We're so glad you joined us!

Here we are – kids, dogs and all! Thanks for visiting our page! We're hoping that you will enjoy hearing about our travels and experiences as a family. We intend for this blog to share more than just travel journals, but also insights and lessons learned during our daily adventures. Please share your comments and come back often! * update * as of August 2010, we finished our journey, so new entries to this site will be rare. Linda's starting a new personal blog here. Enjoy!

Friday, July 31, 2009


From southern Washington, we drove straight north on IH 5 to and through Seattle and beyond to a Anacortes, about 70 miles north of Seattle. While researching RV parks in the Seattle area, we found it very difficult to find a place with a decent rating from previous visitors. We finally gave up, deciding that we were going to be staying a pretty good distance from the city. The park we chose is not the greatest park, but it's on a bay and we loved the community of Anacortes. What the RV park lacks in aesthetics is made up for in the community, especially the downtown area. The streets are lined with huge hanging pots of flowers and the residential areas are made up of frame houses with a great deal of charm, for the most part.
This inn and spa was a definite landmark in the downtown area. Everyone in the family was due for hair cuts. After dropping Linda off at a local salon, the guys made their way to a marina shop. Linda is more blonde than she was expecting, but everyone was generally pleased with their new 'do's'.

Anacortes has a harbor with ferry transportation to the San Juan islands and Sidney, British Columbia. We're planning a day trip to the islands later - so there will be more photos of the islands that populate the area.

We planned a day trip to Seattle with very few stops. An abnormal heat wave was upon the area with temperatures pressing the 100 F mark. While not entirely unaccustomed to those types of temperatures, we don't particularly enjoy them!
We have used a book entitled 'Roadtripping USA' at several points along our journey and in the case of Seattle, found it to be an invaluable resource. We steered clear of areas that wouldn't interest or be suitable for the kids (or us!) and decided to park near the monorail terminal and hoof it to sights from there. The book had recommended a specific parking garage and it was as reasonable as reputed. Our boys were also elated to find that Barnes and Noble was housed in the building with the garage, so we would return to browse on our way back to the truck.
Before boarding the monorail, we wanted to see the Public Market at Pike Place. Only a six or seven blocks away, we took in the city environment along the way. Occasionally, we looked for the Blue Angels that were practicing for an event on the weekend. Problem was, the sound of the jets was evident only after the jets had passed and with the city skyscrapers, it was then impossible to spot them!
The market was very busy, even with the steadily increasing temperatures. We were glad to visit on the weekday, as the weekend - especially with a big event - would surely be crazy! We didn't photograph the flower shops and produce stands, but Linda loved the floral border along the second floor of the shops.

Of course, we had to see the infamous 'flying fish'. We found plenty of fish markets, but few were flying! Apparently, the fish mongers only start flinging them if someone buys. We only saw one during the time we were there. The sheer volume of fish and shellfish was an eye opener for us. Do these markets actually sell that volume of fish daily? Hard to imagine!

We walked a few blocks further to find a Russian pastry shop from the travel book. Again, we were rewarded with a good find. Everyone ordered and relished a unique stuffed piroshky.

Full and happy, we worked our way back to the monorail terminal. Amongst the many tourist attractions with the expected price tag, the monorail was very inexpensive. A short ride later, we arrived at the Space Needle and other attractions at Seattle Center.

We browsed the area and watched people for awhile, then returned via the monorail to peruse the downtown area a bit more.
The boys were happy to find this very cool fountain. A narrow path leads through a wall of water on each side. While not enough to soak you, it mists enough to dampen your shirt and your feet get splashed. On a day near 100 F, the light sprinkle felt terrific and refreshing!

Another few blocks of walking and we were ready for lunch. We found our way back to the market for another travel book recommendation. With a great view of the sound, we enjoyed our lunch of sandwiches and more clam chowder. The waterfront view also allowed for glimpses of the Blue Angels as they made some maneuvers above the sound.

Full and happy again, we walked back toward the parking garage, picking up a couple of items at shops along the way. Everyone enjoyed about an hours worth of book browsing at Barnes & Noble, then we located the truck and crawled through heavy traffic back to the RV park. Seattle probably has at least two week's worth of activities and sights, but we were very content with our day of highlights.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ape Cave

Oddly named, Ape Cave is located on the south side of Mount St. Helens. Having explored a lava tube near Flagstaff with Linda's niece, we were anxious to see this one that is one of the longest in North America. The main entrance is not too intimidating with man made concrete steps and a handrail to ease visitors into the cave.
Once inside and down the stairs, the cave offers two trails - one easy and one difficult. We chose the more difficult that was described to be 1 1/2 miles long with several boulder falls along the way.

Before we reached the first boulder fall, we saw this example of fallen boulders next to our path. Full of interesting bubble-like impressions on the smooth basaltic surface helped us to envision the lava that flowed through the mountain and formed the cave through the cooling process.

Everyone had their own flashlight to make way through the pitch black. If we explore a similar cave again, we'll take a lantern to more easily appreciate the cave's surroundings. The pinpoint focus of the flashlight forced us to make a stop to shine the beam on the cave's interior.

The temperature was a cool 42 F, but we had no problem staying warm through our activity level. The boulder falls are areas in which the cave's ceiling collapsed after the lava flow. This particular cave had seven boulder falls and a couple of lava falls that required a rope climb. One lava fall was about 8' tall and the other about 5' tall. Our fingers were cold and became sensitive to the sharp edges of some of the cave walls and boulders. We left our long sleeved shirts on to protect our arms and elbows from scrapes.

Although there was a pretty sizable crowd in the area (judging from the very full parking lot), we met only a few groups along our way. Some had entered the cave from the opposite end and several groups were moving at a faster clip. We gladly let them pass and just took our time!The photos are deceiving in that the flash shows so much more visibility within the cave.

This very odd photo shows our breath! We were trying to capture a photo of the ceiling of the cave and instead captured this eerie photo of foggy breath in the cool air of the cave. Craig's silhouette is within the 'fog'. We won't speculate about who was full of the most hot air!

The guys are gearing up for a climb over the boulder fall. Some covered more than 100 ft and others were much smaller. At times, the crevices between the boulders were a bit scary with a potential fall of 3-6 feet with an errant step. We had to watch carefully and also to look for slippery surfaces from the condensation and seepage.

Finally, we reached the end of the trail and were thankful for the ladder exit. The rope climbs were fun and challenging (more so for some of us than others), but we were ready for an easier way out!

The exit opening was quite a bit smaller than the entrance, but we all fit through - fanny packs and all!

After a rest at the exit of the cave, we trekked along a 1 1/2 mile surface trail back to the parking area.
Tired and sore for a couple of days afterward, we were pleased with ourselves for meeting the challenge of the more difficult trail. The trek through was a great experience to share together. The venture required us to work together, help each other, light the way for one another, lend a hand (literally) and be patient with one another. One woman along the way commented 'You don't see that much anymore.' We weren't sure to what she was referencing. Later, she reiterated, 'You just don't see families doing this type of thing together.' We were pleased to provide a testimony that families could do this together and also saddened that it seems so uncommon an occurrence!
Thank God for our family and thank God for the opportunity to do these things together! He is growing us all together and we are so blessed!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fort Vancouver and the Columbia Gorge

Cory selected Fort Vancouver as a stop along our way and we are so glad that he did! The first sight as we approached the fort was a beautiful avenue lined with spectacular Victorian homes. We later found that these were identified as Officer's Row. Many appear to be occupied by local businesses and charity organizations but all are well-maintained. Originally built as officer's housing for the US Army in the mid- to late- 1800's, the city of Vancouver eventually gained possession of these homes. This Queen Anne style home is named for General George C. Marshall, author of the Marshall plan for the economic rebuilding of Europe and Japan following WWII. General Marshall lived in this house in the mid-1930's while serving as commander of the Dpt. of the Columbia. The oldest home is named the Ulysses S. Grant house. While he served in Vancouver during the 1850's, he was a junior officer and would not have lived in the grand house that now bears his name.

As we arrived at the fort, we were greeted by a very healthy and rather large garden. Cory said he would help me with one when we settle into a house. I want to be sure I get that in writing!

The fort itself is not very aesthetic, but then it's a fort! Built by Great Britain's Hudson Bay Company, this was not a military installation but a protected trading outpost. Creating a hub of commercial activity, the fort was key to establishing a community of Native Americans, fur traders of multiple nationalities and Great Britain. All of the buildings are reproductions as the original buildings burned down in the late 1800s.

Enthusiastic volunteers add to the National Park staff to provide interesting details of life in the fort. Our first stop was the fur warehouse where furs were purchased and stored for export to Europe.

We also visited the Indian Trade Shop and Dispensary where furs were traded for other goods. No currency was used - only furs or food items. Beaver furs were the most valued and used as the comparative standard. Fur trading was not exclusively with Indians as they were nor reliable for consistent supply. The English were bewildered by their lack of monetary motivation, but rather than to try to force the Indians to meet their demands for more furs - turned to non-Indian trappers. The popularity of beaver felt hats was the basis for the value and when European trends turned to silk, the fur trading industry was no longer deemed profitable. Coinciding with the transfer of the Fort to American soil in 1846, trade eventually diminished and the Hudson Bay company pulled out.

A volunteer demonstrated the blacksmith techniques and equipment of the era. We enjoyed imagining the independence and self-sufficiency that the fort dwellers and community exercised. Their life was difficult, but simple in many ways. Here, a multi-cultural and multi-national community thrived for a significant period of time.

The Chief Factor's residence was prominent within the fort palisade. Serving as the residence for the post's most senior officer, the building also served as an elegant mess hall for clerks and officers. Social events, such as parties and dances also were held in this large and attractive home. Although well fortified by two large cannons in front of the house, we did not feel threatened. Sparrows have taken a liking to the cannon barrel as a nesting ground and park personnel have blockaded visitors from interfering with their family.

The interior was furnished with appropriate antiques to demonstrate the lifestyle at the height of the fort's activity. You can see why we described the mess hall as elegant. Stemware, linen table cloths and patterned china are not what we imagine when the phrase 'mess hall' is used!Behind the primary residence were outbuildings for the kitchen, bakehouse and wash house.

We moved on to Portland for a quick lunch and a return to a very large book store in the downtown area. Called the City of Books, Powell's book store occupies an entire city block, four stories tall. We stocked up on mostly used titles for our home school needs and then ventured east toward Mt. Hood.
We left Interstate 84 to take the Historic Columbia River Highway. (You couldn't expect two former transportation civil engineers to miss this!) The very scenic and very narrow route is parallel to the main highway, but provides close views of several waterfalls, massive rock formations and forrest. One section of the highway was too narrow for our dually pickup to fit in the lane, forcing others to wait or squeeze by at a snail's pace. By this time, it was late afternoon and we were all getting tired, so we compromised our normal touring to driving only! The lodge and restaurant at Multnomah Falls was an amazing stone structure.

The parking lots for the falls were very crowded, so this is our first driving photo of waterfalls on our journey. Pretty good picture considering we were moving!

More waterfalls caught our eye as we continued along the roadway. This one is Horsetail Falls - we can see the resemblance!
On our return to the rv park, we stopped at several turnouts to view the river. The vast expanse between the banks and amazing blue depths are another aspect that is impossible for us to capture. We can't help but try!

Lewis and Clark

The mouth of the Columbia River had loads of interesting sights for our family. We started with the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center on the Washington side of the river and were so glad that we did! The center had wonderful displays that had something for each member of the family. Huge wall sized photographs marked the historic exploration of Lewis & Clark, with interspersed quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Meriweather Lewis, William Clark, Sacagawea and others. Activities for all ages were also along the way and a brief video that focused on the end of the historic journey.

Our oldest has heard the story of Lewis & Clark many times, but was still engaged throughout these exhibits and our youngest was certainly intrigued at every turn. We all learned new facts about the journey and the Corps of Discovery.

We were expecting more focus on the end of the journey and were pleasantly surprised to find such a wonderful presentation of the entire journey from multiple perspectives.

The upper floor of the exhibit hall housed an art gallery and information about the history of the lighthouse and Coast Guard. Had it been a clear day, we would have also enjoyed a panaramic view of the Pacific, but alas - more fog!

We turned to the outdoors and hiked a short but challenging trail to the lighthouse.

Heavily wooded, the trail helped visualize more of the environment that met Lewis & Clark near the Pacific! Along the trail we enjoyed seeing an area identifed as Dead Man's Cove. For the Pirates of the Caribbean fans in our bunch, this was fascinating! The cove has a very narrow opening at the ocean and piles of rubbled shells and battered tree trunks piled on it's beach.

Who knew we'd see literature on this visit? Tennyson's famous poem is framed to the side of the lighthouse.

Finally! The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse came in view and we explored the area at it's base.

Here's the history for the name of the location:

English fur trader John Meares, commanding the Portuguese flagged Felice Adventurer, gave the cape its lasting name. Unable to find Heceta's river, on July 6, 1788, he wrote in his log "We can now with safety assert, that no such river as that of St. Roc exists, as laid down in the Spanish charts" (Meares). He wryly assigned the label "Cape Disappointment" to the distinctive landmark.

We're unsure of how the Englishman missed the river, but there you have it - so close and yet so far!

We gladly returned to the truck for the short trek across the river for lunch in Astoria, Oregon.

The fog had lifted a little to show the view that the explorers were so thrilled to see after their journey of over two years!

While not impressive on the exterior, the Ship Inn served up the most amazing clam chowder the Clark family has ever known! We enjoyed a traditional English fish and chips dinner overlooking the Columbia River. Astoria is an attractive community with very visible English style architecture at every turn - lots of frame houses and beautiful gardens amongst the run down dry docked boats of all sizes.

We pressed on to catch the winter home for the Lewis & Clark expedition at Fort Clatsop. One of the rangers was concluding a presentation as Meriweather Lewis as we arrived.

All the structures are reproductions, but great care has been taken to assure authenticity.

The boys weren't sure how they'd like the winter in the barracks!

The captain's quarters were quite a bit roomier and we found a friendly park volunteer to share more information about the living conditions of the time period.

We explored a bit further toward the landing sight at the Pacific, but stopped one mile short! After our earlier treks, we were a little pooped and ready to return to the RV park.

All in all, it was a great day with a beautiful drive through the forest both directions and tons of new information to absorb. What a great way to learn!