Last week I sent out a big email to every parent with kids I could think of who might possibly consider hiking with us. I had planned to take the kids to Boardman Lake on Friday, but the morning thunderstorms caused me to cancel our hike. We went to the zoo instead. All was not lost, though, because Jessie/Pikawhisperer was up for another hike with us on Saturday. I really needed the sunshine and some blue skies. The Teanaway was calling to me. Neither of us had been there, and the Esmerelda Basin trail was in the Best Hikes for Kids book. I have wanted to go there for years. So the morning of the hike we finally settled on that trail. Jessie offered to drive, which meant I could leave the car at home for the hubby, who had a bunch of stuff he wanted to take care of, so he was happy with that.
We got a bit of a later start than I normally like to, but that was just the way it needed to be. I knew we’d be out all day and needed lots of food and stuff, so it took awhile to get everything together. We made it over Snoqualmie Pass in good time, stopped briefly in Cle Elum for gas (saw the building with a telephone museum in it – looked intriguing for another time), and hit the Teanaway River Road. It was so beautiful – fields of golden hay, rolling forested hills, neat cabins and houses scattered through the countryside. We ran into a bunch of grasshoppers in one section; they made a loud clicking splat when they hit the windshield, and were thick in the air. Yuck!
It was a long drive up that road to the end. We stopped briefly at 29 Pines to use the porta-potties (plenty of TP, and they were emptied and cleaned later that afternoon). The road is in excellent shape, just a few potholes up at the very end. The gully washer that had covered the road around the 7-mile marker a few weeks ago has been repaired enough for any car to get through (despite what the FS website says, you do not need a high clearance vehicle for this road.)
Watch for cows; I thought at first I saw a bear up ahead, but it was just a herd of black cows grazing along the road.
Most of the dispersed camping sites along the river were occupied, but we thought it looked like a great place to try to snag a free spot some time in the future.
The parking lot was bursting at the seams and spilling over down the sides. We did manage to find a spot not too far down the road. We slathered sunscreen, put on boots, crammed way too much gear into our packs, and finally were on the trail about 2:30.
Annika coaxed a butterfly onto her finger – we called her the butterfly whisperer.
Gabriel was not happy. He looked like a wilted flower in the “heat” (it was about 70 degrees). He actually didn’t want to hike. But I felt OK pushing him; the kids will often hit a low around that time in the afternoon. They’ll get real sluggish for a bit, then pick up again later. But Gabe never got his energy up.
We filled out our permit for the hike. We started up the rocky trail, enjoying the flowers right from the beginning.
Then Annika had to go potty, so I walked her back down to the outhouse at the trailhead. Then back up again to start again. The Joan Burton book says if you can coax kids up the first steep quarter mile, the rest is easier. I was counting on the advice to be true; I thought we could get about 2 miles up into the basin, where Burton says there were some remnants of an old mine. I thought that would be a good spot to stop and turn around. But my son could just not push himself that far.
We did see some interesting plants to take our minds off the uphill trail. The delicate Lewisia columbiana was in bloom all along, with its pretty pink-striped petals and succulent basal rosette.
This was a first for me, as were the Penstemon rupicola with its neon pink blossoms decorating the rocky outcroppings.
We passed the turnoff for Ingalls Lake and saw our first snow patches. We took photos of the glacier lilies and all the other flowers.
Annika had to go potty. Off came the packs so I could take her into the brush. Back on with the packs, and a bit further on we passed a lot of run-off on the trail
and fabulous flowers, including shooting stars.
It was my first time seeing these, as well as Elephanthead lousewort.
In that same section were two orchid species:
We saw a bunch of sweet purple little flowers, and I took some photos and we went on our way.
When I was looking them up today, I found out they are Penguicula vulgaris, or common butterwort. My Pojar & Mackinnon book says they are carnivorous! What a fun find!
About ½ mile up from the trailhead, Gabe needed to stop and rest. Since it was getting to be mid-afternoon, I thought maybe a snack would help refuel him and get him going a bit better.
The kids loved the big rock gardens we sat on. The view was lovely,
and the flowers were in full bloom.
Annika had to go potty again. Sigh. A family with little kids passed us; the youngest was about 3 and holding a melting snowball. Annika did that once, last year I think! It’s fun to see other kids on the trail.
Gabe wanted to turn around and go back, but the rest of us wanted to continue on. We had driven so far; we wanted to see some of the meadows up ahead. We practically drug him up the trail behind us, though I really tried to enjoy the lovely flowers – columbine, paintbrush, Lewisia columbiana, yellow and purple asters, and many others brightened the path.
We ran into several little inchworms hanging by a thread, floating on the air above the trail.
Small streams crossed the trail, most of them barely above the soles of our boots, but a few providing safe practice with rock hopping.
The smells of the piney forest and brush mixed with strong horsey smells. We had to dodge large amounts of dookey on the trail. Annika kept calling out whenever she saw a horseshoe print, and pretended for much of the hike that she was riding her favorite imaginary horse, Spots. He’s a good horse, and fast. She was in the lead the whole hike.
On one sunny uphill stretch, Gabriel sat down on the trail. I waited just ahead of him while Annika and Jessie continued on out of sight. Sometimes even The Hiker Mama has a tough day on the trail. This hike brought back memories of a certain trip we did to Sunrise when Annika was two. She would not hike, and I had spent all that money getting there and into the park, and all that time driving, and she sat down in the middle of the trail and wouldn’t budge. I know I put a good spin on most of my trips, and we have some fabulous adventures, but even my kids aren’t angelic all the time. I kept thinking about Sparrow and the Barracuda, a mom and 7-year-old boy who are right now hiking the PCT and putting in 20-30 mile days. I wondered why I couldn’t even get my kid a mile up the trail. Maybe I need to get him tested for anemia or cancer or something. Big sigh for mom. Around this time Annika had to go potty again. Yeah. It’s one of those days.
We hemmed and hawed about whether we should continue on. I suggested we hike until 5pm (yeah, it was getting THAT late, I could NOT believe how interminably LONG this hike had been) and then we would stop and eat again and turn around. We entered another forested section, the trail wound around some more and crossed some more streams, and we came to a lovely meadow with a view of the Esmerelda peaks about 5 minutes till 5, and I called it quits.
This was a good spot to stop. I think we maybe made it a mile from the trailhead. Gabe found a level spot and laid down with his pack cushioning his back. Annika ate snacks and then played in the water of the little seep that was coming down off the hillside.
I just sat and enjoyed the flowers and the sunshine and whacked flies off my arms and legs.
The flies were obnoxious this trip, but they weren’t really biting. I got one mosquito bite and Jessie got one, and that was it, I think. We took lots of photos. Gabriel said how he couldn’t wait to go backpacking. I thought, yeah, sure.
We rested awhile and then we decided we’d better head back down. It hardly took any time at all to get down, though Gabe still never really perked up until the parking lot was in sight. Usually he and his sister are fighting over who gets to be in the lead, but that never came up this trip. Annika was spunky the whole time. We got back to the truck and then drove down to 29 Pines to fire up the stove and heat up some chili and rice for a hot dinner before the long drive home. (Annika went potty again.) Jessie had brought some chocolate milk for a treat for the kids, and a big container of blueberries. She even treated the kids to dessert at Dairy Queen in Cle Elum. (Annika went potty here, too. She’s going to love me when she gets older and reads these reports, but I’m just being real… if you are a parent of little kids, you have to be prepared for stuff like this. I need to refill the TP and hand sanitizer in my pack before our next outing. At least I knew she was getting enough water.) We didn’t get home till after 10pm. Gabriel talked Jessie’s ear off the whole way home, about a dream he had had, the state of our food supply and how we need to completely replace the FDA, and something else I can’t remember, while Annika fell asleep and I struggled to stay awake myself. I felt bad for Jessie, since she was going for another long drive and hike on Sunday, and our slow pace had made the day go into extra innings. But she has such a great attitude all the time. I hope some of it rubbed off on me.
I know it’s best to get an early start with my kids, especially if we have long drive. It didn’t work out this time, and it affected the quality of our trip. But we were really happy to explore a new area, and we’ll definitely be back. It’s fun to think about the next trip, and all the places we could go. I think my next hike might be adults only. And I need to make sure I set my kids up for success on these longer days. But even the tough days on the trail are still worth it in the end.
Note: The directions in my 1999 version of Best Hikes with Kids by Joan Burton are incorrect. When you come off Exit 85 off the freeway, you need to turn right onto Hwy 970.