Wonderland Trail, Day 11: 2 Bears & the Perfect Summer Evening

Wonderland Trail, Day 11: 2 Bears & the Perfect Summer Evening // jessconnell.com

{NOTE: For those readers who don’t know our family, we’re the Connells. Doug’s my husband and I’m Jess. At the time of this trip, we had 7 kids (Ethan-14, Baxter-12, MeiMei-10, Silas-8, Moses-6, Theo-3.5, Luke-18 months), and I was 6 months pregnant with our 8th child. I’m publishing journal entries, pictures, & memories from our 12-day family adventure on the Wonderland Trail, one day at a time: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9Day 10, and now… Day 11.}



Heading out for day 11!


Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier
Wednesday, 8/24/2016: North Puyallup to Golden Lakes (4.8 miles)
Elevation changes: +1300, -200


{before we left camp} “If I didn’t know we were almost finished with it, it would seem impossible to believe that we’ve nearly walked all the way around this massive, amazing mountain. But on the map it says we’re less than 15 miles from our van. CRAZY. 

This morning, I woke up to {conflict between two siblings}.

I guess I’m starting to see… this morning….that this isn’t MY battle. I don’t have to control or contort him into a particular shape. He has choices to make. God is faithful and will keep giving him opportunities to make choices that honor Christ. I need to pray and fill my role- authority, observer, nurturer, wisdom-teacher, discipler, discipline-giver… but I cannot control him (or any of them) into Christ’s image [or into the image I have for them]. I need to back off, pray, and lean in to what I can should do– not yell, cajole, or take on more than I can actually humanly accomplish. I just need to be faithful with my portion and let my children each take on their portions, and let God do His part.

Yesterday, Doug took some of the weight from my pack, and Ethan took my sleeping pad. They are all blessing me… as both my babies (inside & outside) keep getting heavier. :) I felt the baby kicking and squirming again this morning. So cute.  Can’t wait to meet this new little person. VERY  thankful for our family, even amidst challenges.


5:23- @ Golden Lakes–

We got here by mid-afternoon, after passing a brown mama bear & her black bear cub up at the top of the ridge between N. Puyallup and Golden Lakes — very special!

Then Lukey has been playing in the tent while me & the older children played down at the lake. The kids found frogs, salamanders, floated on logs, & watched dragonflies. It felt like the perfect summer afternoon… a magical ending to a tough trip.

This has been a really special, challenging, wonderful time “away from it all.” In 4 days, we head out for WCC family camp at Beaver Bay, and in 9 days I fly to Texas for Mom’s 60th birthday party… crazy! It’s been nice not to hear a word about Hillary v. Trump, or see nonsense on Facebook. Maybe I’ll take a FB break for a while… this has been fabulous.

{One page of brainstorming for the next year of writing/school plans}

Gonna try to hit the sack early tonight… get up in the 4 o’clock hour, so we can hit the trail by 5am… it’s a 10.3 mile day– 7 down, and 3.3 up. The up is gonna be tough. But… kind of like labor… totally worth it, to get to the van!

Then, a celebration dinner & dessert (assuming we make it off-trail in time).

And then…. HOME!!!”


(Doug’s putting together a long video of our time on the Wonderland, but here’s a few clips from day 11)

Luke spotting, chirping for, and grabbing berries:


Here’s right after we spotted the bear (look at the bottom center of the screen)… and then at the end you’ll see my super-excellent zoom job on the cub. (That’s a joke; you can hear our excitement, but after seeing the mama bear, all you get is a view of trees. Sorry!!)


Haha! My zoom is the WORST. But I left it in because it cracks me up. :)





Luke (18 mos) opening wide for peanut butter



So many mushrooms!!



Sometimes a tired 3-year-old just wants to sit down. In the middle of the trail.



Even when you’ve only gone 4.8 miles, it’s EXCITING to make it to camp!



gotta pull those shorts up high to get ready for the lake :)



ten salamanders



The ONE picture taken by Theo on our hike. Pretty good for his first photo.



brother love






dinner… augmented by blueberries



Moses, keeping his promise. [All 4 little boys ended up participating in my footrub on this night!] YES, PLEASE!!!


  1. This was a big revelation of the entire trip for me… my role as the mom of teens. When your kids are young, you really are “in charge” of their whole world. With a 3-year-old, you really *can* control virtually everything they encounter, the people/things they are influenced by, and (through presence, training, and discipline) you can (for the most part) constrain their choices to fit your desires. (Not always, but largely.) That changes, slightly, through the elementary years, but only so much. But when they are teens, there is still conversational/heart work to do, but they are their own people. And I know this, mentally. And yet I don’t. This is a new reality for me as a mom of teens. Sometimes they’re gonna choose the wrong option. Sometimes they’re going to make rotten relational choices with siblings. And this is how they’ll grow. And how their siblings will grow, as well. God’s got this sovereignty thing under control, and He doesn’t need my help to govern all things. I’m really working, since the trip, to back off in regard to “control,” and to dig in to conversation and interaction along the lines of “so how’s that working?” “What could you have done differently?” “How are you thinking that comes across?” I’m learning a lot… but thankful for this big “aha” moment of seeing that it’s no longer my battle, in the same way it is with younger children. As they grow, these battles of character and relationship are increasingly, on their own shoulders, with us alongside them, as protectors, nurturers, prayer warriors, and co-laborers. I want to focus on loving my oldest son as he becomes a young adult– winning his heart, cheering him on, and being a sounding board and source of wisdom for him when things don’t go well. I don’t want to be a critical nag who he wants to run from. 
  2. YES WE SAW TWO BEARS!! Doug saw the mama bear first. The minute he said it, he grabbed the camera. We all stopped and watched. They were about 100 yards away– a perfect distance for me to feel comfortable, but still close enough for us to see them. We stopped, watched, and the mama bear looked our direction a couple times while walking slightly uphill and away from us. Less than a minute later, we saw the baby bear ambling up the hill behind her, and were VERY glad we’d already pulled back to stop. Because we wanted to be safe about it, we stopped right then and pulled back into a spot in the shade of a tree to have a snack while we watched her walk the rest of the way up the hill.  We watched them both disappear from sight, waited about 5-10 more minutes, then went along on our way, singing and talking loudly. It was clear from her body language, though, that she wasn’t interested and just wanted to get away from us. Once we passed through the area where they had been, we could tell WHY they were there– we passed through acres and acres of knee-level bushes, loaded with blueberries. :) Smart bears. We ate some too.
  3. The away-from-constant-devices thing can’t be overstated, in how GOOD it was. On day 4, Doug commented, at the campsite where we stayed, “oh wow! I just heard a text ding on a phone, and realized, it’s been 4 days since I’ve heard that!” And he said he was making dinner here at Golden Lakes when he realized, “I haven’t had even one thought about Hillary or Trump in over 10 days!” At this point in the trip, 11 days in, we were SO MUCH more focused on the things right in front of us, and very aware of our lack of distractedness. This was a really valuable part of the trip.
  4. Our time at the lake was deliciously good. Blueberries abounding. Ethan built a little wooden boat and sailed it with his brothers. Ethan and Baxter floated a log halfway across the lake. Theo dipped his head and feet in the water. We watched salamanders and dragonflies. Dinner was really great. The sunset over the lake was lovely. It truly felt like the perfect summer moment– the one we’d all been hoping for the whole trip– and God gave it to us on our last evening, when we were experienced enough, and had enough time, to really lean in and enjoy every second of it.

just before sunset, at Golden Lakes




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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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2 Responses

  1. Britt says:

    Insightful thoughts on parenting a teenager…I’ll be tucking those away for a few years from now. I’ve been realizing a lot lately how my oldest is quickly approaching the teen years.

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your mountain adventures too. :)

  2. Kami Crawford says:

    I really appreciated your paragraph about what you’re learning in parenting teens. Most of the time I feel so alone in this as most of the people we’re surrounded with have kids younger. Its so good to read that you go through this to. I’d love to talk more about that sometime :)

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