JJ got MARRIED

Although I’d been in Washington for a long time, I had to make a quick trip up because my oldest nephew’s dad was getting married!

Before the wedding though, my mom and I had Friday to spend together. I needed new running shoes so I convinced her to drive up to the flagship REI in Seattle so I could have a nice big selection (and still earn a dividend). We had a lovely time shopping together (and she insisted on buying me the dress I wore to the wedding) and then for lunch, I took her to a little spot that a dear friend had shown me a few years ago.

My mom and I both love oysters, especially raw. As we settled into our table, she pointed at a map on the wall and said, “Now I like that map.” I, the map obsessed daughter, laughed, because the map showed Pacific Northwest oyster growing locations.

Midway through our first dozen, Mom declared that we would be getting another. I basically spent the entire meal giggling at how excited she was.

The next morning, Mom had some errands to run so I asked her to drop me off at a trail and I got in some (humid) miles before the wedding.

Although, around the ceremony, it was really hot the wedding was really wonderful. I got lots of Andrew hugs:

They did such a good job of including the kids (all four of them!) including having my sister come up for their parent-kid dance to dance with Drew:

I hate garter tosses and bouquet tosses but watching Andrew and Junior giggle together as they waited was pretty adorable:

Since there was music, there was my family dancing. No one should ever expect differently:

Congratulations JJ and Destiny! I’m so happy to have you both (and your whole crew of munchkins) in my life.

The whole darn family: Mom, me, Emily & Kevin, JJ & Destiny, and the whole troupe of kiddos.

Alta Lake & Leavenworth

Mom and I both had hand-wringing moments of “should we go” before taking off to Alta Lake in eastern Washington for a couple of days. I was stressed out about the idea of not working on the house for four days and mom was basically … just stressed about the house. 

It was such a good choice to go!

First, I worked some packing magic so Sprocket has lots of room in the back seat. He basically cuddled with Shar’s foot the entire way to and from the lake. 

We stopped at the Twin Pines in Cle Elum. I used to stop here on the way to Ellensburg to visit my cousin Taylor at college! It was somehow more delicious than I remembered!

Sparkling wine flight to go with lunch at Karma Vineyard’s 18 Brix restaurant

There was wine tasting, dance parties, cornhole, evening cruises on the golf course, and relaxing by the pool and all the good food! I also read an entire book and a half.

Group photo at Tsillan Cellars

At the end of the weekend while we were driving home, we stopped for lunch in Leavenworth and decided to get in one last wine tasting at Goose Ridge Winery’s tasting room there. The wine was delicious but mostly I think we all just had a blast doing it!

Hanford B Reactor Tour

I can’t believe it’s taken me months to get around to blogging about this trip! When I decided to go to Washington to tackle the project at Mom’s house, I realized that I had a big stretch of time to try to get tickets to the Hanford B Reactor tour. Tours have been offered at the reactor since 2009 and in 2015 it was officially added to Manhattan Project National Historic Park. I tossed out the idea on Facebook and Kamel, the husband of my long-time internet friend Lauren, agreed to make the trek to the TriCities.

I picked up Kamel, who I had never actually met, and we headed out for a three hour roadtrip to the tour site. The drive was great! I totally morphed into my Tour Guide Barbie persona and pointed out lots of landmarks to Kamel who had never been further east on I-90 than Snoqualmie Pass! (Tour Guide Barbie is a moniker that I was given in high school both as a tongue-in-cheek Barbie reference and very honest commentary on my perhaps annoying propensity to spout historic, geological, and other random facts while driving.)

Once we arrived at the visitor center, Kamel and I both entered full nerd mode as we checked out the introductory exhibits. There was a short introductory talk about what the village of Hanford was like at the time it was chosen for the reactor site. By the time we got on the bus for the ride to the reactor, we were positively giddy. On the bus out to the reactor site, we got some more history and orientation to the area.

If you haven’t heard the story of the B-reactor, it’s actually pretty nuts. In just 11 months, the reactor went from a plan to producing the plutonium that was used in the Trinity Test and in Fat Man, the bomb dropped in Nagasaki. The tour is really informative about how DuPont and the Army built the plant and how ambitious the project actually was.

The first look at the reactor face is so incredible. Sitting in front of this massive piece of engineering, we had another short explanation of how the reactor actually worked and then, basically, we were allowed to wander around the reactor.

It was really surreal.

There were lots of really great vintage signs.

The access to the whole reactor complex is really impressive. While there were some areas clearly marked with radiation warnings that were off limits, we really got to wander around lots of nooks and crannys.

Kamel brought along his medium format camera to make some photos (although he told me he was too distracted by the building and its history to make good photos, I would beg to differ).

It had started to drizzle when we arrived and there seemed to be a little break in the rain so we went outside to check out the reactor area from outside.

This tour is free (did you hear me, FREE?) and it is fantastic.

Goat Mountain and Mt. St. Helens … kinda

Although I’d really been looking forward to climbing Mt. St. Helens, with the renovation at my mom’s house ever growing in scope, I didn’t prepare for this trip anywhere near as well as I should have. I ended up working with the plumbers the day that I’d planned to leave and things just got a little nuts. About the time I reached Centralia, I realized that I’d left my ice axe and crampons in Tacoma. Washington got a lot more snow than Colorado and my heart sank because that had basically already sealed not getting to the highest point of the ridge.

Traffic south of Tacoma sucks and I was slightly ahead of it so I definitely didn’t want to backtrack and sit in it so I decided to continue and take my chances. Besides, I had kind of a bee in my bonnet about using the evening to climb Cowlitz County’s highpoint: Goat Mountain.

Forest Service Road 470 was pretty washed out (there were ruts that were almost a foot deep) so I just parked at the junction with FS 8117 and walked up to the start of the southwest ridge. The trail was occasionally indistinct but overall, it was pretty easy to follow. Just below the summit I started to run into patches of snow and I had to brush away some sads about knowing I was going to see a St. Helens covered with too much snow for me to summit. The view though didn’t make me sad: it was totally gorgeous.

Rainer peaked out to the north, Adams was visible from the ridge and St. Helens was right there. I took some photos and then hustled down the trail to make it back to Ruth before it got dark.

My non-preparation continued when I got to the road to Climbers Bivouac. The road was closed because it was still covered with snow and I was directed to Worm Flows. I scrambed a bit because I hadn’t bothered to read up on on Worm Flows (or really any route, to be honest). I was just feeling a little beat up by this hike and I hadn’t even started hiking yet.

In the morning, still feeling demoralized, I decided to sleep in a bit since I wasn’t going to summit anyway. I made really good time to the junction with the standard climbing route…that was covered in snow. I decided to climb up a ridge to the east of the standard route because I was going to be much more successful climbing the ash and scree covered route than the steep snow with my (unprepared) light and fast gear situation. I knew my only summit hope was being able to maybe traverse along the rim versus going straight up snow.

Oh, my god it was steep. It was fun? But also, it was one of those things were as I expended energy, I could see the rim better and better and was realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to safely make the traverse. With 1500′ to go to the rim, I almost quit.

In the end, I’m glad I didn’t. The view into the crater was really impressive. I just desperately wished that I could make my way west but it wasn’t the right choice. Instead, I turned around and took my tired butt down the mountain.

Back in Tacoma (after getting first dinner at Burgerville with a BIG fresh strawberry shake) I met my mom (and my Sprockey!) at my grandma’s for dinner. I was exhausted—it’s been a long time since I’ve done 5000’+ gain in a day and I was ready for bed. I have unfinished goals down there though, guess I’m going to have to scope another permit for this mountain!

Summer Roadtrip 2018: Oregon to Tacoma

When we woke up the morning after summiting Steens Mountain, Sprocket’s paws were clearly hurting him so I knew that hiking that day was out of the question for us. We retraced our drive back down to the highway and continued north to Frenchglen, the northern terminus of Steens Mountain Road. I explored a little mini-interpretive trail on the edge of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge while Sprocket chilled in the Jeep.

Frenchglen is a tiny little town that is home to the Frenchglen Hotel, an Oregon State Heritage Site and a cute little general store.

As we headed north from Frenchglen, I did a quick jog at the Buena Vista Ponds Overlood and then we headed north to the Refuge Visitor Center. The grounds were so pretty. There were tons of flowers, really helpful docents, a nice lawn, and a lake for bird watching. I did a quick tour and learned that leashed dogs were welcome on the grounds so I went and grabbed Sprocket and my book and we spent some time relaxing together on the lawn.

In Burns, I had lunch while watching some WCWS and then had a beer at Steens Mountain Brewing. Sprockets sore paws didn’t bode well for a summit of Strawberry Mountain the next day so I called my mom and let her know that we’d probably be getting to Tacoma a touch early.

The next day, we headed north and made a stop in Toppinish for a walk around the cute little downtown (I should have had tacos!) and then another walk and internet moment in Yakima before deciding to just push on to Tacoma. Sprocket’s paws were clearly still hurting him and I just felt bad for him.

I have had one too many trips back to Tacoma sitting in traffic through Fife and I decided since we weren’t on a schedule we were doing something different. Highway 410 was closed but instead we passed over Chinook and Cayuse Passes and headed down into Mount Rainier National Park and over into the Nisqually River Valley. As I headed up Highway 410, I wished I hadn’t told my mom I would be there that day; we could totally have gotten up to some hiking in that corridor but she was expecting us that night. When we entered the Park, there was still tons of snow on the ground and after the dry winter Colorado had, it was kind of shocking!

It had been a long time since I’d had a view of the giant rock that is Mount Rainier and ohhhh man did I start to feel the itch to climb The Mountain (yeah, that’s what PNW people call Rainier).

At my mom’s, I ate food and settled in: the fun was over and it was time to get to work.

Tacoma: Christmas & #auntybeth Adventuring

Sprocket and I made the long haul from southwestern Colorado up to Washington for Christmas. The trip was fairly short to give me some time back in Colorado to unwind (and also to work!) once I got back. While I was there though there was lots of #auntybeth time with my nephew, some Pokemon hunting in downtown Tacoma, and a hike with Andrew (Junior and Will were sick and couldn’t come).

Andrew made sure to snuggle with Aunty Beth as much as possible:

He also tricked me into buying donuts. I tricked him into going inside to get them while I waited with Sprocket.

Then he tried to trick me into buying him a book the day after Christmas. He’s cute but #auntybeth is strong. He did steal my hat though.

Then we went hiking in Pack Forest. It was a little rainy, a little overcast, and really green. Just like winter hiking in Washington should be.

Sprocket did not dig Andrew wanting to lead the pack:

Here’s hoping that on my next trip home all three boys can come!

Mt. Rainier National Park: Reflection Lake and Pinnacle Peak Trail

My sister and I had been scheming to get the boys out hiking during my trip home for months. When the day finally came around we had two of the three boys and got a much later start than we’d hoped but the webcams were showing absolutely gorgeous bluebird skies at Mount Rainier National Park so off we went.

Once we drove into the park, I woke up both boys from their naps so we could start looking at the views as we drove up to Reflection Lake. Will, the youngest, continually exclaimed “Look at the huge mountain!” This was not reserved for the grand dame, Rainier, but also bestowed on craggy Tatoosh Range peaks, and wooded unnamed peaks. His excitement was adorable and we all happily spilled out of the car and ate our sandwiches looking at Reflection Lake.

After a few photo opportunities, we headed up the Pinnacle Peak Trail. I never dreamed we’d make it to the saddle (okay, I dreamed about getting there and then ditching Emily and Kevin with the kids while I summited) but I was so impressed with the boys for making it almost a mile up the trail. 3 year old Will lead the charge up the hill on his first hike ever!

Rainier mostly was out of the clouds for us and it was pretty hard to not just stare instead of climbing. Thankfully, our whole (tired) way down, she was in our faces.

I waved at Pinnacle putting it aside for another day with different goals. Today was about being outside with family.

Kevin Jr. and I even got in some bonus “scrambling” while we waited for his younger brother to descend the trail.

After the hike, we headed to Paradise for a quick swing through the visitor center and gift shop. Settled back in the car, it was clear that all five of us had enjoyed our day. There was hand holding hiking, exclamations of joy, and laughter disproportionate to our less than two miles traveled.

Tacoma at Christmas: Sledding at Snoqualmie Pass

The day after Christmas, my sister and I decided to take all three of the boys up to Snoqualimie Pass to play in the snow. She said that Will and Kevin (the middle one and the little) didn’t really remember snow so we figured they’d like some sledding and playing in the fluffy white stuff.

They were a little rambunctious on the ride up (Will’s face just says it all about his older brothers…) but they were super excited when we hit snowline just outside of North Bend.

Kevin (aka Junior)’s excited face selfie:

I kind of sent the two older boys to the first pile of snow I saw and they promptly lost gloves and got buried in waste deep powder. Fortunately, Junior was wearing my GoPro and captured some of the carnage.

The sledding hill that was going on was a little bit intense. There was a giant bump in the middle that none of the adults appeared interested in addressing. Andrew and Junior both tried it a couple of times and then they were pretty done with it.

Andrew made friends with another little boy who had a shovel and he proceeded to spend the rest of his time in the snow making tunnels and forts.

Junior mostly belly crawled around in the powdery snow.

Will wasn’t totally sure about this whole snow thing but eventually he figured out that being pulled around in the sled was kind of fun.

We left with a very tired crew of boys who wrapped up the fun with some “Mick and Donalds” and headed back to Tacoma!

San Juan Islands, Part 2: Orcas Island and Mt. Constitution

As we were making plans for our weekend in the San Juans, my only request was that we hiked Mt. Constitution. I didn’t care where we stayed, what we ate and drank, but I really wanted to grab that county highpoint. Fortunately for me, Liz and Lauren were totally on board with the plan and we were all excited to check out Orcas Island. I think Liz was regretting her agreement to the plan when a 5am wake-up was planned to make the two ferry hop to Orcas. However, by the end of the day, I don’t think any of us were upset about getting up early because everything was glorious.

The man taking this photo was very concerned with how small we were (and he was also probably a bit surprised at the young lady bouncing all over the boat handing her phone to him requesting a picture).

When we arrived in Eastsound, we were all starving an indulged in second breakfast at Brown Bear Baking. We spent a little bit of time debating which three treats to get and someone brilliantly suggested we actually get four. A gentleman waiting in line with us leaned over and stage whispered, “The answer is always more” so we listened and ordered ourselves a slew of treats. Everything about this was a major yes and we made short work of everything. Brown Bear Baking, you deserve all the thumbs up.

After breakfast it was time to get started on our hike. The maps clearly showed a meandering hike along Mountain Lake before the trail began climbing much steeper to the summit. We rambled alongside the super clear lake exclaiming all the while about how beautiful it was and how it was still so early. (I mean, it was standard hiking time but it just felt like we’d accomplished so much already for a vacation day…)

The forest was classic northwest gorgeousness with the sun filtering down through the very green trees as we walked along the cushion-y path. (Seriously, no where else in the country has trails as pleasant for the feet as Washington and Oregon.)

It was a little jarring to emerge from the woods onto a road for the final jaunt to the summit. After seeing just a couple of parties, the sheer number of people that had driven up was kind of overwhelming but the CCC-built observation tower was pretty cool.

The view was absolutely astounding. Sadly there were some distant clouds on the Cascades and the Olympics but it was really cool to get a perspective on Puget Sound from 2,000′ up and from much more northerly perspective than I’d ever been.

After the hike, we headed to Island Hoppin’ Brewery to have a sampler. Their brewery dog has a life that Sprocket definitely envies: living surrounded by water at a brewery…

After our beers, we hustled down to the ferry landing to make sure that we made our ferry. We were plenty early so we relaxed in Orcas Village while waiting for our boat.

It was hard to object to the gorgeous weather on the ferry ride back to Anacortes.

Once we were back on Guemes Island, while Lauren and Liz prepped dinner, I headed out for a run/hike to the highest point on the island. (The peakbagger in me gets the best of me sometimes.) I had such a great time traveling with these girls. I felt super fortunate to have a chance to check out the “other San Juans” (the Island type as opposed to my Colorado mountains), go for a hike, and mostly spend some time with people I feel totally myself around.

San Juan Islands, Part 1: Guemes Island

Friday morning, after getting a some what delayed start, we headed to the International District for dim sum (why have I not ever had this before??!?) and some great conversation. After $10 in food for each of us, we were all stuffed and headed to the car rental location and headed north for Anacortes.

Despite growing up in Washington, I’d never been to the San Juan Islands (commonly known in Washington as the “San Juans” or just “the Islands”) and I was excited do do some exploring! After a little grocery shopping in Anacortes, we moved on to the next order of business: ice cream before the ferry at Mad Hatter where I sampled some Lopez Island Creamery and Edallen Dairy ice cream options.

We missed our intended ferry to Guemes by three cars but since it’s a pretty short round trip, we didn’t despair and instead soaked in some gorgeous Washington waterfront scenery.

We couldn’t have been happier with the AirBnB we found. Nestled in the trees in the middle of the island, it was super quiet and a great home base for the weekend. (As much as I loved it, I’ll definitely get a place on the state ferry system next time.)

Since we’d arrived fairly early in the day, we had time to drive around the island a bit (it’s not large so it didn’t take very long). We hung out on this beach at Guemes Island Resort for quite awhile staring at the water and the mountains in the distance.

When we stopped to check out the General Store, we found that they had a small bar (that was hopping for happy hour!) so we grabbed some beers and headed out to the deck where we enjoyed watching the ferry sail back and forth to Anacortes while the smell of lavender mixed with the salty air (that sounds so cheesy but it’s the absolute truth).

We continued our drive, giving a ride to a woman walking back to her daughter’s from the ferry, and then made our way back to the house. Just as the sun was setting, I stole a page from my friend Jenn, and we headed out for a sunset wine walk: