Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snowshoeing in the Olympic National Park

While you lightweights were reeling from 4-6 inches of snow this past week, we didn't even make the news with 2-3 FEET in the mountains! Okay, so all we had was a bunch of wind and rain where we live, but the mountains did get a bunch of snow.

And nothing screams "snowshoe!" like 2-3 feet of new snow. So I packed up the kids and we headed to the Olympic National Park, up to Hurricane Ridge. The place lived up to its name.

We didn't actually get to do a whole bunch of snowshoeing mostly because of the wind. There were loads of skiers and snowboarders out, just not too many seven and eight year olds braving the wind. 

All in all we spent about 2-3 hours on the mountain. As soon as we drove about a mile down from Hurricane Ridge, the sun started to come out, but that was just at the lower elevations. All of the taller mountains were swathed in clouds. Oh, and that little A-frame building - that entrance is the second floor entrance.



Monday, February 18, 2013

The Skinners go skiing!!!!

I finally took the kids skiing! And holy cow did we have a good time.

We are so blessed to have friends spread out all over the world, but this time around it is because of our friends who live in Sandpoint, Idaho. Dan works winters at the ski resort, so we totally lucked out with discounts on the rentals and lessons - plus we stayed at their place so housing was taken care of too. Basically it was an all-inclusive package. Dan is a fantastic snowboarder, and he graciously gave me a great tour of Schweitzer.

Basically, the place is huge. Over 3,000 acres of front-country terrain, the overwhelming majority of which is skiable. Dan and I took off for an early start which gave us several hours on the mountain to get in some skiing. Catherine, Leesa, and the kids showed up in time for lunch, and then it was lessons for the kids.

Leah decided she wanted to learn how to ski. And she was a natural! Ian decided he wanted to learn to snowboard. He had a bit more difficult of a time, but at the end he said he had a great time "shredding the slopes". The smiles they both wore after showing us what they had learned was priceless. I have two new skiing/snowboarding buddies; and it looks like I'll have to learn snowboarding too to keep up with Ian.

While the kids were in lessons, Catherine and Leesa enjoyed some wine, cheese, and conversation. Dan and I headed back up the mountain and I got to do what I've wanted to do since my Ohio skiing days: ski some trees. Dan told me the trick, which is to focus on your line through the trees not the trees themselves. I was slow, but it was a blast.

My thighs were burning on some of the longer runs, looks like I'll need to do some ski-specific training if I want to do more of this (and I do!!). The kids and I will have to look into some lessons and ski/board time at White Pass, our "local" ski resort.

A HUGE thank you to Leesa and Dan for your gracious hospitality! I hope we can do this again next ski season. Cheers,


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, part . . . I can't keep track anymore!

So, just a warning. Completely random photos ahead from our most recent trip to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (which is about 10 minutes away from our house). I didn't get any nice photos of the kids, so you'll just get to see what they got to see.

The sun broke through the clouds a bit this morning, so I thought it would be nice to take the kids for a nice walk through the Nisqually NWR. It was still a bit chilly, but still a very nice walk.

I had originally planned to take the kids out to the boardwalk, but a kind stranger told us there was a pair of Great Horned Owl chicks (owlets?) on the other side of the refuge. So we changed plans real quick and walked over that way.

Turns out, loads of other folks had heard all about it too. Which actually made it much easier for us to find the baby owls, since they were very well camouflaged. Someone had found either the mama or the papa a fair distance off in the woods.

The kids had a great time. I'm sure the volume of their voices practically scared the owls to death, but most of the people around us (and there were a lot) seemed genuinely happy about the children's enthusiasm. The staff had a spotting scope that the kids got to look through, which to them was the bees knees! They also spotted a couple of bald eagles, the other birds photographed above, and some fairly significant beaver activity - not to mention a gaggle of geese, a raft of ducks, and some ill-tempered squirrels. All in all, a nice day for a walk.



Sunday, February 3, 2013

Winter Camping at Mt. Rainier

I have the best wife in the world - she stayed home with the kids while I went traipsing about and sleeping in the snow at Mt. Rainier National Park. I totally lucked out on the weather, it snowed (about three feet) at Rainier this past week and then gave us sunshine for Saturday! My campsite was a short 20-30 minute walk from the parking area. They say location is everything, well I think I picked a great spot here.

Along the walk in I came across this great little snow field where no one had walked or skied through (yet). The lines from the melting snow really added some visual interest to the smooth mounds of snow with the tops of the trees breaking through.

After setting up camp a little after lunch, I walked up from the Paradise Valley up to Mazama Ridge. I had about three hours to just wander around up their, looking for where I wanted to photograph sunset. I picked one place, but with another couple of hours to wait, I decided to keep looking. I ultimately picked a hilltop, which I recognized from an earlier trip (next to last photo, the hilltop on the left). I waited a good bit for sunset, but ultimately it was worth it.

This isn't my favorite photo from the trip, just my favorite of the ones not requiring much work in Photoshop.

For those of you that are curious - I don't know why I waited so long to go winter camping! Yes, it was chilly. But according to the thermometer in my watch, my tent interior stayed about 36F. I didn't loose any fingers or toes, no avalanches swept me off the mountain, and no bears awakened from hibernation to eat me as a wintertime snack. I brought plenty of food and warm gear, and I chose a weekend when the weather was great (upper 40's on Mazama in the sun). There were very few bugs (yes, I saw two bugs crawling on the snow, no idea what they were doing) and once the sun started to set, I felt like I had the park to myself. I had a great time, and I can't wait to go again.

Have a wonderful day!