Sunday, July 14, 2013

Epic West Coast Trip- Part 2

Day 6- We were off to Olympic National Park.  Wow. What an amazing place.  We saw Ruby Beach, and drove around the park, seeing the Hoh Rain Forest.  This was a very rainy day, but we had pretty good rain gear so it wasn't a big deal.

Ruby Beach
banana slug

The younger two were able to get their Junior Ranger badge at this park, which made the third badge earned on this trip.  

Kalaloch Campground is in a pretty remote area. After motoring around the park, we felt like we needed to gas up before continuing on the next day. The closest town was Forks, WA. If you are a Twilight fan, you know that the book is set in Forks. The movies were filmed elsewhere, which is why it's baffling to me that Forks is a Twilight fan destination.  J is oblivious to this sort of thing, so when we arrived in town, he was really confused as to why the tour bus ahead of us had those pictures on it. 

Day 7: we spent a little more time on the beach at camp, and then drove off, ending our time in OR. We were planning to spend the night at J's friend's house, who lives a little way outside of Portland, OR. Lisa was a friend dating back to high school. I'd met Lisa and her husband at their 20 year reunion, and thought she was one of the funnest people I knew, so I was excited to see her again. We had a late night playing games and visiting while the kids watched a movie in her theater room.

Day 8: We had reservations to spend the night in South Beach State Park in Newport, OR. On our way there, we stopped at the Tillamook Factory. They have a FREE self guided tour, which we went on. Then we bought ice cream cones and squeaky cheese. They acted like the squeaky cheese was a rare big deal.  I guess TILLAMOOK brand is, and can only be bought at the factory. However, squeaky cheese is found all over back home, so while I was happy to get it, it wasn't a once in a lifetime thing for us.

South Beach state park was a very busy place. They had showers, a playground, and was fairly close to the beach. It was also quite crowded, which is not my favorite way to camp. The camp spots were really large though, which was impressive for such a big park.  
That evening, we went to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and saw some tidepools. We were also able to see some whalespouts. We thought seeing whales would be really amazing, but it turns out to be pretty underwhelming when they're so far out.

We also saw our first seals, which was pretty neat.

That night we went to a chinese restaurant in town. We ordered a seafood platter and everyone (but me) was wowed by the fresh fish, crab, and clams. Z had fun playing with the empty clam shells.

Day 9: We arrived in Reedsport, OR. We had lunch with a mutual friend of ours, Sean. J was on Pride with him in high school, and I went to college with he and his wife.  Sean is now in a band in town, and we heard them perform.  After that, we visited Umpqua Lighthouse, and then camped at Umpqua State Park. After Sean and Rayna finished up, they came to our camp to sit around the fire and visit.


Our Epic West Coast Trip- Part 1

Around December, we discussed summer vacation with the kids. We gave them the option of going to Disneyland or touring the west coast. They voted for going on a Caribbean cruise. Since that wasn't on the table, they opted for the west coast. I was a little surprised that they chose that over Disneyland, but I was pleased.  We drug along our 2006 Keystone Outback 26RS travel trailer. Initially, we were going to pull it with our diesel truck, which is our usual vehicle of choice for camping trips. It can easily pull the trailer. However, while a big cab, it is very tight for a family of six. We knew that we would be driving around 3600 miles total, and that's a long time for four children to be in such close quarters.  We also own a 2008 Ford Expedition EL. It's rated to tow our trailer, and would be a lot more comfortable for the occupants. We were concerned about wear and tear on the vehicle, as well as reduced fuel economy, but ultimately decided that a homicide free vacation was the best option. We ended up making most of our camping reservations and stop over plans in January, so everything was reserved and set up months before we set out.

Day 1: We started fairly early in the day and headed north.  We stopped in Boise for lunch. We were invited to a close friend's mom's house. Kristen had been one of my very closest friends in junior high and high school, and I adored her mother. Her mother had since relocated to Boise, and she was happy to host us for lunch. We eventually got back on the road, and ended up in Yakima, WA at bedtime. We stayed at another close friend's house, Amy. Amy has kids similar ages to mine, but our 8 year old girls get along like a house on fire. The had a wonderful time together. Z got along really well with her youngest, even though there was a couple years' age difference. When we left the next afternoon, there was much tears from the children.

Day 2: We had a late lunch with Amy's family, and then took off westward. We had reservations to stay at the Silver Springs Campground, which is fairly close to Mount Rainier National Park. We didn't like the spot we reserved, but the park was very quiet, so the hosts let us move. The campground was very quiet and beautiful, and we were amazed by the green (this became a common theme).

Day 3: We visited Rainier National Park. Our younger two earned their junior ranger badges, and we did a short hike. We were amazed by how much snow was still up there, even though it was June.  That evening, we parked our trailer in front of our friends' house, the Miller family. They have three kids. Their oldest is M's age, and their youngest is between S & Z's age. We had dinner with the family, and it was wonderful to catch up with them again. They moved to Redmond a couple years ago.  Our kids really got along, and M really connected well with their daughter- they've been texting pretty constantly ever since.

Day 4: We spent the day in Seattle. Their daughter, L, was the only child who was out of school already, and our friends had to work, so we took her along as our tour guide. We spent most the day at Pike's Place. What an amazing spot for people watching! I think I was most impressed by the gorgeous fresh flowers that you could buy incredibly inexpensively. Each of the bouquets in this picture were $5. The one in back went to the Millers, the bottom left went to my friend Katherine, and the bottom right was mine.  We ate mac and cheese from Beechers, and had giant cookies. The mac and cheese was really quite good. We were underwhelmed by the cookies, even though they're famous for being good. I can't remember the name of the company, so I guess it's all for the best.  On the way back to Redmond, we visited the Lego store, which the younger three were pretty impressed by. After M & L  and S, Z & F had a sad goodbye, we were off to visit my friend Katherine in Lake Stevens, WA, another good friend from high school and college.

We had a lovely relaxing dinner with her, and then went for a walk. A neighbor of hers had made a beautiful flower garden inspired by the game Candyland.

Katherine's fiance' owns a plane, and we were able to let the kids try sitting in the plane, which was a great experience for them.

Day 5: Unfortunately, Katherine has a real job, and had to leave very early in the morning. So, we packed up early and headed off to our next destination. The next place on the docket was Kalaloch Campground.  At long last, we saw the coast! This campground was pretty amazing because it was right on the coast. We had to hike down a bit of a cliff, but then we were right on the ocean. The beach was beautiful, and the kids loved walking along the beach, looking for critters and playing.

Up to this point, we'd more or less had perfect weather.  We were getting the point that we were teasing our Washington friends that they were making up all of the rainy weather as an untrue rumor to keep the tourists away.

To be continued....