Gauging Small Children: Naches Peak Loop Trail
6 summers ago I spent one of the hottest days of the year on this trail. I was pregnant, but didn’t know it yet (although I had my suspicions). I was lagging in 102° temps, but then, who wouldn’t? Sometimes it is hard to wrap around that 6 years has passed, along with 2 more children. Anyone who claims life doesn’t change with children is full of it, or isn’t a full parent (the kind that never takes them along) – kids really change how you hike. I have chaffed for years, missing the ‘big’ hikes, where I could just roam. But I always remembered one key thing:
If you take your children along, as painfully slow as it is, they eventually become strong hikers. There is a certain point where many children suddenly cross and make a goal – and you know it. The good years are there suddenly. Soon, they will be able to hike harder and harder trails, and much more distance. Then before you know it, they out hike you. (The Teen has a 34″ inseam. Once he gets walking, Legs blows by everyone….)
I chose Naches Peak Loop for the test, to gauge Alistaire’s legs and endurance. The mileage varies by claim, but I know my GPS years ago agrees with Backpacker’s, being just over 4 miles for the loop. While in theory the best views are to go clockwise, I’ve found it easier to get all the climb out-of-the-way going counter-clockwise. Then by the time one hits the lakes, much of the hike is done. It’s cruel to kids to stop at a lake and then “get moving”.
We had a sunny/with clouds morning and it was in the 50’s when we started – not a bad day. We started at Tipsoo Lakes parking area, which is free to use. We walked down to the lakes, and walked around them, then up to the highway and crossed it, starting then on the real trail. It is a true “rainier trail” in that it is a bit steeper and you get warmed up quickly.
This is what makes it all worth it – watching the two younger with their love of wild berry picking. The oldest boy may never have picked up on it, but oh, they do! And hey, these sunny open area have plenty of views and why rush?
Yes, July 14th and ripe mountain blueberries (no, those are not huckleberries, no matter what people claim – hike long enough and you realize there are at least 3 types of distinct berries up there – low bush blueberries, high bush blueberries and yep, the dark blue huckleberries). This is an odd year to say the least. Everything is rushing frantically to finish in the dry heat.
Tahoma peeking above Governor’s Ridge (which is btw the old shell of a massive volcano of Rainier many eons ago). The views here range all the way from Rainier to Sunrise/Yakima Park.
The first lake with the stellar meadows and views was a bit past prime already (in seed even), which was OK to me, although I am sure there were many a depressed flower seeker there of late! (Want to see it in full bloom, in a normal year?)
The lake, which I had wanted to stop at for a few, and have a snack, was overrun with a massive family. Like Ma, Pa, Grandparents, kids, and their 3rd cousins. They earned the nickname “Von Tramplers” after sitting in the meadows and then walking all over them repeatedly. Le sigh. The Von Trample clan can be seen finally on hard earth in the photo.
Outdoor Forest School (preschool) gave Walker a lot of confidence. He will climb any rock outcropping – my rule is he has to get himself down 😉 Even if he butt scoots.
Dewey Lakes far below, with the PCT winding on Southbound.
Ford and Walker as we crested the final ridge.
And that is why one goes counter-clockwise. You get to spend the last half on the PCT, and oh it is a classical view.
The last tarn was very low, it will be interesting to see how it looks in a month.
But no bugs, mid 60’s for temps and a gentle breeze made for a nice hike. The last half mile was hard for Alistaire but he made it. He ran into the van, jumped into his seat, slurped down a juice box and passed out for the next hour. A well deserved nap I’d think 😉