Salt Creek Camping!

We just finished unpacking from our 3rd camping trip to Salt Creek Recreation area (near Port Angeles, WA). I wanted to share about our trip in case anyone else is looking for a fun weekend camping trip in NW Washington! This is such a fun campground for kids since it has a playground, World War 2 bunkers, and endless tide pools to explore.

We left Bellingham early at 6:30am to catch the 8:45am ferry out of Coupeville. We arrived at Salt Creek around 10:30am and were able to snag a first-come, first-serve camp site (even though it was 4th of July weekend!). The campground has 92 sites and about half are reservable and half are first-come, first-served. (We’ve tried to get reservations before and have never had success, they are always really booked!)

We set up our tent and bug tent on Friday and took the kids down to the tide pools to explore. After a quick afternoon nap, the kids took their strider bikes to explore the World War 2 bunkers (previously Camp Hayden) and went to the playground. The campground also has sand volleyball courts, horse-shoe pits, a basketball court, and a baseball field! Camping at Salt Creek is $32/night and they only accept cash or check. There are both pit toilets and flush toilets depending on how far you want to walk from your camp site!

Saturday we spent the day in Olympic National Park. We did a 3.2 mile hike to the top of Hurricane Hill. The 360 views form the top are incredible! We picked up Junior Ranger booklets from the ranger station which the kids worked on while we were in the park and at the campsite the next morning. We have an annual National Park pass, otherwise the entry fee would be $30 for Olympic National Park. Hurricane Hill is paved the entire way so would be accessible for a stroller or technically a wheelchair – but you would want to make sure you had really good brakes on the wheelchair since it has 650 feet of elevation gain.

Sunday we packed up our campsite and spent the afternoon biking the Olympic Discovery Trail in Port Angeles. This trail is 135 miles long between Port Townsend and La Push. Around 90 miles of the trail has been developed into a paved path and I think they are working on completing more of it. We biked 10 beautiful miles along the water! We also stopped by the Olympic National Park Visitor Center to turn in the kids’ Junior Ranger packets to get their Junior Ranger badges!

I totally recommend Salt Creek for a weekend trip! None of us got a single mosquito bite which was a nice surprise! It was a lot foggier/cooler at our campsite and about 2 minutes after we drove out of the park it was totally blue skies and sunny!

This trip was kind of a trial run for a much longer camping trip we have planned later this summer. We were using our 6-person tent for the first time and hadn’t used any of our camping equipment since last fall. Happy Camping!

Centennial Trail Bike Ride!

The nice weather of summer/fall seems to be coming to an end, but there are plenty of outdoor things to do in late fall/winter! We recently biked a good chunk of the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County.

North Trailhead (do not recommend that port-a-potty though!)

It is a little bit of a drive to get there (about an hour from Bellingham), but it is a 30-mile (one way), completely paved and off the road biking trail! It is perfect for kids! Our kids are not very confident on bikes yet so Seth still tows them in our bike trailer (close to 100 pounds!)

We biked from the Nakashima Heritage Barn to Arlington and back to the Nakashima Barn/North trailhead for a total of about 18 miles round-trip. The trail goes right by Twin Rivers Park in Arlington which is a great stop if it isn’t too busy. There is a big playground there with an awesome splash pad open during the summer.

To get to the park entrance, take exit 208 for SR 530 toward Arlington. After 3.7 miles, turn left on to SR 9 (this is an easy turn to miss on your way home). After 7.7 miles the trail head is on the left!

The whole path is so peaceful and beautiful. It would be great for walking a dog or running too if you were not wanting to go as far.

With so many things likely being closed down this winter, hopefully this gives you another idea for getting outside!

My parents came along too!

We have been wearing neck gaiters while biking because they are easier than a mask to take on and off quickly when passing others!

5 Day Car Camping Meal Plan

Camping food can be so delicious and it also can be a big disaster. We have car camped enough to have experienced both. We were really happy with our meals on our Teton trip so I thought I would share them to give you ideas for future car camping trips!

When I planned our Teton trip, I tried to choose meals with a minimum amount of refrigeration requirements. We have a big Yeti cooler which is great, but with the temperatures reaching 90+ outside, our cooler just baked inside the bear box and needed the ice refilled about every other day. I mainly wanted to use our cooler for the kids’ milk, eggs, and cheese sticks.

We’ve also tried cooking over the fire many times and have never had a lot of success. We finally bought a double-burner propane stove and it has been a GAME CHANGER for our camping meals! We also have a griddle that fits right on top of the two burners for pancakes, bacon, etc. Now we mostly just use the fire for s’mores after dinner is all cleaned up!

Breakfast was the same each day: a hard boiled egg for each person and a bowl of plain quick-cook oats sweetened with honey. Lunch was also the same every day: peanut butter and jam sandwiches, cheese sticks, and apples. We would pack our lunches as we were cleaning up breakfast to avoid hauling all our cooking supplies out again at lunch.

Dinners:

Day 1: Kodiak Cakes pancakes, bacon, and hash browns. This was the only meal we regretted a little because the bacon was SO greasy/messy and we had to be really careful how we cooked and cleaned up since there were bears in our camp twice while we were there. The Kodiak cakes are awesome because you just have to mix them with water and they have a decent amount of protein. Costco has awesome dehydrated hash brown cartons that you just add water and fry right up!

Day 2: Spaghetti and (pre-cooked) Sausage: I brought spaghetti noodles, a can of sauce, and pre-cooked sausage. If I made this at home, I would have just used regular sausage, but since we were camping I wanted already cooked sausage (kept in the cooler, of course) to add an extra layer of food safety.

Day 3: Quesadillas with chicken and black beans: These were SO easy, I actually make these at home for dinner sometimes (with freshly cooked chicken). I just mixed up canned chicken, black beans, cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce and put it in a tortilla. I fried them dry on the griddle for about 2 minutes on each side! The kids had just plain quesadillas!

Day 4: Breakfast Burritos: I made scrambled eggs and we added cheese, the rest of the sausage from day 2, a new batch of hash browns, and salsa!

Day 5: Chili: Towards the end of the week I really wasn’t wanting to rely on our cooler anymore, so we had a can of chili and added tortilla chips and cheddar cheese on top.

We also had two days worth of Mountain House meals on standby just in case one of the meals wouldn’t have worked out for some reason!

There was no dishwashing station at our campground so our dual dish containers were fantastic for doing dishes after eating! We boiled water in our kettle to have hot water for washing the dishes.

When I was researching camping meals, there were some crazy gourmet recipes out there that I wouldn’t even make at home – much less camping! We like to keep things pretty simple when we car camp! Let me know if you have any other easy go-to camping meals!

7 Days in Grand Teton National Park!

First of all, I would HIGHLY recommend Grand Teton National Park for a family camping trip! It was gorgeous, not crowded, had perfect weather, and very few bugs! This was our first real family vacation since two years ago when the kids were diagnosed and it was basically everything we dreamed of!

The kids earned their Junior Ranger badges!

Day 1: We left at 8am Friday morning and drove 15 hours straight to Jenny Lake. Seth REALLY wanted to camp at Jenny Lake after doing extensive research on the park and learning that it was the most popular spot. The whole campground is first-come first-serve so he wanted to be first in line to get a spot. We lost an hour driving (due to time zone change) and spent a total of about 60 minutes stopping for gas/food/bathroom. Our kids did awesome in the car playing with dollar store toys that I got the day before. They had a total of about 2 hours of iPad time during the 15 hour drive.

We arrived at Jenny Lake at 2am Mountain Time and we were SECOND in line for a campsite which just completely blew my mind. Who are these people?? The next people pulled behind us in line at 2:45am! We slept in the car for about 5 hours and then at 8am got what I would argue to be the very best spot in the whole campground! (Spot #7)

This was the view from our campsite

Day 2: We were obviously pretty tired from our drive and short night. The people in spot 7 didn’t leave until their checkout time of 11am so we drove around getting a $12 permit for our inflatable raft and boat inspection and buying our National Park Pass since the booth was closed when we arrived at 2am. At 11am we set up camp and Oliver and I took an amazing 2 hours nap! Seth took Eliza swimming in Jenny lake which was about a 2 minute walk away from our campground.

Our wonderful campsite! Our tent is peeking through the trees and our eating area is to the right.

Day 3: We got up in the morning totally refreshed and went on a 16 mile bike ride. Grand Teton National Park has an amazing bike trail separate from the road that has incredible views. We got ice cream and headed back to the campsite. In the afternoon we took our inflatable raft across Jenny Lake and Eliza got to swim some more! A bear walked right through our campground!

The bike path was so pretty!

Day 4: We headed out in the morning for a hike around Moose Pond. This hike was 4.5 miles total which was a little more than our kids could handle in 85 degree weather and we were running out of water so when we got to a parking lot area around mile 3.5, Seth ran back to the campsite and got the car to bail us out for the last mile. They hiked almost all of the first 3.5 miles though! In the afternoon we relaxed at the campsite.

Moose Pond Trail

Day 5: We took our boat down the Snake river! There are multiple sections of varying difficulty and we did the “beginner” which moved at about the pace of a lazy river. Seth locked his bike at the exit area so when we were done rafting he biked back to get the car from the start to pick us up. Both kids fell asleep in the raft and we were able to see lots of fish and birds from our boat! It took about 3.5 hours to go 5 miles down the river. After the river we stopped at Mormon Row which is a collection of historic houses and barns. We saw prairie dogs and even bison off in the distance.

View from Snake River
Mormon Row

Day 6: This was probably my favorite day! We took the boat out to String and Leigh Lake. String Lake is only about 4 feet deep all the way across so the water is really warm and totally clear! The water is fed through a stream and drains to another lake so it wasn’t murky and gross or anything. Eliza swam and swam in String Lake and jumped off boulders. Seth paddled a total of about 9 miles. We portaged our raft about 100 yards between String and Leigh Lake. There was almost no one out on Leigh Lake, it was so peaceful!

The water in String Lake is really warm because it is only about 4ft deep the whole way across and the water is really clear!

Day 7: Our last full day we headed to Jackson Hole, WY which has similar vibes to Whistler, BC. We went up the gondola and did a 1.5 mile loop hike at the top of the ridge. The wildflowers were unbelievable. Eliza “ran out of energy” on her way up the 650 feet of elevation gain so Seth carried her a bit on the way up. Oliver was getting really close to nap time by the time we headed down so I carried him for the descent. Other than that the kids hiked on their own the whole way!

We gained 650 feet of elevation on this trail. We were so proud of the kids!

Day 8: We packed up camp and headed out by 9am. We drove through Yellowstone on our way out and we were SO glad we decided not to stay in Yellowstone. It was PACKED like Disneyland packed with people. The parking lot of Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Springs were both insane. We stopped briefly at Old Faithful to use the bathroom, but left once we saw how crazy it was. We did stop at Biscuit Basin, which was similar to Grand Prismatic Spring, but had way fewer people. Eliza was thrilled that she thought she got to see a “real volcano” when a geyser erupted. We drove about 11 hours today and stayed in a hotel in Missoula, MT.

Quick stop in Yellowstone!

Day 9: We would have just driven all the way home in one day, but Eliza had to have a COVID swab done in Seattle on Saturday afternoon so we drove from Missoula to Seattle for the swab and then back home to Bellingham! We were home by 4pm and almost all the way unpacked by 10pm!

The kids were FILTHY after not bathing for a week. This was only day 4 haha!

I’m going to write later about our meal plan for the trip, more tips for camping/hiking with kids, etc. but I think this is enough for now! I feel like the Grand Tetons get overshadowed a bit from being so close to Yellowstone but if you are headed that direction, definitely don’t skip over it! I just can’t recommend this national park enough!

Squires Lake Hike

We hiked another beautiful Pacific Northwest trail this past weekend! Squires Lake is located on Highway 99. It is just a couple minutes off Exit 242 on I-5. There is a small parking lot and additional parking on the wide gravel shoulder of the road. The parking lot also has a large, wheelchair-accessible port-a-potty. The trail is not wheelchair or even stroller friendly though!

I’ve seen mixed labels of how long this hike is. Washington Trails Association says it is 2.0 miles roundtrip with 200 feet of elevation. Alltrails says it is 1.4 miles with 350 feet of elevation. Seth had Strava going during the whole hike and it said that the trail was 2.5 miles roundtrip with 350 feet of elevation gain so I’m guessing that is the most close to accurate!

The first ¼ mile is uphill with switchbacks. Our kids (2 and 4) were able to go all the way up by themselves no problem though! Once we reached the lake it is a mostly flat trail around the lake. There is one decently sized hill up and down during the loop that our kids both wanted to be carried on towards the end.

There were streams, waterfalls, a few bridges, and lots of wildlife to see! The trail is dog-friendly and connects to several other trails if you wanted to make it a longer hike or a bigger loop.  Various places have benches at outlooks along the way. There were not many other people on the trail, even for a sunny Sunday afternoon!

Oliver’s fanny pack filled with snacks!

I hope no one thinks that we have perfect children that always happily hike along with us. At one point on the hill, Eliza just plopped down and said, “I ran out of energy.” Overall, they are really good troopers, and the more we get out with them, the more used to it they will be! We are hoping to work up to longer and longer hikes so we can eventually go backpacking with them (without needing to carry them)!

Eliza is very confident she will catch a fish one of these days with the sticks she finds along the trails.

This trail was a bit muddy in spots so Oliver’s Nike’s were not the best shoes for this trail. Eliza has amazing waterproof Keen hiking shoes that I bought used for $20 but I’m not willing to fork over $55 for the same shoes for Oliver since he seems to outgrow his shoes every 3 months! I have a great pair of Keen hiking boots that I got last year to replace the exact same old Keens that had lasted about 10 years! Seth wore his Chacos for this hike, which also worked great for the distance.

One extra fun addition that we just started using for the kids is the addition of a kid-size fanny pack. We only have one right now for Eliza but we will probably get one for Oliver too. This lets them have quick access to their snacks or works for collecting little pebbles along the way. It is a lot easier for them to use than an entire backpack for right now!

Happy Hiking!

Point Whitehorn Hike

Sunday afternoon was perfect PNW weather! We had originally planned to hike the Rock Trail, but read online that the road to the trailhead is closed due to landslide risk. Instead, we headed north to Point Whitehorn which we had been meaning to do for a long time!

Point Whitehorn is a perfect hike for little kids! It is ADA accessible for the entire 0.75 mile trail. You could easily bring a stroller if you aren’t wanting to go down to the beach. Once you get to the end of the completely flat, winding path through the forest, there is a short steeper area that heads down to the beach. It wasn’t too steep for our kids (ages 2 and 4) to be able to do it on their own, but it might be too steep for a stroller without a brake! The very last section is a staircase that leads down to the rocky beach.

Steps to the beach!

The beach was almost completely deserted which was surprising for a beautiful Sunday afternoon! There was one other family way down the beach flying a kite and that was it! There were quite a few little driftwood house structures other people had set up and lots of seashells and small sea animals for the kids to look at. The beach is full of large round rocks so I would definitely encourage wearing sturdy water-type shoes like Chacos. The kids had their cheap Target water shoes on and Oliver ended up skinning his knees a few times. I wish I would have put their Keens on instead!

There are no bikes or dogs allowed on the trail and the only bathroom is a port-a-potty in the parking lot. There are quite a few little boardwalks/bridges on the trail and both of our kids loved running across them! Even if you don’t take the steps down to the beach there are several viewpoints with benches towards the end of the trail. This is such an easy, flat hike that I would totally recommend!

Tennant Lake “Hike”

Saturday was the first sunny, slightly warm day in what seemed like a long time! We decided to take the kids to Tennant Lake in Ferndale for the afternoon. The last time we went to Tennant Lake, Oliver still had a feeding tube and I’m fairly sure he wasn’t walking yet. It felt so good to see him RUN down the boardwalk!

If you live in Whatcom County, I totally recommend going to Tennant Lake if you haven’t been in a while (or if you haven’t been since your elementary school field trip!). You walk through a fragrance garden then past a 50-foot overlook tower on your way to the boardwalk. They have both a shorter wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and a nearly 1 mile long boardwalk loop! The boardwalk has no edge on it so I probably wouldn’t be comfortable walking it with any more than a 1:1 ratio of parent to toddler!

We grabbed the back of Eliza and Oliver’s coats a few times when we felt like they were getting too close to the edge! The water isn’t super deep in most areas, but it would still be a pretty wet and muddy mess if someone fell in. When we went last fall we did take our single BOB stroller on the boardwalk, but it was pretty narrow when people walked by us coming from the opposite direction so I probably wouldn’t recommend taking a stroller.

This would be such a fun place for a preschool/homeschool activity to take a yardstick to measure the water depth at various locations. It also has beautiful views and a big variety of wildlife! I did see online that the boardwalk trail is closed from October-January for hunting season but any other time of the year is great to go! The fragrance garden would definitely be more exciting in the spring/summer.

We finished off the afternoon with a stop at Edaleen Dairy in Ferndale. What a fun day!

Golden Ears Provincial Park Day Trip

We have been wanting to visit Golden Ears Provincial Park for a while and yesterday it wasn’t raining, we didn’t have to go to Seattle on a Monday for once, and we packed up the kids and went! Ideally we are hoping to camp there sometime, but we wanted to scope it out first.

It was Veteran’s Day/Remembrance Day so the park was probably quite a bit busier for a Monday in November than normal, but we still had no trouble finding parking. I read online that sometimes during the peak summer months it can be really difficult to find parking for day use.

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The park gates are open 8am – 5:30pm in the winter

Golden Ears Provincial Park is in British Columbia, Canada – pretty much straight north of Bellingham/Lynden. We took the Pacific/truck crossing border and it took us about an hour and a half to get there. We have Nexus passes (which I 100% recommend if you live near the border!) so the border crossing was really fast, even for a holiday! The entrance to the park AND parking is totally free at Golden Ears Park! I saw a sign that said camping is $5/person/night.

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We got the kids some sweet new wool socks from Amazon – totally recommend!

We did two shorter hikes with the kids and had a blast! First we hiked the Lower Falls Trail which was 2.7km (1.6 miles) each way. The path was really wide and mostly flat packed gravel. I was wishing we had our Bob stroller with us because that would have been much easier than carrying the kids since it was so flat and wide! I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was wheelchair accessible though, because it did get a little bit hilly. Dogs are allowed in the park as long as they stay on a leash. The path followed along Gold Creek and ended at Gold Creek Falls.

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The park has some massive tree stumps from old-growth trees!

We still had some daylight when we got back to the car so we decided to do the short (1km each way) North Beach Trail to Alouette Lake. The water in Gold Creek was a beautiful blue-green and we were so glad we were able to see Alouette Lake because it was gorgeous! We definitely want to come back and camp! We would take bikes and our inflatable raft for the lake next time.

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Alouette Lake

The kids did great the whole time! They loved sitting next to the creek tossing rocks in the water. We brought snacks and their water bottles. Oliver’s one meltdown was solved with a dry diaper. Both kids happily walked extraordinarily slow for about 1/2km of the Lower Falls Trail then were happily carried the rest of the way!

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We LOVE being able to get outside and explore with the kids when we can! It is so refreshing to be outside of hospital walls, letting the kids breathe fresh air and discover nature! We also only barely scratched the surface of what there is to see at Golden Ears Provincial Park! We can’t wait to go back!

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Date Day!

Last weekend (Saturday…the day before Oliver was taken to Seattle via ambulance and Eliza was taken to the ER the next morning) Seth planned a “date day” for us! I thought it would be fun to share what we did on our date! My wonderful mom-in-law offered to babysit so we could get out without kids!

We dropped the kids off around 3:30pm and Seth took me wine tasting at Vartanyan Estate Winery off of Noon Rd in Bellingham. The tasting room is set up really cute. The owner was serving the wine and was very knowledgeable about each wine we tasted. Tasting is $7 per person and is waived if you buy a bottle. We were able to taste 6 different wines. I’m usually not a big red wine fan but the red wines they had were good and the white wines I loved! If you are local to Whatcom County this is definitely a fun date place to check out!

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We forgot to take a picture inside the winery…so here is a picture of the sign from the car!

Next Seth took me to Vital Climbing Gym in Bellingham! We were gifted free passes from some friends to try it out since it was our first time visiting the gym! A day pass normally would be $17 per person. They also sell memberships for people that have more free time than we do (haha). I used to boulder quite a bit when I worked at the rec center at Western and Seth did some top roping in Nebraska at their rec center gym. Seth and I both own climbing shoes and chalk bags but we hadn’t used them in a long time! We had a blast bouldering for about 2 hours and were really sore for a few days after!

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After climbing for about two hours we were really hungry and ended our date at Busara Thai Cuisine (our favorite restaurant in Bellingham!) I ordered Panang Gai Curry and Seth ordered Pad See Ew. Busara is really reasonably priced and has a great atmosphere! We had never been there on a weekend though and did have to wait about an hour for a table! Weeknights you usually don’t have to wait long for a table! We got back home just in time for Oliver’s 9pm medicine dose!

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It was a really fun way to spend a longer date together! Over this last year we have learned that we really need to take advantage of every opportunity we have…literally the next day Seth was riding in the ambulance with Oliver to Seattle. Thankfully Oliver has recovered from his fever, but it just seems from one day to the next we don’t have a ton of opportunity to plan ahead for things. This past year has had some stressful moments and we spent a lot of time apart – it was such a fun day to just hang out and have fun together!

Top photo credit: Segar Photography

Lynn Canyon Park Adventure!

Our family spent the weekend in Whistler after getting the news about Oliver not being 100% donor cells anymore on Wednesday. We had an amazing time as a family! On our way home on Monday we were planning on going to an interpretive forest near Squamish, BC, but it was dumping rain and about 45 degrees.

Instead we last-minute decided to go to Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver! We had never been to Capilano Suspension Bridge or Lynn Canyon, but Lynn Canyon is free and Capilano Suspension Bridge is $54 Canadian PER PERSON! (I’m sure it is cool too and maybe we will do it someday, but we were in the mood for free). Lynn Canyon is located in North Vancouver (about an hour and a half north from Bellingham) and was more or less on the way home from Whistler.

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Lynn Canyon Park is incredible! It was a rainy Monday so there were very few people there. I’m sure it gets totally packed with people on sunny weekends in the summer! The suspension bridge itself is 90 feet above the ground and was safely enclosed so our kids could even walk by themselves!

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The best part about the park by far was the boardwalk trail (part of the Baden-Powell Trail) along the side of Lynn Creek. We crossed the suspension bridge, walked along the boardwalk, crossed back across Twin Falls Bridge, and looped back to our car. It was about a 1 mile loop but included quite a few stairs (not stroller friendly!). Our kids were able to do most of it themselves!

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The park also has a small free nature museum, nice public bathrooms, and a café. We totally want to go back when we are more prepared with water/kid carrier backpacks/snacks and hike more of the trails! 10/10 would recommend!

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