Capitol Reef & Bryce Canyon

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After our 2014 Northwest Tour, I realized that we needed to get out more and see this beautiful country with our kids, especially Utah. Everywhere we went along the coast, people would ooh! and ahhh! when they heard we were from Utah. A lot of the rangers at the different national parks we went to mentioned that Utah was at the top of their lists of places to see. Some even said they were jealous that we call Utah home. It made me curious about our home state. What had I been missing out on all of these years? As we arrived home, I looked at the majestic Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake and thought, “Wow! Utah really IS fabulous!” I vowed to use all of my plasma money, from this summer, to make traveling around UT a possibility. I knew Aaron would be starting his new job in a few weeks. He won’t be able to get more than 2 weeks of vacation for the first year or two.  So, I wanted to make sure we got all of the vacation time we could in the meantime.

I have been to Bryce Canyon once (about 7 years ago). It was for a family reunion and we had several little ones and a little baby, so it wasn’t the best time to go exploring).  I had never been to Capitol Reef and Aaron couldn’t remember going there. Since it was close to Bryce Canyon and also had a Junior Ranger program, we decided that these two national parks would fit the bill for our first mini tour through Utah.

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A few of our friends mentioned a campsite in a little town called Fruita, for our Capitol Reef stay. We arrived in Fruita and discovered that it really is an oasis in the desert. We checked out the visitor’s center and drove in to the camp ground see if we could get a site (it was still the time of year where it was first come, first serve).

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Here are some of the orchards in Fruita. It was so awesome! They had several different types of fruit trees throughout. Visitors can pick the fruit they want, weigh it, and pay (on their honor). There wasn’t a lot of fruit when we got there, but it was cool enough just to see the whole set up. The mulberry trees were HUGE!

We watched a film at the visitor’s center and it explained the history of Fruita and Capitol Reef a little better. The early settlers created a series of orchards and an irrigation system. I am surprised it has survived all of these years. Not only is their intense heat and dryness of the area, there are flash floods that can wipe out homes and vegetation. These are some really strong trees!

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A picture says a thousand words….or the amount of pictures I took says a thousand words. I had to narrow down how many I shared. There were so many different vistas that took my breath away.

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We found a little campsite and set up our tent. Doesn’t it look so pretty, with the orange rock in the horizon?

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Since we rarely get any pictures of the two of us while on vacation, I made sure to get at least one picture right at the beginning.

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I thought it ironic that we had these shirts on. Definitely Quiksilver and his Queen!

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After we set up camp, we decided to head out to do a little hike. We chose the Capitol Gorge trail because it was rated easy. And it truly was. The weather was amazingly perfect! Overcast, not too hot, temps around 70. It was a little scary to think that at any moment we could have a flash flood. I just tried not to think about it too much and enjoyed the outdoor experience of hiking through a gorge.

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Toy Yoda at Capitol Gorge….because she was excited to be there!

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As we were entering the trailhead, we were welcomed by a family who had just finished hiking in. I asked them if they wanted a few photos together and they happily allowed me to take their picture. Then they offered to take our family pic. Sah-weet!

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Another hiking moment where everyone else is yards ahead of the lingering photographer. I tried to keep up, to stay in the moment as much as possible. Sometimes, it is just so difficult for me….so much beauty all around! I mean, look at these walls!!

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My little troopers. Simon kept asking if I was going to take their picture (I think he is turning into a photo hound), so I finally had them climb up into one of the caves (formed by water, over several thousand years) and got a picture.

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The kids thought this was the most amazing thing they saw on this hike….it was pretty cool.

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None of the kids complained about the hour and a half hike. In fact, they kept saying this was the best hike ever. LOL

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Castle Rock was one of my favorite formations in Capitol Reef.

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As a part of the Junior Ranger program, the kids chose to listen to a ranger share the brief history of the geological aspect of Capitol Reef. Fascinating! This is the demo of the different layers being pushed into a monocline . It was really intriguing to learn about how all of these formations began and why there were so many layers of different colors (which was so fun to see!).

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The rangers were pretty awesome at Capitol Reef. The kids had to do a little more than they were used to doing, but still enjoyed earning their badges. Love my Junior Rangers!

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This was definitely my favorite image from Capitol Reef. LOVE, LOVE LOVE the Apache Plume!

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And the tie dye sky? Yeah, I think we came to Capitol Reef the perfect time of year and were so blessed to have such ideal weather!

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So many rainbows!

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As we were driving around Capitol Reef, we saw these bighorn sheep mamas and babies. The entire herd was crossing the road. It was so much fun watching them traverse the mountain, especially the little ones who are still learning.

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“Mom! Take my picture!” I must have around 50 images of pictures Simon wanted me to take of him. I tried faking shots, but he knew I wasn’t taking any pictures and asked to see the screen. Busted!

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The hike up to Hickman Bridge the next day had some absolutely stunning views.

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The kids didn’t complain about this hike either. In fact, everyone except Lukie said they love to hike. Luken let me know after this hike that he “is not a hiker”.

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Happy Trails!

 

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Simply beautiful.

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Hickman Bridge was another easy hike and we were there in no time.

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Love my hiking companions! Looking forward to hiking increasingly more and more difficult trails, as they all grow up and are capable.

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We had Jamin take a shot of us together.

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We lucked out and there were a couple of young ladies who arrived around the same time as us. They offered to take a family photo for us. Of course!

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This little lady was all decked out in pink and I couldn’t resist getting a few shots of her with the pink stone.

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Follow the pink stone path! Follow the pink stone path! Follow! Follow! Follow! Follow! Follow the pink stone path!

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The petroglyphs were so awesome! Many years ago, this was an awesome story for some ancient civilization or another.

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After an evening and then a morning full of Capitol Reef, we headed out to Bryce. On our way to Bryce Canyon, we saw quite a few cattle. I tried to get a shot of this baby nursing, but there wasn’t a shoulder and we were going pretty fast, so this is what I got.

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Our road took us over what looked like Hell’s Backbone.

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Deep incline down both sides of the road. It was a little bit unnerving for me to be driving down the middle of a very narrow ridge. Luckily it was only for about 3 or 4 miles of the trip.

 

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The view was magnificent, when I didn’t think about the drop….

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Finally, we arrived in Bryce Canyon!

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We were thrilled, THRILLED, to see that there were some spots left in Sunset Campground (this was the campground Aaron remembers camping at as a child). We couldn’t find any available tent sites, but they let us stay in one of the RV sites.

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The boys have gotten really quick with putting up our tent. Booyah! And the kids were excited to have a campfire. The spot we had in Fruita didn’t allow fires, so we didn’t get to roast marshmallows the first night.

We also had some pretty awesome neighbors. I got talking with them and found out they were from SLC (which, believe it or not, isn’t as common as you’d think).  They have an adorable little man named Peter. He fit right in with our crazy bunch!

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We got to see this mama pronghorn antelope and her twins. I couldn’t get a very good shot (they were moving and I was far away, without a tripod). But you can still see how adorable they are. When the mama went to cross the road, the little ones finally came behind her. She seemed to be really immune to humans. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing. 😉

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Bryce Canyon is more beautiful than I remember.

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The kids wanted to hike again (except for Lukie, of course, who was back to crazy poses for my pictures). We had heard that the combo of Queen’s Garden and Navajo  Loop were easy and beautiful. I think we had been spoiled by the cooler weather enough that when we finally had a really hot day at Bryce, we just about died. Plus, to make matters worse, I had recently purchased some new hiking sandals and hadn’t broken them in before we left on our trip. I had a few blisters and was partially miserable for this hike….

 

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I still managed to find beauty all around.

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Hiking the Hoodoos!

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I was the only member of our family without a green shirt (I don’t own one in that shade and I didn’t have time to find one). I need to find one before our next trip!

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The skies were SO blue! I didn’t adjust the blue tint on this image at all. This must be what skies look like, when the pollution is low.

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These little tunnels were fun to see. It must have been quite the adventure for someone to figure out the best trail and carve part of it out of the mountainside!

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We made it to Queen’s Garden!

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Someone offered to take our picture and we couldn’t refuse that.

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Jamin bought a camelback for his birthday and everyone got to try it out on our hike. Definitely getting a few for the family, when we get back home!

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Love this man!

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“Mom, take my picture!”…..

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And into the end of Navajo Loop….so amazing!

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I was far behind everyone else, blistered, hot, thirsty, exhausted, but I took a few minutes to take this landscape in. God does amazing work!

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Did I mention I love this man?

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This was probably my favorite photo in Bryce. Such a contemplative pair.

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We took a break after our hot hike and went to the visitor’s center (mostly because we knew it would be air-conditioned). The kids had to do a ranger program to earn their Junior Ranger badges. It just so happened that this weekend was a really big event in Zion, where stargazers from all over the world came to see the stars together. The solar program, included looking at the sun through these two telescopes. One showed the sun with 2 sunspots on it and the other made it look red, so you could view it and the flares coming off of it. So cool.

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My little scientists loved it!

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I love that Aaron is so involved with these guys. The older kids do their own Junior Ranger packets, but Aaron always helps Simon. This Junior Ranger badge was the most difficult one, to date. Seriously, each of the kids had to find and pick up 10 pieces of garbage, bringing said garbage back to the ranger…..this is a rather clean park. And they had so many terms and equations that were difficult to understand. Still, the older boys figured them out enough to earn their badges.

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The younger kids took turns launching rockets they made at the solar exhibit.

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They thoroughly enjoyed this part. The volunteers really went the extra mile to make sure the kids had fun!

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So did the parents.

 

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Simon wanted to launch his rocket again and again. And the volunteers helped him to make his rocket go farther than any other rocket. He was in heaven!

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The kids spent a few hours working on their badges and even earned a special reward (a postcard of Bryce Canyon) for hiking the hoodoos.

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Lukie found a few bottle caps to add to his collection. These ones look pretty stellar.

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Aaron and I had a little bit of heat exhaustion, so we sat and relaxed. Ethan and Jamin were awesome and took over dinner while we recovered. I sure love these young men!

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I went to Sunset Point to get some shots. They turned out wonderfully. I am looking forward to coming back when I have a better camera and getting some more.

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We drove up to the highest points of Bryce Canyon and looked out of most of the viewpoints. When we got to this one, we found this little guy, begging for food.  Most people would say, “Ahh, how cute!” when they see something like this. It made me sad. Because people can’t figure out how to NOT feed the animals, those animals are now dependent upon humans for their food. Aaron and I took a moment to have a teaching moment with the kids. I explained how feeding the chipmunks is like the welfare system. It seems like a great idea, a noble deed, a wonderful thing to help others out. Right? But when someone can no longer figure out how to take care of themselves (which, having had a husband who worked in that system for many, many years and saw it firsthand, we can attest this sad process), it is a disabling act. It takes away their freedom, their capabilities, and even their self-worth. And that is such a shame. Likewise, it is with these animals. This squirrel kept posing, in the hopes of getting some food from us. We didn’t feed it. We know better.

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Aaron found this baby horny toad and picked it up to show the kids. I love that he has such a love of nature.

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The kids each took turns holding the horny toad (which is really a lizard, btw). Then we put our friend back where he was heading, when we found him.

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“Mom! Wanna take a picture of me….with Ry Ry?” Um, yes! Love that these two are so close.

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I love nature, too. Thistle always gets such a nasty rap. I love it. I almost bought a silver-coated thistle in Italy. It was around $200, so I had to pass. but boy was it beautiful! The design of these “weeds” will always astound me.

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At first, you might think, “Wow, how awesome to be able to get a shot of a crow up close!” Yeah, it would be, if this guy wasn’t actually begging for food, just like our little chipmunk friend. When we pulled up to this viewpoint, there were many visitors all with their cameras out. That was when I noticed the two crows, flying back and forth. The visitors thought they were lucky. Nope, these guys have just been fed human food. Now, they spend their days waiting for visitors to feed them, like monkeys in a circus. So sad.

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We made it up to the Natural Bridge lookout and it was worth the drive up, just to see it. I love bridges & arches and am really looking forward to our future trip to Arches & the Canyonlands.

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“Mom! Wanna take my picture?” Never got old. Especially, when he would sit down and look away from me….um, what is up with that pose? 😉

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Toy Yoda in Bryce Canyon.

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We went up to the Mossy Caves, another easy hike and much cooler than the previous day’s hike.

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The caves, themselves, weren’t that spectacular…

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but we noticed a waterfall further up the pathway and decided to venture up there and check it out.

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I don’t know if this is a fungus or what, but I found it very lovely.

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The waterfall was a part of a river that had been formed by early settlers, set up as a part of an irrigation system that involved diverting several natural rivers into one. Pretty amazing!

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I really enjoyed all of the hoodoos of Bryce. This was the perfect place to end our weekend adventure!

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On our way back to Toy Yoda, we ran into our friends and I got a few shots of them with their family.

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So much fun meeting other adventurers and lovers of the outdoors! Looking forward to our next Utah adventure! 🙂

 

Pura Vida!

Danni

Heading Home

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318 Russian Gulch

Because of arriving in Russian Gulch around 11pm, we didn’t get a really good chance to see where we were staying. When we awoke the following morning, we could see that it was SO. BEAUTIFUL.

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We chose a spot right next to the bathrooms (as we always do). As I was finishing up my shower, I came out and found a car parked between us and the bathrooms. I assumed it was another camper, coming to shower. Nope! It was Michri! She had the insight to know that my phone service had been down and I had no way to get ahold of her. She drove into the campground and found us. Isn’t that cool? I felt so loved!

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Michri brought her son and their dogs, Pipi and Lucy. The kids enjoyed playing, while we continued to take down camp.

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324 Glass Beach

I told Michri that we wanted to try to find Glass Beach and spend some time there, since we would be leaving the coast and heading back towards home today. She knew right where it was, so we followed her to the beach. See the blackberries lining the left side of the path and the wild radish lining the right side?

 

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These are some wild radish blossoms…

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So lovely!

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We saw a doe, on our walk down to the beach. I didn’t get a very good shot before she journeyed on, but I was excited to see wildlife so close to us.

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These succulents remind me of my childhood home in Rancho Penasquitos. They grew all over the hill in our backyard.

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And here is our family on the last beach of our tour. I don’t think I had even looked in the mirror, once I got out of the shower….such a hippie! And Luken’s latest thing has been to try to photobomb every picture we take as a family, with whatever obnoxious look he can come up with. Such a stinker!

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But when he doesn’t know I am taking a picture, he is so adorable. The kids were so excited to see that Glass Beach was literally all worn pieces of glass and ceramic turned into sand.

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It was wonderful getting to know Michri and some of her family. She and I have a common friend, whom we both love dearly.

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She was so patient with the kids and her doggies. And she reminded me of Melanie, our friend. Melanie is one of the most tender-hearted beings I know and I always feel so at ease with her. I was so glad that she suggested I meet Michri on our journey. I love making new friends!

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Melanie said we could pass for sisters…what do you think?

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Glass beach thoroughly rocks! So glad we were able to have Michri show us the way! I guess some people come in to the regular beach front and think that the glass is all gone. No, you just have to have a sister in-the-know! 😉

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Ryan thought this conglomeration of sea glass, metal and rock was pretty cool.

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Aaron and the kids found a lot of rock crabs and hermit crabs and had them in a pail of water. This one was missing a claw.

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This one kept scooting towards the ocean, while I was taking his picture. So cute watching them scuttle sideways.

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Simon really enjoyed his new friend!

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Ryan was so proud that she found her own crab and even picked it up without getting pinched. She wants to be a scientist someday (along with a chef and florist). She loves animals so much.

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Love this guy!

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Eventually, we let all of the crabs go at the same time, to see who would be first back to the ocean. Some just burrowed into the glass beach and others went the wrong direction. Here is Michri, helping a couple of lost crabs make it back to their home.

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These guys are so cute! The little guy missing his right claw was the first one to the ocean, by the way.

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Pipi & Lucy were such sweet pups! The kids loved having doggies around to love on.

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Luken’s crab didn’t want him to let go, when he put him into the ocean. Ouch!

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The entire beach was made up of this sand and these larger pieces of glass. So gorgeous!

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As we were getting ready to leave, a flock of pelicans flew over us.

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Because you can’t get enough of these succulents above the beach….at least I couldn’t. LOL

350A Dragon Kite Glass Beach

❤ Sun. Dragon. ❤

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Little Lady Blossom (Ryan) loved walking Pipi.

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So glad that Michri pointed out the wild radish to us. These green pods taste like radish. I know because I had to try one to see for myself.

Soon we were all loaded into our vehicles and I was hugging Michri good-bye. I was really bummed that we didn’t get a chance to go and see her and her husband’s shop (they make knitting hooks out of birch wood). Now, I am going to have to come back….just to see her farm and business. Can’t wait!

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There were wild lupines all along the coast and into the heart of Oregon and California. Purple, lavender, white, yellow, all different heights. I fell in love with them all. I finally found some that were on a less-busy road and had Aaron stop so I could get a few pics.

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While driving up the middle of California, we saw groves and groves of trees. We couldn’t tell what type of fruit they were growing, but I guessed they were either olives or pistachios. It turns out, that Corning, California is a pretty big grower of olives. We would have stopped and sampled some, but we were in a hurry to get to our next campground before dark (after arriving so late the night before). So, instead, Aaron pulled off to the side of the road and I grabbed my telephoto lens to get a shot as close as I could.

356 Antlers Campground

We found a state park with a campground that had showers (FREE) and flushing toilets. The ranger had us follow him on his cart and pointed out our spot. Kind of a lame spot, but I guess he thought it was nice. Other than the mosquitos  (this was our only experience with mosquitos, actually. Kind of nice to have 14 days of hanging out and camping outside, without any mosquitos), it was a pretty cool camping experience.

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Simon loves camping.

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I talked Aaron into leaving the rain fly off while we were here, so we could enjoy the stars.

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We had fun experimenting to see which foods were easiest/quickest to make while camping.

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Ethan was excited to have caught a frog. I love that my kids all have a deep love for wildlife.

361 Shasta Mountain

As we left Antlers State Park, we were excited to see Mount Shasta. I took the shots of Shasta from Toy Yoda, moving over 60 mph, but you can still see how majestic she is.

362 Metal Dragon with Shasta Mountain

And another dragon shot for my Dragon. When I visited China, I had around 40 dragon shots….all for my Dragon.

363 Welcome to Oregon

Oregon welcomed us.

364 Medford Temple A

We routed our trip specifically so we could visit the Medford Temple. There isn’t a whole lot in the area. Except for Crater Lake. And Aaron and I were really looking forward to visiting Crater Lake National Park. Originally, we had planned to go camping there, after we visited the temple. When I called to ask about making reservations, the lady on the phone laughed at me. She said they wouldn’t have the park open until around July and I wouldn’t want to camp then, unless I liked the snow. I was kind of bummed to hear we wouldn’t be making it to Crater Lake, but we will definitely be coming back that way at some point. And it will definitely be later in the summer, so we can see Crater Lake.

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The Medford Temple was down a little country road. I had made some tuna sandwiches for lunch, before we headed out, so we could cut down on time and costs.

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We picnicked on the lawn, by the stake house that is located next to the temple. Isn’t that old barn across the road fun?

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Wish this barn was closer to where I live. I would use it for photo ops like C R A Z Y.

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The front of the temple is pretty, too.

365A Junipers Reservoir RV Resort

After we left Medford, I got on the phone and called Lakeview City in Oregon. I wanted to find out where the best campgrounds were in the area, before we arrived. The receptionist for the city offices told me to call the forest department. I called there and the lady who answered said she was just a fill-in for the day, but she would call me back with more info. She went the extra mile and found us a lovely campground. It was our first campground that wasn’t run by a state or national park. Junipers Reservoir RV Resort rocked!

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The kids enjoyed playing horseshoe, while Ethan set up the tent by himself (he and Jamin had a fight and got to have a 30 minute Peace Talk after Ethan finished up the tent…which only took 15 minutes from start to ready-to-sleep-in, by the way. BAM!).

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Aaron and I made a yummy dinner. Seriously, after eating so many yummy foods while camping, I don’t think I will ever go back to campfire eating. Tinfoil dinners take so long to make and sometimes end up burnt.

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The camp host was a sweetheart and asked if she could take some pics of us in our tent. Apparently, they mostly get RVs and needed some tent shots for their website. I told her I am a photographer and offered to take some shots for her.

If you are ever in between Medford and Idaho or Utah, I highly recommend stopping in to stay at Junipers Reservoir RV Resort. Not only do they have Wifi, they also have HUGE, heated bathrooms with showers, a temp-controlled guest office, laundry facilities, a couple of grills, a large community fire pit, volleyball net, a group bowery, and some stunning landscape. All of this and a soft place to lay down our tent for $20. We’ll take it!

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Aaron and I rocked the mexi meal that night. I am so glad we have a single burner. I am going to purchase another burner before we head out camping again. Such a great investment!

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I didn’t want to post all of my photos, but here is one that shows the office (which was nicer than some that we had used in hotels) and the bowery.

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There is even a piano…should you feel the urge to tickle some ivory.

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I loved the fresh wild flowers and juniper berries in the bathrooms. So precious.

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I also loved this juniper tree carving. It is these little details that make Junipers Reservoir RV Resort so wonderful. So happy that this could be our last campground on this trip. It was perfect.

382 Welcome to Idaho

The next morning, we took our showers and left Oregon. I think this was the longest and most boring drive of our trip. At some point, we crossed over into Idaho…..and this part of Idaho was equally boring to drive through. Just keeping it real. Not all of your road trip, no matter where you are driving, is going to be awesomeness. 😉

 

383 Boise Temple A

The Boise Temple was our final temple and it was such a treat to be there. While Aaron and the boys were doing baptisms, I took the little ones in to use the restroom and began talking with the two brethren up front. I told them where we were from and our quest to get to every temple along our journey and one of them said he had spent most of his life in Centerville (not far from where I live). I told him I grew up in Centerville and asked his name. He told me and I was happily surprised. I lived just 3 houses down from him for 9 years. And he even remembered my family. Such a small world!

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I couldn’t find anyone to take our picture….and this sign is right on the edge of a freeway entrance, so I was a bit worried about my active 5 year old wandering out into the traffic. But Aaron looks jolly!

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This one was shot by Jamin. He is getting pretty good at taking our pics.

Visiting the temples was worth the time it took. We were so happy to be able to help out those who have passed before us. Going to the temple is such a treat. We have a goal to go to as many temples as possible on our road trips, to show our kids that it is possible to do, if you have the desire and do a little extra planning.

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Along our journey, I noticed that all of the temples have such beautiful stain-glass windows. I especially liked this one. Boise is the City of Trees, so it was fitting.

383 Boise Temple F

After the temple, I asked the kids if they wanted to drive back through Hagerman, to visit the Hagerman Fossil Beds and get their last Junior Ranger badge of the trip. They didn’t say anything. I reminded them of the fact that it wasn’t the town’s fault our tires both blew out there. And actually, it was a great blessing that our tires went flat while we were driving along at 25 mph in the daytime, without rain. Had the tires held out for an hour or two longer, we would have been traveling 75-80 mph in the rain and in the dark. The Hagerman Blow Out (which is what our family affectionately refers to that incident as) was a blessing in disguise. After I put it that way, they all said they wanted to give Hagerman another shot.

394 hagerman or bliss

We drove into town. Luckily, it was a Saturday, so there was no road construction. That saved us around an hour of time, right there. And we even noticed this road sign. We were going to follow our Bliss, but we went to Hagerman instead. LOL

384 Hagerman Fossil Beds

It was the perfect day to visit the Hagerman Fossil Beds. They were having a special celebration from 10-2, where they were letting kids see how the pioneer kids played and they even had the fossil beds open for digging. I guess it was Hagerman National Fossils Day or something….pretty good timing, at any rate.

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The kids enjoyed making their own whirly toys.

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And doing a little digging for fossils.

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This was my favorite group of fossils, together forever.

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There were a few “hands on” items for the kids to play with and experience. Which they all enjoyed.

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And this awesome Hagerman Horse replica. When Luken asked if it was real and the lady said it was a replica, he said, “So, it’s a fake.” She laughed, “Yep! Technically, it is a fake.” Such a funny kid.

391 Hagerman Fossil Beds

At this location, they don’t swear the kids in, but they did hand out the badges with certificates. Simon was proud to get his fifth badge.

392 Hagerman Fossil Beds

They were ALL proud to have worked so hard to earn their ranger badges. We are looking forward to visiting more national parks around our neck of the woods and more around the nation next year, when we take our next epic road trip. Can’t wait!

393 Home Again

We finally made our way home to Utah, where I have to admit life really is elevated. So happy to be home. While this trip was one of my most favorite trips ever and I will never forget it, I am happy to be back in my own bed. Around halfway through the trip, Aaron turned to me and said, “This trip has been awesome. Do you know what would make it even more awesome?” And I had no clue, so I said, “No, what?” He then smiled and said, “Having your own place to come back to every night, like an RV or something.” (or….the bus?) Well, isn’t that a thought? I just laughed, “Yep! That’s the plan. That’s the plan.”

As we drove into our home town and looked around, through our tourist-eyes, looking for the beauty around the next corner, taking it all in like a deep breath of cool, country air, I realized why I needed this vacation. Beyond making some pretty fabulous memories with the people I love more than anything else in the world. Beyond seeing the marvelous wonders of this earth up-close and personal. I needed to see through those eyes that emerge when we are outside of our normal routine, to enjoy the moment more, to take it all in and be content wherever I was. And now I am.

So, until our next adventure…..

Pura Vida!

~Danni

 

 

 

 

The Redwoods & Battery Point

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277 The Redwoods

We arrived in the Redwoods near dusk. It was like a fairy tale world, with the large trees and ferns, the sunlight filtering in a little, and the sound of nature all around. The next morning was even more magical. Jedediah State Park has an awesome campground. Flush toilets, quarter showers, fire pits, bear boxes, and an amazing atmosphere for $35 . We were in heaven.

 

278 The Redwoods

Our tent in heaven.

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While we were setting up the tent and making dinner, the little ones adventured around our camp site. They found a banana slug climbing up the tree. It was v e r y   s l o w….Simon was thrilled to see that it was still on the tree the next morning.

 

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We had an Oregon breakfast, with Portland French bread, our salalberry jam, and our rose hip tea (which my tea-lover picked out while we were at the rose gardens in Portland).

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While I was making breakfast, Luken shouted out, “There’s a squirrel in the van!”.  I thought he was joking….he does that a lot. But sure enough, there was the squirrel, climbing in and out of the van, happily finding all of the crumbs we had missed the night before. There are bear boxes at the campground, because there are bears in the area. It is a crumb-free zone, which means you have to keep it pristine. It is for both your safety and the bears’ safety.

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This squirrel was no rookie. It knew what it was doing. In and out, then back for another nut or gold fish…..it had the routine down. It didn’t come out for a while, but when it did, I tried to grab a shot. Silly squirrel.

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Such a lovely breakfast.

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Simon found another banana slug, this one was almost a foot long and everyone came running to see it. So much fun watching them enjoy nature together.

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I love snails (not in my garden, mind you). This redwood snail was such a beautiful shade of red and brown, almost as if it was made that way to fit in to its surroundings.

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After we showered and loaded up the van, we headed out to find a trail to hike. Stout Memorial Grove was supposed to be both beautiful and easy for young ones. As we were crossing a bridge to the trail head, we passed over this turquoise water. I kid you not. This water was more turquoise than I have ever seen any other river.

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Love my kids.

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I know it is strange that sometimes I like watching my family from a distance, trying to capture the love they are generating, for posterity’s sake. I know. Kind of creepy…but in a good way, right? 😉

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Stout Grove did not disappoint. So magnificent!

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There weren’t any signs that said not to climb on or around the trees. Although we did keep the kids on the path as much as possible, there were some shots I couldn’t resist getting.

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I think we all know who is in charge of our family. LOL

 

 

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These burls were gorgeous. Sometimes, the flaws in nature are the most interesting parts of all.

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I love this quote. So fun to see it on a bench in the Redwoods. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”  ~Shakespeare

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My little adventurers wandering along the paths.

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We learned a lot about the redwoods. Their roots aren’t deep, but they go out wide and connect with one another. They are all a part of one huge network. When one goes down, it almost always takes another down with it. Here are two trees that fell apart. You can see how huge these trees were. The bases spanned around 12 feet easily.

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Do you recognize this setting from any movies? Think dinosaurs and ewoks…..both Jurassic Park and Return of the Jedi had segments that were filmed in the Jedediah Redwoods. The rangers up here verified (unofficially, of course) that they were filmed right here in Stout Grove. I believe it!

300 The Redwoods

We decided not to get one of the iconic images of our car pulling through a tree. Instead, I attempted to get one of Toy Yoda and an entire redwood….these babies are SO TALL! I seriously would have had to be around 100 feet away to get the entire tree it was next to.

301 Battery Point

Ever since Aaron and I first got married, he has talked about going to Crescent City. He remembered the sea lions, the rock crabs, and the amazing tide pools he had visited with his family, as a child. We both had this amazing image of Crescent City in our minds. When we drove into Crescent City on our first night (to dry our sleeping bags at the laundry mat), we were very disappointed. I still can’t believe how many run-down towns there are in California. I wasn’t thrilled about going to the beach, because I imagined it wouldn’t be any better than the city. Happy to report that I was wrong.

While I was calling ahead to our next campground and leaving a message with one of my best friend’s best friends (who we were hopeful to meet up with while down in the Mendocino area), Aaron and the kids headed down to the beach. I had just finished up on the phone, when Ethan came running towards the van. He looked horrified, as he yelled, “Start the van! Simon fell and hit his head and we need to get him to a hospital right now.” After so many times of having not-so-funny jokes pulled on me, it took me almost 15 seconds to realize he wasn’t kidding. I stopped the nearest local and asked them where the closest hospital was. Then I went and started up the van. I didn’t know how bad the injury was. Ethan didn’t usually freak out over blood or injuries, so I was worried. As I saw Aaron carrying Simon up, I could see that his entire forehead was covered in blood.

Aaron asked why the van was running. When I told him about Ethan running up and freaking out, Aaron said it wasn’t as bad as it looked….that calmed me down a little. Aaron explained that Simon and Luken ran ahead, onto the beach, and jumped on some wet rocks in the tide pool area, which was when Simon slipped and went down on the rocks. Luckily, his hands kept him from hitting harder.

The gouge wasn’t worthy of stitches. We have gotten stitches several times and the last time, we vowed not to get stitches unless it was an absolute necessity. When you have a kid who picks at the scab constantly, the stitches take forever heal and there is still a scar (this is his fourth eyebrow/forehead scar…the kid thinks he is invincible).  After a minute of discussion and looking at the cleaned wound, we decided to call it good. We threw a butterfly band-aid on, with a regular band-aid over the top. We all piled in Toy Yoda and were about to head out when I asked how the beach was. I could tell Aaron was bummed that he hadn’t even had a chance to see the beach he had been dying to get back to. I asked the kids, including the injured stunt man, if they wanted to attempt another run at the beach. It was a unanimous YES. So, we braved the winds and went down to Battery Point. So glad we did!

302 Battery Point

It was worth being in the arm pit of California (yes, Barstow, you heard me….Crescent City is the other arm pit!). The kids found these crab shells on the beach. I kept them in a ziplock bag all the way home….nasty smells and all. I plan on getting some silica sand to put them in, to speed the drying process, then I am going to seal them up and put them out with some of our beach pictures. It’s kind of like drying wild flowers, right?

 

303 Battery Point

Aaron loves exploring the tide pools for fauna. At Battery Point, he found lots of crab, some sea slugs, some gobies, starfish, limpets, mussels, and barnacles. Aaron pointed them out to the kids and they even did some catch and release with the crabs.

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I loved that the beach was mostly rocks, not sand. I made sure to gather some of these beauties to add to my collection of sands from around the world.

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Loved the rocks, with the kelp and barnacles encrusted all over them.

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Our wounded warrior, right next to the rocks he fell on….poor little adventurer.

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Battery Point Lighthouse was closed, but it looks like it would be fun to visit, if we are ever here again.

308 Redwoods Junior Ranger

Once we had our fill of beach time, we went to the Redwoods Crescent City location to work on our Junior Ranger badges.

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The ranger that swore the kids in was pretty awesome. It was so cute hearing my little Si Guy repeating the pledge with the other kids.

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Did I mention the rangers were awesome? They noticed that we hadn’t passed off the Banana Slug Slide requirement. This ranger got on his best rapping voice and rapped the lyrics while he and the kids did the Banana Slug Slide.

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What fun! I don’t think the kids will be forgetting this Junior Ranger requirement any time soon. LOL

312 Redwoods Junior Ranger

This picture isn’t in focus, but you might be able to see all of the different cones from the trees in the surrounding area. When the ranger asked which pinecones the kids thought belonged to the majestic redwood, they all caught on that it wasn’t the largest one there. In fact, it was the smallest one. It wasn’t until we were home, unloading Toy Yoda, that I recognized two of these teeny pinecones. Apparently, someone (he who shall not be named) forgot that we aren’t supposed to take anything out of the National Parks. How DOES one return items mistakenly taken? :/

313 Paul Bunyan

As we continued on down the coast, we drove past the Trees of Mystery tourist attraction. Aaron had visited there years earlier and he said he didn’t even want to find out the cost….not worth our time. We did stop long enough for me to lean out the window and get a picture of Paul Bunyan and his ox, Babe.

314 Smoky Cali

As we drove deeper into the California valley, we saw the smoke hovering over the top. My heart dropped. California has really been hit with so many nasty fires this spring. My heart goes out to all of those who have been effected by these devastating fires.

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LOVED driving down 101.

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And the smoke gave the sunset a lovely hue of yellow and pink. There is beauty all around.

For dinner, we ended up stopping at a Jack in the Box in Eureka (let me just say that Eureka was another town I can say I don’t need to visit again). While we were there, the kids and I got to witness a prostitute, a gigolo, and their pimp, grabbing some lunch and making a meth deal…..how exciting! We ate and got outta Dodge!

As the sun set, we entered Highway 1. While we had hoped to see it in the daylight, it was dark and not at all what we had expected. For those who haven’t driven on 1, it is winding, forest-filled, all up or down ( depending upon which part of the mountain you are on) until you reach Mendocino….which was where we were heading. I am sure it is stunning during the day, but it was quite nerve-wracking during the night. We did enjoy seeing a lot of animals along the way. Aaron was extremely exhausted by the time we pulled into the Russian Gulch State Park. They had flushing toilets, quarter showers, and firepits….all for $35. The stars were out and scattered across the sky. We set up our tent (this time in less than 20 minutes) and crawled into our bags. It had been a very eventful and fun day, but now we needed to recharge. Since we arrived at 11pm, we had no idea what the actual campground looked like, but Michri had sent me a message letting me know that this was one of the campgrounds she had heard was awesome. She was right. 🙂

Pura Vida!

~Danni

 

The Oregon Coast

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241 Nehalem State Park_

Remember those amazing blue skies when we first arrived at Nehalem Bay? Yeah. They lasted until around 1 am. Around 3 am, both Aaron and I awoke to rain falling hard on our tent. Aaron and I both waited to see if it was going to let up. It didn’t. We put a tarp over the top and I prayed for about a half an hour that the kids wouldn’t get drenched. When the drops still fell, despite the tarp, we began our plan C. I put all of the pillows and blankets in a bag to carry to the car (for each individual child), then put the sleeping bags in black bags, as Aaron either escorted or carried our five kids to the van….which would now be our bed until we awoke. While it was exhausting and a little discouraging, as Aaron and I both fell into our seats, we looked at each other and laughed. We fell asleep holding hands across our pillows. What a life!

Amazingly, we slept from 4:00 to 8:00am. We were so tired! When we awoke, we met our neighbors. It turns out, they are Utah transplants, who now claim Portland for their home. Spencer and Aaron (we thought it was cool that their names were both androgynous like ours) and their two little ones even braved a trip down to the beach with us, to have a small devotional, before the storm came back to insult us.

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Simon was thrilled to have a little boy his age to scurry around the beach with.

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No more blue skies.

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But that didn’t stop these beach lovers from getting their toes wet again. I swear, Aaron is half-fish.

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The dark clouds grew darker, and it was time for us to move on our way. We had our devotional, which included an opening and closing prayer, a song (the Popcorn Song), and the positive thought for the day, which was given by Ryan (“Be kind to each other.”).

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So happy to have met this sweet family. It is such a small world, after all.

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As the rains set in, we moved quickly to get back to our camp. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the rain, the mist upon the layers of trees, the shades of green. The urge to capture it was too overwhelming to ignore. This is what happens, when you attempt to take a picture in the rain….without a rain cover. I really wish I would have had something to cover my head (and my faithful camera).

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As we headed on down the coast, I had to exercise some self-control to keep myself from stopping every 5 minutes to get more amazing shots of the landscape. So beautiful.

249 Oregon Coast

We saw these signs all along the coast….kind of made me glad that we don’t live close to the ocean.

250 Tillamook Factory

Being the cheese and ice cream lovers we are, we had to make a stop by the Tillamook factory. It didn’t disappoint. I love the VW bus!

251 Tillamook Factory

We enjoyed watching them make and package cheese in the factory.

252 Tillamook Factory

These were the souvenirs Aaron and I chose to take home with us. 🙂

253 Tillamook Factory

This was the 5 scoop sampler we got for the family to share (can’t beat $5 for a large bowl of ice cream). We chose Fireside S’mores, Oregon Strawberry, Hazelnut Salted Caramel, Wild Mountain Blackberry, and Tillamook Mudslide.

254 Tillamook Factory

We got a lot of strange looks from other visitors, as we each took turns taking a spoonful of each flavor, then passing the bowl around. But we didn’t care. We were too busy enjoying the yummy treat! Nothing went to waste on this roadtrip…..nothing.

255 Mo's

On our way down the coast, we stopped by a Mo’s in Lincoln City to eat some of their famous seafood.

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The seafood lovers were thrilled. The view was spectacular and the clam chowder was amazing.

257 Mo's

We bought some calamari, a family-size serving of the chowder, some shrimp with cabbage, shrimp with coleslaw, and linguine with mushrooms and shrimp. We ate all of our dishes buffet style (we have learned that this is an awesome way for our family to try new foods). The waitress was so sweet and they all gave us such excellent service, we tipped 25% and even filled out a comment card, expressing how much we appreciated the experience. Next time we go to a Mo’s, we will be ordering 3 family servings of the chowder and some bread. The chowder is like crack. Seriously, can’t wait to go back!

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Mo’s bathrooms…the kids sure got a laugh out of them.

259 Yaquina Coast

While we were looking for the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, we came across this little house on the edge of Cape FoulWeather. Now, I am not one to be afraid of heights, but this house is literally situated on the edge of the cliff and it made me a little queasy looking out the windows. Here is an image of what the outside looks like.

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We arrived at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse around 4:28 and they had already closed up their gift shop. The tours had to be scheduled….in case you ever want to go there and see the inside of a lighthouse. In all of my planning, I completely slacked off when it came to planning lighthouse visits. Next time Aaron and I travel through Oregon, I will be sure to make sure we get a tour of each and every one we can tour. He loves lighthouses.

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My little troopers….happy to get a break from driving and a chance to run around. Love these kids.

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My man, lover of lighthouses.

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We did a lot of driving. Aaron would stop every time he heard me mention something was beautiful or that I wished I could get a picture of it. I am so blessed that he loves me so much. I finally learned not to say anything unless I truly wanted a picture. There were a few times, towards the end of our trip when he did some crazy maneuvers, just to get off to the side of the road….only to have me ask why he pulled off. LOL

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I especially enjoyed shooting the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Can’t wait to come back to both the Seattle and Portland area to capture more bridges. But the Yaquina Bay Bridge was quite a treat to shoot.

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It was raining pretty heavily when we passed the Heceta Lighthouse, so we didn’t venture up the steep pathway to see it up-close. But I was able to get a few long distance shots from a view-point, a ways down the road.  Not too shabby for a rainy, windy, no-tripod, telephoto lens shot, eh?

We headed down to Coos Bay. Rather than drive around for hours, seeking lodging (like we had in Seaside, the last time we had to find a hotel on short notice), we decided to find a hotel to stay in and reserve our room beforehand.  By the way, we had heard so many stories about Coos Bay, so we were expecting it to be “all that”. It isn’t.

We stayed at the Red Lion in Coos Bay. Let me just say, the Red Lion of Coos Bay looks nothing like the Red Lion of Salt Lake City. Aaron and I LOL (literally, laughed out loud), as we pulled into the parking lot. They did have a room with 3 queens and a decent complimentary breakfast. So, that made up for the cheesy appearance and the musty smell of years of smoke in the “smoke-free” rooms.

268 Oregon Coast

The next morning, we drove down the coast towards California. We passed this little store and stopped in to get some locally made jam. We had missed the few fresh strawberry stands along the way and regretted it. We didn’t want to miss out on getting some jam. We got the salalberry jam (the unique berry that we had seen a lot of, while on the trails around Fort Clatsop).

 

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While we were driving along on 101 along the Oregon coast, Toy Yoda (our Toyota Sienna) turned over 100,000 miles on her odometer.

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Can’t wait to see where her next 100,000 will take her!

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There were so many views like this along the way….wish we had a week just to take in all of the beaches, one by one. Oregon has the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen (and I have been to quite a few around the world).

271 Welcome to Cali

Finally! A Welcome to this State sign that wasn’t on a bridge (both of the Oregon signs and the Welcome to Washington sign had been on bridges with no shoulder, where we were going over 55 mph. And Idaho didn’t even have a sign…..).

271A The Redwoods

From what I read about the Redwoods, Jedediah Smith State Park was supposed to be the most beautiful and have the best campgrounds. The only problem (or blessing, depending upon how you look at it) with going in May, was that there was no way to make reservations. I assumed this meant that it wouldn’t be full….and I was right! YAY!

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So, here is the story behind our tent. We purchased an 8 man tent quite a number of years ago. We had only used it once, when a friend asked to borrow it. When it came back, all of the stakes were missing, along with the rain fly. 😦 Since then, we only used it when we knew there wasn’t going to be any rain.

When we decided to head out on the trip, we made a decision to purchase a new tent. The boys told us about an awesome one they had seen in our Costco mailer. It was regularly $130, marked down to $100. The sale began the day our trip began. That morning, once we were packed and ready to go, we headed down to Costco. We looked and looked, but couldn’t find it. We finally asked a Costco rep to help us find it, that was when he pointed out that it was an online deal. We were SO BUMMED. But we decided to just press forward and get on with our trip.

Anyways, as we wanted to camp as much as possible and especially to camp out in the redwoods, we obviously needed a worthy tent. So, after getting rained out at our amazing site in Nehalem, we finally broke down and went to Wally World to purchase a new tent. We found one that has a rain fly, sleeps 8, has a screen top (which is pretty amazing to look at the stars through), and only spent about $90 on it.

274 The Redwoods

It took a while to get the new tent figured out. The first time setting it up took about 1 hour. But we did it. And if it rained, we could listen to the rain and not worry a bit about it dripping into the tent. Merry Christmas to us!

While the boys set up our tent,  I pulled out our one burner stove (which I absolutely adore, btw) and made some super yummy wild rice with coconut curry, mushrooms, yellow bell pepper, fresh green bean, and cilantro. It was dark when we began eating, but we were happy when we went to bed that night….full bellies and full hearts.

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Feeling blessed that we made it to The Redwoods AND we were even going to be camping out there. YES!!

Pura Vida!

~Danni

 

 

Roses, Clover, & Beaches…Oh, My!

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142 City of Roses

While we were anxious to get to the coast, we knew that we needed to stop by the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden before we left the Portland area. Even though they weren’t all in bloom (in fact, only around a dozen were when we went), it was well worth the time.

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Climbing roses and clematis….one of my favorite combinations.

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Ryan’s favorite flower is the rose, so she was really excited to see why Portland is called The City of Roses. This was Ryan’s favorite rose, she enjoyed smelling all of them, to help figure that out.

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While we were all enjoying our self-guided tour of the gardens, Simon decided he wanted to climb the hill…..

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Such a stinker!

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Rhapsody In Blue was Aaron’s favorite. He likes a more subtle scent (at least that is what he told me, when I asked). LOL I love that he enjoys nature as much as I do.

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Mother of Pearl was nice.

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This lovely building, covered in moss and ivy was the restroom. I would love to have a bathroom that looked like that!

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Here is the men’s side….beautiful.

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This packed purple rose was amazing, as well….

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But this peach rose was my favorite for scent. I spent 5 minutes digging around in the bushes, trying to find the name of it…..somebody must have taken it home with them. It wasn’t there. Seriously? It was sort of a peachy scent. So delicious! If you make it in to the gardens, make sure you take a whiff of this rose. It is located up by the parking, next to the middle tennis court.

167 Pittock Mansion

As we exited the gardens, I saw a sign for the Pittock Mansion. I had plans to do a tour with the kids, if we had enough money in our budget. After paying around $400 for new tires, we were too tight to go in here. But Aaron knew how much I had wanted to go in there, so he insisted that I at least get some pics. I spent around 20 minutes walking & snapping pics and I just happened to be walking past the Gate House, when a FREE tour was beginning, so I can was able to see some of the Pittock Mansion. LOL

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The views of Portland from the Pittock Mansion property were breathtaking.

173 Clover Fields copy

We stopped to grab some gas and some food, then we headed out towards the coast. I had asked the manager at our hotel what the best route was to take out. He said that 30 was more beautiful, but 26 would cut off around 15-20 minutes of out time. We had planned to take 30 (after all, we knew I would be stopping to take pics every 5 minutes along the way, whichever route we took). In the end, we ended up so far south that 26 was actually 45 minutes shorter. I was kind of bummed. Until I saw how magnificent Highway 26 was…..I am still wondering how amazing 30 was, after driving along 26!

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Aaron and I both gasped when we saw the red fields. When we stopped so I could get a closer look, I saw that someone else had also stopped to grab a shot of this intoxicating red clover. There was already a path down to the field.

 

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I can now say I know why bees love clover. I felt like I had walked into the poppy field in the Wizard of Oz….so relaxing. Simon said the clover smelled like marshmallows and cheese….I thought it smelled like honey.

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Even pit stops provided some lovely shots, along the way! We drove up to Fort Stevens for the evening. As we arrived, it was apparent that the rains had come in and weren’t leaving. We didn’t have a rain fly for our tent, so we couldn’t tent it. We drove up to Astoria. So many people have raved about how amazing Astoria is. Um, I am not sure if we just went on a really crappy week for Astoria, but I didn’t even post the photos I took….it was that un-amazing. My personal suggestion, if you don’t have to go up into the town of Astoria, save yourself the trip. I seriously was shocked for the entire 2 hours we were driving around and calling hotels and motels to try and find a room.

We did finally find a hotel in Seaside. I told them we had 5 kids and wanted to keep the cost within our budget. Fortunately, they had a larger room with enough sleeping for us. Such a blessing!

179 Lewis & Clark

The next morning, we headed out to Fort Clatsop to see where Lewis & Clark camped and adventured for a few years. I wasn’t expecting this National Site to be so beautiful. As the kids worked on their Junior Ranger badges, I found so many of God’s wonders to capture.

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Aaron was stoked that these were thimbleberries!

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Ryan loves Sacagawea.

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And the salmonberries looked like they would be nummy to snack on!

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Luken & Clark….(Luken came up with the name).

186 Lewis & Clark

I thought the bathrooms at the rose gardens topped it all….then I found this garbage can along the trails at Fort Clatsop. I know. I am strange. I find beauty in the strangest places.

187 Lewis & Clark

WHO puts that much work into a garbage can?  I would love to have this in my home….not as a garbage can, though.

188 Lewis & Clark

The kids really enjoyed seeing where Lewis & Clark stayed during their expedition out west.

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Being in nationally-protected sites has been a new experience for our curious little monkey. He is getting better. He used to keep bringing me rocks, pinecones, and sticks…now he knows better, once he hears it is a state or national park.

191 Lewis & Clark

He was our leader….just waiting for the rest of the group to catch up.

192 Lewis & Clark

You can go through the next few pics quickly….they are all of the wonders I found along our path. So much beauty all around!

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When I look out over this river, I can’t help but think of the Natives who lived here for centuries and the expedition that “discovered” this area. It must have been magical for them. Such a treat!

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Our own little Voyage of Discovery to the Pacific Coast….love these guys!

202 Lewis & Clark

The gift shop was like being in a candy store for some of us….

203 Lewis & Clark

204 Lewis & Clark

The kids were thrilled to learn that they had earned not only a badge, but a patch, a rank patch, and a certificate.

205 Lewis & Clark

Love my Junior Rangers!

206 Lewis & Clark

And this man….who is such a great father.

207 Seaside Lupine

After we were done at Fort Clatsop, we headed back down to Seaside. One of the sisters at the Portland temple had told Ryan about some swings that were right on the beach. She was determined to swing on that beach.

208 Seaside Swings

While swinging on the seaside was awesome, that was about all that we could find that was awesome there.

209 Seaside Swings

The kids enjoyed time on the beach.

210 Ecola NP

A lot of the residents and businesses along 101 have these buoys decorating their yards.

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We drove up to Ecola State Park and enjoyed the views.

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216  Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach was pretty cool. The water was warm, the sand was warm, the atmosphere was mellow.

216  Nehalem NP217  Cannon Beach218  Cannon Beach219  Cannon Beach220  Cannon Beach223 Nehalem State Park_

Looking at Nehalem Beach from this angle makes me a little dizzy…what about you?

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The kids were so excited to finally be able to camp out! We told them we would head down to the beach, once our tent was set up.

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The beach was only a 2 minute walk from our camp spot. Love Nehalem State Park’s Campground!

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Acrobats down the hills to the beach….you don’t want to know where we found sand. 😉

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Three beaches in one day….makes Aaron a very happy man.

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239 Nehalem State Park_

As we were driving out of the campground, we saw this beautiful doe, grazing in the waning sun.

240 Nehalem State Park_

We found a great pizza shop right outside of camp, inside the town of Manzanita. Pizza and Marshmallows. The perfect way to begin our camping adventure. Make sure you get a good look at all of these blue skies….you will be shocked to hear about the next couple of days of our adventure. Until then….

Pura Vida!

Portland

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93 Multnomah Falls copy

We arrived at our hotel around dinner and decided that it would be fun to drive out to Multnomah that evening. Alex would be leaving us for Southern California early the next morning, so we wanted to enjoy some of the area with her before then. The last 15 minutes of the drive to Multnomah Falls was more beautiful than the drive down to the Golden Gardens. Does that tell you how much we loved it? So serene and the smell of forest was intoxicating. As it was dusk when we arrived, my photos don’t do the experience justice.

 

92 Multnomah Falls

Most of us are smiling. LOL

 

94 Multnomah Falls

This reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia….love the moss coating the trees, stones, lamppost….so beautiful.

95 Multnomah Falls

The Multnomah Falls Lodge was just as lovely as the falls….I probably took around 50 photos of it, for future reference. 😉

96 Multnomah Falls   97 Multnomah Falls

98 Multnomah Falls copy

As we were driving out, both Aaron and I commented on how the homes looked like they were right on the water…..they were. The garages were for the boats, not cars. I wish I would have had more time to actually stop and get some decent pictures. Aaron was a sweetheart and pulled over as quickly as he could, but there wasn’t a lot of shoulder along this road and it was growing dark fast, so my pics aren’t what I wanted, but you get the point.

99 Columbia River Homes copy

The next morning, we headed out to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. It was the kids’ second time working on a Junior Ranger badge and it was a lot more work than the first one, but the rangers were amazing at Fort Vancouver. Seriously, we needed to pull out cash to purchase our America the Beautiful pass (they don’t take cards there and we didn’t bring our check book on the trip), and one of the rangers called the nearest credit union to ask them if they would accept our credit union withdrawal, then drew a map for Aaron. He also gave us a great history on the fort and the Hudson Bay Trading Company.

100 Vancouver Fort_

I told Aaron that he needs to make me some spoons that look like this some day.

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They didn’t have any pencils, but when I brought in our pencils from the van, our ranger sharpened them for us. Great service!

 

102 Vancouver Fort_

Posers!

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While waiting to begin a tour of the buildings, within the fort, I smelled these roses. Mmmmmmm, the best I have ever smelled. I changed my mind on roses, they are awesome. I need some of these roses in our yard!

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The blacksmiths that were reenacting for us were a treat! They were working on some metal and showed us how the traps worked.

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Simon, in his top hat.

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The furrier was equally impressive. We were able to touch every kind of pelt they had there. The beaver fur was used to line the top hats, back in the day.

108 Vancouver Fort  109 Vancouver Fort

Working on our Junior Ranger books.

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It was fun watching the boys all work together to reassemble this little house. Good work, men!

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I love carpentry, especially the old-fashioned type.

113 Vancouver Fort

Silly boys, coats are for clerks.

114 Vancouver Fort  115 Vancouver Fort116 Vancouver Fort

117 Vancouver Fort  118 Vancouver Fort

The kids all completed their Junior Ranger requirements and were sworn in by our new friend. Luken was the most thrilled about it, as you can see from the photo…..such a stinker!

119 Portland  120 Portland

We were really hungry, so we headed in to downtown Portland, to see what the rage about the food carts was all about.

121 Portland  122 Portland

A little Mexican, Greek, Vietnamese,  Thai, and Chicago food….perfect lunch for this foodie family. It was a treat to be able to try them all….we probably looked a little silly to some, but we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch! 🙂

123 Portland

We didn’t have a lot of time before our appointment to visit the Portland temple, but since we were only a few blocks from Powell’s City of Books, we decided to jog over and see it. The 20 minutes we spent there could have been 20 days and we still wouldn’t have seen everything. So amazing! Definitely going to spend more time there, on our next visit to Portland. We love books!

124 Portland  125 Portland

But this was one of my most favorite images from our Portland adventure. Portland is a very straight-forward, down-to-earth place. As we were running back to our car, I passed this guy. I stopped, told him he was beautiful and asked if I could get his photo.

126 Portland

And they weren’t lying, when they said there are a lot of bridges in Portland. I think I will focus on taking photos of bridges on our next trip into Portland.

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The Portland Temple was the first one we have visited on this trip that had a visitor’s center and it was an A W E S O M E visitor’s center. I waited for over an hour for the boys and Aaron to get done with their baptisms (usually it takes them 20 minutes, so it was unexpected) and was so grateful for all of the activities they had for kids (and investigators).

137 Portland Temple  138 Portland Temple

Coloring temples, using an I-pad to watch I am a Mormon ads. And there were a lot of videos to watch.

139 Portland Temple

The grounds were stunning, as well…right in the middle of all of these gorgeous trees. In fact, there were so many trees, we couldn’t get a good shot of the temple with the sign.

140 Portland Temple

Finally, the boys were out and I was able to go in and do initiatories. One of the security guards walked down and asked if he could take our picture. So nice.

141 Portland Temple

This was our fourth temple so far and all have been such a treat to visit. Looking forward to finishing up our Portland adventure today and heading out to the Oregon coast!

Pura Vida!

 

Seattle

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44 Seattle Walk

After driving most of the day from Walla Walla to Seattle, we decided to go for an evening stroll around the block of our hotel. Lake Union is simply stunning. This family of geese was enjoying their own stroll.

45 Seattle Walk

Love these kids!

46 Seattle Residence Inn

Our hotel was pretty spiffy. Thanks to the fact that Alex works for Marriott and gets some amazing deals, we were able to keep our lodging costs down and had (FREE) full breakfasts and pretty yummy dinners for all of the nights we were in Seattle.

47 Seattle Blue Skies

Whomever said there is no such thing as blue skies in Seattle didn’t go the 2 days that we were there….absolutely amazing blue skies and the temperature was perfect.

48 Pike Place copy

One of our must-see stops was Pike Place. We love Farmers Markets and we especially wanted to try some fresh seafood and see local crafts. It didn’t disappoint.

49 Pike Place

The produce was beautifully displayed and reasonably priced. The vendors were a delight!

50 Pike Place    51 Pike Place

We had read great reviews on Beecher’s Homemade Cheese and their mac & cheese. It was delicious…..but didn’t hold a candle to Ethan’s mac & cheese. Still, worth the experience.

52 Pike Place

We bought a large container of the World’s Best and Mariachi’s and found a bench to sit down and share. We ate our dinner, while enjoying some accordion music of one of the many musicians in the area.

53 Pike Place copy

Seattle is such a colorful city. I would like to come back someday, with about 2 weeks, JUST for taking pics.

54 Gum Wall     55 Gum Wall

We located the famous Gum Wall. Simon, who had been working on an entire pack of gum (Alex bought everyone their own pack of gum, for the occasion…so sweet), was ecstatic to actually have permission to take his gum out of his mouth and squish it onto a wall.

56 Gum Wall

Simon couldn’t blow a bubble and the lighting was horrible….but we did eventually get a bubble with 5/6 kids. LOL

57 Gum Wall

This wall is pretty amazing. My pics are washed out because of the lighting, but it was worth the short trek down the stairs to experience The Gum Wall. Just be sure to check for gum on your shoes before you leave….so sticky!

58 Gum Wall copy

There’s my piece of gum….second pink string over from the left! 😉

59 Starbucks    60 Starbucks

When searching for the original Starbucks, this was the place I found online…..which is not the original Starbucks. The pic on the right is the first Starbucks. Once Alex and I had placed our orders (Caramel Apple Spice and Chocolate Mint Cocoa….YUM!), we asked about purchasing mugs and that was when we were informed that this wasn’t the first Starbucks. The first store is actually a couple of blocks away, on Pike Street. The original store doesn’t have any seating, though, so it was nice to sit and enjoy our yummy drinks. When we were done sharing our hot treats, we headed down to the other Starbuck’s. These beautiful men were out front, singing some pretty amazing barber shop. While I was in line, the rest of the family came along and I guess these men grabbed Simon and started singing to him. He was kind of shocked and hid behind Aaron. So funny!

61 Starbucks   62 Starbucks

Proof. This is the First Starbuck’s Store. LOL And the servers there are super friendly. Aaron and I purchased mugs (we like to collect one from each trip we go on….we LOVE LOVE LOVE drinking tea in our family).

63 Starbucks   64 Starbucks

I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t keep the original Starbuck’s insignia….then Alex pointed out the boobies. I guess I have seen too many Renaissance paintings. Didn’t even phase me. Here is our third drink. We got the Caramel Apple Spice, this time iced. SO DEEEEELICIOUS! I felt bad about drinking most of it by myself (not really).

65 Pike Place

Lots of seafood vendors, all advertising easy shipping.

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I told Aaron to pick someplace to do a tasting of the seafood (since he is the seafood connoisseur). Jack’s Fish Spot was spot-on! Not only was the food fresh and absolutely amazing, the service was equally awesome. This fellow isn’t Jack (I asked), but he took really good care of our family of 8. He made sure we knew we were loved….lots of samples, some free fish & chips thrown in, and he gave us a great deal on some candied smoked salmon (Aaron’s favorite). It was so much fun to eat here.

69 Pike Place

And he insisted we get a picture with him….such a great experience!

70 Space Needle

After 4 hours at Pike Place, we were pooped! We went back to the hotel to recharge and grab some dinner (FREE). Then we headed out to get some photos of Seattle and visit Puget Sound. On our way, Aaron pointed out how close we were to the Space Needle. He asked me if I wanted to get some photos….um, yeah! He took a detour (we have loved being able to use Google maps….I am so lame, I just barely learned how to use it) from our route and he let me out, to get a better shot. He said he would just turn around the block, come back and pick me up. I took some pretty awesome pics….for about 15 minutes.

71 Space Needle Detour

I began wondering if he was going to be able to find his way back to me. I stopped a lady and asked her about driving around the block. She informed me that because turning right at the end of the block would take my husband back onto the freeway, he might never make it back. I LOL….then kind of cried inside. I decided to take more photos and said a prayer he would be able to make it back quickly. Aaron is actually really good about gathering his bearings and figuring out directions, so I wasn’t too stressed. But because we only had about 1 hour of daylight left and a lot of pics to take, I have to admit I was a little worried.

72 Space Needle Detour

Finally, my knight in Toyota Sienna came riding along….to rescue his damsel on the corner. I was able to get a great shot of our van with the Space Needle. Well worth the 20 minutes of worrying. 😉

73 Seattle

I know, the lighting is atrocious, but everyone is in the shot and facing forward. I was just happy to find someone who knew how to snap a shot without asking a million questions.

74 Seattle copy

This was my favorite shot of Seattle. Even though the skies were blue the entire time we were there, this is the shade of color that Seattle evoked in my heart. Such a sentimental, slow-paced place to visit and enjoy. Aaron couldn’t stop raving about how much he loved Seattle and the atmosphere here.

76 Golden Gardens Beach  77 Golden Gardens Beach

The drive out to Golden Gardens was like a dream. While we were driving along streets that reminded me of the Avenues in Salt Lake City (only with much more foliage and narrower streets), we were blasting the soundtrack from the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (which is now one of my top 5 movies, btw). Aaron purchased  the soundtrack for me, especially for this trip.

We arrived at Golden Gardens Beach, just as the sun was starting to loll and drop. The kids got to touch the Puget Sound (they all said it was a little to cold for doing more than toe-dipping) and enjoy some beach time. The sand is scattered with coal from all of the fires (there are around 30 firepits along the beach), along with small shells and smooth, black pebbles.

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We had a sweet family who offered the kids some roasted marshmallows…which we gladly accepted.

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And Simon combed the beach for some broken shells and smooth stones. Every one he brought to me, came with the question, “Are these ones pretty enough?”. To which I replied, “These are perfect!”

82 Golden Gardens Beach   83 Golden Gardens Beach

I think that Golden Gardens will forever be etched on my heart. As we drove out, I was able to see why it is called the Golden Gardens. If ever you are able to visit, be sure to go on a sunny day, around dusk. Absolute bliss! Even though it was only a little over an hour that we embraced this area, it touched deep into my soul.

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The drive back into town was equally beautiful to the drive out, just different. I think it is safe to say that we love Seattle.

85 Seattle Temple

The next morning, we were able to visit the Seattle Temple and do some more baptisms and initiatories.

86 Seattle Temple

Love these young men!

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On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by to see Bruce and Brandon Lee’s gravesites (Aaron is a HUGE fan). The boys weren’t completely sure of who these men were, so we decided to watch Dragon with them later that night (The Crow will have to wait a few years still).

90 Gravesites

91 Seattle to Portland

And this is the next morning, driving from Seattle down to Portland. I just had to share a shot of what the freeways look like. You would literally not know you were in a major city for much of the commute. LOVE SEATTLE!

Pura Vida!

‘Laxin’ in Walla Walla

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20 Cinco & Mama copy

After the first couple days of excitement, it was so wonderful to spend the next few days just ‘laxin’ in Walla Walla, WA with Aaron’s brother and his family. They have such a lovely home and yard….rural and retro. Aaron went out early the first morning and came back in to let me know there was a newborn foal next door…. nursing. I grabbed my camera and watched for a photo op. So lovely. His name is Cinco, as he was born on Cinco de Mayo.

21 Harvey's Headstone  When we had come home the night before (from the temple), we found one of my nephew’s guinea pigs wasn’t doing very well. He passed away in the night. The next morning, we buried Harvey: Two-Face. This was the rock that my nephew and his dad painted for a grave marker. The funeral was beautiful. I think it was nice for our kids and my niece and nephew to be able to relate their own experiences with losing pets, especially since we just recently lost one of our pet hens unexpectedly.

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The kids were able to earn their first Junior Ranger badges with their cuzzins at the Whitman Mission National Site. We learned a lot from the 30 minutes of movies, the museum, and a walk around the original site. It made me realize how much of the early conflict between “whites” and “Indians” was because of miscommunication and different religious beliefs. I see so much of that happening today in our country. There is such a division and it makes me sad to see anger and confusion surrounding people who are all beautiful and want the same thing.

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26 Walla Walla Night Glow 27 Walla Walla Night Glow

We were able to make it to the Night Glow at the 40th Anniversary of the Walla Walla Stampede. My photos don’t do it justice. So spectacular! I love hot air balloons. They are probably my most favorite form of transportation, even though I have never been up in one….maybe next year. 😉

28 Lift off

Alex woke up early with me the next morning, to see if the weather would cooperate and we would be able to see many, many balloons lift off. As you can see from the picture, these were the only 2 balloons on the field. Happy Mother’s Day to me!

We went to church with our family and I convinced the kids to go up and sing with the local primary kids. They knew the songs. And the closing song was our family song, Love At Home (if you missed my post on the song, here it is). The older kids knew all three verses, as we have been working on memorizing hymns this year, and this was the one I chose. Such a proud mama moment for me.

29 Walla Walla Greenhouse

After church, we relaxed some more. Then I was ready to head out for a drive. While the younger kids enjoyed time with cuzzins, Aaron, Alex, and I went sightseeing. I had seen a magnificent greenhouse on our way home from the Whitman Mission, the previous day. So Aaron found our way back there and I began taking pics. I asked the fellow who was there if I could take pics of the inside and he said he didn’t mind. Someday, I am going to build a greenhouse that is this lovely. I really am.

30 Walla Walla Greenhouse 31 Walla Walla Greenhouse 32 Walla Walla Greenhouse Window

We also found a few vineyards (Walla Walla is becoming the next Napa Valley for wineries). I experimented a little with my teeny tripod and my telephoto lens. I spent quite some time doing this. I felt so loved, as Aaron kept insisting that I take my time and enjoy my experience. He really loves me and I know it.

33 Walla Walla Vineyard

He even stopped by a long-abandoned home that Alex and I spied.

37 Home Sweet Home Doorknob

Alex agreed to be my model. This series is called Home Sweet Home (as per the sign a previous squatter scribbled on the wall).

34 Home Sweet Home Gal 35 Home Sweet Home Abandoned 36 Home Sweet Home

Back at Aaron’s brother’s home, we made sure we utilized the fire pit. Hot dogs and marshmallows, along with some absolutely amazing fruit salad made by my sil. It was such a treat!

 

38 roasting marshmallows 39 roasting marshmallows 40 roasting marshmallows 41 roasting marshmallows

I love this man…..scruff and all!

 

42 Cinco & Mama_

We went on a mystic walk over to the high school (which is pretty fly) and I got another snap of Cinco and his mama.

43  Baby Sheep

These are some lambs next to the high school.  Walla is so similar to Utah, we felt right at home during our time there. It was wonderful to have a few days to relax and just to enjoy some sweet company. While it was hard to leave cuzzins, it was time to move on to Seattle. Can’t wait to share our days there!

Pura Vida!

Temple to Temple (and the two crazy days in between)

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temple to temple

After years of dreaming and months of saving money from donating plasma, we finally were able to take the entire family out on an adventure! I can’t even tell you how exciting this is for me (and the rest of the Carlsen Clan). We knew we weren’t going to be able to finish up the bus AND still afford to go on a family road trip, so we chose to let the bus sit a while longer and head out on the road. We had asked the kids back in September of last year if they wanted to forgo Christmas gifts and have a family vacation instead. It was a resounding YES! So, we began saving and planning….the rest is in the making!

We started off our tour with some awesome music and snacks, as we traveled a few hours up to our first stop, in Twin Falls, ID. We arrived in Twin Falls a little later than expected, hurriedly ate lunch at McDonald’s (first time some of us have been there in almost 2 years), then we had Alex stay with the little ones, while we took the boys to the temple.

 

1 Twin Falls Temple

Aaron and the boys did baptisms and I did initiatories for the dead. We all finished around the same time, so it worked out rather well.

 

2 Aaron and his Sons Twin Falls Temple

And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water…. (Exodus 40:12)

3 A&D Twin Falls Temple

One of our most favorite places to be together is at the temple, so we are planning on visiting 6 temples along our trip. Visiting the temple was the perfect way to begin our roadtrip! 🙂

 

4 Shoshone Falls

Many have raved over the Shoshone Falls, so we thought we would take a few minutes and check them out.  A few minutes and $3 are all it took and all it was worth, in my book. But at least we could say we have been there. LOL

We had plans to visit The Hagerman Fossil Beds in Hagerman, ID. They have a Junior Ranger program there and the kids are excited to get as many of the Junior Ranger badges as they can this year. We began our drive and were less than thrilled at all of the construction traffic stops along the way. We were running behind schedule by quite some time, so I called ahead to the visitor’s center and let them know we were on our way and to expect us. Somehow, we had gotten directions to the actual park instead of the visitor’s center.  We were very late and still not at our destination. We began driving out of the park and down to the center.

As I drove down the hill and back into town, I saw the tire sensor start going crazy…..then we felt the van shift. It was apparent that one of the tires was going flat. It was a good thing we were going pretty slow. Aaron told me to try to get to the bottom of the hill and to the side of the road. I started crying hysterically. After working so hard for this trip, we were having a disaster in the very first 24 hours.

We pulled to the bottom of the hill, as the front passenger tire completely collapsed. I managed to calm myself down and Aaron and the boys worked quickly to get the van emptied. I called Kerry at Hagerman Fossil Beds Visitor Center to let him know we wouldn’t be coming after all and to see if there was any place he could recommend to help us fix our tire. He gave the number for the only gas station in town and the lady there gave me the number for a mechanic. The time was 4:55. I called and the mechanic said that we could bring the van by  to his shop and he would see what he could do.

Aaron left around 5:10. Passersby would see me, the six kids, and almost all of our luggage on the side of the main road. For two and half hours we waited, as the mechanic took his sweet time (seriously, I am not exaggerating. He berated Aaron for leaving his family to fix a tire and then sat and discussed some upcoming plastic surgery with a woman…..yeah, boob jobs seemed to be far more important to this mechanic). We had several people stop to offer help. One fellow kept coming back and asking us if we wanted to use his rental. Of course, he wanted us to pay him $99 for using it. LOL

After the mechanic got our flat tire off of the van, he noticed the other front tire was looking pretty flat. He took that one off and they both had the same issue. The tires had holes from where the vehicle had been misaligned for months and finally worth through. Even though we paid someone to check our van for our vacation….twice….before we left. And even though our tires were only 15k miles in on an 85k warranty, somehow we ended up with holes in both of our tires. Yeah. And the fellow who took off our tires and scrounged some extremely bald tires to go on our van, until we could get to Discount Tire the next morning….managed to break the cover on our tire sensor.

5 Hagerman Detour Flat Tire6 Hagarman Detour Unloaded

I do have to say, though….these kids sure do know how to make the best of any situation. Love my kids.

 

7 Hagarman Detour Distracted8 Hagarman Detour Happily Distracted

After almost 3 hours of waiting, Aaron returned, just as the rain began to fall. We quickly loaded up the van with all of our belongings and went back into town to retrieve our cracked tires. Aaron and Ethan tied the tires onto the roof and we were off to Boise. It was raining hard and it was extremely windy. But we  made it there without any other crazy incidents. The hotel was nice. My only complaint was that the burners in the small kitchen were glass-top. After 45 minutes of waiting for the water in the stock pot to begin boiling, we finally just gave up and put the pasta in the pot, anyways…..which made for a rather strange dinner. Everyone bathed and filled their tummies. Aaron managed to crack the screen of his phone…which was rather sad, but we laughed about it because we were so exhausted at the time. Once we were done laughing, we all fell fast asleep.

 

9 Boise Packing Up10 Boise Packing Up11 Boise All Packed Up11 Boise Some Strange Contraption

The next morning, we enjoyed our continental breakfast and packed up the van. We drove to Discount Tire, to see if they could explain why our  tires both popped on us. They swore that it was an alignment issue and refused to cover new tires. Although, they did give us a $150 credit because our two tires were still so new and had hardly any wear on them at all. I called the auto mechanic who did our vacation tune-up for us. They were insistent that it wasn’t their responsibility. They swore up and down that the tires looked great, when they did their check only a few days earlier. They even had us take pics of the tires and send them to their manager……this will be interesting to deal with when we get home. At any rate, we spent 3 hours and $80 the night before on crappy tires and rope. Then we spent another $300 and 5 hours of our day making sure we had new tires and that they were properly aligned. Yay us!

 

13 Boise This is how we rollllllll14 Meridian The blown tire

We finished with the tires and headed out for our 5 hour drive to meet up with Aaron’s brother and wife, and our cousin to do some baptisms and initiatories at the Columbia River Temple. We left Alex with the kids at the church right across the street and headed in. Such a beautiful way to end our day. After we were done with the temple work, we picked up some grub and went over to hang out at Juan’s (Aaron’s cousin’s) house with his wife and 4 kids (she just gave birth to the most precious little gal a few weeks ago). I took my camera inside, to grab some pics, but was so relaxed and enjoying that little baby so much, I completely forgot about the camera.

15 Columbia River Temple Group16 Columbia River Temple A&D Family

So grateful to be able to spend some more time in the temple. Being in the temple always realigns my soul with where I want to be and helps me to see the whole forest, through the trees.  It gave me some perspective, after spending a day of feeling sad that our journey began with such a rocky road. Even though I am still a little confused as to how we were sent out on our trip with tires that looked that bad on the inside alignment. Even though I am still a little sad that $300 of my blood money went towards someone else’s neglectfulness, that we will never be compensated for. I am soooooo very grateful that our tires decided to pop while we were driving along at 25 miles per hour instead of 80 mph on the freeway, in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, life is good and this trip is going to rock it! Pura Vida!

18 Columbia River Temple