17 June 2011

family vacation & a few things learned along the way

Well, we took our first real family vacation a few weeks ago.  We went to beautiful Winthrop Washington and spent as much time relaxing in the sunshine and eating to our hearts content as we did playing outside and working hard.

The original plan had included a trip to Moab, UT where we went three years ago and really enjoyed the biking, hiking and change of scenery and weather.  We even had a great place booked but as the date loomed ever closer we realized how potentially miserable a 1,000 mile road trip could be with a 13 month old.  Then came the search to find a suitable place that wouldn't require 2 days of driving.  We wanted a place that could offer us great things to do outside (biking & hiking), sunshine and a place that we could stay with the dogs.  I considered and researched many places (Hood River, OR; Bend, OR; Boise, ID, etc.).  Finally a friend suggested Winthrop.  It was much closer (only about a 3 hour drive-150 miles or so) and typically good weather for this time of year and many options for biking & hiking.  Once we nailed down a place to stay with the dogs, we just waited for Highway 20 to open for the season.  It got down to the wire but everything was a go.

Day 1:
When we headed out on a Wednesday morning, things didn't look promising.  There was a lot of rain on the drive and looming storm clouds above.  Then as we wound up the highway towards the pass the snow was piled up on either side.  I began to wonder if I had made a mistake.  But then after beginning to wind back down the other side, I saw that all was not lost and the greater part of a sunny day lay ahead.

We arrived in early afternoon after leisurely driving Highway 20 from Bellingham, stopping at Que Car BBQ (delicious homemade honey BBQ sauce, and barbecued pork sandwiches).  We checked into our cabin on the north side of town and decided to head into "downtown" Winthrop to get the lay of the land.  Winthrop is an "old West" styled downtown with wooden sidewalks and mid to late 1800's styled architecture (most of it really is that old).  The downtown has several restaurants, gift shops and even a gas station (reminds me of Jacksonville, Or near where I grew up).  We headed over to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery for an afternoon pint and a snack.

ESB & IPA- some of our favorites!

Aven, playing the drums on the table.

After sufficiently christening their floor with food castoffs of all kinds ( and the first of many throughout the next few days), we headed out for our first hike of the trip.  Went up to the Sun Mountain Trails and took the doggies out for a much needed 4 mile hike while Aven caught some snoozes and Abe and I enjoyed the beautiful view and completely deserted trail.

There were so many unique and beautiful wildflowers growing along this hillside we were hiking along.  It was nice to get to see some new flowers & plants.

After all of this we headed to local favorite and staple since 1982, the Duck Brand restaurant.  We had a great dinner and got 2 slices of pie to go and headed back to the cabin for our first night.

Day 2:
Well, traveling with a child had many learning moments and our breakfast on day 2 was no exception.  It started with a hungry baby, a hungry mommy and an un-caffeinated Dad.  If you are not able to do the math, this can equal a real disaster in a restaurant.  Needless to say, we all survived and got going with an exciting day of adventures.  We headed up to the Sun Mountain trails again.  This time Abe and I split up.  Abe and Eleanor went mountain biking and I took Aven in my pack and headed out on the trails.  Save for a few mosquitoes and one or two bike riders, we again had the trails to ourselves.  There was a lovely breeze and I enjoyed the relatively smooth and easy trails.  We met back at the car and changed our plans from snacks at the cabin to Abe's revised plan: "take me straight to the brewery!"

We drove down the road about 7 miles to nearby Twisp and sat outside at the Methow Valley Brewing Company.  It was the perfect afternoon.  After a good hike and bike ride, we enjoyed sitting on the patio right next to the river soaking up the sun, enjoying a few pints and a delicious meal and taking in the relaxing and quiet weekday afternoon.  Abe kept saying: "this is the life; I could get used to this!"

Day 3:
The next day started out a lot more promising including a much more satisfying breakfast to kick off the day.  We went to nearby Sunflower Cafe and had some delicious Mushroom, Feta Quiche and an amazing Strawberry Scone with whole strawberries in it.  None of that spot-o-jelly type thing you typically find.  After our leisurely breakfast outside (I loved that just about every place there had outdoor seating available), we headed back to the cabin for Aven's nap and some rest and relaxation for the parents.  We sat on our cabin porch, read for hours and relaxed.  It was awesome.
One of my favorite pics from the trip, Aven playing with some
pinecones in the grassy area outside our cabin.  It was so cute.

In the later afternoon, we headed out for some more adventures outside.  Abe went to Buck Lake trail and met up with an outdoor rep who he ended up riding with.  I took the girls (Aven, Eleanor & Ethel) and we headed out to Falls Creek Falls.  After we hiked the initial 1/2 mile of relatively flat and paved trail we arrived at a misty and beautiful waterfall.  I noticed that there was a trail wrapping around off to the right so we headed on for more adventure.  We didn't make our way all the way to the end of the trail because Ethel pooped out and we had to leave her halfway on the trail but we did wind our way back closer to the start of the waterfall.  It was beautiful and again so nice to be in the warm outdoors.

After meeting up with Abe we hit up the brewery again for another delicious meal.  This time it was Friday night and the Methow Valley Brewery was hopping.  We voted again to dine outside and enjoy the river going by.  Aven caught the attention of many other diners and wait staff when after devouring most of her beans and rice she smeared it across her forehead in battle like fashion.  We could have been uptight and wiped it off immediately;  but this isn't our style- instead we let her enjoy it, grabbed the camera and shot some pics.  What a little cutie.

Day 5:
The last day had us planning for yet another kid-friendly strategy.  I voted for a family hike after breakfast, back to the cabin for Aven's nap and lunch and then splitting up for the late afternoon; Abe would bike and I would hike.  Well, to go along with the title, the best laid plans especially when it comes to kids, often fail.  It started out with a slow start in the morning....followed by a longer drive up a dirt road and then.....
A tree across the road made us stop in our tracks, literally!  We climbed out and loaded up Aven in the backpack just to see how much farther the trailhead would be.  It was really just around the corner so we started the trek up the hill.  I should mention here that I didn't do any research about how long this hike would be, the elevation, elevation gain or difficulty.  It just sounded nice: Copper Glance Lake.  Well, had we made it there it probably would have been.  We hiked a ways and then came across a wide creek with a collapsed bridge.  Abe offered to ford the freezing creek, carry the dogs and Aven across to continue on.  I didn't know how much farther we had to go or if there would be additional creek crossings so I chickened out.  I was a bit sad but the trek had already taken much longer than I thought and we hadn't brought any snacks with us.  So, we turned around and headed back.

After a late afternoon nap for Aven and Mommy back at the cabin, we headed out on our last outdoor adventure.  While it was scenic and beautiful it was a rather boring walk along a meadow and out to a river.  The mosquitoes were out in full force along with their other insect friends and the monotony of the flat land got to us at the end of a long day.  We wrapped up the evening with a truly delicious gourmet pizza at East 20 Pizza and of course, the water of vacation life: beer.  Luckily this place was across the parking lot from our cabin so when Aven started getting cranky at the end of the meal (it was after her bedtime) I just walked her over and got her ready for bed.

Day 5:

Would be a great Subaru commercial!

On the last day, we woke up when the baby did and got ourselves packed up for the journey home.  The sun was out, the pass was beautiful and we felt unhurried as we made our way back home.  It was a lovely day and we even had a chance to relax at home and get a hike in at home before the end of the day.

The Highlights & Lessons Learned:
  • Going on a trip with a baby can force you to relax- there are lots of naps involved in their day, they tend to like to go to bed early and they will always make you late (it can make you anxious or you can let things go). 
  • If you want to have a nightlife with a one year old on vacation, you'll be sorely disappointed.
  • Trying to plan your day around the moods and naps of a kiddo can be really challenging.
  • Spending time with your family is some of the best time you can have
  • Be flexible, always!
  • Never pass up a good cup of coffee, fresh homemade pastries or a great microbrew
  • Be adventurous, often it will pay off.
  • Take lots of pictures, even the ones that will embarass your kids later (Aven discovered how much fun it is to play naked after your bath or shower- we have some super cute pics of her being silly in the buff)
  • Trader Joes is awesome - be sure to load up on snacks for the car ride
  • If man can live on bread alone, then why can't babies live on beans & rice, honey wheat pretzels and dried cherries?

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