We were looking for an easy but scenic hike to take Bryden out on on this fine August day. After perusing several hiking books, we settled on Tonga Ridge. It starts high, but gains little elevation, so the walking would be easy. We were hoping for some good views down south into the Alpin Lakes Wilderness area.
After bouncing along the logging road for a ways, we finally came to the trailhead (after one wrong turn - road #6830 seemed to be a lot closer to 3.5 miles than 2.5 miles from Hwy. 2 as the "Best hikes with Children" stated). We started out at 4400 feet, and even though it was August there were patches of snow just off of the trail - what a strange summer! The trail goes uphill for a bit at the start, but then starts a steady sidehilling traverse, with glorious views down south to Mounts Daniel and Hinman and the surrounding peaks. Mt. Sawyer soon appears above you closely on the left, and it looked like an attractive scramble up steep heather slopes. Having Bryden along, however, I decided I'd forgo the scramble and we'd just continue hiking the trail. Not too long after deciding that, however, we came upong a small way trail that led off tothe left. Knowing that there really was only one place that trail could lead we started up it, quite steeply at first, the leveling out as we approached the summit of Mt. Sawyer from the east. There were still a couple of good sized patches of snow to cross on the north side of the ridge, but nothing to worry about. There are fine summit rocks to eat lunch on once you reach the top, and as you reach the crest, all the peaks to the north that have been hidden from view are revealed. Glacier, Baker, Shuksan, Sloan and many others were plainly visible on this beautifully clear day. The only down side was the number of flies that were also out enjoying the views (or at least enjoying the hikers enjoying the views!). With a fair bit of hand waving and slapping we were able to take a 15 minute lunch break, and let Bryden scramble around on some of the summit rocks (very closely supervised by Maren!). Wanting to get a few more miles in, though, and hoping by moving to leave the buzzing hordes behind we soon were heading back down to the Tonga Ridge trail.
After rejoining the main trail, we continued further east, eventually arriving at the meadows. There were plenty of secluded camp sites here, and plenty of water as well. Of course, with plenty of water there was plenty of insect life also. We did a little exploring around here, but soon decided it was time to head back. Bryden really wanted to walk part of the way, so when we got to some of the more level areas, we'd get him out of his backpack, and let him trundle on down the trail. At one point I explained to him that we needed to keep moving so the flies wouldn't land on us and bite us. "Okay daddy," he replied, and proceeded to jog (at a 2 1/2 year old's jogging pace) for a good hundred yards on a gentle incline! I obviously don't have as good a grasp on how strong he already is as I should. He was kind of tuckered after that bit of moving fast up the trail, and he allowed us to carry him most of the rest of the way back to the car. He didn't want to ride in the backpack anymore, though, and carrying a 30 pound toddler in your arms for a mile or so is pretty exhausting!
Once we got back on Highway 2, traffic was really horrible. We stopped at Pancho's for Mexican food for dinner in the hopes that the traffic would clear out by the time we were done eating, but it never did. It seems that the new stop light in Sultan has really hosed traffic up, particularly on weekends. Depending on where you're going, and where you live, I'd strongly recommend skipping Highway 2 these days, and instead take I-90 out over Blewitt Pass, then back west to wherever you're going. It may be longer distance wise, but it'll save you a ton of time.