Mama Went hiking and Got Vegan Ice Cream After

Kirk is an awesome husband. ♥ He gave me a kid free day out!

And I had homemade ice cream after – recipe is at the end!

On short notice the weather turned sunny for the weekend. My friend Dani was free on Saturday so we decided on going to The Carbon River area of Mt. Rainier National Park (click it to see a earlier trip report from two years ago and this one with Walker from last year.). Two reasons: we both love rain forest hiking and it was National Park freebie week. I haven’t bought my new NP pass for the year yet so I try to not pass up getting in for free 😉

It was my first hike without Alistaire along. It is always an odd feeling to leave your babies behind but I know I needed it. A day of only needing to think about myself was just what I craved. Carbon is one I have done so many times – it is one of my favorite hikes due to the intense green and the quiet. A busy day there is a slow day compared to the trailheads closer to Seattle.

Dani doing a pose:

The dew was burning off quickly:

Me in front of one of the creeks that still run down the old road bed (from the 2006 blowout):

We got out to the old Ipsuit Creek Campground, which is now officially (finally!) a backcountry camp area as of last year. I am one who is happy with the Park Service keeping the old road a trail permanently (and it is bike and jogger stroller friendly). I drove the road many times and walking it is way more enjoyable. Part of the changes is privies that have been added, the old restrooms are gone:

The other big change is the soon-to-be finished guard station/log cabin. There was an old one that barely escaped the floods, the new one will be in the old car parking lot at the start of the junction to The Wonderland Trail. Change is good. It really can be. And yes, that was snow! Only in the exposed areas, everywhere else was melted out.

Another view:

I know I make a good living developing backcountry recipes. I was feeling lazy and picked up a sammie on the way to the trailhead 😉 It was tasty I might add – artichokes, guacamole, tomatoes and foccacia bread.

After being lazy in the camp (and having lunch at a picnic table) we started the long walk back down the Carbon River. Looking back up the river, Rainier had clouded over as is often normal (although from the angle here she isn’t visible).

It was a perfect hike – sunny, mildly warm. Great views, friendship, chatting and tasty food. Although by the end we clocked in over 11 miles and my post-partum thighs were telling me off. Hah.

My treat that night was homemade vegan-friendly ice cream – made with coconut milk. While it might not be everyone’s idea of perfect ice cream, I was in love with it! You will need an ice cream maker for it. I made Ford go dig for ours and blew off the dust. Now that we have a mini-chest freezer I find the maker’s core freezes better and gives a smoother, creamier ice cream. So if you have both, use the deep freezer! But don’t store the ice cream in it. I did and the ice cream became VERY hard. Lesson learned, store the finished product in the freezer in the kitchen.

Cashew and Pistachio Coconut Ice Cream


  • 2¾ cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ cup cashew butter
  • ¾ cup organic raw agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup pistachios, roasted and salted, diced (measure after shelling)
  • ½ cup finely shredded sweetened coconut


Freeze the inner chamber of your ice cream maker for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Add the coconut milk through sea salt to a Vitamix blender or other powerful blender. Start on Variable 1, go up to 10 quickly and then turn to High. Process for a minute. Follow your ice cream maker’s directions, for my Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker:

Add the frozen chamber, insert the paddle and put the lid on. Start the machine and slowly add in the mixture. Let run for about 20 minutes or until soft serve texture. Add in the pistachios and coconut while running, let continue to paddle for 5 minutes more.

Turn off and scoop into airtight containers, freeze until solid (2 to 3 hours). Although as soft serve it is very nice as well.

Makes 1 quart.


Dayhiking Glacier Basin

A long time ago (OK, not that long ago, just feels like it), back in the summer of 2003, Ford and I set off to hike Glacier Basin at Mt. Rainier National Park. He was nearly 5 at the time and we were spending our first summer living in King County, Wa hiking 3-4 days a week. We were following the snow line as it melted in the Cascade Mountains and around Mt. Rainier. Well on that trip I picked wrong and we hit snow about 2 miles in. It was the normal icy crud and I punched through up to my upper thigh and fell forward. Realizing I was lucky I hadn’t broken it I hobbled back down to the truck. Ended up with a pretty bad bruise on my thigh as a reward.

Us along Emmons Moraine that trip:

I meant to go back and finish the hike. I really did. But then summer came and there was so many other trails – really pretty trails, tons of alpine wanderings. Then the next couple years were all about hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail and then that one day in November of 2006 the trail simply ceased to exist after the torrential rains destroyed so much in the area. That favorite saying of hikers and climbers that “the mountains will be waiting” isn’t always true – 18″ of rain can change a lot. So when this past week it was announced that the new trail was complete and open – and my friend Lynn emailed me asking if I wanted to hike – well I knew it was time. Time to finish that trail! Kirk and I had taken Ford and Walker last summer and had checked out the first half of the new trail so I knew the new trail was going to be amazing. (It was built to a level rarely seen these days – a trail so smooth that you can walk without looking down!) Kirk said he would watch Ford and Walker for me, give me a free day out!

This is what I went for – to see an amazing basin:

The trail starts at the White River Campground. The parking lot shares with people picnicking, Wonderland Trail hikers, climbers (Glacier Basin is a major climbing route for the mountain) and hikers. It pays to be early and we were parking before 8 am. That was pretty early for this girl these days…woooh!

The trail takes off in the woods and stays in cool open forest for most of the first mile. The park has also repaired Emmons Moraine trail and built a new access trail to cross the Inter River – Lynn coming back from checking it out:

You get a lot of views of Rainier though, no lack of that! Lynn had never had not hiked the trail before and had thought we’d be in the deep woods most of the time. She was happily surprised. We came up to where the trail hooks around the Inter River, I could see where last year we had picked our way along the river bed to continue. The new trail was so much friendlier!

Me posing in front of the river and the top of Rainier (with the hook of Little Tahoma to the left):

It is getting harder to wear a pack right as the weeks go by, I had borrowed Ford’s current daypack as his doesn’t have a stiff hipbelt. I could wear the soft webbing belt under my stomach and still keep the pack stable! I don’t think anything can help the fashion crime of wearing purple horizontal stripes and all cotton though 😉 No way was I wearing synthetic tech clothing – that and I can’t wear any of my hiking pants currently – and my hiking shirts are all short. I’ll stick for the next few months with my “stylin'” wardrobe that fits.

As the trail starts climbing the views get amazing – you gotta stop and enjoy them!

The trail darts back into the bright forest and takes a hook and goes around the back side, losing all views. Here we encountered the only snow of the trip, a few patches of it. Nothing technical, nothing too scary. All easily walked over. The wildflowers were just appearing. Lots of Glacier Lilies and Avalanche Lilies! The last .7 of a mile of the trail was hard, it is steep. I was feeling every bit of my anemia as we hiked from 5600 feet to 5900 feet. It was to me the hardest 7 tenths I have ever hiked, the snow patches were not helping. Hike 50 feet, stop and breathe. The anemia makes it so it is harder for my blood to process oxygen as I go up in elevation. But I was not going to stop this close from the payoff! And then suddenly it levels out and you come to a junction – a trail heads on to a drop with this view:

Looking down we could see climbers and hikers below us, heading towards St. Elmo Pass:

We turned back a few feet and took the turn into the backcountry camp and walked through – this is the route once takes for the views!

There is even a pretty lake tucked in to the far right as you walk out into the start of the basin. (From certain angles you could see parts of The Burroughs ridge as well)

The basin itself was just simply amazing. And this is just a tiny bit of the view. A tiny bit of Rainier is visible, just a bump of white in the middle. The camp sits in a copse of trees and the “maintained trail” ends at the camp – but it goes on and on, through the meadows, down to the river and across it and then onwards for even more rambling. I was just fine with sitting in the shade, on the edge of the meadows. The bugs were not bad, there was a gentle breeze and it wasn’t hot either. I mean…how often do you get that kind of perfect weather in alpine? In August?

For lunch I made myself a no-cook couscous salad:

We took a long break which for me helped a lot, got my energy back up. After fending off the moochiest pest of a ground squirrel (to the point of throwing pebbles at it) we packed up and headed back down. The views I had missed on the way up were nice to take in – I could see across to the backside of Burroughs and see the trail that winds down from Burroughs 1, across the open slope. I could see Yakima Park as well (that is where Sunrise is). All green now, the snow finally is nearly gone!

As we dropped a bit more and came to the last meadow and we saw a happy bear doing its thing – munching on vegetation. OK,  it is that brown blob in the middle of the photo 😉 I go by the rule of sanity – if you see a bear take a photo from a distance and then carry on. No tempting fate!

The hike out went fast although we passed a lot of people (on the way up we saw only a handful of other hikers – most of which was the 3 climbers with the sweet boom box backpack with rocking tunes……) The Seattle thing that is – get up and have breakfast, look outside and decide to go hiking. Get to the park on 2 pm… thanks. Those 8 am starts are so much nicer – and quiet!

The trail is about 7.49 miles total, with our side rambles and the walk to the parking lot and around 1600 feet gain. No scary water crossings either – every creek crossing is bridged!


Round The Mountain

Most years I do an annual drive around the mountain, that being Mt. Rainier that is. My brother was up visiting and he had never seen that back side of the park so why not do the drive? And Monday was a pretty sunny day making it even better.

Over the years I have found a great backdoor way to get to the Nisqually entrance of the park that avoids highways and never ending surface streets full of traffic and we saw only a handful of cars on our way there. Sure it involves dark roads to nowhere but hey, better than driving 10 miles through non-stop red lights! 😉

Rainier, looking across to her, a few miles below Paradise:

Walker and I:

Walker in his sunhat, at Paradise:

Between the very sunny day, 8 or so feet of snow left and being at 5600 feet or so it was very bright. I was not enjoying the sun to say the least. Oh well. Walker was though – and was charming everyone while walking around the snow covered meadows of Paradise:

After leaving Paradise we drove down Paradise Valley to Stevens Canyon Road and enjoyed the drive:

First peeks of Tatoosh Ridge:

We stopped at Reflection Lakes which had finally melted, though it had plenty of icebergs at the edges and snow in the woods nearby. The Wonderland Trail runs under the road and it was still covered in many feet of snow. Most people stopping at the big lake stop there, the best views though are at the end of the parking area – no trees, no snow in the way. Hah! It is though one of the best (and easiest to get) views of Rainier:

I took the guys down Stevens Canyon Road which once you leave Reflections is to me one of the best and funnest roads to drive. Curvy, open to the views with a screaming drop off for miles. Oh baby. Tear it up in the mini-van! (Hahhah!)

On the first curve there is an amazing view of Rainier with the road below it:

We stopped at the picnic area before Box Canyon and had lunch. I had never stopped there before – and would recommend it. It is quiet (unlike Box Canyon down the road). Lots of tables on easy access dirt paths in cool woods. It was in the mid to upper 70’s by then so I liked that. Even found that one of the tables had a neat hidden view of Mt. Adams!

Our drive down to Ohana was uneventful and we enjoyed the cooling breezes.

Then a quick left onto Hwy 123 and back uphill to subalpine, a left onto Hwy 410 and before we knew it we were rounding White River.

On the way back I took the guys out for ice cream at Wapiti Woolies in Greenwater. Walker was in love 😉

A mellow day, although that was a lot of sitting!


Morning In The Snow and A Picnic Along The River

Originally our plan had been to go dayhiking yesterday morning. It was socked in down below but with promise it would burn off (thanks to this very detailed forecast of the Mt. Rainier area I can usually peg good days easily!) By the time we got up to Chinook Pass the sky was blue and it was oohhh…..53°! We did leave early though!

Anyhow long story short I decided to trust the Seattle Times article on “5 snow free hikes!” that came out on Thursday. My gut kept saying “it isn’t melted out” but the author claimed it was – and I have met the author a couple of times and respect her. Well…it was like “mostly” melted out. The problem being is that at the trailhead still a solid wall of snow and to get up on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) you have to climb up the snow bank. Normally I don’t have qualms doing that – many times I have done this same hike and we climbed up. Well….not so easy when you have a baby on your back. It just isn’t worth it to take the risk. So I bagged the hike idea. I did find out later that the last ½ mile of the trail to the pretty subalpine lake was still under snow as well. So I felt a lot better for deciding against hiking it! I would have had to probably turn back. Sadly enough my risk taking goes into the basement when I have Walker on my back. I don’t like crossing snow, sketchy moss-covered logs, fording creeks, etc.

So sitting there at Chinook Pass, staring back at the western side of the state, covered in still heavy snow and thinking “It is July 29th!!!!” I headed back down the mountains a bit. We stopped a bit down above Tipsoo Lake and took some photos. It was pretty out and you can’t pass that up!

Looking across at Mt. Rainier:

Considering about 2 weeks had passed there had been “some” snow melt since I had been last up there, but not much. The lakes are still not broken up. The “stream” across the lake is a tiny bit wider and the snow not as deep. But not breaking up!

Rainier through a couple well bent trees:

Walker and I (Ford is getting so much better at taking photos now!)

Afterwards we drove down to the White River area of Mt. Rainier NP and had a picnic of sorts along the river. The river was running overall slow. In the summer of 2004 when I did a partial thru-hike of the Wonderland Trail my memory of the White River was it rushing wildly, chocolate-brown in color and that all you could hear was massive boulders grinding together. It was a very peaceful lunchtime though. The air smelled so good and the first wildflowers were open. It was so nice!

I took the day for what it was and we still had a nice day, me and the kids!


A Morning In The Mountains

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, so pretty I knew we had to go for a drive. Being that it was the 4th of July was a bonus. Kirk had the day off from work and the traffic was light as we drove up to Mt. Rainier. It was early when we left – if you want a better experience with Rainier you start as early as you can to avoid crowds. It still hasn’t “warmed” up at Rainier or in the Cascade Mountains yet. It was the typical 45° and sunny out early in the morning:

We had planned to do a hike with Walker down low but then changed our minds on the drive and went up to Sunrise instead since it had opened on Friday. And that it was so nice it seemed like a waste to be in the woods when we could be up so high!

The view from Sunrise Point is always worth stopping at. Mt. Adams in the distance was gorgeous, although this isn’t the best place to get a good photo (alas, a bit down the road it floats large in the sky and there is no pull out).

Walker photobombing me:

Look at Rainier, Little Tahoma and the ridges:

Looking across the other way I could see as far as Mt. Baker clearly. No smog, nothing. The sky was so clear being early summer. I could see every peak from Stuart to Glacier on so on. But up close I could also see that it will be awhile before I will be strolling up to Dege Peak! (Dege is the one on the left and when the snow is gone is an easy dayhike to the top)

Not visible but Baker was in the far distance. Up close is Brown and other peaks on the ridge, down below Sunrise Lake and the string of lakes out to the Palisades are still quite frozen over.

We finished our drive up to Sunrise and Walekr had so much fun playing in the snow (with was 8-9 feet still deep)

Walker had not really played with snow before, he was too young last year and it didn’t snow much down here last winter.

I was feeling very mellow. The hiking potential was pretty low up there and Walker was having fun. It was plenty for me and we just had fun!

With Sourdough Ridge behind him:

Rainier and Little Tahoma:

Rainier, Little Tahoma and Goat Island and more:

On the way down we had to wait while the park worked to get the road back open, a slump/slide had occurred on one of the always unstable slopes on a curve.

The parkies cut the tree in half and removed it with help from other motorists and then allowed everyone to drive on the shoulder to get around temporarily. The slump wasn’t shocking, the snow on the hillside was melting. At least it didn’t appear to have hit anyone’s car!

Sitting and waiting and look at a small example of columnar basalt, although a few yards down the road is an amazing section…but again no way to stop to photograph it.

Had a nice drive home and it was just a mellow day!


Waterfall Hiking



Kirk and I took Ford and Walker on the Silver Falls Loop Trail at Mt. Rainier NP this morning. It has become a yearly occasion to hike it in May or June, early on. The trail sits lower in elevation (low 2,000’s) so once the lower mountain pass is open we can drive there. The drive up was easy, we went early in the morning. The amount of snow at the pass is deep – the higher pass, Chinook Pass, is still not open yet due to that. It is going to be a late melting summer meaning it will be awhile before the alpine hikes open up. Ah well. The lowland hikes make me happy enough!

When we got to the trailhead there was only 2 cars. It isn’t a big parking area and a couple minutes later a mass of vehicles showed, a large group (by large it was LARGE) and many had one person in the car. Jeez……we got ready fast to get ahead and got on the trail.

Every time I do the loop I see most people on the hot spring/falls side and few, if any, on the other side. So we usually hike counter clockwise to enjoy the silence on the way back.

Me on the bridge over Laughingwater Creek, Ford in the background:

A closeup, I was testing out a sun cover for Walker’s backpack:

Silver Falls:

Ford and I (with Walker on my back):

Me…it was so bright the falls got blown out in the photo:

The falls and the river were running heavy and fast:

Looking downstream:

On the trail back. It was quiet and we only passed 4 people.

The river below us:


%d bloggers like this: