I've gone back and forth on this topic and how to narrow down the adventures we've had in these last 6 months. With so many amazing stops along our trip, its been hard to just get a top 10. We finally sat down as a decided to list our Top 10 Adventures based upon where we've stayed and what we've done. Ready
10. Bend, Oregon
We spent 10 days in Bend, Oregon in August 2017. It was great to settle in to the Thousand Trails Campground for a longer period of time. Bend offered so much, although I don't think we took advantage of everything, we really enjoyed our time there. The campground had a lot to offer and since it was the middle of summer, we took advantage of the pool area and enjoyed playing in he stream that went through the campground. The great part about this campground was how family friendly it was. The pool area offered an adult pool along with a kid pool area and a toddler pool. Trenton spent most of his time in the toddler pool which was only a foot deep. He floated around in circles while the big boys jumped endlessly in the big pool. We had very exhausted kids at the end of each day and very happy parents.
We also took the kayaks out a few times and enjoyed Sparks Lake. All of us except Jake, who tipped his kayak, swam to a log, climbed back in and ended up with leaches on his arms. He was not pleased, as we cracked up. Don't ask him about it either, he hates the story, although it made a good story. We also purchased the kids kayaks while in Bend. When we started our trip, we had a large adult kayak and a paddle board with us. We'd take turns taking adventures out on the lake until we realized we really wanted to explore more, for longer periods of time, together. I jumped on to the Bend Craigslist and found a fantastic deal on 2 kid kayaks. They ended up being perfect for Bryce and Jake.
Erin has an Aunt in La Pine who we spent time with as well. They were great navigators for the area and amazing s'more makers as well. Offering a plethora of chocolate, peanut butter and mints to add to your s'mores. We enjoyed spending time with them at their home and at the High Desert Museum, where we saw beautiful animals who were rescued and had a hands on experience in an old Pioneer town.
Bend was great and offered so much. We had a great visit with friends from California who drove up to visit and mom enjoyed the farmers market, twice. Bend offered the Milky Way as well, which is where Travis captured the best photograph of the trip. (See below)
9. Montana & Glacier National Park
We squeezed in Glacier National Park on our way down to Salt Lake City. From Washington, we had two weeks to get to Salt Lake City so we took the scenic route. We jetted over to Glacier National Park at stayed for 2 days. While we were there, we did the Going to the Sun Road. It was the best way to see Glacier NP and spend the day. The drive took us several hours. For the month of September, it was not crowded. The downside, the smoke. We happened upon there 3 days before they closed the Going to the Sun Road due to the massive fires that took over Glacier NP. Although we feel we could have seen and done so much more, we were still in awe of the hazy beauty Glacier offered. We saw our first bear, sitting on a hillside eating berries. Trenton also met his first real cowboy and was even invited to the mans ranch. He was very disappointed when we didn't follow him home. It was a quick trip through and although we saw a lot, we'd love to go back one day to experience the lakes, the views and everything Glacier has to offer. The stops along the way as we drove to Glacier were even more stunning. The waterfalls, bridges to walk across and hiking gave us a great chance to get out and stretch our legs. Being from Southern California, rushing rivers are foreign to us, to the beauty of these rivers left us in awe.
This little town was one of our very favorites. From the campground to the small town feel, to the Rogue River that runs right though it, its beauty and quaintness was beyond desirable. We spend 2 weeks in Grants Pass. I have an Aunt who lives here and we enjoyed our time with her, we also had a small family reunion in town one weekend, which was great as well. Most of the time, we were attempting to fish, enjoying quiet mornings and small coffee shops while the big boys did VBS at my aunts church. Dutch Bros. Coffee was also founded in Grants Pass. When we went to grab our first coffee from them, the barista chatted with Travis, who then told him about our travels and our coffee ended up being free, on him. Great first experience, I'd say. Grants Pass offered so much. We enjoyed the Farmers Market, where we ran into the boys VBS teachers. We felt like we knew someone. We also enjoyed the drive to Wildlife Images Rehabilitation Center. There were small farms all around with fresh fruit and vegetables sold at little stands all along the way. Once we were at Wildlife Images, we took a tour of the center and enjoyed seeing all of the animals they had rescued and now housed. The boys especially loved the birds and bears. Grants Pass also offers the Rogue River. We took the boys on the Hellgate Jetboat Excursion. This was one of the highlights of the trip. These jetboats load up in the center of Grants Pass and you take off for a while ride to the lunch location. Once there, you're served lunch and drinks and then you head back to the boats for a fun ride back. This is something I'd recommend to anyone in the area.
While in Grants Pass, we also took Bryce zip lining in Gold Hill. We received his report card a few weeks prior and it was fantastic. We decided it deserved a treat so Travis and I surprised him with an adventure. He loved it, as did we.
Grants Pass was a favorite of ours. Enjoy the images below!
7. Bryce Canyon National Park
Our very own Bryce has anticipated this stop since we set out on our adventure. Mainly because it's his own name, I don't think we anticipated the beauty this National Park had to offer. This stop left me in complete awe of the country we live in, and the fact that most people I know have NEVER seen this place! I couldn't believe people don't flock here to witness this with their own eyes. Until now, I myself had never been to Bryce Canyon. Some of the best parts about Bryce Canyon was the fact that you didnt need to take any big hikes to witness its beauty. Another great part about this stop was Travis' parents joined us along the way. Travis, Bryce and Travis' mom hiked down into the Canyon to witness its beauty from below. I stayed back with Jake, who most likely wouldn't have survived this hike without whining. Trenton was on my back and Travis' dad, having just had major surgery a few weeks prior, took a break from the downward and strenuous hike as well. The view was enough to take it all in and I look forward to going back again when the boys are older and we can all hike into Bryce Canyon.
6. Zion National Park
From Bryce Canyon, we headed to Zion National Park, where we found a stunning boon docking place. (If you don't know what boon docking is, its basically dry camping. We find some BLM land and you can stay for free. As we drove to Zion, we attempted to enter on the east end. We were told we couldn't pull a trailer thru there and we needed to turn around. We were beyond disappointed, as turning around meant we needed to head back where we came from, jump on a random highway through the mountains, drop into Cedar City and come in on the other side. We were far from pleased, as this added almost 3 hours to our drive, yet this ended up being a blessing in disguise. We back tracked and took highway 14 through the mountains. This drive ended up being one of the most beautiful drives of our entire trip. The grades were steep but once we made it to the top, towing our 30ft travel trailer, the terrain changed from woods to forest to volcanic rocks the size of your car. Every turn was a different view and it was stunning. Well worth the drive on this random highway into Cedar City. Once there, we stopped for groceries and headed back into Zion from the opposite end, on the West side. We found some BLM land, parked the trailer and camped for the night. Our surroundings were stunning. The next day, we headed into Zion, minus the trailer. We quickly realized why we couldn't come in on the East end towing our trailer, the tunnels were low and narrow. The drive, breathtaking. There were so many things we wanted to do in Zion, yet we couldn't take the scenic road because it was restricted to shuttles only. Since we had the dogs, were dry camping in the heat and couldn't bring them along, we didn't get to take the scenic road and only drove highway 9 into and out of Zion. This road was enough to blow our minds. It was like being inside of the canyon. The walls were high and full of color. On our drive out, we stopped at a rock shop and the boys learned so much from the 20 year old guy who ran the place. We left with several keepsakes and a yearning to go back and explore more. We know there was so much we didn't see, Zion will be on our list of places to see again. Luckily, its not far from Southern California. A good 3 days would be a perfect getaway to Zion.
5. Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth was our first stop on our adventure. You can check out that blog here. I'll save you from a ton of reading. Mammoth hits our 5th favorite place because there was so much to do and see. We took advantage of the hikes, the ghost town, the lakes and the views. Travis even saw a huge bear early one morning while heading out to photograph the sunrise. We also celebrated Trentons 3rd birthday! We loved Mammoth in the summertime.
4. Cottonwood, Arizona
Cottonwood was one of our most recent trips and we loved it because it offered so much. Cottonwood Arizona itself was adorable, but the location was perfect to really get out and explore. We were close to Sedona, Flagstaff, Jerome and so many State Parks. We enjoyed the hikes and the monuments. We even extended our stay because there was still so much we wanted to see. We spent a lot of time in Sedona, as it was a 25 minute drive from the campground. We found hike outside of town and loved the colors and surrounding mountains. We also went to watch a quick 3D Christmas video they shined up on the mountain side. While here, we also went on the Polar Express and visited Montezuma's Castle and Indian sites. We loved our hike through Red Rock State Park which had a fantastic little hands on visitors center for the boys to enjoy. We even found a cowboy show at Blazin M Ranch in Cottonwood that was the highlight of our 3 year olds life. This area of Arizona offered so much to see and do. We almost headed to the Grand Canyon from here, but after checking the weather, we opted out of that idea and headed south towards home.
3. Jalama State Beach, Californi
The entire California Coast would be our number 3 adventure. From Carlsbad to Ventura, Santa Barbara, Jalama, Morro Bay and San Francisco, each and every spot was the best and it got better and better. We are beach people at heart. The beach is our place, but if we had to narrow it down to one specific spot, it would be Jalama. Oh Jalama, you have my heart. I also hesitate to write and share about this place, because its a hidden treasure. I went here 10 years ago with some girlfriends and we froze our cute little, pre- married, pre-kids butts off as we camped on the beach in a tent. I took my late husband back here after we were married with our pup Hana, now our old lady dog, and we enjoyed miles of beach walking with no end in sight along Cliffside's that shot up to the sky. There is literally no one here other than fellow campers and pro surfers who know the area and know this spot. I knew one day, I'd take my family back here. Little did I know I'd be married to someone new with 3 boys in tow on the adventure of a lifetime. Just like myself, the kids and Travis fell in love with it too. There's something magical about Jalama and there really are no words to describe it. It will be a place we visit regularly as a family on the California coast. You have to experience it for yourself.
Redwoods & Fern Canyon
This is in California people! Right here! Have you been? I think the most amazing part of this trip has been how eye opening it has been. The United States is beautiful!!! Here in our very own home state, the California Redwoods were amazing. You hear stories about these places and its awesomeness, yet seeing it for yourself is a MUST. We made our way up to the Redwoods before we jumped into Oregon. Fern Canyon was a stunning and very worthwhile hike with the kids. The walls of ferns and trees were breathtaking. We headed into the Redwoods after Fern Canyon and were blown away by the size of these magnificent trees. If you could only image what they've seen over their hundreds of years. Here is our YouTube video from this adventure.
#1 Favorite adenture - yellowstone!
This number one spot was unanimous between all 5 of us. When we arrived in Yellowstone, we set up camp on BLM land headed into the National Park. First of all, thank goodness for the 4th grade pass. We could not have afforded to pull into every National Park and experience its amazingness without it. If you have a 4th grader, take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park program. Your 4th grader and your entire family can visit any National Park, as often as you'd like for a full year. After hitting 7, Yellowstone was by far one of our favorite adventures this year. Travis describes Yellowstone as, "The Disneyland of National Parks." Every turn offered something new to see and do. There were so many stops and so much to see, we were blown away. Best part about it, we saw a grizzly bear eating a bison. Yep, that happened. From the open ranges full of tall grass and deer to the roaring waterfalls and hikes down into the craters, the colors and the magnificent views took our breath away. Watch our YouTube to see it all.
While staying in Northern Arizona, we surprised the boys with a ride on the Polar Express. We've had so many friends take their kiddos on this adventure over the past several years, we knew if we would be in this area, we couldn't pass it up. Travis' sister insisted the adults wear pajamas and had nothing but amazing things to say about it. The night before the train ride, we "randomly" decided to watch The Polar Express. When the boys woke up in the morning, their new Christmas pajamas were laid out with a note. They were thrilled. We hit the road several hours early, had dinner at a brewery in town and boarded the train at 7:30. If you arrive to the venue early, there is plenty to do to keep everyone entertained. The boys over watching the light display outside that was synced to music. The colors were fun and the music was all Polar Express themed. We also spent some time inside where it was warm. Travis grabbed his evening coffee at the cafe and the boys enjoyed coloring and meeting Mrs. Claus.
The train ride was the most magical. The two chefs assigned to our cabin were exciting and enthusiastic. They pumped up all the kids, danced and ran thru the train, served hot chocolate and fresh cookies and called out all of the dads who refused to sing Christmas Carols. They had an entire routine laid out and they nailed it. It was fun to see all the parents joyfully involved. Santa topped off the evening when he surprised all of the kids by boarding the train and handing out bells. Its a loud YouTube, full of merry/screaming kids, but the experience is so magical and so worth it.
Check out the YouTube below.
This is a highly recommended activity if you are near this area for the holidays.
When we were looking for a trailer to purchase and renovate for our year long adventure, I knew I wanted to find something that gave the boys their own space. I didn't want to make and put away beds each night. I knew it was important that they felt like they had their spot, no matter how small it may be. A bunk house would have been amazing, but I knew we could make bunk beds work as well. We didn't change much of the original look of their bunks. We did add a small step for Jake to climb up into his bed a little easier. Our hope was that Bryce and Trenton would share the bottom bunk and Jake would have the top. Jake got the top because he is more the type to need to get away, to need to have space and not have others up in his business. So he got the top. Bryce on the other hand is the oldest and gets along great with the youngest, he was completely open to sharing his bigger bed with Trenton, which has yet to occur because little man apparently needs his space too. Travis also built the boys boxes at the end of their beds. Since they are smaller, they don't need the entire length of their bed, so Travis was able to take up about 8 inches at each end and add on some awesome boxes. They serve as a storage place for their junk and toys along with converting into a table for them to color and draw on. To give them a little more privacy, and a way to close them in at night, we added a curtain round the top. I used a fabric shower curtain I found at Target and Travis welded together a bar that goes around the top. So far, this space has worked out great. They also have window coverings they put up at night. Since the door on their boxes would hit any stationary curtain, I cut a blackout curtain we had hanging in Tretnons room at our old house and I added velcro to the wall and the curtain. They hang them each night. They love their space. Trenton tells everyone its his bed also, but in reality, he has slept on the small pullout at the bottom of our Ikea couch and then ends up in our bed around 4am. Images are below!