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


Mt Rainier a Winter Wonderland

One my biggest concerns in moving to Seattle was the weather. All you ever hear about is how rainy Seattle is, how the sun never shines, and how everyone is depressed. I have to admit, it had me worried and admittedly I haven't made it through a full year yet, but so far IT IS AMAZING!!!! Yes, it rains, but isn't a lot of rain and rain, where we live, only means one thing...snow in the mountains! For us, there is nothing more glorious than big snowy mountains. A few weekends ago, the weather was looking bright and sunny for the weekend so we decided to head up to our favorite big snowy mountain, Mt. Rainier.

It was the most perfect day! Too perfect Adam would say, because there wasn't a cloud in the sky. That's particularly uncommon for this mountain especially this time of year. If fog and the Golden Gate Bridge is quintessential San Francisco, then clouds and Mt. Rainier is quintessential Seattle. Despite all the other mountains that surround us, there is just nothing like it. Although we had made our first snowshoe hike of the season to Rainier in November, we just had to visit it again to see it in all its white glory.

 In the PNW, when they measure their snow in inches it climbs into the 100's. It currently sits at 90 inches near Paradise, the visitors center where we parked and started our hike.

The wonderful thing about getting so much snowfall is that the hiking trails are either what you forge on your own or what you follow from earlier hikers. We left Paradise and headed in the direction of Rainier following the path of the other snowshoer's and skiers that morning. It's amazing how relatively close the summit of this 14,000+ foot giant seems from Paradise. 

And as soon as you begin to make your way towards the mountain, the views become 360 degrees of snow, mountains and sheer beauty.

On this sun-shining morning, the temperatures were working their way into the 40's which starts to feel like real heat when you get climbing. Every step in the snow is twice as hard as it would be without it, but we just keep going up and up.

As we made our initial ascent, we rounded a bend and a huge valley at the base of the mountain came into view. We could see a few paths cut by early morning visitors skiing the otherwise untouched oasis.

And of course, the views of the mountain from this point were not half bad either.

Adam decided we would hike to the top of the treeline, pictured on the left of the above picture. After some initial panic from Landon, we set out with smaller goals to achieve along the way. Once you start hiking toward the top of Rainier the mountain regains its formidable nature. It looks close, but step after step with little movement on the face quickly makes you realize otherwise.

Little by little, we made our way up and up, watching the other little ants climbing along their paths as well. All signs of life were practically engulfed in the vast ocean of white that surrounded us.

Landon was the leader for much of our hike and one point took us on these switchbacks up the ridgeline. It was probably the most harrowing snow experience of my life. Just a little too steep for my pleasure.

Walking on these steep ridge lines creates these mini avalanche snowballs that roll down the mountain as you pass by. We couldn't get enough of watching them roll their way down. Landon even learned if he jumped at the edge of the path he could create them himself and he found it quite entertaining.

Of course, we went slow and steady and made it just fine. Once to the tree line we had aimed for, the views were the best reward.

Well at least for some of us, others in the group may have found the trail mix with M&M's and the rest in the soft powder as their highlight.

The untouched snow was the most powdery I had ever seen. With the bright sun, it glistened and begged to be disturbed.

Adam decided to throw Landon in it like he would in Noni's pool. It's still amazing to think of how much snow there is up in these mountains just a short drive from the place we now call home. It truly feels like Narnia or at least another world from what I've known my whole life.

And while the mountains and snow are spectacular in their own right, it's the massive evergreens that make these winter scenes complete. 

The dark green trees struggling to stand up against the massive piles of snow on their branches never cease to amaze us. 

After our rest at the top, we made our way back down to the Paradise parking lot. Near the parking lot is a snow play area setup for sledding. Grandma just so happened to get Landon a sled for Christmas so we rewarded ourselves with some downhill fun for the afternoon.

It was the perfect way to end our fun on the mountain that day. As we drove home that evening, we watched the sun set on Rainier. Somehow seeming more and more formidable as we drove further and further away, not to mention mystical and magical too.


Victoria, CA in 2017

Our fun in Victoria, Canada didn't end with 2016. We woke up New Year's day and knew just the place to celebrate the new year, back at the Mahalet Chalet for another amazing breakfast and more beautiful views. Someone especially loved their hot chocolate.

While the weather appeared to be stunning that day, we werent quiet so lucky as it turned out to be very windy. We had a number of outdoor places to still see in Victoria so we set off for Ogden Point and the Breakwater Lighthouse despite the windy conditions.

The breakwater is long seawall that continues in an outward position before turning 90 degrees and terminating at a lighthouse.

It was so windy out on the seawall that I was sure the wind was going to knock us right off. But once we started down we had to make it to the end. Somehow we made it! 

Landon found shelter to warm up for a few minutes.

We watched a few seaplanes take off while regaining our strength. The wind was so strong that they pulled out toward the breakwater, turned around and took off with the wind. I don't think they would have stood a chance trying to liftoff against it. Seaplanes are all over the PNW and I'm hoping we can set up a trip on one sometime soon.

We braved our way back down the seawall and made our way to Victoria's Fisherman Wharf. Since it was New Year's Day, the shops on the wharf were closed, but it was still worth the trip to see the famous floating homes.

There were a few shops and restaurants among them. I think I read there were 33 total and they were all so very different.

I'm convinced I could live on a floating home. I love the idea of waking up on the water, jumping in the kayak at sunrise, and enjoying the pretty views. 

Although some of them were small, there were a number of them that probably had 1,500 square feet or more. It was quite impressive.

After touring the boats, we hit the road and headed out of the city to see the famous Butchart Gardens. Since I posted about it HERE I'll skip the details, but it was the main reason for our trip to Canada and completely worth it. I wish we could go back every year at Christmas.

The next day, we did not eat at the Mahalet Chalet. Shocking, I know! It was our last day and a short one so we headed straight out to do some more exploring. Once again the wind was really bad and although the weather looked bright and sunny, it was stingingly chilly. First, we made our way to Fort Rodd Hill, a national historic site which functioned as a coastal artillery fort in the late 1890's.

One thing that surprised us when we moved to California was just how many military installations are all along the West Coast. Canada is no exception. This fort was a prime place to protect Victoria from attacks from oncoming ships.

Luckily, it never saw battle. But they were prepared.

The fort was used all the way up until the 1950's. When WWII broke out, the military population of the fort quickly swelled and these makeshift huts were set all across the fort to house the additional soldiers.

Another historic site is connected to Fort Rodd Hill and that is the Fisgard Lighthouse. At first, Mom and I were not going to visit the lighthouse as the path to the lighthouse kept getting sprayed with water from the straight. I was sure we'd get sprayed or maybe even blown into the water. The wind was treacherous.

But Adam and Landon made it and motioned for us to come so we caved in, held hands and braved the forces. I'm so glad we did. It was the cutest little lighthouse.

The views across the straight were so beautiful there as well. If only there was no wind, we may have stayed there all day long.

Perched right at the end of the rocks were two red chairs, a symbol in the Parks Canada to sit down, relax, and enjoy the best of what Canada has to offer. We encountered a number of them in Banff and Jasper and I have to admit, they do place them in some pretty amazing locations.

It was beautiful but chilly!!! Despite the cold, we all loved it.

We finally pulled ourselves out of the red chairs and headed back towards the parking lot. On the way we passed this sign and I just couldn't decide where I wanted to be the most. I settled on Race Rocks, because I have no idea what it is and its the only place we haven't been. I'm always looking to go somewhere new!

We left the historic sites and headed back to Victoria harbor. We had a delicious lunch at the Flying Otter right across from the seaplane depot.  On a summer's day this would be the spot to grab some lunch and watch the busy harbor. We had a bit of time to kill before our ferry so we decided to drive around Victoria and see the Eastern side of the city. We drove through the nicest area of town and some beautiful neighborhoods. We pulled off a few times for some stunning views.

We couldn't believe the amazing views of Mt. Baker from Vancouver Island. Many times throughout the weekend we got the best views we had ever seen of this Washington beauty. From this viewpoint, it is about 70 miles away.  While we were at the park, bald eagles were flying overhead and playing in the air currents. Having lived our entire lives in areas where bald eagles don't exist, the novelty of them has yet to wear off. The Pacific Northwest is like a dream world!

After our drive, it was time to head to the ferry and get ready to go back home. We had to arrive an hour and half before the ferry departed which meant a lot of time sitting in the car. I can't remember if this was my "I don't want to leave face" or my "I want out of this car face."

Finally, we made our way onto the ferry and headed off for the USA. We left Canada just as the sun began to set. We had arrived four days earlier just as the sun rose and spent our time in Victoria having so much fun. As beautiful and enjoyable as it was in the winter, it made me only 100 times more excited to experience it in the summer. With every trip, I love Canada more and more. Victoria was a great city, but I can't wait to come back and explore the rest of Vancouver Island. Until next time!


Victoria, CA in 2016

Over the long New Year's weekend we made a trip to Victoria. Although the distance between our house and Victoria is less than 200 miles, the island is not connected by any bridges so you must use at least one ferry to get there. We woke up super early, drove to Port Angeles and loaded onto the ferry. We said goodbye to Washington and the US right as the sun began to rise.

Victoria is the largest city on Vancouver Island, but only encompasses a small section of it. Since the island is so big, cars are needed to really explore and many of the ferries allow cars as well. Adam and I had taken cars on ferries in Croatia, but this was a first time experience for Mom and Landon. I have to admit, I was even surprised to see semi trucks onboard as well.

The ferry ride was a breeze, some of us colored while others caught up on some work. And in no time we were arriving in Canada!

It wasn't even 8 AM and we were ready to explore! We headed off to our first stop, passing the famous parliament building right along the way. 

Our first stop was De Detuch, a local dutch pancake chain I discovered in Vancouver in June. Probably overlooked by most visitors, but that is a real mistake.

Their dutch pancake, the pannekoeken is spectacular and comes in so many variations! I just had to share this treasure with Mom. Of course, she loved it too! We both got the strawberries and cream although in hindsight we should have ordered different flavors and shared. And despite our best efforts, neither of us were able to finish ours.

Completely stuffed, we headed over to Beacon Hill Park to keep ourselves from entering a food coma and to enjoy the beautiful sunshine. I heard great things about Beacon Hill Park, but it was even prettier and more enjoyable than I imagined. 

There was a number of ponds and tons of ducks walking around from person to person to get some food.

The park didn't just have ducks, but a lot of resident peacocks as well. I had never seen peacocks in a park, much less so many and in a natural habitat. Landon just couldn't get over that the males are the prettier of the two sexes. He was sure we had that all wrong.

At one point, a peacock flew in front of me and I realized he had come from a large tree. I looked up and sure enough, about three peacocks were up in this massive tree roosting. I didn't know peacocks could fly, much less roost in a tree.

And these were not the only birds we saw in the park sitting high up. We came across the world's tallest totem pole which was 127 feet tall. Perched right on top, enjoying the view was a beautiful bald eagle. I'm sure Native Americans would claim it was a spirit. I think he was just picking the highest spot to search for his next meal. Either way, on our way back he was gone so although the picture is hard to make it out, it was really neat to see.

The park has the largest and most beautiful trees.

It also extends out to the water, which in this particular area is the Straight of Juan de Fuca. We walked down to the beach to take in the water views. This part of the park is a dog-friendly area and seeing all the dogs running around, having a blast made us wish Kaiser was with us too.

It was a little cold to spend too much time on the beach, but I made a note to come back to Beacon Hill Park when we visit again in the Summer. It was so enjoyable on that sunny winter day so I can only imagine how easy it would be to spend the whole day there when the weather was warm.  

After we had finished walking the park, we made our way up to another park, Mt Douglas, for some commanding views of Vancouver Island and beyond. We drove all the way to the overlook although many people were parking at the bottom and hiking all the way up. The views from the parking lot were amazing!

It was just a short walk up to the top and the views just kept getting better.

And better. At the top of Mt. Douglas is a  view with 360-degrees of beautiful Vancouver Island. Totally worth the extra stop and little walk.

Having gotten up so early, we decided to make an early day and headed to our rental for the weekend. Adam found us a house on Airbnb which was located outside of Victoria on Shawnigan Lake. We arrived just before sunset. It was such a peaceful place to be.

We woke up the next morning and headed out. Despite having a full house, we didn't have much food with us so we started looking for a breakfast spot as we drove back into Victoria. I found this well-reviewed cafe on our route and we decided to give it a go. It ended up having the BEST breakfast and the most commanding views. It was totally unexpected and the lack of expectations always enhances great experiences. The Malahat Chalet is a restaurant and lodge and we will be sure to come back for at least one night on our return trip. 

After breakfast, the weather was a bit rainy so we decided to check out a historical home in Victoria known as the Craigdarroch Castle.

I really enjoy touring old homes, but I realize it isn't for everyone. Bless the castle for realizing that kids would fall into the later category and having an activity for kids to do. This wasn't our first house tour with Landon, but I think the activity made it his favorite. It was an I Spy throughout the house that followed the tour. Landon really enjoyed going from room to room finding the different little items. I just love it when places try to involve kids.

The most stunning part of the home was a beautiful wooden staircase which climbed all four floors to the top of the home. 

On the landing of a second floor, a classical guitarist played Christmas music which filled the entire house.

Many of the rooms were decorated as they were in the 1890's when the family made this their home.

We enjoyed every room and learning about the Craigdarroch family, the most surprising item in the house was the brass fireplace in their smoking room was made in Louisville, KY. Sometimes the world seems so small.


After our tour of the house, we made our way towards parliament hoping to take a tour of the beautiful building.

Unfortunately, as we tried to enter, we were told the parliament building was closed for New Years and wouldn't reopen again until Tuesday. Instead, we walked around the area and the harbor.

We walked up and down the streets and did a bit of shopping. A certain little someone managed to squeak out with a new hat. 

We even made our way into the famous Empress Hotel to have a look around. The Empress Hotel sits catty-cornered to the parliament building surrounding the harbor and makes for an impressive scene.

It was New Year's Eve and we realized most of the nearby restaurants would probably be booked for dinner so we took an early dinner at an Irish Pub. When we left the restaurant, it was just beginning to get dark and the Christmas lights were just starting to come on. With a little more time to kill, we took in an  Imax movie.

2017 represents the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada and they kicked off the celebration on New Year's Eve with parties across the country. One of the places with a large party happened to be Victoria. By the time we left the IMAX the harbor was all light up and the celebration was beginning.

This city dressed up in Christmas lights was amazing! Even the boats in the harbor were on display. It was beautiful!

The parliament building is commanding during the day, but beautiful at night all light up. I'm told it is lit up all year long.

The Empress Hotel was lit up as well.

We walked around enjoying the lights, got some hot chocolate, and danced to the music while waiting for the fireworks to begin. 

The best part of their celebration was that they were timing the fireworks it in conjunction with the 19 other cities in Canada. So instead of having the fireworks at midnight, they were scheduled on EST time which was 9 PM for us. It worked out perfectly for people with kids and we got to ring in the New Year early enough that we all could actually enjoy it. 

Needless to say, we were all asleep before midnight actually struck, not that we minded. Canada did New Year's well, we had so much fun! And it wasn't over just yet!