Meeting the Pacific Ocean

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

I grew up on the east coast of the United States. I’ve lived my entire life along it. For decades the furthest west I’d even been was to New Orleans – which is to say, not west at all. The past few years I’ve traveled westward. We spent some months in Phoenix. I had a weekend in San Francisco. Even had a stop-over in Salt Lake City. But I had never spent any real time along the west coast.

It is a place that has held my dreams for years and I have so looked forward to being here. My father always told me not to get my hopes up because it leads to disappointment. But in this one instance, I am going to have to disregard that advice. We are here in Vancouver, minutes north of Portland, Oregon, and it hasn’t disappointed – not in the least.

We’ve been here exactly one week and already we’ve had the best adventures. We found a landscape that was so mesmerizing the boys thought it was from a video game. We hiked to the lower and upper falls of a waterfall along the Columbia River Gorge. And yesterday we drove to meet the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

My big boys didn’t exactly understand my excitement with the day. They said that my fascination with nature had officially gone too far and that it was “just a big body of water.” I couldn’t help it, though. To spend your whole life on one coast of the country to then find yourself all the way on the other side of this massive land mass was a pretty big deal to me. And, oh my, it was a brilliant first impression.

When doing a quick Google search of the Oregon coast you’ll find rocky beaches, fog-ladened forests, turbulent coastlines, cliffs, surfers, tide pools, and trees so large and massive they command respect. I actually felt a bit of pressure – self-inflicted –  not knowing precisely where to go to see it all while not being overrun with tourists. A hard task this popular time of year, I found.

Fortunately, the weather was on my side and hiking isn’t something that the masses tend to spend their time doing while exploring a coast. When driving west from Portland on US-26 there was a steady stream of cars heading east. I got slightly giddy thinking of everyone leaving the coast before we got there. The weather was dreary – a bit blustery – which deterred most people but was exactly what I was looking for.

We drove straight to Ecola State Park, north of the picturesque Cannon Beach, to start our day with a hike. The reviews of the hike were excellent so I had high hopes. My first view view of the ocean was from the parking lot. That in itself was exciting for me, but the trail held so many more wonders that I soon replaced that initial view with some real stunners.

We spent six hours hiking and walking along the beach. It London-misted (drizzled), was foggy, was windy, and even cleared up long enough for me to sunburn. It was like the coast was putting on a weather-show for me so I could see it all in one day. Everything was so perfect at the park that I scrapped the rest of the plans for the day and enjoyed every minute right where we were.

I can’t post all the photos from the day, but here are a few. None of the photos have been editing in any way – this is exactly how the camera captured it.

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These two are from the same general spot but under different weather. The contrast is amazing.

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Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point Utah

Do you ever find yourself in a place where you know you could spend many days of your life visiting? We stumbled, literally, into such a place during our travels in Salt Lake City recently.

After visiting two exhausting museums at Thanksgiving Point (the first was a science museum that wasn’t too keen on acknowledging the science and the other was a playhouse disguised as a children’s museum), south of Salt Lake City in Utah, we found ourselves in the majestic Ashton Gardens. I’ll probably never be sure if the peace that I found in the gardens was a result of the long and mentally and physically exhausting hours we spent at the museums previously, or if the gardens themselves just exude an innate peacefulness. Regardless, all I wanted to do when we walked into the gardens was take off my shoes, lay down in the grass, and read a book. Pure bliss.

My big guys weren’t feeling it the way I was, though. Aside from their frustration at the pseudo-science museum topped with the extreme chaos of the children’s museum, strolling through gardens was going to take all the patience and tolerance for their mother that they could muster. Needless to day, only one of them successfully managed the rest of the day. The other was shooting darts at me from their eyeballs. My decided obliviousness probably didn’t help matters.

The garden itself was amazing. Every section of the garden is designed in a different style. There was an Italian Garden, a Fragrance Garden, Rose Garden, and a Secret Garden, just to name a few. There are 15 themed gardens in total and each was just as fantastic as the others. I fell in love with the carousel, Italian Garden and the Fragrance Garden. For those of you that know me personally, the fact that I enjoyed the Fragrance Garden will come as a huge surprise since I typically detest the smell of flowers.

Here are a few of the photos from the day.

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Charming area on one of the paths near the beginning of the garden.
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Waterfalls. Behind us they have a grass amphitheater.
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The upper level of the Italian Garden.
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The Italian Garden from a distance. They have weddings on the lawn here.
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The Fragrance Garden
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Inside the Secret Garden. There were fountains in here, as well.
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We walked for a bit with our toes in the grass.
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Little relaxing in the grass contemplating life (lol) after a few hours exploring the gardens.
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This whimsical beauty was such a surprise.
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Close-up of the horses and their flowers in the carousel.
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The Rose Garden
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The Rose Garden

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Electronics and Traveling with Teens

A few years ago we were living in a small two-bedroom near downtown of a little city on the coast. We had just one laptop and one tablet to share between the four of us. No gaming systems, no television, and no car, for that matter. Ah… the good ol’ days. Right?

Wrong, at least where my boys were concerned. Fast forward a few years and now we have two Xbox systems, four controllers, a chat headset, a number of games, a Wii system with all the accessories, five traditional laptops, three iPhones, two Nooks, one gaming laptop, and a television in every room. Seriously!

I could live with my work laptop, my phone, and my Nook. Everything else is an extra as far as I am concerned. When planning to pack for our current trip it came up in one of our discussions that we HAD to bring one of the Xbox systems, which included all the “necessary” paraphernalia that goes along with it. I was still trying to work out all the trip details and jazz the kids up for such a long trip, so I was feeling rather accommodating. I thought it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to allow it. There were going to be days that we had to stay in the house so I could work, so why not allow them to bring their electronics that made them happy?

When all was said and done, we ended up bringing along my work laptop, both Nooks, all three iPhones, two laptops plus the gaming one, and the Xbox with games and three controllers. I mentioned this to an older dear friend and he couldn’t imagine being able to bring along so many electronics when on a family road trip. It made me take pause to really consider the necessity* of all these electronics. *Necessity is the boys’ word for it, I would have chosen desire.

But after giving it some thought I came to the decision that while I don’t care for all of this stuff myself and would rather be out exploring or immersed in a good book, the electronics important to my boys right now. And when you’re traveling a lot and have the ability to carry things from home that make the kids happy and more comfortable, I think you should do it. Had we been traveling out of our home country or by plane, obviously we wouldn’t have been able to bring all this along, but for this trip, I compromised with them.  I personally don’t see the need to be attached – as I like to say when I’m annoyed about it -to all the screens, but I do understand that this is simply a way of life for this generation. I try to keep a balance, but some days the screens win out. But really, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I’m on my phone, my computer, and my Nook all the time. Even though I’m working or reading, I am still technically on a screen. So even though I sometimes think that they’re wasting their lives away on their screens, I realize that the screens are their access to the world outside their inner circle. For homeschool kids, that access is incredibly important.

What are your thoughts on traveling with electronics? What do you bring along, especially for teens?

Stepping Back in Time in Salt Lake City

We visit a lot of museums. Typically they are the first places that we explore whenever we’re at a new location. While I am of the opinion that exposure to things ignites curiosity – which is important for us since we homeschool, there is a point when it can become a bit mundane. I think that we have reached that point.

Aside from our hiking, a majority of places we’ve visited here in Utah have been museums, or the like. A number of the museums were included in our Connect Pass, so my budget-conscious self had us visiting practically every museum in the area. Unfortunately due to our “extreme-museuming”, we have now officially overdosed and will have to limit exposure for the remainder of this trip. Sorry, Washington, Oregon, and California – we just don’t have it in us right now.

However, there were a few gems hidden here in Salt Lake City. The Natural History Museum of Utah, located near the University of Utah, was astonishing. Both the architecture and the exhibits were gorgeous. As you can imagine, we’ve visited our fair share of science and history museums. This one is by far the best we’ve seen, even surpassing the Smithsonian ones in Washington D.C.

Starting with the location, the building was exquisitely designed to fit-in seamlessly with the landscape.

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Then as you walk up the stairs to begin exploring the exhibits, you are met with a three-story display wall.

Display wall - NHMUIMG_6151 Take a right into the Past Worlds exhibit and you’re immediately immersed in a museum that was so well-thought and designed your breath is taken away.

Once you enter the Past World exhibit, this is what you see when you look up.
Once you enter the Past World exhibit, this is what you see when you look up.

Unlike traditionally designed museums where your focus is meant to be directly in front of you as you walk from exhibit to exhibit, the NHMU is laid out so that you can glimpse various exhibits from one location.

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As you wander, the natural flow of the building makes it so you’re simply strolling along as you view everything. No in and out of different rooms. No backtracking or overlapping. Was brilliant. The views from the third level weren’t bad either.

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Aside from the architecture and design, the most unexpected feature of the museum was the Paleontology Preparation Lab.

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To be able to see professionals working in their field right there in the museum was amazing. I could have watched the scientists for hours – not that I’m sure they would have appreciated that.

The day was complete with a trip to the Sky terrace to take in the view of the area

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and exploring Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code, the special exhibit featured at the time.

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Have you been? Did you think it was as well-designed as we did?

Great Salt Lake

This was by far the best of our adventures to date. I scored a repeated “This is dope!!,” from Aiden, a “Mom, this is completely awesome.,” from Little and “Very cool, we’ll have to come back again.,” and “I’m going to parkour those rocks.,” from Drix. The temperature was mid 70s, there was an excellent breeze most of the day. We picnicked on some rocks at the top after a few hours of exploring and hiking. We didn’t see another human for hours, not until we made the climb up a number of red boulders to get to the highest point of the mountain. Turns out there was a parking area halfway up the other side of the mountain – which we didn’t see – so all other visitors just had a small walk to the top. Next time we’ll park there, because really, hiking up a mountain isn’t that fun; It’s getting to the top that is the best part.

All and all, a perfect day.

The park is known for its free roaming buffalo, bison, and antelope. We only saw one buffalo on the way in, but we didn’t explore too much of the island. There was a lot of scat on the mountain so we know that they frequent the area, just not when we were there. Still a very cool thing to be able to see such rare animals roaming freely.

 

View from halfway up. Facing a northernly direction.
Snakeskin found on the way up. Not making me feel to comfortable hiking off trail where rattlesnakes are known to be. Luckily, I didn’t see any. Little and Aiden heard or saw some at a few points.
Hiking up – Aiden and Little
Drix taking in the view. We crossed paths with a trail about halfway up. Needless to say, the boys didn’t want to spend too much time on the trail. They were going rogue. This is facing an easterly direction.
They ran up the mountain, which I had ZERO interest in doing.
Little was so happy he was able to make it up all the rocks and to keep up with his big brothers. They kept telling him, “Now you are a proper Ireland.” Who knew that you must be able to rock climb to be a “proper” member of our family?
Another view from the top of the western ridge. There were a few large rock structures to climb. I typically hung back so I could give them time to get to the top and so I could snap the photos.
We were at about 5000′ at this point. The temperature and the breeze were absolute perfection.
Stopping to wait for Little to make his way there. I just love to see the two of them together. This is facing south.
The two of them taking in the view and relaxing. It was so peaceful here. We spent a good 30 minutes here.
The two of them taking in the view and relaxing. It was so peaceful here. We spent a good 30 minutes here.
Aiden is off ahead on his own. I took the rocks along the ridge myself. The grass was a bit tall and had some splinter-like things that kept stabbing us. Plus, I thought I had a better chance of seeing any snakes sunning on the rocks than if I were stay in the grass.
Aiden is off ahead on his own heading toward the western tip. I took the rocks along the ridge myself. The grass was a bit tall and had some splinter-like things that kept stabbing us. Plus, I thought I had a better chance of seeing any snakes sunning on the rocks than if I were stay in the grass.
Again, just the two of them as they wait for Little to make the climb. They were great sports – giving Little direction as he made his way to the top.
And there are all three. I didn’t climb this one. Apparently, it was a bit narrow and steep up there.
Was giddy with excitement when I saw the moon was out and [conveniently] directly in the center of two rock structures. This was the last stretch on the way to the very top. We had to climb these large boulders for 400′ to get to the top.
Another rock view. Were were trying to make our way to the tip of the mountain, the goal was to hike the ridge line tip to tip. Unfortunately, it was anti-climatic as it was a gradient drop to the edge rather than being a cliff-edge like they were hoping.
View from the very top – at the end of the day. This is facing north and you can see our car parked in the direct center of the photo to give you some perspective on how high we were. We walked down the mountain from here. Our knees were killing us by the time we made it down.