As we round the corner at Sunrise Point, five snow-covered mountains all come into view – Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and of course, the breathtaking giant that the park we are in is so aptly named after: Mount Rainier. The drive up to Sunrise is beautiful, but the sight of the wildflower-covered meadows of Yakima Park and Emmons Glacier glistening in the background – well, that sight is beyond comparison. This was Ryder’s first trip to Sunrise, and when we pulled him out of his car seat and showed him the massive, snow-covered beauty that loomed in the near distance, his eyes filled with excitement as he pointed at the mountain and giggled with glee. You see, the mountains are where the three of us feel the most at home, so when Ryder realized where our Subaru had taken us, he was overwhelmed with happiness… which is exactly how Andy and I feel every time we leave our home head west toward the Cascades.

After a quick “tailgate” snack, the three of us went for a hike past purple wildflowers and vibrant green grass taller than Ryder. Birds chirped and flew above us and grasshoppers jumped and danced at our feet (probably Ryder’s favorite part of our visit) as we strolled down the path, in search of a short, morning adventure at the base of one of Washington’s most beautiful peaks.

As Ryder’s morning naptime descended upon us, we made our way back to the car, loaded up and headed down the mountain, hoping that our little man would get a good snooze in before we made it to our next destination: Crystal Mountain. Upon arriving at the base area at Crystal, Andy and I ate our lunches and relaxed in the car while Ryder slept soundly in the back seat. Once he awoke from his morning slumber, we packed up our adventure gear and strolled over to the base of the Mt. Rainier Gondola. This would be Ryder’s second trip up this mountain via gondola ride, and boy was he stoked! He wanted to look at everything, out every window, all at once. The tree tops below us, the airplanes flying in the distance, the mountains that surrounded us on all sides, beckoning us to explore – he couldn’t get enough of the world around him from this spectacular vantage point in the sky.

Once we got to the top of the mountain, we hiked around a few nearby trails and couldn’t help but shoot some photos of the beautiful mountains that surrounded us on all sides – including the mountain we were just up close and personal with: Mt. Rainier. After a bit of hiking and exploring, we walked up to the Summit House, Washington’s highest elevation dining at 6,872 feet. Sitting at one of their rustic outdoor wooden tables, we enjoyed the sunshine and breathtaking views with our beverages of choice in hand, watching the little birds flutter from tree to tree, hoping to nab a treat from one of the many guests on the patio.

Soon it was time to head down the mountain and begin our drive to Enumclaw, the next stop on our South Cascade Loop adventure. Another ride in the car rocked Ryder to sleep once again as Andy and I took in the natural beauty that lined both sides of the highway all the way into town. Upon arriving in Enumclaw, we checked into our hotel and then headed out on foot to see some of the sites. Our first stop was to Washington’s Logging Legacy Memorial Park to see the beautiful sculpture that resides there and to honor all of the loggers and animals that lost their lives while logging in the Pacific Northwest. Our next stop was the Pie Goddess – to appease our tummies and our taste buds by having a bit of pre-dinner dessert (because who can say no to a delicious slice of homemade peach pie before dinner?).

After a brief stroll around town with Ryder, we found ourselves at Kelly’s Mercantile, our dinner destination… and let me tell you, after a day of adventures in the mountains, this was just what the doctor ordered. Amazing farm to table food, tasty wine and some of the friendliest, kindest and most welcoming restaurant staff, owners and customers (the little girl from the table next to us played with Ryder for quite some time!) that we have ever met, we would have loved to take the entire establishment back home with us! But an unforgettable evening out after a memorable day in the mountains with our little munchkin was more than we could have ever asked for, so with full bellies and tired eyes, we strolled back to our hotel and hit the hay, for tomorrow would be another day of adventure, and we needed all the rest we could get.