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Family Photos

Tyla’s birthday present this year was another round of family photos. She ended up choosing the same lady who did our photos last time, Kelly from Two Swallows Studio. Tyla found a great park that is close by but none of us had ever been two called McAuliffe Park. The park turned out to be a photography dream. It’s like someone intentionally made a park for a photography class and we showed up on day with pretty great weather for photos.

As before, Kelly did a great job and we are really happy with the results! Here are a few of our favorites:

Crystal Hike

Last year around this time, we tried to go on a hike at Crystal Mountain with Tyla’s family. That was canceled because of some really bad wildfires that got very close to the resort. We decided to give it another shot recently and it went much better.

The day started off cloudy so we just caught glimpses of Rainier off the top of the gondola, but it was nice to not be in direct sunlight for the first part of the hike. We took the Crystal Mountain trail which comes off the top of the gondola, across Lucky Shot and over the top of Bear Pits, under Forest Queen, out past the Queens and Tinkerbell runs into the woods to a couple lakes, and finally past the old mine and under the Gold Hills lift. The trail map claims it’s 4.8 miles but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a tad longer than that.

The hike is all downhill so I figured Elijah would handle it ok, but I forgot that it’s a bit too technical for him. There was a lot of loose gravel at the beginning and then the second half had some big roots. Thankfully he did incredibly well and only started getting tired on the last mile or so. I did have to carry him for a while but I still give him an A for the day.

It wasn’t a super photogenic day due to the clouds at the beginning but here are a few photos from the day. Be sure to look at the upper ridge in the last picture. You can see how far down the slope the fire got last year. It was VERY close to the resort!

Independence and Coal Lakes

In 2010, Tyla and I attempted to drive up a forestry road off of the Mountain Loop Highway but got turned around by snow. This past weekend, I finally got to attempt it again. Logan, Tyla, Elijah and I headed up there to hike to Coal and Independence Lakes.

The drive up the forest road is one of the highlights of the trip for me. It’s not for the faint of heart (or the low of ground clearance.) Much of the road is a single lane with no space for two cars to pass unless one is willing to plunge many hundred feet down the mountain. I was happy to have plenty of ground clearance though we never needed four wheel drive.

We parked at the first parking lot, walked up the trail and immediately found Coal Lake. There wasn’t much to see because the whole mountain was enshrouded in a cloud. That’s when I looked at the map and realized that we hadn’t actually hit the end of the road where the Independence Lake trailhead is, so we hopped back in the truck and drove a couple more minutes to the end of the road. 

It’s only about a mile to the lake, but it took us ~40 minutes because Elijah had a tough time climbing up and over all the big rocks and roots that were in the trail. On the way back, I carried his hiking pole and we made it back in just about half the time. I think he gets distracted by where to place the pole sometimes.

Independence Lake was disappointing as we couldn’t see anything due to the fog/clouds. The trail goes on to North Lake but that’s not something Elijah would be able to handle so we had a little snack and turned around.

I don’t think Elijah was all too thrilled but I enjoyed it. I loved being on a hike that wasn’t crowded with people in flip flops carrying tiny dogs. I want to go back again on a clearer day and hopefully make it to North Lake as well.

A few pictures are included below along with our dashcam video of the drive up the road.

Indiana Trip Photos

We’ve been trying to go back to my parents’ place in Indiana every summer. It’s always a nice trip and this time we decided to stretch it out for a 10 day stay. We snuck in a lot of John Deere time (the Klug’s shop, John Deere Pavillion in Moline, and Dad and Mom’s mower), seeing both Grandpa Hinkle and Grandma Martens and catching up with other relatives out in western Illinois. We celebrated Tyla’s birthday while we were there with a trip to a high tech dairy farm. That trip was perfect timing because Tyla got to pet a calf that was born about 10 hours before we arrived.

It was warm and humid while we were there so we got plenty of pool time. This was the first year that Elijah could touch with his head above water in the shallow end. He is also getting more confident with his swimming. He had a blast jumping into the pool and showing us how he could swim around without floaties.

A huge thanks goes to Dad and Mom for having us invade their house for even longer than normal. That’s a ton of cooking, cleaning, driving and entertaining. Thanks!