Experiences, anecdotes, tips, how-tos, hiking, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What to Do If You Meet a Wild Animal on the Trail

            We took another park ranger guided hike in Olympic National Park in Washington State, but this time we learned far more than just basic facts about the forest. After visiting the museum exhibits and watching the orientation movie at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center, we went outside to take the Hurricane Hill Trail. The 1.5 mile trail climbs up about 700 feet through woods and meadows to Hurricane Hill.
Stunning Olympic National Park.

            As usual, the ranger discussed environmental issues and facts about the area, and the crowd of followers listened intently. Of course my children poked and pushed each other. So what else is new?

            But as we climbed toward Hurricane Hill, we took a rest under a tree. It was there that the ranger shared an encounter he had, an encounter with a mountain lion.

            “Wait!” I started to tremble.
The twins climbed up a nearby boulder.
I scanned my surroundings.
In fact, everyone in the group began peering around.

“There aren’t any mountain lions around right now,” the ranger assured us.
A collective sigh came from his captive audience. Yet I still held my breath and the twins refused to come down from the boulder.
            “But that particular day,” he began. “As I climbed the trail, I heard a low growl above me and looked up the mountain.”
            All of us looked up the side of the hill truly expecting to see the lion. I couldn’t move.
            “The mountain lion crouched on a boulder, looking down at me.”  
We did NOT see a lion on that day!

            The twins sprang from the boulder and huddled by me and my husband.
            “What did you do,” our son asked, eyes shining with delight. I could see he wished this encounter happed to him.
            My nerves!

            “Whenever you see a wild animal, I don’t care if it’s a lion, bear, or elk.” He looked into everyone’s eyes to be sure they were paying attention.
            We could hear the birds in the trees, we were so riveted!
            He continued. “You spread your arms out, holding your jacket open; if you’re wearing one, otherwise hold out a pack or hat, something to make you look wider and bigger than you are. Then back away slowly—keeping your eyes on the animal.” 
            Still no one breathed.
            “Why don’t you run away or climb a tree?” Leave it to our son to ask the question.
            The ranger turned directly to face him. “You never run from a wild animal.”
            The authority in the ranger’s voice hit home. Even our son took a step back.
            “A wild animal might think you want to play if you run away from it. You must look as big as possible and back away slowly, keeping eye contact with the creature.”

            I must admit, I can’t really remember anything after that on our guided hike. Even our children were quiet. 

            It took a few days for the twins to forget about the mountain lion story. This gave my husband and I time to discover where the “most northwestern point of the lower 48 states” was located. As “Easterners,” after travelling all the way across the United States, we wanted to be able to say we experienced that edge of the country.

The park ranger suggested we hike the Cape Flattery Trail on the Makah Nation Reservation. The trail is only .7 miles. And luckily, we didn’t have a park ranger with us this time. Nor did we have a whole group of other adventurers and families. Because our children wanted to be, um, children.

Cape Flattery Trail consists of mostly wooden planks and it overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The trail is both majestic and breath-taking. Numerous shades of blue and green fill the Pacific. Huge rock islands dot the ocean edge. Puffins, osprey, and sea lions rest peacefully along its shore. 
The glorious Pacific Coast at
Cape Flattery Trail.

But back to my kids acting like, well, kids. Our children—yes even the teenagers; in fact it was my older daughter who started this. The children decided to imitate King Arthur in the film MontyPython and the Holy Grail as he galloped through the forest and across the moor. Yes, my children “galloped,” a one-sided skip really, across the planks of the Cape Flattery Trail. With all five of them one-sided skipping, it did sound like the guy who followed King Arthur in the movie, clopping coconuts together to imitate the horses’ hooves on the ground.

My husband looked at me. “Don’t you dare.” He said.
“Who me?” A smile tugged at my lips. I guess I better not. At least we didn’t know anyone out here, I thought as we continued our hike back to the van, children clopping the whole way.

I think vacations are for letting loose and enjoying ourselves, even if we want to imitate riding a horse when we’re not. Have you ever done something silly while on vacation or away from home? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section. We truly appreciate your note.

Thanks so much for visiting Camping with Five Kids. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Rain Forest in the United States? Are You Crazy, Mom?

            Okay, so the children thought my husband and I were crazy one evening in the camper when we said we would visit a rain forest the next day.

            “Mom,” our second daughter—the Brainiac—informed me from her perch on the bunk.  “We are in the northern half of the continental U. S.”

            “Yea, Washington State,” our son clarified from his burrow on the dinette seat cushions.

Olympic Nat'l Park in Washington
State is vast. Not many inroads.
Need to drive to trailheads.
Like we didn’t know where we were after driving almost 3,000 miles across the whole United States from New Jersey.

            “Yes,” I said, “but this particular rain forest is actually in Washington State.”

            My husband burst out laughing after a few moments. When I glared at him, he nodded toward the children. They were giving me that “poor, silly mom” look I get whenever I ask a computer question.

A grin creased my face. Just wait until tomorrow, my angels. Then we’ll see who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. 
Temperate rain forest of the Hoh River
           in Olympic National Park.

            The Hoh Rain Forest is part of the huge Olympic National Park system in Washington State. We like to take part in the park ranger programs after watching the informative video at the Visitor’s Center. On our Hall of Mosses ranger-led hike into the rain forest, a 0.8 mile loop, we not only heard facts about the rain forest, we discovered how to identify a huge tree from a legend.

            The Hoh Rain Forest is a temperate rainforest, one of the finest left in the Pacific Northwest rainforest region. I didn’t realize that there were two kinds of rain forests. The children were thinking of the tropical rain forests by the equator that they had learned about in school. I must admit; I didn’t know our U.S. rain forest was of the temperate kind, which means it’s not as hot and steamy as the tropical kind. I was happy about this. I was envisioning the sweltering kind myself when my husband and I first talked about visiting Hoh Rain Forest.

The Hoh Rain Forest can get up to 14 feet of rain a year. My bones started aching just from the thought of all that rain! Amazingly, we had a dry hike. Temperate rainforests don’t get extremely hot or extremely cold for very long.

We hiked through a dense forest of deciduous [leaf-bearing] and coniferous [evergreen] trees. Our United States rain forest just dripped in moss and broad leaves and huge ferns. These big trees with their leaves and pine needles trap the moisture coming inland from the coast. As we stopped by yet another huge conifer tree, a Douglas fir, our ranger offered some facts about it.

“These fir trees can grow about 535 inches in circumference,” the park ranger told us. “And scrape the sky at 213 feet high.”

A smile tugged at my lips. I covered it with my hand. I didn’t feel it was right to remind the ranger—for I was sure he knew—that the Sequoia and Redwood trees in California were taller and larger in circumference. My husband saw my smile and elbowed me. He probably knew what I was thinking.

I’m supposed to learn something new wherever I go, I told myself. So listen. I did, and discovered something unique about these huge trees. 

“The Douglas fir pine cone has a strange story.” The park ranger looked at us. “Legend has it that at one time you could find hundreds of mice scurrying about in the rain forest.”
“Mice?” I whispered to my husband. He shushed me.

“Long, long ago,” the ranger began. “There lived a tiny mouse in the forest. This mouse loved the huge pine forest out west as did his many relatives. But they all were fearful day and night, for the sly fox always tried to catch them and gobble them up.
“Now this particular mouse was very clever, though, and was able to hide from the fox for a long, long time. But one day, the mouse’s attention wandered as he walked among the huge Douglas fir trees in the forest. Before he knew it, the fox had snuck up on him and he was face to face with his enemy!
“The mouse was terrified and ran off as fast as he could. But he knew the fox was faster and much bigger than he was. Frantically the mouse searched for a place to hide. Then he spied a Douglas fir pine cone hanging on a tall tree. The mouse thought it was large enough to hide him, so he scurried up the tree and tried to squeeze inside the cone.”

The ranger had us all wide-eyed and concerned for this poor little mouse.

“Well,” the ranger continued. “The mouse was hidden well enough that the fox couldn't find him.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, not realizing that I didn’t want to hear a story—or legend—about a fox devouring a tiny mouse.

“But,” the ranger said as he picked up one of the Douglas fir pine cones from the rain forest floor. “The pine cone really was way too small for the mouse.” He showed everyone the cone.
To this day, those little
mice still scurry under
the scales of a
Douglas fir pine cone.

“And to this day, you can still see the hind legs and tail of the mouse sticking out from the Douglas fir pine cone, where he is still hiding from the fox.”

Not only did we learn a lot about rain forests, when we visited Hoh Rain Forest, we now know how to identify a Douglas fir evergreen, or coniferous tree. Although our Douglas firs on the East Coast don’t get as big as the ones out west, we still find a few mouse tail cones here in New Jersey. Do you have any Douglas fir trees where you live? Just look for the back end of a mouse hanging out of the pine cones.

Thanks so much for visiting Camping with Five Kids. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. We’d love to hear any nature legends you may have learned or hear about your visit to a national park in the comments section. We truly appreciate your note. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Back Into Nature: A Hike to Vernal Falls At Yosemite National Park

            Well after visiting a city with buildings sprouting from its hills; after some beach time with thick sand and chilly waters, I was ready for a hike into the woods. I wanted to stare—jaw-dropped—at towering waterfalls; to chill—literally—in mountain rivers. So we headed for Yosemite National Park in California.
After a strenuous hike to Vernal Falls,
we needed to cool off. What better
way than in a pristine mountain
stream on the valley floor.
            A free shuttle bus system takes visitors around this popular national park. You can drive your own vehicle into and around Yosemite. The shuttle buses aren’t mandatory, but are recommended to help with volume. Plus, everyone gets to enjoy the scenery if you take the shuttle.

            Some of the day hikes in Yosemite Valley are short, easy hikes. We started with these: Bridalveil Fall and Lower Yosemite Fall, both about a half mile loop. We moved onto the Vernal Fall Footbridge hike, about 1.4 miles roundtrip. This was a moderate hike, according to the brochures and park rangers. The children did well. No complaints. I was proud of them. But still, I wanted to get closer to this magnificent waterfall if I could. I wanted a hike I could really sink my boots into.

So one day I talked the family into the Top of Vernal Falls hike. It was only 3 miles, round trip. But it was strenuous. We took the eastern Yosemite Valley shuttle to stop #16, Happy Isles, to pick up the Mist Trail as it’s more direct to head to the top of Vernal Falls. You can also reach the falls via the John Muir Trail at the juncture with Mist Trail.  

Up! And I do mean up, we climbed. The scenery was breathtaking along the Merced River—but so was the hike. The Yosemite Valley lay before us, grand and vast; we could view it in spots along the trail.

            Then we found the granite stairway. 600 steps worth. I thought the family would crucify me. I must admit, we all plodded along slowly. The only way to endure a strenuous hike.  But—wow! 317 feet of waterfall. It was worth it!
Beautiful Vernal Falls in Yosemite
National Park, California.

            The kids vetoed another mile and a half to the Nevada Falls, and I had to agree. We still needed to head back down. The John Muir Trail is longer than the Mist Trail because of the winding around the mountain, so we opted to return the way we came. But I was content—and very proud of my troops!

            There wasn’t a lot of conversation on the trail because it was so tiring, but I want to offer you some hiking tips.

We needed to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion during our roughly 4 hour hike. To do this, we needed to drink plenty of water. I know there are energy drinks and Gatorades, etc. but water works best for the Lees family. The key is to drink often, rather than guzzle down water all at once. You may feel bloated when you drink a lot all at once. Pace yourself. And pace yourself when hiking the trail, too. Rest in the shade when you drink and eat salty snacks like salted nuts and pretzels to replace sodium lost through sweat. We found that water is available at the shuttle stop, but you should always carry water when you hike.  

Stay on the trail! The rangers told us this daily whenever we visited the ranger station to check on a particular trail. You need to use caution whenever you're near any flowing water or wet rock so as not to slip or fall into a swift current.

We stayed out of the wilderness section of Yosemite, for it is vast. You really need to know what you’re doing out there. We didn’t think the children, ages 12 to 19, were ready for it. Okay. It’s true. My husband and I didn’t think we were ready for it.

As with all hikes—especially into the wilderness—you pack in and you pack out. This means you need to carry everything you might require with you on the hike. Yes! It’s backpacking into the wilderness without road access or any outside assistance readily available. Even experienced backpackers shouldn’t go it alone. You need to take all trash—even biodegradable toilet paper—back out with you.

            Thanks so much for stopping by Camping with Five Kids. Have you been to Yosemite? Please share any family vacations or hiking experiences you may have enjoyed.

We wish you every blessing and happy family memories in the New Year!

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Big Difference Between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean According to Our Children

Our chilly children and their “dark,” 
“crumbly” California sand castle.
The verdict is in. The Pacific Ocean is colder than the Atlantic Ocean according to our children. True, we weren’t visiting Southern California. We were staying in Pacifica, California, just south of San Francisco.

“The water’s too cold!” Our son proclaimed as we shivered trying to allow the waves to wash over our feet.

I got up to my knees. The children, however, ran back to dry sand. And that’s another beef the kids had.

“The sand is too thick!” The twins complained as they tried to make their sand castles stick together.

“We’re not on a tropical island, you know,” I told them.

My husband put it another way.

“You guys have come all the way across the United States—a whole continent—and all you can think of is how much you like our warm South [New] Jersey beaches better than this northern California beach?” My husband asked them, dumbfounded.

I had to agree with him. Look what we’ve just done. We’ve traversed a continent. This was ridiculous!

But it is interesting. Although Pacifica is warmer than our little piece of New Jersey, the Pacific Ocean is indeed colder.

So I told the children we should research a bit. “Let’s stop at one of the marinas to question the experts about it.”

All of them—including my husband—rolled their eyes at me. It must have been the “r” word I dropped. I didn’t realize it at the time.

“We’re all about learning new things together, remember?” I told them. “Right, Dear? I looked for confirmation from my husband. “Especially when we camp with five kids in nature.”

A hush fell over the trailer. We were getting ready for bed at the time. Then the whispering began. My husband started it. He whispered something to our family Brainiac, our second daughter.

“It’s the warm gulf stream in the Atlantic that keeps New Jersey’s beach water warmer,” she spouted.

My eyes widened.

Then our son piped up. “The Atlantic Gulf Stream goes north along the coastland.”

“Really,” I asked, impressed.

My husband steamed up his ear again.

“Yes, Mom.” Our son beamed. “It comes from the Caribbean and heads up to Greenland.”

“But why was the Atlantic so cold when we visited Maine last summer?” I asked him.

It was his turn to widen his eyes. “Dad?”

I tried to conceal a smile but couldn’t.

My husband rolled his eyes again. “Because the warm gulf stream bounces off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and heads out to sea,” he finally said. “Any beach north of the Cape is colder.”

“But what about the Pacific Ocean, Daddy?” Our oldest daughter asked.

My husband addressed all of us in the trailer. “In the Pacific, the current runs down the coast coming from Alaska.”

“That’ll make it cold!” The oldest said.

I looked over at the twins. Their eyebrows were still knit. “What’s the problem, angels?” I asked. “I think Daddy answered the question pretty well.”

“But why is the sand so dark and heavy?” One twin asked.  

“Well now you’re talking about the geology of the land,” I said. I looked at my husband. He just shrugged. “Hmm,” I said. “Maybe we should find a geologist or a museum.”

“No!” The other children chorused.

I looked at the twins. It was their turn to shrug. So I told them what I thought.

“It’s probably from the waves hammering at the dark rocks along the coastline in California. I’m sure the thicker shells and the forests and plant matter along the coast help to make the sand darker and thicker too.”

They seemed to be satisfied with this explanation. As long as their sand castles held together!

Children are sponges. They really do want to know everything. It’s just that they don’t want to search for information while on vacation. Our children didn’t mind my seeking out a park ranger for clarification, but they didn’t want to make a specific side trip to a museum to find out further information.

When we got home, I researched on my own about why the water was colder in the Pacific at California beaches and found an interesting explanation here. It has short video links attached. The kids and I found it interesting and thought you might like to look at it too.

It was more difficult to find a good site about California’s sand. Sand is indeed a product of its location, from rocks, plants, and sea shells. This site offered some pictures and explanation of sand in general. 

Have you ever shared the extent of your knowledge with your children? They’re a great audience and can easily ask enough questions to surpass what you know. Do your children like to research with you for answers or would they rather wait for you to figure it out and explain it to them? 

Enjoy your holidays!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Ups and Downs of City Life in San Francisco, California

San Francisco and the cable car go together like our family and camping. There are ups and there are downs, and ups and downs.

The first down—literally—came when we were looking for the Visitor’s Center in San Francisco. The campground told us we could buy cable car passes for the day there.

Seriously! This shouldn’t have been so difficult. We drove around and around the city in search of this mysterious Visitor’s Center.
I clung to the cable car as my children clung to its poles!

My husband was driving. The kids were chattering behind us in the van. It was my job to find the Visitor’s Center sign. I saw this sign with the right colors, brown and white. It said Visitor’s Center in small letters. But it had this wiggly line next to it. The line looked like pyramid steps the closer I got to it.  But there was no Visitor’s Center. No specific building with a sign.

“I’ll have to get out and explore on foot,” I finally told my husband. “Because if we come around the corner one more time, trying to follow that blasted brown sign, and see this wrought iron fence and then some bland gray buildings with no signs on them, I’m going to scream.”

“Maybe it’s in one of those gray buildings. Maybe they don’t need to mark things out here.”

I glared at him. “That’s okay for the Californians, but how about us New Jerseyans?”

He stopped for yet another traffic light. I glanced back at the kids, they were getting restless. They needed to explore the city on foot as well. I hopped out of the van.

“Please be careful,” he cautioned.

“Right! Please come back to identify the body.”

“Not funny,” he said though the window as the light changed and he moved forward.

I headed back to where that goofy brown sign was supposed to tell us where to find the Visitor’s Center.

It was a fresh, cool day to explore a new city. People, deep in conversation with each other, strolled all around me as I traipsed back to the sign. As beautiful as San Francisco is, there are reasons why I prefer the quiet of nature. For one, I always know where I am if I stick to the trail.

Staring at the Visitor’s Center sign, I sighed and glanced back at the street, searching for our big blue van. Where was my husband? I shook my head and leaned against the wrought iron fence. Well the sign did look like steps. But steps up to…where? Then I noticed people walking in front of me with city maps and cable car schedules.

“Hey!” I accosted one of the people.

She jumped.

“Sorry! Where did you get the map?” I asked.

“At the Visitor’s Center.”

The mysterious Visitor’s Center again. “But where’s the Visitor’s Center?”

“Right behind you.”

I whirled around, finally looking through the bars. Then I looked down. There was a huge hole in the ground. And down below—the steps—were buildings: stores, cafes, and the mysterious Visitor’s Center.

I raced down the steps and rushed into the Center, purchased seven cable car passes with a time schedule, and picked up a map of the city. I was back at street level in about 15 minutes. I was afraid of missing my husband as there was no place to park in this area.

Breathless at the street light, heart hammering in my chest, a guy came up behind me and screamed at the back of my head at top volume. My heart stopped instantly, and I thought about the last thing I’d said to my husband. Did I have any I.D. on me? 

I was afraid to turn around. Did he have a weapon? Would anybody come to my rescue? The city was jam-packed, but no one approached me. Then I saw the blue van and ran to the curb.

My heart resumed beating, and I climbed into the van. “Where were you?” I screamed at my husband.

His eyes widened. “I…I went around the block. It went on forever. Caught every red light, like usual. You okay?”

I decided not to frighten him or the kids, telling him about the guy who screamed at me since that’s all the guy did was scream at me. He never touched me. Was this a normal thing in cities? I guess the guy thought it was funny or was trying to get a rise out of me. It worked, by the way.

Lombard Street, one of the “crookedest” streets in San Francisco.
The rest of our day was uneventful. We traversed this bustling city on foot and by cable car. I must admit. I sat in the middle of the narrow cable car while my children clung to the poles pointing out the colorful buildings and nearly vertical hills the car flew down and climbed up. The children especially loved Lombard Street, billed the “crookedest” street in the world. It’s not! You can find an interesting history of Lombard Street and other crooked streets in San Francisco here.  

Have you ever had an odd experience exploring a new city? Feel free to tell me about any of your own city adventures in the comments section.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Fourth of July Celebrated in a Desert

We were camping in the desert by the time 4th of July rolled around. We were in Nevada this time camping at Casa Blanca in Mesquite. The children—and yes, the parents!—loved the water park that the campground shared with the casino hotel. Curvy slides, tunnels, palm trees, fountains and waterfalls donned this pool area.
Cool, crisp mountain water cascading downward into the pool.
Even manmade, it's refreshing in a desert clime.

After exhausting ourselves at the water park, we showered to wash off all the sunscreen and chlorine before dinner. But the heat soon surrounded our freshly-washed bodies again as we sat in the screen house trying to figure out what to eat.

“Do they do fireworks in a desert, Mom?” Our son asked.

Good question, I thought. I wasn’t sure because it’s so dry in the desert and water’s at a premium. However, before I could answer our son, Miss Know-It-All piped up. Every family has one!

“It’s 4th of July,” our second daughter reminded us, in typical fashion—hands on skinny hips. “Of course they have fireworks tonight. Right, Mom?”

I looked over at my husband, who was fanning himself with a plastic plate. He shrugged his shoulders and leaned toward me.

“I don’t know where to go around here,” he whispered. “I just want to go to an air-conditioned restaurant to eat.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed. My children had taught me well. “I’m going to the air-conditioned camp office to see if they do fireworks in town. Does anyone want to…”

Before I could finish my statement, the children were fighting to open the zipper on the screen house to get out. My husband had dropped the plate. Thank goodness it was plastic. He butted in line and released the children from the confines of the screen house.

            “Great idea, Vic,” he said over his shoulder.

            I wonder what the magic word was that garnered all this help.

            We found out that they had a 4th of July celebration at the Mesquite Recreation Center in town. The camp clerk gave us directions. So we packed some beach towels and water and two canvas camp chairs for my husband and me and headed to town. We ate Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner slowly in the air-conditioned restaurant and then moved on to the park. 

The park was huge and even had a grassy playing field. Families staked out spots on the grass with blankets. As my husband and I took up a spot on the grass facing the tall orange cliffs like everyone else, our kids made fast friends with other kids who were slipping and sliding in and out of a huge, dark, tented slip and slide nearby.

“Just remember where we are,” I called out to the backs of their heads. They nodded, the only indication that they even heard me through the loud music and the laughter and screams coming from other children. The good news is that they continued to check in with us about every 20 minutes or so, telling us about all the kids they met. Our kids raced around playing flashlight tag and water balloon dodgeball.

By the time the fireworks were about to begin, the sky had filled with brilliant stars. The orange cliffs were mere outlines in the blackness of night. The music had quieted slightly and our children were all panting beside us. So much for the showers. I leaned back into my husband as best as I could in a canvas camp chair and sighed.

“You know, maybe I could handle the desert if it had a night sky like this every evening,” I told my husband.

He chuckled.

I turned and peered at him through the darkness. “What’s so funny?”

“Who are you kidding? You’d be pestering everyone before lunchtime, trying to find out where the nearest forest is.” He smiled and hugged me.

It’s tough being married to a rock hound who knows my dominant trait is tree hugging!

The fireworks seemed to last forever. Splashes of orange, red, and crinkly gold filled the sky. Full choruses of “ooos” and “ahhs” rang out. By the time we returned to camp and crawled into our bunks in the coolness of a desert night, we still couldn’t stop talking about the memories shared when we New Jerseyans saw fireworks against the orange cliffs of Nevada.

Have you ever experienced fireworks or any traditional celebration in a different state or country? Did you enjoy it?

I think the most beloved music in the world is the sound of human laughter, even when it come from seven exhausted people hiking in the 104-degree desert sun where everything seems funny—rocks, bugs, even footsteps!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Camping Coast to Coast with Kids: How to Make It Work

            When we took the troops west from New Jersey the second time, we made it to the Pacific Coast.  For a little over a month we traversed the United States, a beautiful country, taking in the Painted Desert, the Mississippi and Colorado Rivers, icy mountain lakes in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in California and Olympic National Park in the state of Washington, and the forests of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the mighty California Redwoods, and the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington state.   
One of the great sites in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
An alluvium fan at the bottom of the mountain left after a flood. 

Yes, it’s true! The trailer became very… how shall I say it? “Cozy?” The trailer could “sleep” seven, it said in the owner’s manual, not sustain their sanity. By the time we got to the west coast, we had it down to a science. 

There was a floating schedule of who sat where in the travel van and at the dinner tables. See my post entitled “Keeping the Peace with Schedules where I talk about how to create schedules to keep parents from tearing their hair out while driving and camping with kids.

The people with the longest arms in our family; i.e., my husband, our second daughter, and our son, sat on the ends of the dining tables as they could pass things between our two tables and reach things on the counters that couldn’t fit on the tables. 

The “thing” that we could never find when we needed it was the toothpaste, and the “thing” that was everywhere was the dirty laundry.  In fact, it ran around the camper at night. I heard it!

Our towels and bathing suits dried instantly while we camped in the desert, and the towels and suits stayed sopping wet once we reached the coast.

But we saw the county together.  The great Milky Way greeted us each night, stretching on forever as if God swished his wide, white paintbrush through the Heavens for all to see.  We saw shooting stars and the space station moving steadily across the night sky. 

We had black bear visit the campground in Sequoia National Park some nights, although never to our particular site.  We locked our food in bear lockers provided by the park. This is addressed in my post “Don’t Want This Hug.” 

Food should not be left in campers or tents as bears have a keen sense of smell. They have been known to slash through tents and campers to get at food, or what they consider food. Cosmetics, perfumes, and some shampoos have strong fragrances that bears can’t distinguish from food.  These items must be stored carefully if you bring them along on camping trips.

Our family went on nature hikes through the forests and mountains with rangers and saw black bear up close on this lengthy coast-to-coast camping trip.  The mighty Sequoia trees towered above us like sentinels standing guard over all the earth.  We stood inside their massive trunks, scarred by fire, yet still they tower and survive.  These broccoli-topped evergreen trees give new meaning to the word “awesome!” I describe some of our experiences in my post “A Real Live Giant:The Mighty Sequoias.” 

Fourth of July fireworks exploded amid orange cliffs in Nevada.  The Pacific Ocean and California and Washington beaches were windswept and brisk.  San Francisco really is straight up and straight down.  The roller coasters they call cable cars should come with seat belts.  They allow “goofy kids” (mine) to hang on the outside pointing and shouting, “Look Mom!  That road goes straight down.”  Mom couldn’t look.  She didn’t want to lose her place on the Rosary. 

America the Beautiful?  Yes, indeed. I plan to share more stories from our cross-country adventures in future posts. I hope your summer was exciting and memorable. Please feel free to share some of your adventures. Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!