Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Great Southwest

We knew we wanted to hit the Grand Canyon and visit some friends who moved back to Flagstaff last year.  We're playing things by ear right now, no reservations.  So from Kings Canyon, we started researching.  When we headed out from the campground, we had a name of a campground.  As we travelled, the car thermometer kept rising.  At 7pm when we stopped for dinner in Baker, CA, it was 107.  We had already made the decision, at that point, to skip the godforsaken land of California for somewhere that didn't feel like preparation for hell.  At 2am we rolled into the Springhill Suites in Flagstaff.  Can I tell you how freaking awesome a bed and four walls is?  And there's a swimming pool here (never mind all the glacier fed rivers the kids have been swimming in, along with lakes and creeks).  And laundry....cheap laundry!  We shot our budget, but it has restored much happiness to our band of weary travellers.   Oh, and I'm aware that the dictionary takes the singular "l" version of traveler/traveling.  Doesn't that look stupid?  Doesn't it just call for doubling?  Yes, yes it does.  And it used to, some lazy bastards just dropped the second "l" at some point in history, and majority rules.  Buck the trends.  Think outside the box.  Be who you were born to be.  A travelling freak show, that's who I am.

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks

When the kids initially did their research for where they wanted to go on this part of the trip, G rooted for Sequoia National Park.  I had said no because it's so far south in CA, and I didn't want to get hit with the heat.  But at Pine Meadows (Cottage Grove, OR), our camp host convinced me that we really needed to head to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.  He was so excited about it, he had spent a lot of time there as a kid, that I just said we should go for it.  What a beautiful place.  What polluted air.  Despite it being a HUGE forest of HUGE trees, the air quality there is horrible.  My allergies, which have been so mild on this trip, were raging.  I had several nights where sleep was elusive because I was so congested.  So while the temperatures were perfect and the parks were gorgeous, we decided not to extend our visit beyond our originally paid for four nights.  
Pinecones larger than NB's head, holy cow!  At a ranger talk the kids learned that these are sugar pine cones.  The one they have on display at the visitor center over at Sequoia National Park is even bigger.  We stayed at the Azalea campground in Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park.  Kings Canyon is the less crowded park, and the Grant Tree is within walking distance of the Grant Grove campgrounds.  It was easy peasy for us to get a first come first served spot, the campground has 110, all non-reservable, spots.  I wish we had spent more time picking our spot, because while it was beautiful, it was on the shuttle route for the park.  We had buses going right by our spot from 9am to 6pm everyday.  Every half hour.  There are some amazingly rocky spots, too, where NB would have enjoyed climbing and such.  Definitely some quieter spots than what we chose.        
Grant Tree is the widest base sequoia measured, at 40 feet in circumference at the base.  After seven weeks together, I needed a break from the crowd and did this walk on my own.  Bill and the kids also went, though we never saw each other until the walk back to the campsite.  It was nice to walk in the forest with all the quiet and laugh at all the goony things tourists do.  My favorite was a guy (20s or 30s?) who climbed into a stump whose insides had decayed.  He stood up inside it (the stump was only maybe 2 feet tall), and he was in up to his chest.  Pretty awesome.          
We travelled to General Sherman on the Sequoia side.  General Sherman is the biggest sequoia by weight and volume of lumber.  Sequoias have a relatively shallow root system, so the most popular forests are fenced off to give the trees the chance to survive their own popularity.  Sequoias don't die of old age, either, they usually get too big to support themselves and fall over.            
Just to give you a sense of scale, this is a "smaller" tree that fell and had a tunnel cut out of it.  Adults can walk through it without trouble, too.  There was a tree tunnel large enough to drive through, but it decayed enough to collapse, and so that tunnel is no more.              
This stump didn't attract a lot of attention, General Sherman is the star of this show, but I was simply amazed by this section of a trunk.  It is absolutely huge.  And because it's a section, and they're not worried about preserving a root system, you can walk right up to it and touch it.  A way better experience than just looking at a big tree, if you ask me.             Overall, it was an amazing adventure for us.  There's still so much we didn't do there, too, that if you visit, plan for a good long time to see all the sights and soak up the forests.  Great place to camp.  I vote for the Kings Canyon side.

Friday, August 26, 2016

More Toilet Tragedies

Right after making the last post, I had to use the campground toilets.  They have the one accessible stall and the other, less inviting stall.  As if a public stall can have some level of appeal.  At any rate, the door scraped into me again.  Love it.  But this time, I noticed that the stall actually scraped the toilet.  That's right, the toilet can hold the door open.  
When you've created a stall like this, your design sucks.  Pure and simple.  There has to be a better way.              
In case you missed it, they even cut the door because they knew it wouldn't work.  Just didn't cut it enough.  The door actually has to be forced over the toilet.  So little thought put into things.  I'd like to think that this is a mark of today's society, that things were better in the past, but that's ignoring the fact that laziness trumps most everything.  I hate public toilets.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Losing Time, Losing My Mind

We have been on the move so much, changing campsites every three or four days, we've just not been able to collect ourselves.  Add to that all the trips we've been taking to see the sights and absorb so much, we've not had much down time or time to chill.  On top of all our travels, we smell like monkeys in a zoo.  So we try to take time to clean out the van and do our laundry when we can.  It's been a bit exhausting of late.
 These tree roots are absolutely amazing.  We took a day and explored our way down the Redwood National and State Park.  It's so hard to get the scale of the trees into a picture, but it was truly impressive to be in such a large forest.  So much to see, so hard to take good pictures.              
This one might actually get the scale fairly well.  Bill and G are standing UNDER a fallen tree. Propped by other fallen trees.  Amazing.  Totally recommend hitting this national park.          
Redwood is spread out, so as you drive from one end to the other, you go through coastal towns, like Crescent City.  We stopped at Anchor Way, where we got to look at the ocean.  The weather was so hot at the campsite, and here it was CHILLY.  We all went back to the van to get on some warmer clothes, since we dressed for the heat.         We wanted to see Oregon Caves, the only marble caves in the US.  BUT, the tour fee was high, and K had said that while she was hip to caves this year, it was guided tours she wasn't so fond of.  So with heavy hearts, we bypassed the caves.  On our way back to the campsite, we passed the Cave Junction SmokeJumpers Base Museum, so we turned around and checked it out.  Totally worth it.  We had a great time learning about smokejumpers, hearing some more about the Triple Nickels, and getting first hand history from one of the jumpers who had jumped from Cave Junction.  Cave Junction's base closed in the early '80s, so it was a treat to get to hear from one of the former jumpers.  
J trying on one of the helmets.            
                Our final destination came after mass on Sunday.  We stopped in McD's for a quick lunch, and on our way out, a lady stopped us and asked if we'd been to Stout Grove.  She had seen me carrying the road atlas (we were trying to plan our next destination since we were all planned out by that point), so she wanted to give us some local spots to check out.  Stout Grove is where the Endor forest scenes were shot, along with shots in Jurassic Park and E.T.  You have to go there if you're ever in Crescent City, CA.  Oh my.  Such a beautiful forest.  
We travelled far and wide for this sign.  We went down about five miles on unpaved road that is maybe two cars wide, but only in some places.  We squeezed through gigantic trees, pulled over to let others pass, worried about the soft shoulder and the sheer drop just past it, and just took it slow.  I loved it.  It was a thrilling ride, that I took at 15 mph.        
The kids are pretty much all the same height, especially compared to the trees!  We spent much time imagining that we were on speeder bikes, zooming in and out of trees, looking for the scenes we recognize from the movie.  We had our inner dorks on display, as did everyone in that forest that day!              
The rare picture of me.  But I liked the burl, which is an infection or disease that the tree "eats up" or tries to just cover up.  It's a tree scab.  This one is gigantic, and reminds me of a boogery nose.  So of course I had to get my picture with it!              
NB liked this spore and wanted his picture with it.  We're fascinated by irregular tree growth.                 So out of our three days at Panther Flat campground, we spent three days out and about.  The kids are getting truly road weary, as are Bill and I.  We have to work out how to get in the tour days, but also to get the rest days.  To get in the bookwork, but also the experiential learning.  To just make it past another days, sometimes that's the mission.

Logging Museum

The logging museum near Collier State Park was totally cool.  They have some really amazing equipment, and TONS of history of logging in the state of Oregon.  The kids enjoyed reading all about logging and seeing the truly HUGE equipment.  Honestly, this was such a great part of our trip to Collier State Park.  What a great day it was!            

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Schooling Update

Schooling on the road is hard.  My kids are getting a kickin' education, but the paper and bookwork is hard to fit in.  Fortunately my youngest three have a math curriculum that has short and quick lessons, so they've finished up with those books and we are working on concepts a few minutes at a time.  The older boys, not so lucky.  G wants to change curriculum for his math, and I'm with him.  The problems always seem to be something like:  Problem 1.  Problem 1a.  Problem 1ai.  And he'll have 63 or so problems.  Plus all the a-c and the i-iii.  Grading that for me, especially trying to figure out the weighting of it all, is such a pain in the ass.  We're fortunate that my sister gave us Teaching Textbooks, so we can move G to Algebra in that curriculum.  BUT, before we go that way, my mom lent us her Algebra 1 DVD course.  I think NS will have more success if I can work one on one with him when we're at houses.  Sigh.  We're just not at places long enough to settle down and set up a schedule.  Plus we're busting to see all there is to see.  And we've seen amazing things and learned a great deal about our country.  And maybe, just maybe, we'll learn a bit more about organization, cooperation, family life, and getting our work done.

Toilets and Other Luxuries

Oh, how I love toilets.  I especially love a toilet that's in a space I can fit into.  Seriously, WHY are the stalls almost exactly the size of the toilet, and the door opens in?  And the toilet paper dispenser overlaps the toilet.  I don't want to kiss a public toilet's wall.  I really don't.  So on our trip down to Black Butte Lake, we stopped at a Burger King, whose toilet doors open OUT.  Genius.  So simple, yet it made my day.  I don't understand why design so simple requires such great minds.  Do other people just not use toilets?  It's never occured to them that people might want to FIT into the stall?  And you can go ahead and call me out as fat, that's fair, but my 10 year old slim and trim daughter has to straddle the toilet to close the door.  So, ye designers of toilets and other spaces, square inches count, but so does comfort.  Help a gal out.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Heading South

After scrambling to find a site to lay our weary heads, we again have reservations.  At least for now.  Collier Memorial State Park, near Chiloquin, OR.  It's home to a logging museum!!!!  Most of our stay here has been just using the campground as a jumping-off point, though.  Our first full day here, we hit Crater Lake National Park.  This park has been on my list for years and years.  
Phantom Ship, it's a rock formation towards the edge of the lake.  Since the lake lies in the caldera of a volcano, you stand hundreds of feet above it.  The water is a breathtaking blue, and it is so amazing to check out all the sights, it was hard to leave it.  The temperatures were a bit stifling, though, so that made it a bit easier.  We'd get in the car, get a little cooler, and feel comfy enough to stop at the next overview.  The gift shop/visitor center was my favorite of the shops we visited.  It's the centennial of the park service, and I've wanted the kids to do the centennial Jr. Ranger booklet, but no one's had it.  Until now.  They didn't have the badges, but I got the badges at another visitor center to give to the kids when they did the activity booklet.  Now it all comes together.  YEAH!!!!!!  I also got the centennial sticker that's been difficult for me to find.  Sigh.  Life's good!      
Wizard's Hat.  It has trails on it, but there were no boats going out to it.  So sad.  The trail to get down to the lake was also closed (or at least the parking lot was), so we did not get down to water.  The kids were NOT happy about that.  The only thing that made it bearable was that the kids could get into the Williamson river from our campground.  Not the same, though.             After a short drive to Crater Lake and a good long time at the park, Wednesday we hit Lava Beds National Monument in CA.  We went out for pizza our first night here, and the pizza dude said we should make the jaunt one day.  I had planned on going camping there and hitting the Tule Lake Segregation Center, but he said they were so close by, we could easily go in a day.  Off we went.  It was not as quick as he promised, but it was a good day.  And I'm glad we're not going to camp there, it's hot.  Too hot.  The kids fell in love with caving.  Such a relief, since they HATED the caves at Lewis & Clark that we went to four years ago.  
Sunshine Cave has two collapses that allow the sunshine in and vegetation to grow.  I smacked my head in the very beginning, so I had a hard time appreciating this one.  It was amazing, but my head sure did hurt.  Then J hit his head on the way out (different spot), so it was kinda rough.  There are so many caves to explore at Lava Beds that we could easily have spent a week there just checking it out, but I don't think that's in the cards.  And that makes the kids sad.  But we'll hit more in other parks.            
Not only are there caves, but there are hikes to do.  This is Captain Jack's Stronghold.  It's a quick little hike, right out there in the sun, with little shade and a bunch of rugged terrain.  But the kids liked the hidey holes they found.  We also took a drive out to the petroglyphs, but since we had been at Petroglyphs in NM earlier this year, these were just ok.  But we drove through the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, where we saw a plethora of wildlife.  Way cool.             Sadly, we had to see just signage about the Tule Lake Segregation Center.  They're open on Saturdays.  But we got to see the buildings from a distance, and the signs didn't shy away from the fact that the internment camps were a horrible decision.  I need to get some books on that for the kids.  And go through the Constitution.  And beat into their brains that the Constitution shouldn't be thrown aside to appease our fears.

Orchard Time!

Sunday we hit mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Cottage Grove.  After that, we decided to hit up an orchard.  I've been wanting a u-pick experience for a while since we didn't get our garden this year and we didn't hit the berry patch before leaving CO.  We headed up near Eugene, to the Detering Orchard.  We picked Suncrest peaches.  Oh.My.Goodness.  Those things are GOOD!!!!  They don't keep long, so they're not often found in stores.  Such a good pick.  We made dessert nachos with a third of our pickings, and ate the rest straight up.  We also had chesterberries, which the kiddos gobbled up.  What a great day!  

Cottage Grove Dam

After leaving Silver Falls, we had no reservation for three nights.  I had found a first come-first served campground on the coast, so that's where we headed.  Got there at 1:35, it was full.  1:00 is checkout time.  EVERYWHERE was full.  We drove, and drove, and drove, but there were no campsites to be found.  The kids were so excited to camp on the coast, too.  So sad.  Finally, at 7:30 that night, we pulled into a campsite at Pine Meadows Campground on Cottage Grove Lake.  God was looking out for us, because the site was reserved but had been abandoned.  What a long, difficult day.  Thank goodness we had pie for breakfast (again) to sustain us!   To make up for the yuck that was Friday, K told us we needed to go on the dam tour.  Only 15 are allowed on the tour, so Bill hustled over to the hosts and signed all seven of us up.  When we arrived at the appointed time, we ended up being the only ones to go on the tour other than volunteers and the ranger!  The ranger, by the way, was the same ranger from the night before who had to turn us away from another campground.  The two are Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds, and she splits her time at the two.  She was surprised to see we had actually gotten a site, since they're normally booked!  
The tour came complete with a look at their gigantic tools for working on the dam machinery.  They have, I think, 13 dams in the area they're responsible for, with this one and two others being monitored remotely from another location.              
The star of the tour.  Snakes find their way into the dam building, but don't like the cold.  So Ranger Christie picked him up and carried him up all the stairs to set him free.  Inside, at the bottom floor, the temperature was probably 60ish, the outside temperature was 90ish.  I preferred it inside.  When we headed back inside to finish up the tour, we found another snake on the stairs, but he had to remain cuz we were on our way down, and it was inconvenient.  Oh well.

Portland and Such

We switched up the days of doing things so that we could visit with Bill's aunt and uncle one more time.  But before heading off to Portland to meet up with them, we decided to check out a local shop on the suggestion of Jennifer (from the alpaca ranch).  Willamette Valley Pie Co.  We had pie for breakfast.  SOOOOOOOOOOOOO good!!!!  They have a happy hour in the mornings that we just couldn't resist.  And it was so very worth it!!!   After our pie and a little bit of exercise on their playground, we headed out to Portland.  We parked near Rick and Sharon's place, then headed out for a walk to Powell's City of Books.  We had been feeling a wee bit book deprived (we only added to our travelling library once, at a Costco).  Powell's is overwhelming with its huge collection.  We did show some restraint, and many ninja mind control books got the kibosh, but we all managed to come out of there pleased.  
Back at Rick and Sharon's, we had a lovely lunch.  Their condo is beautiful, overlooking the river.  The kids were fascinated to be up that high, but assured me that I should stay back (not a fan of heights), and told me in excruciating detail what it was like.  Before bidding adieu to check out the science museum, we lined up for the shot.  Top:  Bill, Rick, NS.  Bottom:  K, NB, G, J, Sharon.  I keep forgetting to bring my gorilla pod, so I'm not in the shot.  Bummer.      
Thanks to Jamie, we re-upped our membership to DMNS so that we could participate in the reciprocity program.  DMNS is such a wonderful museum, it's hard to imagine finding others around the country that we would enjoy as much.  OMSI was incredible, though.  We got there mid-afternoon, and spent several hour perusing the exhibits.  Space was neat and so different from what DMNS has.  We got to watch videos featuring Bill's favorite astronaut, Chris Hadfield.  I learned a lot about pee in space.  A lot.  There were a lot of things we did, but pee in space made an impression on me!  K and NB worked on earthquake simulations, trying to build a steady/sturdy structure to withhold the stress.  J made my hair stand on end in the physics lab.  And we all enjoyed the health pinball machine.  Who wouldn't?         Overall, Portland was a fun city, we're very glad we went.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Silverton and Salem

We decided to tour around and check out the surrounding areas.  Mainly because driving home from Tillamook, we saw a sign telling of the Frank Lloyd Wright Gordon House.  So we went to check that out.  Unfortunately for us, you have to have tour reservations, and they never returned our phone call, so we had to limit our tour to the outside.  Still really cool to see.  
Gordon House was moved from its original location because it was sold to people more interested in the land than the house and a group purchased the house and moved it to maintain a Frank Lloyd Wright house.  NS was taken with the idea of becoming an architect.  Since we couldn't take an inside tour of the house, we moved on to the next thing at the same site--The Oregon Garden.  80 acres of botanical gardens and teaching areas.         On our way home, we drove through Silverton and were talking about how Silverton was founded and what the purpose of the town originally was.  As we were driving, we spotted the visitor center and popped in to chat.  The best thing that came out of that was the Marquam Hill Ranch, where they raise alpacas! We were told at the visitor center that they were open until 5, which was perfect, since it was about quarter to 4.  ALWAYS call first!!!  Bill called, and they really close at 4, but Jennifer let us come on in for a tour and an amazing education about alpacas.  What a splendid trip!!!!  
Babies were born just a few weeks ago.  They were adorable!            
J was absolutely taken with the alpaca.  It was a fantastic day for us.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Silver Falls

Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon, and home to many waterfalls.  So we headed out to see South Falls, the most popular hike in the park.  Got to see a wedding party having pictures taken.  Brilliant--get that done on a Tuesday morning.  Especially since it was rainy and all.  Which I'm sure didn't get her dress at all muddy.  But I'm sure the pictures are GORGEOUS.  
This is how we started our hike.  Absolutely stunning.            
Our first glimpse of South Falls.  We walked along the river that eventually became the top of the waterfall.  It was a great trail, but a bit slippery with the rain.              
The trail leads behind the falls.  The rock wall behind it is kind of a cave.  NB climbed the rocks in there and then required three adults to help him off his high perch.  Thank you to the gentleman who just hoisted him up and off the rock.  I have a non-interference rule, so he might have stayed there all the rest of his days if it weren't for that gentleman!            
Overall, though, I liked lower South Falls better.  We could have seen 10 different waterfalls on this trail, but the stairs down to lower South Falls were a bit scary with their water, so we exerted quite a bit of energy on that.  Sigh.

Cape Meares

Cape Meares State Park and Lighthouse is also located adjacent to the Cape Meares Wildlife Refuge.  We didn't explore tons and tons.   We got out there after 2pm, and the rain was cold.  We had to park about a half mile away because all the parking was taken.  So we checked out their largest Sitka tree in all of Oregon, and then hiked down to see the shortest lighthouse.  
Sitka spruce really thrive in the wet of temperate rainforests.  But we had seen Spruce Almighty (name changed to protect the innocent) in Hoh, and this one was only about half its size.  So while it was big, we weren't as impressed as other visitors.  Sorry!              
Octopus Tree is another must see while out there.  The trunk branches out, essentially at the ground.  It is wicked cool.              
And then there's the lighthouse.  Smallest in all of Oregon.  But we toodled around looking at trees so long, we missed getting a tour.  Such a disappointment!!!!!!  But I think it's really alright, because I might just have freaked out being in such a small space, and you could see all the other tourists on the tour from outside, so I think I just missed some info, which I'm sure I can research myself!


Our first day at Silver Falls was rainy, but that was ok because we had already arranged with Bill's aunt and uncle to meet up at Tillamook for a tour.  So off we went, content to spend a portion of our day indoors, out of the rain.  We were a good 15 minutes into the trip when the telltale splatter hit the backseat.  Now the van is truly ours, it's been marked with vomit.  But, being the troopers we are, we forced Noah into continuing on with our day.  And he turned out just fine after that, I think it was just a case of road weariness.  
Tilly's the mascot of Tillamook, used in their advertising since the 1930s or so.                
It truly is amazing how much they do in this one building, how much cheese is made and distributed.  Truly mind boggling.  After the tour, with all the requisite learning that went with it, we had lunch in their cafeteria.  If you take this tour, plan time to stand in line for the lunch. We stood in line for maybe 30 minutes or more.  Sooooooo huuuuuunnnnnnggggrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!  It was good, but I have to say that I preferred the mac and cheese at Beecher's in Pike Place Market.      
I didn't do a good job of getting a group photo, so I at least took a photo as some of our group were leaving the building.  We continued on to Cape Meares, but Rick and Sharon bailed at this point, despite them being the ones who suggested it!  In all fairness, we stayed at Tillamook for about three hours, and it was raining (I think I've said that before....).

Triad of Rain

While we had no real rain at the rainforest, it rained for our travel day.  And the next day as we toured Tillamook Cheese Factory and the Cape Meares Lighthouse.  And the next day as we hiked the temperate rainforest at Silver Falls State Park.  We've been very fortunate in that the weather has been pretty amazing as we travel around the country, but I guess the rain was bound to catch up to us.  
The view on our drive.  It was very nice that it was a travel day, so it didn't really interfere with any of our plans.          
Cape Meares, a lighthouse close to Tillamook Cheese Factory, was perfect in the rainy weather.  Really drives home the need for a light on the coast.              
 Hiking in the rain, though, was a bit much.  I was definitely done with the rain by the third day when we were hiking.  Tired of being damp....

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hoh Rainforest

In the western part of Olympic National Park lies a temperate rainforest.  Hoh Rainforest is a wonderful place to camp.  My sister didn't want to camp with us because she did not want to camp in the rain.  We had wonderful weather the entire time we were there, right up until we left.  
The 12 or 14 feet of precipitation they get annually helps the trees grow BIG.  We were all amazed at how big the trees were, and all the amazing growth just hanging out in the forest.  While tropical rainforests have the greatest biodiversity, temperate rainforests have the greatest biomass.  They're DENSE with all the growth.  The kids and Bill went to a talk about all the growth and they were pleased as punch to show me all the epiphytes, spores, licorice fern, and other types of growth in the forest.  NB loved the sulphur shells, and he told me all about Goblin's Gold, which we looked for but didn't find.        
Seriously, trees big enough to climb into the underside.  These guys grow on nurselogs, and when the nurselogs decay away, the trees are stilted, so you can climb in and around these trees.              
Our campground host told Bill that elk come through the campground.  Never happened while we were there, but we did get to see the herd hanging out on the island on the drive back to the campground.          
The colors were hard to catch in true likeness.  I challenged NB to count the different greens we saw, and I think he got up to something like 17.  He saw more banana slugs than that (21), but 17 different greens is impressive!

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Our Seattle visit is coming to a close.  My sister and her family have been fantastic to us, and we've had a blast seeing Washington from their perspective.  
Saturday I spent the day sick in bed, but Sunday we got to get out and explore a bit.  We headed out to Saint Edward's park and checked out the hike and the water from there.  Quite a lush piece of forestry, right there.  The kids were excited to check out the enormous banana slugs that were there. HUGE.  And quite unattractive.            
J was happy to get his feet wet again.  All the kids splashed about for a little while, then we took a killer hike (steep incline) back to the playground for a bit.  I am woefully out of shape, plus I was recovering from being sick, so the short hike really took it out of me.  Need to keep up with my allergy meds!!!!!            
Monday we hit Brackett's Landing in the morning to check out low tide.  Check out my niece and see how smart my sister is--rain boots.  Sweet.  But we have none of those, so we wore either water shoes or, in my case, hiking boots.  But it all worked out the same, and I got to test out the waterproof-ness of my boots.  They kick butt, by the way!        
All the stuff we found was so cool, but I was wishing I had brought along an expert.  I don't know what I'm looking at!  BUT, the kids were super excited to check everything out, and they got to experience a habitat they had never really experienced before.  Their curiosity was piqued, and I couldn't ask for anything more.  Truly some great things were witnessed this day.        
Simply amazing.  Once again, I gotta look this stuff up, cuz I have no idea what I'm looking at.  But it blows my mind that the tides leave this out for us to observe, and then take it all back in again.              
NS exploring the inside of a crab.  He was all proud of himself, touching "crab brains."  The shell was pretty much intact, but a bird had been feasting on this poor guy.  I wanted the kids to have crab for dinner, but all the kids were grossed out by that suggestion after seeing this guy.  Oh well.              
Before dinner, Tanya and I took five of the eight kiddos berry picking.  We got pretty good at figuring out which blackberries would be the best, and we got enough to make a blackberry crisp and have plenty leftover for eating with ice cream.  Bill discovered a place here that makes a killer blackberry milkshake.  YUM!        
Tuesday we headed out to Mt. Rainier.  Where it rained.  And was only 54 degrees.  And snowing at the Paradise Visitor's Center.  But we did get a hike in, where the kids were delighted to take in the wildflowers and such.  Those kids who were willing to last the hike, that is.  We had a group break off and head back to the visitor's center a bit early.  Like halfway through the hike.  Slackers.            
My nephew, H, took this picture.  He was very taken with showing me the really cool flowers, so I asked him to take a picture for me.  He was happy to oblige.           For some odd reason, we felt that we could go to Rainier on Tuesday and head out Wednesday.  Didn't happen.  It's Thursday morning, and we really have to take off today.  We're hitting Olympic National Park today, and then heading to Oregon next week.  Yeah!!!!