited my prodigious collection of plush marmots, and has been obsessed with them ever since I showed her a couple of youtube videos of marmots whistling. Luckily for me (since I had promised her marmot sightings), the fat little lovelies started popping up just past Alta Vista and kept us company almost the entire way.

Skyline Loop

They were especially abundant close to Panorama Point, which gave me a chance to take some much-needed breathers while Nora gushed over her new furry friends.

Skyline Loop

Remember how I talked about my tendency to underestimate trails during pregnancy? Well, I totally did it again. I somehow remembered this loop as being “pretty much flat”, which is…not true. When we reached Pan Point and I realized we would have to keep going upwards on the alternate High Skyline Trail due to a lingering snowfield, our collective morale plummeted. Nora needed a nap and was cranky, I was starting to feel overheated and was cranky, and poor JK was left to deal with two simultaneously cranktastic women. (Just you wait until we have two teenage girls in the house!)

Skyline Loop

Luckily JK is a wise man and decided it was time to feed us. A bar (Nora loves Lara Bars – most of them are just dates + nuts) while walking, followed by a watermelon picnic was just what we needed for a little reboot.

Skyline Loop

…and then we hit a shortcut that let us shave a little distance off our loop. I gladly accepted the lazy way out, even though it meant we would miss out on my favorite marmot area – that should tell you how tired I was. Oh, pregnancy.

Skyline Loop Skyline Loop

Another fun pregnancy fact: downhill is more uncomfortable than uphill, at least in the third trimester. But with views like these, the trick is to just stop frequently to rest and soak it all in.

Skyline Loop

By the time we made it back to the paved trails of Paradise, the afternoon light set the autumn colors on fire. It was so beautiful, the perfect symbolic ending to a very short but sweet alpine hiking season for me this year.

It made quite the impression on Nora too – she’s still talking about this hike in her cute, manic toddler sentence kind of way. “Mount Rainier hike mamma pappa Nora in the carrier eat crackers and watermelon Nora found rocks NORA LOST ROCKS marmot MARMOT CRYING eeeew marmot pooooop!”

Skyline Loop

Skyline Trail Loop | 5.5 miles | 1450 feet elevation gain –

Skyline Loop

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Cabin Trip, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier, Pregnancy, Top Trips

Mount Rainier Babymoon | Naches Peak Loop

All summer long we talked about renting a cabin near Mount Rainier for a long weekend, and all summer long we procrastinated…and then it was autumn, and we realized our weather window was closing quickly. So we booked a cute cabin in Packwood, and the following afternoon we were off!

Packwood Cabin Packwood Cabin

The drive down went so well, thanks to the fact that we finally caved and got Nora a tablet so she can watch Peppa Pig on long car rides. A lifesaver for non-nappers! We made it to the cabin at dusk, got it heated up and got Nora fed so we could get her in bed not too long past her normal bedtime, and then cozied up in front of the fire and watched, of all things, Sleepless in Seattle on VHS. #cabinlife

Pumpkin pancakes!

In the morning we celebrated autumn with pumpkin pancakes and the first of many stops at the Mountain Goat before driving up to Chinook Pass. Our goal for the day was to hike the Naches Peak Loop – I had hiked it once before and knew if would be the perfect third trimester/toddler trail. And it totally was – it’s only a little over three miles, so we had lots of time to mosey along and dilly-dally, and the views are just insane for the amount of effort you put in.

Naches Peak Loop

Naches Peak Loop Naches Peak Loop

Naches Peak Loop

Naches Peak Loop

Nora hiked parts of the trail herself (carrying her one essential – a Playmobile excavator, of course) and spent a looong time exploring the little lake.

Naches Peak Loop

Naches Peak Loop

We eventually made our way around to the southern part of the loop, where Mount Rainier stares you right in the face most of the way – to the point where it becomes mildly hazardous because you just keep staring at the mountain instead of paying attention to your feet. We found a great little spot for our lunch break, and Nora’s excavator kept her occupied to the point where JK and I could actually relax, like unencumbered adults. We also snuck in a 31-week bump shot.

31 weeks

Naches Peak Loop

Then we packed up and kept hiking, Nora looking absolutely adorable as she bounced merrily along the trail. For reals, how cute is this?

Naches Peak Loop

You have no idea how good it felt to be back in the mountains, all excited and happy to be alive, after the summer of doom and gloom. It’s good to remember, yet again, that rough patches are (usually) just that – phases, phases that will pass. I’ve always tended toward all-or-nothing thinking, so when things change for the worse, I immediately assume that OHMIGOD LIFE WILL BE LIKE THIS FOREVER. If anything, parenthood should have taught me that life is full of transitory stages that feel endless when you’re in them (morning sickness, inconsolable newborns, tantruming toddlers), but they do in fact end and life goes back to being pretty damn awesome.

Naches Peak Loop

…sometimes even so awesome that your non-napper takes a much-needed snooze in the car on the way back to the cabin! Now that’s a sign of a good hike right there.

Naches Peak Loop Naches Peak Loop

Naches Peak Loop | 3 miles | 600 feet elevation gain –

Packwood Cabin

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Challenge, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Pregnancy, Top Trips

I did it

I’ve been trying to identify just why hiking hasn’t seemed appealing to me this summer, and I think it all boils down to that thing with depression that makes even the tiniest bump in the road look like an absolutely massive hurdle. We have to pack our gear. Drive to a trailhead. Hope and pray to the mountain gods that we’ll actually be able to find parking, because all the easily accessible trails are so damn crowded these days. Potentially endure a very loud, public tantrum if the young hiker in our crew refuses to ride in the carrier. Risk another injury like last month when that young hiker tripped and faceplanted onto a rock, chipping several teeth and knocking her front tooth loose. So it’s all just a mess of depression-induced anxiety (over minuscule things that must seem completely ridiculous to those who have never experienced this sort of mental state before) that makes me want to just stay home instead, because it would be so much easier.

Mirror Lake

…Except that I know, I know so well, that I need this. Hiking is a huge part of my identity, and I don’t feel quite like myself without it. So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to just force myself out there. I needed to show myself that hey, traffic and crowds and loud car rides and toddler tantrums happen, and somehow life goes on.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

But actually, it was the perfect day in the mountains with my family. Nora amused herself the entire drive by reading books and calling her grandparents on her pretend phone, we pulled into the trailhead with lots of parking spots to spare, Nora was easily coaxed into the carrier with the help of bunny crackers, no one got hurt, and we spent a very, very long lunch break on the little beach by Mirror Lake. We swam, we found excellent sticks and several frogs, we munched on sooo many huckleberries, and Nora was convinced that the peaks above the lake were “man and woman hugging and singing Lava” from her favorite song.

Mirror Lake Mirror Lake

So this was what I spent an entire month avoiding. Harrumph.

Mirror Lake

Since I have now decided that it is fall (because I’m more than ready to see the ass end of this particular season). this ended up being our only mountain hike this summer. And I’m surprisingly okay with that. I’m sure we’ll get out on some autumn hikes, and I’m also sure that the mountains will still be there next year, when I will hopefully be feeling better and have the mental fortitude to adventure with two tiny humans. Gulp.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake