In the middle of August my mom came up for an extended visit. Part of the visit included several days at a cabin near Mt. Rainier.
(This is going to be a bit of a photo fest, but I just couldn’t narrow this down any more. I love all these photos and they all really help to tell the story of our trip.)
On our first morning, Ellie took her chalk out to the cul-de-sac and had a grand pirate adventure while we made lunches to take with us hiking.
We decided to tackle the longest, and most spectacular hike first: The Naches Peak Trail Loop.
Look at the beauty around us. It’s breathtaking, and yet Ellie was much more interested in the dirt.
About a third of the way along the loop, there is a beautiful little alpine lake. No one else was around and Ellie couldn’t resist putting her feet in. It only took about two minutes for her to accidentally get more than her feet wet. Luckily, we know our child well enough that we had some extra clothes on hand. After doing inventory and realizing we had extras of everything but shorts and shoes, those came off and she was free to play as she saw fit. If there is dirt or water, Ellie is in it.
Ellie carried her own backpack each day. That way, she had access to her own water, food, collection box, and stuffed animal whenever she wanted it.
After hiking a little more than half way, you literally turn a corner and Whamo! get hit with the beautiful sight of Mt. Rainier.
We hiked a little over six miles that first day, and we were all rather tired by the end.
After we came out of the park, we drove into town for groceries and saw these guys just hanging out in the middle of the town between a restaurant and the gas station.
The cabin we stayed in is in Packwood, WA, which is on the south side of Mt. Rainier. As it turns out, it is also only about an hour from the northeast side of Mt. Saint Helens. Since none of us had been there, we decided that a trip to the other famous mountain in our state was in order.
We stopped at every roadside turnout, reading all the signs and learning about that fateful May day in 1980 when the volcano blew. The landscape was fascinating, with dead trees intermingled with new lush growth.
We walked the Harmony Trail to Spirit Lake. It was only two miles, but quite steep in parts. The landscape in this area was often barren but populated with Elk prints; Ellie and I had a fun time trying to find them all. Mom located a quiet place to sit and enjoy the scenery and Jeff got a rare moment of solitude and was able to take photos of the lake without a child constantly trying to get his attention.
Look! More dirt.
We opted to go North for our next day at Mt. Rainier. Although still cheerful, Ellie was getting a little tired and slow. She was just not used to this level of activity day after day. We intended a longer walk along the Glacier Basin Trail (one of few trails that gets you up close and personal with one of the larger glaciers), but realized pretty quickly that Ellie just wasn’t going to be up for it. Thankfully, we were able to take a shorter trail that lead off from Glacier Basin called the Emmons Moraine Trail. Much of the trail followed alongside the White River.
During the entire trip Ellie was amazing! She carried her own supplies, rarely asked to be carried, didn’t grumble or get upset and was pretty much game for anything we threw her way. The only time she truly lost it, was on this trail when I accidentally stepped on a bug.
Anyone who knows Ellie knows she loves animals, and the idea that I had killed one just devastated her. She was inconsolable for about 15 minutes. It was only when Jeff retraced our steps and couldn’t find any evidence of a bug (squished or otherwise), that she began to calm down. She then walked back and forth verifying Jeff’s findings. We decided that the bug must have just got pushed down into the soft dirt and scampered away at it’s first opportunity.
She rebounded pretty quickly after that. We continued to walk along the trail, crossed the river on this tiny bridge (we were all impressed that she didn’t think twice about crossing over on it), and found this beautiful spot for lunch.
From the same spot, this was our view to the east…
And this was the view to the west.
The trail was a little tricky in spots. This is one of the few areas where the adults got nervous, but again, Ellie, although she said she didn’t like it, was a complete trooper.
On the way back, we took some time to play near the river (with strict instructions not to go in as the current was pretty strong).
After leaving the beautiful White River, we drove to Sunrise Visitor Center, where Ellie enjoyed an ice cream and a lovely view.
This ended up being our day of driving. We drove the entire length of the park along the south road from Nisqually to Ohanapecosh (I love saying Ohanapecosh! Try it, it will make you happy). After a brief stop at Longmire (we talked to a Ranger and found out that the beautiful green lake we saw the day before doesn’t have a name. “We usually call it ‘the pretty green lake’.” It’s hard to believe a lake that large doesn’t have a name) we continued driving and admiring the scenery.
Anyway, one of our unplanned stops became a favorite. Narada Falls was a beautiful spot with a steep paved trail down to the falls. Jeff captured this lovely rainbow as a memento.
After that, we headed up to Paradise. We were on a mission to get Ellie a Junior Ranger badge she had worked so hard for: On our first day, we stopped by a ranger station and found out that if she completed a workbook at the end she could get sworn in as a Junior Ranger. She had to go on scavenger hunts, find historic buildings in the park, talk to Rangers, learn about the important safety measures to take while hiking, etc. We of course helped out a bit, pointing out things on her list, but she really did most of the work.
We made a big deal about it, but she seemed a bit skeptical about the whole thing. But at Paradise, a ranger looked over her completed materials and then swore her in (even though she was suddenly shy) as a Junior Ranger.
That is until we were hiking later in the day when a wonderful women stopped in her tracks when she saw Ellie and in an excited whisper said, “Oh! Are you a Junior Ranger? (turning to her husband) Honey, look. She’s a Junior Ranger. Wow!” You can see how pleased Ellie was at the attention of a complete stranger.
The meadows of wildflowers were stunning at Paradise and we decided to go on a walk to Myrtle Falls while we were there just to enjoy them a little longer.
While we were hiking or out of the car Ellie was totally engaged, but while driving she only had eyes for the iPad. We experienced several delays due to road maintenance. Although we don’t normally let her use the iPad as often as she did on this trip, I was sure glad we had it with us.
Our last major stop of the day was at Grove of the Patriarchs. Since we got there later in the day, we had the trail mostly to ourselves and walking through these beautiful giant trees when it was so quiet and getting dark was very comforting. I’m sure Ellie felt it too as she whispered almost the entire time.
Each night when we came home, we’d get dinner then crawl into the hot tub. Ellie and Mom didn’t like it too hot, but just sitting in the warmth helped us relax and mend for the next day of hiking.
My favorite part of the trip was the wacky and truly wonderful conversations we had with Ellie each day. Ellie would usually start it off with something like, “Pretend you are a unicorn pegasus see-through fire stallion” or “I am a mermaid, and I live in a castle in the desert” or “Watch out!, you stepped in a dinosaur footprint – there must be some close by.” From there we just had to ask clarifying questions (“Do you have a place to swim in the dessert, or do you just flop around in your mermaid tail on the castle floor?”) and play along to see her imagination in full force. It was fabulous and these discussions would often get quite complex and go an for a very long time.
On the last day, Ellie took some time to enjoy the cabin we were staying in. This little nook is right off the bedroom and she decided to color quietly rather than help me pack. Imagine.
On the way home, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch and this mural was across the way. Ellie insisted on petting the horse. I love that it looks like the man in the mural is watching us.