Sitting at my desk on Wednesday and inspired by my co-workers plans of a hiking adventure, I feverishly began to pull together plans of our own. In 30 mins, we went from having no plans to having reservations at a mountain condo rental two hours away and a long list of weekend activities.
Before we left on Friday morning, I hit up the gym for a five mile run, having momentarily forgotten that we were going to be hiking for the rest of the day. On my way home, an hour before we were set to leave, my sister sent me a text asking what our plans were for the day. Five minutes later, we had a fifth hiker on our team!
We stayed at Crystal Mountain. Its primary attraction is a ski resort in the winter. During the summer, it boasts numerous hiking trails, magnificent views of Mount Rainier, and a brand new gondola that soars you to the summit. Our condo for the night was just a five minute walk from all the activity, had an 87 degree heated pool, a gas fireplace (luxury for us!), and heated floors in the bathroom and kitchen!
If you go hiking, I highly recommend you bring along your favorite Aunt. Makes picture taking much better :)
After we unpacked, we hit the trails, slightly unsure how the rest of the day would go with a four-year old in tow. We had never been hiking before and had no idea what to expect. We started out on the "easy" path and were told by a group of hikers coming down that the trail was intense, that there were snow drifts, and wide rivers to forge, and no easy slopes or flat spots. Yikes! With very low expectations, we decided to just go as far as we could and then turn around.
We kept going. And going. And going. The crazy "wide rivers" were only two steps across:
Fording the "rivers"
The snow "drifts" were easy to navigate:
And we found the slope to be manageable 80% of the time. Jacob walked the entire way! Ryan enjoyed the view from his backpack and my husband and I took turns carrying him around. Walking up a trail with a 25 pound backpack sure feels a lot like doing squats!
Since the trip was going surprisingly well, we decided to go the lake which was at the end of the trail. The views were amazing. I had forgotten how beautiful life is when you are away from the city. I kept telling myself that I could totally live in the mountains, with the fresh running mountain streams, the majestic views, the crunch of the trail beneath your feet, the proximity of unmarked trails, the feeling of adventure. As long as there is a clean condo/hotel with a warm shower and a fully stocked kitchen, I could get used to this!
We had a map that helped us navigate our trail and keep up on the "easy" hike. I was exceptionally proud of my map reading skills and was put in charge of navigating. As we neared the lake, we heard an odd growling sound from up the mountain a little ways. We all looked at each other with the same questions written across our faces, "What was that?!" "You heard that too?" "Are there bears up here?"
We didn't want to find out what the source of the growl was so we began to RUN (as fast as a group of amateur hikers with a four-year old in tow and chubby toddler strapped to the navigator's back could run) away from the sound and toward our lake destination. In our run, the fearless navigator may have turned the map the wrong direction. As the trees cleared and we braced ourselves for a spectacular lake view, we came across this instead:
A ski chair lift. Oooops. Regardless, we took advantage of the unique photo-ops.
And then decided to give up on the lake and hike down the paved trail back to the condo.
Although we all enjoyed the hike, we were thankful to walk into our warm condo and crash on the nearest flat surface. All in all, we had hiked 4 miles! I was amazed at how well Jacob had done. We only carried him on our backs for ten minutes of the entire 2.5 hour trip.
The big boys braved the pool (the water was warm but the air was NOT!), while the girls grilled up some hot dogs.
Then we all re-convened at the kitchen table and enjoyed our "campfire" meal. Next was popcorn and a movie as we all bunkered down for the night. We may have unnecessarily turned on the heated kitchen floor and gas fireplace...just because we could!