A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Tag: Jr. Rangers

Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

I was only three years old when Mount St Helens erupted killing 57 people. It was a few years after the fact, that my child’s mind could process deadliest eruption…

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I was only three years old when Mount St Helens erupted killing 57 people. It was a few years after the fact, that my child’s mind could process deadliest eruption in the United States.

Natural disasters are strange mixture of terror and fascination. It was one of the first times I remember learning that nature can be volatile. That there was more to it than baby bunnies and daisies. Not only could the earth open up and swallow or whirring funnels reach down from the sky but the earth could explode and pour hot lava for miles. Mount St Helens was a landmark of my childhood.

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Thirty four years later, Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument still bears scars of her volatile and harsh past.

Running Mt St Helens WA

But there are also wildflowers and animals reminding us that following devastation there is rebuilding and rebirth.

Family Mt St Helens WA

Jr Rangers Mt St Helens WA

It’s a place of education and beauty.

Brothers Mt St Helens WA Visiting Mt St Helens WA Summer Flowers Mt St Helens WA Mt St Helens WA

In Memory of Mt ST Helens WA

Daisies Mt St Helens WA

After a few hours of learning and contemplating, we walked back to the car and I couldn’t help but notice the daisies.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Hiking in North Cascades National Park

While we are searching for a new RV and before we get busy taking on next year’s adventures, I’m going to finish catching up on our travels from over the…

While we are searching for a new RV and before we get busy taking on next year’s adventures, I’m going to finish catching up on our travels from over the summer.

July was a perfect month to spend in Washington. The skies were blue, the weather mild, and the foliage lush.  And what better way to take advantage of the spectacular weather than by spending a day exploring North Cascades National Park.

North Cascades is home to over 300 glaciers, approximately 1/3 of all the glaciers in the contiguous 48 states. We were surprised to learn that there are more glaciers in North Cascades National Park than in Glacier National Park. Although many of the glaciers can’t be seen from the parts of the park that are easily accessible.

We spent our day driving the North Cascades Highway with stops at the visitor’s center for a ranger talk, Diablo Lake Overlook to take in the sweeping vistas and to hike Thunder Knob Trail.

Sunlight North Cascades NP WA

Hiking in North Cascades National Park WA

Family North Cascades National Park WA

Hiking with my Boys North Cascades NP WA

Cascade National Park WA

Cascade Farm WA

It was a beautiful day and to put the cherry, or rather the blueberry, on top, we passed Cascadian Farm on the way home where we picked over 8 pounds of organic blueberries and raspberries as the sun set around us.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Glacier National Park: So Worth the Drive!

After traveling for two years full time in our RV, one of the questions we get asked most often is “What’s your favorite place?” Each of us has a different…

After traveling for two years full time in our RV, one of the questions we get asked most often is “What’s your favorite place?”

Each of us has a different answer but there is no question (Except for maybe Thing One who at this point of teenagedom tends dislike everything we like. Don’t tell him that Brent and I actually like New York City or New Orleans or else he’ll change his mind.) that Glacier National Park is in our top ten favorite places. Or maybe even our top 5.

I imagine a visit to Glacier is perhaps the closest thing you can get to wilds of Alaska without leaving the boundaries of the lower 48. We stayed in Glacier for a week and could have easily stayed another week. The first few days were spent outside the park at a RV resort with other full time families, families we had met in Yellowstone.  A few days later we moved to Apgar Campground within the park boundaries. Our “backyard” was the kind that makes the RV life so appealing. A large private site under a canopy of trees with a path leading straight to the shores of Lake McDonald where we watched the most glorious sunsets and even one sunrise.

We spent the afternoons in Glacier exploring the park. We drove the Going to the Sun road for stunning vistas and wildlife sightings. We hiked to Avalanche Lake for a picnic lunch. We rode bikes through the forest on roads still closed for the season. We spent an afternoon wishing we had a 4×4 truck when we took a dirt road to Bowman Lake. We went back in time at the Polebridge (a “town” of less than 500) Mercantile where we ate delicious homemade pastries. We the boys swam in the cool clear water of Lake McDonald.

Glacier NP Mountain Sunset and Wading Glacier NP Little Boy at Sunset Glacier NP Romantic Glacier NP Mt Waterfall Reflections Glacier NP Me and My Love Glacier NP Lunch Breack Glacier NP Little Mountain Goat Glacier NP Mountain Goat Baby Glacier NP Picture Taking Glacier NP Clouds and Mountains Glacier NP Polebridge Glacier NP MT Polebridge Bakery Glacier NP MT

Floating Glacier NP

Sunset Glacier NP

Like all places of beauty and magic the week passed too soon and we found ourselves on the road again heading west. Thankfully, we have pictures to remember these days of serenity and adventure.

Glacier we will return!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Nomads in Wonderland – Yellowstone National Park

Steam rises and swirls in a dance with the wind. White mud bubbles and boils like living pots of paint. Geysers explode from the earth daring to touch the clouds….

Steam rises and swirls in a dance with the wind. White mud bubbles and boils like living pots of paint. Geysers explode from the earth daring to touch the clouds. Water rages through the canyon and trickles out of cracks. Rings of yellow and orange surround crystal clear springs filled with water so turquoise, it makes you wonder if you have ever seen turquoise before.

It’s every bit as magical and mysterious as I expected. And more.

We are in Yellowstone National Park.

It is the first, most famous, and most visited national park in America.

A giant caldera is responsible for the dynamic geothermal shows. Deer, bear, bison, elk, and many other animals make this natural wonderland their home.

And for 10 days we made it our home too.

Boardwalk Yellowstone Silhouette

Geyser in the Distance

Mom and boys Canyon Yellowstone

Steam Rising Yellowstone

crazy geyser yellowstone

Old Faithful at Sunset Yellowstone National Park Dad and boys Yellowstone Elk Yellowstone NP

Old Faithful Geyser Yellowstone

Jump Yellowstone

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Stopped in Our Tracks at Grand Tetons National Park

Some places you don’t know what to expect. To be honest, we only stopped at Grand Teton because it was one our way to Yellowstone. We hadn’t even looked up…

Grand Tetons Panoramic

Some places you don’t know what to expect.

To be honest, we only stopped at Grand Teton because it was one our way to Yellowstone.

We hadn’t even looked up pictures of Grand Teton National Park on the internet.

But as we drove in through Jackson Hole, we were stopped in our tracks.

There are no foothills to make introductions.

Like teeth of a great beast trying to chew its way out of the earth, the mountains jut abruptly out of the ground without apologies.

Unfortunately most of our photos from Grand Teton were lost but thankfully there were a few left to remind us of this majestic place.

Brent Grand Tetons National Park

Wild Flowers Grand Tetons National Park

Jackson Lake Grand Tetons  Lake Grand Tetons NP Thing 2 Looking for Elk

Thing 2 watching an elk with his scope.

Lake Grand Tetons National Park Grand Tetons National Park RV Grand Tetons National Park Sunset Grand Tetons National Park

Wild Flowers Grand Tetons Wyoming

What a lovely and powerful place to make home for five days.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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By Blood – Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, was about 45 minute drive from our “home” in Colonial Beach. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is the second largest military park in the…

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, was about 45 minute drive from our “home” in Colonial Beach.

The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is the second largest military park in the world. During the Civil War four pivotal battles, Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, and, Battle of Spotsylvania Court House were fought in the area resulting in over 100,000 casualties.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

The boys in front of the Fredericksburg Visitor Center where they earned another Jr. Ranger badge.

Looking for bullet holes at the Innis house on the Sunken Road.

Getting along. (Praise God)

The second Jr. Ranger badge of the day. This time Thing Two is wearing the “right” hat.

Considered one of the best military strategists in US history by historians, Civil War legend, Stonewall Jackson, was accidentally shot in the arm by his own men at the Battle of Chancellorville. Upon hearing about the wounding of Jackson, General Robert E. Lee is quoted as saying in affection, “Jackson has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right”.  Jackson survived his left arm amputation but he died 8 days later of complications from pneumonia. This stone, located on the Wounding of Stonewall Jackson Trail, was placed in his honor not far from the place where he was mortally wounded.

Later a more formal monument was erected.

Atop the stone sat two flags bound together by not just a satin ribbon, but, by blood.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Escaping Reality at Fort Pickens, Florida

Our visit to the Gulf Islands National Seashore was brief. So brief it must have been a dream. It is only in dreams you can convince a grumpy-die-by-the-rules ranger to let…

Our visit to the Gulf Islands National Seashore was brief. So brief it must have been a dream. It is only in dreams you can convince a grumpy-die-by-the-rules ranger to let you in the campground without reservations after the gate has closed at dusk.

It is only in dreams you see turbulent clouds dancing with shadows on white sand beaches. It is only in dreams you hear driftwood silently whistling to the tune of time.

We explored Fort Pickens early morning discovering history in her shadows and mystery in her corridors. Thing Two was on the lookout for approaching enemies. Thing One considered the structural elements and their uses. By the time the sun had made her full ascent, we were piling into the truck and heading east.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 90: Great Smokey Mountain National Park

The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is the first national park I can remember visiting. Although I think my first national park visit was really to the Grand Canyon when…

The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is the first national park I can remember visiting. Although I think my first national park visit was really to the Grand Canyon when my parents looked like hipsters and drove a van. A real van with a moon shaped window and an airbrushed mural. I probably rode on my mom’s lap while she warmed my baby food in the dashboard window.

We aren’t as cool as my parents were. We drive a big white diesel Chevy  that hasn’t been washed since October.  But at least we use seat belts.

The Great Smokey Mountains is the first park I can remember visiting. I remember the river churning with rapids as white as doves but as unpredictable as cats. I remember the mountains poking out of the clouds like giant tombstones in a foggy cemetery. I remember my teenage self getting ticked about something and pouting on the Appalachian trail. I probably didn’t get to curl my bangs that morning.

I didn’t remember  John Ownby’s cabin. Or the history. I didn’t remember the land was originally home to the Cherokee Indians who were driven out. I didn’t remember settlers were evicted from their homes and lives to make create the park we now visit.

So many old and new memories being pulled or created and stashed in this already challenged brain of mine.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 56: Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

We didn’t know what to expect when we decided to go to Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs Arkansas. All I knew was I getting the cancellation stamp in…

We didn’t know what to expect when we decided to go to Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs Arkansas. All I knew was I getting the cancellation stamp in my National Park Passport.

Hot Springs National Park is the smallest national park and was the first federal reserve in the United States. For hundreds of years people have come to Hot Springs seeking health in the warm waters. Over time an industry of bath houses grew up around the hot springs. The heyday of bathing has passed and today most bathhouse are no longer in operation. However you can still tour the Fordyce bathhouse, now the park visitor center, for a peek back into history and take baths at one of two operating bathhouses, the Buckstaff or Quapaw.

You can also do the Jr. Ranger program. Hopefully with more enthusiasm than Thing 1 or 2. Try as I might, I couldn’t convince them that the “Ladies Cooling Room” was a spectacular place to fill out their Jr. Ranger activity books. Although the movie about traditional bathing held their attention with it’s 1980’s aesthetic.  Apparently, it was so cheesy it was funny.

After touring the Fordyce Bathhouse, we ventured out back to put our hands in the last remaining open hot spring and stroll the paths above the bathhouses. Then we drove up through the park to watch the sunset over Hot Springs before returning to our campground, Gulpha Gorge.

Gulpha Gorge may be one of our favorite campgrounds yet. As the name suggests, the sites run through a gorge along a creek. It was lovely in December and I can only imagine its beauty during warmer months. The sites are large with many of them along the creek with full hookups.  I loved hearing the sound of the creek when we stepped outside in the morning. Full hookup sites are $24 or $12 if you have the  National Parks Membership Card, a fantastic deal considering the beauty, spaciousness, and condition of the sites.

Two months ago we had not even heard of Hot Springs National Park and today not only it is a treasured place in our National Park system but a treasured family memory.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 24: Neurotic Nomads – Montezuma Castle and The Petrified Forest National Park

At Montezuma Castle, it is easy to imagine being Sinagua people making our way through the sycamore and cottonwood trees to gather water at Beaver Creak before climbing up the…

At Montezuma Castle, it is easy to imagine being Sinagua people making our way through the sycamore and cottonwood trees to gather water at Beaver Creak before climbing up the ladders to our home way up on the cliffs.  Except that I’m afraid of heights.

Montezuma Castle was mistakingly named after the Aztec king by settlers in the mid 1800s.  As it turned out, it didn’t belong to the Aztecs, in fact, it’s not even a castle.  It is an adobe community clinging tight to the cliffs.  Like Tuzigoot, it was built by the Sinagua nearly 2000 years ago.  Until 1951, visitors could go inside Montezuma Castle but due to vandals it was closed.  Now visitors can stroll the path among the white barked sycamores and imagine, if you are like me, life as a Sinagua, your life depending on the whims of Beaver Creek.

Back to the reality of being a newschool nomad, after both boys were forced to earn earned their Jr. Ranger badge, we hit the road and headed hurriedly east on I-40.  There would be no long bathroom breaks or food stops.  We were on a mission to get to the Petrified Forest National Park to see the highest concentration of petrified wood in the world and the painted desert by 5:00 pm.  As long are you are at the gate by 5:00 pm the park lets you in and you can at least take the 28 mile drive through the park to soak up the beauty.

A National Monument and Park in one day.  Maybe we should be the neurotic nomads.

At 4:15 we pulled into the gate with just enough time to visit the visitor’s center (sometimes it pays to be bossy) and stroll among the ancient stubborn trees who refused to fall prey to decay.

The boys climbed on trees that were as hard…as well…rock.

I had doubted our decision take the time for a detour but the first glimpse of the hills covered in Saturn-like rings of color (my photos do not even to begin to capture their beauty), my doubts were put to rest.

It was otherworldly lovely.

The boys kept exclaiming we were on Tatooine (a planet in Star Wars).

As magical as the sunset was I was sad to see her disappear and leave us in darkness as we drove the last 5 miles back to I-40.

If you ever get the chance, drive through the painted desert at sunset.  You will never be the same.

I couldn’t imagine a day filled with more beauty despite going to bed in an Alburquerque Walmart parking lot.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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