Today, the road to the top of Sunrise Pass in Mt. Rainier National Park opens.
Today, I’d like to introduce you once again to Alta Crystal Resort. I’m so excited to welcome them back as a sponsor and help spread the word of just how awesome of a family destination they are.
Our trip last year was incredible, and our return was beyond amazing. It was the warmest weekend of the year, straight sun and just soul warming for a late winter in grey slate skies.
When snow in the northwest begins to melt, turns frigid stream water or rapid, the high snowpack walls of Cayuse Pass are just opening for spring view. Spring season passes at Crystal Mountain are just beginning as the interior of Mt Rainier National Park is blanketed in snow. It will never cease to amaze me how much depends upon a few thousand feet in elevation. And living by the sea sure strengthens my love for snow.
On a sunny, early spring afternoon, the girls happily traded in flip flop for snow boots and island rain for sunglasses at high altitude.
The drive up to the opening of Cayuse Pass is epic, silent in early spring. My husband and I have a thing for tunnels. We left the girls parked at roadside and stoood wonder-struck at tunnel’s opening. Maybe it’s all in the early shared love of a lyric:
We could have sat and looked at Mt Rainier forever. Glaciers, rock, evergreens; so familiar with Montana’s history inside us. Whenever we leave the salt sea, it’s incredible to feel how much we’ve missed the mountains.
Island life is great, but it makes it hard to list sledding as a favorite pass time living on the fine, salty line of the horizon. We so often bring the black sled in truck’s cab when we visit the mainland, just in case there’s snow, Luke always says.
The girls were ecstatic to sled, mid-May. Spring snow is such a strange phenomena. It’s warm, but cold all in the same. I love how Luke wore the Hawaiian shirt he wore on our first date. Betty grabbed my camera as Luke and I sank into the familiarity of friends in early love.
I was scared. Yes, this is true. The laughter, the just-the-two-of-us sliding on snow was fantastic. Luke had to count to three as we lunged over the edge. Lucy, our daring middle child jumped right in and giggled the entire way down.
Oh, we love snow and it was so much fun to play.
Maybe it was twenty minutes back to our accomodations at the Alta Crystal Resort. So lovely to have a short drive to a whole different activity for awesomeness. We took a vote, and board games won. After a quick change out of sledding’s wet clothes, we walked to the game lodge.
We hiked trails, crossed bridges and watched birds. I tried to teach her how to say evergreen and was smitten with her cute big-girl way. But it was the cat atop a car that had her squealing with delight.
We then went to the heated outdoor pool. Our girls will always be speechless when asked what they prefer; skiing or swimming. Our middle girl has the answer right with, um, both the same! It’s really icing on the cake for them when there’s both planned in a weekend.
Our balcony overlooked the pool, and it was awesome to watch Luke play with the older girls while I hung back with Olive. We sat in the sun and looked at books. She watched sisters splash, and after a while she wanted to join them below. Vacation is perfect in moments like these, where time is defined in segments of activity rather than a rush to fit it all in.
I got my suit on and found the towels and dressed our youngest. I could hear the giggles, the splashing and the joy filtering in through the sliding doors, dancing beside the sunlight.
It’s the sort of place that traveling with family friends just makes sense, where our children mesh so completely with one another vacation feels exactly like that: vacation. The vibe is so relaxing with enough room to spill into fields and chairs and trails that there’s no other way to be but relaxed.
I love the friends my daughters are becoming with one another, the best sorts of buddies they find in each other. It’s like they have sister secrets, with a language understood in play and whispers and smiles. I often feel so proud of the friendship they’ve found in each other.
We stayed here Mother’s Day weekend, and really, it was a great weekend. Our first day up at Crystal Mountain found us with happy kids and blue skies.
Unseasonably beautiful weather found us sweating with highs near 80. I loved each and every minute of the crisp blue heat wave. Each run easily navigated with slush-spring snow and a smile.
Once back in our rooms, all the mamas found a gift bag with sweets and wine and so much more. It was a nice touch, the sort of detail that makes you feel like you’re in the home of a friend instead of a big resort.
There’s a small kitchen in the units. For us, for a family of five, it’s wonderful to bring a cooler full of meals to cook. It’s rare for us to go a day without sitting around the table and sharing a meal as a family.
As a family, it’s easy for us all to agree on s’mores after a meal outdoors. I love that Vivian of Alta Crystal Resort arranges a s’mores buffet around a fire pit. There’s drink of all kinds, fancy roasting sticks and endless piles of marshmallows and graham crackers and chocolate.
I brought along glow in the dark bracelets for the kids. It was the perfect addition to a campfire night after skiing.
My favorite part about walking around the resort is how much it really feels like a piece of home. Trails are so accesseible, located literally right behind the resort. There’s a friendly staff, like neighbors of a summer home and, it’s just so easy to be there. And maybe that’s the best compliment a location away from home can have, especially with small children.
Without further adieu, I’d like to introduce Alta Crystal Resort. In the words of Alta Crystal Resort’s owner Vivian,
Alta Crystal Resort is the perfect mountain escape for Crystal Mountain and Mt. Rainier. You’ll
never feel overwhelmed by a crowd. Come to a place with magic in the air.
Vivian/Alta Crystal Resort: Our location makes us a destination. When we lived in Seattle, we loved coming to the mountains just to get away from the city and all the responsibilities that came with being at home. Guests staying here can do as much or as little as they’d like. If you want to just hang out in your suite or the honeymoon cabin, we’ve tried really hard to make them the type of accommodations you’d enjoy. (We’re on round 3 of renovations in many of the suites, and we’ve already started round 4 in some.) We keep our pool and hot tub open year-round, and heat the pool to 90 degrees in the winter. (The propane company loves us!) Our 1920’s recreation lodge has ping pong, foosball and all sorts of board games, and our recreation field has volleyball, croquet, badminton, horseshoes and other outdoor toys. There are miles of hiking trails from your door (in fact, you could hike to Mexico from Alta Crystal Resort; no joke) and, in the summer, we set up a scavenger hunt through the national forest where kids search for letter clues to solve a puzzle and win a prize. We have a rental DVD collection of 700+ movies, and snowshoes and bikes for rent. We even have a grocery store so guests who don’t want to plan can just buy food once they get here, or we offer in-room heat and eat gourmet meals!
Most guests understand how we sincerely value their business and want their vacations to be something special. We want our place to be memorable and hope that people remember their vacations here years later as something special. My own experience is that I may remember a nice room at a hotel we’ve stayed – but I remember the experiences much more – and that’s what makes me want to return to some place!