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)

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)

Crabby, who’s crabby??!!

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve written. Long story made short is that I didn’t get the CEO job I was a finalist for. Longmont and Centura would have been great, but it wasn’t meant to be. The feedback I received was all positive and even had smatterings of “you could have done this job two positions ago.” Regardless, I had a case of the “crabbiness” going on. Oh well, onward with the search and discussions!

In the time since I learned that my job hunt, and thus our adventure, would continue, we’ve seen some great places and had some opportunities with family and friends. In Utah, Maureen’s family hosted us and even included us on family game night and family walk night. I even got to see my very first ultimate frisbee tourney (nice work Dallin–he just scored 34 on his ACT for anyone looking for a smarty)! One day we were able to make the trip into Salt Lake City to see the sites and also meet up with a grad school and fellowship buddy, Jeremy Price. Price happened to be traveling through the area and we were able to meet up. It’s been something like 5 years since I’ve seen him, so being able to say hi was great. A real plus is that Jeremy is Mormon, so we had our own personal tour guide around Temple Square! The sites and history were great! Another happenstance meeting happened with Jennifer Wagenaar. Jennifer was the CNO in Aberdeen when I started working with them. She is now a regional CNO out in the Mountain States. When I texted her, she happened to also be in Temple Square. It was great to be able to say hi to her as well.

In addition to getting grounded with some great folks while face to face, I’ve been able to connect on the phone and via email. Once again, folks I’ve known have stepped up with great advice or great connections. Friends I’ve made through Leadership SD were willing to make connections for me for a position I’m in the running for in SD. Some of my great work colleagues have been willing to be references for me multiple times.

The past week we’ve had some fun in Oregon. Maureen posted about our seclusion in the national forest at a great campsite. We’ve had some fun clamming in a mud bog and yesterday we went crabbing for the first time. We had some luck and enjoyed a feast last night. Crabs sure are tasty when you pull them from the bay yourself!!

All in all, I’ve really got no reason to be crabby!!!

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)

Crater Lake National Park

Today we started the day at our amazing campsite. Crossing the big log over the stream is my favorite thing about being there. That, and just hanging out in the hammock. The drive to Crater Lake NP was not that long, the National Park sign was only a mile down the road. On our drive we started seeing 20 foot tall posts that marked the road, I’m guessing so snowplows know where the road is. Then we started seeing snow upon snow.

At the visitors center the snow was probably 15 feet tall. All of this but there was no snow at our campsite just miles away! It was crazy! As at all National Parks, I started out by getting the junior ranger packet. I finished the junior ranger packet at the visitor center while we watched a short movie. Snow was up to the roof here, we entered through a snow tunnel instead of the front door! Then we started up the road even more as we still hadn’t seen the lake. At the main lodge area we finally got a glimpse of it. We walked a little trail to an amazing view point. The water was so blue and smooth. The reflection was cool. The lodge had a gift shop and a little exhibit about the park. The lake was actually a large volcano and when it erupted the whole top came off! The lake is fed by rainwater and snow meltoff. The snow can get up to 45 feet tall and they don’t have all the roads plowed until the 4th of July. It’s the snowiest inhabitable place in America. And it was awesome!

I made a Vlog here too: (WT)

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)