Spain Anniversary Trip: Chelva

When we began to plan our anniversary trip to València, I bought a book on The Best Day Hikes in Spain and insisted we have a Saturday in València to take the regional bus to Calles to hike the Chelva loop dayhike.

What ensued were a few transportation plan mishaps and then, by some miracle or sheer grit and determination, we ultimately hiked the loop.

Back in Seattle, Michael rented a Fiat500 for Friday. it would have been a nice day trip, being on our own timeline we would have more time to explore. Two things happened. We realized that an international driver’s license would most likely (definitely?!) be required to pick up our Fiat. It rained floods on Friday. We scrapped the plan to go pick up our car and instead went to the aquarium and the operetta. We’d go with our original plan to take the bus.

Saturday morning came and we left the apartment at 9:17, the very last minute allowable to leave and catch the subway to the bus stop across town. The subway was delayed due to water on the tracks from the torrential rains and flooding. we both spent a quarter hour blaming each other and sharing our disappointment at missing our connection to catch the bus. We both really wanted to go on this hike. The pressure was high. I was really raking my brain. Finally we reached the ability to think from a solution-oriented perspective. My urban training emerged and we switched on my phone plans $10/day international roaming charge, updated the Uber app with passport information and current payment, and called up a taxi. For £90 took us up to Calles. We had about 4 hours to complete the hike the guidebook called a 3 1/2 hour loop. So we kept a steady pace, panicking near the end. We picked up the pace to a run, enjoying the feeling of running along the river but ending up with 45 minutes to spare and very sweaty at the supposed bus stop by the side of the road. We were very relieved when a local woman also appeared to catch the bus as well. We were really out there in the mountains and had the distinct impression there were no taxi drivers available without pre-reservation. Our train to Barcelona left in the morning so we were very motivated to get back to València, although we did entertain if we needed to sleep rough by the river we probably would live to tell the tail.

Spain Anniversary Trip: València

Michael surprised us with a revelation about Spain, that it and especially the third largest city in Spain—València—were worth checking out and perhaps even moving to. So with the generosity of my parents to take up the helm at our household watch the kiddos together with Linnéa, and generally hold down the fort (they strengthened it), we jetted off to the Mediterranean for the first half of November.

València did not disappoint. Such a beautiful and varied city. We found it balmy, friendly, walkable, brimming with arts and culture and we were even able to find an authentic vegetarian paella. Our urban Airbnb apartment provided the perfect home base to explore and sleep off our jet lagged mornings. We loved the ocean, the castles and the fresh squeezed oranges. We saw an operetta at the opera house, and several “foreign films” at the cinema across the street from our flat. Two were shot in and around València so it was a wonderful cultural experience and good for practicing our Spanish and Catalonian.

Enchantments Through Hike

This year October stretched out like a taffy pull. The golden light and warm days kept intensifying. Instead of waning and turning dark, cold and rainy, the regional Skykomish fires lent the sky a pink peachy hue, and the rains held off. Each day was a repeat of the last, and they were all cherished for what they were, both foreboding in the acknowledgement of heralding climate change, and glorious bonus days of summer for hiking and outdoorsing.

In September my running buddy Jason and I got back to running after healing from our half-marathon (from May!). Around the same time he was getting into longer and longer day hikes, like Royal Basin as a dayhike, it caught my interest. In my early twenties when I worked for the Arapaho National Forest in Colorado and the Olympic National Park in Washington, I would hike marathon distances to my absolute bliss. I expressed my desire to be invited along on one of the next ones Jason planned.

Jason had been in the Enchantments backpacking and climbing a few times before in the previous decade, and was due for a re-visit. I had lived in the area long enough to have a healthy regard for the Enchantments. They are well known as the penultimate in alpine scenery: the landscape of legends, heroes and the playground of the Gods. So like our half-marathon, it was Jason’s idea to through-hike the Enchantments, but I latched onto it and drove it home.

On our runs around Greenlake, we began plotting our ascent into the Enchantment Lakes district of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness sometime in October for the fall colors. It’s a bit like the frenzy that associates the peak-bloom of sakura season in Japan. “Peak-larch” it’s being called, and everyone is trying to time their trip to match it. It’s a formidable day hike of approximately 18 miles, or 30 km, with ~4500′ elevation gain, and ~6000′ elevation loss. To hike it in the autumn means fewer daylight minutes, and planning to hike some portions by headlamp.

Another part of the preparations included planning and arranging for the transportation. The trail nearly makes a complete loop with the two trailheads separated by approximately 30 minutes drive along a bumpy road up the Icicle Creek Road. With a goal start time at the trailhead of around 5am, we leaned heavily on the generosity of our old beloved Quinault friends to drive with us out there leaving Leavenworth at 4am. Enormous gratitude goes out to Pam Baugh Trudeau and Jacquie and Glen Ferrier. Their heroics made seamless our car drop off at Snow Lakes trailhead and subsequent drop off at Colchuck Lake trailhead. We couldn’t have managed such elegance without you all. Huge thank you!

We successfully through-hiked the Enchantments on 1 October with about 300 other mostly toned young folks in their 20’s and 30’s, without injury or mis-hap and then immediately I was plotting when I could get back in there. Surprisingly, I did not have to wait long. With Michael’s support, Jason and I through-hiking again with another friend of his on 15th October, this time with about 200 others. I would go back again tomorrow in a minute. And I certainly plan to go back next year on a weekday.

What follows is a amalgam photo journal of these two trips, and an arial view courtesy of my brother, Captain Peter Murphy.

Upper Snow Lake and the Enchantment Lakes in Alpine Lakes Wilderness from the air 📸Captain Peter Murphy
Arriving pre-dawn at Colchuck Lake after hiking two hours from the trailhead on 1 October 2022 with at start time of 0515.
The boulder field going around Colchuck Lake took us one hour on both occasions, and it is something I would not wish to do by headlamp. On this day, dawn had just broken, and I swapped my headlamp for sunscreen and removed a layer. Jason Gerend 15 October 2022
Climbing approximately 60-75 minutes up from Colchuck Lake to the top of Asgard Pass. Here I’m nearing the top of Asgard, looking back down at the Larches forming an ombre pattern with the elevation change on 1 October 2022

Autumn Joy

Lake’s favorite question to ask is still: “what’s your favorite color?” And ironically Lady Kitty’s favorite answer to any question is still “I like pink and purpaw.” I just put two and two together! Those two are made for each other!

We’ve been making a lot of wagon excursion in the evenings after school. Thank you Nana for the new wagon! One favorite destination is the “book store!” Third Place Books, and another is Greenlake. They are both real troopers when Mama likes to get some exercise after working inside all day. We often pack a picnic and return in the dark. Enjoying the autumn sunshine as long as it lasts. Autumn Joy! I recently taught Lake that plant name after he noted someone else had it in their garden like we have.

Sweater on Lady Kitty is vintage hand knit by Jacquie Ferrier.

Enjoy the Autumn!

Silly Sibs

Lake and Lady Kitty are both saying funny things every day, and I’m not able to really record them adequately. I can hardly remember the beginning of the sentence by the time they’re at the end. Their quotes and quips are completely unexpected and hilarious. I’ll try to share a few with you; they’re not perfect quotes, but close.

Lady Kitty: “you Funny Girl, tiny little Mama”

Then she continues with her more common refrain about how she’s tiny. “Mama you’re big. I’m tiny. Mama you have big arms. I have tiny arms. I have tiny legs. I’m tiny.”

Lake: “I had a growth spurt in the night! I was like: Why is the bunk bed this much shorter?! Oh, I had a growth spurt in the night!”

Lake: “at a wedding recently it was a long shot, I was like why are all these people with red hair. Oh! They’re all my cousins!“

Lake: “oh my ducking god. I mean. Oh my ducking goodness.”

Lake: “I like Greece! They believe in God a lot. They believe in Gods a lot.”

Lady Kitty wanted to sleep under the sleeping bag when we were camping. I was trying to reason with her to get inside the sleeping bag we three were going to share, worried I’d squish her if she was sleeping in the middle between us and under the sleeping bag instead of inside it. “Don’t worry Mama, it’s fine. I’m fine.”

Lady Kitty: this is my pack-kak [backpack]…

What’s your favorite food Lady Kitty? “I like pink. I like pink and I like wuwul (purple)…”

“I like ‘peetos’…” She laughs at her pronunciation of tomatoes. “I say ‘peetos’… [more laughter] I like ‘peetos’ Mama!”

Lady Kitty: “I want more wuguck [yogurt] Mama, pleece.”  

And potty humor never fails to make these two enjoy themselves and lighten the mood… “Are you poopy, moms?“ Lady Kitty said, and found this hilarious, especially the more she said it and to her great delight kept calling me “moms” and laughing more.

Lady Kitty to Mama after Lady Kitty hit Lake and was being held accountable asking her to apologize to her brother. “Will you “sorry” with Bro Bro?”

“You do it.” she likes to say.

Lady Kitty to Michael at tuck-in: “Is your bed cozy, Dada? My bed is cozy.”

We are so glad you have a cozy bed, have fun, and have each other, you silly sibs. We love you both so much!

First Day of First Grade

Today was the first official day of First Grade for Lake. We saw him off on the yellow school bus in the morning, and he piled out of the bus a little more than seven hours later, tired and covered with orange felt pen. After a quick snack and hearing a few highlights such as coloring his bear at school, we said a hurried goodbye to Jo and Martin. It’s been really special to have Lake’s first au pair back to visit us.

We hurried off as Lake had a pressing engagement. Today he did a spot of acting in his first film. I think he found it strange compared to putting on shows on the beach or in the living room especially because he wasn’t the director this time! In this instance he took a lot of direction and repeated the scenes for many “takes.”

Our neighbor is a documentary filmmaker and she had scouted him. She successfully enticed him to participate with the promise of cookies. Lake grew regretful of his earlier enthusiasm as he started to get cold feet walking over after school. By the end, though, Lake was thoroughly warmed up (mostly from running back and forth down the boulevard aiming for that perfect shot) and started to appreciate the artistic process.

I taught belly breathing at bedtime, a self-soothing technique. He liked it but soon tired of lying in one position and wanted to listen to Tara Brach to go to sleep. So that we did. Well done, Lake! You worked hard today. A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you!

Mt. Rainier 2022

The VanLaanens have a Summer camping tradition at Silver Springs. It’s not much in terms of ambitious mountaineering or taking the kids into the backcountry but it’s something of a start hopefully, and we’ve kept it up over most of the years of our marriage and family life. This particular National Forest Campground is located near Crystal Mountain Ski Resort serving as the perfect springboard to explore both the Paradise and Sunrise areas of Mt. Rainier National Park. We love to take our au pairs there as our big annual family camping holiday. They’re more accustomed to family holidays at the coast of Egypt or Croatia or Italy, but we take them to Silver Springs in our “tiny” “Auto” —as Lady Kitty and Lake would say, respectively.

This year, it was super special to introduce our new au pair, Linnéa from Sweden, to our beautiful nature and majestic peak so soon after her arrival in our country and our home, as well as to revisit our camping tradition with our first au pair Jo who was back for a visit with her Dutch-German longtime boyfriend Martin. She could introduce him as well, and we reminisced about our first camping expedition with Jo, Doreen and Baby Lake. It’s a bit of a christening into the VanLaanen family and the Pacific Northwest.

This year we rented a van to drive in addition to our tiny Auto to more comfortably accommodate our growing “family.” We camped two nights in our three tents. We had nearly enough sleeping gear to spread around among everyone. During the day we all piled in and drove to Paradise and back and from Sunrise to sunset. It was a wonderful experience. I think it’s safe to say fun was had by all.

Our happy troupe at Frozen Lake — above Sunrise
The Strong Women of the Skyline Trail— Paradise
These characters — this is what tent camping for two nights does to Michael’s hair!

Runaway Flower Girl

When my pulchritudinous and highly accomplished second-cousin-once removed announced her save the date for the post-covid ceremony of her to her lovely Romanian husband, I may have stepped in and volunteered Lady Kitty to serve as their flower girl. In spite of the distance of our direct relation, I have been quite close to her family over the years. Her little sister served as flower girl in my previous wedding. So, I was thrilled for Lady Kitty when the couple agreed they would love to have Lady Kitty as their flower girl for their beach-chic wedding at the historic Golden Gardens Beach Bathhouse.

As the time drew nearer, I came to realize the folly in my thinking. It became apparent that Lady Kitty is actually a bit too young to perform solo or semi-solo in front of a crowd. We made some last ditch efforts to introduce her to the wedding party and to the entire concept of flower throwing. Michael and the bride’s good friend “MJ” gave heroic cameos in the flower girl training school. Alas, Lady Kitty walking by herself tossing flower petals from a flower basket was not meant to be. Due, however, to the graciousness of my cousin the bride, we pulled off a successful showering of preciousness to make way for the beautiful bride and her parents. (I walked along with them carrying Lady Kitty wearing her baby’s breath crown that she tore off at the last minute.)

What a lovely celebration! We wish the newlyweds all the best in their life together! And such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you! Professional photographers were present at the wedding, so perhaps additional photos to follow. In the meantime enjoy some royal cuteness!

Top of the World

After a wonderful summer of auntie, uncle, cousin and grandparents’ love, the kids are back in residence! Queue soundtrack…

Top Of The World (1973 Remix)CarpentersFrom the album Love Songs

Such a feelin’s comin’ over me 

There is wonder in ‘most every thing I see

Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes

And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream

Everything I want the world to be

Is now comin’ true especially for me

And the reason is clear, it’s because you are here

You’re the nearest thing to heaven that I’ve seen

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation

And the only explanation I can find

Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around

Your love’s put me at the top of the world

Somethin’ in the wind has learned my name

And it’s tellin’ me that things are not the same

In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze

There’s a pleasin’ sense of happiness for me

There is only one wish on my mind

When this day is through I hope that I will find

That tomorrow will be just the same for you and me

All I need will be mine if you are here

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation

And the only explanation I can find

Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around

Your love’s put me at the top of the world

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation

And the only explanation I can find

Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around

Your love’s put me at the top of the world


📸 Emily Hogan

County Fair

Siblings at the fair! Precious to see Lake’s arm around Lady Kitty on the roller coaster! Summer fun times with Nana and Baba are coming to a close today. We can’t thank Nana and Baba enough for the gift of all these perfect days and memorable experiences together. ❤️