Thursday, May 17, 2018

Family Road Trip West

I briefly mentioned our 17 day family road trip we took last summer. Before summer hits us again, I should document this vacation and the fun things that we did. Maybe there will be a few places that others will want to travel to also.

We drove our Maxda CX-9 with our Aliner travel camper. We had two bikes on top of the car and two bikes behind the camper. We loaded our tablet with audio books, packed snacks and drinks, and took off. I am a planner, so I had a handy binder of our itinerary along with reservations and printed out google maps (just in case). I also put plastic sleeves in the binder for us to store brochures and postcards we picked up along the way. We bought postcards at all the places we could and the kids wrote on them and we stuck them in their "baby books."

Day 1: We drove to Chama, NM. It was a day of driving.

Day 2: We rode the coal-fired steam train on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway. It's a 64-mile train ride through some pretty scenery. The train even made a stop for lunch (which was okay). We rode the train from Chama, NM to Antonito, CO. Then we took a charter bus back to Chama.

Day 3: We left our dog (Ranger) with the grandparents and headed off for another new desination. We drove through Pagosa Springs and stopped in Durango for lunch. Those are some favorite places to visit. We headed over the pass toward Silverton (we make an annual trip there in late summer) and then took the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray. I let Biker Boy drive the trailer on the Million Dollar Highway, whew! We made a pit stop at a grocery store in Montrose, CO and then ended at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. You can reserve campsites there, but there is also a section of first come, first serve. We risked it and were able to find a spot. We hiked the Rim Rock Nature Trail, the kids biked around the campsite, and we enjoyed supper before hitting the beds.

Day 4: While most people drive the scenic South Rim Road at the National Park, we opted to bike it. We biked the entire road (7 miles one-way, 14 round trip) and stopped at every lookout. We started early in the morning, we were fortunate to not have to deal with lots of cars and crowds. We had a great time and the views are indescribable. We all loved it and deemed it one of our favorite National Parks (and we've been to the Grand Canyon, for comparison sake). We stopped for lunch at the Visitor Center (we had packed lunches) and then biked back to the campground. We then loaded in the car and drove down the East Portal to the river. We highly recommend this National Park.

Day 5: We drove to Wasatch Mountain State Park in Utah. The boys went on a mountain bike ride near the state park, while Chewy and I biked through the different campgrounds. The campground we stayed in for the night was lovely. It had beautiful views and wonderful showers!

Day 6: We started the day early with a mountain bike ride at the Dutch Hollow Trails. The boys went for the harder trails, while the girls went for the easier trails. We met up for a little bit. It was a fun ride and got us moving before another day in the car. We stopped in Park City, Utah, for a little bit. We didn't have time to do any biking there, but it looked like a nice place. We drove and drove and drove. We took a detour to see Shoshone Falls, which are near Twin Falls, ID. I had wanted to get across the border to Oregon, but we didn't make it that far. We ended up finding an RV resort in Caldwell, Idaho to stay the night. The one good thing about that place was they had washing machines and it was air-conditioned in the laundry room. It was entirely too hot in southern Idaho!

Day 7: We got up in the morning to ducks! A mama duck and her babies wandered around while we ate our breakfast at the picnic table. We made a Wal-Mart run for groceries and supplies while on the drive. We entered Oregon! At gas stations in Oregon an attendant has to pump the gas for you. That was a little strange to us, but nice. We arrived at our campsite that we had made reservations at. It was Toll Bridge County Park near Hood River, Oregon. We took a hike to Tamanawas Falls. The funny thing is that the map at the park said it was a 1 mile hike, the map at the trailhead said 2 miles, but by the time we were done our GPS said 5 miles. It was a lovely hike and we climbed up the wet and slippery rocks to stand behind the waterfall. We weren't the only ones hiking it that day! And the kids enjoyed the playground near the campground before we settled in for the night.

Day 8: This day induced the most nervousness and anxiety (especially in Chewy, and okay me..because I'm a mom and worry about the safety of my kids). But really, we had nothing to worry about and this day turned out to be a favorite. Biker Boy had made reservations before we left with River Drifters for us to raft the White Salmon River (class 3 and 4 rapids). We had a raft all to ourselves with an awesome guide. He took great care of us. There was no times for nerves because once you're in the raft, you're hitting the rapids. It starts you off fast! The boys sat in front and the girls sat in the middle, while the guide had the back. We all had paddles, but Chewy didn't always paddle because she wanted to hang on tight. We bought the photo package when we were done and we were so happy we did. There were some amazing shots of us going over the rapids. It was a rush! Both kids couldn't stop talking about it when we were done. When the water was a little calmer, they each took a turn riding the bullhorn (the very front, with feet hanging over the edge). We had a picnic lunch at the raft building and then picked up some berries and ice cream from one of the many fruit farms on the drive back to the campground. We hiked at Mt. Hood in the afternoon to Umbrella Falls and Sahalie Falls. It was about 5 miles. Everyone was tired by the evening!

Day 9: We headed out to Lost Lake early in the morning. Knowing it was a weekend and the place would get busy, we wanted to get there early. And that was a good idea, because by the time we left the parking lots were crazy full. And the lake was packed! Chewy and I were the first to try out our new inflatable kayak. There was hardly anyone on the lake and it was peaceful. We paddled back in and handed the kayak off to the boys. They promptly sank. Somehow the drain plug had come unplugged and was letting water into the boat! They fixed it and got back out there while Chewy and I bought our souveniour postcards in the giftshop. When the boys got back, Chewy went out with her Daddy in the boat and swam back after him. After the kids had a small swim, we hiked around the entire lake. We picked up some icecream in the gift shop and headed out. We stopped at a small farm and bought freshly picked cherries for $1 a pound! They were delicious.

Day 10: We left the Mt. Hood area and campground and headed to our next destination. Silver Falls State Park. We parked at a trail head and biked the CataMount mountain bike trails. Chewy and I did one loop, while the boys did two. The campground was busy, but we knew it would be. Basically, the whole itinerary of our trip was based on the 2 nights we were able to book here. And I booked them nearly 3 months in advance. After setting up camp and eating supper we took a walk to a creek. Then we went to bed to get ready for another big day.

Day 11: We let the kids sleep in a bit and then drove to the South Falls trail head to do the Trail of Ten Falls. This was high on the kids' list of things to do, they saw it in "National Geographic Ultimate US Road Trip Atlas". We hit quite a few things in that atlas! We went to each and every fall. Every. Fall. That's a total of 11 miles of hiking. I did end up having to carry a child on my back for a bit at the end due to sore feet. Yes, the map says 8 miles, but that doesn't include all the out and backs to the various falls. We went up to each and every fall. We packed a picnic lunch and had it near one of the falls. We also got stopped by a ranger at one point because there was a medical emergency on the trail and a 4 wheeler had to go back to get someone, and we had to wait for it to pass and come back. It was a very beautiful hike! After that long hike, Biker Boy went out to mountain bike some trails while the kids and I rested at the trailer. We did get out for a bike ride together on paved trails when he came back.

Day 12: We drove along the coast of Oregon to our next stop which was South Beach State Park. We had to get one night of beach in. It would have been nice to have more days at the beach, but our schedule didn't allow for it and most of the places were booked up. This one fit in nicely with our travel. We arrived before check-in and decided to check out the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which was very close to the state park. We had lunch at the cafe. Some little boy wandered in and tried to steal Biker Boy's french fries, he only managed to swipe the lemon from my fish and chips, and of course the results were hilarious. (He spit it out on the floor and ran away!) I find it ironic to eat fish and chips in an aquarium. After enjoying the aquarium we checked into the state park and found our campsite. We immediately put on suits and walked down the boardwalk to the beach. The tide was out and there were some great tide pools to play in. There were fish and all sorts of living creatures in them. The kids had fun running from the waves and playing on the big sandbar. We even took a walk on the beach down to the jetty and saw some very large crabs. We had supper at our camper and decided to go back to the beach for the sunset. We were all in our clothes, but that didn't stop the kids from running from the waves. Eventually they were soaking wet and played in the freezing cold water. I was jumping for joy because out in the distance I saw the water spouts of whales. I saw at least one large whale on its own and a separate pod of at least three. I'm guessing the single was a gray whale and the pod was orcas, but I don't know for sure because they were so far away. We then walked back with two freezing cold children and put them in hot showers. We didn't quite get to see the sunset because we wanted to get the kids warmed up. I will say the downfall of that campground is that a foghorn sounds every 20 seconds. It's amazingly loud when you're trying to sleep. But it was worth it for the day of fun that we had.

Day 13: We walked on the beach in the morning (and forbid the kids from getting wet). It was hard for them to resist (they are desert children), but they managed. We took the scenic route (Highway 101) and had to stop many times for road construction. That road is literally falling into the ocean in places. We made it to Crater Lake National Park. I had reservations at the campground and don't even get me started on the trouble I had there. It was ridiculous, it was the mostly poorly planned camping place on the trip. Even though we had reservations, they told us to drive around and find a red camp spot. We drove around each circle twice! All the spots were taken, even though one was supposed to be for us. I finally flagged someone down and told them I was taking a yellow spot, which they said was fine. I had to walk back up to the front to say what spot we were in (to only be told the next day to move to a red spot and I refused. I wasn't going to tear down the camper and move when they didn't have the spot I reserved on the first day and the spot we were in wasn't that nice.) Though, we were able to do laundry...along with all the smelly Pacific Crest Hikers. Seriously, I think that hike must be a highway with all the hikers that were refueling and doing laundry. Fist pumps to them! Oh, and my finger got slammed in the trailer door, so it wasn't a peachy day for me.

Day 14: We got up early to get a start on the day and beat the crowds. (Highly recommended, Crater Lake is insane with crowds!). We first hiked Sun Notch and got our first view of the lake. The East Rim Rd was closed after that point, so we turned around and went to the first visitor center where we bought our postcards.We went up to the second visitor center and enjoyed a picnic lunch. We got on the trail that heads to Garfield Peak. There was a sign before some snow that said the trail was closed, but a ranger told us we could continue past the sign. We went through some snow fields until we didn't think it was safe for us to go any further without snow gear. We didn't want to fall to our deaths. We did slide around in snow where it was safe. There were a few people on that hike, but not too many. When we first arrived at the second visitor center we had no problem finding a parking spot, by the time we got back to our car after the second hike, it was crazy! We even witnessed some parking rage where a lady ran and stood in a spot to save it after someone left and another person threatened to run her over if she didn't get out of it because they wanted to park there. It was not the most enjoyable experience being at the visitor centers, we don't really like crowded areas. We then drove the West Rim (and waited in line for construction...again crazy people driving on the wrong side of the road thinking they can just go past all of us who are waiting our turn for the single lane road!). We drove to Cleetwood Cove Trail and finally found a parking spot on the side of the road far away from the trail. Not a problem for us because we walk a lot. We hiked down to the lake. At the lake we climbed on some rocks and removed our shoes and socks and stuck our feet in the lake. This is the only place in the lake that swimming is allowed. We then got on a 2 hour boat tour of the lake. After the boat ride you have to hike up a 700ft trail (it's fairly steep). Our kids were fast and passing everyone hunched over breathing hard. You can tell they're mountain children who live at 6700ft and bike up mountains. That night (actually the next morning) Biker Boy woke us up at 3am because you could see the Milky Way. It was beautiful!

Day 15: We drove to the Redwoods National and State Parks. This was another must on our list, even though we didn't have much time left for it. We drove the Avenue of the Giants and stopped at the visitor center. We did two hikes from there. Those trees are amazing and I cannot put into words how immense they are. I could never imagine that a tree could be that big! We drove to and then hiked the Founder's Grove before setting off to find our campsite. We had reservations at the Albee Campground. If we had known how long and awful the drive was going to be to that campground with a trailer, we would never have booked it. The road was awful and we had to go really slowly as to not break the trailer off the hitch! But once we got there, we wished we could have stayed more days there. We had the most beautiful campsite surrounded by huge trees. We even had a stump of a redwood with a little door into it, so it was like a fort. We did a hike from the campground and the kids luckily avoided getting into some poison oak!

Day 16: We got up early to head off for a long day of driving (and the long drive out of the campground). At one point on Highway 101 we had to wait 30 minutes while they were stabilizing a hill that had slid down on to the highway. Fun times. We also got to experience the traffic near San Francisco. It makes us appreciate the light rush hours near our home. We traveled from 7am until 11pm, with stops for meals and bathroom breaks. We were going to stop earlier, but thought it would get cooler as we went on. Not true. It was a blazing 104F when we stopped east of Barstow, CA in the Mojave desert at a rest stop for the night. Yes, we parked at a rest stop to sleep. We had to give the kids that experience once. At least they didn't have to sleep in the car like Biker Boy and I did in our pre-kid days. We popped the camper quick and slept in that. It was so hot! We didn't' sleep well, but it was better than nothing. Thankfully it was about 97F when we went to sleep.

Day 17: Another day of big travel. We stopped in Williams, AZ for lunch and a huge thunderstorm hit. We got to see the hoards of people going to the Grand Canyon (we've done that too). We waited for the storm to subside and then hit the road again. We got home just after 7pm, nearly 12 hours of travel.

Whew! We all agreed we could have kept traveling together for longer, even in our little camper. It was nice to not have to worry about much stuff and to just experience new places together. We hit many of our bucket list places to visit and this road trip was one of our top vacations. We're sure to remember it for a long time.

What are some places you would like to visit?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it. Comments will be moderated eventually. Computer use only occurs when kiddos are asleep or otherwise occupied. Thanks for your patience.


Related Posts with Thumbnails