Archive for the ‘pacific nw’ Category

Hood River has been on my PNW bucket list for a few years now, but I somehow always fizzle when planning the trip.  Too far, too many other things to do, too many excuses…  This year, though, I tossed out the idea to the Rusts, as they’re Hood River regulars, and then our friend Jordan wanted to join to celebrate his birthday and soon this getaway had taken on a life of its own.  The text thread grew and calendars aligned and soon a whole gaggle of us had booked a few nights down there in mid-August.  Best Western or Bust!  We settled into our hotel room on a Wednesday afternoon and Juliette spent several minutes pretending that the phone was ringing, then picking it up and saying, “Hello there!  Juliette Schnell speaking!”  Corded phones…the novelty.

But when I offered to take her to the pool, the phone was quickly tossed aside.  And look who we found there!

We laid low in the evening, eating at the hotel and then taking a soft serve sunset stroll.

More of our buddies trickled in late Wednesday night – we’ve missed these girls like crazy since they moved to Colorado a couple of years ago and it was so good to be reunited over Thursday breakfast!

Want to guess how Isaac slept that first night?!  Naptime couldn’t come soon enough.

We settled into vacation mode with pool time and park time.

And then afternoon nap / hotel bed shenanigans.

Everyone convened at the river before dinner for a paddle and a swim.

Our crew took over this little cove and goodness, it made me happy to see us all together again.

Isaac, Mama needs a canned wine sometimes!  You stop with that judgey look.

We picnicked at the nearby park for dinner, doing more catch-up while the kids frolicked on the playground.

The first baby of the group (who just turned FOURTEEN!) and the last baby of the group make for some very cute bookends.

I walked Isaac back to the hotel for bedtime and while I would have loved to hang out for ice cream with the gang, I did cherish this riverfront stroll with my boy.

Friday!  Group breakfast…

More pool time…

And an afternoon hike to Tamanawas Falls with the little mountain goats.

These kids were such good sports – I didn’t have to bust out the gummy worms until we were over two miles in!

I hear water…

Made it!  And so worth the trek.

We made record time heading back – these girls were pooped, but still smiling.

We all met at Ferment that night for hard-earned beers and burgers.

THE BOYS!  The best of the best dads and sons.

It was back to the playground after dinner, as it proved to be a great place for the adults to chat while the kids roamed freely.  Though let’s be honest, some kids (one kid) needed a bit more supervision than the others…

Isaac won’t ever have a biological big bro, but I gotta say, Gryff and Isaiah are the sweetest surrogates.

 

I took the morning shift on Saturday and Isaac and I got out for a sunrise stroll.  We walked along the river for a bit and then decided to head into town in search of coffee.

Found it!

Post-breakfast pool time…

And then a jaunt out to the Gorge White House for berry picking, cider, and a stroll among the dahlias.

This kid definitely isn’t a great nighttime sleeper when we’re not home, but bless his heart for still being able to nap on the go.

Jack and La Verne invited me to tag along for their 2pm wine tasting, and while I initially declined, saying I should really hang back with Isaac, Juliette nearly pushed me into their car, saying “Go, Mama!  You need a break!”  I mean, if she says so…

We spent another evening at the river, doing all the water things.

How many kids can you fit on a single paddle board?  A lot.

These kids have literally been hanging out since birth and are all of the age now that they want to/get to choose their own friends, but they still get along so splendidly.

Uncle Jordan won “Most Fun Adult” that evening, for sure.

We drove over the bridge to While Salmon for another picnic dinner.  The kids rabble-roused…

Gryff played airplane with Isaac while Nance did backup…

And we just…hung, in that easy-going, fun-loving way we have of being together.  We met these people in 2007, when we were all relatively new to Seattle and looking for community.  None of us had family in the Seattle area and we quickly became each other’s support system, holding each other close through highs and lows and lots of kids.  I still remember the night that Jason showed up at our small group wearing a sweater vest, looking extra mature as he shared the news with all us childless 20-somethings that Nance was pregnant.  We were having a baby!  And now that baby is a teenager and it feels like some of our other littles are well on their way…  And yet, the adults haven’t aged a bit.  😉

I took another morning shift on Sunday, wanting to soak in one more walk along the river.  I tucked Isaac into the Ergo and he fell asleep steps from the hotel.  We walked for miles, his face nuzzled into my chest; I watched the sun come up and highlight his wispy blonde hair and sheesh, traveling with a baby is hard but sometimes so, so good.

Buddy slept all through breakfast.  Making up for lost time, I guess…

He’s up!

We squeezed in one last pool session before hitting the road.

We kept saying, “We should go.  We should really go.”  But dang it, good byes are hard!  Such a special group of people in such a special place.  There’s comfort in knowing we can always pick up right where we left off, though.  Also comfort in knowing how fun we still are!  Some things never change.

August and early September were chock-full of trips and bustle as we squeezed every last drop of playtime out of summer 2022 (though let’s be honest – traveling anywhere with a baby is equal parts work and play, if you’re lucky).  Our bonanza started small, with a weekend on Bainbridge Island to watch Shane and the Rusts compete in another pickle ball tournament.  I mean, since Shane was playing both mixed doubles and mens doubles and since pickle ball was founded on Bainbridge, and since I found the sweetest little AirBnB on an idyllic farm, I felt like the kids and I should tag along and make a getaway out of it.

Isaac and Juliette liked watching the ferry pull away from the dock, but the real excitement came when Juliette realized Nancy was on the same boat as us.

It was a quick float to Southworth and an hour drive to Bainbridge and then we drove along the prettiest little lane to land at what would be our front yard for the weekend.

We explored the grounds and met the animals and had a picnic dinner on the grass.

This place felt too good to be true when Shane discovered a pickle ball net in the garage to go with the striping that was on the parking pad out front.  He and Nance were able to get a little practice in, though having to maneuver around Casey, the resident dog, complicated the game a bit.

Saturday was game day for mixed doubles; the kids and I joined the gaggle of West Seattle ballers to cheer on Shane and Nance.  There were a couple of handy wins, a couple of defeats, and a couple of hard-fought victories.  They unfortunately landed just a couple of points shy of the medal round, but I was impressed by how much improvement I saw in their game since I last watched them play in June.

Isaac was mosly just impressed by the adjacent playground.

Until he wasn’t impressed at all.

I spent the afternoon back at the AirBnB  with the kids while Shane and Nancy cheered on some of their buddies at the tournament.  Isaac and I both took a much-needed nap (true to form, he took vacation as a cue to party / fuss all night), and then after waking we played a rousing game of How long can we keep Issac in bed?

Not long…

We bopped around the farm before grabbing pizza and ice cream in Winslow.

The owners of the AirBnb were super-friendly and gave Juliette a bunch of carrots to feed the horses.  She loved how popular she immediately became!

But she didn’t love the horse drool.

I had Isaac bathed and jammied by 6 pm, but he was still pretty bright-eyed, so we took another stroll around the farm.  He loved watching the chickens strut around their coop and once he got past the initial surprise of the rooster’s high-pitched crow, he smiled wide at each cock-a-doodle-doo.

Juliette came out to join us and snuggled up with Dusty, the resident cat.  We played a few lawn games and turned in early, while Shane played pickle ball out front with the owners.  He’s insatiable.

Shane got an early start on Sunday to meet up with Jason at the courts for mixed doubles while I took my time getting going with the kids.  Isaac had another hum-dinger of a night, but didn’t seem too sorry about it.

Sleepless nights aside, I was reluctant to leave this place.  The dahlias!  The farm-fresh eggs in our fridge!  The animals…we loved those animals.  Juliette spent a good 20 minutes saying goodbye to the horses, stroking Rose and Willow on their noses while murmuring, “You’re such a sweet girl…”.  No, Juliette – YOU’RE such a sweet girl.

She tried very hard to make sure each horse got equal amounts of love.

Meanwhile, Isaac really liked those chickens…

We arrived at the courts mid-morning to find Shane and J on a roll.  They won a handful of games, were immediately humbled when a couple of 60-something guys clobbered them, but ultimately made it to the medal round.

Silver!  Congrats, guys.

Once the medal pics were snapped, we were ready to jet home.  That much pickle ball is exhausting, partly for Shane, who was on the courts for all those hours, but also for me, who ran point on crowd control / baby patrol – Isaac has yet to learn the true art of spectating.  Still, though, so worth the trip, to see Shane play a game he loves with people we love.  And…horses!  Juliette and I are still thinking about those horses.

Since Isaac entered the scene, life has been a delicate dance of getting out just-enough but not-too-much.  While the weather and the pandemic and the baby’s four naps per day give us ample reason to just hole up and stay home, we want to make sure Juliette gets out and about – she’s a girl that loves to be on the move.  Shoot – I love to be on the move and have been teetering on the brink of stir-craziness for the past several weeks. And so we decided we’d roll the dice and plough ahead with our annual ski trip to Winthrop, extra baggage in tow.  Shane found an infant insert for our ski trailer, I bought the puffiest little snow suit I could find, and we were off!

We wisely broke up the drive there between two days and spent Thursday night in Wenatchee.  It was a modest room at a Garden Inn, but Juliette still oohed and ahhed over every detail (the beside reading lamps were a hit) and immediately asked if we could see if the TV played American Ninja Warrior.  Our home’s charm has definitely worn off a bit these past two years, so anything new and novel blows her mind.  Isaac was also vibing on the change of scenery.

We slept great, Isaac tucked into bed with me and Juliette over with Shane, and then we grabbed our caffeine and carbs from the nearby market early Friday before hitting the road to Sun Mountain Lodge.

All-star car snoozer!

It was a quick two hours to Winthrop, and then I got that familiar giddy feeling I get every time we start our final ascent up the mountain. Juliette and I wondered aloud how Floyd, the resident stuffed bison, was doing and we started planning which hot tub we’d dip into first and which ski trails we’d do which days.

We settled into our room in the Gardner cabins, which only took about 14 trips to and from the car, and then Isaac got comfy and extra-cute while Shane and Juliette headed to the lodge to rent her skis.

We bundled up and made the short drive to the Chickadee trailhead to ski the Beaver Pond loop.  This is such a zen, easy-going trail.  It was foggy that afternoon and while I missed the sun, the woods felt mystical and extra serene.

Isaac neither loved nor hated the ski trailer.  He just kind of zoned out, with a look on his face like, “Welp, I guess Mom is going to make me wear this ridiculous marshmallow suit after all…”.

Juliette is as fast as I am now on her skis, zipping across the flats and living for any little downhill slopes.

(Are we having fun yet, Buddy?!)

We ate dinner back in our room and then Juliette and I darted through the snow to the hot tub while Shane hung back with Isaac.

Books, baby snugs, bedtime…  Being in one room together meant that quiet time started at 7pm, but I didn’t mind.  I got so much reading done that weekend!

We did our best to stick to our typical nighttime routine, but letting a baby cry it out is hard to do when you’re sharing walls with strangers.  And the crib provided by the lodge was extra-deep and hard to get him in and out of, so I freed him from baby jail when he woke up to eat and he spent the rest of the night(s) in bed with Shane and me.  Sleep training, schmeep training…I knew we’d pay later (we did!), but I loved having him close those few nights, his chubby fist wrapped around my finger.

Shane was up and out the door early on Saturday to do some solo skiing.  We made plans to meet up in a couple of hours for a family ski; in the meantime, the kids and I did some wandering around the grounds to enjoy the morning sun on the mountains.

We found Shane down by the MCT and did a couple of hours of skiing along the river and through the open fields.  Isaac dozed for a bit, Juliette perfected her shuffle, shuffle, glide, and I started planning our early retirement (one can dream!).

Fog had settled in the valley again and there were stretches of the trail that felt almost spooky.

Another great ski in the books!

We reserved a dome on the back patio at Schoolhouse Brewery for lunch and cozied up inside with burgers and beer (and kombucha) apres-ski.  CHEERS!

We relaxed back in the room for awhile after lunch and then bundled up again for our 3 pm sleigh ride.

We did this ride at our first trip to Sun Mountain three years ago and were thrilled to see Daisy and Gregory still at the helm.

So nice to be above the fog!

We were the only ones on the sleigh that afternoon and so Juliette got to spend extra time loving on the horses while Red, our host, made us hot chocolate in the tent.

It was a fast dip back down the mountain and Juliette loved picking up the extra speed.  Isaac was pretty chill about the whole thing and mostly just wanted to chomp on Shane’s finger (this was the weekend before his teeth broke through).

Juliette and I wrapped up the day with a little ski practice on the slope in front of our cabin (she wanted to give me a few pointers), then we soaked our tired legs in the hot tub.

This place is such a dream…

We didn’t have anything officially on the books for Sunday, so we took our time drinking our coffee and hot chocolate, played a little pool in the game room, and then treaded through the fog (more fog!) over to the sledding hill.

Isaac crashed hard for his mid-day nap and needed a little coaxing for our afternoon adventure.  Time to ski, kiddo!

The fog was doing a reverse trick that day, as it was thick up on the mountain, but bright and clear down in the valley at Mazama.  This was a new stretch of trail for us and we loved it.  Plenty of mountain views, quiet wooded stretches, and peeks at the river.

We hopped out of our skis at Jack’s Pizza Hut, grabbed an early dinner, and headed back up the mountain.

Isaac got his second wind right around bedtime, of course.

He eventually settled, though, and Juliette and I snuck away for one last hot tub run.  I don’t get a lot of one-on-one time with my best little bud anymore, so these soaks together felt extra special.

Monday was go-day and super-frosty.  We grabbed our morning beverages and decided to cap off the trip with a couple more sled runs.

Oh, Isaac – you’re such a good sport.

Sled runs done and selfies snapped, we deflated the inner tube and did the reverse 14 trips to load up the car.  What a gorgeous, fun-filled, completely exhausting few days….  Snow-cationing with a baby is no joke – as I wandered the empty halls of the lodge with him at 6am one morning, wanting to save Juliette from her squawking brother so she could get another hour of rest, I thought about the days when the three of us would sleep in, without our human alarm clock in tow.  When we could ski for hours without fear of a baby meltdown.  There was one year that we stayed up past 10 pm to head outside and gaze at the super moon.  Things felt…free and easy.  Now they feel…full and hard?  But I hope, hope, hope we’re planting seeds of mountain wonder in Isaac’s little heart, showing him early that there’s so much beauty and joy to be found in the PNW.  I’m convinced it’s worth the effort.  And to my crew, in case they need the pep talk: Isaac, this place worth the five hours in your car seat!  Shane, it’s worth the endless schlepping of stuff (I appreciate your schlepping skills SO VERY MUCH).  Juliette, it’s worth having to share a room with your restless, squawky brother.  It’s all worth it.  See you next year, Floyd.

The past two months of summer have been a blur of remodel chaos, but the date stamp on these photos tells me that we enjoyed a few mellow days down at the Oregon Coast right after school let out.  Juliette had been counting down the days till this trip for weeks and begged could we please stop in Portland and pick up Morgan for the rest of the rest of the drive to Neskowin?

Thank goodness for backseat buddies.

Our car was the first to arrive at my brother’s beach house and we wasted no time making our way down to the ocean.

I’m so happy these girls haven’t outgrown the thrill of playing at the water’s edge.

SO HAPPY.

Juliette’s stamina for beach runs is unmatched, so Shane took a shift when Morgan pooped out.

Sunday was Father’s Day and Mitch gifted himself some solo fishing time down at the beach in the morning.  Shane and I walked down to the corner store to grab some coffee and then popped by to see if he’d caught anything (he hadn’t, but he sure looked content in his element!).

Morning snuggles, cards, and gifts…

Shane asked for this 1900-piece Lego set for Father’s Day, not so much for the space shuttle, but for the promise of more quality time with his little buddy.  Because he truly is one of the most devoted dads on the face of the planet.

We spent the afternoon back down at the beach.

I know this is a silly amount of pictures of Juliette, but I can’t help it – this kid’s joy over being with family is too good to not share.

Uncle Mitch might very well be the funniest man alive.

Sealing this afternoon of simple, silly family time away in the memory bank…

Mitch had packed a crowbar and some work gloves in the beach bag and their use became clear when the tide receded enough to expose a treasure trove of mussels locked to the base of Proposal Rock.

We dined on pasta with steamed mussels for dinner on Sunday and got a slow start on Monday.  I sipped coffee while the girls giggled over who-knows-what.

Shane and Kathryn both worked on Monday, so Mitch and I took Juliette and Morgan for a late-morning hike while Elise slept in.

The woods were packed with mosquitos that morning, so we quickly changed course and opted for the wide-open beach.

A mama, a daughter, and a newfound pet ladybug…

Though I suspect Juliette would take a chihuahua over a ladybug any day.

Shane has recently taken up pickle ball and Kathryn is a certified pickle ball champion, so we spent Monday evening down at the courts getting a few pointers.

Get it, Jules!

…but I think you may be holding your paddle wrong?

When the kids tired of the courts, I took them down the street to the arcade, which was a total blast from the past.

The Jarrells all headed back to Portland early Tuesday and Shane holed up in the guest room for another day of work, so that left Juliette and I free to find our own adventures.  Or not…

I could have read books and drank tea all day, but the call of the Coast is strong, so we left the house before lunch for a hike at Cape Lookout.

Pals.

Cape Lookout is a fitting name, huh?

And…back to the car!  I don’t have Shane’s talent for a detailed retelling of Lord of the Rings, so instead Juliette spent the hike back telling me everything (every. thing.) about the characters on Miraculous, her latest favorite Netflix series.

We lazed in the afternoon and then headed back toward Pacific City once Shane was done with work, making good on our ritual of climbing the giant sand dune every time we’re in the neighborhood.

It never gets easier…

And Juliette never fails to be first to the top.

But also, the views never disappoint…

Juliette ran most the way down the hill, then climbed back up to do it again, just for fun.  Lord, I wish I could bottle that pizazz and take a shot of it each morning.

Wednesday was go-day, but Juliette and I had a couple of hours in the morning to play in the sun while Shane worked.  Hot chocolate and bare feet for the win.

And…leisure tank filled!

With three days left till Summer Break, a quick look-back to Spring Break, where we lived large for a weekend at Semiahmoo Resort up near the Canadian border.  It was a quick trip – just a couple of nights – but it felt like the perfect way to tip-toe out of pandemic mode and celebrate our vaccinated status.  It helped that it was 70 degrees in Blaine that weekend and this place had a pool.  A POOL!  I forget how much Juliette loves the water until I see her in it.

And I can’t get her out.

The resort also had a rack full of bikes out front free for the borrowing, so we did a pre-dinner cruise along the spit.

We grabbed dinner to-go and ate on the lawn near the water.  Then, rock-skipping.

Lots of rock-skipping.

Some campfire s’mores…

And good night, sun.

Saturday morning was misty and mellow, with blues where there were oranges 12 hours earlier.

Juliette asked to hit the swimming pool at 8am, but we coaxed her into settling for a game of billiards in the common room.

We walked for awhile along the beach, Juliette looking very incognito-celebrity in her sunglasses and hoodie.

Ah, there’s my girl!

We explored the northern tip of the spit, with its old docks and decaying boat.

And then finally hit the pool.

Juliette made a friend and spent an hour jumping into the pool with her again and again and again.

And then pre-dinner recreation back out on the lawn, gaming to our hearts’ content.

Pizza with a view…

Juliette’s cheeks got sun-burned that day and she went to bed whimpering over how hot her face felt.  I kicked myself for not packing sunscreen, but…there’s are worse things than a little too much Vitamin D.

I woke up early on Sunday and took a quiet solo walk while Shane and Juliette snoozed.

I felt like I had the spit and the bay all to myself.

I spotted a seal and watched him cut back and forth through the glassy water for awhile before heading back to check on the sleepy-heads.

Juliette and I grabbed a latte and a vanilla steamer and sat on a log while the sun finished rising, savoring the last of the morning’s quiet.

We squeezed in one last game-packed hour before check-out.

And then it was time to pack it up.  What a perfect balance of playing hard and resting hard.

Last on our weekend to-do list was hiking hard – we pulled off Chuckanut Drive and set out for a trek up to Fragrance Lake.

Ah…that first glimpse of water on these destination-lake hikes!

And that perfect log to settle into for a snack…

We’ve missed traveling this past year, but gosh, what a weekend getaway can do for a family’s soul.

Last snow post of the (already-long-gone) season!  We had such a good time in Leavenworth that I couldn’t resist booking us a February weekend near Winthrop.  Our cabin was in the small town of Brewster and overlooked the snow-covered vineyards at Lone Point Cellars.  I’d love to see this view in the summertime, preferably with a crisp Sauv Blanc in hand.

We awoke to cloudy skies on Friday, but when Juliette and I wrapped ourselves in blankets to step out and take in the view from the porch, we saw blue skies in the distance.

Juliette and Shane have become a couple of downhill junkies this winter, so we agreed we’d do one ski day on the slopes and one ski day on the flats.  We spent Friday at Loup Loup, a little gem of a resort tucked into the mountains between Okanagan and Twisp.  I suited up with my rental skis and hopped on the mini-lift right behind Juliette, inspired by her confidence.

“You can do it, Mama!”

We got in a few good family runs on the lower slopes and then Shane and Juliette hopped on the big-kids lift for a looooong run down the mountain.  I was feeling good on my skis but not that good, so I stayed behind and sipped my thermos of tea.

20 minutes later, Juliette came barreling down the mountain with her arms raised in victory, Shane on her heels.  Such a little champ.

We did a few more family runs, checked out a couple of detours, and then Shane and Juliette were back on the lift while I happily unbuckled my heavy boots and called it day.

I decidedly can’t keep up with these two, but trying was awfully fun.

We ate dinner back at our cabin, played a couple of rounds of Rummy, and then piled into the king-sized bed for a movie.  We slept hard that night.

Saturday was cross-country day, so after carrot cake and cinnamon rolls from our beloved Rocking Horse bakery, we hit the Methow Community Trail for a few hours of skiing in the slow lane.

THIS PLACE.  Gets me every time.  Get ready to scroll…

The downhills on this stretch of the MCT were just right – fast enough for a minor rush, but not so steep that I crashed and burned.

We covered quite a bit of ground before trudging through knee-deep powder to take a snack break under a tree.

And, back to it!

Cross-country skiing with Juliette certainly takes more coaxing than a day at the lifts, but still, this girl’s got stamina.  Plus, I keep a pocket full of gummy worms.

Rallying for the final stretch back to the car – get it, Jules!

We made it back to the car and then Juliette asked if we could do just a little of the downhill run the other direction.  But of course!

We did ten minutes of an uphill shuffle and then turned around for the payoff.  It was a long and steady run back down, but this girl kept knees bent, head up, body in control.  Another skier watched her fly past and then said to me, “Looks like she’s a little Olympian!”

Her freckles sure shine on a bluebird day!

We had late lunch reservations at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, which offered “private heated domes” on their back patio, each with their own HEPA filter.  We were intrigued.

It was a pretty sweet little setup, though I can tell you that a layer of plastic and a tiny space heater hardly keep you toasty in the midst freezing temps.  BUT, hot fries and a burger are so freaking good after a full day of skiing.

Back at the cabin, after some icicle shenanigans, we cozied in for the night with more cards and the rest of our movie.

Sunday morning was lazy as we milked our 11am checkout time…

And then put another idyllic snow-cation in the books.  Now bring on Spring!

And, before the cherry blossoms fully burst forth, more snow pics!  We spent a long weekend in Leavenworth back in January, logging some serious miles on our cross-country skis.  The Sleeping Lady Lodge is such a dreamy winter retreat…

…even if COVID forces you to eat your pizza out on the patio in 30-degree temps.

We were up and at ’em early on Saturday to hit the nordic trails at Stevens.

It was a bit of a slow start with a lot of uphill in the beginning, but we eventually found our groove.

Juliette took a couple of tumbles that momentarily shook her confidence, but she always managed to muster the will to get up and go on.

Snack break!

That early-on uphill I mentioned made for some pretty fast downhill on the way back, which Juliette and I conquered with mixed degrees of success.

She’s got the downhill form down pat.

And…she sticks the landing!

Meanwhile, as I was skidding to a stop on my butt, a well-intentioned man that was passing by said, “You know, there’s no shame in walking down some of these hills!”.  Thanks, dude.

We spent the afternoon back in our cozy room, reading and napping.

And then headed back out before dinner for some sledding.

I’m telling you, this girl’s got a serious need for speed.

We traipsed around the playground for a bit, Juliette found a snow-baby she could rock in her arms and feed with an icicle bottle, and then we called it a day.

We stayed closer to “home” on Sunday and decided to carry our skis over to the trail right near our cabin.

It’s been awhile since we’ve wintered in Leavenworth and I forgot how beautiful the Icicle River Trail is on a bluebird day.

I could follow in the tracks of these two all day long.  Such a happy sort of zen.

We found an idyllic little spot near the river to sit on our jackets and eat our lunch.  I mean, I just don’t know how winter gets any better than this.

Fueled by beef jerky and gummy worms, we trekked back to our cabin with record speed.

We spent another lazy afternoon in our room and then went for a short hike before dinner to stretch our legs and toss some snowballs.

The Christmas lights were still up in town and were kitschy as all get-out, but worth a nighttime stroll.

And then, one more game of Rummy (we’re a bunch of card sharks now!) to close out a stellar day.

We begrudgingly checked out of our cabin on Monday morning, but decided to have one last go on our skis at Wenatchee State Park before heading west.  The three of us camped here a couple of summers ago and I was curious to see what it looked like with a blanket of snow.

We off-trailed a bit (without our skis) to get down to the lake – last time we were here, these mountains were hidden behind a veil of forest fire smoke.  I much prefer this view.

Back in the grooves…

Oh, ski bunny.  I LOVE YOU.

Our legs were feeling rubbery after a couple of miles, so we tossed our skis in the trunk and then walked over to the mondo sledding hill to get our final snow fix.

Soak it in, Juliette.  These perfect winter weekends don’t come around too often (unless Mama catches ski fever and promptly books a February trip to Winthrop – that’s up next!).

We rolled out of bed late on Saturday, picked up coffee and one massive cinnamon roll, and then…lazed.

Our house sat right on the edge of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and we spent the latter hours of the morning exploring the woods outside our front door.

The trails were marked with colored flags and Juliette made a game of darting from one ribbon to the next.

Check out that autumnal glory!

The trails were dotted with a series of fun landmarks, like this fort…

…and this deer stand, which Shane couldn’t resist scaling a tree for.

We lucked out so hard on the weather and the foliage, as the forecast had predicted rain all day, every day.

Furry mushrooms!

Our host left us a map with a note that said to follow the ridge to the teepee…found it!

We stood here for awhile, taking in the view and catching our breath, and then it was a dash down the hill through fields of red and gold.

Rain, schmain!

We ate lunch at the house and Juliette played outside with the neighbor kid she’d befriended the day before while I did some reading – this is how a mother/daughter introvert/extrovert spend an ideal hour.  We hopped in the car mid-afternoon in search of a little adventure and found ourselves at a rocky little pull-out along Icicle Creek.

I was a nervous Nellie with Juliette up on these rocks…”Step away from the edge!  Hold her back, Shane!  Hold her back!”

This kid’s got girl-power through and through.

I can’t remember what Shane was talking about here, but it looks riveting.

We made our way down to the water and spent almost an hour throwing sticks and watching the current carry them away.

More lessons from Ranger Shane.

We headed up the rocks when we felt the first sprinkles and were in a full-on downpour by the time we made it to the car.  That was worth the wet hair, though.

Back at the house we put a pizza in the oven, cracked open a bottle of Veuve (and a bottle of Squirt for the kid), cranked up some music, and cozied in.  We took turns doing our best fake-outs of walking down the stairs (on a flat floor) while standing behind kitchen island, heads bobbing down with each step, and then laughed till our sides hurt when we attempted to take the escalator.  We snuggled up on the couch to watch the first Harry Potter movie, which just about blew Juliette’s mind, and I dozed with my feet in Shane’s lap and Juliette’s head on my shoulder.  It’s been a shit-storm of a year, but in that moment, all was right.

We decided on Sunday that we wouldn’t leave a minute before our 11am check-out and spent the morning wandering the couple of trails we’d missed the day before.

(This was where we veered very much off-trail and landed in someone’s driveway, which was unfortunate as it was a major schlep to get up there.)

Back down we go…

Eventually we got back on course and stuck close to the red flags from thereon out – Juliette made a show of touching each one with her walking stick, “for an extra power boost”.

Find those flags, Jules!

I know it looks like she’s just posing for a photo, but seriously, she held her hand up to her brow like this for a good half-mile.

At some point I found Juliette’s lens-less glasses in my inside coat pocket, which helped her to search all the better.

Once we saw the pink flags we knew we were approaching our house and the proverbial end of the trail.  WAHHHH!

Thanks, Shane and Jules, for the perfect birthday weekend.  My soul needed it.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Requisite silly face.)

An October trip to Paris wasn’t in the cards this year, but I’ve been feeling all kinds of antsy and asked Shane if we could please get out of town for my birthday.  He hemmed and hawed about the driving and the COVID logistics and so I let it drop.  He then spent the rest of the evening looking at AirBnB’s on the sly and told me the next morning he’d found the perfect place and would be whisking me away for a weekend surprise!  He let Juliette in on the secret and she reveled in knowing something Mama didn’t, hardly able to contain her excitement.  October 9th couldn’t come soon enough.

I packed per Shane’s vague instructions (bring slippers and a coat) and we set out on a Friday morning.  Juliette took great joy in the big reveal as we departed West Seattle:  “We’re headed to Leavenworth!  The house looks SO nice.  It has a coffee table and everything!”.  A coffee table?!  NO WAY.

Ah, the Cascades.  They catch me snapping photos through the windshield every time.

Friday’s main agenda item was a seven-mile hike at Lake Valhalla.  I admit I raised my eyebrows when Shane told me the distance, wondering if Juliette could really hang, but we hit the trail with a backpack full of snacks and our hopes held high.  We could do this!

The trail was a gorgeous mix of greens and golds and our little mountain goat handled the elevation like a champ.

The lake trail meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail for a bit and I felt an extra bump of satisfaction in knowing we were hiking even a short stretch of the legendary PCT.  Shane has dreams of our family backpacking a much bigger chunk of this someday.

Our legs began to get heavy about three miles in, but these colors kept us going.

And finally, a lake view!

The descent down to the water was particularly stunning.

We reached the lake as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and happily settled ourselves on a group of large rocks.  Lunchtime!

Juliette loves when I ask her to snap a pic of her dad and me, but the price we pay is the obligatory silly face photo she always requests.  And the silly photo is somehow always more in-focus than the normal one.  Go figure.

Alright, gang – let’s do this return trek!

Wowee!

Shane urged me to peel off and take the short trail up to the very top of the mountain while he and Jules took their time heading down.  It was a steep climb but worth the sweaty jaunt.

Pay-off!

Pay-off!

PAAAAYYYY-OFFFFFFF!!!

I was on my lonesome for a bit as I headed back down to catch up with Shane and Juliette and while the quiet was nice, I much prefer hiking with a buddy.

Found these two patiently waiting for me on a log while eating gummy worms, and then we joined forces with three miles to go.

We blitzed the trail back to the car and high-fived Juliette for finishing her longest hike yet.  SEVEN miles and some change.  We told her we’ll take her on a hike each year where the number of miles matches her age – she’s set for another 11 months.

It was a short drive to our cozy AirBnB in Plain, which did in fact have a coffee table, but also had a sweet little deck tucked in among the foliage.  Shane and Juliette hunted for birds while I popped open a bottle of wine and tore into a bag of chips.  Happy Hour!

Shane cooked us a pasta dinner that night and we wolfed down our carbs with total delight.  We’d earned them!

We closed out the evening with game 5 of the NBA finals and while I felt no particular affinity for the Lakers or the Heat, I did really love watching Juliette yell at the iPad when Anthony Davis missed a shot and whoop it up when LeBron sunk a three.  Our family has spent A LOT of time together in 2020, but snuggling up with these two for the night still felt like the best gift ever.

Boatloads more mountain photos coming your way in part II…

In this season of feeling iffy about hotels and airplanes, I’m exceedingly grateful for family that’s willing to host us when we’re desperate to skip town.  We spent a few days last month at Mitch and Kathryn’s house on the Oregon Coast, which has proven to be an ideal home-away-from-home.  Plenty of places to explore, but also plenty perfect to just sit back and chill on the deck.  Plus, the house comes with this:

We started each morning with a bike/walk down to the market for coffee and donuts.

And I mean, the beach is right there, so you may as well drop by…

After lunch we suited up and returned with full beach gear in tow…

We lucked out and were in Neskowin during the warmest weekend on recent record.  Almost hot enough to go swimming!

ALMOST.

Her face tells you how stinking cold this stretch of the Pacific is…

Mitch and Shane were the only two brave enough for full immersion – something about the icy cold water being good for blood flow and heart health?  I can’t quite remember, as I was passed out on a blanket in the sun.

Happy hour on the deck…

And a sunset stroll with my favorite kid and pup.

We ventured 15 minutes up the road on Sunday morning to do some very serene paddling on the Nestucca River.

Juliette spent a solid half-hour manning our SUP with paddle in hand, but then…this:

Afternoon shenanigans at the house…

And then one more mini-adventure out to Sitka Sedge to do some exploring.

I love a hike that will take you from dense, mossy woods to wide open beaches in a matter of minutes.

I believe this is the point where little legs started to tire and Shane had to launch into another retelling of The Lord of the Rings to keep Juliette moving.  Works every time.

Mitch headed back to Portland on Sunday evening and the older cousins seemed in need of a little space, so Shane, Juliette and I set out on our own Monday morning to grab breakfast in Lincoln City and check out Drift Creek Falls.

I was aware here of relatively how little time we spent in the woods this summer compared to years past.  Felt good to hear the wind whispering in the pines again.

It was an easy trek to the suspension bridge, where the three of us jumped up and down to see how much we could make it bounce.  I didn’t love that game (step back from that railing, Juliette!), but being the ultra-chill mom that I am, I rolled with it.

Seems that now even short stumps give this kid enough height boost to get her eye-to-eye with her dad.

Lazy afternoons…

And then an evening outing to Cape Kiwanda at Pacific City, which is my hands-down favorite spot in the area.

We climbed this sand dune when we were here back in June and decided the view pay-offs at the top warranted another slog.

Climbing uphill in sand is so intense!  I pretended I was stopping every few steps to take pictures, but really I just needed to catch my damn breath.

Here’s Shane pretending like he’s casually enjoying the view, but really he’s about to keel over.

The final push!  How she was still running at this point is beyond me.

Made it!

And worth it.

This view, with these two in the foreground, has got to be as dreamy as the coast gets.

The race downhill takes about 15 seconds compared to the 15 minutes it takes to go up.

We did a little anemone-hunting in the tide pools while we were waiting for our table at Pelican.

My best beach buddy:

The fog rolled in on Tuesday morning, which was our cue to hit the road back to Seattle.  I walked with the girls down to the market and the beach one last time so that we could bid a proper farewell to the ocean.

Adios, Coast.  You were a breath of fresh air.