Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mt. Rainier National Park

Our last stop for this trip was Mount Rainier National Park.  We headed to the Cougar Rock Campground, and while it was a large campground, we had not made a reservation and it took us a bit to find a good open spot for 2 nights.

That night we attended the ranger program in the campgound, where the ranger talked about foxes and other animals found in the park.  We thought it was a great program-- mainly because our 6 year old had been talking about foxes and coyotes the entire camping trip.  He was very concerned a fox was going to come and eat him-- even when we stayed in the hotel.  He asked me if foxes could jump high, and could they break through glass.  He was very worried they would get us through the window of our 2nd floor hotel room in Seattle.  Funny kid.  So we enjoyed watching him through the program as the ranger brought out the fox fur he had brought and taught the kids about foxes.

In the morning, we headed up to the Paradise visitors center.  We arrived early, before the visitor center even opened, the cloud cover over the mountains was beautiful.  We did a short hike and were treated to seeing some animals out looking for breakfast.

Back at the visitors center we turned in the junior ranger packets we had picked up yesterday at the ranger program and the kids received their badges.  The rangers then told us about an additional program they have at the park-- one we had not encountered at any other national parks we'd been too.  It was great for the older kids and a little harder and required a little more learning to accomplish.  After fulfilling the parts they could at the Paradise center, we headed back to the car for the beautiful drive to the Sunrise Visitor Center.

There are numerous waterfalls, gorges, and nature trails along the way.  It was a beautiful drive, and we snapped TONS of photos!

Up at the Sunrise visitor center, with the beautiful view of the glacier, we picked out another hiking trail to do.  It brought us a little closer to the glacier fields for great pictures, and eventually passed by a pretty little lake,  but the first half of the hike was a little bit of a let down.  It was the frozen lake trail, and we thought we were going to hike by a frozen lake, instead the "lake" was a dried up mud pit, and it was definitely not frozen. But the last half of the hike, definitely made up for the first half, scenery wise.  If only the kids stamina would have held out til the last half, but I guess that will come in time.

The next morning we packed up and headed on our way.  We stopped at a few more waterfalls and nature trails on our way out of the park.  We had several hours to go till we reached home.  Passing thru farmland of Yakima Valley, on our way, we stopped and picked up a few boxes of the most delicious peaches I have ever had.  I wish I had bought several more boxes, they were that good.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Seattle/Boeing Factory

We added in a stop in Seattle to visit the Boeing factory.  Our friends came up to to Seattle for a baseball game and had visited the Boeing factory, and raved about how great it was, so we "planned" it in.  We had never been to Seattle, or Washington State for that matter, before this trip.  Seattle is quite a large city, and unexpectedly expensive for hotels.  Being that we were 7 in number, we were looking at not just 1 expensive hotel room, but 2.  And since we had not planned this part, or the rest of our trip, I was looking at hotel rooms as we drove towards Seattle.  And they were filling up as we got closer.  I should have just booked one and not worried so much about trying to find "a deal" but I was worried David would be upset-- he does not place much value on overpriced hotel rooms, so I put off booking.  This caused some tension and stress (the kids would call it fighting) between us and we went back and forth between even stopping and staying in Seattle. It was too late in the day to even do the tour and drive on, we would have to spend the night and do the tour tomorrow, if we wanted to do it at all.

Finally, we came agreed that we did want to go to the Boeing factory, and David would just have to accept the price of accommodations.  So we booked near the factory and stopped for dinner at a yummy local pizza shop.  In the morning we headed to the Boeing factory. I had prebooked tickets for a morning tour the night before.  They have an age limit on their tours, so Benjamin and Matthew and I hung out in the museum of the factory, while David took, the oldest 3 on the factory tour.  That morning after chatting with Grandma she told me that a family friend works for Boeing, so I contacted him via Facebook.  He indeed works nearby for Boeing and came and hung out with me and the kids, til David and the others returned.  David loved the tour, and was full of questions when he returned, and lucky for him, my friend, Kent had some answers.

It was definitely a great stop, even with the hotel prices!  Although I didn't get to go on the official tour, David highly recommends the Boeing factory tour, if you're in Seattle.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Olympic National Park

Our next stop on this camping extravaganza is Olympic National Park.  I was much later than our friends in making reservations so we were unable to get a spot at the popular Kalaloch campground on the beach, as we were there on the weekend.  So instead I found a small rental on VRBO for a little mobile home nearby, about 15 minutes down the road near the Hoh entrance to the Park.  The nice thing was we would have showers and real beds for the weekend.  The little house was situated on beautiful property with a path down to the river.

On the drive there we ate lunch in the car, our friends stopped for lunch.  So we made a stop further up the road and went on a short hike showcasing some of the largest trees in the US, found here in the Olympic National Park north of Lake Quinault.  After our short hike, we stopped at our friends campsite on the way to our little mobile rental.  They were just getting set up and we made plans to get together the next day.

In the morning, we were up nice and early to meet our friends at a nearby beach for the tide pool ranger tour.  We had a great time learning about the tide pools in the area and the creatures that live in them.  The beaches are beautiful with rock croppings off shore, and at low tide you can hike to several of them.  It was windy and chilly, and these beaches aren't meant for swimming anyway, but the scenery is quite beautiful.

After a fun morning we stopped for a quick lunch at our place and then our family headed to the Hoh Rainforest inside the park.  We explored the nature trails and had a fun time hiking and playing on the fallen gigantic trees.

Over the next 2 days we thoroughly explore the west side of Olympic National Park and the coastline of Washington state.  We went up to Rialto Beach and thru the famed Forks area where the vampire trilogy, Twilight takes place.  We had fun walking the beach, climbing on rocks and driftwood. Walking the rocky beach was quite a workout.

We walked the beach in the Kalaloch area.  We had serious competitions of rock towers, and had fun just hanging out.

We explored more of the Quinault area with our friends and went in search of beautiful waterfalls. We found a few.

 Our last day had come for this area.  We would continue our trip for a few more days, while our friends had to return home, it was time to part ways.  We headed to the North end of the Park to spend a couple of days seeing the sights up there.  This park is quite beautiful and diverse, with rainforests, lakes, beaches, and snowy mountain tops.  It's no wonder it is also a declared Unesco world heritage site.

On the way to our campground at Heart O'Hills, we had to stop and hike to Sol Duc Falls.  Absolutely stunning and worth the short hike! Once we reached the Port Angeles area we headed to a Laundromat, time for some clean clothes!  With a fresh set of Laundry, a few fresh groceries, and a vacuumed van, we were ready for a few more days of camping and fun!  That night, we took Isabel and Calvin to the top of the mountain for a starlight ranger program.  They had 2 high powered telescopes set up for people to view different stars and they would switch after 15 minutes so we had the chance to view several different things, if you can stand the cold and the lines of everybody waiting to see something!  It was fun, but cold!  Savannah and Matthew stayed behind in the tent trailer and headed to bed early.  It was a late night!

The next morning we headed back up the mountain for a short morning hike before heading on.  It really is a beautiful place.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Olympic National Park.  And we didn't even see it all!  There is still the east side of the park to explore on another trip!