Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lions and Tigers and Bears…..and Dinosaurs???

Monday we woke up to a cloudy Oregon morning.  Rain was in the forecast, but it wasn’t showing itself yet.

We drove up to Winston to visit a drive-thru safari.  And right off the bat, we hit a road block.

Wildlife Safari - Winston, Oregon 

This darn bird camped out in front of our car for close to five minutes blocking our way to the lions.

The kids had a blast looking at the animals and especially loved it when they came up close to the car.

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After making our way through the safari and stopping for lunch at the creepiest restaurant I’ve ever been to, we set our sights west on the Oregon coast.

The weather was a mix of drizzly mess and outright rain, but that didn’t stop our fun.

Prehistoric Gardens off of Hwy 101 is the perfect spot for a road trip stop.  It is a walk through an Oregon rainforest complete with life size dinosaurs!

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The biggest hit of the park though?  The umbrellas that were loaned out to visitors!

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I’m thinking that umbrellas might just be going on a few Christmas lists!

 

Did you miss any of our vacation posts?  You can catch up here:
Turtle Bay Exploration Park – Redding, CA
Lassen Volcanic National Park & Drakesbad Guest Ranch
Lava Beds National Monuement
Big Trees & Big Wine – Northern California

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lava Beds National Monument

After leaving Drakesbad on Sunday morning, we headed north to Lava Beds National Monument.

Lava Beds National Monument has the largest collection of lava tube caves in North America.  The caves were formed by lava flows 30,000-40,000 years ago.  The flows started cooling and hardening on the bottom, then up the sides, and finally on top – all while hot lava was still flowing through the middle etching out caves. 

After checking out the visitors center, we went to explore our first cave – the only lit cave in the park – Mushpot Cave.

Lava Beds National Monument

Our next cave, Sunshine Cave, had no lights, but did have two spots where the top of the cave collapsed letting sunlight in.  It was pretty neat to see plants growing in a cave!

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Our last cave was Skull Cave.  This cave was HUGE!  Like a submarine could fit in it huge.  Cold air gets trapped in Skull Cave leaving year round patches of ice on the cave floor – accessible by a nice trail and then a bunch of stairs.  Once we got to the bottom of the cave, there was absolutely no light.  Charlotte wanted to try to make it back up the stairs without flashlights, but the rest of us talked her out of that idea!

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Picture taken by a pretty awesome 4 year old photographer!

After all of our cave exploring, it was time to hop back in the car and drive on to our next destination – Oregon.  A stop in Oregon was totally unplanned, but that’s what makes road trips so great!

 

Did you miss any of our vacation posts?  You can catch up here:
Turtle Bay Exploration Park – Redding, CA
Lassen Volcanic National Park & Drakesbad Guest Ranch
Wildlife Safari – Winston, OR & Prehistoric Gardens – Port Orford, OR
Big Trees & Big Wine – Northern California

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lassen Volcanic National Park and Drakesbad Guest Ranch

Friday morning we got up and drove to Drakesbad Guest Ranch – our home for the next two nights.  Drakesbad is located on the park grounds for Lassen Volcanic National Park.

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We ate lunch at the ranch dining hall (three meals a day included in room price), and then checked in to our cabin.  Two days of no electricity.  Our room was lit with a kerosene lamp and a battery powered lantern.  There was no cell service and no wifi.  Showers were out at the pool.  Our room had a toilet, sink, a double bed, a twin bed, and a rollaway.  And we survived!

Although the ranch doesn’t have electricity, the dining hall, kitchen, and lodge run off of generator power.  And boy do they cook up some nice meals with generator power.  We had prime rib, salmon, soups, pancakes, omelets, and more…

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The pool is heated by hot springs.  The kids loved swimming in it each night.  There was also a bonfire each night with s’mores. 

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After checking into our cabin on Friday, we scanned our room booklet and found an east hike to Devil’s Kitchen – a hydrothermal area with steam vents.  The guide said that it was 1 1/2 miles each way.  We had done 3 miles with the kids before, so we figured this would be a good hike.

Needless to say, it was actually closer to 4 1/2 to 5 miles.  And we forgot the piggyback rider in the car.  Trenton walked the whole way, but Charlotte wanted to be carried about half the time.

The hike was worth it though.  We started out by crossing a meadow/wetland area.

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This meadow had some boardwalks through wetland areas.  And apparently garter snakes like to hang out under the boardwalks because we saw two of them!

Next we came into the forest.

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We finally made it to Devil’s Kitchen.  And wow, it was pretty amazing!  Hot steam coming out of all kinds of pockets and even some bubbling muddy water.  It was pretty stinky though.  If you want the full effect while looking at these next pictures, go grab a rotten egg and put it under your nose.

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Trenton, who has been interested in volcanoes for over a year, had his own idea about the steam vents and bubbling mud.  He said that when the volcano last erupted (May 22, 1915) that all of the magma didn’t make it out of the volcano, and that there is still a lot left waiting to erupt.  He thinks that the volcano is going to erupt again soon.  We’ll see if he’s right.

Saturday we made our way to the main park entrance and visitor center. 

Driving the 29-mile main park road was the most amazing drive I’ve ever been on.

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Parts of the drive did raise my blood pressure though.

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Does the National Park Service not have a budget for guard rails?  And this wasn’t even the steepest of the drop offs. 

Mount Lassen gets the highest amount of snowfall in California.  And there are always at least a few patches on the ground year round.  So when we came upon a good big patch of snow at a picnic area on the side of the road, you can bet that we got out to stomp around in it!

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I’m pretty sure that it was Jarrod’s first ever time to play in the snow on his birthday.

Yep, that’s right – Saturday was this handsome fella’s 33rd birthday.

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We drove a little farther down the road, and decided to hop out to hike down to Kings Creek Falls.

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After forgetting the piggyback rider the previous day, we didn’t make the same mistake again.

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We did, however, forget the insect repellent.  Not that we’ve ever even needed bug spray since moving to California, so it didn’t even dawn on us that we should put some on before hiking along a creek bank.

Needless to say, this is how any pictures that we tried to stop and take with the kids turned out.

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 This was probably the fastest we’ve ever done a two mile hike with kids in tow.  Jarrod and the kids were up ahead of me a little ways when I decided to stop on a rock outcrop and look back over the valley and creek below to snap a few more pictures.

To my surprise, this is what I saw.

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A little bear family!

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I called Jarrod and the kids back, and we sat on the rocks, along with another couple that was passing by, for about 10 minutes watching the bears.  The couple that was sitting with us said that a park ranger told them that there had been grizzly sightings earlier that morning, so we assumed these were grizzlies.  Now I’m not sure if they were grizzlies or brown bears, but either way, it was pretty cool to spot them!

After the hike, we drove the remainder of the main park road.  The back side of the volcano was where the 1915 eruption occurred, and seeing the how different that side of the park looked was really neat.  But, I was starting to get a little car sick by that point, and I didn’t get any pictures.

It was then back to the guest ranch for dinner, swimming, and more s’mores.

The kids were definitely sad when we had to leave on Sunday morning (Mommy & Daddy were sad too).  Trenton keeps asking when we can go “cabin camping” again.  If we ever happened to get stationed on the west coast again, we may be going back!

 

Did you miss any of our vacation posts?  You can catch up here:
Turtle Bay Exploration Park – Redding, CA
Lava Beds National Monuement
Wildlife Safari – Winston, OR & Prehistoric Gardens – Port Orford, OR
Big Trees & Big Wine – Northern California