Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Vacation 2014: the Pacific Northwest

After the heat we encountered last summer in the mid-Atlantic states, we decided some cooler temps were in order for this summer's family vacation. And once we had made the plans for the boys to spend two weeks in Northern California, it made sense to make use of those plane tickets and tack on our vacation to their time. Especially since they were within minutes of Oregon, a state none of us had ever been to. Bonus!

Originally, we were just going to see Oregon. But when I realized how close Portland (where we were flying home) was to Washington, I knew we needed to add that state in, too. Mt. St. Helens seemed like the perfect addition - close to Oregon, and something Carl really wanted to see. But then I found Mount Rainier National Park. And I saw photos like these. 

National Geographic

And I just knew that I HAD to find a way to make Mount Rainier happen. I had a hard time narrowing down this trip. As I've started plotting our 50 States travels, I was curious just how much ground we could cover on one day. This was a test, of sorts, because we would be changing locations almost every night. But since we had it condensed into only one week of travels, the potential for disaster was less than on other big trips. 

I did my best to balance the things I really wanted to see and do, like Crater Lake, Cannon Beach and Multnomah Falls, with things I thought Carl would like (volcanoes) and things I thought the boys would want to do (renting ATVs for sand dunes). I think I came up with a pretty good mix. Frankly, I'd have liked another week so we could have slowed the driving down a bit, and to have been able to add in Seattle and Olympic National Park. But I decided I could save them for whenever we take a cruise to Alaska, so all was good.

Our itinerary:

Day 1:  Willow Creek, California - Redwood National Park, California - Gold Beach, Oregon 
Day 2: Gold Beach (jet boat Rogue River) - Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (ATV on sand dunes) - Roseburg
Day 3: Roseburg - Crater Lake National Park -Bend 
Day 4: Bend -Mount Hood/Timberline Lodge - Hood River for Columbia River Gorge Valley and “Fruit Loop” for wineries, lavender farm, and fruit orchards
Day 5: Hood River - Multnomah Falls - Mount. St. Helens, Washington - Ashford 
Day 6: Mount Rainier National Park
Day 7:  Mount Rainier - Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Oregon - Cannon Beach - Portland
Day 8: Portland - Austin

Like I said, we moved around a lot. None of the drives were for more than three hours or so at a time, and most were shorter. But we only had one place where we stayed for more than one night - the constant packing and unpacking was rough. One thing I have learned is that its okay to just spend one night somewhere, but that needs to be buffered by a longer stay after that. I also learned that my youngest likes his longer drives in the morning, but not so much after we have done the event for the day. The drive to Portland after Cannon Beach did him in. My original plan had been to spend the night in Cannon Beach, but we decided it prudent to book the night in Portland in case we were just done with traveling and wanted to just head right there from Mount Rainier. And what's a 1.5 hour drive at the end of a day? (A LOT, per Ryan)

Every vacation, I learn something new about what works and doesn't work for us as a family. What doesn't work: long car drives for Carl. What does work? Flying somewhere and taking smaller roadtrips in a rental car. What doesn't work: big cities for little boys. What does work: a couple of hours at a historic location. And lots and lots of geocaches.

It's always an adventure. But that's what makes life fun and interesting.

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