Tulips! and Mt. St. Helens / Mt. Rainier

I should be starting out with the 2 National Parks we visited today, but instead here are some amazing pictures of a tulip field we passed by today. Jesse saw the twinkle in my eye and stopped the truck, made a u-turn and drove right to the fields for my a-ha moment of the day/week/month/trip!

We actually started our day learning about the Mount St. Helen National Volcanic Monument and its infamous eruption in 1980. Jesse and I were just babies then so we don’t have any memory of it, but it was crazy to see the stories of what happened in the weeks leading up to the eruption and months/years afterward. We could see most of MSH today, but the top was clouded a bit.

We decided to check out Mt. Rainier because it was only about 90 miles away. On the way we saw tulips. Did I mention that they are my favorite?! Most of Mt. Rainier is closed due to snow still (it’s May 4th!) but we did see and get a feel for the park. Mt. Rainier itself was clouded, it only got clouded more and more as the day went on even though it was a nice sunny day! We did a quick hike to a waterfall and saw a couple more views before heading home. It sure looks like if we visited in the summer we could stay there all week. We love the tall trees and north woodsy feeling here! (MT)

Lewis and Clark and the Goonies

I’m a pretty cheap date, and most of my “wants” are just to have Jesse pull over to the side of the road for me to get out and get a picture. I really wanted to see the beach from the end of the movie Goonies, I have good memories of watching it as a kid, with my college roommates and with the boys in Bermuda a couple of years ago and I just wanted to see the cool rocks that were on the beach as well. That was in Cannon beach, and it was a pretty easy on/easy off stop. Except there was an amazing fabric store right next to where we parked. I went in for 10 minutes and told myself that if I didn’t get out of there quick, I was going to bust the bank. There would go my cheap date status!

We also drove right by Micky and Brandon’s house in Astoria. You know, where they find the map in the attic. Put a check mark on that as well. No luck in finding One Eyed Willie or the Fratelli’s but that’s ok, I don’t want them to find me either.

Along the drive, we start to notice that we’ll be passing a National Park – the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park-Fort Clatsop. Of course, we pull over, learn all about the Fort and get Woody his junior ranger badge and get our picture and walk to the Fort and then have car sandwiches and continue on our way.

We drove up the Columbia river to visit some extended family, and as we did there were container ships lined up 10-12 deep. The Columbia is a big shipping channel that leads to Portland and beyond. We’re not traveling to Portland on this trip, but I’d like to see their bay sometime!

We stopped to see Jesse’s Great Uncle Mark Tischer, that was fun to see the Tischer name again! Mark and another brother of Jesse’s Grandpa Reuben Tischer moved out to the Pacific Northwest after high school and stayed here, raised families and they all stayed out here because they loved it here! It was a nice visit, and that night, we had supper with a cousin of Jesse’s dad, Lee Tischer and his wife Diane. We were staying near Lee’s place and our campsite is directly on the Columbia River. Container ships pass less then 50 yards from our camper! Last night we looked out and saw a riverboat paddlewheeler, all decked out in lights and that was one of the coolest things ever. Not to be outdone, Woody got a captain to honk its horn at us today! Very exciting in Cathlamet, Washington! (MT)

Tillamook, Oregon

Geography lessons are taught on the road every day. For example, I did not know much about the Oregon coast. We drove Hwy 101 up the entire coast, from Cali to Washington. The coast is all protected as state land, and as such, there are so many state parks on the coast! Not all have campgrounds but many do. We’ve stayed at two, Humbug Mountain SP and Beverly Beach SP and both of those were very green and rainforest-like, with amazing beaches to check out. Gunner does his best work running on these huge beaches!

Our third campsite was in a Tillamook County park, on a beach with a huge jetty, just north of the town of Tillamook. Yes, that Tillamook that makes excellent cheese and ice cream! We knew a highlight would be checking out the cheese factory and it was! Squeaky cheese curds are our favorite! The lady behind me said she hated curds and I have literally never heard that phrase in my life! Like HOW?!?! The ice cream was a highlight of the week. We’ve not been known to pig out in public, but we did today. Each of us got 5 scoops of different flavors. It was amazing, no disappointments to be found. Moo.

We also stopped by the Pacific Oyster Company, where we saw real life oyster shucking in person. It was quite the operation! Andy has had oysters before and *shocker* he loves them, but this was Woody’s first time. They gave Andy a huge one and it went down easy. Woody the brave soul ate his carefully and said he enjoyed it but probably won’t be eating another one any time soon. Jesse and I have never had one, and probably never will. I mean, if we can’t even eat one here, when will we ever?!

We also stopped by the Tillamook Country Smoker beef jerky outlet, got some beef jerky, and then drove back the next morning to buy 2 cases of jerky. We apparently liked it that much.

To put a circle to all this food action, we stopped at the Pelican Brewing Company in Tillamook. Great root beers and good beers. And good company. And they’re dog friendly so even Gunner got something to drink.

I forgot to mention that in the morning, we saw a Coast Guard helicopter doing some training with a CG boat right at our campsite. That was a highlight for the boys. It’s fun to see the Coast Guard stations along the coast, some are beautiful old nautical buildings! (MT)

Winema National Forest Sno-Park

We like to call our current campsite the “secret national forest outside Crater Lake” site. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land has been of great success to us in the west here, we’ve found some great hidden jewels of campsites on our trip. Most are free, and there are a couple of helpful websites similar to Yelp to let us know if our 33’ rig can fit in it or not!

We’re actually at a “sno-park” and I haven’t figured it out if it’s for stranded tourists(this area gets a ton of snow!) or for snowmobilers. Right off the road there are toilets, and a “community” log cabin without a front door that had a big fireplace you could make a fire if you are cold while setting up your tent/sleeping in car/after snowmobiling. A couple of fire rings and a huge paved parking lot finish off the upper section. We drove just past this area down a dirt road, around a corner and found outdoorsy heaven. Nobody is around, and our campsite is just off a clear water creek with large log bridges for the boys and dogs to run across. Andy’s first comment was that he loved it here rather then the deserts of Utah because of the “flora and fauna”. Seriously, what 14-year-old uses those words?! But I highly agree with him, we’ve had beautiful weather in the 70’s and to sit next to the rushing creek is amazing.

Only one kid has fallen off the log bridge into the water but that was to save their dog (not that he needed saving but it makes for a good story!). My boy scouts have worked on rank advancement, making fires, making traps for our drinks in the creek, drinking straight from the creek out of a special straw and making spears tied to ropes to catch fish in the creek even when we haven’t yet seen any fish. Woody made the comment that it feels like we’re the boxcar children, and that’s totally true(except we have a camper instead of a boxcar!) We’ve extended our stay here longer then expected just because of the exciting outdoors. We have no internet access and barely phone access, totally not a problem for a couple of days – it’s nice to be free of digital technology! This morning Woody went outside to try to set up a beaver den with sticks they had collected 2 days ago before we woke up but didn’t have any luck. His next creation was a pinecone pyramid that we got 5 chances to break using other pinecones. That was a blast to play for a little bit! Nice to see his imagination working when technology is taken away.

Gunner may be the happiest in the family, he’s totally leash free here. Gunner is good at sticking close by, but if he sees a squirrel, he’s going to run after it, watch it run up a tree, and then stare at the tree for “hours”! When he gets thirsty and hot he just jumps right into the creek. He does seem to have sap in random places around his body, I think I’m just going to use this stop as an excuse to give him a haircut to get rid of that stickiness! In the evening when he is exhausted, he just curls up into a ball by the fireplace waiting to go into the camper to jump on his bed(the couch) and then snoozle for 12 hours or so. It’s a looooong stretch in the morning when he wakes up! But not a bad life for this 10-year old! (MT)

 

Salt Lake City / Provo, Utah

Family brought us up to northern Utah – my cousin Beth and her family moved to Provo a couple years ago from Seattle. We were close and there was an outstanding offer to park in front of their house so there was high interest to visit! Gunner loved the huge fenced backyard – being off the leash is a rare sight on our travels. Having sunny weather in the 70’s made it great too!

Jesse and I have both been to SLC before, but it’s been 10+ years for both of us. It was great to check out downtown, Temple Square and the capital, all very walkable! One of Jesse’s good friends from Grad School happened to also be in town so that was fun to see him again. Temple Square was full of beautiful tulips and other brightly colored flowers – that was my favorite part of the day. We also worked on our family’s genealogy – parts of my family went back to the year 1400!!! We finished the day off listening to the Mormon Tabernacle (MoTab!) Choir practice – wow they sounded great!

We walked up to the state capital, it sits high on a hill overlooking everything, and we were allowed access to just about every part of the building, very much the “people’s capital”.

Beth’s husband Trent works for BYU as an Editor for a popular tv show on BYUTV called Studio C. It’s actually very funny – check it out on Youtube! They live very close to the campus of BYU so we checked out their museum of modern art and it was great! There was an M.C. Escher exhibit and also an exhibit from a hilarious artist that took Flemish style selfies in airplane bathrooms and made a family tree out of people on food packaging among other laugh out loud art. If you ever see art from Dina Katchadourian check it out!

We also took a day trip to nearby Park City, the sight of the 2002 Olympics. It’s a super fun big little ski town with lots of boutiques and cafes. Amazingly I think they just shut down the hill about a week or so ago, and it was 70 degrees when we were there! What’s super cool is that you can actually ski across a big bridge into downtown Park City, and they get on a ski lift to go back up the mountain right there outside a café! Just a bit further from the base of the ski resort, is the Olympic Training facility for bobsled and ski jumping. During the winter and summer, you can actually go down the bobsled course – but unfortunately not in the two shoulder seasons! In the summer you can ski jump into a pool too – now that would be amazing! There was also a great museum with lots of history of downhill skiing, and lots of memorabilia from the 2002 Olympics. It was fun seeing those memories.

Beth’s daughter Kajsa is home on school break from BYU-I, and among many other things, introduced us to Sodalicious. It’s a soda pop shop with tons of different flavors/recipes that our family enjoyed very much! Beth son Dallin introduced us to the sport of Ultimate Frisbee, or just “Ultimate”! He had a tournament that we watched all weekend, it was quite exciting cheering on the fast-paced action – his team did great as well!

We got in a couple of fun board games during our visit, seems we all like trivia and laughing! We’re loving seeing so many of our cousins and extended family on this trip. It’s great to see how everyone has changed and grown – and fun to show the boys off to those who haven’t seen them in forever! (MT)

Moab, Utah

When the boys were little, we would visit Duluth, Minnesota and Lake Superior every summer. I would schedule hikes around naps, travels and different road side attractions. But what I remember most is the their love of just throwing rocks into Lake Superior. They could seriously just be happy throwing these smooth black rocks into the lake, right under the Split Rock Lighthouse, for days. and days. and days. Free entertainment Jesse and I called it.

This week we’ve been staying in Moab, Utah at some BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) that is actually free to camp at. We are parked right under a rock wall initially meant for a bit of wind protection but ends up it is fantastic for boys to climb. There is so much to do in the area: hike, mountain bike, kayak, boat, or go off-roading with an ATV. But what the boys want to do most of all is climb the rocks. Like they look forward to going back and climbing! A couple nights ago they found a campsite up high, so we took their tent and they spent the night up there with Gunner. The views in the distance is of Arches National Park, so that’s pretty cool too..

They’ve become great (and cheap-except Andy still eats like a professional wrestler!) travelers to be with. We’ve been at the library in Moab a ton too, working on their studies. This library was voted the best small town library in 2007 and we can see why. They have been very accommodating to us all. Woody finished up his semester studies here – and he’s a happy camper for sure! Andy only has English to finish, which seems like a lot of busy work, but he still has plenty of time to finish.

Not a bad finish to 2 weeks of exploring Utah’s “Mighty 5” National Parks! (MT)

Canyonlands National Park

Moab, Utah is home to 2 National Parks, and was to be our stop for a couple of days. I had been having pretty good luck finding RV parks that were first come first served in California, but all that came to a halt at Zion! Zion was crazy packed, and we got crazy nervous that there wouldn’t be any place for us to park the trailer that night. We ended up finding some amazing BLM land (Bureau of Land Management – federal land – our land!) to rest our tires on. That introduced us to the wide variety of BLM land available in Utah and especially around Moab.

Our (free!) campsite has us at the bottom of some super fun rocks for the boys to climb, and in the distance, you can see Arches National Park! We are prepared to live off the grid for a couple of days, propane is cheap and it won’t be so hot that we’ll need air conditioner to run.

We set up camp mid morning, and then took off to Canyonlands National Park for the afternoon. It’s hard to describe all the beauty that is here, it’s similar to the Grand Canyon but on a larger level(is that even possible!?!?). Again as we did at Bryce Canyon, it is like we are driving on the top of the mesas, looking down into the canyons, crevices and such.

Our first stop let us to a crazy steep and long canyon, and the next stop led us to the mesa arch, one of the famous landmarks in the park. It was my first natural rock arch to see up close and it was amazing. It was right on the edge of the mesa, and shot straight down on the other side. It had cracks in it that made it look like it could collapse at any time reminding us how fragile all the landscape is.

What was crazy about today, is that it was windy. A steady 30 mph but gusts of up to 50 mph were recorded. It was insane being close to ledges with that wind, turned me into a nervous Nelly for sure!

Woody participated in the junior ranger program here, and he was also awarded the Resource Stewardship Scout Ranger patch. He earned the patch by participating in many junior ranger programs, picking up trash at many of the parks, learning about protecting natural and cultural resources and sparking awareness in National Parks. What a neat opportunity for him to continue on with Boy Scouts on our travels. (MT)

Red Canyon of the Dixie National Forest

Hey guys, Gunner Tischer here. I haven’t gotten a chance to write since New Orleans! So much has happened too! But I’ll start with the great day I had today out hiking with my people.

My morning starts the same, I wake up on the couch when my mom wakes up, then I slip past her onto her bed as she heats up the kettle. Seriously, that’s the drill every morning! Every once in awhile on this trip (I keep hearing, “It’s not a trip, it’s a lifestyle” from my kids and then giggling!) I have gone to a kennel when they thought it was best. But I haven’t had to go to a kennel for almost a month! The rural life is so much better for me then the big city! There are lots of great smells at the campgrounds we stay at, my favorite part is just sitting outside the camper with the sun on my face.

My other favorite thing to do is go for a car ride with my boys. I get to sit right between them, and sometimes I lay my head on Woody, and sometimes I lay my head on Andy. If I’m really hot, I’ll sprawl out on the floor but that doesn’t happen too much.

Today we went to the Red Canyon area of the Dixie National Forest between Zion and Bryce Canyon (whatever that means!) All I know is that I’m allowed on these trails and they were fun! I got to do some rock scrambling with Andy and Woody, and there was so much to sniff! My mom found a snake but I’m so proud of everyone in my family, especially my dad for not screaming. I didn’t get a good look at it, but I would have protected them.

Some parts of the trail were steep! And some we ran down. I love exercising with my family, I’m 10 now but I have the soul of a puppy so I’m happy to stay healthy hiking and breathing the fresh Utah air! I also slept the rest of the afternoon, evening and night so life is good for me for sure!

My people are always looking out for me too, I actually got a UTI recently so I got to see a vet in Las Vegas. He wanted to prescribe me medicine but couldn’t over state lines! My mom said it was a crazy mess trying to deal with that, and then we had to drive 25 miles to the nearest pharmacy to get it. I got treats with it too so I don’t mind taking the medicine. I’m doing just fine on the pills and so you know, I have another 10 years to go. Peace to you all – Gunner Tischer

Bryce Canyon National Park

As we drove up to Bryce Canyon, Andy was curious as to what we’d be doing there. Is it hiking? Is it just driving through? What will we see? What’s there? I told him that I reserved a spot at an RV park for the night and I knew just about nothing else.

 At this point in the trip, I pretty much put faith in the National Park System that we’ll be seeing something great but I put almost no research into what we’ll do. Zion was the only park we’d been in so far that dogs were really really not allowed in. Usually we can keep him in the car, someone might have to stay back with him from time to time, but we’d still be “in the park” to see most of the cool sights.

Bryce Canyon was a treat, I’ll just tell you that. It’s described as “Bryce Amphitheater”. If you imagine in your mind that we are driving on the road that’s at the top row of the movie theater, the canyon, cliffs, hoodoos and everything else is all the seats going down to the stage. The stage would be hundreds of miles of different plateaus, levels or “grand staircase” and eventually the Grand Canyon. But just walking on the rim(at the top) you can see all these hoodoos with amazing colors of pink, red, orange, grey and whites. We walked the rim for about a mile, admiring all the hoodoos we saw below us.

Hoodoos is a new word for us-it might be for you too! We’ve figured out that it’s a Native American term for the statue like rocks scattered in the amphitheater, and it comes from a story referencing them as “canyon people” who are standing alone, in a group, and some are sitting. It’s a great term actually, and you really can visualize faces and bodies on some of them! These hoodoos were made from thousands of years of erosion, with a harder grey rock usually being at the top to give and keep its shape. A famous one is Thor’s Hammer, and another is the queen’s garden(see her riding a backward camel). See if you can pick them out here:

There is a road that leads through Bryce Canyon that comes to a dead end, with pull offs every once in a while, all giving different perspectives on the amphitheater. At one stop, we saw a large “window” or arch that was super big and just super neat!

We had 3 days in Bryce, and on day 2, I convinced Jesse to wake up early with me to see the sunset. Neither boys were interested and I wasn’t going to make them. Woody had second thoughts during the night though b/c he wrote us a note and left it on the sink telling us to wake him up! It was pretty special to see the sun rise off the hoodoos, a great memory total worth the early alarm!

On day 3, I made Andy go on a hike with me down into the canyon of the hoodoos. He’s a pretty brisk hiker and we’ve been holding him back pretty much every hike we do. I was bound to keep up with him! It was fun to be down in the tangle of the canyon and hoodoos, a different surprise at each turn. But then the trail turned back up to the rim, and that was grueling, even for Andy! I haven’t done much one on one time on this lifestyle with Andy, but this was awesome!

Our campsite was right near the entrance of the Bryce Canyon National Park and backed up to a National Forest, so there were lots of campers and rv’s with 4 wheelers and bikes. Woody really wanted to rent a 4-wheeler until he found out he was too young to drive one himself. He’s 11 going on 16 real fast! The whole area we were staying in seemed to be owned by one company, so were able to have access to the pool at the local hotel, and also use their business center. We did plenty of swimming and the boys got excellent use out of their business center. The boys had complete privacy to do their schoolwork in there, no one ever came in. (I mean, who wants to do work on vacation?!) They had access to 5 computers with fast internet and even had “mood lighting”. Southern Utah is very rural so I didn’t think we’d get this lucky. We hadn’t had computer access since San Francisco (nothing in Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Death Valley or Zion!

The uniqueness of Bryce Canyon will keep it a favorite of our families for a long time. This is one I would highly recommend, though I’m sure I’m going to say that about all of Utah’s “Mighty Five” National Parks too! (MT)

Death Valley

Our climate took an abrupt turn from the warm days/cold nights snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains to the dry and extremely hot(90’s) Death Valley. DV has only been a National Park since 1994 but a National Monument since 1933. It’s the largest NP in the contiguous states.

It’s super desolate here, but beautiful. The Valley is situated between large mountain ranges and only gets 2″ of rain a year. And it’s hot-did I mention that? (90’s) We pulled into Death Valley in the late afternoon, and after setting everything up, we went swimming in the cool spring fed pool at the motel across the street. Our site doesn’t have electricity so we slept with the windows open(still like 70 degrees at night). The night sky is a designated world night sky, you can see millions of stars at night! We’ve even picked up a couple of constellations in the past couple months so that makes stargazing more exciting.

There’s not a ton of trails here, to be expected when it’s so unbelievably hot out(90’s!). But we stopped at a couple of points of interest including a bunch of random gigantic sand dunes that the first Star Wars was filmed at, a short hike to see a natural bridge(like a rock arch), a centuries old borax mining operation, and the devils golf course which was just a ton of crystallized salt. Like a ton!

Another exciting stop was Badwater Basin, the lowest point in America at -282′ below sea level. Pretty awesome to say we’ve visited this sight!

A beautiful side drive we took was called the Artist’s Palate drive. The drive was along the base of a mountain range, and the rock was so many different colors(think purples, blues and pinks)and shapes, like a giant had used the range for a masterpiece!

We celebrated our dog Gunner’s 10th birthday here too. Not super memorable for him I’m sure, all he really got was extra petting, the birthday song and an extra scoop of dog food. But we’re so happy that he hit another milestone birthday, we know he won’t be in our lives forever but I’m so happy he got to join us for this cross country trip. Death Valley has been an exciting stop full of memorable vistas, celebrations and experiences!(MT)