Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas photos

We are wrapping things up here to finish out the year. I know I just said it in the last post, but what a year it has been…

Anyways, we enjoyed talking with family on Christmas. But since we are out here on the West Coast, I thought I'd share some photos of all of us from Christmas Eve.

I had to get my camera and the lights set up for Christmas morning, and part of that was getting everyone in front of the camera.

Leah loved to get Catherine and me in front of the camera for a change.

Happy New Year's everybody!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Letter

Once again, the Christmas tree is up. The kids have hung the decorations with varying amounts of care, and presents are already under the tree. This year has been no different than previous years when I say what a busy year we've had!

You may recall that last year I was selected for promotion to Major. The day finally came this past May. Catherine prepared a magnificent feast, for which my coworkers still approach me from time to time, and much like Chris Farley, ask me if I remember when Catherine brought in all that yummy food. Yup, I remember - it was quite the feast! Since promotions for me are few and far between, Catherine brought the kids to come enjoy. They fooled everyone with their good behavior ;-). My coworkers tell me I am a very lucky person. I know, but it's more than luck; I am truly and richly blessed.

This year our travels took us to Mt. Rainier for several snowshoe excursions (more on the way for 2014!!!), a trip to Miami to celebrate Catherine's parents 40th wedding anniversary, and many local trips. We visited some friends in northern Idaho where Leah took her first skiing lesson and Ian took his first snowboarding lesson; I got to ski through some powder and trees for the first time which was a lot of fun. My brother Jeff braved a trip out west to tackle an epic 5-day hike in the rugged North Cascades National Park. We walked the Copper Ridge trail and looped back via the Chilliwack River trail. The Copper Ridge trail is supposedly one of the preeminent ridge walks in the lower-48 (with the views we had, it has to be!!). We had rain on the first day and again on the very last day. In between it was unbroken sunshine - so we had phenomenal views of mountains, glaciers, valleys, and rivers. We swam in a snow-melt alpine tarn; can you say frigid anyone? 

The upcoming year looks to be fun and full of change for the Skinners. We'll be moving to San Antonio, Texas this summer where I will attend Baylor University and pursue a dual MHA/MBA degree (Healthcare Administration). It's hard to believe I keep doing this to myself, but it is back to school for me. This is the last time I go back to school, and I mean it (maybe). I wish everyone a blessed Christmas, and a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2014!                         Marc

As I'm reflecting on this past year it feels like it's been a calmer one in the scheme of Skinner years.  Marc seems to have covered most of the high lights. The meal I prepared for Marc's promotion was a Southern Style BBQ.  I was glad everyone at his work enjoyed eating it as much as I enjoyed preparing it.  My facebook friends had to put up with my posting about the preparations for a couple of weeks before that event.  I've spent a lot of time running the kids around from place to place after school.  During the summer we tried to get to the outdoor pool on base as much as we could. It will be interesting to live somewhere with AC in the house again after living the last 6 years without it.  I also did a fair amount of canning this summer.  I have done German style pickles, mixed pickles, pickled beets, salsa, apricots, peaches, cinnamon peaches, as well as tried out making a few flavors of jam after taking a class towards the end of summer.  So I made a spiced plum, serrano peach, and a pumpkin apple jam.  I still enjoy trying out new recipes on the family and experimenting in the kitchen.  I also have started having the kids pick a meal to cook once a month where I supervise them preparing it.  For the first meal Leah picked a chicken with roasted sweet potato with a homemade bbq type sauce, and Ian picked cornmeal coated fish sticks that he hand cut from cod fillets and served with sweet potato wedges.  They both did really well with minimal issues.  My big project for the new year is going to be getting rid of the stuff in our house that we don't want to have anymore after we move.  I've already started to sell some items on the local yard sale website, and I've been working on getting our large freezer emptied out.  I hope everyone has had a wonderful year!


Merry Christmas everybody! I love my family, my friends, our nice house, and a nice bed to sleep in. I've had a good time this year visiting Mt. Rainer, Abby and Pop in Miami, and camping with Daddy. I did an all-night hike with the Boy Scouts. It was a loooooong walk. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Ian

When I learned to cook I started to understand but not that well.  You need to pay attention to what you are doing in the kitchen.  Love is the most important ingredient in the dish.  I skipped Daisies (and I'm talking about Girl Scouts), and I am a Brownie now.  When I first got there I didn't have many friends, but then I caught up.  One of my friends from school is also in the troop.  When I grow up I want to work with my brother and live in Hawaii if I can.  I have such a wonderful life! When I was a baby I got an elephant & her name is Ellie.  I really love her, she's so cute.  When I look at her it looks like she's happy that I'm there for her.  I love my family.  My family is so nice & I will tell you about it.  My mom cooks. Her meals are so, so good.  I hug her for the meal most of the time, but not that much.  My dad he plays with me and wrestles with me.  He's so hard to beat.  He makes me laugh. My brother loves angry birds go, and he got the blues and bomb on the first day.  Isn't that amazing?! I'm going to tell you about me.  I love to help my mom cook, I wrestle with my dad, my brother and I make up games.  I really like the squirrel and spy game we made up.  I love having my family here!  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas everybody, and best wishes for a happy New Year!

-The Skinner Family
Marc, Catherine, Ian, and Leah

Merry Christmas!

I can't believe how long it has been since my last blog post! I wish I had a better excuse than "I've been working hard", but that is about as good as it gets. Today was actually the first time I've dug out my camera since late October, so don't think I'm just not sharing. Work has been hectic, and I expect it to stay so for the remainder of our time here at Joint Base Lewis McChord. 

While I haven't brought out my proper camera, I do have my iPhone with me most times, so that has become kind of my day to day camera. The photo above and below are both camera photos. The above photo was just from a bike ride we had taken earlier this fall, the one below was from Ian's Webelos ceremony. Next up is his Arrow of Light!

Ian has been busy with his Webelos scouting - to include an overnight 11-mile hike in the freezing cold (thank goodness it wasn't raining!) with some local Boy Scouts. He didn't complain once, for which I am eternally grateful and equally proud of him. Leah has picked up with the Girl Scouts (Brownie?) and has recently decided to give up ballet. I think she really loves the Girl Scout stuff way more than than the dancing.

This morning I decided to take the kids to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge for some fresh air, exercise, and to allow Catherine to get some last minute gift-wrapping done. We got home in time for lunch, and here shortly (for me) a nap. Yeah naps!!!!

So now you are all caught up on the Skinners. We'll be posting our Christmas letter shortly. Enjoy your Christmas Eve everybody!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cleaning up a bit

Catherine has started a new project around here with Ian, helping to clean up his Legos collection. Ian tends to take his Legos apart and make new things after he's played with his new stuff for a bit. With his collection, that makes putting together his collection to sell/give away a bit of a challenge.

We put together this Star Wars spaceship this afternoon, which, since Ian hadn't had it together in some time made for some great fun playing with it again once we had it all together.

I took a couple of photos of Ian mugging for the camera, but these candid shots taken of Ian playing with his toy struck me deeper than those other photos. Other than that, nothing terribly new on the home front. 

Have a great day everybody!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Busy Columbus Day Weekend

Not like any weekend isn't busy, but this one just seemed a bit crazy!

Ian and I had a Cub Scout service project, where we helped to spread bark and wood chips on a running path at a local elementary school. That was Saturday morning, which Ian followed up with a birthday party in the afternoon.

Sunday saw me and Ian making the drive up to Boeing's Museum of Flight for a FIRST Lego League robotics thing. I say "thing" because we both thought it would be a competition, but it was really just a large get-together for all of the various FLL teams across Washington to get together and learn the rules of the upcoming competition.

Ian helped make the robot, which was fun for him. But the true highlight was the airplanes hanging - literally - around the place. More important was the flight simulator. "Can you do three"? was a question Ian asked me after doing a single barrel roll in the F22. Can I?!?

The attendant said she could tell we had a good time. I presume it was from the volume 11 (it's one louder than 10 - which describes the peals of pure joy still echoing in my ringing ears) noise that Ian made. He even let go like he was riding a roller coaster!

And just to prove that Catherine is top notch, she agreed to let me take Monday away from the family to go take what looks to be among the final autumnal hikes I may have to enjoy here. Since all the National Parks are closed (don't get me started on the need for a functioning government to enjoy a hike in the woods..I most certainly do NOT) I decided to brave arrest and make my way to Mt. St. Helens.

I investigated before leaving, and there were no signs closing the place, so I was under no real threat of any legal action. But I did have the place to myself. Not until I was within a 10-15 minute walk of the parking lot on my way out (~5 hours) did I see another person. Elk? Yup, by the harem-load. Coyotes too. But no people, which was just fine with me.

The hike has been on my bucket list, photographically, for some time. I am sooooooooo glad I made it!

The approach is about 5 miles with only a 1000 feet or so of elevation gain. The destination was St. Helens Lake, which has a beautiful view of Spirit Lake, Mt. St. Helens, and way in the distance Mt. Hood. You can see Mt. Hood if you look very carefully through the haze, so this is a two volcano for one shot! Lake St. Helens sits about a 1000 feet above Spirit Lake, which you can see off in the distance.

The trail there goes through that little keyhole (up above) which was ever so dicey trying to get through, but only because there was some bullet proof snow on the trail with an abrupt drop off to one side. Otherwise an enjoyable hike.

I also made a dash down to Spirit Falls on the Washington side of the Gorge which was hard to find, but worth the effort. Photos may follow, we'll see. We're doing our best to enjoy our time here, as it is officially limited (but not before more snowy adventures).

Have a great day!


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quick family trip to North Cascades National Park

Catherine and I decided to make a trip up to North Cascades National Park (not that it was technically open, stupid government!) while the weather was nice so they could see where Jeff and I had been hiking earlier this year. We stayed in a little chalet, which was very nice.

We drove into North Cascades National Park and took in the view at the Diablo Lake overlook, which while pretty, we were pressed for time since I wanted to get up to see Mt. Shuksan while the sun was out.

All in all, Saturday was a big day in the car, but the kids did great.

Sunday morning I got up early and went back up on the mountain, which was fun for me. I went back to pick up Catherine and the kids (after having breakfast), and we went to see Nooksack Falls.

The kids had a great time at Nooksack, climbing on the rocks and running around a bit. Below is Mt. Shuksan with a fresh coat of snow. We had snow earlier in the week in the mountains (like here), with some of it still sticking around through this weekend. 

Have a great day everybody!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Giant's Graveyard with Ian

This past Sunday Ian and I headed up to the Olympic National Park to Third Beach to go check out Giant's Graveyard. We gambled on good weather, and partly won/partly lost. Sunday was nice, but ended up getting cloudy right as the sun was setting, so no great photos for me (boo!).

On the plus side, Ian and I had a phenomenally great time. I couldn't be more proud of Ian on this trip. He carried his backpack and didn't complain ONCE! In fact, he was super-chipper the entire walk in. While we didn't have a bunch of elevation to gain or lose, we did have to scramble up and over some steep headlands which involved using ropes to assist with the climbs and descents. Again, Ian did fantastic!

Once we got to our beach and camp site, Ian helped me to set up the tent and get everything situated. I think the views we had were pretty stunning.

We did a bit of exploring while the tide was out, which allowed Ian to do some "rock" climbing. Or as he puts it, working on his climbing mojo. ;-)   We got back to our campsite in time for a nice dinner, and then play time. Ian enjoyed learning to skip some rocks (he finally made some skip!) and playing in the sand.

Once Ian had had enough of skipping stones, while he was playing in the sand with his stick, I got the fire going. It was nice to just sit and relax, and enjoy some downtime.

We got rained on a bit last night, which means we didn't get to stargaze at all. Ian was really looking forward to that, but it obviously didn't pan out. We got up good and early for breakfast and packed up our stuff to head out. If you look closely in the photo below, at roughly the right third, you'll see Ian making his way up the headland. That was the smallest one, too!

Along the way we got to see a whale baleen and some sea otters on the beach and then again in the water - which was an instant hit with Ian (okay, me too); aside from a frog and numerous birds the otters were the only wildlife we saw.

Don't judge the photo below too harshly, this is a rough edit (since I won't have time to work on it for a bit). But this was the only sunset color we had, and it shows you Giant's Graveyard all spread out before you.

This was most likely my final trip to the Olympic coast in the short term, which makes me a bit sad. It is rugged, remote, and beautiful. I've enjoyed exploring the Olympics. There is still a bunch that I never got to see, but that will have to wait for another day, I suppose. Cheers,


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Copper Ridge Trail to the Hannegan Trail along the Chilliwack River

We got a later than anticipated start on our long day (12+ miles) from Egg Lake to the Indian Creek Camp just off the Chilliwack River, 4000 vertical feet below the Copper Ridge Lookout. We were still on the trail before anyone else, so we took a bit of time to snap some photos.

We hiked past Copper Lake, a beautiful bright blue alpine lake on the ridge. We wanted to spend a night there, but due to a party of 10, the lake was tied up until a Friday, which didn't fit our plans at all. But we did stop by and fill up on water before the next 7.5 (dry) miles and a ton of vertical feet to go down!

That hike was among the longest 7+ miles I've ever done - Royal Lake included. The ridgeline hike was spectacular - though the best views were between Egg Lake and Copper Lookout. We snacked on huckleberries all along the way which were tart, sweet, and fabulous.

We eventually made it down off the ridge into the Chilliwack Valley. The change from sub-alpine  scenery to dense lowland forest was pretty abrupt, and made for a stark contrast. Within a half mile of entering the valley proper, Jeff and I had to ford the Chilliwack River, since there is no bridge across it at that point. Ranger Abby had told us that the river was knee deep and that the salmon were running.

We took one look at the Chilliwack and its puny salmon, and were not (terribly) impressed. We didn't want to get our shoes wet, so we decided to ford the icy river in our bare feet. Not smart. We didn't fall (it wouldn't have mattered much in that 4 inches of water!), but our feet sure were owwwy.

We knew there was another river to cross, which took maybe 30 seconds to walk there. THAT was the knee-deep "river" (Indian Creek) with some monster salmon just hanging around.

That was a seriously cool thing to see! I think Jeff and I probably could have caught one in our bare hands (Bear Gryll's-style baby!), but we both didn't want to smell like fish with a bunch of bears lurking in the woods. So we took off on the final leg of our epic day, and eventually made it to camp.

The next day we headed upstream towards our final campsite for this trip at Copper Creek Camps. We first had to cross Indian Creek - no more salmon that far upstream - over a very cool suspension bridge. Jeff's first steps he expected something a bit more firm...

...which of course didn't go too well!

I had to stop and grab some photos of the both of us.

Further up the trail we had the option to ford the river or cross on the cable car. The cable car is really for when the river is not fordable, but how could we not use the cable car to get across?

After that, it really was primarily an uphill walk to get back to Hannegan Pass, and then down to get back to our car. The weather, as you may recall, was a bit rainy on day one as we crossed over Hannegan Pass. The intervening days were all sunny and beautiful. We had some blue sky on the hike out, but as we neared the pass, the weather started to get cloudy and foggy. Literally steps from the car, it started to rain on us. So all in all, we couldn't have been luckier as far as the weather goes.

I know I had a great time! We got to hike one of (if not THE) premiere ridge hikes in all of Washington. It was rugged, it was remote; all in all just brilliant. Cheers,


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Copper Ridge Trail, North Cascades National Park

After our hike up to Egg Lake, Jeff and I took it easy. The next morning we woke up early so I could go snap some photos, and so we could take a day hike up to the Copper Ridge Lookout. That hike was a mere two miles or so, with about a thousand vertical feet of elevation gain.

Jeff and I enjoyed a couple of nice hot cups of coffee, then we headed uphill to the main trail. At the top we back tracked for this photo with both of us and Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker in the background. Yes, it was cold up there in the mornings, averaging in the low-mid 40's.

We then made our way towards the Copper Ridge Lookout, which as you'll see, is a phenomenal Ranger station for the NPS park rangers. The views along the trail were nothing short of stunning! When I was researching this hike, I had read that there were plenty of great views, but that certainly didn't prepare me for what we found.

We eventually made it to the Lookout which had some of the best views in the park, even into Canada. The rangers that sleep in that lookout cabin have to pinch themselves (when the weather is good)!

Poor little guy is all tuckered out! Jeff grabbed a short nap while I was snapping photos.

When we made it back to Egg Lake, it was good and warm. Jeff and I both jumped in for a short "swim". That water was just as cold as it was the day before, but after a warm day on the trail, it felt great to jump in and cool off.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trip, part 1

Jeff and I officially survived our trip to the North Cascades National Park! We hiked the Copper Ridge Trail Loop, which was spectacular. I had seen several write-ups about it in Backpacker Magazine, and new that that was the trail I wanted to walk.

Thankfully Jeff was up for the trip, as it would have been a long and lonely trip by myself. As it was, Jeff and I spent six days/five nights in the great outdoors. Our first day was a cloudy/foggy day that spit rain on us as we hiked up and over Hannegan Pass. A mile later we set up our camp at Boundary Camp just in time for the rain to hit us in earnest. Our site, while not optimal for hammock tents, was pretty optimal to block the rain. The rain stopped well before we went to bed, and that was the last of the rain until we were literally feet away from the car on the way out.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast (with some time to enjoy the views of Hannegan Pass and the little valley we were camping in), and broke camp well before our fellow hikers were rousing.

The hike from Boundary Camp to Egg Lake, our next camp site (really for the next two nights) was a short 3.5 mile hike, but it had a good bit of elevation change. We got in around noon, so we set up our tents, enjoyed a light lunch, and promptly took some naps. We woke up and decided to give Egg Lake a swim. At 5200 ft. in elevation, Egg Lake is a sub-alpine jewel. In the sun it was an iridescent green/blue with a bit of rusty red around the edges. It was also (almost) snow-melt cold, which made for a very cold swim. A very short swim too! Technically "swim" is a bit strong, "dip" might be more appropriate. But hey, now I can say I've swum in an alpine lake!

Later that day I walked around the rim surrounding the lake looking for some interesting photos. There were some flowers up there that I thought were pretty, and it looks down on our camp site, almost dead center. Our spot was up on a cliff overlooking a valley headed to Canada, with a snow-melt river on one side and the Egg Lake runoff on the other. I don't think there was a better spot along the entire Copper Ridge Trail goes as far as views and comfortable breezes go.

The skies stayed clear and blue that first evening, with Mt. Shuksan looming (the giant in the middle) in the background. If you look closely, you'll see Mt. Baker in there too. 

This final photo (if it zooms in good you'll see what I'm talking about) was from the same spot as the flower photo above, just zoomed in. That camp site was awesome!

I'll share some more photos in my next post, but this should do for now. Thanks to Jeff for giving up some time with your family to come explore the rugged hinterlands of Washington with me. And thanks to Catherine for taking on the kids while we hiked through the wilderness.



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Clowning around

Yesterday was a date night, and Catherine let me pick. So I picked a brewpub in Olympia that I wanted to try some of their beer (delicious!). Oh, and the garlic parmesan pub fries were really good too!

We had a wedding to go to today up by the Airport. Afterwards a lady came around with a goody basket of toys for the kids. Ian picked a kaleidoscope, which I eventually placed in front of my iPhone camera lens for some solid fun.

First it was Catherine's turn, but that photo didn't turn out too well. Then Ian, and then Leah.

I managed to get Catherine in front of the camera again, and I'm glad she did.

Once we got home I decided to take some photos of the kids all dressed up. Only they weren't really in the mood for that.

I got one semi-nice one of Ian smiling, but it is a (forced) school class photo smile, so I thought I'd put up the other Ian. The one who can't wait to get his shower and climb into his Captain America pajamas (we match!).

Leah is always willing to smile for the camera. Today was no different. Cheers,