Mt. Hood family hike: Little Zigzag Falls

One of my favorite things to do as a family is head outside and walk around in the woods. Peeper, who is now 3 years old, loves it too—but she also loves to ride on Dad’s shoulders when she gets tired. (She’d be able to hike a lot farther if she didn’t ping pong back and forth on the trail so much: She’s like an overexcited dog who runs and runs and runs once she’s outdoors!)

The catch: If Eric doesn’t join us on the hike, I can’t carry her because I’m wearing Little Sister.

On a recent late-summer morning, though, we found a perfect compromise with a Mt. Hood family hike, without Dad. The girls’ grandparents and I took the kids to hike Little Zigzag Falls, just outside Government Camp, Oregon. It was the perfect short hike for kids.

Oregon's Little Zigzag Falls is short, easy and has a gorgeous waterfall: Perfect for kids and families on Mt. Hood! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Small effort, big payoff

When it comes to hiking with kids, you can’t just walk up a mountain, motivated by the faraway view at the top. No matter what that now-legendary marshmallow experiment says about kids delaying gratification, no small child will hike miles and miles for the promise of a long-off scenic outlook. (Well, at least mine won’t.)

Just a half-mile from the parking area, you'll hike to Little Zigzag falls: a hike perfect for kids & families on Mt Hood! Ten Thousand Hour Mama A half-mile hike to Little Zigzag Falls on Mt Hood is easy for kids and the whole family in Oregon. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

The Little Zigzag Falls hike was the opposite of that: The Mt. Hood family hike is short and quickly comes to a beautiful, impressive waterfall.

Kid-friendly hiking trail

Turn left on the trail at the gravel parking lot (which also has a porta potty: another bonus for kids). This begins the hike, which is just a half-mile long each way: a perfect length for little kids and recent walkers.

Even Kiwi, who started walking just a few months ago, hiked much of it!

The trail is level without a ton of roots to trip over. It meanders up within sight of the creek but not so close that kids can easily fall in—an important factor for children who are a little wobbly.

The path also weaves under and around tons of deadfall. Kids will love walking beneath a giant fallen tree and spotting logs in the creek. Ask them why no one has removed the trees “blocking” the creek—you may be surprised what they think! This can be a wonderful opportunity to teach about ecology, how different animals like different habitats, and our hands-off relationship with nature in parks.

Reaching Little Zigzag Falls

At the top of the trail, you’ll reach Little Zigzag Falls, which crashes down just over 40 feet. A rustic wooden bench off the side of the trail is a great place to pause for a snack and rest. Once kids have regained their energy, they can clamber over logs to a mini-beach just below the falls to throw sticks into the creek.

Tip: This spot just below the main viewing area is a perfect vantage point to shoot a photo of the group still in the main clearing. You can capture the entire falls and the whole family!

Looking for a Mt Hood family hike? Little Zigzag Falls is short with a big waterfall payoff. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

The falls marks the point where you turn back toward the parking area. Adults and older kids can hike up above the falls on a little off-shoot just down-trail of the bench. Be careful, though: This trail isn’t well maintained and has muddy spots. You can, however, see the falls from up above: pretty cool!

Little Zigzag Falls hike: Details

Directions: To get to the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead, head east out of Portland and Sandy toward Government Camp on Highway 26. Turn left (north) on Kiwanis Camp Road, just west of Government Camp. You’ll reach the parking area at the trailhead after about 2 miles.

Features: Waterfalls, shade, small canyon, creek, old growth forest

Good for: Families, kids, babies in carriers, rugged strollers

Must-know: A picnic table just off the trail several hundred feet from the trailhead makes a great place for a snack or lunch.

A short hike—and a picnic!—will get you to Mt. Hood, Oregon's Little Zigzag Falls. Gorgeous! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Do you have recommendations for a Mt. Hood family hike? Have you ever been to Zigzag Falls?

For the love of grandparents

Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” -Welsh proverb

To see my girls adored by their grandparents is to witness something pure and beautiful.

The four of them—Eric’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Gregory, and mine, Nana and Grandpa Shempy—light up when they are with Peeper and Kiwi. Peeper’s shenanigans especially inspire laughter and the kind of fun unique to little ones.

Two grandmasGrandpa Oregon zooTwo Grandpas with granddaughters Read more

A (very unconventional) baby shower for #2

When my sisters emailed me about the need to start planning a baby shower for Kiwi, I told them no. “People don’t throw a shower for second babies,” I told them.

The idea of registering for things we didn’t need, playing games and opening a mountain of presents in front of guests—read, the usual baby shower—didn’t appeal.

Undeterred, my sisters convinced me by proposing a thoroughly unconventional baby shower (or sprinkle, as some folks call the more minimal baby showers).

Pirate Putt-Putt Baby Shower Black light putt putt baby shower Read more

Happy Mother’s Day!

Last year was my first Mother’s Day, but in the last year I’ve come to appreciate what the holiday means even more.

Living what it is to be a mother—the millions of choices and actions and books read and songs sung and car seats buckled and tempers checked and lunches fixed and owies kissed every single day—underscores everything the mothers in my own life have done (and continue to do).

mother and daughter moustachesMy own mom believed in me fiercely. She encouraged me to turn every interest or passion into a business, certain that someone would want to buy tiny animals sculpted out of wire or t-shirts covered in my angsty teenage poetry.

Graduation with in-lawsMy mother-in-law has always been unequivocally welcoming and accepting. Her hugs, confidences and phone calls made me feel as if it were a given that I am one of the family. I will never, ever, ever forget or take for granted the way she embraced me as one of her own.

Argentine host mom meets babyMy mama argentina, my host mother when I studied abroad in college, welcomed me as a stranger into her home. Ana and I chatted every night as she made dinner or as I sipped a submarino—a hot chocolate—at the breakfast bar. I left, four months later, as part of the familia and continue to love that collection of characters from afar—even as they expand their families.

great grandma grandpa and grandma with babygrandma Bessie sunflowerfour generations women grandmasAnd my grandmothers, of course, whose mothering I feel through the generations. These strong, beautiful women raised families amid less than ideal circumstances without complaint. My Grandma Hawkins, for example, loves to tell me about the moment when she discovered she was pregnant with twins—my mom and Uncle Steve.

She already had one baby at home and not a whole lot of income or support, but when she got back from the doctor, she stood in the middle of the kitchen and hugged her just-starting-to-expand belly. Then she threw her arms out and spun around. She couldn’t contain her happiness and couldn’t believe her luck that she was carrying twins—twins!—a secret wish she’d always carried.

These are the kinds of moments that make up motherhood. Yes, parenting is also colored with frustrations and peanut butter stains and pooplosions and sleepless nights, but it’s the joy and reward and unending gratitude that stick with us.

day-old newborn with mom hospitalThat gratitude stretches in both directions, toward both generations. I cannot express how thankful I am to my daughter and this growing life inside me for choosing us as their family. I am also thankful to the long line of women who wiped noses and corrected homework and spun in kitchens so that I could be here.

So I’m sending love to all the mamas in my life—the ones who helped raise me, the ones who brought up my loved ones, the ones who I’ve known since they were kids, the ones who struggled so hard to become pregnant, the ones who are celebrating their first holiday as moms. You all deserve to be celebrated every day, but these 24 hours are dedicated to you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Happy Easter!

We’re not churchgoing folks in our family, but we spent Easter celebrating in our own way.

Most weekends, Eric and I have to tag team care of Peeper: One of us will take her on an outing while the other gets work done at home. On Sunday, though, we both walked to the nearby park and Peeper played to her heart’s content. Toddler Easter basketLater, I gifted them both their Easter baskets, and the Easter Bunny was practical this year: He filled them with things like socks and a belt—oh, and cheddar bunny-filled plastic eggs for the little one, which was a big hit.

The best part of the holiday was that family and friends visited. Peeper planted some lilies outside with Grandpa Shempy, and Peeper read countless books with her aunt and uncle who visited from Seattle. Toddler planting flowers with grandpa - Ten Thousand Hour mama Reading on your lap - Ten Thousand Hour MamaI guess the holiday made a big impression on our toddler. She was wound up from all the company and festivities so took a long time to settle down for bed. After I set her in the crib, we overheard her saying something through the monitor.

I turned up the receiver’s volume and we listened intently.

“Happppppy Easter! Happppppy Easter!” she was repeating to herself.

However you celebrated—if you celebrated—I hope you and yours had a wonderful Easter! Happy Easter! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

21 months

A baby’s first months are filled with milestones—first bath, first outing, first smile, first everything. Once she grows into a toddler, those baby book moments become fewer and stretched farther apart.

Peeper’s 21st month turned that pattern on its head.

The last month was filled with new experiences, and this adventurous toddler soaked them up. Most notable was her first trip without Dada. We met my parents in Mexico, where Peeper enjoyed a slew of firsts—tasting her first mole (so huge a hit that she ate it plain and straight from the dish), her first swim in the Pacific Ocean, witnessing her first lightning storm. Peeper in Mexico - Ten Thousand Hour MamaSandy Hands - Ten Thousand Hour MamaEating mole - Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Toddler-made Christmas gifts: Hand- (and foot-) painted picture frames

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a toddler-painted photo frame is worth a thousand hugs.

That’s why Peeper and I crafted this gift for her Grandma and Grandpa this Christmas.

When Eric and I were discussing what to give his parents this holiday, he mentioned that what they’d really want was a photo of Peeper. Eric’s mom is big into family lineage, and her walls are lined with pictures dating back to Great-great-great Uncle Obediah. (Seriously.)

So I dug out some cheapie Ikea frames that had been sitting empty for too long for me to admit here, and we got to work. This is a fantastic last-minute gift and would work well for any occasion (or, heck, a project for a kid’s birthday party!).

Toddler picture frame - Ten Thousand Hour mamaToddler Picture Frame - Ten Thousand Hour mama

Really, the project is simple. I just took the white mats out of the frame, poured paint and let Peeper go all Picasso on them. If your kids are a little older, the craft will be a lit less messy. If you have toddlers, too, then here are a few tips: Read more