Friday, December 28, 2012

Higgens Point Eagle Watching, Lake Coeur d' Alene

The day after Christmas we went with Brenda and the boys to Higgins Point on Coeur d' Alene Lake. Every year at this time the kokanee salmon are spawning which brings hundreds of bald eagles here on their migration. Higgins Point is a where the centennial trail ends and a great park to hike around near the water and watch the eagles.

It was one of the most increadible sights I have ever seen. These massive and majestic birds owning the sky, trees and water. We spotted at least 10 eagles in trees and even more flying in the distant skies. I wish a had a better photo of the eagles, this one above has 5 in the same tree. The picture does not do the incredible sight justice.  But we had binoculars and they were all so close and fun to watch. We even got so see many go swooping down over the lake surface, snatch a fish, and fly back up to the branches to devour its prey. Under the trees where the eagles were, the ground was littered with fish heads, it was so cool. I have never seen anything like it! Matthew, the nature expert of the group told us many facts about eagles to make the trip even more exciting. Here is more info on the birds that come every season if anyone is interested.

It was a fun day! The Lucas family are just full of fun ideas, we are so grateful to have them close to show us the outdoor recreation in the area. We came home to Cheney and now we are all sick! Erik and I have had bad colds for several days, but now poor little Tate is sick too! This is the first time she had ever gotten sick. I can't think of anything worse as a parent to see you little one suffering and there isn't much you can do. Typical holiday. . . the whole family sick as dogs!

Tate's first Christmas: English Point and Hayden Lake Sportsmans Park

This year we had Christmas on our own. This was the first time we weren't visiting either or our parents for the holidays. After being apart all Fall, and the stress of moving we just wanted to be together. Traveling seemed like more stress than we wanted. As the holiday approached I worried that I would get really homesick, but I didn't at all. We actually had a great time starting traditions together and it was a wonderful Christmas.

Christmas Eve we spent in the kitchen making treats and food for the following day. We had a big mexican feast, just like the Nevitt's do every C Eve, had a nice fire and watched Elf by the light of the Christmas tree.

On Christmas morning it was so much fun waking Tate and bringing her in for her first Christmas. The best surprise was that one of Santas helpers snuck into our kitchen in the middle of the night and did the huge stack of dishes I had left from the day before. The kitchen was squeaky clean. No mom could ask for a better Christmas miracle. Thanks hubby!

We opened our stockings from Grandma & Grandpa Rasmussen. That was Tate's favorite part, she loved that more and more goodies kept being pulled out of that magical red stocking. Erik says his favorite memory from the day was Tate's face when we put the stocking in front of her. Such excitement! Erik and I both got each other boots. I got him a nice snow boot and he got me a new pair of hiking boots. Aren't we romantic? Tate got a big set of wooden blocks and some clothes from Santa  and a new pair of beautiful Nike tennis shoes from Nana and Feller. She has been playing with the bows on the presents all December, I think she will be sad to see those go.

After presents we heard a rumor that the Lucas's all got snowshoes for Christmas, so we headed up to Hayden, ID to help them try them out. Erik had made a neat device to pull Gavin in a sled and we wanted to try it out. We went to English Point on Hayden Lake, but there was not enough snow to use them! We all put the shoes on, that takes time let me tell you. And then after walking for only 30 feet or so, Brenda stepped in a massive dog poo and it was clear than there wasn't enough snow to use the shoes. So we ended up just hiking on muddy trails instead. It was still fun for Erik and I, trying out new trails, but I think the boys were not pleased with the outcome. Oh well, we tried. Jackson described the hike well, "we could have just done that in our backyard!"


Next we headed out to the Sportsman's Park. I really nice picnic area on Hayden Lake. The lake was partially frozen over so we threw rocks as high as we could to see if we could get them to break through the ice.  We were surprised how few actually broke through. It was a gorgeous spot and lots of fun.

By now we were a hungry bunch so we headed back to the Lucas's for a big Christmas dinner. Ham, potatoes, bacon wrapped green beans, rolls, and sour cream apple pie for dinner. After dinner we sat by the fire and read some of grandma Rasmussen's Christmas memories. She had compiled them into a big book. My favorite thing was learning about the big tradition that stockings are in the Rasmussen family and reading about memories Jane had over the years of making and filling those stockings each Christmas. So much fun, we were grateful to have some family near by to spend the day with.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mt Tahoma Trails, Backcountry Hut to Hut Snowshoe, Cascades

It's that time of year again. Christmas Adventure time! Every Christmas Erik and I head out into the wild wilderness to create some memories. Last year this time I was prego and we were backpacking in the Grand Canyon. This year we have a new little baby and we had to adjust our typical trip just a little.

We are up here in the great state of Washington now and we really haven't had a chance to explore yet. So we thought it might be fun to head over to Rainier to do some snowshoeing. Well, after searching the internet, making plans on where we would go, we came across the Mt. Tahoma Tail Association. North Americas largest no fee cross country ski/snowshoe hut to hut system. This looked like a perfect option to take the baby into a backcounty setting in the winter time and still have a warm place to sleep at night. Tons of solitude and views and a warm bed by the stove? Can't get any better than that.

So we set out across the state. The weather forecast did not look good. Storm Draco was pounding the northwest with snow. We were a little worried taking the baby into those conditions so we thought we would just go to the trail head and scope it out.  Well like most things in the News, the conditions had been exaggerated, and it was snowing, but things looked decent.

We got a late start the first day, we had to wait for the road to the trail head to be plowed. So we did have some indecision at one point after we were 2 miles in and it was clear we would probably have several hours of snowshoeing in the dark before we made it to the hut. (It gets dark in WA at 4 pm) Tate was sleeping in the carrier and when Erik felt her cheek it was really cold. He said right then and there that we were turning back. Luckily right then Tate woke up and was fine and comfortable. After some debate we felt confident that we could make it in the dark no problem. We even stopped along the trail and I fed Tate in the cold and snow. We added one more layer to cover her whole body and that kept her face and cheeks much warmer. Erik had a nice backpacking chair we set on the back of his snowshoes and we wrapped up in the scooter skirt. I have nursed Tate in some rugged conditions, but this was intense with the snow coming down. It is a motherhood moment I am proud of.

We made it to the hut about 7 pm. Did I say hut? Turns out they are really more like cabins. We went to the Bruni Snow Bowl hut the first night, this is the first season this brand new nut has been in use, the old one in this location burned down several years back.

It was so nice! A big kitchen, family room and stove, and a massive sleep loft upstairs. We shared the hut with two great women and their sons. They were locals who come up every year. We could not have asked for better company. They LOVED having Tate there and played with her nonstop. They even wanted her in all their pictures. (Who wouldn't) The hut was at the top of a ridge that was supposed to have amazing views of Rainier, but it was cloudy and snowing so we couldn't see anything, but the forest was beautiful and we loved the area. Our hut mates said we probably would not see the big mountain in December so we didn't get our hopes up.

The next day we took our time packing up, we only had to go 3 miles this day to the next hut. We bundled up the little one and headed up to the High Hut. It was still snowing, not much for views, but the tranquility of the forest was amazing. I have never seen forest as dense as in the Cascades, it was unbelievable. Our spirits were so high and we were just loving every step.

As we climbed up to the mountain top where the high hut was we were shocked by the huge snow drifts. It had dumped several feet of snow in the past few days. The wind picked up there too, visibility was not that great. This is a typical view that one might see as they approach the High Hut. This is what we could see. Sweet right? There was a ton of snow.

It was warm and cozy and much more rustic than the Snow Bowl hut. We loved it. That night as Erik was out shoveling snow and I was nursing Tate by the fire in the dark, all the clouds rolled out and I got my first glimpse of the big mountain, valley floor, and Seattle way off in the distance. I have never seen anything like it. A massive snow covered beast looming over us in the dark. It was a moment I will never forget. That is why we get outdoors; for transceding moments like that. Just me, baby and the view. Great night. I wish I could have captured it in a photo, but it was too dark. This is not my photo, but one that another hiker took from the high hut. just to give you an idea of the view we had.

We thought we might have the hut to ourselves until about 9pm three guys from the ski patrol showed up. It was so much fun sitting around the fire listening to them tell stories. The next morning clouds rolled in and the view of the mountain was gone. But we have great views of the valley and surrounding hills.

Tate loves her camping PJ's with the moose on it. She also loves all of our gear. Hopfully there is a future backpacker in her.

We packed up and said goodbye to the high hut. So much fun.  We headed back to civilization. It was a gorgeous day. By the time we were back to the trailhead the snow at those lower elevations was melting and we had some great views of the green forest.

What a wonderful place. We were really pleased with how happy Tate was the whole time. (Well, not the whole time, she hates the car) This may become a tradition to do this every year. But for now, we are back in Cheney for the holiday, this will be the first time Erik and I aren't at one of our parents for Christmas. We are so excited to start our own traditions and celebrate with our happy baby girl.