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Summer in Paradise
posted by John : June 22, 2014

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Bucket list: Check

After a great snowshoe adventure at Sunrise the day before, a good night's rest at Ohanapecosh, and an impressive tour through the Grove of the Patriarchs we could have called it a day and headed home. Except I love the Park too much to miss out on another day of great weather on Summer's opening weekend.

Plus, snowshoeing at Paradise was close to one of the four trips I wanted to do in the 2013/2014 season. (Technically, it was a snowshoe to Reflection Lakes, but don't worry, we stopped there, too.)

From the Grove of the Patriarchs we drove up Stevens Canyon past the Snow Lake trailhead and stopped at Reflection Lakes. (See, I told you we'd stop.) The lakes weren't doing much reflecting because they were still mostly covered in snow.

What I loved most about Reflection Lakes wasn't the view (nice as it was), but listening to other visitors' discussions. Sure, they oohed and ahed about the view of the Mountain, but they were equally thrilled by the snow. I'm pretty sure some had never been in the snow before. The car on one side of us had a family from Florida. They made their daughter (about 12) go out on the snow so they could take pictures to send home. Getting people like that access to the snow and the high places is exactly what our National Parks should be doing.

And apparently, the Park Service was doing a great job of it at Paradise. The upper lots were full so we parked in the overflow lot. As we got closer to the visitor center the slopes were covered with people like ants on a watermelon at a picnic. Hundreds of people were playing and reveling in the idea of snow in Summer.

And boy did it feel like Summer. It was warm and bright. Serious climbers milled around clanking with gear while true tourists slipped on the soft snow throwing snowballs. We made a beeline for the upper slopes where there were fewer people and the hills were steeper. Henry was itching for a glissade and so was I.

We too threw snowballs, but we also had our Tubbs snowshoes and climbed with fewer slips than the sneaker-bound. (Of course we had our snowshoes. I sold this trip to the kids as part of a Tubbs Ambassadorial assignment.)

Above the tourists and the snowboarders we got back to the kind of mountain experience I'm used to in the Park. Climbers practicing self and roped arrests or setting up Z-pully systems to hoist people out of a crevasse. Serious day hikers heading up to Camp Muir, and a stray family or two that were looking to get more peace and quiet than was possible at the visitor center.

Each trip a different kid stands out a being extra motivated or committed to our goal. The day before at Sunrise, it was Lilly. She wanted to climb to the highpoint above the Huckleberry Creek trail just because. The others were content to stay low. Today it was Henry who was up for new challenges.

He kicked steps in his snowshoes (he's a fan of the FLEX Jr. that looks like a scaled down version of my 'shoes) and kept up with Lilly and Clara who can usually outpace him with their longer legs. After we drank in the glorious, close-up views of the Mountain we took off our snowshoes and headed down. Henry went right to the edge and stared over.

"It's a perfect chute, Henry. Go for it."

"I don't know. It's steep. I'm scared."

"Do it. You'll have a blast." (I hoped it wouldn't turn out like Lilly's first glissade in the Park when she did a little too much tumbling above Summerland.)

He pushed off and picked up speed as he flew down the chute. Did he like it? Only so much he started climbing back up to do it again. I slid down to catch the action from below and made the ride that much faster for him. His second run was even better than the first. He wanted to do a third, but I told him we'd find more opportunities down the mountain.

The girls opted not to partake in that initial glissade, but did a few as we approached the visitor center. Needless to say, all were enthralled at the prospect of sliding down the mountain, though I think we could all have done without the wet underwear. We returned to the truck as conquering heroes, but with more to conquer on trips in the future.

After a quick stop at Narada Falls (I'd never been) we headed for home. I had managed to spare the kids from terrible sunburns, but not myself. They were tired and became more irritable as the two plus hour drive home wore on, but managed to survive another weekend of crazy adventure with me. The only bummers to the trip were that Amy and the Treen were both absent. There's little I can do about bringing the dog into the park, but I think next time we celebrate the beginning of summer in the snow we'll plan it so Amy can come, too.

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