South Cascades Loop - Day 1

As we round the corner at Sunrise
Point, five snow-covered mountains all come into view – Mount Baker, Glacier
Peak, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and of course, the breathtaking giant that the
park we are in is so aptly named after: Mount Rainier. The drive up to Sunrise
is beautiful, but the sight of the wildflower-covered meadows of Yakima Park
and Emmons Glacier glistening in the background – well, that sight is beyond
comparison. This was Ryder’s first trip to Sunrise, and when we pulled him out
of his car seat and showed him the massive, snow-covered beauty that loomed in
the near distance, his eyes filled with excitement as he pointed at the
mountain and giggled with glee. You see, the mountains are where the three of
us feel the most at home, so when Ryder realized where our Subaru had taken us,
he was overwhelmed with happiness… which is exactly how Andy and I feel every
time we leave our home head west toward the Cascades.   

After a quick “tailgate” snack, the
three of us went for a hike past purple wildflowers and vibrant green grass
taller than Ryder. Birds chirped and flew above us and grasshoppers jumped and
danced at our feet (probably Ryder’s favorite part of our visit) as we strolled
down the path, in search of a short, morning adventure at the base of one of
Washington’s most beautiful peaks. 

As Ryder’s morning naptime
descended upon us, we made our way back to the car, loaded up and headed down
the mountain, hoping that our little man would get a good snooze in before we made
it to our next destination: Crystal Mountain. Upon arriving at the base area at
Crystal, Andy and I ate our lunches and relaxed in the car while Ryder slept
soundly in the back seat. Once he awoke from his morning slumber, we packed up
our adventure gear and strolled over to the base of the Mt. Rainier Gondola.
This would be Ryder’s second trip up this mountain via gondola ride, and boy
was he stoked! He wanted to look at everything, out every window, all at once.
The tree tops below us, the airplanes flying in the distance, the mountains
that surrounded us on all sides, beckoning us to explore - he couldn’t get
enough of the world around him from this spectacular vantage point in the sky.

Once we got to the top of the
mountain, we hiked around a few nearby trails and couldn’t help but shoot some
photos of the beautiful mountains that surrounded us on all sides – including
the mountain we were just up close and personal with: Mt. Rainier. After a bit
of hiking and exploring, we walked up to the Summit House, Washington’s highest
elevation dining at 6,872 feet. Sitting at one of their rustic outdoor wooden
tables, we enjoyed the sunshine and breathtaking views with our beverages of
choice in hand, watching the little birds flutter from tree to tree, hoping to
nab a treat from one of the many guests on the patio.

Soon it was time to head down the
mountain and begin our drive to Enumclaw, the next stop on our South Cascade
Loop adventure. Another ride in the car rocked Ryder to sleep once again as
Andy and I took in the natural beauty that lined both sides of the highway all
the way into town. Upon arriving in Enumclaw, we checked into our hotel and
then headed out on foot to see some of the sites. Our first stop was to
Washington’s Logging Legacy Memorial Park to see the beautiful sculpture that
resides there and to honor all of the loggers and animals that lost their lives
while logging in the Pacific Northwest. Our next stop was the Pie Goddess - to
appease our tummies and our taste buds by having a bit of pre-dinner dessert
(because who can say no to a delicious slice of homemade peach pie before

After a brief stroll around town
with Ryder, we found ourselves at Kelly’s Mercantile, our dinner destination…
and let me tell you, after a day of adventures in the mountains, this was just
what the doctor ordered. Amazing farm to table food, tasty wine and some of the
friendliest, kindest and most welcoming restaurant staff, owners and customers
(the little girl from the table next to us played with Ryder for quite some
time!) that we have ever met, we would have loved to take the entire
establishment back home with us! But an unforgettable evening out after a
memorable day in the mountains with our little munchkin was more than we could
have ever asked for, so with full bellies and tired eyes, we strolled back to
our hotel and hit the hay, for tomorrow would be another day of adventure, and
we needed all the rest we could get.

South Cascades Loop - Day 2

As I stood on the dock with Ryder on my back and Andy by my
side, I gazed out at the beautiful green trees reflecting on the lake, thinking
to myself how lucky we were to be there in that exact moment, when everything
seemed so absolutely perfect. We were at Nolte State Park, enjoying a moment of
peace and reflection at Deep Lake before we began a sun-filled morning hike together
on one of Enumclaw’s best training spots.

greenery and intertwined trees and vines welcomed us as we began our walk
around the lake. We ran up the rolling hills and skipped down the other side,
all to the sounds of Ryder making his usual motorcycle revving noises over my
shoulder (his indication that he wanted me to go faster). But a wooden bridge
over a picturesque babbling brook stopped us in our tracks and gave us a chance
to show Ryder yet another wondrous aspect of our morning nature trek. Pretty
soon, the fresh air coupled with the motion rocked our little munchkin to sleep
and Andy and I were given some time together, to reminisce about the prior day
and to plan the rest of the adventures that the next few days would bring.

After the
hike, we hit up Tracy’s Roadside Produce for fresh, locally grown veggies, on
our way back to Enumclaw. Once back in town, we were in need of a snack and a
little pick-me up, so we stopped in at The Local – to snag a coffee for me, a
mango smoothie for Andy and a cold cup of milk for Ryder. We relaxed in their
big comfy chairs for a while, then decided to walk around town, and enjoy the
many cute, locally owned shops that lined both sides of Cole Street.

Lunchtime took us to the Foothills
Trail where we had a picnic and then took off on a short mountain bike ride
with Ryder. A full tummy followed by a warm afternoon ride on mommy’s back and
our lil’ man was conked out once again. We rode back to the Subaru, and after pulling
Ryder out of his pack, I couldn’t help but enjoy a few minutes of snuggle time with
him before putting him into his car seat. Once the bikes were secured to our
rack, we hopped into the Subaru and headed towards Skamania, our next adventure

After exiting off of I-5 and
heading east on State Route 14, we were in awe of the never-ending beauty that
welcomed us around every corner as we wound our way along the Columbia River.
And as the sun began to set, and a rainbow of colors started to spread across
the sky we arrived at the Cape Horn Overlook – and boy, was that a breathtaking
sight to see. Ryder’s eyes glistened with joy as he gazed upon the Columbia
River as the sun slowly set in the distance. It was another amazing end to
another epic day on the South Cascade Loop… and we all couldn’t wait to see
what the next day would bring.

South Cascades Loop - Day 3

With a steaming cup of coffee in my hand, and a blanket
wrapped around my shoulders, I sat on the deck of the Ranch House at Wind
Mountain Ranch and watched the sun slowly come up in the distance. Puffs of
purple and pink clouds dotted the sky as cool, fresh country air filled my
lungs – and I couldn’t wait to get out for my first morning adventure. Since
the boys were still sleeping, I laced up my running shoes and started up the
nearby road that led to the trailhead for the Wind Mountain Trail. After a few
miles of climbing and taking in the epic views, I decided to call it a morning
and head back to the Ranch to hang with the boys and get ready for our day in

To start
our day off right, we chose to have a big, hearty breakfast at Skamania Lodge.
We enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Columbia River while feeding Ryder his
first meal of French Toast (he loved it of course)! The late morning sunshine
took us outside where we checked out the tree houses, the Zipline, the High
Ropes Course and even watched a few golfers teeing off.

soon, the road was calling our name once again, so we hopped in the Subaru and made
the jaunt over to the Bonneville Dam Washington Shore Visitors Center. Inside,
Ryder was in awe as he watched all of the fish swim by in the underwater
viewing room. We then walked around the visitor center’s museum and read about some
of the local fishing history before we headed off to Stevenson for lunch and a
stroll around town.

Once in the
downtown corridor of Stevenson, we couldn’t help but stop in at Bigfoot Coffee
Roasters to show Ryder the wooden Sasquatch out front and to also grab some freshly
roasted java to brew once we got back home. After checking out a few shops, the
waterfront started calling our name so we walked down Russell Avenue and across
the railroad tracks to Teo Park – to watch the kite boarders, the wind surfers
and the float planes. Then a very delectable smell started wafting our way from
Clark and Lewie’s, a cute little restaurant right next to the park. We ordered
some food to go and had a picnic near the dock so that Andy and I could eat,
relax and explore the park at our leisure with Ryder in tow.

With a bit
of a drive ahead of us, we decided to load up and continue our journey east on
the South Cascade Loop. And as Ryder finally got a nap in for the day, Andy and
I enjoyed watching the landscapes slowly turn from lush, green landscapes to
the desert beauty that is eastern Washington – sagebrush, tall grasses and
those spectacular rocky walls and cliffs that are so breathtaking that they
don’t even look real. 

Once again,
as we pulled into our last stop for the day, the golden light of an impending
sunset welcomed us in. We parked our car, pulled Ryder out of his seat and
walked over to the Maryhill Stonehenge. Perched on a beautiful hillside,
overlooking the Columbia River, this astronomically aligned replica of the Stonehenge
built in England was a marvel not only for Ryder, but for Andy and I as well.
And as we stood next to it’s concrete megaliths and watched the sunset paint
the sky over the Columbia beautiful colors of the rainbow once again, Andy and
I looked at each other and smiled, because we knew that 10, 20, 30 years from
now, these are the moments that we would remember. And although neither of us
make millions, memories like these make us the richest parents in the