Monthly Archives: June 2014


Portland: A Sampler

We couldn’t have asked for better accommodations or tour guides! Visiting with Heather and Kris for three days was the perfect way to hit our mid-trip milestone.

We arrived Friday, walked to the “neighborhood” grocery, cooked a yummy dinner and crashed in our first non-camper accommodations in 27 days!! Saturday we headed downtown to check out the Rose Garden (roses at their peak!), stopped by REI, Powells Bookstore, Deschuetes Brewery for lunch, and Fat Tire Farm ( bike store for Brad). After a rest in the afternoon it was wings at Fire on the Mountain for dinner.

Sunday we had a less hectic schedule but still managed to visit the new Keen store/headquarters, wood fired pizza for lunch, a local stationary store, and Queen Bee for a new/replacement wallet for me! The guys checked out HUB bike bar and we stopped by laurel hurst park for some playtime. Then, it was back home for the tail end of the World Cup game.

Some good patio time and another yummy dinner were enjoyed! Heather and Kris introduced us to the game SkipBo and Virginia was the winner!

We said our goodbyes this morning and headed towards Bend. We are at the Sandy Ridge trails currently…brad is getting in some “seat time” while the girls and I hang out.

Looking forward to our upcoming week in the Bend/Sisters area!! Hoping to fish, hike, bike, and check out the breweries that have been recommended.





Lush is an understatement!

The west side of Olympic NP did not disappoint…it was green on green on green.

Our campground was in the NP, Kalaloch was amazing!! I feel so fortunate we were able to reserve two nights there!! We could hear the ocean from our site in the temperate rainforest!

We made a trip down to the beach as soon as we set up camp. Huge drift logs and gorgeous stones were everywhere. Amazingly different than our east coast shoreline. It was misty, cool, and windy but beautiful none the less!

We biked around and had our first campfire since RMNP. Hot dogs over a fire just taste soooo much better! Thursday we trekked into the Hoh rainforest…through the Hall of Moses. What a place….

Virginia and Kimberly received their Junior Ranger badges and Virginia also completed the Ocean Steward Program.

Friday we headed out through cloudy, rainy skies…Portland bound.








Contemplating Scale

imageSince we arrived on the Olympic Peninsula and in the vicinity of Olympic NP I have been feeling a bit small. Not in the sense of being insignificant maybe, but more about just our physical presence as well as how short our time is – when you really think about it.

Being in a place like this will make you think about these things. The isolation in time and space of this area has created an environment that is truly unique, not to mention, there is a lot here that is really big: snow-capped mountains, huge trees, the wilderness in general really…

This park is quite different than any other I have experienced, especially related to the three we visited before this one on our current journey. The road access is really just around the perimeter, and outside of the park at that. Venturing into the heart of the park is an experience exclusive to backpackers. I think that is awesome. I wish I was packing in for a week. I have lamented the fact that I am not several times a day so far.

One reason for that desire is that there is so much of the park you simply cannot experience any other way, and another possible reason is that Brad took off for CA for four days right after we got here…maybe I was longing for a little “quiet time” away from the girls :-).

We have managed to take in a few of the more accessible areas including a drive up to Hurricane Ridge…known as such for the high winds that, coupled with the 30+ feet of snow a winter, make for a most inhospitable environment! You can see several beautiful snow capped mountains from here, including Mt Olympus. You can also see back over Port Angeles to Canada…not very far away. The city of Victoria is easy to make out right across the Straight.

The girls and I ventured to Sol Duc Hot Springs and soaked for an hour or so. It is a more pungent spring than our last experience as has a slightly slimy feel to the water…tried not to think about that too much though as the girls were having fun. There were quite a few people there when we went and many were Eastern European…they have us beat in the “distanced traveled” department by a long shot!

Several of our excursions have taken us past Lake Crescent, a glacial lake that is several hundred feet deep and the most striking azure blue you can imagine. It is very distracting when driving along the shoreline…you have to keep looking over at it to convince yourself that it really is that surreal color. Quite beautiful.

Another adventure led the girls and I to Salt Creek Recreation Area, not too far from our campground. I had read somewhere that the tide pools at low tide were fun for exploring. We were right on time tide wise and were able to investigate the mid tide range with mussels and limpets exposed on the rocky shore and loads of beautiful driftwood and seaweed, unlike anything we have at home, on the beach area. It was probably my favorite outing so far.

Today we hiked to Sol Duc falls and it was beautiful!! Such spectacularly clear water…unlike anything I have ever seen – and I spend quite a bit of time in that environment!

Tomorrow we will leave this campsite and head around 101 to the west to stay at Kalaloch campground for two nights. We will visit the Hoh rainforest. I am super excited!! Hall of Mosses here we come! This region of the park gets 12-14 FEET of rain a year!!!

Only negative to report: last night my purse was stolen out of the truck – which was accidentally left unlocked for the first time the whole trip. A morning spent canceling credit cards, etc was no fun but we have taken care of everything and minimal damage was done. I need to replace our camera so am stuck with photos from the iPhone for a few days. Otherwise, just a small bump in the road!

More Olympic to come…







Seattle: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Since we are trying to be candid with our journaling efforts on this trip…here’s the low down on the latest adventures:

Arriving in Puyallup – merely a campground within a hour of Seattle and NOTHING more – we were relieved to not be at a truck stop, have laundry facilities, and of course…a hot shower. We did a little drive around the tacoma area, just so we could say we did, and called it a night, excited for Kimberly’s birthday jaunt into Seattle the next day.

We woke to cloudy skies (seemed appropriate given our locale) and headed out by 7:30. I was regretting not lining up a stroller rental in advance and wondered how many steps it would be before kimbo pooped out on us. Fortunately, given the anticipation of certain activities she hung in there quite well.

To say entering the sprawling metropolis of the greater Seattle area was a bit of a shock to our systems is to put it very mildly! Within an hour we parked the car downtown, one block off of Pike Place Market and it was on.

I have to say, having been in relative wilderness for the previous two weeks did not prepare us well for the deafening volume of the city. We couldn’t hear each other…we were concerned about the car being vandalized, as we were clearly tourists making a day of it with backpacks, water bottles, and the like ;-)…and, of course we had no idea where we were going.

Being the one charged with all planning and scheduling, six eyes were on me. It took a quick stop at a coffee shop, a few glances at my phone map, and we were off.

First stop: Seattle aquarium. If you go there, do NOT judge it by the exterior. It looks pretty rough. Actually turned out to be the second nicest one (next to Baltimore) that I have ever visited.

Next up: a quick lunch at a sandwich joint. Good food. We strive to avoid “hangry” as much as possible…we are all susceptible!

Off to the much anticipated (by Kimberly) monorail – a throw back to the 1962 worlds fair – that took us to Seattle center to see the space needle.

We opted for just Brad and Va to go up…it is really pricey and the clouds were limiting the view.

We enjoyed the return trip on the monorail and stopped in a Marbles store to find a few gifts for the birthday girl. After our walk back to the car it was back to the campground before rush hour began.

All in all, the city trip was ok. Some of the negative resulted from our sensitivity to the noises, smells, sights…and some is related to the experiences we had to explain to the girls on the way “home”. Like: why were there people camped out on the pier next to the aquarium (fairly large homeless camp right there, including discarded clothing and evidence of various bodily functions feet away from us); why did daddy go back to check on car (shady guys casing lot as we left); why was that man screaming cuss words “at” us as we walked by (mentally ill man talking to himself on corner); etc etc.

Brad and I both took a depth breath in as we crossed the Hood Canal onto the Olympic Peninsula today. At a quick stop in Port Angeles we scored with a wonderful food co-op (yes I do sniff those places out)! Our campsite is awesome. Tomorrow Brad leaves us for CA for 4 days but I am excited to begin exploring the park with the girls!!!

Note: we opted to stay at Elwha Dam RV park versus at Sol Duc as I needed hook ups while Brad is gone. So that location is wrong on the schedule.





Gold Fever!

We found ourselves in Idaho briefly, long enough to rest for a night and tour an old gold mine.  The Crystal Gold Mine in Kellogg, ID was mined briefly in the late 1800s and then boarded up and abandoned until it was rediscovered during road construction in the 1991!  We camped on the premises so we were the first ones in on Monday morning.

Kimberly getting the safety talk from Frank, the owner

Kimberly getting the safety talk from Frank, the owner

Kimberly did a great job of keeping her miners hat (hard hat) on the whole tour!   It was very interesting and we were able to see gold and silver in the walls!   At the back of the mine we were 900 feet below ground!!  We panned a little afterwards, but chilly temps and icy water minimized that experience.

Back on the road, we stopped in Coeur d’Alene long enough to have an awesome lunch at Fire Pizzeria…the lake there is beautiful!


Our attempt at a family photo in the mine ;-)

Our attempt at a family photo in the mine 😉


The afternoon brought a few more hours of driving as we were making our way to the Washington coast.  Similar to parts of Wyoming and Montana, there is a lot of agriculture and undeveloped land in east Washington.  We found ourselves hunkering down for the night at another truck stop in George, WA…my least favorite accommodations so far.  Dinner and a few games of Uno rounded out the evening.

Notice the size of the "shaft"...not for the claustrophobic!

Notice the size of the mine shaft…not for the claustrophobic!

Today we will be arriving at a campground (thank God!) around lunchtime near Tacoma, setting us up for a day in Seattle tomorrow.  I am looking forward to spending Kimberly’s birthday there and we plan to take the girls to the aquarium among other places.

Thursday we are headed to the Olympic Peninsula for a much needed break in travel.  We will be there for 8 days, yay!!


Good times in Bozeman

The past three and a half days have been spent in the lovely town of Bozeman, MT.  I could definitely live here…not so much Brad though, too much snow for his taste.

Prior to arrving in town though we made a slight detour to Chico Hot Springs in Pray, MT.  I was nervous about dragging the family there, as it was just through internet resources that I learned of this place, and you never know what you’ll get with that stuff!  It was a success though.  We donned our bathing suits for the first time on the trip, I can safely say this is the palest I have ever been in June…not much sunbathing in the recent temps of CO and WY!  The “hot” pool was around 104 and the larger pool was around 90 degrees.  It felt great to soak in the minerals and the sun, despite the outside temp of 50 degrees!  We lounged and played for about 2 hours and then it was back on the road.



We arrived in Bozeman Thursday afternoon and found a local grocery…a great co-op, kind of like a cross between Chatham Marketplace and Whole Foods!  It was a very welcome sight after the limited fare in Yellowstone!   Dinner was Bison burgers with a fried egg on local arugula and potatoes…YUM!  Friday Brad found a local mountain biking trail…this town has plenty to choose from.  As he “crushed his soul” on an 18 mile ride with the first 9 being uphill, I hung out at the campground with the girls.  That afternoon we ventured to another local find: Spire Climbing Center.  I put both Kimberly and Virginia in harnesses and Brad belayed them as they tried out wall after wall…well, Kimberly did it a few times, and only about 8 feet high, but that was a major success in my book!  Virignia on the other hand was killing it!  For two hours she wore Brad out, even tackling some walls that were partially inverted (sloping backwards)!  It is a great place and it was fun to watch all the climbers practicing their moves.

RIMG0209Dinner at the Montana Ale House was very good, as was the break from cooking in my 20 square foot kitchen!

Saturday brought rain in the am and chilly temperatures.  I was concerned as I had booked us on a river rafting trip on the Gallatin for lunchtime.  We took care of our chores and a final grocery shopping trip before heading down towards Big Sky.  The Montana White Water Company is fantastic and I highly recommend them if you are in the area!  I opted for the “scenic float” as I was concerned that even the family-friendly Class 1-3 trip might being pushing it in the cold water temps and for a first trip for the girls.  Excellent call in hindsight!  With the river running fairly high from runoff, the scenic float had just enough excitement to have everyone smiling at the end!  Our guide Brent was super and he and Brad chatted about biking, construction, and everything else as we took in the beautiful Gallatin…part of our reach was used in the filming of A River Runs Through It.


Brad and Kimberly waiting for the bus ride to the put in…the wetsuits were much appreciated!

Today, Father’s Day, we load up and head out once again.  We are hoping to end up somewhere between Missoula and Couer d’Alene this evening.  Planning to tour an old gold mine in the am.  I am hoping for another success in the “momma side trip” department!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads….


Yellowstone Round Up

Due to our lack of wifi and minimal cell service in the park, updates have been few and far between…but it certainly wasn’t for lack of doing!  I think we drove every road in the park, some several times over.  Each time was like the first though, as we constantly marveled at the scenery, wildlife, and how the time of day and lighting affected some of the features.

Lower Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs

Lower Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs

On Monday we visited Old Faithful first thing, the crowds were not bad and we arrived about 10 minutes before an eruption…got lucky on that one. It was interesting how built up that area is compared to other park “centers”.  Our next stop was a family favorite, Grand Prismatic Spring.  It was like being on another planet, and the wind being strong that day, made the steam even more dramatic.  It was in that area that we found the Fire hole River.   I had received a tip to fish that and/or the Madison and despite the high water in most places, both were quite fish-able.   I tried my luck, yet without some “local knowledge” on what flies to use I couldn’t manage to catch the attention of the fish.

We later headed to West Yellowstone to check out the Wolf/Grizzly Discovery Center and I stopped by a fly shop (Blue Ribbon Flies) where I got the “local” I needed…a few flies in hand we headed on back to camp.


Tuesday, Brad decided to bike for a bit and I had the girls in tow as I tried my luck again on a much too popular fishing hole further downstream…they bit, but I never got to bring one in for the girls.  I was disappointed but it was still fun!

Getting to that area of the park was about a hour+ drive each way for us, and the travel times were starting to wear us down.  We took a breather on Wednesday: laundry, showers and making blends took up the morning.  Not being ones to sit still too long though, we headed up to Canyon in the afternoon to check out another overlook of the Yellowstone Canyon and grab dinner.  I am sooo glad we went as a traffic jam alerted us to something “good”…we pulled over and joined the spectators as they watched a very large grizzly dining on some delicacy along the banks of the Yellowstone River.   We were all about 400 ft away and he still looked big!  My point and shoot camera didn’t stand much of a chance though.

Girls working on Junior Ranger books at Steamboat Geyser

Girls working on Junior Ranger books at Steamboat Geyser

Discussions Thursday morning led us to decide to head out of the Park a day early, feeling as though we had covered the ground that we could…it is hard sometimes for Brad and I to remind ourselves that the girls don’t have the stamina we do and carrying Kimberly up and down these trails was not so much fun after a while.  Ironically enough, it was a fruitful drive out.  We took the route: Fishing Bridge to Canyon to Norris to Mammoth (for those of you familiar) and were rewarded with a wolf sighting in a small valley near Norris…and another grizzly sighting, this one much closer, about 150 feet away, along a small stream, also eating…and finally, a big Bald Eagle as we neared Mammoth for our exit from the park.

Exiting the Park through the Roosevelt Arch

Exiting the Park through the Roosevelt Arch

It was a fantastic visit…one I will never forget and I hope it has a lasting impression on the girls as well.  My most memorable moment:  watching Virginia AND Kimberly receive their Junior Ranger badges at the Lake Visitors Center…







Girls receiving the badges from a Seasoned Ranger at the Lake

Girls receiving the badges from a Seasoned Ranger at the Lake


What the hail??

We are beginning our second full day in yellowstone, and heading west to old faithful this morning. The first afternoon was a trip to canyon and a hike to the brink of the lower falls. It really takes your breath away, especially climbing back up the 600ft rise in elevation in 3/8 of a mile!

Yesterday was a trip to Lamar valley early in the am to catch some wildlife viewing. Many, many bison were out and about but couldn’t spot a grizzly or wolves. Hoping that will happen at some point in the trip.

On our way to mammoth for lunch and to see the hot springs we happened upon a black bear chilling in a little valley. He was of moderate size and looked happy as a clam despite his audience.

Mammoth is a neat part of the park with the old Fort Yellowstone and we had lunch in “town” with elk grazing 50 ft away! Virginia and Kimberly picked up their Junior Ranger books and instructions at the visitors center. We walked the boardwalks at the lower terrace, stinky but really interesting!

After lunchtime it was on to Norris. We were hoping for a once Ina lifetime experience of seeing Steamboat Geyser erupt. No luck, but some activity so that was cool. It is the largest active geyser in the world, with eruptions from 4 days to 50 years apart!!

We were all dragging a little by this point so after the ranger program we headed back to camp. To our surprise we had a hail storm just after arriving back in the camper! Yellowstone is truly unpredictable!!

I will have to save photo uploading until we get some wifi, signal is hit or miss in park and I am relying on cell for uploading.

We will be here until Friday so we are hoping to see and do much more. Our first site with full hook ups has been a treat…running water as needed, hot water, and laundry facilities on site is a luxury!


Wyoming Pt 2 (Tetons)

We arrived at Grand Teton NP on Thursday around lunchtime and set up camp at the Gros Ventre Campground.  The campsite is beautiful with the Tetons to the west and the Gros Ventre River to the East (within walking distance).


View from the picnic table

We decided to head to the multi-use trail for a bike ride as it was yet another gorgeous day.   Initially thinking of the 8 mile (each way) trek from Moose to Jenny Lake, we settled on the 4.3 mile distance instead and I was ever so thankful of that!  I pull a small trailer/carriage behind my bike for Kimberly…the attachment does’t fit Brad’s bike…hmmm.




Our view from the bike path

It was by far the most scenic bike ride ever…we were right at the base of the Tetons in the Snake River Valley!  We hiked a little around Jenny Lake and then biked back to the car.  After the ride we headed into Jackson.

They have a “shoot out” every evening in town with local actors and black powder blanks.  It was entertaining, but a bit much for Kimberly and too short for Virginia!  Afterwards we headed to a local brewery (Snake River) for dinner, and as they put it…”put our river through your liver”.

We were supposed to head to Yellowstone today but decided to remain here for one more night.  It is so beautiful (did I say that already?).  Today we drove up to Jackson Lake accessing it at Colter Bay.  We hiked to a picnic spot for lunch and tried to catch a fish for a while…no luck.  This lake fishing thing is really not my strong suit ;-).

Our picnic spot view

Our picnic spot view

A grocery store run this afternoon topped off our activities before heading back to camp.  We walked along the river looking for Molly the Moose, who apparently frequents the area.

So far our wildlife sightings have included Bison (Fred and George, as Virginia named them), more Pronghorn, and Elk.



I believe this was "Fred"

I believe this was “Fred”

Off to Yellowstone in the am…heading there takes the sting out of leaving such a lovely spot here in GTNP.


Wyoming Pt 1

I am not entirely sure what has happened since we crossed the state line into Wyomnig…Brad’s voice has dropped about 3 octaves, it sounds like he has gravel in his throat, is threatening to buy a cowboy hat, and keeps talking about riding for the brand, bring in the herd of the BLM land, and rounding up his loose stock!

We arrived in WY Tuesday night and stayed at the truck stop before heading to Rock Springs yesterday for a sleepover at a private campground…this included an afternoon of laundry, grocery shopping, maintenance, and SHOWERS!!

So far we have seen a lot of looong roads, trains, and skies. We have also discovered this is where the deer, antelope (yes really), wild horses (so beautiful), and camels (??) roam! Flat, high land gives way to towering peaks. The campground we stayed in last night was in the red desert and at sunset and sunrise you can see why it is named such.

Today we head up 191 to Jackson. Hoping for pretty weather tomorrow so we can explore Jenny Lake at Grand Teton NP.