We had grand plans for Friday to get up early so we could make good time on our itinerary, but we were derailed by our own fatigue. In some ways, that was a good thing because our kids could get a little playtime in with the adorable Harbuck kids.
After we got all packed up, we said goodbye to the Harbucks and headed over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I was also excited to visit the aquarium because it is located on Cannery Row, and I had read the novel, Cannery Row, in anticipation of a visit.
Everyone enjoyed the aquarium! It was not as big as I had expected, but I think in some ways that worked in its favor because we felt that we got to really experience it in a couple of hours. The kids were disappointed we did not have time to whale watch on the aquarium’s balconies, and so we will just have to do that some other trip.
A personable aquarium worker started our visit by showing us a jar of baby moon jellyfish.
Abe adored the kelp forest. He loved the swaying rhythm of the plants and watched them for a loooooong time.
There was a cute little play area for toddlers. Ammon ran around excitedly trying all of the activities.
Ammon made a friend.
A gorgeous lionfish.
After the aquarium, we drove to L.A.. Because of our late start, we did not pull into our hotel until almost 10 at night. We had promised the kids we would go swimming in L.A., and after the long drive, we felt we could not renege, so we ended up swimming at 10:30pm. So much for an early bedtime before Disneyland!
On Thursday morning we ordered a delicious breakfast from the inn that included bruleéd chia pudding and an egg scramble with local veggies. The bruleéd chia puddinge was my favorite. Ammon ate an enormous quantity of eggs, and that shocked all of us. Normally it is very difficult to feed him.
Then we drove to San Francisco. On the way, Ammon started moaning a lot, and then all of the sudden, he threw up his enormous breakfast. We pulled off to the side of the road. I was in despair at the mess, but the first thing Abe did was holler that we had pulled off next to a stream!!! I did not know at first why this was a good thing. Abe quickly enlightened me. The stream enabled us to clean off Ammon and his clothes. If we hadn’t had a stream, we would probably have thrown everything away (except Ammon, of course).
After that eventful stop, we headed the rest of the way to San Fransisco.
Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco.
Lydia is obsessed with everything China, so we made our first and longest stop in San Francisco Chinatown.
We visited a fortune cookie factory.
The inside of the fortune cookie factory.
I ordered way too much food for dinner. Fish heads, tofu, Singapore noodles, soup…I felt really bad at all of the waste afterward and vowed to make smarter ordering choices in the future.
The girls each picked out a treat from a Chinese grocery store.
After Chinatown, we went down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Even though we were there two years ago, Mary had forgotten everything. Lydia remembered stuff, though! She remembered the sea lions, and I think the carousel was familiar to her too.
Looking at sea lions.
Mary’s current personality really shines through in some of these pictures!
Mary is left handed, so we took pictures of her in the store.
There is a magic store on the wharf. The girls were mesmerized.
After we finished up at the wharf, we drove to San Jose to spend the night at our friends, the Harbuck’s, beautiful house. Jere joined up with us there. After a late night visit, they invited us to try some of their homemade ice cream. It was honestly the best ice cream I have ever had. It was so delicious. We were so happy to have a chance to visit with these sweet friends.
After a lovely early morning in our Umpqua yurt, we headed back to the road for a long driving day. En route we stopped for a real breakfast. This breakfast also contributed to my weight gain. It was over-the-top delicious.
There were lots of logging mills, and the “Pancake Mill” was right across from one. We just randomly stopped in and found out upon entering it was an award winning local favorite.
After our very long breakfast, we tried to make time and get to the Redwoods in time to see something. Unfortunately, I neglected to take the scenic drive turn-off, and so we actually missed the famous drive. By the time I realized our mistake, it was too late. We did head back six miles to do a hike in the Lady Bird Johnson grove.
In a spirit of full disclosure, I was in a very bad mood when we began the hike. I was mad that we had missed the Redwoods drive. But Abe is so optimistic and cheerful, and I ended up loving this particular hike a lot.
I loved this hike because I got one-on-one time with each of the children, and the one-on-one time felt very precious and meaningful in that peaceful setting. Abe spent the hike playing with the kids, and I know they loved that too.
Ammon learned to pose from the girls. This is what he started doing whenever we popped out the iPhone.
We didn’t entirely miss all of the Redwood drives. We did drive through Humboldt State Forest, and that gave us a feeling that we had experienced some extended Redwood majesty. The drive ended with a drive through a Redwood tree. As hokey as it was, this was the kids’ (or at least the girls’) favorite part of the day.
Driving through the tree.
After we drove through the tree, we hightailed it on Highway 1 all the way to Mendocino. By this point, it was dark and misty. Also the highway is insanely twisty–as in, for hours all we did was turn repeatedly. In the dark. With the ocean drop-off on one side of the road. And deer all around.
This is where we had a miracle. As we were starting in on the craziest stretch, we noticed two cars conferring in a pull-off next the road. I don’t like driving in front of cars, so I let them pass. For the next several hours, these two cars lighted the way in the dark at the absolute perfect pace–and the lead car spotted all the deer, stopped, shined a light on the animals, and continued carefully after each encounter. It felt like God’s hand, especially since in that time we did not see one other single car on the road. I felt so, so blessed. Eventually, I let Abe have a turn, and we arrived at The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek in Mendocino sometime around midnight.
Originally, we had planned to “glamp” that night at a kid-friendly glampground, but as I studied our itinerary, I realized we would be arriving in the middle of the night, and I didn’t dare risk camping when we’d have to transition Ammon from the car to the crib. As it turned out, he transitioned fine–but I was so happy we booked the inn. There was some sort of deal on Booking.com, and I loved the look of the inn online.
In person, after a harrowing drive and a long day of driving before that, the inn was absolutely dreamy. We had a sweet little cabin all to ourselves, and it was cozy, beautiful, and even had a darling little stove fireplace warming everything up. After we put the kids down, we relaxed in the large jacuzzi and unwound from the crazy drive. My ankles were basically balloons, so the bath was a lifesaver. We’ll try glamping some other time.
After we toured the Columbia Maritime Museum, we all headed down the Oregon Coast to Cannon Beach, Oregon. On the way we sampled some fish ‘n chips from a cute little red food stand that sold tuna-only fish ‘n chips. The jolly toothless information guide had told us that tuna-only fish ‘n chips was incredible, and so we tried it. I liked it, but I was getting a little tired of fried food in general by that point, so maybe my ability to appreciate its finer qualities was inhibited.
We spent over an hour at Cannon Beach, and my main physiological memory of that event is of trying to not pee all over myself. There was not a bathroom in sight, and this pregnant person needs to relieve herself regularly (frequently, even). I had to bump, bump, bump my bladder up and down a flight of stairs to reach the beach, and by that point I was feeling desperate. Nevertheless, we were right in front of the famous Haystack Rock, everyone was having a blast, and I couldn’t bear to interrupt the fun by insisting we cut it short and head for the nearest facilities. So I spent our beach time squeezing and smiling. 🙂
Abe was delighted to discover sand crabs in the tide pools. There wasn’t a whole lot in the tide pools because the tide was in, but the sand crabs were fun.
After we finished at the beach, we drove down the coast to Tillamook, Oregon–home of the Tillamook Cheese Factory! Of course we stopped in for a tour, sample cheese, and ice cream cones.
After Tillamook, the sunny day turned rainy. We spent the rest of the day driving down in the rain. We wanted to stop and play in the tide pools along the way, but we were rained out.
In the evening we arrived at Florence, Oregon. Candace is a whiz at finding amazing restaurants, and following her advice we went to the Homegrown Public House had the best meal of our trip. Plus, they were so kid friendly! They gave us half of the restaurant to ourselves (because it was nearly 8 pm and the restaurant was half-deserted and about to close anyway–but still!), and they even had a bucket of miniature unicorn toys for the kids to play with.
This is my stunningly delicious, vegetarian hippie pie.
By the time we were done with dinner, it was late and we had to say goodbye to the Martineaus, who were heading back via Portland the next day. We had sooooo much fun caravaning with them and made plans to repeat the experience in two years (when my baby production years will be, by the grace and great mercy of God, finally over). We have hopes of ending our next trip with an Alaskan cruise. We can dream, can’t we?
Abe and I still had to drive about an hour or so to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. I felt God’s hand that night because we drove into the completely dark campground after all the camp hosts were off duty, and there were no signs telling us where to go. We just drove around making random (well, seemingly random–God was definitely with us) turns until we discovered a parking lot in front of the yurt neighborhood. Unlike Fort Stevens, the deluxe yurts at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park were in a walking-only zone. In the daytime we discovered that the setting was unreal. At night time, it was darling with little waist-high lamps lighting the way to our yurt.
The only issue was that we did not have the access code to our yurt and there was no internet for me to pull up the email with the code. After some miracle, I suddenly pulled it up, and we were able to unload everyone into the yurt. We felt exuberant at being able to spend the night where we had planned. And again, the yurt had a gorgeous skylight so we could look at the brilliant sky while we fell asleep.
Here are some pictures of our yurt from the next morning.
(Mary is pouting because I brushed her hair. I actually asked Abe in all sincerity the other day if hair-brushing counts as child abuse. I have been wondering what has been making her act so crazy and defiant lately, and my first thought was that the daily torture of having her hair brushed had pushed Mary over the emotional edge.)
This next picture is the view from our yurt porch. We woke up in the morning and discovered we had been sleeping in front of this!!!
Our double deck on the yurt and the view of the river from the deck.
After we toured Fort Clatsop, we headed over to join the Martineaus at the Columbia Maritime Museum. This was a highlight of the trip for us. We loved learning about the dangers of the Columbia River bar, which I only appreciated because Abe and I had recently watched The Finest Hours.
Had I not watched the movie, I hope I would have left the museum with some appreciation anyway. There have been thousands of ships wrecked trying to navigate into and out of the Columbia River from the Pacific. This juncture is called “the graveyard of the Pacific” and is thought to be the most dangerous river mouth in the world. The coast guard at Astoria is one of the best trained coast guards in the country, and they are remarkable men and women. I am grateful we have such heroes among us.
The kids mostly appreciated how interactive everything in the museum was. After we were done with the museum, we boarded a retired boat outside of the museum and toured around. It made me slightly seasick just being on the anchored boat. I have no idea how the coast guard does it.
On Monday morning Abe and I packed up everyone early because Ammon woke up early. He probably woke up the entire yurt neighborhood, so we hustled to get everyone in the car quickly. With some hours before attractions opened, we went to the camp info center and talked to the most delightful information man.
He had no teeth, a jolly personality, and heaps of enthusiasm for his hometown. He convinced us that we had planned our itinerary all wrong and should spend the morning in Astoria. We altered our plans accordingly.
First we went to Battery Russell, which happened to be in the campground. Up until 9/11, it was the only place in the U.S. to have ever been attacked by a foreign power since…I forget the statistic. But apparently the Japanese fired on Battery Russell during WWII, and the captain in charge had everyone hold their fire. Because the U.S. did not return fire and give away the position of the fort, no lives were lost.
Today the fort creeped Abe and me out, although the kids seemed to find it interesting. It is completely abandoned, dark and dank, and a perfect place for people to do drugs and other things. I found a condom on the floor. Also, there are sheer drop-offs and warning signs to make sure your kids don’t fall down one of the drop-offs. We left pretty quickly.
Then we toured the also-now-closed army base there. It was inhabited by elk.
After saying hello and goodbye to our woodland friends, we headed to McDonald’s for a drive-thru breakfast. Our reliance on these quick meals is probably why I gained so much weight on the trip. Yikes.
Anyway, after driving through for our speedy breakfast, we headed to Fort Clatsop National Monument, where Lewis and Clark spent a terrible winter. It was so cold that they could not hunt except for a handful of days in a 175 day stretch (although my stats might be off because I am remembering this weeks later). They survived by eating maggoty meat. They only saw the sun six days in that whole winter (again, the stat is old and questionable in my brain).
The point is, they were a type of hardy that I can barely comprehend. The fort was very interesting, and I would have loved to have spent more time there. The ranger said we were the quickest tourists she had ever seen. (I thought we were speedy, but everyone else must spend an hour or more because I thought we did the place at least a little justice in our forty-minute stop!)
On the trail between the visitor center and the fort.
Lydia found an enviable stick which she was loathe to give up.
By the time we arrived in Astoria, Oregon, it was evening. We had wanted to squeeze in a visit to the Maritime Museum and the Lewis and Clark National Monuments, but we didn’t have time that evening. So instead we settled down in our yurt at Fort Stevens campground.
We loved our yurt! It had bunk beds for the girls and a fold-out futon for Abe and me (although we secretly moved Mary from the bottom bunk to the futon before going to bed–the bunkbeds were more comfy than the futon.) There was a heater inside so we felt cozy when the night became chilly, and best of all, there was a skylight at the top of the yurt so we could fall asleep watching the night sky.
After checking out our yurt, we met up with the Martineaus at the campground beach. There have been over two thousand shipwrecks in the past one hundred years at the mouth of the Columbia River, and one of the shipwrecks landed on the camp beach. It was the wreck of the Peter Iredale.
Here is a picture I got from Wikipedia showing the Peter Iredale in its glory days (as in, when it was still afloat).
Here is a picture of the Peter Iredale upon its immediate grounding on Clatsop Spit (the camp beach).
Here is Abe atop the current Peter Iredale.
With the jagged, rocky beach at Bainbridge fresh in his mind, Ammon was very, very tentative about walking on this beach. It took him at least a good five minutes of crying and hanging on to one of us before he realized that a sandy beach is fun (and doesn’t hurt your feet).
Abe ran into the freezing cold ocean and took a quick swim. He is amazing.
This is Lydia upon first arriving at the beach. She loved being in the sand.
After we played on the beach, we headed to a restaurant in Astoria. We were the last people they served, and we felt so lucky! Restaurants close early in Oregon in May. Also, it is very tricky finding restaurants that feel child-friendly enough for six small children. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant where we ate, but it was great.
And then we headed back to our yurt. The Martineaus were staying in a hotel in Astoria, but they joined us for after-dinner s’mores. Candace and I had the luxury of talking by the fire while our husbands kept the kids in tow. (After s’mores, the kids wanted to all play on the bunk beds.)
Then it was time for bed…and Ammon shocked and delighted us by not only going straight to bed, but by sleeping through the night!! What a star.
On Monday morning we got up early so we could fit in everything on our itinerary. The first thing we did was head to the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. Forks, the setting for Twilight, was literally en route. We had to drive through it in order to reach our destination. Since the town of Forks takes five minutes to see in its entirety, we did a thorough tour.
The high school came complete with snarky teenagers! We couldn’t believe our luck in discovering that this aspect of the Twilight setting was spot on.
On Bella’s truck outside of the Forks visitor center.
After driving one block off of the highway to the high school, we were convinced we had toured Forks in its entirety. The town is itty bitty.
Then we headed to the Hoh Rain Forest to stamp our National Parks passports and take a little hike around.
With these girls in tow as I headed to the visitor’s center, I garnered lots of compliments on my prolific proclivity for childbearing. I had to tell my admirers that the talents of others were also at play in creating the adorable set pictured here.
Ammon admiring the rain forest.
There was beautiful poetry posted on the trail.
Such verdant abundance on the trail!
After our lovely little hike, we drove down the Washington Coast to Astoria, Oregon. The scenery was spectacular. We felt like we were driving through brilliant green tunnels punctuated with breathtaking views of the intensely blue Pacific Ocean. Gorgeous!
On Sunday we woke up early in the morning and tried our hardest to make it to church. First we swung by Piroshky Piroshky and bought a ton of delectable piroshkies for breakfast. I told Abe to buy enough for us and the Martineaus, and he bought so many they gave him a free tote bag. Sadly, we had zero self control and sampled them all without realizing it. By the time we met up with the Martineaus, there were almost no intact piroshkies left. Oops!
After acquiring our breakfast, we asked the internet to find a church near us. Unfortunately, the interent thought we were still in our Air BnB, and sent us back over the bridge to Bellevue. We did not realize this was happening until we were actually crossing the bridge. (That bridge, by the way, is so scary! There is just a little teensy wall between the road and the water below. Abe and I had a long discussion about what we would do if we were in an accident and flipped into the water. We decided Abe would rescue the kids, none of whom can swim, and I would drown after pushing them up through the sunroof to him. Then Abe got depressed and asked that we stop discussing it.)
When we arrived at the lovely chapel in Bellevue, we learned that the ward there starts at 9:30 instead of 9am. We were trying to meet up with the Martineaus and catch the 10:35 ferry to Bainbridge Island, so we decided to skip church and make our ferry.
Waiting for the ferry to arrive.
Mary does the craziest poses. We don’t know where she learned them, although this one looks distantly related to a plie?
The dads with most of the kiddos.
When we got to Bainbridge Island, we headed to a nearby beach and let the kids explore and get their wiggles out.
On the way to the beach, all of the girls held hands. This turned out to be a theme for the whole trip. They loved linking up en route to our destinations.
At the beach Ammon enjoyed learning how to throw rocks.
Mary loves to give us flowers, especially dandelions.
Here’s Abe being contemplative and decompressing from work stress.
Candace and company helped bury Lydia in the sand.
Abe enjoyed cleaning Ammon off in the grass after the beach.
Then we all headed to a crepe place to eat delicious crepes for lunch.
Then it was time to drive the gorgeous drive to Olympic National Park. We stayed the night in a cabin at Sol Duc hot springs. The first thing we did after a peremptory unpacking is head for the Sol Duc waterfall hike. The Martineaus stayed behind in Bainbridge for some extra sightseeing, so we had a head start on them. We honestly thought they would miss the hike, but they were so fast and we were soooooooo slow (mostly my fault!) that by the time we reached the waterfall, they caught up! I saw a family with three kids heading toward us and thought, “We’re obviously not crazy to be doing this hike because look! Here comes another family with three little kids!” …And then I realized, with great delight, that they were our friends and had unexpectedly caught up with us!
At the beginning of the hike. We saw a sign at the lodge saying there had been an increase in cougar sightings to to keep kids close on hikes. I told the girls the reason why I wanted them to stay close, and my very safety-conscious kids stayed close the whole hike. Mary kept asking if they were going to get eaten by “OOgers.”
Pointing out fungi.
Mossy falls early in the hike to Sol Duc Falls.
Sol Duc Falls.
I took this right after realizing the approaching family was…the Martineaus! I was so happy they caught up with us.
Bentley looking at the waterfall.
At the waterfall.
More pictures of the Falls.
Then on our way back to the cabin, we saw a black bear by the side of the road!
After that excitement, we ended up by relaxing in Sol Duc Hot Springs. The kids loved playing in them, and the adults enjoyed the rest. I didn’t take any pictures because I feared my phone would get soaked.
Then we went back to our cabin. I headed to the lodge and ordered some food for Abe and me while he fed the kids Trader Joe’s corn dogs that we had brought from home, bathed the kids, and cleaned the entire cabin. I came back with delicious chowder for Abe and me and discovered a sparkling clean cabin, clean and tired kids, and my amazing husband. It was a great day.
I had been terrified that Ammon would not go to sleep in the same room with us because the last time we tried that, he screamed all night. However, he thrilled us all by compliantly falling asleep and sleeping all the night through–every single night of the trip!! What a star.
Yesterday afternoon we left for our West Coast trip. We first stopped in Boise to stay with our dear friends, the Martineaus. They are caravaning with us for the first part of our trip. We pulled up to their gorgeous home late last night and had a very refreshing (albeit extremely short) sleep before hitting the road together this morning.
Abe took this picture en route to Boise. Lydia is very appreciative of nature and loved watching the last lights sink below the horizon.
Because we all got up at 5:30 am, we arrived in Seattle in time to see a lot. We started at Pike’s Place Market which Abe has always wanted to see in person.
The kids have known each other almost since babyhood, but they haven’t seen each other in a couple years. They reconnected right away and had the best time together.
Watching street performers in Pike Place.
After Pike Place, we headed to the Seattle Center Playground, fountain, and Chihuly Garden.
Candace is so playful (the most playful mom I have ever met) and suggested that the girls polish the rock with their bums.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
After the gardens, we spent some time trying to figure out where to eat dinner with six kids age six and younger. We finally settled on a Thai restaurant close to the city center. There was a fountain in front where the kids raced around while the food was prepared.
After such a big day, we loaded everyone into the car and drove to our AirBnB in Bellevue. The kids fell asleep in five minutes, and hopefully they will sleep straight through until morning!