Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hike to Heather Lake

One of the things we love about Seattle is that its so easy to get to great outdoors activities like hiking and skiing. Yesterday we all decided it would be really fun to go on a nice hike in the mountains, even though the weather was a little rainy at home.  Eamon and Annick decided on a nice "moderate" hike to a mountain lake called Heather Lake, and we hopped in the car and drove out.

An hour or so later, we were parked at the trailhead and getting ready to head up. The setting was really amazing -- the foothills of the cascades where they get a ton of rain. I'm not sure if this area is a temperate rainforest or not, but it has many of the characteristics of one. Well, yesterday the rain was coming down pretty hard when we arrived. We're Seattlites, though, so we weren't going to be deterred by a little bit of rain. Off we went!

The Hike

The hike was fantastic. There was about a 1000 ft vertical gain, so there were a lot of steep uphills and rocky bits. There was also water -- lots of it. We counted 8 different creek crossings on our way up. Well, actually we kind of lost count :)

one of the many creek crossing on the way up. This is "Stairstep Falls"

The forest was beautiful. There were some old-growth trees with trunks that were enormous. There were also a lot of old-growth stumps of very old trees that had been cut down. There was moss everywhere, and in certain spots it made the forest look a little fuzzy :)

We made up lots of names for things we saw, like Turtle pond (because it was so shallow not even a turtle could swim in it) and old man rock (because it looked like an old man).

old growth stumps were everywhere, including "Elephant Stump" 

the stumps were super fun for climbing.
and for being super silly

It was raining most of the way up, so there was a sheen of water on all of the rocks and trees. There was moss covering practically every surface. Everything looked very glossy and lush. The trail alternated between sunny bits, long muddy stretches, steep rocky parts, lots of water and misty areas.

The Lake

After a long, hard hike up the trail we arrived at the lake. It was totally worth the effort:) It was a small mountain lake surrounded by cliffs, waterfalls, trees and some glaciers. There was mist all around, and we felt like we were up in the clouds

We were not alone at the lake. We saw lots of birds, a frog (that Eamon touched so that he hopped away), and lots and lots of no-see-ums. There were so many bugs at the lake that it felt like we were under attack. 
the bugs at the lake were relentless
All of that rain and mud on the hike up was fine, except that it made for some very muddy clothes. Even so, we still found some time for a nice picture of Eamon sitting on a big rock overlooking the lake. His hair is soaked, and pants and socks and shoes are caked with mud, but he's a happy kid. 

After a half-hour enjoying the lake, we headed back down, tired but happy. The Hike was over 4.5 miles long, with an elevation gain, and Eamon was a champ. He wanted to come back the next day. So we'll definitely be going again -- can't wait!

6th Birthday Fun

Since Eamon's 6th birthday happened over his school's spring break, we decided to make it a little extra special and go out of town for it. It also gave us a chance to say hi to family and friends down in Southern California, which is always great.

Annick found a super-cool activity at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Its an overnight camping program called "Roar 'n Snore" where families can reserve a space in one of the tents they have available inside the park. You get to your tent as the park is closing and then there are a bunch of programs available to do when nobody else is in the park. The campground is right next to the elephant exhibit, and the elephants are very close to the tents. 

Here's the view from the front of our tent

The main reason Annick chose this particular park was the cheetah run. San Diego Zoo Safari is one of the few parks in the world with permission to let their cheetahs run off leash. You may have seen this on TV -- they put a ratty old stuffed animal on the end of a long long string and pull it very quickly down a path. The cheetah can't resist the temptation and runs like mad after it. Every once in a while, the cheetah actually catches the stuffed animal, which is what happened on our visit. When that occurs, they let the cheetah run a second time. So we got a double treat, because we got to see Ginger the cheetah go tearing down the path twice!!

Every cheetah is paired with a large sheepdog for companionship. Apparently the zookeepers have found that cheetahs and sheepdogs get along swimmingly -- who would've guessed?! Cheetahs are very shy, but the dogs help teach them that they can trust the zookeepers and make them more comfortable around people

Anyway, Eamon was out of his mind with amazement as the cheetah ran past. It was lots of fun.

Ginger the cheetah with her sheepdog companion
The Sheepdog does the run

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What a Week at Whistler

We just got back from spending a great week at Whistler, which is about 1.5 hours north of Vancouver, BC. Eamon was really looking forward to going to Canada, and had a blast playing with our friends Brian and Anne's twin boys, Lucas and Finn. He loves to get silly with the twins and make a ton of noise. Also, as you can see in the picture below, he loves playing the "FREEZE!!" game.

Eamon and Finn

From the balcony
The weather could not have been better for us. It hasn't been a good year for snow in the northwest, but it snowed about 3 feet(!!) while we were there and the snow was light, soft and fun. It snowed every single day we were there, and occasionally the sun poked through which made for some beautiful days. On the last day we had a beautiful sunny day.  Our rental house was situated right on the slope, so we had lots of opportunities to see the conditions. From our living room we could see all the way down the valley, or we could look across the slopes to the woods and houses on the other side.