Tetons and Geysers

I am so exhausted from today, I can barely write!

Today ended up being our longest day so far. We were up at 6:15 to drive 2 hours to get to Grand Tetons National Park bright and early.

We entered the park through a quieter, side road so we got a little sign!

The Tetons boast tall mountains with pointy tops next to a big open valley, which makes for great view and pictures.

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One of the cool things we learned was how in the early 30’s J D Rockefeller saw the need for the valley to be preserved, but the government wouldn’t bite, so he created a dummy company and anonymously bought up most lands in the valley and then donated it to the government (after much struggle). What an amazing act of foresight and generosity!

We went on a 2 mile hike around a lake, marveled at mountains, finished our Jr. Ranger program and were headed North into Yellowstone by 2:00.

I love seeing how these trips have challenged my kids in their thinking. So when we do the Jr. Ranger program, there is a lot of info on protecting the parks, not feeding animals, don’t pick wildflowers, and educate others as well. We see a lot of stupid humans mistreating the parks, but as we were finishing our walk Cora saw a family finish picking a bouquet of wildflowers. After having an internal conflict, Cora went with her gut and went over to them and told them that it was illegal to pick wildflowers in a National Park. They probably thought she was stupid or didn’t care, but I told her that it is always better to do what your gut is telling you is right than to care what people will think of you. The character is strong with this one.

The big sign!!

Yellowstone is massive. Add to that size, mountain driving and a ton of people and it is kind of logistical planning nightmare. If our trip was only a week to Yellowstone (which could be easily done – it’s huge)then I would have hunkered down and planned really well, but to be honest, I didn’t.

This is only 2 1/2 days out of a 5 week roadtrip, it just took more attention than I gave it. Let me explain. There are 5 entrances, 6 distinct areas of the park and about an hour or more of driving between all of these things.

If I had done extensive planning (and had endless money) I would have stayed the night next to the area we were exploring and cut down on driving time, as it is, we are staying 2 nights 1 hour outside of the East entrance because it was much cheaper than staying closer. This makes for lots of driving – gorgeous drives- but long.

If you want to do Yellowstone, just ask and I can help you plan your trip right because the park is amazing.

We used our half day to explore the Geyser basin of the park. Yellowstone is a volcano. Those gases make their way up through the earth into underground streams and cause geysers and Hot Springs. There are lots of different types which I can’t begin to explain and we saw several really pretty and amazing ones today.

A storm passed over Grand Prismatic spring when we were touring it and as it left, half of the viewing area was sunshiny and the other was dark grey with storm! The great was pretty against the white geyser steam backlit by the sun.

We ended the day at the Old Faithful village where we showed up just in time for the eruption of this consistent geyser.

We attended a Ranger talk about the past of Yellowstone and all the stupid things humans did here before we knew about conservation (a bear lunch counter?) It was a great talk and even the kids really enjoyed it.

After a quick trip to Old Faithful Lodge, an architectural milestone, we headed out at 8:00. As much as I wanted to explore this place for hours because it was so beautiful, we had a 2 1/2 hour drive to our hotel.

What a day. I am glad all of our days are not marathon like this, but man did we see some sights!!! The kids did so great! We bought Brenna he trip gift today (the other kids were easy to buy for, she was hard). She got figurines of all the animals we have been seeing on our trip! Bear, moose, elk, and even a Park Ranger. All of the kids have been having a blast imagining, making up story lines and names.

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Idaho

We were able to visit another state today that we have never been to, Idaho. Cora was particularly excited about Idaho because she just did a state report on it at the end of the school year.

We first had the chance to stop at another university that Aiden loves – Boise State University. You may know this school because of their famous blue football field. Unlike Oregon, which was locked up tight, Boise had a hall of fame that opened up to a field lookout – how cool!

We also stopped in Boise for a western state favorite Del Taco. Cheap tacos that are much fresher than Taco Bell!

It was a long haul across Idaho today, but it was so pretty with mountains and blue sky all around us.

Boredom hit about hour 3…so Steve got a tattoo. 😂😂

We made it to our main stop of the day, Craters of the Moon National Monument.

We didn’t originally think we would have time to get here, but I am so glad we did. What a cool place.

As we were driving to it, all of a sudden the landscape changed and there were what looked like black piles of mud everywhere; the lava of a volcano that last erupted over 2,000 years ago.

The emphasis of the moon comparison first came from a National Geographic article and then continued when US astronauts came here to train for their lunar missions in the 60’s. The government has most recently used it to train for the Mars landing.

The landscape is otherworldly. Black pumice everywhere in different formations.

We could have easily spent a whole day here, and it would have been really cool to camp here among the black rock and a big open sky filled with stars.

But we had only a few hours, so after completing our Junior Ranger program we drove out to the lava fields on the 7 mile loop road.

First, we walked to the top of a volcano! Yes it was just a small cone, but it was really cool nonetheless. The ground was so black and the pumice rocks were so light, but sharp and shiny. The black against the blue sky was amazing.

Our next stop was two small cones that erupted drops of lava all over to create a spatter pattern all over the cones. You could see into the holes of the cones. Seeing life live here was awesome as well. The wildflowers were in bloom and we saw a bluebird fly into a lava tunnel and we could hear her babies chirping for food.

Finally, you can’t drive to Idaho without a stop to a giant potato statue.

We go to the Grand Tetons tomorrow and I am giddy. What are the chances I will completed my wildlife bingo (I don’t really have a game but maybe I should have) and see a moose!?! Check back tomorrow to find out!!

Georgeous blue waters and an Oregon desert.

We left the coast today to begin our slow trek back home. We have been gone from home for 3 weeks and are headed back east now, after going west for 4,886 miles! We only have two more weeks left 😩😩😩.

We started our license plate game over today as well. On our way out west we found every state (plus DC) except for Delaware-darn you Delaware!!

Our first stop was a quick trip to Eugene and the University of Oregon. Aiden loves college sports and so we try to stop at as many colleges as we can!

Our main goal of the day was Crater Lake in southern Oregon. Crater Lake is kind of in the middle of nowhere Oregon, but there was no way I was missing being this close to a National Park!

The Cascade mountains that run north/south along the West coast have wowed us for two years now. The northern of these mountains are part of the famous ring of fire volcanos. It isn’t a question of if they will erupt, it is when. Mt. Rainer has yet to explode, Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, and Mount Mazama (known as Crater Lake) erupted 7,700 years ago.

During its last very violent eruption, the mountain couldn’t support its own weight and collapsed, forming a deep hole (known as a caldera) where the peak once stood.

Over the years snow melt and rain filled the caldera. It is so so blue because there are no streams that fill it so there is no dirt runoff. It is so so so blue!!

As we were staring at the view it seemed so surreal. The background truly looks fake! It looks as though the backdrop could be dropped and in its place would just be desert or mountains. I could have stared at it all day!

We had a nice picnic and did our Junior Ranger books and then visited the Crater Lake Lodge – a classic, old school National Park inn with a huge fireplace, a fancy restaurant and the best view of the lake so far!

Today was selfie day 😉

It is rare to get a candid shot of this booger

I just kept taking pictures because the views were so breathtaking!

My kids are boycotting hikes right now, and I am saving my bribery for Yellowstone hikes; so that was the extent of our time at Crater Lake.

Steve and I would love to come back here and explore more and stay at that lodge with a view.

We had a 4 hour haul east across Oregon to make headway towards getting to Wyoming and let me just say, I could have never guessed that this drive would have looked like it did.

The middle of Oregon is a desert!!! It was like I was teleported to Arizona or Texas. We even saw a coyote and a long eared jackrabbit!! It was the strangest drive and we were completely isolated the whole time.

We made it to the tiniest little town in time for dinner and sleep. More exploring tomorrow!

A day of rest

For our last day on the Pacific Coast, we chose rest.

We had gotten our full beach day of sun, and so the clouds that welcomed us this morning were not a bad thing, but instead confirmed our decision to spend most of the day at our little cottage.

We had a big, delicious breakfast and then headed out for some morning dune sledding. We found a new hill and it was much taller and faster!

We came back to our blanket to find that the crows had attacked our blanket and took all of our snacks!!

What started out as a hole in the sand turned into a family sand building event and we ended up building a National Park that included mountains, tunnels, craters, trees, roads and even a visitors center. It was such a fun hour watching everyone use their imaginations and contributing their ideas.

The rest of the day included naps, game playing, and a marble run competition.

The kids had been bugging me to make meatloaf, and today was the perfect opportunity! I love cooking for my family and have missed it, as well as sitting down together at a table and talking about our day.

Some of us went back to the beach one last time. It was a sweet 3 days here!

We had intentions of exploring the area coastal towns and crossing a lot more off of our tourist list, but just really enjoyed staying put.

Life’s a beach

I can keep this post pretty short…

• Slept in

• Coffee and porch swing

• Head to beach on magical trail

• Sled down dunes on saucer sleds

• Walk on beach during low tide. The beach is HUGE.

• Find sand dollars!

• Lay in sunshine

• Pack up and get cleaned up

• Cook an amazing dinner in a real kitchen

• Play games, nap, just be together

• Even though it was only 60 today, we got red in the strangest places!

•Head back to beach for more dune sledding

it was the perfect beach day!!

Oregon Coast

We began our journey down the Oregon Coast today.

We began in Astoria, OR, and this is where movies like Animal House, Kindergarten Cop and Goonies was shot. I love Goonies and driving through Astoria looked exactly like the neighborhood scenes from the movie.

We drove right by the jail that the brother breaks out of at the beginning of the movie. The building is now a film museum.

Our first stop was Fort Clatsop National Historic Park. This is where Lewis and Clark spent the winter after they made it to the Pacific Ocean. We have really enjoyed the Lewis and Clark Sites all the way through America. It was such a monumental journey and it was so well documented that there is great informative on about what the trip was like. There was a recreated Fort as well as a museum dedicated to their time on the west coast.

Our next stop was also out of Goonies! You can’t love the movie and not know Haystack rock on Cannon Beach. This famous seastack shows up in the movie several times.

It was HUGE in person and we were so impressed by it!

We were lucky enough to arrive right at low tide and so we were able to walk right to the base and see some more amazing tide pool animals!

We also were able to see Puffins nesting and flying around the stack!

Haystack Rock is a popular tourist destination (not only for Goonies) because it is the tallest sea stack along this coast.

The 101 (the Pacific Coast Highway) is beautiful, but it is long and slow and we had a long way to go, so we tried to limit our stops down the coast. But one place we did stop was Tillamook cheese factory store. We got cheese samples to our hearts content!

And then the mountain roads changes to dunes and finally we were at our little coastal cottage. To have a whole place to ourselves at this point of our trip is so nice. We bought food to make meals and planning doing not much of anything!

We like about 1, maybe 2 days at the beach before we get the itch to get out and explore. This break will be so nice!

After dinner we explored the way to the beach which includes a 1/4 mile boardwalk through plants and wetlands, continuing through a tunnel made through trees and finally navigating huge sand dunes.

Can you see the roof to our little cottage?

We came out of the trail to this huge, flat, isolated stretch of beach. Because of the placement of the house between a state park and the mountains and it’s distance from other houses, we have this beach to ourselves! We are looking forward to an entire day on the beach tomorrow with no one around.

We enjoyed some time on the beach then headed back to our magical tunnel to our cottage. We were excited to see a huge banana slug on the path!

We spent the rest of the evening eating cookies on our porch and laughing a lot. We laid around, played games and watched America Ninja Warrior snuggled on the couch.

Oregon Trail and food trucks

We had the best two night stay at an AirBnB in the Portland area. We had an entire basement in the house of a retired couple. They have grandkids and so they had tons of book, games and toys. It was such a great spot for us.

It had the best washer and dryer I have ever used and we were able to all of our laundry (coats and bedding included) from the week in 4 loads. This would have taken me at least 10 loads in a hotel laundry. I was thankful.

After sleeping in and having a lazy morning, we made our way to the “End of the Oregon trail historic site” in Oregon City. This is not a National Park site and so it cost us to go, but they let Steve in free for Father’s Day so that was exciting.

We really enjoyed this museum. It was really hands on for the kids and they got to play games, figure out loading a wagon, make candles, and so many more things.

Before the movie on the Oregon trail, they had a music duo demonstrating instruments of the time and it was really well done.

This was such great supplemental info to the things on the Oregon trail they my kids have learned in school and from books. It really made the subject come alive for them.

We really loved how they had period clothes for all of us to dress up in! We had so much fun picking out our outfits and posing for a picture.

Portland is a foodie town, but usually with our vacations we try to go cheap, not adventurous with our meals because – well 4 kids. But today for Father’s Day we splurged on an experience that was very Portland.

Portland calls their food trucks – food carts, and they have these corner spots on streets that have 6-10 food carts that are permanently parked around a picnic area under a tent. We went to “Cartopia” and it had a ton of landscaping and the food options were so fun. Cora and Aiden got wood fired pizza, Kellen and I got Poutine and rice and beans, Brenna got a hamburger and Steve was in heaven with his Vietnamese choice. The neighborhood it was in was really eclectic and crazy. We stopped at a funky vintage store that was exactly what a vintage store should be. All the kids wanted to do for the rest of the evening was to play in our basement. They have loved stretching out, playing with toys and especially reading books.