Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be Brian. Before any trip, his only responsibility is to pack himself and get us to wherever we’re going. And usually, he has no idea where. In our 26-plus years together, our responsibilities have naturally divided. In my job jar—as Nan always called it—is taking on any kind of planning. Like a cabin trip to Riverside State Park. I’m not complaining. I’m totally cool with planning. If I’m completely honest, I don’t think I could let go of planning even if Brian offered to take it on. But I still wonder what it’d be like.
Last March, after our trip to Steamboat Rock State Park, I went on a cabin-booking frenzy. I booked cabins at Twin Harbors State Park, Riverside State Park, Camano Island State Park, and Deception Pass State Park. And in keeping with my love of filling up the calendar but not wanting to go when the time comes, we cancelled two of those cabins. Deception Pass was scheduled for next week. But between San Diego, Las Vegas, Riverside State Park, and everything life, I felt we needed a break from getting away. Camano Island has been rescheduled. Again with life and that whole having Covid thing back when we were originally scheduled to go.
Even Riverside State Park was rescheduled. I originally booked the cabin for last October. But come October, we were still finding our groove with our crazy kiddo schedule that kicked off in September. Brian—who rarely asks for much—asked that we cancel what we could to have less busy weekends. And so I obliged, without any hesitation. I was down for quieter weekends. I opened our crazy calendar and randomly selected a weekend in late March, that didn’t conflict with anything kiddo activities. It felt so far away back then; and yet the trip feels like it happened long ago (it’s been two weeks).
It was a chaotic lead up to Riverside. And we weren’t even sure the trip would happen. What’s that saying, things always happen in threes?!
First hang up. Brian’s work rotates on-call duties every so often. He was supposed to be on-call the dates we went to San Diego. Before the trip, he switched on-call dates with a fellow coworker. Brian asked me if I had a preference about the dates he was switching. I said no. He switched. Turns out he switched to the weekend of the Riverside cabin trip. We both screwed up. I figured he had the cabin weekend on his calendar. Brian may not always know where we’re going but I always give him when we’re going. Which he rarely adds to his calendar. He figured I was cool with the new dates. In his defense, he told me the dates but I was so focused on him getting out of being on-call for San Diego that I said whatever to the dates. (Lesson learned: now I hover over his shoulder, while I watch him mark his calendar. Haha.)
The Wednesday before when we realized the conflict, he was leaning toward staying home to take the on-call shift that he had already switched. I would still go to Riverside, leaving Maive with Brian. Eh, I wasn’t cool with this but understood him not wanting to switch his already switched dates. But, Brian. He could tell I wasn’t thrilled with this plan and he ended up asking if anyone would switch. Again. Crickets. We spent the next few days, and weekend, not sure Brian would be able to go on the trip. As an extreme worrier, I spent these days all knotted up. Annoying. But, come Monday morning—as Brian was about to walk out the door for work—his coworker texted and said he’d switch. Phew! Things were looking up Monday morning. Until Monday evening…
Second hang up. The Saturday before, Saige all of a sudden got sick in the afternoon. She was better Sunday morning, like nothing had happened. Since it was only Saige, we figured it was food poisoning—she was the only one who ate some old celery from the fridge. Everyone else continued to be fine. And with Saige back to normal, the week kicked off as usual. Saige and Baby went to school Monday. Blaise went to rock climbing and Laine to gymnastics Monday evening. And as usual, Brian picked up Blaise and then Laine after their activities. Both Laine and Blaise blew on the drive home. Lovely. Apparently Laine made it into a bag. Blaise, not so much. It was the stomach flu.
Blaise and Laine both went to bed sick and woke up feeling fine the next morning. Much like Saige. Thankfully it was a quick bug. Not fun, but quick. And then it was my turn. I went to bed Monday night as usual. At 3am, I was up with the wonderful stomach flu. I spent most of the night out of bed and Tuesday morning on the couch. Tuesday evening—other than being exhausted from a rough night of sleep—I felt back to normal. Brian and Baby were left. Brian was hit in the middle of the night, and down all Wednesday. Baby also got hit Wednesday, blowing first thing in the morning. Since those of us who had it already were all better the next day, we were fairly certain the trip could still happen Friday. And sure enough, Brian and Baby were fine Thursday. And come Friday, the stomach flu was long gone. But, it’s always something…
Third hang up. More of a hiccup (we were still planning on going). Thursday after wilderness school, Blaise said he got dirt in his eye and it was bothering him. It was a bit watery and slightly swollen, but not red. We weren’t going to be home until that evening so I grabbed some eye drops at Target until we made it home. I didn’t think it was pink eye based on Blaise’s dirt information. But just in case… the last time one of the kiddos had pink eye, I asked for an extra prescription because five kids. And so Thursday night when we finally made it home after a long day, I dropped some of the pink eye medication is Blaise’s eye. Just in case.
Friday morning was going to be busy. Baby was off to wilderness school. Brian had work. Blaise and Laine had math lab. And I had to do all the prepping and packing—with the help of a toddler—to leave at 3pm. Plans changed. Blaise woke up with a super red, swollen eye. Awesome. The time I had set aside to do everything I needed—between everything Friday as usual—now included a trip to Urgent Care. Sure enough, it was pink eye. And the attending doctor prescribed a different eye medication than I had at home. Urgent Care, check. Pharmacy next. Medication in hand and administered in Blaise’s eye in the pharmacy parking lot, we were heading back home. Blaise’s eye looked so much better when we made it home 30 minutes later. Phew. Now it was time to prep and pack, in fewer hours than I had planned.
What a Friday. I managed. I was ready with everything kiddos and me at 2:45pm. Thankfully, I add cushions into my timeframes. But Brian, his work. He helped me out and picked up Baby from her wilderness class. But this meant his work day was cut by about two hours. Normally, no biggie. But this Friday afternoon he was deep into an unplanned meeting when were were supposed to be pulling out. He hadn’t even packed yet. Even though logically I know Brian’s work is incredibly important, being that it supports our life and things like a cabin weekend, I was incredibly annoyed.
Still in his meeting at 3:30pm, I decided I’d pack for him. And then I loaded up the car including the kiddos. The PRESSURE. Haha. Selfishly, loading the kiddos helps keep them confined and the house in order those last few minutes before pulling out. Brian finally ended his meeting. He said it was the most technical conversation he’s had in months. Of course it was. Because it’s always something.
We pulled out at 4:03pm.
The drive east was smooth. We only stopped in Ellensburg for dinner. At Burger King. Impossible burger and all. Long drives are the only time we ever grab Burger King. Other drive-thru places need to get on the vegetarian bandwagon. Selfishly. The stop took maybe 10 minutes before we were back on the 90.
It was about 8:15pm when we arrived at Riverside State Park. Our friends rented the other cabin; there are only two cabins. They arrived a few hours earlier, after their it’s always something… their locked cargo roof box opened on the 90 and they lost a few sleeping bags. They said they stopped but the sleeping bags had flown into the grassy area separating east and west of the highway, and that it was dangerous trying to gather them. They concluded living was better than a few sleeping bags. Totally agree on that!
Brian unloaded the car. This is one of his job jar responsibilities. The kiddos quickly found their buddies and were off exploring in the dark. I checked out the cabin. It’s super nice! The best state park cabin we’ve stayed in, which is only a few but I imagine it’s hard to beat the Riverside cabins. They were built in 2019 and still feel new. And bonus, they have a full bathroom! It felt spacious with the high ceilings.
All settled in, marshmallows next. Of course the kiddos were all about roasting marshmallows. Maive was running on fumes but wasn’t going to miss out on a marshmallow. She rarely naps in the car anymore. Not that she naps at all. She gave those up around a year old. No time for naps when keeping up with four older siblings. And so, she’s usually in bed between 6-7pm. Pushing 9pm was exhausting for her. But, marshmallows! They all roasted a few, and even busted out the graham crackers and chocolate. After two marshmallows, I called it a night for Maive. I readied her for bed in the cabin and she was out cold in about two minutes.
The rest of the kiddos found the headlamps and continued exploring the campground. We had no idea what it looked like since we arrived after dark. This didn’t stop the kiddos. They’d disappear and we’d see hints of light in the distance from their headlamps. And they they’d be back up, with headlamps blinding us. This went on and on for a while. All while Brian and I sat around the fire. It was close to 10:30pm when we all decided to call it a night. Everyone was fast asleep in the toasty warm cabin. Brian had cranked up the heat since we had left the door open while Maive was alone in there asleep.
Saturday morning I woke up but decided to stay in bed a bit longer. Brian got up and moving, and looked out the door window. He said, “Wow, the river is right there.” Not 10 minutes later, Blaise was up and looking out the door window. To which Blaise said, “Wow, the river is right there.” Haha. So of course now I needed to get up and see the river right there. Eh, I wouldn’t say it’s right there. Right there, to me, would be the river is within 20 feet. The river is out the door, down the hill, across the lower campground road, just past the riverfront campsites. But it was close.
Saturday morning the kiddos were all about their bikes. This is the first trip we’ve taken bikes with us. Brian bought a really nice bike rack back in December 2019. It sat in our garage, still in its shipping box, until fall 2021 when Blaise took a weekly mountain bike class. Brian took off the bike rack once the class ended. It’s sat on the skate ramp in the garage since. Until this trip. We loaded all the kiddos’ bikes and they were so ready to ride Saturday morning. Even Maive. We loaded her dinosaur balance bike. It’s was too short to reach the bottom of the bike rack; Brian zip-tied it to Saige’s bike so it was secure for the drive.
The two cabins are up on a hill with a lower campground below. The lower campground was closed for the season while we were there. And that turned out to be absolutely amazing. The big kiddos brought their mountain bikes and could to zip down the hill. Blaise didn’t go for this; he’s cautious. Laine wanted to go for it but has zero experience mountain biking down steep hills. I would have let her but Brian. Brian said she could from half-way down. Their buddy is more experienced and went for it, over and over. He made it look easy. The alternative for getting down the hill was to use the road to the lower campground. And since it was closed and gated off to vehicles, we were able to let the kids ride free without concern. They must have spent most of Saturday on their bikes. Off-and-on throughout the day. I think taking bikes is a must from now on.
After biking and breakfast—and more biking—it was time to hit the trails. I was all about seeing the damn bridge. I’m not sure what’s up with my fascination of bridges but whatever. I had seen pictures online of the bridge and the Bowl & Pitcher area. It was stunning in pictures. Even better in person.
We walked from the cabins to the bridge and then across the bridge to the trails. There were nine kiddos. Including a six-month-old baby and Maive, the toddler. We could only go so far. It all worked out well. We started up the trail to the left of the bridge but it’s pretty rocky. And the six-month-old gal was in a stroller. We decided to turn back around and head on the trail to the right of the bridge. It was much smoother and fairly flat, although they decided to park the stroller by the bridge and wear the gal. Along the trail are several small rocky hills the kiddos all wanted to climb. Even Maive. The big kids went up no problem. I helped Maive with one and decided that was good. It was super steep and rocky.
Along the trail were a few lookouts, between large boulders, of the Spokane River. Absolutely beautiful. I know nothing about rocks or geology, so maybe this isn’t a big deal but I was admiring the large boulders. They aren’t like big rocks, all solid and smoothish. Like around here. They are large boulder-shaped boulders with so many jagged edges and crevices. I think they’re pretty damn cool.
The small hills got smaller and smaller as we walked along the trail. The kids still climbed them but the novelty wore off. They found some fun trees and logs before we decided to turn around. It was getting close to lunch. Walking back toward the bridge they were back to climbing the bigger rocky hills. But the novelty of taking their picture wore off for me, haha. We eventually made it back to the bridge and then the cabin. Time for lunch.
Saturday afternoon was spent around the cabins. We all ate lunch and the kids hopped back on their bikes, taking advantage of the closed campground below. Earlier in the morning, the kiddos discovered some cute critters. Groundhogs maybe? Whatever they are, they’re super cute. Blaise wanted to take me down to the lower campground to check out these critters. He and I set off mid-afternoon on what turned out to be about a two mile hike. Maive joined us as we started walking down the hill. She doesn’t want to miss out on anything. Turns out there is a trail that goes from the lower campground along the river, down to a road by the waste water treatment plant.
The rest of the afternoon was quiet. It almost felt like we had the entire campground to ourselves. With our two families in the only two cabins, and the lower campground closed, we barely saw anybody else. When not biking, the kids were exploring along the river or in the trees. They spent a good hour or so making nature rafts and then sending them off in then river, while others tried to bomb them by throwing rocks. Even Brian got in on the bombing. A fort was built, hammocks were used as swings, wilderness skills were utilized—knives and saws were put to use. It was a lovely, quiet afternoon, without a care in the world. Sometimes I forget how much I cannot sit when I’m at home. There’s always something to do and I never allow myself to just sit. Not being home, I was able to literally just sit. Much needed downtime.
Dinner was burgers. There was a hang up. Driving in Friday a lightbulb went off. About three hours into the drive east. I was running through everything I packed in my head, along with rough plans for the weekend. Gear and all. I forgot the griddle. This has become a camping staple for our family. (Yes, cabins are camping in my book.) We bought an extra large griddle a few years ago that actually fits enough food for our family in one shot. We take it camping for burgers, pancakes, eggs, etc. And we needed it at Riverside for burgers, pancakes, eggs, etc. Thankfully there is a Target not far from Riverside. I quickly placed a drive up order for another griddle. It’s not as large as the one we have but it’s works well enough. And we’ll put it in our eventual RV trailer that Brian has been pondering for about five years. Not unusual for him to take forever to make a purchase decision. Unlike me so we balance each other out.
Brian grabbed the drive up order Saturday afternoon. It worked well. Maive—who never naps or stops moving—needed some forced downtime. She went with Brian for the drive to Target. Dinner was smooth. Brian has the camping burger thing down. We all ate and used the remaining hour or so of daylight to keep on enjoying the quiet campground. Maive was a zombie and I made the call to put her to bed around 7pm. She was out in seconds.
Maive missed out on the second night of s’mores. Eh, she has no idea she missed out. The rest of the kiddos got straight to roasting as soon as we gave them the green light that Maive was asleep. We told Saige and Baby they had an 8pm bedtime, and they didn’t complain at all. They were exhausted. Blaise and Laine were given a 9pm bedtime. Earlier than usual on trips like this but it was needed. And their buddy was calling it at night at 9pm also.
Blaise and Laine were going to hang out around the fire for the last hour. Brian and I called it a night at 8pm with Saige and Baby, ready to relax in bed. Not five minutes later, Blaise of all kiddos, walked into the cabin and said he was ready for bed. Haha! He never goes to bed early. Laine and their buddy lasted about 20 minutes longer before they called it a night. Brian made sure the fire was put out before we were all asleep by 9:30pm.
Sunday kicked off with pancakes and eggs. Brian put the griddle to use and even whipped up some bacon before everyone was out of bed. Blaise and Laine were the last to get up and moving. After feeding everyone and cleaning up breakfast, it was time to load up before check out at 11am. Brian and I have been together long enough that we have a very well-orchestrated routine, where we both know what all needs to be done without having to check with the other about who is doing what.
Everything was loaded and the cabin cleaned by 11am. Except the bikes. We ended up pulling away closer to 11:30am since the kiddos were enjoying even more bike riding. Before leaving Riverside, we parked down by the bridge to check it out one last time. And a lookout. Saturday afternoon we noticed some folks up high overlooking the river and bridge. Turns out there are stairs to a lookout with a very short rock wall. Blaise and I are not fans of heights so after nosing around up there quickly, we walked back down the stairs and waited for the rest of the gang.
It was close to 12:30pm when we left for home. Lunchtime. Brian had a great idea. We exited the 90 to grab McDonald’s for the kids but neither Brian or I wanted McDonald’s. But the exit we took felt like it would be the last exit for a while, and Google told me there were no Burger Kings for miles. Next to the McDonald’s was a Domino’s Pizza. We ordered three pizzas for $30. Cheaper than any drive-thru place, for our family at least. It would be 15 minutes until the pizzas were ready. Score for Brian, there is a Starbucks across the road. By the time he grabbed a coffee and we drove back across the street, the pizzas were ready. Back on the road, we drove straight home. Not a single stop.
Home and unloaded, and laundry started, we had the entire afternoon and evening to relax before real life again. Riverside State Park was super fun. The cabins were the best ones yet. And having the lower campground closed, making it feel like we had the entire place to ourselves, was absolutely amazing. I’m digging these state park cabin trips. Of course I was inspired and booked two trips to other State Parks the following day. No plans to cancel these trips.