A Narrow Gate

Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


Artist Point-The Hike We've Been Waiting All Winter For

This year, I've had one particular winter hike on my to-do list; Snowshoeing up to Artist Point for a winter view of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. Catching a mountain in winter with clear blue skies is not necessarily "easy", so we waited and patiently checked (and re-checked) the weather each week until we finally saw a possibility of nice weather and decided to give it shot. With Spring drawing nearer every weekend, we figured it might be our last chance this year.

Landon had a boy scout event Saturday morning, but in the afternoon we headed North to Bellingham to camp overnight closer to our destination. We had previously driven through Bellingham, but this was our first time really getting to see just how beautiful this area is. We made our campsite in Larabee State Park, set up camp, and then headed down to the beach just in time for a beautiful sunset on the sound.

Our night in Larabee was short and really just a bonus to our trip's intention, but we managed to have lots of fun playing on the beach and hanging out at our campsite. Landon loved my new hammock (until he fell out of it) and we've managed to make card games a nightly camping tradition.

The next morning we woke up early to rain, made some breakfast as it cleared, and packed up with another 1.5 hours of driving to go. We arrived at the ski resort on Mt. Baker and we're greeted by some pretty cloudy skies. While Artist's Point is a very easy 1/2 mile loop from the parking lot in the summer, the road to the parking lot is not maintained in the winter. Instead, the paved road ends near Mirror Lake and it's about a 2 mile uphill hike to get to to the famous lookout. With spotty skies, we didn't think we'd make the hike up to the point, but both our boys were antsy to get out of the car and play in the snow so we decided to hike around a bit, play, and see what happened. It was almost immediately after gearing up and heading out into the backcountry that the clouds began to break and brilliant blue skies appeared.

Through some previous oputings, we've learned that because of Landon's small weight, it's actually easier for him to hike without his snowshoes. In places where Adam and I would sink feet into the snow, he simply follow's Daddy's path and easily makes his way around with Kaiser right behind him. And just because he can walk without snowshoes doesn't mean it isn't deep. Look closely, there's an outhouse below.

It wasn't long before we were in the most stunning scenery. With the skies open, the sun was literally making the snow glitter and we were all mesmerized by the beauty. Adam stopped to take some pictures while Landon and I ate cookies "to help with our energy".

With the skies clearing up, there was no question we were going to the top. There were still plenty of clouds in the sky so we figured we'd never see the highest peaks, but it was silly to not at least try. We were all energized by the perfect weather and beautiful scenery.

Up, up, and up; We went one step at a time. There were very few people out in the backcountry with us, but most of the people we did encounter were on skis doing what is called ski touring. With skins on their skis for grip, they were able to go faster uphill than us and we heard their screams of delight as they zoomed down the mountain at lightning speeds. We are not great downhill skiers, but it gave us some new goals. The area we covered in two miles was a serious uphill climb.

Our parking lot is way, way down in the valley below. Along the way, we passed some winter campers. Winter camping is something we really want to try, but have been hesitant to do with Landon's young age. Seeing these tents in the midst of these beautiful mountains really solidified that we've got to take a shot at it next year. A sunrise from this spot would be incredible.

It wasn't without a little sweat, but we eventually reached our destination! Joy was had by all. Although it wasn't a long hike, it was literally all uphill and in deep snow. For the first time ever, Landon didn't complain AT ALL and was actually the first one to the top. It was a pretty happy moment!

Landon received the remaining sleeve of girl scout cookies as his reward while we all ate some lunch. Even Kaiser got a treat, some homemade snowballs to munch on. He loves snow!

Of course, once we got to the top there was an infinite number of places to go to and explore (just another reason to try ski touring), but we settled down on a ridgeline between Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker and were content simply turning our heads from left to right.

As we suspected when we first arrived, both mountains were hiding behind a few lingering low-lying clouds. We figured if we waited long enough, they would peek out but regardless, the rest of the views were amazing. From atop, we could see all the way down to Baker Lake, a place we had visited on our visit trip to Washington almost a year ago.


As we waited patiently, the clouds eventually passed and Adam began to take pictures of the spectacular scene surrounding us. It wasn't long before Baker appeared.

Shortly after, Mt. Shuskan peeped out too which is really the prettiest of the two neighbors.

Standing on the ridge, with each mountain on either side, it's amazing how small we humans become.

During our break, Kaiser appeared to be going to sleep. We were not sure if the hike up wore out the old man or worse, he was going snowblind. Just in case, he borrowed Dad's sunglasses for a bit. We might need to invest in some doggie goggles for next year. 

And of course, we had to take a family picture to remember this gorgeous day by.

Then we started back down the same way we came up, up, up.

By this late in the afternoon, it was almost hot. The sun was shining and the visibility was wonderful. Going down we were constantly in awe of the mountains that were laid out before us in every direction.

It was almost a miracle that we made it all the way up AND down without a single complaint. It might have been a breakthrough hike because even near the bottom the whole family was still all smiles.

And although we had a glorious day, the next morning we all woke up with a sunburn. It was a HUGE mistake on our part not to be proactive and put on sunscreen on when we left the car. I knew Sunday night when we got home that Landon's face was red, but the next morning it was completely swollen. He was a good sport about it, but when the school called worried he was having an allergic reaction, I definitely felt like the worst Mom in the world. Lesson learned and we've already purchased a small sunscreen bottle that we put in our first aid pack in my hiking bag.

Never again will let the snow turn us into marshmallow faces, but I sure hope we get another opportunity to visit Artist's Point in the winter. It's probably my favorite place in Washington and completely worth the wait. 


Oregon Coast

This year, we've been experiencing our first winter in two years. While we've had a blast playing in the snowy mountains, one thing we've really missed is camping. A few weeks ago, the weather was looking good all weekend along the coast so we jumped on the opportunity to get out and enjoy it. Friday night, after work, we packed up the whole family and headed for Astoria, Oregon. We didn't arrive to our campsite until after midnight so it wasn't until the next morning that we got to see our beautiful surroundings.

We camped at Fort Stevens State Park, not far from the beach and after packing up in the morning, we made our way to the ocean to play in the sand and see their famous shipwreck. Had we been there at low tide we could have gotten a close up of the shipwreck which makes for a pretty cool picture against a beautiful ocean sunset. Maybe next time.

Afterwards, we headed over to Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark spent a "miserable" winter preparing for their journey back across the United States. Ever since we moved to the West Coast, we've discussed how amazing it was that early explorers traversed this part of the country. A few months ago I read the book Undaunted Courage about the Lewis and Clark expedition. I wish I had the book with me when we visited Clatsop. Reading their story before hand made me very interested in the site, but having had it with us would have really brought the place to life. The visitors center helped to fill in a lot of history and we tried explaining the journey these men took across the US to Landon, hoping he would grasp the significance of what this small group accomplished.

The original fort that the party built no longer exists, but a replica has been built on the site. 

It gives you a great idea of what life was like for these 34 people in 1806. They even had rooms set up as they would have been at the time.

After our visit at the Fort, we headed towards Canon Beach. Famous for their massive haystack rock. 

We took a long walk down the beach enjoying the sunshine, water, and sand.

We had ALL missed the ocean terribly. Not sure which of the kids enjoyed it more. Both had plenty of fun playing with sticks, running around, and playing on the beach. 

We walked down the beach to the small town, had a great lunch, and then walked back to the car and onto more adventures on another beach. We headed to Cape Kiwanda which we visited way back HERE in  July of 2015. Despite all the changes in Landon, Adam hasn't changed much and jumped on the chance to drive his new car on the beach again.

Oregon does the coast right. All beaches are open to everyone including dogs. And while you normally cannot camp on the beach, a few allow you to drive your car. We left Kaiser out to run around while we drove. We even gave Landon a go.

Did I mention how much we all have missed the ocean? Living 5 minutes from it in San Francisco really spoiled us. It was so refreshing to be back on it hearing the waves crash.

As we drove along the beach we came across a submerged car and learned what not to do.

We watched as a tow truck came down and winched it out of its hole before heading over to another drivable beach with another famous haystack rock.

The second night we stayed about 100 ft from the beach at Cape Lookout. After grabbing some pizza we headed to our campsite, popped up our tent and played some games. In our new comfy tent, staying inside and having epic BeyBlade battles was actually pretty fun. We didn't have a campfire, but I don't think any of us minded too much.

The next morning we woke up and cooked a hearty breakfast. We are getting better and better at cooking with every trip and finally got a chance to use our new stove we bought a few a months ago. It was wonderful!

Kaiser hung out in his crate while we ate breakfast. This was our first trip taking him camping while we slept in the rooftop tent. We have an annex room that attaches to the bottom of the tent that we planned on putting him in, but this trip he ended up just sleeping in his crate in the back of the car. He seemed to do just fine, we just wish he didn't take up the entire back of the car.

After breakfast, we walked over to the beach and stretched our legs.

This beach was much different from the other beaches nearby. The tide was coming up so we made a game of running along the sand until the water came rushing towards us at which time we jumped up on the rocks and fled toward dry ground. It wasn't the beautiful sunshine day we had the day before, but we had a blast running along and playing on the beautiful coast.

We walked South on the beach for quite a bit then headed up to a pathway and made our way back to our campsite.

We were hoping the sun would come out while we were gone and dry off the moisture on our tent roof. Back at the campsite, the roof was still damp so we spent time wiping it down and messing with some things on it. Rooftop tents are a fairly new thing in the world of camping, but I think they will become more and more popular with time. These were our first two nights in ours and we really loved it. It's a step up from normal tent camping and makes the entire experience that much more enjoyable while not taking anything away. I have a feeling we will be camping every weekend this Summer. Plus it is really easy to drive your car to an epic place, unzip the cover, pull down the ladder and climb in. Voila! 

Once we packed up the tent, we started heading North again toward home. We stopped by the Tillamook cheese factory which we missed our first time in the area. We are big Tillamook cheese fans in the Lewis house so it was fun to be able to see exactly where our cheese is made.

The factory has a self-guided tour which was interesting, but short. Since it was a Sunday the operation wasn't in full production, but there were a few lines cutting and packaging large blocks of their delicious cheese. The best part was the cheese tasting and lunch we had at their cafe. We followed it all up with some of their famous ice cream which we had never tasted. The caramel butter pecan was amazing! I just need to make sure and never let it sneak into my grocery cart.

After sufficiently stuffing ourselves we headed to one last beach. By now the sun was really starting to shine so we popped open the tent one last time to get it all nice and dry. The only downside to this tent is not having a good place where we live to have it open. The boys played on the beach for an hour while I hopped into the tent and rested a bit. Once again, Oregon has the coolest beaches.

Back in the car, it was Landon's turn to take a rest. He's hit or miss on car naps these days, but two days of running around along the coast finally caught up to him. He passed our mid-drawing.

We made our way back into Washington and scrambled to make it over to Cape Disappointment before the ranger station closed at 5pm. Landon wanted to turn in his Lewis and Clark junior ranger booklet for a new badge. We made it just before they shut their doors and after getting his badge, took a short look at the beautiful scenery.

With so little time, we decided we just have to come back and make a weekend of this area. As we drove home the sun started to set and we were driving from scene to scene of a gorgeous sunset.

We found ourselves constantly pulling over until the last bit of sunlight faded.

This weekend was exactly what we needed. Fresh air, sunshine and ocean waves. We were SO lucky that the coast cooperated with us over the two days and gave us exactly want we needed. Unlike Lewis and Clark, our weekend trip to Astoria was anything but miserable. It might be a few more months until we have another great weekend on the coast, but whenever we can we will be right back there doing it all over again.