Olympic National Park

Today we went to Olympic National Park in Northwestern Washington. My Nana Marilee and Great Aunt Kristi went with us, Kristi and her family lives in the nearby city of Poulsbo. We drove up to Hurricane Ridge where we saw a ton of peaks that make up the National Park. I thought it was cool seeing McCartney Peak! My brother and I also had a snowball fight with the few feet of snow that was still there.

Later on we went to the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge. After a short walk to the shore we came to a lookout where we saw the lighthouse almost 6 miles out on the spot. A spit is a long narrow peninsula made up of primarily sand. When we walked out onto the spit we could smell the saltwater and we saw some seals swimming not too far from the shore. There was a ton of driftwood also lining the shore so we played on that also. On our way back to the parking lot we came upon a deer that was standing in the middle of the trail. The deer stared at us for about a minute before it decided to run away. I really liked going to the wildlife refuge and I found out that North Dakota has by far the most national wildlife refuges. (AT)

Evergreen Air & Space Museum

Today we got to go to the Evergreen Air Museum in McMinnville, home of the Spruce Goose. The “Spruce Goose,” also known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules is a massive wooden floatplane from World War Two. It only flew once for about thirty seconds but it’s pilot and designer Howard Hughes kept it in a climate controlled hanger for about 1 million dollars a year. It was large enough to carry 750 soldiers across the Atlantic.

Also in the museum we got to see an A-10 Warthog, A ME-262 jet fighter, and a SR-71 Blackbird. My brother and I got to fly some planes on a full motion simulator. I flew a P-51 mustang and my brother flew a red bull plane. Later, we got to listen to the checklists and radio chatter that precede a Titan missile launch.

Lastly we got to watch a video about a week multinational training exercise at Elgin Air Force Base. It depicted fighter pilots, Air battle managers, A-10 pilots, mechanics, and Pararescuemen. It started out with air to air battles. I really liked seeing how the ABM directed all of the airplanes from the fuselage of his. Then there were A-10s and bombers that took our targets on the ground. Next, there was a downed fighter pilot who had to evade enemy forces who were searching for him. Eventually a team of PJs were able to come in and rescue him. The last day was the culmination of exercise and they all trained with live munitions.

Overall I just had a really good day and I am happy that I visited this air museum. (AT)

Maureen’s edit: I don’t mind going to air museums with the boys, but once I found out we were in the Willamette Wine Valley I was on a day date with Gunner! We checked out Domain Drouhin in Dundee(my ddd!) and Duck Pond and Stoller near McMinville. It was a beautiful afternoon with lots of flowers and beautiful scenery and tasty pinots! (MT)

Redwoods National Park

Today we spent a very small amount of time at the Redwoods National and State Parks. Most of the area around there is a rainforest with a very thick floor. The trees were very tall and thick. Many of the large trees started as one tree on the ground but split into two trees. On the dirt road that we drove down we saw many banana slugs. These yellow slugs were very large and super sticky. We also saw some snails along the roads.

After our short time in California we went to Brookings, Oregon. A forest a few miles east of Brookings was the only place on the US mainland to be bombed by Japan during World War Two. The bombing was meant to start a large forest fire but it was put out a few hours after the bombing. 20 year later the pilot returned to Brookings with a 400 year old samurai sword that he presented to the city. We were able to see that sword in the library. (AT)

Jesse edit: We were led to believe (by a park volunteer) that we could take our tuck and camper to a particular view point. We turned onto the road only to discover no parking lot big enough for the camper. We made the assumption it must be further down the road!!! A couple miles later down a logging road, avoiding some majorly muddy areas and some “fun” maneuvering of the truck and camper finally got us turned around!!! I was a little nervous I was really going to get practice in with my backing skills!! (JGT)

Arches National Park

We went to Arches NP today in Moab, Utah. In the visitor center I learned all about the 2000 arches in this park. Many are unnamed but some have funny names like Donut or Bacon Arch. On our drive through the park we saw a rock formation that looked just like a popsicle. We also saw the famous delicate arch from a distance.

My favorite part of the day was when we got to go climbing on some big rock formations. Our climb was tiered with about 5 small steep bursts. My brother and I really like climbing. When we came home my brother and I set up a tent on the top of a hill and camped there for the night. (AT)

Zion National Park

Today we went to Zion National Park in Utah. It was super packed the whole time we were there. The line to get in was long and so was the line to get on one of the shuttles. Our first hike was to the emerald pools where we saw some pools and little waterfalls.

Next, we saw a ranger who talked to us about how water is passed through the giant rocks. The water takes almost 2000 years to come out. Later on we walked to the Narrows where we saw many people with waders walking down the path.

At the end of our time in Zion when we met the artist in residence and he was fun to talk to. He is this month’s photographer. He gets to stay in the oldest building in the park.

There was a look out in the park called Big Bend that was neat. I had a lot of fun at the park because it was like we got to see two in one:Zion and Big Bend!(AT)


Today we went to Yosemite National Park, one of the first national parks in our nation. As we entered the park we saw spruce, pine, and sequoia trees all around. There were rolling hills all around and some snow scattered on the ground. Our first stop was Bridalveil falls. This giant waterfall was like one long line of water.

By the road we had a great view of El Capitan, one of the well known points in the park. Next, we went to a bridge where we had a great view of the Yosemite Falls where we would hike to later that day. In Yosemite Valley we learned about the park and it’s history. More than 100 years ago naturalist John Muir invited Theodore Roosevelt to the park to inspire him to make it a national park.

We also took a hike to mirror lake and on the way we saw some rangers working. They were cutting down dead trees and when one got cut down it was so big you could feel it hit the ground. Once we got to mirror lake my brother and I got in the chilly water along with our dog, Gunner.

On our way back home we got to see the sights again, from the half-dome to the crystal clear rivers. We also saw a turn off for a helipad. I wonder what they might be doing with that. I suspected they may use it as a base for search and rescue operations.(AT)

Pinnacles NP and the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Today we went to Pinnacles National Park. We went on a hike through tight crevices in a cave with beautiful views. Pinnacles is also home to the California Condor. It is the newest national park, the 57th one. President Obama turned it from a national monument to a national park in 2012.

After that, we drove by all kinds of Dole fields where they were growing lettuce and many other kinds of plants like cauliflower, broccoli, pimentos and grapes. We also drove by a couple of factories where they cut up those plants to turn them into prepackaged salad. I thought that was cool because we don’t really see those types of crops being grown very often. The nickname for this area is the “Salad Bowl of the World”!

After that we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is the second largest aquarium in the United States. The first thing we saw was the kelp forest which looked just like a forest except there were tons of fish swimming around. My favorite part of the aquarium was when we got to touch animals in the touch pool. My favorite touch pool animal was the decorator crab which covered itself in plants for camouflage.

After the aquarium we went on a walk to the Coast Guard Station nearby. They had a large complex that was all fenced in but we got to go on the pier where they had 2 47′ Motor Lifeboats. These are deemed basically unsinkable and they can withstand waves of 20 feet, winds of 85 mph, and they can self-right themselves in less than 10 seconds if they are tipped over. That was pretty cool to see. (AT)

Hearst Castle

Today we ventured up the coast on Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle, a former getaway residence of William Hearst, a newspaper mogul. It was very overcast and rainy which made things seem extra spooky.

The first thing we saw was the giant Neptune pool that was being renovated outside. It was being tiled with a mix of white and blue tiles. We then went into a large sitting room in the main building. The sitting room had priceless sculptures and tapestries from centuries ago. Next, we went to the dining room which had a very long table and Italian horse racing flags to give the room some color. Some of the guests to his lavish parties were Woodrow Wilson, Charles Lindbergh, and FDR.

Later we went to an elephant seal rookery where we saw hundreds of seals. Most were sleeping but some were very active. One made it up the ridge and onto grass very close to us. We saw males roaring and scaring off other males.

We checked out the tiny fishing village of Morro Bay. It was very foggy and overcast, much different the yesterday when my parents visited and it was sunny! We went into a fish market and I bought some Thresher Shark. I ended up pan frying it at home and it was fantastic!

Later tonight we went to a local brewery for trivia where we ended up finishing in the middle. The toughest round for us was one with Irish related action films. Everything else we did great with, it was a good team effort for the game and the day.((AT)

Universal Studios

Today we went to Universal Studios in Universal City. As we were walking in we saw the iconic rotating globe. Once we were in we walked down the red carpet and straight to the Harry Potter part of the theme park. There, we got on a ride that took us through Hogwarts. The ride was a mix of videos that gave us simulated motion and brought us through some of the iconic parts of Harry Potter like the Whomping Willow and the Quidditch match where Dementors came in. I really liked that ride and I ended up riding it 6 times. Next we went to the other Harry Potter ride which was very small but was the closest thing to a conventional roller coaster there. My brother got some frozen butter beer that we shared and it was very good. We then went to the studio tour.

The tour said it was going to be guided by Jimmy Fallon but was instead guided by a guy who was more of a try-hard Jimmy Fallon. We got to see the filming of a Spanish music video and we got to drive by the set of Psycho and Jaws. I was surprised when a shark popped up and got me soaked. We also got to go in a sound stage that was meant to look like a subway but almost immediately things went wrong. There was an earthquake, things went on fire, and because the water lines broke there was a flood. Luckily we were able to get out before we got impacted.

After the tour we waited in line for the Simpsons ride which was not as cool as we thought because we were just in a little car that shook while a video played on the hemisphere screen that went all around us.

We went down a couple of escalators to the lower lot where they had more rides. The transformers ride was similar to the Simpsons ride because we mostly just sat in a shaking car while a video played on a big screen, the Despicable Me ride was also the same thing. I really liked the Revenge of the Mummy ride where we sat in a car and went through the pyramid. Suddenly the car shot forward and went super fast with twists and turns. It then stopped and it felt like beetles were coming up my leg when really it was just puffs of air. It then went backwards until the ride was done. After that we did the Jurassic Park ride where we went through the jungle with dinosaurs and we went down a big drop with water splashing us.

Later in the afternoon we went to the Walking Dead attraction which was basically a haunted house with Walkers. It was scary but it wasn’t too bad because the zombies didn’t pop out at me – but they popped out at my mom! I thought the “hospital” we walked through was cool because all of the equipment that was in it was very accurate. When we were done with the park we walked through the shopping mall adjacent where we had supper and after that we went home and fell asleep almost immediately.

On another note, a professor of anthropology from Tennessee recently re-examined bones found on a pacific island that were determined in the 40s to belong to a man and he found that they were actually Amelia Earhart’s bones. He also had his findings published in the University of Florida’s Forensic Anthropology Journal. These bones along with other artifacts found on the island that were thought to be on Earhart’s plane will help in piecing together this mystery. (AT)

Tucson, AZ

On our way to Tucson for the day, we stopped at Saguaro National Park where we saw a high concentration of saguaro cactus’s. There were cacti all over each other.

We also stopped at Pinal Airport which is a general aviation airport that is also a large boneyard for old airliners. Additionally, it has Marana Army Airfield, where British Army and Army National Guard pilots learn how to fly attack helicopters. It is also a home to CIA operations and US Special Operations Command parachute training. After that, we continued our way into Tucson.

In Tucson, our first stop was at a food truck where we tried the Sonoran Dog. It was a bacon wrapped hot dog on a grilled bun with cheese in it. It also had beans, grilled onions, tomato, and fresh onions. I’m not a hot dog guy but I would definitely get that the next time I am in Tucson.

Later, we went to the Pima Air Museum, the largest private air museum in the US. They have over 300 aircraft there. I really liked the helicopters and my favorite ones were the MH-53 “Pave Low”, the Mil Mi-24 “Hind”, and the CH-37 “Mojave.” I also really liked the B-24 that they had in one of the hangars. While these were my favorites, I definitely really enjoyed seeing them all.Pima4pima2Pima5Pima3pima1

At the museum we saw A-10 Warthog planes flying in formation right over. This reminded us that we were right outside of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. This base is home to a large boneyard of aircraft that we got to drive by. I think we saw 2,000 C-130s, 300 C-17s, 1,000 F-4s, and an array of other aircraft. I had a lot of fun checking all of this out in Tucson.


On our way home, we stopped by a friend’s winter home. Our family knows Jo from summers at Ottertail Lake. She had the most green grass we’ve seen in months and the largest grapefruits I’ve ever seen. (AT)bio5