Amy was out of town working again (Yakima, this time) so you can bet you know what was on the schedule. Yup! Another of my patented "This can't be a good idea" hikes. This time: The Big Four Ice Caves. (Ooh... sounds cold and spooky!)
You probably don't remember, but back when I was merely a father of one we visited the Ice Caves. It was a good trip and I've wanted to go back since. However, more kids and other trips and finally a washout of the bridge all conspired to keep me away.
But now Clara and Lilly can easily handle this kind of distance and Henry is just on the cusp of being able to do it. After all, it's little more than a mile to get the basin with very little gain. It's all good.
At 8:30 we picked up Dan, Isabella, and Ethan and headed north for the long drive. Thanks to the magic of the DVD player we had a relatively peaceful ride except Henry wanted more attention and poor Ethan, sitting next to him got a little too much attention from the littlest hiker. I'm still not exactly sure how to deal with this issue, but a big plexiglass sheet might go a long way toward a solution.
By 10am we were at the trailhead and heading up the boardwalk under big trees. The new bridge over the Stillaguamish River is big and shiny, but only two feet higher than the old bridge that was washed away in the big floods a few years back. Since it took so long to replace there's much hope that this one won't be as fragile.
The trail is very gentle and the big kids (ie: everyone older than Henry) raced ahead with Dan, then came back to check on us, then raced ahead again. It was just like having Tokul. (Tokul didn't get to go on this trip mostly due to lack of space in the truck. In fact, she hasn't been on the trail since Kendall Peak and I think she's starting to get a bit punchy.)
Henry was toddling his way along with little problem and little complaining. We only caught up with Dan and the big kids when they ran into some obstacle like a creek crossing or a wacky collapsed bridge. We finally overtook them when Dan stopped to change Ethan just before we arrived in the basin.
I found a decently large, flat rock, and got most of the kids to sit for lunch. We'd been on trail for almost two hours and although that meant we'd consumed fair amounts of Special Hiking Bites (M&Ms), bars, and jelly beans we were all hungry. PBJs and juice boxes (oh the luxury!) were consumed quickly and the kids started wandering around. Of course, that meant that someone stepped on a juice box that squirted poor Henry. Dan reassured him it was no big deal and offered up that he'd been squirted just a few minutes ago, too. (Ew!)
Unfortunately, this year has been so wacky the caves weren't really well formed yet. There were a couple of small openings exuding the kind of chill you'd get in a freezer right when you open it or perhaps when a crypt is opened, but you had to squat down to look inside. Kind of lame, actually.
The snow cone, though, was truly impressive. It's hard to get an idea of just how big it is, but rest assured it's monsterous. Being the overly safe and paranoid father I didn't let the kids get too far onto the snow. ("Come back here," goes the camera, "Right now!") There were TONS of peopel everywhere and since the kids wanted to see more of a cave we packed up to head a little higher.
Unfortunately, the trail that continues to the upper area is loose dirt and pretty steep. Clara bounded straight up it and Lilly was doing ok. Henry (in my arms at this point) was having a blast, but Isabella couldn't manage it. She had on a lovely pair of pink cowboy boots and a denim skirt that are probably great for the traditional Friday night square dance on Snoqualmie Ridge, but not so good on the trail. I called Clara back and we retreated to the basin.
After a potty break (a cave sure would have been handy) we headed down the trail. Unfortunately, 'Bella's boots began to exact quite a price on her feet and she and Dan fell behind while I tried to prevent the other kids from sprinting all the way down to the car.
As many people as we saw on the way up and in the basin there were even more going up now. Few appeared to be really hikers and a ton of them were actually smoking while hiking. There were some inspiring sights, though, like the 80 year old woman with trekking poles announcing she had just had her knee replaced, but she was going to make it anyway.
We finished the trail with Lilly and Henry carrying a stick together while Clara and Ethan ran back and forth on the boardwalk. Isabella had ditched the boots in favor of Dan's arms. Piled back into the truck we controlled the kids with promises of ice cream and were soon back home. None of my kids slept at all, but Ethan was out for about an hour of the drive.
Total distance was about three miles, but only 300 feet of gain. Just like last time I'll prophesy a return trip in the near future, but the long drive pretty much guarantees it'll be quite a few more years until we return for such a short trip.