It has been a rough winter in the Pacific Northwest. Where we usually get misted with rain for weeks on end, we’ve instead received a regular dusting (or in some cases, dumping) of snow. Unless you have the right gear, getting outdoors with a toddler when it’s cold and wet is sometimes difficult. T has hit the age where he isn’t particularly tolerant of being chilly or uncomfortable. He is also at that inbetween stage of adventuring where he wants to be down on his own two feet a lot, but also wants to be carried sometimes. I spent most of this winter very pregnant, so carrying was out for me. Now that the baby is here and has some weeks of being out in the world under his belt, we are trying to get some hiking in before Justin’s parental leave ends.
I wanted to start pretty easy, as I am far from the shape I was in last winter. Then, we were hiking almost every weekend starting in January. But, the tulips were blooming in early March last year, so its a different kinda winter. We opted for the Licorice Fern Trail in the Cougar Mountain area of the Issaquah Alps. Its close enough in that there isn’t snow anymore, but far enough out to feel like we went somewhere in the forest.
At this point, I’ve had a few chances to test out the Lillebaby carrier we got for Si. I front carry him in the fetal carry position, where he is nice and cozy. Bonus, he keeps me warm too! The only issue I’ve had with the Lillebaby so far is the waist belt interfering with my forward movement on uphills a bit; it is stiff and hits my upper thigh/lower hip area when I step up. I am 5’3” and have a short torso, so it’s possible that is just the way it’s going to be until I switch positions, but I am going to spend some more time adjusting the shoulder straps next time.
The Licorice Fern Trail is listed in our 60 Hikes book, and it was a perfect late winter meander. It winds down through mossy trees and ferns, then climbs back up for a ways before mostly leveling out. The trail isn’t particularly muddy, and all of the creek crossings have foot bridges crossing them. The early uphill section has a few spots where the trail has started to erode, and its narrow with a steep downhill on one side. Our toddler made it through this fine but we held his hand to be safe. The trees change as you climb out of the ravine and cross a residential road, with less moss, and a bit more brush and smaller trees. Towards the end of the official Licorice Fern section, the trail runs behind some homes and yards, then crosses another creek. Shortly after, the Licorice Fern Trail hits the Indian Trail, which heads right into a neighborhood, or left further into the Cougar Mountain trail network, and a lookout.
(Until I get a smaller camera or figure something out for my DSLR while carrying Si, I’m stuck with using my phone for trail photos)
I was hoping to make it to the lookout for a stopping point so I could nurse and we could have a snack, but we turned around right after the trail split to the lookout. It appeared to wind uphill a ways and my hips were getting sore, so we went down to the fork and sat to eat. T was getting chilly but we packed a raincoat and light gloves for him, so the combo of bundling up and trail mix helped redirect him to adventuring once more. We had hoped he would want to walk for a bit after this but he was over it, so up in the pack he went. From there, he could gleefully shout “Green means GOOOO!” every time we paused, and still pet some trees. About half a mile from the end, he realized that he couldn’t pick up rocks from the pack, and wanted back down. Then he wanted back up. He and Justin ended up settling on a shoulder ride, which was good, because soon after he wanted back down. Toddlers, man.
Justin’s Garmin clocked us at almost 4.5 miles and ~500 feet of elevation gain, which was more than I had bargained for, but gave me a good starting point. Its a kid-friendly trail but there are spots to be careful of with very young children, with plenty of spots to throw rocks in the creek. Hopefully the weather will give us a break so we can get in some more trail time before he is back at work (and we’re back to weekend hiking).
WTA Hike Listing: Licorice Fern Trail