Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Day in Tacoma

My brother, Kody, my sister-in-law, Emily, and my two nieces live in Tacoma. It's less than a two hour drive, and Avery and I like to pop up there a lot for little visits when we're tired of being at home. It doesn't happen as much during the school year, but during the summer Avery is always begging to make the trip to see her cousins. Last week we went up for a couple of nights, and one full day. It was pretty warm, so we took the girls to the SERA waterpark (where Subway was giving out free lunches), ran some errands, read some books, grilled some dinner, then hung out for the evening at Pacific Lutheran University just down the street, playing basketball, volleyball and riding bikes (and trikes and scooters). It ended with sleepy kiddos, and Emily introducing me to Pitch Perfect (I picked up the soundtrack for Avery and she's been obsessed, although she was bummed that I wouldn't let her watch it). It was a pretty great day.

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Oh, and one more from our trip to Target, because these girls are the cutest.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Central Oregon: Crater Lake and Smith Rock

Erik and I realized that our trip to LaPine State Park was actually more like a tour of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. We didn't know that was a thing until we ran into a tourist bus full of Texans on our way down to Crater Lake who were on an actual tour of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. We live in an unbelievably beautiful part of the country, but I don't really think of Oregon and Washington as being tourist destinations. However, the 7 Wonders are pretty incredible and we were lucky to see three of them alone on our vacation. (If you to know about these 7 destinations, you can see them here.)

We knew heading down to Central Oregon that we wanted to visit Crater Lake. We'd never been, and although I wouldn't exactly say it's located in Central Oregon (since it's nearly to California), it was only an hour and a half from our campground. It's a really beautiful drive, very remote, and surrounded by mountain peaks and beautiful forests. I loved driving into the park because at no point could we see the lake so the anticipation was pretty high. We finally arrived at a lookout where we could park, but we still couldn't see the lake, so we walked up the path and there it was, larger than life, looking like something out of a painting. The water is so intensely blue that you wonder if it could possibly be real, and it's unbelievably still and quiet. It's breathtakingly beautiful.

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We decided to do the Rim Drive after reading about it beforehand. Depending on how many stops you make and how many sights you see, this can take up to 3 or 4 hours. But you get to drive around the entire crater, and see the lake from so many points of view, that it's totally worth it. There are also little trails and landmarks along the way, so you're definitely not in your car for that long. It's important to note that depending on the direction you drive you will either be on the inside of the road, or on the cliff side...we accidentally did the latter, which make for some harrowing turns. 

Avery also did the Jr. Ranger program at the Visitor's Center, and earned her 4th Jr. Ranger patch. Avery loves the program and it really keeps her involved in the parks we're visiting. You have to attend a Ranger-led activity to get the actual embroidered patch, and luckily we were at the Visitor's Center just in time for Avery to attend a class about the lake. And she was pretty proud to get another patch for her collection.

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We visited the lodge, which was celebrating it's 100th anniversary. I didn't take many pictures of the interior because there were so many people that you couldn't really see the details of the furniture or the architecture, but I did get a couple snaps of the carpets (THOSE CARPETS!) and the deck (are you kidding me with that view?).

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Then we headed off of the majority of the Rim Drive. We stopped at the Phantom Ship and hiked the trail to the lookout. Avery was disgruntled about this because there had already been so, so, SO much walking, and she was tired. And the "Phantom Ship" wasn't exactly impressive to a grumpy seven-year-old. So she stormed back to the car after realizing it was some jagged rocks (which I already knew, but I kind of made it sound more like a phantom pirate ship floating in the lake...oops). We also stopped at Vidae Falls, and the Pumice Castle (I also may have talked this one up a bit too much as well, since Avery was pretty disappointed with this "beautiful stone castle").

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Despite her disappointment in the geological features around the lake, and her inability to swim in the water, Avery loved Crater Lake. She didn't want to leave and she's already asked us when we can go back. I've been asking myself the same thing.

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The next day was our last full day, so we decided to head into Bend for a good breakfast before hiking Smith Rock. Crater Lake was unbelievable, but for some reason Smith Rock was my favorite out of all the places we visited. Another of Oregon's 7 Wonders, it kind of looks like a large rock in the middle of a field until you're right on the edge of the rocks where a canyon opens up to a river below. There were rock climbers to watch, caves to explore, and great trails to hike. We hiked about 3 miles with Avery, just going up and back on some of the easier trails, but Erik and I are determined to go back and do the entire Misery Ridge hike, which is about 4 miles.

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After Smith Rock we got a little snack at Deschutes Brewery, then Avery and I headed to a little bookshop while Erik went to the Deschutes Tasting Room. Avery loved the bookshop, she didn't want to go anywhere else. She found some used Magic Treehouse books, and had a hard time deciding which ones to get when I told her to just pick two. She also found a book for me (which I didn't get, but I found hilarious) called Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Understanding the Crucial Link Between Mothers, Daughters and Health. Then we headed down to the river to read, and waited for the Thursday night concert to open. They had a kid's area, booths for shopping, food, and all kinds of other goodies. Avery got a turtle bracelet and I got a spoon ring, both from local artists. We listened to a little music, then headed back to our favorite restaurant: Sunriver Brewing Company (we have a thing for local breweries). We got back to the campground in time for s'mores and some much needed sleep...

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Look at this kid...it's an honor to travel with her and to take her on these adventures with us. There are so many memories to be made in our new trailer and with each other.

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 We are very lucky indeed.