Wednesday, October 3, 2018

First big family trip - Washington 2018

So, we took our first major family vacation. Kim has a list of places penciled in for each of the next 50 years (only slightly exaggerated) so we better get started!
Kim has an old work friend in near Seattle, but had never visited, and Carl had only ever been in Washington for 1 day on a bicycle trip (actually mentioned in the first blog post ever on this page...!)
Of course Roy and Ruby had no choice, and had never been West of the Mississippi river. As you'll see, it was a wonderful trip. We spent a few night in hotels, but rented a camper van for the duration. I think it was 14 nights in the van camping, and 4-5 night in hotels (arriving and departing from Seattle, and a couple nights in the middle when we really wanted a shower or needed to do laundry). We had a rough itinerary hashed out from a couple recommendations, and we followed the route fairly closely, but didn't have nightly camp spots chosen ahead of time. This was mostly great, and only bit us a couple nights. Several of our favorite spots were off the beaten path and certainly not highlighted in any guidebooks, which is part of why I prefer only going in with a loose itinerary.
The scenery was superb, and it was a real treat to experience an outdoor travel vacation with OUR OWN kids!
Kim kept notes each evening on the day's events, so those are included here, ahead of the best pictures from that day.

If you have time to peruse all 265 pictures, I recommend you click on them on as large a screen as you've got.....the views were astounding and only a decent size screen can do them justice!

Day 1 (T): Seattle arrival! Kim took kids to hotel on rail and cab while carl went to pick up camper van. Kids struggled to stay up late enough for dinner in the new time zone, but they were angels traveling all day on 2 planes.

Day 2 (W): walked around Pike's Market in Seattle. Roy's fave part was watching a piano street performer, Jeffrey. Had dinner with Kim's friend Steve Penn and his wife Mindy. Smoke from the wildfires in the area made everything hazy. 

Day 3 (R): Smoke cleared out this morning, but we had to move on. Drove to Olympic Nat'l Park. Stopped for supplies in Port Angeles, then set up camp in "Heart O' the Hills" campground. Drove up Hurricane Ridge to see the views, the smoke covered up the valleys below. Views were still amazing, even with only seeing half of it! 

Day 4 (F): Arrived at Lake Crescent. Roy and Carl took a dip while Kim and Ruby stayed bundled up on the shore! Ate lunch at the lodge. Camping at the Hoh River (and Kalaloch Beach) was full, so drove to Ruby Beach. Roy was mostly excited to skip rocks in the giant beach puddles. Finally found a campsite a few miles from the Hoh Rainforest. Carl was extra excited about a shower!

Day 5 (S): Walked a bit in the Hoh Rainforest and saw the Hoh River. Lots of moss-covered giant trees and ferns! Drove to Lake Quinault Lodge to wait out some rain. Played in the lobby with some other kids, had dinner, then back on the road towards Mt. Rainier. Stayed at Best Western near Olympia.

Day 6 (U): Smoke had cleared out because of some incoming rain, so took a quick trip back to Seattle to see the Space Needle, then played on the playground just beside it. Couldn't see Mt. Rainier from the Space Needle because of the clouds, but had a great view of the city. The new renovations added the revolving glass floor, which Roy tiptoes on, Carl was not a fan (scared), Ruby & Kim were completely unfazed. Made it to Cougar Rock Campground at Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park with enough daylight to set up camp, cook dinner, and play around a bit before dark.

Day 7 (M): Drove up to Paradise Ranger Station. Kim was sick, so she slept in the car while Carl took the kids on a hike. They saw lots of marmots, which the kids loved. The clouds had the summit covered up for most of our time there. We continued around Mt. Rainier and stopped at a couple pulloffs for photo ops. Went for a short hike through the Grove of the Patriarchs to see some giant trees before continuing on to White River campground. At the campground, we were able to walk to the White River crossing on the Wonderland Trail, which gave spectacular views of Mt. Rainier and Emmons Glacier on a clear evening/morning.

Day 8 (T): caught another good view of MR from the campground in the morning. Then drove up to Sunrise Ranger Station, which gave AMAZING 360 degree views of the area around (and including) MR. The first thing Kim did when getting out of the car was to break her phone. Oh well, it was time for a new one anyway! We hiked (Kim carried Ruby in the Ergobaby most of the way while Carl alternated between carrying Roy and letting him ride on his shoulders) the Sunrise Rim trail and a few others to get an up close view of a couple lakes and a patch of snow. Carl took Roy off trail to get a snowball. Hiking above the ranger station was definitely worth the effort! Incredible views, even with the smoke rolling in in the late afternoon! After spending most of the day there, we went back to the same campground.

Day 9 (W): Ruby started walking today! She took several steps on several occasions this morning. Such a nice little bonus! One last look at MR from the Wonderland Trail before heading off towards Leavenworth. Stopped at Boulder cave, where you walk in, turn on flashlights in complete darkness, then a few minutes later, you see daylight at the other end of the cave. We went through 3 times because we had to climb a big hill (carrying both kids in the heat) to get there. Then, we took a 13-mi Forest Service Road up Little Bald Mtn (which was labeled as a snow mobile path or requiring high clearance car).  The last 3 miles were unmaintained, so LOTS of big bumps and curves on the edge of the mountain. It was a VERY stressful drive for everyone (and took an hour to drive)! At the top, we had a great view of the area. Carl let Roy pee off the edge, so they were happy. The van definitely received some abuse on that ride! We stopped in Ellensburg to get a hotel so we could all bathe and do laundry. 

Day 10 (R): Spent the day at the Columbia River area and the Frenchman Coulee. Went hiking in the hot, dusty area to see neat rock formations. Then went swimming/wading in the river. Drove up a Forest Service Rd in the Wenatchee National Forest to the top of Red Top Mtn. Had dinner, then hiked 1/2 mi to the lookout tower perched on a massive boulder at the top for fantastic views! It was super windy, and a very steep trail, so Kim was nervous carrying Ruby. Carl, of course, had no worries. He was extremely disappointed the tower was locked for us and is now determined to find an open fire tower. Camped in the parking area.

Day 11 (F): Hiked to the Agate field also on Red Top Mtn. Carl found a rock within 10 seconds that had geode crystals inside and a pair of sunglasses on a crokie, and nothing else in the next hour. Drove to Leavenworth. Set up camp on Icicle Forest Service Rd. at the 8-mi lake trailhead to wait for Steve and Mindy. Cars started driving into the trailhead parking lot at 4:45 am! We didn't start until 9:30 am.

Day 12 (S): Steve and Mindy joined us for a TOUGH hike up to Colchuck Lake (Steve's suggestion because guidebook rated it 5 stars). GPS tracked trail at 5 mi each way, and it took us just over 8 hours to go the 10 miles. Kids were carried the WHOLE time! Kim carried Ruby in the ergobaby for most of it, while Carl carried Roy on his shoulders. Steve gave significant help carrying Roy on his shoulders while Carl carried Ruby and gave Kim a break. Trail was beautiful all the way up, albeit dusty. Lots of great views of mountains, streams, and waterfalls. The view at the top of the alpine lake was amazing while we all enjoyed some much-deserved lunch! Carl took a swim in the frigid water while Roy and Ruby splashed their hands and feet. Kim put her hands in.  The trek down was much faster, but the tricky footing (slippery dust-covered rocks and roots) made Kim slip twice (both times landed opposite direction of where Ruby was riding). Super tough, but fun hike! Had a lovely dinner with Steve and Mindy, then camped at a RV resort so we could have showers and wash dishes (also didn't have to drive back up bumpy service road). Campsite was right on the Icicle Creek and steps from the bathroom - the best of both worlds!

Day 13 (U): Bit if a late start leaving Leavenworth. Spent time buying supplies and looking for maps. Headed towards North Cascades via Hwy 2. Stopped to ride the chair lift at Steven's Pass (ski area and PCT crossing). Got to ride up and down a few times and had some ice cream. Roy loved it! A few miles down the road, stopped to view Deception Falls. Took a back road (Woods Creek Rd) from Sultan to Granite Falls to camp. All campgrounds full (even the Alpaca farm!), so camped on the side of Mountain Loop Scenic Hwy in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Day 14 (M): Drove a bit up the road to see the Ice Caves at the base of The Big Four Mtn. The pavement ends on the loop road and turns to gravel for the last 13 miles, but had great views of the river and mountains. Stopped at Swift Creek Campground for dinner, "swimming" in Baker Lake (Kim finally got in a lake, Carl also dunked his head), and sleeping at the bottom of Mt. Baker (couldn't see Mt. Baker from lakeshore). Found the first area warm enough for mosquitoes!

Day 15 (T): Stopped at Panorama Point on Baker Lake to snap a quick view of Mt. Shuksan before heading up another gravel Forest Service road to Rainbow Falls, which was unhikable. The trail was much too steep for (responsible) adults, let alone dragging kids along. Carl took Roy a hundred yards are so down the route to the waterfall, but deemed it unacceptably risky. Finally caught a glimpse of Mt. Baker on the way to North Cascades. Stopped at Diablo dam/lake to let the kids out of the car. No hiking here because we arrived too close to nap time. Just saw the dam and stretched our legs. Moved on past North Cascades on Hwy 20 to  Washington Pass for some amazing (albeit smoke-filled) views at 5400 ft! Kim ran to the overlook while Carl drove the van around the parking lot to keep the kids asleep. At least the drive to the overlook was super impressive! Cooked dinner on picnic tables beside The Gorge Inn because they had a playground, a nice bathroom to wash dishes (the information center), and a small nature trail with a great bridge to burn excess kid energy! Left at bedtime to drive to Mt. Baker at night while kids sleep. Stopped at Douglas Fir Campground. Just parked at the entrance to avoid waking everyone else.

Day 16 (W): Drove up to Artist Point to get better views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. Hiked along A ridge on Chain Lakes Trail up to Ptarmigan Ridge (a pass), then turned around. Several other shorter paths from Artist's Point.  Drove to Bowman Bay Campground in Deception Pass State Park.  Carl let the kids play on the beach a few minutes before bedtime. Joy of Joys, they have HOT showers! 

Day 17 (R): played around on the beach in the morning for a while.  In the afternoon, went on a whale watching tour. Had to go all the way to Canada from Anacortes to see a pack of Orcas. Apparently we got to see a "super pod," which is multiple pods hanging out together for a while. Lots of good sightings. No breach. No disappoint. Also saw a dolphin, seals, sea lions, and lots of birds. Took the long way back to Bowman Bay for nap time. Carl built a fire to finish the leftover firewood, so we got to toast a few marshmallows on our last camping night.

Day 18 (F): Drove South down Whidbey Island, and stopped in Mukilteo after a ferry ride to see Steve one more time. We got to see his beautiful home and he made us a tasty lunch (veg-friendly and all!). Too bad Mindy couldn't come home for lunch so we could see her one more time, too.  Dropped off the van and went to the hotel next to the airport (Red Lion Hotel) for our last night. Checked into the flight online (American Airlines), only to have the first flight (to Dallas, leaving at 9:30 am) cancelled! App rescheduled is to fly at 10:30 pm. Called the airline and was connected to the call center in India due to the time of night (2 hour wait to talk to someone). No luck getting anything. Carl at went to the airport at midnight since we were just across the street, and they were able to book us on a Delta flight at 7:30 am.

Day 19 (S): Thanks to Carl's effort at the airport, we actually got to get home around 5:30 pm instead of the original scheduled arrival of 10:30 pm. Woohoo! Unfortunately, just before descent, Ruby had issues getting her ears equalized and ended up projectile vomiting all over Kim TWICE. It took all 3 flight attendants to help (one actually wiped vomit off Kim's arm!) get everything cleaned up. Ruby's clothes were just thrown away. Kim had to buy a new shirt (shorts were not available) in the Atlanta airport, but didn't have time to even change before getting on the next flight, which was mercifully short. Gerry picked us up from the airport, and we were all very happy to be home! Whew! What a trip. So good!