Archive for the ‘pacific nw’ Category

We quickly fell into a comfy routine of Shane getting out for an early-morning ski while Juliette and I drank coffee and played Foosball at the lodge.  You’ll see I left my left my guys tipped up in her favor, because…

that smile!

After Jules had sufficiently whupped me in the game room, we drove down the mountain to meet up with Shane, who had skied his way into Winthrop.  We grabbed pastries and another round of warm beverages from the Rocking Horse Bakery, taking our sweet time at our corner table.  The absence of any sort of rush felt almost as decadent as my ginormous slice of carrot cake.

Juliette and I had extended our ski rentals for another day and the three of us set out on one of the nearby trails near the Methow River.  There was a bit of a hill near the start of our course and I almost asked Juliette to walk it, as it was a pretty speedy little dip.  But her bold little spirit drove to go for it – she bent her legs, kept her eyes laser-focused on the grooves ahead, and…skied.  I high-fived her at the bottom, overwhelmed with pride and relief.

She’s so fierce.

We skied for a couple of hours, cruising over bridges and past barns and under leafless trees.  Sweet, sweet serenity.

Juliette was so stoked to be skiing with poles on her second day that she snuggled up with them when she hopped in the trailer.

Here’s to sealing our fate as a (slow lane!) ski family.

Post-ski, we grabbed a pizza lunch in Mazama and then huddled for a few minutes at the outdoor fire pit before heading back up the mountain to the Lodge.

Back at Sun Mountain, Shane and I did a few practice runs in the clearing near our room while Juliette played on the snowy playground.  I can’t for the life of me figure out how to climb uphill on cross-country skis, and any progress I made often ended up with with a backward slide on my stomach, but I’ll keep at it.  This feels like a worthwhile endeavor.

No day was complete without a solid hot tub sesh, so we took a family dip and soaked our tired legs, then wined and dined at the pub.  I know I’m gushing, but Lodge Life!  It’s the best.

It started snowing in the evening and kept up through the night so that on Wednesday morning we awoke to twelve inches of freshy-freshy-pow-pow. Shane went out for an early ski and Juliette and I went for a stroll to check out the snowy scene.

THIS PLACE.

And then, blue skies!

I gave Juliette my old point-and-shoot Nikon and have loved having a little photographer buddy with me on our travels.

We made snow angels and cleared the snow from the playground slide and made a game of seeing how fast we could run in the thigh-deep/chest-deep powder.

Take a load off, kiddo.

Juliette and I took one last dip in the hot tub, milking every single minute until our noon check-out.

I bummed hard as we scraped the mound of snow from our windshield and waved goodbye to our mountain retreat.  Those few days had been an intensely good break from the daily grind.

Adios, mountains.

Adios, horses.

Adios, snow.  WAAAHHHHH!

Backtracking a bit, as work has trumped blog these past few weeks, but…more snow photos!

We’ve officially instituted a family snow-cation as an annual Q1 tradition, since our past trips to Leavenworth and Suncadia were such a delight.  This year, we opted to venture even farther from home and booked three nights at the Sun Mountain Lodge near Winthrop, in Washington’s North Cascades.  We’ve heard this area is magical in the wintertime and it’s known as a cross-country skiing mecca, with over one hundred miles of groomed trails.  Sign us up!

We headed out on a Sunday morning in January, eager to skip town in the midst of some Seattle road construction that made for an extra-trafficky few weeks.  We jetted over the West Seattle Bridge and kept on jamming east, rolling up to Sun Mountain Lodge late in the afternoon.  From the moment we stepped into the lobby and met Floyd, the resident stuffed bison, I was smitten.  This place had mountain charm written all over it.

And THEN we stepped into our room and were greeted with this view.  Forget smitten – I was full-on enamored!

Juliette and I immediately started rummaging in our bags for our swimsuits and darted to the outdoor hot tub while Shane got the low-down on the skiing situation.  I tell ya’, hot-tubbing in the midst of snow-capped mountains is some kind of magic.

We rinsed the chlorine from our hair and snapped photos from each of the lodge’s patios, eventually ending up at the pub for burgers and chicken strips.

After dinner, we strolled the taxidermy-laden halls and stopped at the game room for a rousing round of family Foosball.

We settled back into our room around 7:00 with books and blankets, Shane and Juliette popping out to the porch every few minutes to check on the status of the lunar eclipse happening that night.  

As the shadow started to overtake the moon, Shane suggested we bundle up and get away from the lights of the resort for the maximum viewing experience, so we donned our boots and coats and walked across the parking lot to an open clearing.  As the moon darkened, the stars grew brighter and brighter and the Milky Way shone faintly in a haze of white overhead. The moon waned from gray to a pale orange and then became increasingly red, a tiny of sliver of white glowing at its upper edge.  We were the only three people standing in that silent, snow-covered field and in that moment I felt like we were the only three people on earth – just me, my favorite guy, and my favorite gal gazing up at what was surely the finest-looking moon I’ve ever laid eyes upon.  I held Juliette close, telling her that I hoped this was a moment she’d remember forever. She replied with, “This is spooooooky!”, so we hustled indoors to warm our numb fingers and toes.  

We awoke on Monday morning to a perfectly pink sky and Shane headed out for an early solo ski.  Juliette and I lingered in bed, popping out to grab a coffee and a steamer from the gift shop’s espresso bar.

We met up with Shane at the ski shop so that I could rent my own winter gear.  I was fitted with boots and skis and we were about to head out when Juliette tugged on Shane’s arm and asked could she please, please, please get some skis, too?  We’d planned on just pulling her in the trailer, but figured she could give it a go.  We piled our gear into the Forester and drove down the mountain to the nice, flat trail near Beaver Pond.

Juliette was a little champ on her Snoopy skis and trekked along with us for about a mile before hopping into the trailer for a snack.  It was a stunner of a day, sunny and crisp, and we cruised quietly along the edge of the pond. I was ridiculously happy, soaking in the sun and the snow and the satisfying swish-swish my skis as they glided through the freshly groomed grooves.  

Shane and Juliette eventually turned around and I went ahead on my own for a few minutes, starting to huff as I picked up my speed.  Exercise has never felt so, so good.  I hope Santa brings me skis next Christmas!

I caught back up with Shane and Jules and found her at it again.  Swish, baby, swish!

We ate a quick bite at our room and then hopped right back out for the 2 pm sleigh ride we’d booked with Daisy and Gregory, the resident draft horses.

Our ride took us up the mountain to the lodge’s tent, where we were offered hot chocolate and a chance to give the horses a pat.  Juliette and I put our hands near Daisy’s nose and let her breath warm our fingers.  Such majestic creatures, these horses.

Our time on the mountain left us a bit chilled, so Juliette and I passed the rest of the afternoon in the hot tub.  Sometimes I wonder if we’re spoiling this girl with such luxury.  Does she get how special this all is?

I think she does.

We drove into Winthrop for dinner and I was admittedly disappointed when I found out the restaurant we’d chosen was hosting trivia night.  I was looking forward to a quiet, low-key meal.  Shane, on the other hand, put Team Schnell on the roster and ponied up the five dollar entry fee before we even got to our table.  I guess we were doing this!  And we were…terrible.  We got a whopping two questions out of ten correct in the first round.

We persevered through round two though, taking Juliette’s word for it when she told us the birthplace of MLK Jr. was Atlanta and that the fastest bird in the world is the Peregrine Falcon.  And we won, dang it!  We won!  Free brunch at the Schoolhouse Brewery was ours!

We ended the day with books in bed; Juliette eventually drifted off to sleep and I curled up with my collection of Mary Oliver poems.  You know that feeling at the end of an amazing day when there’s no place you’d rather be, no one you’d rather be with?  This was it.

Back-tracking a bit here, but work has trumped blog these past few weeks and I’m just now getting back to this space I’ve missed so much.  And so, Idaho!  In mid-October!  Did I mention my parents moved to Idaho?  They visited Couer d’Alene in May and were so smitten with it that they decided to bid La Pine farewell and embark on a new adventure.  And while I relished our time in Central Oregon, I gotta say, North Idaho shows definite promise.

We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and headed straight to the playground at Falls Park, as Juliette was gunning to go after several hours in the car.  She bee-lined to the jungle gym while I checked out the rugged views of the Spokane River.

So happy together…

We grabbed a beer while the sun set over the water and then headed back to my mom and dad’s place for homemade meatballs.  Three hours into our visit, I was already seeing the appeal…

On Thursday morning we headed into Couer d’Alene to check out spot #2 on our grand circuit du playgrounds.  City Park was beautiful though swarming with aphids, which infest the city’s ash trees for two weeks every year.  We took a quick spin on the monkey bars and then moved on.

Oh, and AUTUMN!  So good here.

We popped over to McEuen Park next, which was decidedly less buggy.  We ate our picnic lunch, Juliette playgrounded with a new friend, and then we took a short walk around Tubbs Hill, which fronts Lake Couer d’Alene.

Can’t wait to get our paddle board out onto this water next summer!

Shane and I sent Juliette home with my parents and then set out to do a little exploring on our own.  We landed on the trail at Mineral Ridge, a three-mile hike with a lovely lake lookout.

Day dates are my favorite.

My mom and dad took Shane and I out for dinner that night to celebrate our October birthdays.  (Juliette free-loaded.)

On Friday we headed into the nearby farmland (of which there was plenty!) to scout some pumpkins and hot cider.  We started at Hidden Acres Orchards, which offered apple trees and a pet pig and a (dinky) corn maze and a two-dollar hayride.

Juliette ate it all up.

We crossed the street to another little patch and settled in at a picnic table to eat our lunch.  First though, one more pumpkin.  I couldn’t stop!

(This one’s for you, Uncle Doug!)

Juliette and I had just enough energy left after our pumpkin bonanza to get out for a jog/bikeride.  We found a perfect stretch of flat, carless trail and she rode like the wind while I huffed behind her.

My parents offered to watch Juliette that evening while Shane and I slipped away for the first grown-up movie we’ve seen in the theater in years.  Such luxury!

Saturday was our last full day in Idaho, so I got an early start and headed back out to Tubbs Hill for a walk with my mom.

Idaho, I’m falling for you!

We picked up the guys (and kid) and then drove out to Spirit Lake for a quiet lunch on the patio.

Again with the paddle-boarding possibilities..

The town of Spirit Lake is tiny, but boasts a quintessentially cute Main Street with an ice cream shop and a pottery store where you just slip your payment through a mail slot, so as not to disturb the potter while he’s at work.

We swung by Falls Park before dinner for one last playground romp with Grandpa, master twirler.  My dad ended up with a large flock of children around him and he pushed them all on the merry-go-round, trying to tag them at each spin while they giggled and squealed.  He’s the funnest.

There were lots of snuggles with Bernie on Sunday morning as we packed our things.

And Grandma!  She’s pretty snuggly, too.

I’m going to miss the Bend brew scene and Central Oregon lake life but…Idaho seems realllll nice.  We’re going to tear that state up next summer.

I am up to my ears in photos of the past month, with a trips to Idaho and PARIS on the books, but I’ll start with a couple of closer-to-home happenings.

Halloween came and went with much fanfare – there was a Fall Fest and a school party and a trick-or-treating bonanza.  Juliette rocked her Wonder Woman costume in true hero form.

After September’s post-birthday Princess kick, it was nice to see her in something a little less…poofy.

Shane pulls out his old Kevin Durant jersey every year and dresses up as a…basketball player?  In jeans?  I’m not really sure what’s going on here.

But dang, they are so stinking cute.

And…we’re off!

We hooked up with some neighbors and zig-zagged our way around the ‘hood.  Jules was thrilled to be out with such experienced trick-or-treaters – these kids knew exactly which houses doled out the full-size candy bars.

This guy buys 52 pumpkins every Halloween Eve and spends the next day carving each and every one of them.  I told Shane that we have GOT to step up our porch game next year.

We hurried home when it started to rain, Juliette’s bucket brimming with treats.  I have since pilfered all the Snickers bars and Shane has eaten every last Reese’s.  Happy Halloween!

This past week has felt decidedly more Wintry than Autumnal, so we’re squeezing in a couple of final golden strolls before the trees shed their leaves completely.  Juliette and I popped over to Kubota Gardens before her swim lesson one Friday afternoon for a brisk romp.  This place never disappoints.

I know, this headband is a little ridiculous, but it’s her new favorite.  Last night she slept with it on!

We’ve got our route through this place down pat now.  Up the hill, down the hill, over the bridge, under the tree tunnel, to the fish bond, and over the other bridge.

My little mushroom forager…

FRIDAYS!!!

 

And finally, a quick international jaunt with the Chens, lest the dads and the kids felt left out after Lav’s and my week in Paris.  We rolled into Canada on a very rainy Saturday, and after a dim sum fix in Richmond bought tickets at the Vancouver Aquarium for an afternoon of indoor sightseeing.

This is Juliette’s attempt at a fish face:

Jack leveraged his hotel points to snag us all a luxurious suite at the Fairmount, and after settling into our swanky space, we hit the pool.  In the rain!

We all dined on assorted meat skewers at Zakushi for dinner that night.  Juliette was in meatball heaven, and my rich, runny quail egg was to die for.

Back at the hotel, the kids fell asleep in seven seconds flat:

And the fellas picked us up a round of champagne to-go from the hotel bar.

We were determined to savor every last minute of our digs until our noon check-out time on Sunday, so the guys and kids spent the morning at the pool while LaV and I made use of our complimentary spa access.

I’d come back to this place for the mini-robes alone!

We slurped down a ramen lunch and then strolled through Stanley Park before heading south.

Sunday’s sunshine more than made up for Saturday’s downpour.

It was a long ride back to Seattle, even with the Nexus passes that allowed us to zip through the border crossing, but we made it.  We’re HOME for the foreseeable future.  And it feels so good.

I’ve got one last batch of sun-shiny September photos to share, and then I suppose it’s time to crank up the fireplace plant my feet firmly in Fall (well, hello, October!).

August went by without a single Schnell family campout, but I was bound and determined to set up our tent one last time before summer came to a close.  We found ourselves with wide-open schedules a couple of days after Labor Day and decided to try our luck at one of the first-come, first-serve campgrounds near Lake Wenatchee, where temps were running about 10 degrees warmer than Seattle.  We sped down Highway 2 on a Thursday morning and then bumped along a dirt road for a few miles before landing at Glacier View campground, fingers crossed that there would be a site or two available.  Turns out, every site but one was available – we nearly had the whole place to ourselves!

We took our time selecting a primo site right on the water and then got to work setting up camp.

The minute the tent was pitched, Juliette started rummaging around in her bag for her swimsuit and put me to work on inflating her mermaid friend.

The rest of the day was a lazy, hazy haze of bobbing and paddling.

I set out on the SUP and thought I would try to paddle to the other end of Lake Wenatchee.  Turns out, Lake Wenatchee is huge, so I turned around after 20 minutes and found Shane and Juliette tucked cozily into the hammock.

Juliette pondered life’s big questions and worked on her super-hero poses while I got dinner ready.

After spaghetti and camp stove s’mores (burn ban…), we made our way to the water to take in the last of the day’s rays.

Shane and Juliette worked tirelessly on their rock-skipping games; Jules was over the moon when her first stone did a little hop on the lake.

Goodnight, lake..

We awoke on Friday to much clearer skies, as much of the smoke had blown through overnight.  Now I see why the campground is called Glacier View!

I sat by the lake with my thermos of coffee while Juliette scoured the shore for more perfect skipping stones.

We packed a picnic lunch around noon and then made the short trek up to Hidden Lake for a mid-day dip.

We ate our sandwiches on a shady log, ditched our shoes and socks, and then waded into the water for some minnow-hunting.  Shane’s patience and cunning (and bread crumbs) paid off in the form of a tiny, squiggly little fish.  Juliette was thrilled by it all.

It might be time to get this kid a pet.

Juliette’s legs gave out when we were about five minutes away from camp, so Shane lugged her along for the last quarter mile.  She always looks back at me with such sly satisfaction when Dad agrees to carry her…

Friday afternoon looked much like Thursday afternoon.  Paddle, float, repeat.

I went out for a long solo paddle and wound my way into a serene little channel at the northern tip of the lake.

By the time I paddled out of the protected little channel, the winds had picked up and the skies had turned gray.  It was a choppy ride back to shore – I was glad to land on solid ground, collapse in my camp chair, and watch Juliette play a rousing game of “toss the rock into the tree stump”.  Only child games…

We turned in extra-early that night, zipping ourselves into our tent before 7 pm when we felt a few raindrops start to fall.

I figured Juliette would easily crash after a long day of playing, but she showed surprising stamina with the books and headlamp!

We decided to head back to Seattle on Saturday – our camping itch had been scratched and we were ready to enjoy the comforts of home.  First, though, an hour-long coffee and hot chocolate session in our camp chairs.

Juliette spent much of the morning “cooking” while Shane and I packed up.  She was a busy little bee, mixing water and black pepper and salt together to make the best soup she’s ever tasted.

Cheers, Lake Wenatchee!

We stopped in Leavenworth on the way home for taffy, bratwursts, and Christmas ornaments (the Bavarian essentials, really).

And with that, Schnell Camp Season 2018 is a wrap!  We really pushed the limits of the PNW’s camping window this year, heading out the first weekend of June and the second weekend of September (with three other trips in between!).  Quite possibly my favorite summer ever…

I wasn’t super-jazzed about outdoor sleeping when a crow woke Juliette up at 5:45 on Saturday morning, but when Shane and the guys returned at 6:15 from their sunrise bike ride up Mount Constitution (those crazy cats!), I sent her out to hang with him and dozed for another hour while the sun came up and sufficiently warmed our tent.  Once I was up and ready to take over Jules-duty, Shane snagged his own morning snooze.

We packed up our coolers and drove over to Cascade Lake around lunchtime for some beach action.  La Verne and I ran a quick(ish) loop around the lake before settling in with the group for sandwiches, Spikeball, and cold beverages.

I took Jules out for a paddle but got no more than 20 feet off-shore before deciding to head back because of the heavy winds.  Only, I couldn’t head back…after several minutes of fighting the current and paddling in-place, we let the breeze carry us down-shore, where Shane met us and pulled us up to dry land.

These brave little mates were rewarded with ice cream for keeping their cool on the troubled waters.

And, home, sweet home…

Jordan had joined us that morning but clearly had some recuperating to do after his uber-early ferry ride.

Jordan’s chair quickly became Biscuit’s favorite seat in the house.

The afternoon and evening was filled with water play, hammock time, and campfire chats.

Shane offered to cover bedtime so that I could sneak away with La Verne and Jordan to Mount Constitution to catch the sunset.

And it was amazing up there.  Dusky and purply and so much like a soft pastel painting.

GOOD night.

The Chens packed up camp on Sunday morning and bid us farewell, as they needed to get back to Seattle.  First, though, a couple of pics…

And a trip into town for pastries and WiFi.

Back at camp, Jordan converted his Honda into a party pad and the kids perched up there for awhile, launching pine cones at miscellaneous targets.

I had spotted the serene-looking Twin Lakes from Mount Constitution the night before and proposed we make the 2-mile trek.  We headed out around lunchtime, backpacks filled with water and snacks and swimsuits.  We’d heard murmurings of a rope swing on Mountain Lake and came across it a half-mile in.  Seeing as how it was Jason’s birthday, he got first dibs.

Jason Tarzanned into the water, then Jordan, then Shane, and then I channeled my inner adventurer and had a go.

The exhilaration!  The glee!  The water up my nose!  It was a blast.

After multiple shenanigans, we eventually put our shoes back on and hit the trail to Twin Lakes.  We ate lunch at one of the lake’s quiet shores while Biscuit went for a swim.

And our way back, we took our own dip at a quiet stretch of shore on Mountain Lake.

I swam part of the way back to camp while the rest of the group hiked and was plumb tuckered out by late afternoon, sitting back in a chair while the kids slack-lined and deer-hunted.

We all got in one last paddle session before dinner…

And then we kicked backed in front of the roaring campfire, courtesy of Isaiah.

Happy birthday, J!  I can’t imagine a better place to turn another year older.

Monday was go-day, but I was determined to savor every last minute on the water.  Juliette and I paddled out to one of the lake’s little islands and she hid a special rock that she had colored the day before, thrilled by the idea of someone someday finding her special treasure.

We pretended we were legitimate explorers and combed the island for special sticks to bring back to Shane.

Gah!  This girl and this place.  Pure joy.

Nance and I went for a quick swim while Shane deflated our paddle board and then it was time to go.  Jules was none-too-pleased by the idea of leaving our site.

…Or our buddies.

But alas, Seattle was calling us back.  Shane and I agree this was our favorite-ever campsite.  Totally worth the nine-month wait.  Totally.

Shane’s a planner. I love him for it. And sometimes I capitol-L L-o-v-e him for it, like when he gets up early on an October morning to reserve a campsite for the following July. We’ve been dreaming of setting up our tent on Orcas Island for a couple of years but weren’t ever able to secure a spot, as the best sites book nine months out. This year, though, this was our year! A couple of Thursdays ago we boarded the Anacortes ferry and floated toward Orcas to claim our reservation at Mountain Lake in Moran State Park.

(We were all pumped.)

We had invited the gang along and found the Chen tent already pitched when we rolled up. Jules greeted her best buddy with a hug while I stood still for a moment and took in the smell of the trees and sparkle of the lake and the sound of the wind. The woods have become our summer home away from home, and I felt home.

Over the course of the afternoon and evening, paddle boards were inflated, a hammock was strung, swimsuits were donned, and margaritas were mixed. When we settle into camp, we settle in!

The Rust clan rolled in around dinnertime and by 7 pm we were gathered around a campfire with our crew, eating brats and drinking beer and watching the sun dip and suffuse our site with that glorious late-day smoky glow.

Our collective watercraft have never been more well-utilized than they were during this camp trip.

Oh, to end each day this way…

Mornings were always leisurely, with a long, lazy breakfast, maybe an early paddle.  I mean, why rush off from here?

But we eventually summoned enough get-up-and-go to pack up a picnic lunch and head to Obstruction Pass for a short hike and some water-side lounging.

The rocky beach was warm and quiet – we found a shady spot to spread out our blankets and then cracked open the canned Rosé.

The kids and their dads scampered on the rocks and hunted for tiny crabs while I fell into a sun-and-wine stupor…

We swung by Buck Bay on the way back to camp to check out their fresh seafood offerings. This place was charming and chill, with picnic tables and mermaid murals and buckets scattered about with labels that read “Toss Empty Oyster Shells Here”.

Juliette was a little perplexed by the thought of plucking a live crab out of the water and cracking it open as a snack.

Jack’s planner-proclivities come through whenever food and drink is involved, and sure enough, he pulled out a bottle of chilled white wine just as a dozen oysters arrived at our table.

You can see from Shane’s face here that he hasn’t entirely recovered from the oyster trauma he endured at Hood Canal last summer…

Back at camp, Jack and Shane took a dip while the kids cheered them on from the shore.

It wasn’t long before all the kids had their swimsuits on as well.

I took Nico and Jules out on the paddle board to meet up with Jack mid-swim.

I agree, Gryff – this lake gets TWO THUMBS UP.

Dinnertime!

And dessert!

La Verne and I hopped on our paddle boards after s’mores for a sunset row. La Verne remarked at how good the water felt as she waded in and stood up on her board; I launched myself right behind her and then, as if in slow motion, watched the tip of my board bump into the back of hers, causing her to lose her balance and tumbled right into the lake. I apologized profusely and offered to grab her a towel and dry clothes, but she was incredibly gracious and hopped right back up for our evening paddle, wet clothes and all! I felt terrible.  But I mean, the water was lovely that night. I got out for my own short swim before bed, rinsing off a couple of days of camp life in the glassy lake.

Up next:  paddle, swim, eat, repeat.

Ahhh, June. We spent more weekends last month sleeping on the ground than we did in our bed!  Back in February I came across a Facebook post about family-friendly Lake Sylvia and promptly booked us a June weekend at a waterfront site.  We did waffle for a moment about whether or not we really wanted to head back outdoors just four days post-Bainbridge, but we ultimately decided to go for it.  I was eager to see someplace new, and a lot of our gear was still in the back of our car, anyway.

We rolled into camp on a Thursday afternoon and…our brows furrowed a little. Sites were tight. RVs outnumbered tents. Kids zipped by us left and right on bikes and scooters. We’ve held our remote Canadian enclave of last summer as the pinnacle of campground dreams, and this was hardly it.  But we pitched our tent and blew up our paddle board and set up our chairs at the lake’s edge.  Then Juliette wandered over to the site next door to toss rocks with two other little girls while I watched a gaggle of geese float by and I decided, alright, this place was amazing!

Plus, free salmonberries for the taking!

The campground loop was relatively flat and relatively small, so it was the perfect place for Juliette to get back on two wheels after a winter/spring biking hiatus.  I jogged along side her for a couple of loops, thrilled to see that her sense of balance was still intact.

And then she asked me to stay behind while she did a loop with the neighbor girls – a lump rose in my throat, as she ended up with a bruised a bloodied shoulder the last time I let her pedal out of my sight, but I swallowed that lump right down and told her to Go For It.  And except for one minor brush with a bush, she rocked it.

Shane eventually coaxed Juliette off her bike and onto the paddle board, so that they could go salamander-hunting while I got dinner ready.

And then, after brats and veggies, Juliette and her new buddy settled in together for some puzzle-making.  She can actually be quite timid with strangers at the get-go, hanging back to observe and get a vibe, but after about three minutes the urge to engage completely overwhelms her and she inserts herself into the fold – when faced with an option, she always chooses the company of others.  Shane and I are often the only “others” around and I want to cry out, “Can’t you play alone for just FIVE MINUTES?!”, but really, I admire her boldness and vulnerability and desire to connect.  She didn’t get those extroverted genes from me!

Sadly, our neighbor buddies rolled out on Friday morning, but Juliette befriended the resident geese and spent much of the day feeding leftover hot dog buns to Fella, Gree, Greeda, Greedo, and Beeba.

Lazy mornings…

We set out around lunchtime for a hike on one of the park’s many trails, crossing a bridge into the deep, dark woods.

And the woods were stunning.  Lush and green and dotted with the most magnificent fuchsias and yellows.

 

Oh, Daddy.  So strong…

And so tall!

We had trouble finding the bridge that was supposed to lead us over the creek to the trail back to camp, but we made a way.  Barely.

And…done!  Four miles deserves a high-five!

Jeepers, I’m proud of this little northwestern kid.

Back at camp, I kicked back with my book and a can of Rose while Shane and Juliette rested in the tent.  Mary Oliver and sunshine and bubbles, oh my…

And then, just as I took my last sip, our go-getter was begging for a spin on the paddle board.  Shane rowed her over to the beach on the other side of the lake while I hoofed it across the bridge to meet them at the shallow waters.

We made a quick trip into town for firewood and a latte (this campground scores two points for easy access to espresso!) and then laid low the rest of the evening.  Jules did a few (dozen) solo loops on her bike and beamed at me proudly each time she rounded the bend and saw me waiting for her back at the site.  We sat by the water and then by the campfire and ate Indian food and s’mores.  These two people + water + woods are…LIFE.

The realities of a busy campground smacked us in the face on Saturday morning when we heard kids scootering past our tent at 7 am, but this girl’s smile (and sleeping accessories!) did much to relieve my crankiness.

I drank my coffee while Juliette took some star shots of Shane.  “Be funny, Daddy, be funny!”

Before we officially packed it up, Juliette really wanted to pet a salamander and I really wanted to get out for one more paddle.  We both scored.

This was actually the first time that Shane, Jules and I have camped without any of our crew, and while I missed seeing our friends pop out of their tents in the morning, missed the evening game of s’more du jour, I did relish the three-of-us time.  Shane and I talked more that weekend than we have in weeks.  Juliette snuggled into my lap for long stretches in the evenings, seeking warmth and rest.  Roughing it, schmuffing it – camp life is nothing short of luxurious.

Camp season continues!  Mid-June brought what has become our annual group camp trip to Bainbridge Island; all of us had a grand time spreading out on the lawn here last summer and felt we were due for a reunion.  We trickled into the site on a sunny Friday afternoon and made ourselves at home, cracking open cold beers while setting up our tents and watercraft.

There was such a happy, chill-but-active vibe around the site – seemed a ball was always being tossed around, seemed there were always a handful of people kicking back near the fire pit.

Also, seemed like Jack was always grilling up meat of some sort…

Note:  pack extra, extra wet wipes when camping with kids!  Another note:  the super-sized marshmallows I picked up at the store are too much mallow.

We were one of the last families to emerge from our tent on Saturday, reluctant to leave our cozy nest.

But once we unzipped our front door, Jules was off, eager to play with her best bud.

We walked down to the beach after breakfast to toss the ball around, catch some rays, and squish sand between our toes.

Felt so good.

We capitalized on the super-windy conditions and pulled out our kite for awhile.

Then, took refuge in the fort.

Golly, I adore this kid.

While the kids lunched…

La Verne, Nance and I got out for a paddle.  The water was crazy-choppy, so I never made it into the full standing position on the paddleboard, but a good time was had by all.  Despite our wet butts!

The grown-ups happy-houred before dinner and Baby J took a snooze.  The kiddos played hard all weekend and this girl was feelin’ it!

I’m all for a creative s’more, pro-potato chip or peanut butter cup between the graham crackers, but when J started mixing in barbecue chicken, I tapped out.

Juliette and Shane hit the hay a little early on Saturday night, which left me free to walk down to the water for my beloved solo sunset stroll.  The sky was…wow.

…And, happy Sunday morning!  Don’t mind if I do, Jack!

We sipped mimosas and ate Jack’s famous chilaquiles and the kids gathered around Father Goose for a story and a good laugh.

We went down to the beach one last time before heading out, to get a little more sun and search for crabs.

It was Father’s Day, and as I watched these papas hang with their kiddos on the beach, I was struck by how uniquely wonderful each of them is at loving their kids.

My numero unos…

We made a quick stop in Winslow for lavender lemonade from Blackbird Bakery and then hopped in line for the ferry back to Seattle, a little grubby and a lot happy.  Emily is already talking about next year’s Bainbridge getaway.  COUNT US IN.

It’s CAMPING SEASON!  The most wonderful time of the year!  We knew we were rolling the dice weather-wise when we headed out at the very beginning of June, but we were exceedingly eager to take a break from house to-do’s, pull out our tent, and fall asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees.  Nancy booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park, since we had such a grand time there last year and felt it was worthy of a repeat.

Juliette is more and more helpful with each subsequent year and was a perfect first mate for Shane as he set up the tent.

Mission accomplished!

Once we’d properly gotten settled, Juliette and I took a walk down to the water to check a few things off of her Junior Ranger Treasure Hunt list.

Found crabs!  And a feather, and clouds, and other miscellaneous outdoor goodies.

Back at camp, Isaiah dazzled us with his champion fire-builder skills as he coached Juliette on finding the perfect sort of twigs to toss into the ring to really get the flames roaring.

The question of the weekend, from all three kids, was, “Can I throw this in the fire?”  The answer was usually yes, though we learned we needed to add a few qualifiers – crumple up that paper bag before it’s tossed into the flames!

We ate our traditional fare of bratwursts and grilled veggies for dinner, paired with red wine that somehow tasted so good out of a plastic cup.  I tell you, these trees work wonders on your taste buds!

After s’mores and clean-up, we walked down to the water with mugs of hot tea to skip rocks and watch the sun go down.

Juliette has a particularly fierce fondness for Jason these days and snuggles up next to him every chance she gets.  I think he likes the attention.

We made it through the night with no significant wake-ups, but Juliette was up early with the birds, so I brewed myself an extra-large cup of coffee with our skillet of sausage, eggs, and hash browns.

And then, after breakfast, I just…sat.  The kids ran around and tracked each other with their walkie-talkies, Shane strung up the hammock, Jason walked his slack-line, and I reveled in being completely stationary.

Eventually, though, the trails beckoned and we packed up a lunch for a hike along the bluff.

This trail is amazing.  Lush and densely green for long stretches, and then it will open up to an expansive view of the water or a glowing, grassy pasture.

It’s also dotted with relics from its days as a World War II military fort, which make for some fun-but-slightly-spooky detours.

There’s no other crew I’d rather trek with…

Seriously, parts of this path felt straight out of The Shire.  Dark green!  Light green!  Yellow-green!  Olive green, Emerald green, Kelly green, oh my.

We all chilled for awhile when we got back to camp and then busted out the Monopoly cards for some friendly competition.  It’s nice to play with people that don’t gloat when they win.  (HA!)

Juliette had no interest in post-hike chill-axing, so we took her down to the water to let her try her hand at kite-flying at the park’s breezy coastline.

There’s always a little bit of let-down when the kids realize the actual monotony of flying a kite, but Jules got a huge kick out of trying to catch the kite as Shane reeled it in.  And so he reeled it in, and tossed it back up, and reeled it in, and tossed it back up.

Also, watching the boys work on their headers was kind of hilarious.

Once the kite and the soccer ball lost their charm, we walked down to the beach for some fort-building.

Isaiah quickly declared himself captain.  Jules was the driver.  Jason was the chef.  I was the ship’s photographer.

We dined that night over another roaring fire, courtesy of Isaiah.

There were a couple of boys close to G and Z’s ages at the site across from us and Juliette did her damnedest to keep up with the big kids.  She was thrilled when they invited her to come along on their race around the campground loop.

And then, S’MORES.

Such a good life.

After the dishes were washed and the kids were pajama’d, I walked down to the water for a solo sunset stroll.  (There goes that Moana song again!)

We broke down camp on Sunday morning immediately after breakfast – I’ll begrudgingly give kudos to Shane for rushing me through my morning campfire coffee as it was awfully nice to have the tent packed up as raindrops began to fall.  The kids stayed dry in the car as we gathered up the last few things.  I mean, it wouldn’t be a true June PNW camping trip without a little drizzle!

Cheers, gang!  Camp season 2018 is off to a very promising start.