Mt. Rainier National Park: Reflection Lake and Pinnacle Peak Trail

My sister and I had been scheming to get the boys out hiking during my trip home for months. When the day finally came around we had two of the three boys and got a much later start than we’d hoped but the webcams were showing absolutely gorgeous bluebird skies at Mount Rainier National Park so off we went.

Once we drove into the park, I woke up both boys from their naps so we could start looking at the views as we drove up to Reflection Lake. Will, the youngest, continually exclaimed “Look at the¬†huge mountain!” This was not reserved for the grand dame, Rainier, but also bestowed on craggy Tatoosh Range peaks, and wooded unnamed peaks. His excitement was adorable and we all happily spilled out of the car and ate our sandwiches looking at Reflection Lake.

Reflection lake

Reflection lake

After a few photo opportunities, we headed up the Pinnacle Peak Trail. I never dreamed we’d make it to the saddle (okay, I dreamed about getting there and then ditching Emily and Kevin with the kids while I summited) but I was so impressed with the boys for making it almost a mile up the trail. 3 year old Will lead the charge up the hill on his first hike ever!

Heading up the trail

Will on the trail

Trail

Rainier mostly was out of the clouds for us and it was pretty hard to not just stare instead of climbing. Thankfully, our whole (tired) way down, she was in our faces.

Lady Rainier

I waved at Pinnacle putting it aside for another day with different goals. Today was about being outside with family.

Pinnacle Peak

Hiking with my nephew

Kevin Jr. and I even got in some bonus “scrambling” while we waited for his younger brother to descend the trail.

Beth and Junior

After the hike, we headed to Paradise for a quick swing through the visitor center and gift shop. Settled back in the car, it was clear that all five of us had enjoyed our day. There was hand holding hiking, exclamations of joy, and laughter disproportionate to our less than two miles traveled.

Hiking with nephews

 

Mesa Verde National Park

After we explored Brown Mountain and poked around Durango, we headed for Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde National Park has more than 5,000 archeological sites including some very impressive cliff dwellings. If you decide to visit Mesa Verde, definitely arrive early to avoid lines to sign up for the ranger lead tours of some of the bigger cliff dwellings. Since we didn’t get there early and had to be really aware of how long we left Sprocket in the car, we chose to just do a self-guided tour of Spruce House.

The drive from the visitors center to Chapin Mesa and Spruce House took about an hour. It’s a pretty drive through juniper and pinyon pines with sandstone cliffs here and there (a lot like Log Hill Mesa where we live actually…).

Road through Mesa Verde

I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum unfortunately. The building itself interested me a lot more than the sort of outdated displays. Partially funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., it’s just a beautiful example of classic National Park architecture!

DSC_0159

After checking out the museum, we headed down to Spruce House.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House

View from Mesa Verde

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

After falling in love with the San Juans, we decided to go check out Gunnison and Pitkin. Along the way is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We just did the south rim drive and didn’t head down into the canyon but it was pretty impressive:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Painted wall