Checking In: Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut, Mt. Tahoma Trails Association

Staying at Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut is the closest I've come to winter camping. And really, I only compare it to camping because I slept on the floor and I had to hike in to get there. Otherwise, this hut provides all the luxuries that camping doesn't; an outhouse, a kitchen, and four walls to keep the cold out.

It's simple, out of cell reception, and a perfect weekend getaway from the city. 

 Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut and Mt. Rainer in the distance.

Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut and Mt. Rainer in the distance.

Getting to theTrailhead:
2.5 hour drive to the town of Elbe from Seattle.  

From Elbe, drive east on SR 706 towards Ashofrd for about 8 miles.  Turn right just before the Baptist Church at DNR Road 1. 

Road 1 leads straight to the Sno-Parks for the south district of Mount Tahoma Trails Association. Proceed six miles from 706 following the Sno-Park signs to the Upper Sno-Park. 

Note: A Washington State Sno-Parks permit is needed in the winter (November 1 to April 30). You can purchase a $40 annual non-motorized sno-park permit which is good for the year, or a daily $20 sno-park permit. The daily permit can only be used with a WA State Discover Pass. You can buy a pass at Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashford or online here.

The Hike to the Hut: 
The trek is approximately 4 miles long with 2,400 feet of elevation gain.  It's a consistent climb almost the entire way and I definitely found myself winded at various points.

It was uncharacteristically warm and sunny so we shred layers within the first mile. I welcomed the sunshine, even though I was blinded because somehow all my sunglasses disappeared after summer? 

We hit a large patch of dirt half way on the trail, so we had to remove our snowshoes and skis. The rest of the way up was smooth although the combination of warmer days and cooler nights made the trail icy at points. 

Be sure to check the road and trail conditions on the Mount Tahoma Trails Association website or their twitter feed for the most recent updates.

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About the Hut:
After 4 miles of hiking and a few hours daydreaming about my sandwich, we arrived at the hut. It's maintained by the Mount Tahoma Trails Association volunteers and open to the public from 7am-7pm. Reservations and a whopping $15 are required to stay the night. Our party rented out the entire space (which sleeps 14), so we enjoyed the hut to ourselves.

There is a spacious kitchen stocked with utensils, cookware, and a four burner range-top so bring something to cook for dinner. The living room includes huge couches that are perfect for afternoon naps, and an absurd amount of games and puzzles in case you need to be pre-occupied (remember, no cell service!) A propane fireplace keeps the space perpetually warm and it's also used to melt snow for water. 

Upstairs are a few bunk beds but our group opted to take the provided sleeping pads and pile them into the open room for a giant slumber party. It reminded me of our summer camp trip to the Salt Flats, except we had the comfort of the cabin and I wasn't worried about desert bugs.  One downside is that the bathrooms are located outside the cabin, but it's a small price to pay and at least it's stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer! 

 Photo by  Nick Lake

Photo by Nick Lake

What to Bring: 

  • Sleeping bag
  • Food
  • Warm Clothing
    • Wool socks & slippers!
  • Headlamp 
  • Bluetooth speaker for tunes
  • Hand & feet warmers
  • Camera & tripod
  • Journal
  • A good book

The Verdict: If you're a fair weather camper like me, Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut is a great way to get outside for an overnighter in the winter.  It's priced really low (regardless if you're sleeping on the floor) and is a doable weekend trip. Reservations go fast but there are still a few weekdays available in January and February. Gather a few adventurous friends and book a stay! 

 Clear skies give way for great astrophotography! 

Clear skies give way for great astrophotography! 

Forever Stoked - Holiday Gift Guide

The season of gift giving is upon us. But I have to be honest, I don't really like shopping (online or in stores) and gift-giving is not my love language. Bah humbug right?! But the beauty of this season is that it focuses on what we can offer to others. It doesn't even need to be a tangible gift. BUT, if you're looking to give in a more traditional sense, I've created  handy a gift guide. Most of these items I own, so they are tested and approved, but a few are actually on my own wish list. I tried to promote a mix of products and experiences that support small business owners and ethical companies as well as items that are practical and not one-time disposable. Happy shopping and giving! 

Gifts for the Creative

1.) Skillshare Membership: $100 for the year
Skillshare is a learning platform and community featuring over 17,000 classes. Their mission is to empower people to advance their careers, improve their lives, and pursue the work they love. Before I transitioned to freelancing, I purchased a one year membership and consumed their photography classes.  I've since expanded to watching branding and marketing classes, as well as content planning and social media.  At the end of each class, you're given a project to upload and share with other students to get feedback and constructive criticism, which is super necessary if you're working by/ for yourself! 

 Photo By Greg Balkin

Photo By Greg Balkin

1.) Artifact Uprising Gift Card: any amount
Living in a digital world gives me more appreciation for tactile items like a nice coffee table book or a framed photo. Artifact offers an extensive product line of books, frames, and calendars. They use recycled papers and reclaimed options like mountain beetle pine wood for the products too! This is a great gift for the photographer friend or family member who wants to honor their art and give it a permanent place in the home. 

2.) Layered Mountain Mug: $30
Most creatives I know live on coffee or tea. I'm no exception and love this landscape mug from ceramist Coco Barrett-Tormey.  Everything she creates is made by hand and is inspired by the slow moments in life like morning tea or watching a sunset. Her mugs are a reflection of her love for the mountains, ocean, and desert. 

 Photo courtesy of Wylder Goods

Photo courtesy of Wylder Goods

3.) Moleskin Notebook: $18
You never know when a creative idea is going to present itself! I keep a notebook by my bedside for and carry one with me wherever I go for spontaneous journaling or note taking. These are the notebooks to buy in bulk because it's so easy to go through them.  

4.) Big Magic: $12
The book that reminds you that you do not need permission to live a creative life.  Elizabeth Gilbert, my all time literary #womencrush, gives poignant insights into how to deal with fear and courage during the creative process. It's a great read for anyone engaged in personal or professional creative pursuits. *If possible, purchase from your local bookstore. 

Gifts for the Adventurer

1.) Rumple Puffy Down Blanket: $150
This blanket utilizes sustainably sourced grey duck down (600 fill)  for insulation and has a weather-resistant DWR-treated nylon shell. Maybe most importantly though..... it's incredibly warm. It's accompanied me on all my travels since I got it and has been clutch when Jared and I road trip in Buttercup. It compresses easily into a packable size and is big enough to cover both of us and keep us cozy. If you don't live in a region with cool temps, I would suggest the original puffy blanket pictured below.

 Rumpl Puffy Blanket- Photo by Laura Hughes

Rumpl Puffy Blanket- Photo by Laura Hughes

2.) Patagonia Black Hole Duffel: $130
This travel bag is super durable and can be carried on the shoulder or as a backpack. It functioned as my suitcase this spring when I spent 2 months traveling through Europe and was a superstar as I moved through train stations, airports and countries! It's weather resistant and stuffs into it's own pocket for easy storage.

 Photo By Brooke Fitts

Photo By Brooke Fitts

3.) Peak Design Capture Clip: $60
This seemingly simple clip changed my backpacking experiences. Before I started using it, my camera would either hang from my neck (thus straining it) or it would be tucked into my backpack. When I wanted to take photos I would have to stop, unzip my backpack and set up my camera. Now, I can clip it to the outside of my bag and quickly take it off when I see something I want to capture. Aside from being a great product, I love the company's commitment to being socially and environmentally conscious. 

4.) Aeropress Kit: Because before the adventure, coffee needs to be had. At least in my life! We use the Aeropress at home every morning to make our coffee, but it packs up nicely into the perfect travel kit. This is a great gift for the person in your life that loves caffeine and is always on the road. 

  • If you need convincing, read more about the coffee travel kit here

 

Gifts for the Wellness Guru 

1.) Garmin Forerunner Watch: $290
I was in the habit of taking Jared's watch when I worked out, but I continued to declare that I didn't need one for myself. He surprised me with this watch for my birthday and it's been one of the most fun and practical gifts I've ever received. Not only can I use it while running, but it works for cycling, swimming, and triathlons (should I decide to do another.) It's also super lightweight and tracks heart rate + gives me a little buzz every hour that reminds me to get up and get moving. 

 Photo courtesy of Ursa Major

Photo courtesy of Ursa Major

1.) Ursa Major- The Minimalist Skin Care Set: $70
This set is only available for a limited time and includes the essentials; face wash, fortifying face balm and face tonic. Besides being made with healthy ingredients, the aromas are fantastic. The cedar, spearmint, lime combo in the face wash is my favorite! 

2) Essential Oil Diffuser: $30
In my opinion, a home isn't complete without an essential oil diffuser. I find a weird amount of joy picking out oils to diffuse, and I love the different energetic effects they create in the house. Lately, I've been going with a sandalwood and myrrh combo. Other favorites include; lavender, eucalyptus, sage and rosemary. I'll also never tire of friends coming over and complimenting how nice the house smells! 

3.) Hydroflask Water Bottle: $40
This water bottle has a permanent spot in my bag. At 32 ounces, it takes up a bit of space but I figure if I can get through two a day, I'm definitely staying hydrated. Double-wall vacuum insulation keeps the contents hot for 6 hrs. or cold for 24 hrs. and it's super tough stainless steel. Don't ask me how many times I've dropped it and you can't even tell. 

4.) Monthly Membership to a Studio: price varies
Now that it's winter, I've found the best way to stay active, is to move indoors. Give the gift of wellness by pre-paying for a punch card or monthly unlimited membership to a yoga, pilates or barre studio. Many are currently running holiday specials. 

 Photo By Laura Hughes 

Photo By Laura Hughes 

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Checking In: Backeddy Resort & Marina, Sunshine Coast BC

 

At the beginning of the month, my good friend Laura and I took a road trip from Seattle to the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. We had 2 nights booked at Backeddy Resort & Marina in the tiny town of Egmont. Neither one of us had been to this part of Canada and that was a large part of the allure. 

Accessible by air or ferry service, the Sunshine Coast is part of the mainland, but has a very laid back island vibe. It's a commitment to get there, but I promise it's worth it.

Laura and I visited in shoulder season so it was too cold to partake in the areas popular water adventures. Regardless, we bundled up and braved the cold for a few hikes.  The rest of our hours were filled with relaxation, creative projects, and daydreams. 

Getting to the Sunshine Coast: 
Overall a 6 hour trip from Seattle and includes; 

  • US - Canada Border Crossing
  • One 30 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale
 Ferry ride from Horeshoe Bay to Langdale. We enjoyed the view from inside and still needed to bundle up!  Photo by  Laura Hughes

Ferry ride from Horeshoe Bay to Langdale. We enjoyed the view from inside and still needed to bundle up!  Photo by Laura Hughes

 The Resort & Check In: 
Located on the beautiful Sechelt Inlet, the Backeddy property sits on 600 feet of remote shoreline and has five different types of lodging; waterfront cabins, large vintage cabins, small vintage cabins, inn rooms and geodesic domes. (I would love to return and stay in a dome during the summer).  The reception area had already closed when we got there but our keys were left outside for us to collect. There didn't appear to be many staff on site, I assume because we were there during shoulder season and the resort was fairly quiet. We did cross paths with one of the employees after we picked up our keys and she pointed us in the direction of our cabin. All staff we came into contact with were welcoming and considerate. 

 Backeddy Resort & Marina, Sunshine Coast, BC

Backeddy Resort & Marina, Sunshine Coast, BC

Inside the Cabin: 
With the sun gone for the day and temperatures hovering in the low 30's, we hurriedly walked from our parking spot up the small green hill to our vintage cabin. Anticipating our arrival, the staff had turned on our heater and the room was gloriously warm. The wood burning stove was already loaded with newspaper and kindling too which was a nice touch! Our space was equipped with a double bed, a kitchenette, a bathroom with a shower, a full size bed that also served as a couch, a wood burning stove and a deck that overlooked the mountains and water. I would have loved a larger bathroom but It was simple and cozy, with just enough space for 2 people. 

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 Inside our cedar-lined vintage cabin. Photo by  Laura Hughes

Inside our cedar-lined vintage cabin. Photo by Laura Hughes

Food & Drink:
Knowing that we would have a kitchen to cook in, we only ate out once. Conveniently, the resort has a pub that's popular with guests and locals. On the night we arrived, we had little energy to cook so we popped in for an early dinner. We were greeted by a friendly bartender who turned out to be our server as well. We were the second customers of the night, so we had our pick of tables and chose one next to the window overlooking the inlet.  The bartender/server was highly attentive, made excellent recommendations, and fixed us delicious hot toddies. We shared a festive fall salad and a lamb pot pie. I rarely eat meat but was craving something warm and filling. The meal was both and we retired back to our cabin and fell asleep before 9pm. 

 Hiking to the rapids at Skookumchuk Narrows Provincial Park. Photo by  Laura Hughes

Hiking to the rapids at Skookumchuk Narrows Provincial Park. Photo by Laura Hughes

Around the Resort: The resort is only a few minutes drive from the lush rain forest of the Skookumchuk Narrows Provincial Park.  After visiting the Egmont museum, we began the mellow 4 km hike to the narrows and stopped at Roland Point to view the fierce and famous rapids.  The trail is well-developed and takes about an hour to walk, maybe longer if you like to stop and take pictures. 

Near the beginning, we passed the Skookumchuk Bakery, which is only open in the summer but said to be a 'must visit' post hike. 

Check the tide tables to get a schedule of the best viewing times for the rapids. There is a 30 minute window on either side of the tide change so you don't have to worry about being right on time. 

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The Verdict: The property is unique and has a mix of vintage and new accommodations- options for everyone! It's in the most picturesque location and if you're looking for quiet, you'll find it here. The staff are super friendly and happy to share their knowledge of the area.  There is spotty wi-fi near the reception area but you might as well give into a technology free week! 

Not only would I recommend staying at the Backeddy Resort & Marina, I hope to return in the summer when I can enjoy the marina and go kayaking and swimming.

Thanks to Backeddy Resort & Marina for welcoming us. Our stay was complimentary and all opinions are my own.