Christmas Tree Cutting in the National Forest

We decided to go for it this year! Cutting down a Christmas tree from the National Forest.

This actually wasn’t our first time. Darrick and I did this years ago when we had a dog baby instead of a human baby. We ended up on a steep and snowy forest road, which I was fairly certain we were going to slide right off of to our untimely deaths. And then it was freezing outside and very difficult to to find a tree, so we ended up with the Charlie-browniest tree ever. Which we actually quite loved in the end. 🙂

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This year we decided to try again, for a couple reasons.

One: We’ve had quite a bit more experience in the woods over the last couple years.

Two: Our Thanksgiving weekend is packed, and we didn’t want to wait another whole week to get a tree. That meant our day to go was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — Family Day! There is only one U-Cut farm open before Thanksgiving and it’s all Noble Firs … and we just weren’t stoked about the thought of paying $100 for a tree this year.

So the morning of, eggnog lattes and hot chocolate in hand, we headed to the ranger station at REI to get our $10 tree-cutting permit. We decided that if they said the weather was bad or the roads were dangerous, we’d bail and head to a tree farm sometime that following week, but all sounded clear and we were given a map with some ideas on where to head. (For some reason, we didn’t talk to anyone the previous time we did this. No idea why.)

Also, we just love REI. 🙂

And then we were off! We headed out to Highway 2 since it’s an area we’re relatively familiar with. It was a gorgeous drive, as usual.

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Funny thing was, my phone lost service the further out we got. Not sure why that didn’t occur to me before we left. Clearly I have more important things to think about. 😉 Between GPS and the super simple map from the Ranger, we figured out how to find the Forest Road exit we were looking for. We were originally aiming for Money Creek (NF – 6422), but I’m pretty sure we ended up on Miller River Rd (NF – 6410), just before Skykomish. (Map here!)

The road was clear and flat, and we just drove for awhile until we found some patches of trees that looked promising.

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Finally we found a spot (mostly one that didn’t look marshy!), so we packed up our tools and headed out into the wilderness!

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And then we saw her (Clark Griswold moment! … “Thith thtree is a thymbol of the thpirit of the Grithwold family Chrithmath.”)

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Olivia and I played around for a bit while Dad sawed!

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We were SO EXCITED to get such a beautiful tree!!!

By the way, this area was just amazing. Quiet and peaceful, lots to explore. I wish we had left earlier so we had more time to play!

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By the time we got home, it was dark. We hosed the tree down since it was caked with mud and moss, and left it outside in a bucket of water till morning. When we brought it inside, we realized how big it actually was. LOL! Funny how small it can feel in the forest. (SMH)

It really is beautiful, though! We couldn’t be happier. 🙂

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Leave a comment if you have questions! I totally recommend doing this. 🙂 🙂

Cabin in Ashford

Darrick and I have been daydreaming about owning a cabin someday, and thanks to AirBNB, we can test out the experience. We spent the weekend in Ashford, WA, in a cabin right on the Banks of Copper Creek and The Nisqually River.

It was pretty stormy all weekend, but we were able to take a walk along the river on Saturday, and our friends’ oldest kiddo got to cross the river (or maybe the creek?) on fallen trees with her dad — what an adventurer! She was very proud of herself … and the other kids were a mix of jealous and afraid. 🙂

We were deliciously lazy the rest of the time, watching movies, sitting in the hot tub, playing games. The kids stayed up late and got hot chocolate for breakfast. The parents also stayed up late and got wine and scotch (not for breakfast).

It was incredibly restorative. We also found a nice plot of land that looked like it could use it’s own little cabin …

Someday. 🙂

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You know it’s gonna be good when even the drive out is breathtaking!

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Audrey’s amazing adventure!

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Of course we got some workouts in ….
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Log tosses over the shoulder
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Overhead squats …
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And single-arm overhead squats 🙂

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Trying out the weakest airsoft gun ever made

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Never-ending entertainment with these crazies!
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Where will be your favorite memory???

Naches Peak Loop, Part Dos

THIS IS MY FAVORITE TRAIL EVER! Seriously. Darrick is still debating whether it’s this or Snow Lake, but for me it’s this one, hands down. The reason is because at every point on the trail, you have an incredible, breathtaking view. Darrick likes some forest cover, but I’m all about staring into the expansiveness that is our incredible earth!

So anyways, we did this one last summer, too, and Olivia walked about a third of it. Throughout the year we always referenced this trail as the “one she was training for!” Just felt fun to have a goal. 😉 Of course she was perfectly fine — it’s 3.2 miles and nothing about it is very challenging. Awesome for the kiddos! (The hardest part is probably the 2 hour drive, especially since we don’t let her use technology because we’re the best parents in the world …. JUST kidding LOL. It was iPad games on the way in and out-like-a-light on the way out.)

The Naches Peak Loop Trail begins at Tipsoo Lake, which is beautiful. (I think many folks come just to walk around the lake and picnic!) Both times we’ve hiked the loop clockwise so we can stare at Mt. Rainier for as long as possible. At the beginning, you cross over a road, which confused us the first time for some reason. Then there’s another beautiful lake/pond about a third of the way in. A fun spot to play and snack if you’re with little ones! At the halfway point (ish), you’ll get an incredible view of Dewey Lake. (It’s on our list to spend the night by the lake next year when the backpacking season begins!)

And for the FIRST TIME EVER, we saw a bear! I was definitely a little scared … but it was really, really cool, too. He clearly wanted nothing to do with us. 🙂

Oh, and next time instead of picnicking, I think we’ll plan on hitting up the Naches Tavern on the way home. It looks adorbs!

In summary, I (obviously) recommend this trail!!

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Bear!

First Backpacking Trip! Barclay Lake

It was our family’s goal this summer to try out an overnight backpacking trip. We already love camping — the kind from a car where you bring every amenity possible and your friend who’s an actual chef cooks you insane meals. (You know who you are.)

BUT, at the same time, we have been craving simplicity and wanted to see what it felt like to camp with only the the things we could carry on our backs. We’re also prepping in anticipation of Olivia being in Kindergarten a year from now and losing our family day. We need a weekend getaway plan!

Thanks to some incredible friends of ours, we were able to borrow nearly everything we needed. Packing for our first attempt ever was not necessarily simple since we had no idea whatsoever what we were doing. (See a list of what we packed at the bottom of this post!) Once we have our own stuff, it will be SO easy to get out of the house, even on a whim. I also love that these will act as earthquake emergency kits, something I’ve been meaning to build for our family.

We got to the Barclay Lake Trailhead late in the afternoon — probably 3ish (we work Saturdays and the trailhead is almost two hours from Seattle). This was a perfect first hike to practice carrying heavier packs since it’s an easy two miles to the lake.

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When we got to the lake, we saw quite a few camps already set up on the beach. We expected this, but were crossing our fingers that we’d find something secluded! Another hiker told us if we kept walking past the lake, we’d find more sites. And we did find the perfect site with an incredible view that was very private. It was so quiet that our ears were ringing. We city folk need this more often!!!

The other nice thing about Barclay Lake is that there are actual campsites (which makes it slightly less adventurous, I know, I know). There was a smooth flat spot for our tent, a fire pit (that will be great when the burn ban is lifted), and even a stump-made-table. 🙂

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We set up the tent (in about 60 seconds), and then Darrick and Olivia went to pump water from the lake while I was supposed to get the rope wrapped around a branch for hanging food and garbage. I threw the carabiner so hard that it wrapped itself around the branch TWICE and I couldn’t tug it down. Shit. I tried throwing rocks at it to unwrap. Great idea if my aim wasn’t so terrible. Then I decided I could use a really really long stick to push the carabiner back over the branch. I ended up having to tie two sticks together. Great idea! I could reach it! I started pushing the carabiner over, but when I lowered the branch to regain my balance, the second stick stayed lodged inside the carabiner, high above my head! LOL! At this point Darrick and Olivia were back and I was dying laughing. (Worse-case scenario, we were buying new stuff for our friend.) Luckily, all my attempts loosened the rope enough that we were finally able to tug it all down. Success! Darrick tied the rope to a fat stick and was able to toss it over the branch successfully. A hilarious challenge to begin our overnight adventure. 🙂

Next was dinner (delish), and wine (delish). We even roasted our mini marshmallows on our mini stove! Because it was cold and we couldn’t have a fire, we all ended up in bed by about 8:30. Olivia and I shared the tiniest air mattress you’ve ever seen, and Darrick just slept on the ground. A double sleeping bag for three people also lets in a ton of air, so me and Olivia were pretty cold all night. That’s the only thing we’d change about the whole trip! We’ll either get the same tent in a triple, or look into hammocks … an idea I LOVE.

The most amazing part of the tent is that the entire top of it is just a screen. Which means you get to fall asleep looking at the stars. That may have been my favorite part of the whole thing. I didn’t realize how much I miss seeing the stars.

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There is nothing better than waking up on a chilly morning, to beautiful light cast across mountain trees, staying snuggled inside your sleeping bag for as long as possible. Then boiling water (SO fast with this stove!) for our instant coffee and hot chocolate. And spending the next hours with your two favorite people in the whole world, with messy hair and dirty faces and cozy clothes, not really doing anything, just being. Seriously, nothing is better.

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After breakfast and packing up, we tromped through the grass and made our way to the other end of the lake. Such a COOL area to explore! It is insane how low the lake was, which created a playground of boulders and logs. I wonder if the lake has been low for awhile now, or if it’s just from one very dry season. Again, the morning light was so beautiful I could hardly stand it.

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After exploring for awhile, we headed back out toward the trailhead. We had a blast, but it does make me wonder if we’d get bored if we stayed for a couple nights. I could see hiking to a new camping spot. I’ve also seen some good suggestions for backpacking activities I can look into. And I could definitely see bringing one of Olivia’s friends (or their whole family!) along.

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All-in-all we had an AMAZING time. We are hooked. Olivia said she can’t wait for the next one. What an incredible way for us to spend time together as a family, finding both adventure AND rest. We are so grateful.

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Packing list:

Darrick carried a double tent with ground tarp, a double sleeping bag, one air mattress (we should have had two … don’t ask), the first aid kit, dry bags to hang food and other smelly things, rope and carabiner, an empty 4-liter water bag, a water filtration device (the brand I linked to lasted our friend 17 years before a plastic piece broke), a headlamp, a flashlight, a backup battery for our phones with 2 USB cords, a pocket knife, his clothes (pants for sleeping, long-sleeve tee, fleece, extra socks and undies, hat and gloves), a couple snacks, cigars, and a full water bladder.

I carried two gas canisters with a stove and a pot, a lighter, the food (we were told Backpacker’s Pantry is the best, and we were not disappointed!), coffee, hot chocolate and mini marshmallows, wine (obviously), cups and silverware, toiletries (wipes, toothbrushes and paste, glasses for me, deodorant, my and Olivia’s clothes (long-sleeve tee, fleece, leggings and long pants, extra socks and undies, hat and gloves), a blow-up pillow, a headlamp, and a full water bladder.

Olivia carried her usual hiking backpack, but we got her some more safety stuff. It now includes a full water bladder, plenty of high calorie snacks, the straw portion of this water filtration system (so she can drink straight from a water source), a flashlight, an emergency blanket, a whistle, bandaids, and one extra pair of wool socks and undies (the undies were not wool).

Mount Walker

Mount Walker is out on the Olympic Peninsula, near Quilcene. We took the ferry to Bainbridge and drove from there. The Edmonds/Kingston ferry is an option as well.

We were trying to get some relief from the wildfire smoke and ash. It was nice to be in the woods, but you could barely see a thing from the top. We’ll definitely have to go back, because the view looks absolutely amazing.

A couple reports had said that although the hike was short (2 miles each way), the incline was grueling. We poo-pooed the reports, thinking we were fit enough to handle it. And we were, except they were also right. I mean, there was literally no part of the trail that wasn’t a climb! Olivia handled it surprisingly well. She complained a bit about her legs behind tired … but really I wanted to complain, too.

We stopped at the mile marker like we always do. And then we found ways to take our minds off the grind. On the way up, we decided that if you stepped on rocks or roots, it gave you power. So we’d try to step on all of them and make a funny noise. On the way down (which was also super challenging because your feet could barely gain traction), Darrick kicked a large rock down the path. As soon as the rock went off the side of the trail, it was done and him and Olivia found a new one. They must have gone through 15 rocks, at least. Eventually he and O found a rock that lasted and lasted and lasted. So they decided it should be a pet. They picked it up, named it Frank, and talked to it the rest of the way down, LOL. Frank is now in our kitchen, lovingly painted in pink, blue, and gold glitter.

After the hike, we stopped by at the 101 Brewery and Café for beers, a snack, and ice cream. (Very sadly, they were out of their honey brown ale. I had the wheat beer instead and it was quite delicious. With no IPA, Darrick got the pale ale and enjoyed it as well. The food was meh. Gear Head Deli was recommended to us but they close at 5 p.m. We’ll plan for it next time!) We also got to see our friend’s home away from home in Quilcene, which was rad! It made us start cabin-daydreaming again.

And then we *luckily* made the ferry home!! They are an hour apart at that point, and we were cutting it close. On the way to the ferry, Olivia said she had to pee. Doh! We told her to hold it, taking our chances on a worse-case scenario that you can probably imagine. As soon as we got to the ferry dock, I grabbed her and sprinted out to find a bathroom. We made it back to the car with minutes to spare before the incoming ferry started unloading (blocking our path back). Ah, the adventures of parenting. 😉

All in all, this is a long trip for a short hike. The joy is in the journey! Even though we had no view at the top of the mountain, we still had a lovely day.

Arrington Vineyards

There was a summer music event at Arrington Vineyards while we were in Nashville — the perfect excuse to finally visit! I’d been itching to go since my parents moved to Tennessee.

It was absolutely beautiful. I loved enjoying dusk with my family, my little love, and a glass of wine. We had the 2014 Syrah and it was amazing. (It even impressed my mom, who is the most discerning wine drinker I know!)


While there I got a couple sneaky tips, helpful if you visit during an event: In the main house there’s a bathroom around back that had no line whatsoever (there were about 10 women in line in the tasting room up front!). You can also purchase wine (and do tastings) from the cellar, which was less crowded and therefore lightning fast.

And in hindsight, I wished I were wearing a floor-length summer dress or light linen pants to keep out the bugs.

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Horseback Riding

I love seeing Olivia experience so many different things! It will be fun to see which things become passions and life-long loves. Today we had the pleasure of visiting a farm belonging to my parents’ friends in Lebanon, TN. Susie patiently answered all Olivia’s questions, and even let her ride Jo, her enormous horse! Olivia was smitten. I could totally see this girl spending her days tromping around on a farm, exploring and taking care of animals.