Can you believe that when I first started hiking, I couldn’t understand why people would hike the same trails over and over again when we have an endless supply to choose from here in WA? Lololol. These days we mostly do the same hikes every year, and life doesn’t seem complete without them.
One of those hikes is our annual winter/spring outing to Paradise on Mount Rainier. I’m proud that we’ve kept that tradition going as we’ve had kids, especially last year when the combination of newborn + toddler made it a special kind of chaos.
This year, we’ve graduated to toddler + preschooler, and we ended up having the kind of day I used to dream about before we had kids.
There were definitely some mini meltdowns, but we are three and a half years into this parenting biz now and can hold our own against the fleeting wrath of a young’un.
Mostly, it was just so much fun. Nora snowshoed up the first hill all by herself (thank you for the Tubbs kids’ snowshoes, Moosefish!) and she was so proud of herself. Everyone we passed told her how awesome she was doing, and she was just glowing with confidence. She chose to ride the rest of the way in the dad-powered sled, like royalty, but still. Seeing your kids mastering new skills never gets old.
Lily wants to do everything big sister does, so she wasn’t happy until she got to ride in the sled too.
We sat down for lunch in our usual spot, just past the Alta Vista knob, and soaked up the sun for a while. While the kids were busy with their sandwiches, I took the time to enjoy the views. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to this side of the mountain now, but I never tire of it. That big, beautiful volcano, the jagged peaks of the Tatoosh. Yes it’s crowded down by the parking lot, but most of the people stay down there. Walk 15 minutes and you lose most of the crowds.
…and sometimes encountering other hikers isn’t a bad thing, especially when they offer to take your photo and you end up with a snapshot of your all four of you together in a beautiful place at a very happy moment in time.
Thank you, Paradise, for living up to your name once again.
I had signed up for two big races this fall, Whistler Alpine Meadows 25K (which is an absolutely stunning mountain course with over 5000 feet of gain) and Oregon Coast 30K. A week before the Whistler race, we were still not getting much sleep and even just our everyday life felt completely overwhelming and chaotic, so JK and I decided that we didn’t have the energy we needed to drive all the way to Whistler with the kids and stay in a not-babyproofed rental house. Once we had made the decision to cancel, I felt so relieved, which is a pretty good sign that it was the right choice…still, I had some serious FOMO going on when the race photos started hitting instagram (even though the course was apparently full of wasps). Hopefully I’ll get to run it someday.
A couple weeks later, life was looking much less bleak, so we packed up the kids and drove down to the Oregon Coast. The drive down was made bearable only by a lunch stop in Portland (mmm veggie bowls at Canteen) and an unfortunately way-too-short visit with friends in Albany. The kids did exceptionally well considering how long we spent in the car, but uuuugh. I never want to drive that stretch of I5 south of Portland ever again.
We arrived in the little coastal town of Yachats just in time for sunset, and I could feel the stress start to melt away. Our rental house was perfect – mid-century modern decor, huge windows overlooking the beach, very kid-friendly. Nora was super excited to sleep in a bunk bed in the kid room and kept asking us to put Lily in the top bunk so they could sleep together. Hmmm. (Squeee, I can’t wait until Lily is old enough to graduate to a big bed so they can share a room! That’s going to be the cutest thing ever.)
Lily has an unfortunate tendency to sleep horribly when we’re on these trips – we figure she’s either overtired from traveling or overly excited about sharing a room with us, but we also timed the last two trips with teeth erupting, so maybe it’s just bad luck. Anyhoo, one of the best things about Rainshadow Running’s races is that they start late, so at least we didn’t have to get up earlier than the kids dictated. My race started at 10, and Nora’s first 1K kids’ trail race started at 9:15. The coastal fog lifted just in time for Nora’s race debut!
JK tagged along for her race, but she covered the entire distance on her own two little feet. She was so proud!
As for my own race, I was so nervous at the starting line. Just a couple days before, I had pulled something(?) in my back that radiated painfully down toward my knee – it’s still not quite healed as I write this several months later – and between that and just generally not having trained enough, I was convinced I was going to have to drop out of the race at one of the aid stations. And of course, race director James warned us that the course was full of – of course – wasps. I had just had two wasp stings in one week that swelled up like the dickens, and I had no interest in seeing where a third sting would take me. Oh, and a fellow runner warned me that the course was actually over 20 miles long, not 18.5. Oof.
But it turned out this was one of those times when having low expectations worked in my favor. I started running and it felt so good. No back pain. No knee pain. No wasp stings, even though the aid station was swarming with them. Just beautiful forest trails and dramatic coastline views. As a bonus, the course went right past our rental house, so I got lots of encouragement from JK and Nora along the way. I wasn’t fast (I am never fast), but I had fun, which is why I do these things.
Lily was still napping when I finished (at 4:49:26 – it seems crazy to me now that I was out there for almost five hours, I remember it going by in a flash), so when I got to the finish line, I grabbed some (gluten-free! vegan!) pizza and then kind of just collapsed on the grass. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to walk if I stood up again, so I just stayed in one place, enjoying the live music and the food while Jeremy and Tisha (my old TNAB companions) kept me company and JK and the girls eventually arrived.
Eventually I had to get up, and much to my surprise I was actually able to walk. Huzzah! I don’t really remember the rest of the day except for the part when the girls were in bed for the night and I watched the sunset with a glass of wine in my hand.
The next day we explored Yachats and Cape Perpetua – I showed JK and the girls the overlook that I had run past in the race, we went for a hike, JK went for a run, we hit the beach (Pacific Northwest style, wearing all our layers) and then we had dinner at the brewery. We really liked this little town and we totes want to go back to explore the tide pools with the kids.
The following morning, we knew we had a long journey ahead of us, so we were super efficient with packing and breakfast and getting the girls and our stuff into the car…and then the car wouldn’t start. Gaah. Luckily our very nice next-door neighbor had jumper cables. Even with the now late start, we couldn’t face the idea of driving I5 through Oregon again, so we drove up along the coast instead. At one point we had to pull over because I spotted three whales from our car!
We stopped for lunch and a leg-stretcher in Cannon Beach, which the girls loved almost as much as we do. I was nursing Lily while watching Nora climb on a piece of driftwood, and I had one of those “damn, my life is wonderful” moments.
All in all the girls did incredibly well on the looong drive home. I was so proud of them, and so proud of myself for running 20 miles. The only other time I have covered 20 miles on foot in a day was on our Enchantments hike, which was four years and two kids ago.
I’m also just really thankful for these little mini vacations we’ve built around my races. We were too scurred to fly to Norway with a baby and a 3-year old this year, but these long weekends to Yachats and Sun Mountain were the perfect getaways with little kids.
Lily turned one (what??) on Black Friday, but she was so miserable with four molars coming in that frankly none of us were in the mood to celebrate quite yet. Our baby deserved to actually be able to enjoy her cake, dagnabbit!
Fast-forward to yesterday, when Lily was back to her happy, normal self, the sun decided to make a mysterious December appearance in Washington, and JK was able to take some time to give our little girl the birthday she deserved.
Of course we had to go to the mountains. Man, even the drive was gorgeous.
We hiked the two minutes (for reals) to Gold Creek Pond, our trusty old destination for when we desperately want views but have no idea how long the preschooler will last.
Lily definitely enjoyed her cake, both as a meal and as a face mask.
I cannot believe she is already one. I thought Nora’s first year flew by, but that was nothing compared to this. I could have used some more sleep, but it has been such an honor, a privilege, a joy to get to know this affectionate, smart, hilarious, easygoing girl.
And of course Nora hit the big sis jackpot with cake and a ride in the sled.
This might have to be her main transportation on snowy hikes this season).
Nora had her own mountain birthday this year when she turned three!
This was back in early September, when it was hotter than the dickens and we wore swimsuits instead of snowshoes.
My parents were visiting, and we packed the car full of cake and balloons and headed to Naches Peak Loop, another short-but-glorious family favorite.
Nora’s favorite part was swimming in the little tarn, of course.
I can’t believe Lily is one, and I definitely can’t believe Nora is three (except I kind of can, whenever that whole threenager thing rears its ugly head). This girl is feisty and hilarious, so smart, and fully bilingual at this point. She speaks English with a thick Norwegian accent, which is just about the cutest thing ever when it comes out of the mouth of a three-year old.
Nora and Lily, I love you both so much. Thank you so much for happily indulging us in our mountain baby fantasies – hopefully this brainwashing will work long-term.
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!
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 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.
Paradise was beautiful even without a big volcano backdrop, and there was definitely a feeling of fall in the air.
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.
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.
(She also said that she loves wet marmots, which means she’s obviously never smelled a wet marmot.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
She also rediscovered the joy of glissading!
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.
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.)
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.