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Family

R2-E2

Elijah has been watching reviews of Lego Star Wars sets and decided he wanted to be “R2-E2” for Halloween. He came up with that all on his own! Instead of buying a costume, I decided to make one with him.

We bought some cardboard boxes from Home Depot. They sell some heavy duty boxes which thought would work well for the body to keep it from falling apart so quickly. We kind of made it up as we went and eventually we ended up with a body that had arm holes and a head hole. I fashioned a box for the front to hold his candy and also gave him a head. We covered the whole thing with a metallic silver spray paint.

Then came the fun part! I bought some inexpensive electroluminescent wire and an Adafruit Audio FX Sound Board. I wired the sound board up to some arcade buttons and placed those on the front of his costume. He ended up with 6 buttons that he could press to make various sounds. For a speaker, we used a battery powered bluetooth speaker that we already had (it also had a line-in) and I powered the circuit board with a USB battery pack.

The end result was a fun looking costume that lit up and made sounds. It was a quite a hit and he loved showing it off. That excitement was tempered a bit by the fact that it was hard to walk up and down steps and a couple times he got overwhelmed by kids mobbing him trying to push the buttons. All in all, I’d call it a win but he said he wanted to have a simpler costume next year.

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.