Fall Bucket List Lookback

When I set goals for myself in writing, I love reflecting to see whether I met them, missed them, or altered them. So how did our Fall Bucket List go?

Voting

This was the last on my list, but the most important to me. I’ve voted in every election for a long time now, but we also live in the bluest part of a blue state in a blue region, so it wasn’t surprising that Washington went for Biden/Harris. This year, for the first time, I also wrote letters to potential voters and stifled my hatred of the telephone to phone bank in swing states to get out the vote. This felt like the right year to “get political” and I’m so grateful for our new President- and Vice-President-elect.

Outings

In the brief time the Seattle Art Museum and Burke Museum were re-opened, we managed to attend each one time. I’m actually quite sad that the museums had to shut down in the latest round of restrictions in Washington. I understand how private indoor gatherings (especially large ones!) are problematic, but our experience with these two museums was that precautions were instituted and observed by everyone (limited capacity, mask wearing, disinfecting, etc) and the huge, well-ventilated spaces felt comfortable. I’m looking forward to return when we safely can.

Masked up and enjoying the Seattle Art Museum when it was open

We’ve also been back to the Woodland Park Zoo a few times and Julia and I went to Remlinger Farms together as a Mommy-Daughter date. Our Remlinger visit was scheduled on a sunny day, but Julia had a slight fever a few days before and I rescheduled while we could wait for symptoms to subside and a COVID test (no virus for anyone in the family). So it ended up being a day with thunderstorms in the forecast during their fall festival, but we lucked out with barely a few drops of rain and had a great time!

The zoo felt extra comfortable and I love that it’s still open even with the latest round of restrictions since it’s an outdoor activity that already had limited capacity.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

We didn’t do a specific activity on the day itself, but we did add other opportunities to learn about Native culture. In Winthrop, we loved the Sa Teekh Wa trail and Homestream Park (more about this trip below). The Burke Museum also had some beautifully refreshed exhibits about Indigenous Peoples from our area, including sections about food sovereignty that I found interesting. I think the most important lesson from these outing for all of us (myself included) is how they showed that Native culture is still rich and ongoing. Many signs speak only in the past tense and it’s important to observe current practices and traditions as well.

In addition to Sweetest Kulu, we’ve added some beautiful board books from Native Northwest to our collection. I particularly liked these because they showcase the culture of Tribal Nations from the Pacific Northwest, which helps connect us to the people who continue to steward our local area.

A Native Northwest board book’s beautiful illustrations Blue Lake

Hiking

We’ve done a fair amount of hiking this fall, even though many of our hikes have been on the shorter side. Julia pushes really hard against the idea of a hike on some days, which makes it challenging to get everyone out the door, but once we’re out on the trail she seems content to go along. James is mostly just along for the ride at this stage, and I don’t hate it!

Some of our favorite hikes have been:

  • Twin Falls – Julia asked to go back down the long flight of stairs to the waterfall viewpoint because the falls are so powerfully loud and spectacular.
  • Blue Lake – at 4.4 miles roundtrip, this is the longest hike Julia has done (James rode in a backpack carrier) and I was so proud of her. We also got to walk through larches as they were turning golden, which honestly felt magical.
  • Lake Wilderness Arboretum – this was a new one today and I loved it! We had to drive about 40 minutes to Maple Valley, but the Arboretum teamed up with the Maple Valley library to build a story walk. It features a new picture book each month with blown-up copies of the pages in plexiglass-front signs so you can follow along with the story as you run the trail. The story walk doesn’t have signage directing you from the parking lot, so walk behind the greenhouse area towards the main wide trail and you’ll see the signs on your left.
Reading Thank You, Omu at the Lake Wilderness Arboretum

Harvest

This was a fun one! We ended up going to pumpkin patches at Stocker Farms and Jubilee Farm, as well as Remlinger. A new experience for 2020 was the Oxbow Family Farm Adventure. We loved having a private tour (pricey, but more like a donation to a worthy organization) and visiting early in the fall season gave us the opportunity to learn about and taste lots of fruits and vegetables.

Early fall sunflowers at Stocker Farms

We also tried our hands at veggie and apple picking by visiting Bailey Farm and Jones Creek Farms. In true COVID-era fashion, I turned these outings into much more of a project than I had intended. Overeager helping hands resulted in tons of pickling cucumbers, so we had refrigerator pickles to bring along on a camping trip (delicious!).

Our visit to Jones Creek was a on a freezing, rainy day and the drive was quite long, but the apple sauce we made with our haul and the excellent garlic made it worth it. Anything for the experience! Next fall I’ll time the trip to coincide with an early fall getaway into the North Cascades so we’re less likely to end up with freezing fingers.

Getaways

Unsurprisingly, the getaways were my favorite part of the fall season. In years past, we balanced an international trip with less expensive local camping at favorite spots, so we haven’t really explored much of the 3-4 hour driving radius spots in Washington and this was our year.

Biking the Discovery Trail on a getaway to Long Beach, WA

On a personal note, while my background is in accounting and finance, I’ve always enjoyed trip planning and writing. As we got closer to James’ first birthday this year, I started to think about what my next step would be and hoped it would allow me to branch out into a non-profit role or something travel-related. The pandemic brushed that all to the wayside, but I still felt like I needed something that I did just for myself, so I started drafting an article or two. At first it was just a couple of opinion pieces for the Red Tricycle Spoke Network (like the benefits of outdoor time for parents and my experience as a homeschooled kid). Then I pitched a couple of activity pieces to local parenting magazines and am now hoping to make it into a small side project that will allow me to share experiences with other families looking to get out and about.

I’ve written about most of our recent getaways, including our Winthrop stay (ParentMap; November print edition), a road trip to the Hood Canal and Long Beach Peninsula (Seattle’s Child) and our stay at the Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth (Seattle’s Child).

What was your favorite fall activity this year?

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Oxbow Farm: Family Adventure

As I was drafting our fall bucket list for this year, I wanted to include farm visits that focus more on nature and learning about our food (even though we also love the activities that come with a typical pumpkin patch). Based on prior year’s experience, Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center has a wonderful natural playground and a wide variety of heirloom pumpkins available. We even have pumpkins growing in our backyard from the seeds I saved last fall! Details about their usual Oxtober fest weren’t available at the time, but as luck would have it, I spotted their Family Farm Adventures when doing my usual scroll through the ParentMap events calendar and signed us up for a private farm tour. Our experience was really special and I would highly recommend it to families or learning pods. 

Farmers Shea (they/them) and Emma (she/her) welcomed us on a foggy morning for our two-hour tour. Julia and James were feeling a bit shy and I was nervous that our small group (just the three of us) would make it harder to build enthusiasm. I needn’t have worried though — we crossed over the bridge to the Kids Farm and it was like entering a whole new world. 

Crossing the bridge to the Oxbow Kids Farm

Shea and Emma tailored the tour to the kids’ ages (4.5 years and 18 months old), so stops at each station were shorter but we made more stops than we might have with older kids. The tour focused on parts of plants and how we can observe and eat them (roots, stems, flowers, fruits and seeds). We examined pumpkin flowers, compared leaf textures, crawled through a grapevine tunnel and collected purple beans (scarlet runner) from the bean arena that we saved in an origami seed packet.

Loving the grapevine tunnel
Labeling her own bean seed packet
James was delighted with his own seed packet and kept unpacking them

Harvesting took place throughout the tour and we took a break at the end to sample what we’d gathered and then took home a big bag of produce. Maybe it’s just my kids, but having adults who weren’t related to them encourage vegetable eating was awesome. Julia ignores cucumbers, summer squash and radishes on her plate at home, but when Shea encouraged her to try some, she listed to them without batting an eye.

Listening to Farmer Shea as they slice produce for tasting

I also loved having connections between what we learned at the farm and what we talk about at home. For example, we recently talked about how flies have compound eyes, and learned about compound flowers (like sunflowers) on the tour. Even James felt included — he kept saying “wow!” as we looked under and around leaves for ladybugs and slugs.

As safety precautions go, I felt very comfortable at Oxbow. We regularly sanitized our hands and washed them with soap and water at handwashing stations. Although Julia took off her mask for the tasting portion of the tour, everyone wore masks and it was easy to give each other space. We completed a health screening upon arrival and there were lots of signs reminding folks about COVID-19 precautions. A porta potty is the only restroom available, but it was quite clean and there’s a handwashing station right next to it (we brought along a toddler potty for Julia).

Details

Location: Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, Carnation, WA. About a 35-40 minute drive from North Seattle

Duration and Availability: Weekdays; 2-hour time slots starting at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Group Size: Groups are limited to 5 people (and 3 children) in the same household or learning pod, but they provide contact details if you want to discuss a different sized group.

Cost: Sliding scale fee from $50-150. I fully recognize that this is a high cost compared to some other fall activities. That said, many of the local pumpkin patches are charging $20 per person for admission. There were three of us and we went home rich in knowledge and produce and had the place completely to ourselves, so it felt worth the cost to me. The website also emphasizes their desire for accessibility — contact them if the cost is a barrier. For free admission, check out the details for Oxtober that are now available here.

Website: https://www.oxbow.org/education/family-farm-adventures/

Fall 2020 Bucket List

Note: as always, this blog reflects my personal risk assessment for myself and my family in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your own evaluation of risk may differ from mine. We review our local government’s guidance and wear our masks indoors and/or when we can’t reliably create 6 feet of distance between folks and hope that you will, too.

As you’ll notice below, my bucket list for this year is mainly – get outside, do it a lot and make it through the year.

In normal years, I plan for all kinds of scheduled activities (museums, concerts, plays, etc), bucket lists and pumpkin patch visits via spreadsheets like the former accounting/finance nerd that I am. With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting what we can do, I’m still determined to enjoy the beautiful fall season that the Pacific Northwest offers.

Here’s what’s on my list for this fall:

Seattle Art Museum

Seattle Art Museum, Fall 2019

This museum holds a special place in my heart for the art it’s allowed me to share with Julia (I’ve talked about visiting with kids here). Pre-pandemic, this was our go-to girls’ day. We would visit the museum’s special exhibits for an hour or two, then have lunch together and head home. They’ve just re-opened and my in-laws have agreed to babysit James so Julia and I can have some much needed girl time together. I’m looking forward to seeing the Carpe Fin exhibit that blend Native and Japanese styles done by a Haida artist.

Woodland Park Zoo

Testing out her wings at Woodland Park Zoo, Fall 2019

I adore our local zoo (see a previous post about it here), and it’s especially wonderful in the fall. The wide variety of trees and plants means there are often colorful leaf-peeping opportunities in a space that’s close to home. While most of the indoor spaces are closed due to the pandemic, it’s still a nice place to visit on a rainy day because the tree cover provides shelter from much of the rain. Timed tickets, extra cleanings and face covering requirements also make the zoo feel safe in these uncertain times.

Remlinger Farms

Did you see Jiaying Grygiel’s experience at Remlinger Farms on ParentMap’s website? She and her family really enjoyed the farm with the pandemic-driven adjustments and I’m really looking forward to going back. Julia was able to ride the roller coaster last summer and has been asking about it ever since! Right now they’re only open on weekends, but I also want to check back on their self-guided tours that are described on the website. It seems like the type of activity for which I could also tote James along.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Commemoration

Sweetest Kulu Board Book, image via Inhabit Media

I’ve reflected recently on where my conversations with my kids have lacked discussion of the tribes whose ancestral lands we’re occupying. I want to change that by taking time to learn about them year-round, but also by using a special day to commemorate their many contributions to our national prosperity. However, I’m also cognizant of the fact that Native folks are part of the at-risk population we want to protect, so I want to avoid specifically going to reservations right now. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is on October 12th this year and here are a few ways I think we’ll observe it:

  • A mini road-trip – the Visit Seattle website has a Native American Cultural Heritage Guide with a map of heritage sites, many of which are open-air (such as the Salish Welcome statue near the Ballard Locks). I’d love to do a little trip around our area to stop and see some of these hidden treasures.
  • Take a hike – the Washington Trails Association has a post called “8 Trails that Tell a Native American Story” and there are a couple of shorter ones that I can use to talk about Native culture, such as the Traditional Knowledge Trail in Snoqualmie.
  • Read a book – we have really loved When We Were Alone (short picture book) and Sweetest Kulu (board book) lately. I would love to find more specifically Pacific Northwest-leaning children’s books about Native culture, but have more research to do there.

Hikes

Wallace Falls, Fall 2018

With outside time becoming increasingly important in our lives, I’ve invested more in outdoor gear this year (like a rain suit for James and finally purchasing rain pants for myself). I want to make sure that typical misty and rainy Seattle-area weather doesn’t keep us from escaping the house regularly.

The Washington Trails Association is coming in handy again with hikes to ghost towns, hi-lo hikes for fall colors and interpretive trails for families. The Franklin and Moncton ghost town trails seem doable with little ones with some scenery to keep them interested.

We also love Franklin Falls (in the fall, there are often interesting mushrooms to peek at from the trail) and while Gold Creek Pond is a trail we usually hit in the winter to play in the snow, I’m looking forward to trying it this fall.

Harvest

Oxbow Farms, Fall 2019

Apple Picking – ParentMap recently re-published a list of apple picking spots. Jones Creek Farms looks like a wonderful family farm that I’m looking forward to trying. We actually have a small apple tree that our home’s previous owner planted, but there’s something about a trip to a farm that makes picking apples extra fun. Staying home more often has pushed me to take on more cooking projects, so perhaps I’ll use our pickings to make applesauce in addition to our usual baked apples for snacks.

Pumpkin Patches – Have I mentioned that I’m a nerd with a pumpkin patch spreadsheet? Normally, I try to optimize going to patches with lots of activities (bounce houses, apple cannons, cow trains, etc). This year feels so different, however, and I want to visit some of the spots that are quieter and more focused on actually growing food. Favorite farms from prior years have included Oxbow and Jubilee (both in Carnation). I also love that these farms have stands where you can purchase other fresh vegetables, so it doubles as a grocery run.

Oxbow Farms, Fall 2019

Local Getaways

Dosewallips State Park, Fall 2017

We cancelled our planned trip to Kalaloch Lodge and Salt Creek Recreation Area due to the unhealthy smoky skies in Seattle. I’m disappointed in missing a trip I’d been looking forward to for months, but also am glad that our family is safe and that firefighters and organizations along the West Coast are working hard to make sure other families stay safe, too.

We still have some trips to look forward to, however.

Winthrop, WA – this is one of the first trips I’ve booked because I saw it on Instagram and it looked beautiful. Peter is on call for work and appreciates extra quiet and time to work, so I’m taking the kids on a solo trip to a cabin where we can hike, see the Western-themed town and its boardwalks, and enjoy some time together. If the trip goes well, I have another stay booked to include Peter in November when there more likely be snow and we can enjoy a hot tub with a river view. Yes, please!

Olympic Peninsula – every fall, we try to book a cabin at Dosewallips State Park (read more about our previous experiences here). The park, which is on the eastern side of the peninsula, has beautiful fall colors, spawning salmon, herds of elk and a lovely shoreline. This year, we’re also tacking on a few nights in Long Beach at the Boardwalk Cottages. I’m hoping to rent e-bikes, visit a cranberry bog (pandemic-permitting) and fly kites.

Leavenworth – I’ve been eyeing a fall escape to the Sleeping Lady Resort for a long time, but never managed to make reservations in time until this year. Leavenworth is just outside the circle of day-trip drive time for us, so I’m looking forward to spending some time in this area that is on many fall getaway lists.

Vote

Stamping envelopes for Vote Forward letters

With all the crises affecting our country right now, one of the fall traditions I’m most looking forward to is voting. Here are some key pieces of information to know:

  • Mail-in voting: We are fortunate to live in Washington, which operates 100% through mail-in voting so it feels safe and very easy to do. You can look up mail-in voting information here.
  • Early voting: I also plan to vote early in this election to try to avoid overburdening the USPS. Early voting in Washington starts October 16th, but it differs by state. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a chart available here.
  • Reading about voting: your local newspaper likely has endorsements for particular candidates, so if it’s a source you respect, that would be a good place to start (here’s an example from the Seattle Times for the 2020 Primary). If you want to help kids learn about voting, we love the book Vote For Our Future, which shows how kids can get involved even though they can’t vote for a few more years. I love Charnaie’s Instagram post (Here Wee Read) featuring books about voting, as well as her advice to talk to kids about issues, not politics.
  • Encouraging others to vote: If your state offers easy access to voting, that’s great! However, many people are underrepresented in our voting population because of historical obstacles (hello, systemic racism). A friend recommended Vote Forward as a way to write letters reaching out to people in more contested elections who might not otherwise vote. I asked Julia to help me put stamps on my letters, so it also turned into a nice activity for the two of us.

What’s on your fall bucket list for 2020? Have you adapted favorite traditions to fit in with our strange current times?