Tiger Mountain Hike….Grrrrrrr

Tiger Mountain Hike
Tiger Mountain Hike

In keeping with our streak for the New Year, we’ve spent at least one day the last three weekends hiking or playing in the outdoors. We’ve always been avid hikers but took some time off in November and December due to travel, weather, and illness. We’ve been working hard these past few weeks to ensure the kids get out, rain or shine. With today being the sunnier day than tomorrow, we headed a little south to Tiger Mountain State Forest for a nice hike aimed just for children.

Tiger Mountain State Forest is a forest managed by the City of Issaquah and State of Washington Department of Ecology located off I-90. It’s close proximity to Seattle makes this a very popular hike. We arrived around 10am just as the parking lot was filling up. I was surprised that no fees were required since the State is hurting for funds. The trails are well maintained, as are the signs, but for all the use they should be offsetting the costs.

Tiger Mountain Hike at Tiger Mountain State ForestAnyways, we decided to hike on one of the many family friendly trails from High Point Trail Head that offer flat terrain for Ethan to easily hike. There are plenty of strenuous hikes around and up the mountain for those seeking a more challenging hike. We started on the Around the Lake Trail then came back on the Bus Trail. Both trails provided about 2 miles of hiking  which was plenty for Ethan. There were interpretive signs along the Around the Lake Trail that provided some great teaching moments for Ethan. He now knows how to identify a Western Red Cedar. An unusual site is found on the Bus Trail where an old bus lies on it’s side. It’s been there for decades and has been visited by plenty of bullets. Ethan found it very intriguing and wondered how it got here. His one theory is that the bus driver died and the bus was now stuck. Hmmmm.

Tiger Mountain Hike at Tiger Mountain State ForestFor this hike Ethan wanted to wear his backpack loaded with his binoculars, compass, rain jacket, and water. He was very excited for this expedition and wanted to be prepared. Throughout the hike he enjoyed looking for wildlife with his binoculars. Of course every time he tried he always said he couldn’t see anything out of the binoculars despite our best efforts to focus his eyes. We’ll keep trying. He also tried fishing with his “fishing pole”  or stick of the day. On every hike we take him on he finds a stick or five to carry along or share with us. At the end of the hike he’s required to leave them at the trailhead so the animals can use them.

Autumn rode in the Kelty backpack for the second time. She generally remained silent, perhaps stubborn because she wouldn’t crack a smile, and took in the views from her perch on me. By the end of the hike she was asleep and kept this way until we arrived home.

October in Review: The Month of the Heffalump

Heffalump! What the? Okay if you don’t have kids you probably don’t have any idea what a Heffalump is. I didn’t either until earlier in October I randomly selected for Ethan Pooh’s Heffalump Movie from Netflix. That’s all it took. He watched it, laughed a lot, smiled, never ate his popcorn because he was glued to the movie, and came back asking for more. Seriously, he loves anything about it (characters, songs, dialogue, pictures). There is no doubt that October became the month of the Heffalump.

20101003_0166But we also got our fair share of Vitamin D and hiked the Cascades, saw the Salmon run, visited McMinnville, watched Autumn get her first tooth and chomp down her first solids, and finished the month with the cutest little horse and firefighter you ever saw. Our weekends and family time took us near and far. Here’s a brief summary of our October:

  • Salmon Festival
  • Skagit Valley Festival of Farms Tour
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Games, games, and lots of games (mostly puzzles)
  • Big Four Ice Caves Hike
  • Robe Canyon Hike
  • Community Trunk ‘n Treat
  • Trip to McMinnville, Oregon to visit family
  • Neighborhood trick or treating
  • Pumpkin carving
  • Toolbox building

The fall colors were in full bloom here in Washington and down in Oregon. Our drive down to McMinnville was gorgeous along I-5. Here’s to a great November.

Big Four Ice Caves Hike (Mountain Loop Highway)

Autumn hanging out at the Big Four Ice Caves
Autumn stays warm in front of the Big Four Ice Caves.

Another gorgeous weekend in the Seattle area provided the opportunity to hit the trail. We got a mid-morning start today and headed back to the Darrington District on the Snoqualmie-Mt. Baker National Forest where we hiked the Big Four Ice Caves trail – located about 1.5 hour north of Seattle on the Mountain Loop Highway.

Despite the beautiful hike, the drive up to the trailhead is as much fun as the hike. The Mountain Loop Highway is spectacular this time of year as the deciduous trees prepare for the winter months. There are a few small towns that dot the landscape but it’s pretty much just forested land along the Stillaguamish River.

20101017_0526The weather was a little cool this morning and produced ice on the boardwalks in the lower part of the trail. Ethan loved scarping all the ice off the boardwalk planks and resting benches. He also liked to taste it which we tried to put a stop too. He is an explorer and is very comfortable on a trail. He’ll explore anything and everything along the trail which is why it took about an hour to go the one mile length of the trail, and 45 minutes back down. We answered his questions and identified flora along the way. We also gently persuaded him to keep trekking. Don’t get us wrong, we know it’s all about the journey and not the end, but there are only so many mushrooms we enjoy viewing.

Autumn yapped most of the way up before succumbing to yapping fatigue and fell asleep. We woke her up for pictures, which she kindly obliged us with, and fell back asleep. This was her first hike in our Kelty Child Carrier and she did superb. It was nice for Laura to move around a bit more and I was happy to not have to chase Ethan.

20101017_0579We actually avoided the ice caves. We stayed on the trail and viewed them from a far where our kids were safe. There are plenty of warnings to not go near them or in them because of the chance that the ice will fall. Just a few months ago an 11 year old was killed while near one. But from what we could see it was a neat formation to visit.

We’re glad for the mid-morning start because when we got back to the trailhead the parking lot was almost full. There is no doubt this is a popular hike. The trail is one mile up a gentle slope to the base of the Big Four Mountains. The trail is in great shape with the first 1/8 mile paved and the rest either a wood boardwalk or compacted crushed rock. There is/was a lot of trail work that has made this a very accessible hike.

This is definitely a hike we’d do again with friends and family. It’s an easy hike for children (Ethan did the entire hike except for stream crossing where the bridge was being repaired) and a great drive through the forest.

Story Behind the Picture #1: Spokane, Washington

Story Behind The Picture (New Feature on our Website): August 2001. Spokane, Washington. This is the first photo we took together.

Laura and I met on July 30, 2001 at her cousin Missy’s wedding in Burns, Oregon (where I was living at the time). We talked, danced, and at the end of the night we exchanged phone numbers. The next morning she went on her way to Newberg, Oregon where she was living for the summer. We talked on the phone for weeks waiting for a time where I could get away from firefighting and visit her. August was a busy time for firefighters and it wasn’t until the end of the month that I was able to get a couple days off, just in time for her to head back to Spokane, Washington to start her last year of college.
When we both decided to meet in Pendleton and drive to Spokane in one car, I didn’t think about the current wildfires on the Umatilla National Forest my drive would intersect on my way to Pendleton. Needless to say, the trip that should have landed me in Pendleton around 10pm got me there about 1:30am. I was detoured through parts of eastern Oregon I didn’t know existed. Since neither of us had cell phones, I stopped to make pay phone calls to her parents on a couple occasions to tell them that if Laura is wondering where I’m at, I’m still on my way. When I arrived at our designated spot of Burger King on the outskirts of southern Pendleton, she was asleep in her car. I tapped on the window and woke her up. Later on, we would both talk about how we really couldn’t remember exactly what the other looked like because we had met for such a brief time a month earlier. Of course upon laying eyes on each other again, we knew the other was pretty damn hot/sexy, depending on who your’re speaking with. Together we made the 3 hour drive north to Spokane.

We rarely slept those two days because of the little time we had. We explored Spokane, talked into the wee hours of the morning, and spent time hiking. It was during our hike at a local park that we took the picture featured on this post.

After she drove me back the 3 hours to my car in Pendleton, we said goodbyes in hopes of seeing each other soon. All the way home I thought of Laura and her beautiful smile, the engaging conversations, and her wonderful kiss. As the stars sparkled overhead and I was lost in thought about her, I took out a deer 10 minutes from town. Unfortunately the deer didn’t make it and the car was replaced two weeks later, but I found my future wife.

Read more about our chance encounter on our Family page.