Chinook Bend Natural Area

That whole plan to take the kiddos hiking every Tuesday, that I came up with back in August… that failed, pretty quickly actually. By September the plan changed to hiking every-other Tuesday. Tuesday is our only 100% free day. Which means if we want to do anything else besides hiking, we needed to free up some Tuesdays. Every-other Tuesday hiking happened in September before it completely died, when my foot fracture happened. And then life, holidays, now winter. As an obsessive schedule person, it’s been tough. The latest plan, for 2021 and now that my foot has healed, is to get back to an every-other Tuesday kiddo hike. And on Wednesdays—when Blaise and Laine are at their all-day wilderness class—I’ll take the younger gals on an outdoor adventure. It may not be a hike; more of an exploration. Which leads us to Chinook Bend Natural Area.

To be fair, we managed to check off some Tuesday hikes before the total failure. There was Garfield Ledges, Hazel Wolf Wetlands, Paradise Valley Conservation Area, and Cherry Creek Falls. So, four (I can count.)

Last Wednesday wasn’t the first time I’ve taken kiddos to Chinook Bend Natural Area. Blaise, Laine, and I went back in July 2018, when Saige and Baby were at a summer camp—long before Maive decided to join us. The sad thing is, it’s such a great area—not even 10 minutes from our home—and I hadn’t been back. Until last week. And it was just how I remembered. With the added bonus of discovering a new area. And mud galore…

From the parking lot, we walked toward the picnic tables. Turns out there is a trailhead, along with three or four information boards. I feel like I should have seen this area last time we were there. Past the information boards, the trail switchbacks maybe twice, and leads to a large concrete compass. This was a hit with the kiddos. They stood on it and noticed the different directions, pointing which way was which direction. And Saige read the saying that went around the edge of the concrete circle, The dream of a river is to run free and be fully alive. How cool is it that Saige reads now?! To be completely honest, we haven’t even worked that hard on reading with her. She managed to pick it up mostly on her own. Go, Saige.

The concrete compass overlooks a large pond, which I’ll call Beaver Pond. Evidence of beavers is all around the pond, from gnawed tree stumps to the beaver lodge (google tells me beaver homes are called lodges, I love this!) to beaver dams. One of these days I’ll see a beaver in the wild. I’d love to see one; they’re so cute! A while back we watched a beaver documentary with the kiddos, called Leave it to Beavers, and I learned so much. They are amazing little creatures.

Beaver Pond, with a lodge and dam.

It was beyond muddy on the trail along Beaver Pond. I’m glad I thought to bring my Bogs; I went back to the car and changed my shoes once I realized how muddy it was. The girls were in their head-to-toe waterproof gear, like they wear for outdoor school. Baby stopped in several super muddy spots to slosh around in the mud. The kid loves to play outdoors, no matter the conditions. We made it past the super muddy trail and ended up circling back to the parking lot. It was so muddy that it wasn’t totally clear how to cross over a muddy, watery area to get to the trail we could see on the other side—the trail I remembered from 2018. Just before making it back to the parking lot, there is a trail that goes into a tree-filled area. It’s darker inside the trees, with the sky almost blocked out from the branches. We walked a short time in there until the trail ends. Maybe it continues but there is so much overgrowth it wasn’t clear?! We backtracked through the trees onto the main trail, walking back to the muddy trail area.

The tree-filled area, with a Saige in there. And a Maive on my back.

Turns out we could cross on top of a beaver dam. Thanks, cute little beavers. It was a muddy and wet, and my feet sank a few inches but we all made it across. The trail on the other side was a bit muddy near the beaver dam but then became more of a standard trail as we made our way toward the Snoqualmie River. There was one massive puddle, which of course the girls tromped through. I expect nothing less. We walked about a half-mile before we made it to the river. Nobody else was there. My favorite kind of outing. Saige and Baby got right to playing with rocks: building rock forts, stacking rocks, and throwing rocks in the river. I let Maive out of the hiking backpack and she got her rock on. She was SO excited to be down on the ground, doing big kid things. I held her while she stood on a rock along the shoreline, handing her rocks to toss in the river. She could have done this all day.

Crossing the beaver dam. And the massive trail puddle.

Rock and river play!

After about 45 minutes along the river, I loaded Maive back up in the hiking backpack, collected the girls, and we left for the car. It was past lunchtime. My original plan was to get there at 10:30am—which we did, we were meeting a friend who wanted to explore the area also—and be back home at noon for lunch. I’m not a big snack person so I am a terrible mom in that sense… I never have food with me. Water, sure. Food, nope. Unless the plan is to have lunch as part of the outing, then I’m prepared. We made it back to the car about 12:30pm, crossing back over the beaver dam and walking through mud.

Back home for lunch. I lucked out… the girls had so much fun they didn’t realize they were hungry. Which is a good thing. Saige gets hangry, big time. And nothing is right in her world when hangry happens.

It was a fun outing. And it felt great to be out with the kiddos. It reminded me of normal times, when an outing like this wasn’t a big deal. Between pandemic restrictions and being back in full-on toddlerhood, getting out isn’t as easy as I’d like. This day, it helped reset my desire to get out and about. Except it got cold. This week I didn’t have the umph to get out. Instead, I’m planning future outings and hikes. As I sit here admiring the snow outside. I’ll take that. Next week, it’s on.

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