Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Smithbrook Road Snowshoe

We have been experiencing an unusual and long-lasting inversion here in Puget Sound, causing cold, grey, still air to settle in the lowlands.  Meanwhile, the sun shines in the mountains.  We went up Friday to find the sunshine, and trek in the snow at the same time.

 

snowshoeing with children, winter kid hikes, smithbrook road,
The beginning of the trail

Our friend Kirsten offered to drive us up, and our friend A came along, as well.  We had a little hiccup in our meeting plan, as we had to take our elderly kitty in for an emergency tooth extraction that morning.  But we still got a reasonable start up the road.  There was ice from the frozen fog in places, but the drive was  lovely up the Skykomish valley.  The fog came and went, allowing bursts of sunshine to light the bare trees and snow-covered foothills.  We saw many bald eagles and hawks perched in the trees and flying above us.

We made one stop at the Nordic Center at Stevens Pass to use the bathrooms and for A to buy new batteries for her camera.  Then we drove the short distance back on the westbound section of the highway to the cleared-off shoulder to park.  No one else was parked there, so we weren’t sure we were in the right place, but soon enough others came to ski the trail too.  It was just above freezing at the pass, but felt colder with the breeze blowing on us.  We geared up as quickly as we could, and climbed up onto the snow bank to walk along the highway up to where the road takes off.  I was last in line, and with my very first step with snowshoes on, I stumbled and fell sideways and onto my back.  I had to unbuckle my pack, and awkwardly regain my footing.  Then I could put my pack back on.  By then everyone else had figured out I wasn’t with the group, and waited, laughing, for me to get myself back together.

snowshoeing with kids, winter hikes, stevens pass, smithbrook road
Annika pulling the sled

Despite my clutziness, I really liked that first section right near the road.  The little creek flowed through, boulders covered with a marshmallow topping of snow.

smithbrook road snowshoe, winter hiking
Sweet Little Creek

Trees bent with the weight of the snow, and some of the water in the stream was frozen in sections.

smithbrook road snowshoe, stevens pass, winter hiking
Frozen Creek
snow on trees, snowshoeing, Stevens Pass, Smithbrook Road
Winter Wonderland

The top layer of the snow was all crystals, fluffy and powdery and dry.  We’ve never experienced snow like that before, and the kids had fun throwing handfuls of it up in the air for it to float sparkling down.

ice crystals, winter snow, snowshoeing
Surface Hoar

Kirsten had brought a plastic sled for the kids to play with, and we stashed it where the road began so we could play when we got back from our hike.  Then we started up the road.

Smithbrook Road, Stevens Pass, snowshoeing
Just a Bit of Snow
winter hiking, snowshoeing, Smithbrook Road
Trailhead
Snowshoeing with kids, children in the woods, Smithbrook Road, winter hiking
Up We Go

 

The snow wasn’t packed as hard as the path at Gold Creek, and even with the snowshoes we occasionally sunk down more than we liked to.  We tried to figure out where the ski track was so we could stay off it; I must say, though, there were ski tracks all over the place.  We hoped the deep, smooth trench was the most important one to avoid, because we didn’t want to anger any of the skiers.

kids snowshoeing, winter hiking with children, Smithbrook Road
Annika Looking Back
smithbrook road, snowshoeing stevens pass
The View Back Down the Road

The sun was bright, and snow dripped off the trees like rain.  We enjoyed the scenery, but the kids weren’t crazy about hiking too far on this day, so we stopped after maybe less than a mile.

smithbrook road, stevens pass, snowshoeing with children
Making a Path

Kirsten kicked steps up the bank to a sunny spot up off the road, and we had a pleasant place to sit and eat our lunch.

kids in snow, snowshoeing with children
Snow Eater
kids in winter, snowshoeing with children, smithbrook road
Gabe made a slushy with his lemonade and the fluffy snow
snowshoeing stevens pass, smithbrook road
It’s a Great Day
snowshoeing with kids, smithbrook road
Lunch Spot

The camp robbers were on us in a minute, and we had a good discussion about why not to feed the wildlife.  We had our hot cocoa, pancake sandwiches with chocolate peanut butter, apples, and the requisite jelly beans.  It was so nice soaking in the sun and breathing the crisp mountain air.

snow crystals, smithbrook road, nature in winter
More surface hoar

Kirsten and A wanted to check out the road a little farther up, but my kids were ready to turn back.  So we let our friends continue up the trail while we went back down to the base of the road to try out the sled.

snow, winter hiking, smithbrook road, snowshoeing with kids
Funny Shadow

There was a small hill with a safe runout, kid sized and ready to use.  It was just the right thrill.

kids sledding, smithbrook road, winter fun, winter hiking with children
There he goes!

The sun was behind the hill here, though, the light was getting dim, and it was freezing cold (Kirsten’s car read 24 degrees when we packed up.)  Gabriel’s mittens got wet inside from the snow, and his hands started hurting.  He said they weren’t cold, but when I felt them, they were icy.  We switched out the mittens for his other gloves and put in some hand warmers, and he felt better pretty quickly.  It wasn’t long before the gals made it back down, and we all headed back to the car for our drive home.  It took me a day or two to warm up, but it was such a nice day I didn’t mind.  When we made it back to Everett to get my car, the fog was crazy thick and gloppy.  We were so glad we had escaped it for a few hours to recharge in the clear sunshine of the mountains.

snow on trees, smithbrook road, winter hiking, snowshoeing with children
Late afternoon light

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