I have a secret to tell you. You know the fog that creeps across our Valley right around the whole month of February and makes our hearts ache for just a glimpse of sunshine? Yes, that.
My secret? The sun is not as far away as you might think. I’ve seen it. In February. There’s this road, just outside of Milton-Freewater, that will take you up, up and away from the misery of a Walla Walla winter into a sunshiney, shimmery, snowy winter wonderland.
Seriously. A 20-minute drive and you’ll find yourself above the fog.
Sixty minutes at 60 mph miles per hour and you’ll find yourself a little duet of snow parks, studded with tall evergreens and not prairie-like at all, yet named Horseshoe Prairie and Andies Prairie.
We’ve been up there on stormy days, too, with wind gusting freezing snow into our faces — it happens. But many more times, the weather is fabulous and the memories made are worth the drive.
Our first Christmas together — looking for the perfect tree, pulling the baby behind in a sled.
Every November —setting up the tripod to capture all four smiles backdropped by snowy trees for our annual Christmas card.
When the boys were 3 and 1 — bundled up tight in the ski-equipped Chariot while Mommy and Daddy tromp through the woods looking for the spot where they got engaged.
And and our boys grew old enough to have fun, too — using snowshoes to tramp down maze pathways in the snow and then playing fox and geese.
Riding tubes down the easy side of the gully.
Digging holes and burying each other.
Chasing and crashing into white puffs of snow. Eating its creamy crystal whiteness.
And soon we hope to teaching the boys how to cross country ski.
With the right gear, a winter snowy adventure can be fun for everyone.
We definitely dress for the weather, with smart wool socks and waterproof boots with a liner (Kamik or Sorel boots are worth it), long underwear (Lands End), fleece pants and pullovers, well-fitting waterproof gloves (or wool socks for really tiny hands) and waterproof snow pants and jacket (Columbia).
Oh, and see if your grandma will crochet a couple of fun hats for you like ours did.
Having a stroller with ski attachments (Chariot) is a luxury for certain, but very nice for bundling little ones up and out of the wind. We also used the REI Piggyback carrier on a few Christmas tree hunts with an older kiddo who wanted to see.
When our oldest turned 3, we got him a pair of Little Bear snowshoes so he could get some exercise, too. Having a variety of sleds and tubes is essential if you’re going to visit the gully at Andies Prairie.
And when you’ve soaked up the sun and slurped up enough snow and your tummy is growling, oh, how nice it is to return to the car and find a thermos full of hot soup or a hot drink.
Kudos to you for planning ahead. Snacks are always nice on the ride home to fill tummies while each person tells his favorite part of the day.
You’ll want to pick up a Sno-Park Permit before you head out — usually available at DMV and Forest Service offices and some sporting goods stores.
And to get a preview of what the weather on the mountain might look like, check out the web cam at tollgatetrailfinders.org.
Don’t be afraid to drive up and check it out. If nothing else, you can soak up the sunshine from the comfort of your car.
Just remember on those foggy days, the sun IS shining somewhere!
Laura Kyle and her husband, Tim, live in a little yellow house with their two sons. She blogs at www.housewifeintown.com about the reality of life — a desperate balancing act where tickles and games of chase meet laundry and healthful meals.