Butano camping

This weekend we all headed out on a camping trip with our wonderful friends, the Reiners, who decided to invite us along to share their spot at Butano State Park. Leo brought his buddy Jovan, so there’d be another 9ish year old. I picked Aaron up at a GPS location halfway between our jobs and then we drove down and met our families who were already vacationing at the spot.

The kids have grown up a lot since the last camping. Leo and Jovan set up their own tent.

  

Then they sat around enjoying nature, or at least playing Pokemon on their DS out in the nature. Pikachu came and paid them a visit.

 Oh wait, that is not Pikachu, it’s a banana slug!

I was thinking about how much has changed since the last time we came to Butano State Park back in 2012. At that point in time our children were not yet Wild Children, I had never even seen a banana slug, we didn’t know what poison oak looked like, and we didn’t even know not to hug a stinging nettle.

Today we would never hug a stinging nettle. We can even tell other families what plant is poison oak. (Actually we learned a new rhyme – “if it’s hairy, it’s a berry” — this is to help where “leaves of three, let it be” left off). And our children even know how to set up and make their own camp fires. It’s pretty cool.

  
Day two we hiked down to the creek to play. Just like they say in the cartoons, the four boys picked a stick to fight over. Only one like that here in this forest. Me and Danielle had a good chuckle when we sent Aaron over to break it up.

  

Back at the campsite the little kids had story time and all the kids went out and got wood for the fire.

   

It was a night of hotdogs. Jovan really liked the hotdogs so when he was on to his third he explained to us that he was going to stop at three because he only wanted to get a little bit of cancer.

I learned a camping trick beyond the hairy berry rhyme. That is if you boil your water and put it in your dishes bin it is not so bad to be in charge of the dishes. I’m gonna keep this one in my back pocket.

When it was time to go, I didn’t know where Lucy and Ewan were. They had gone missing. Wait, they weren’t missing, they were just hiding in the trees. What a cool campsite to be able to hide out in the trees. Thanks Danielle and Aaron for bringing us along.

 

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Pre-Thanksgiving Boston Trip

My dad broke his femur and so we decided we would head out to Boston a little before Thanksgiving this year. The whole family came for a pre-Thanksgiving Turkey and cousin Sophia even got to stay over for a sleepover. She and Lucy had a blast sleeping in my old (and before that Gigi’s old) bedroom.

The next day, we picked carrots with grandma:

  

Took a family photo with grandpa:

  

Then we piled into the car to drive Sophia back to NH:

  

Grandma suggested that the kids sing songs to entertain themselves while we were driving. So the kids took turns. Sophie sang “the Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Lucy sang “Corn cob.” Leo sang “It’s Raining Tacos”. Sophie sang “Twinkle Twinkle Litter Star.” Lucy sang “I’m a crazy weirdo and I’m calling you.” Leo sang “This is the best burrito I’ve ever eaten.” I was wondering why my kids choices of songs were so different from Sophia’s. But when Leo started singing “This is the best burrito I’ve ever eaten” Sophie chimed right in. So I guess were not the only family whose kids learn their sing-along-songs from YouTube.

All in all it was a pretty laid back trip. Leo beat grandpa in chess. Caleb found a great comic book store. (We have since learned that the library is a way cheaper option for reading manga). I brought the kids sketchbooks along so that they could entertain themselves. Lucy is starting to sound out and spell words. It is a little burst of learning and it is really cool to watch. Here is a picture she drew where I was really impressed with how expressive she was. I’m not so sure about the subject matter though. 

  
Aw … my daughter can spell dog poop!

Not to worry she also drew and spelled a skull and cross bones, pikachu, turnips, coffee mug. I was really impressed that she even knew what turnips looked like, the picture was really realistic, so when we were in the grocery store I asked her to point them out to me. First she showed me radishes. Then raddicchio. So I pointed out the turnips. “Those don’t look like turnips,” Lucy said. Hmm.

  
All it all it was a lovey trip and we were so happy to see everyone!

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Camping with Lisa

 
Well these posts are not exactly in order. Fast forward through Grand Teton, Meteor Shower, Bend, and then head out west and you will end up in at a lovely campsite at Trout Creek on the South Santiam River and now Auntie Lisa has been able to join us.

After rockhounding in the heat had not been such a hit, we decided to look for rocks in the stream. Finding rocks in a stream can be a mixed strategy because sometimes they just look so beautiful but then when they dry it is always a disappointment. Lisa found some really weird slimy green ones and I found this one that I am sure is a thunderegg just river wore down.

  
Lisa sat down by the side of the river and starting piling up the stones. That’s what you do at the river, she explained. It does turn out to be a fun activity. We didn’t take any pictures at this stony river but here are some stone piles from the next.

  
This was also the first night that we camped with anyone else and our first night where our campsite had two tents. Lisa was a little jealous of our fancy REI get up but all of us were pretty impressed with what you can get for 30 bucks these days. Lucy wanted to sleep in her Auntie’s tent so me, Caleb and Leo had a roomy night while poor Lisa was kicked and woken up and told she was taking up too much space.

  
Not to be sidetracked from our purpose of collecting rocks, the next day we went out to hound some petrified wood. This is the family standing outside the Holleywood Ranch. Out back there are just piles of petrified wood and holes to dig in and find more. All to be purchased for $1.50 a pound.

  

Turns out this farm just has tons of varieties of petrified wood and it used to be some sort of beach. When people talk about petrified wood they often talk about it being 300 million years old or some other number of million years old. That gives the impression that it takes millions of years for wood to turn to stone. But actually, while it is a little hard to figure out how long it actually takes, it is more likely that the wood just needs to be attacked by a volcano in the appropriate way and then it will petrify in something like 7-100 years, but that all these volcanos occurred about 100+ million years ago.

While we adults were wandering around collecting wood, the kids were collecting something else in abundance at this ranch: blackberries!

 Check out those purple lips.

  
After all the collecting we and Lisa assessed our rocks. We were thinking about the $1.50 per pound and didn’t want to spend so much money so we selected our very best ones. When the guy who ran the place came back to collect our money he didn’t seem too strict about price and told Liss hers was $5 and us ours were $15. If we knew he was not going to measure our rocks well all woulda got more. But hey, now that we are home and have a counter full of petrified wood it is probably better.

No day on our roadtrip would be complete without cheeseburgers for lunch, or as the kids call it: “chezbugafoo”. So we went to the only diner in town and actually got terrible cheeseburgers for the first time on our trip. We felt pretty lucky that it took this long to get a bad cheeseburger. When it was time to leave Lucy announced that she needed to poop. Then she went to the bathroom for an hour. OMG, was it time to leave that restaurant but there was no removing Lucy from the bathroom. Once we finally got on the road, the bad news for Lisa was that she got stuck behind a burning truck and had to wait a few hours to get on the highway. Damn Lucy and her long poop! Lisa assures us it was worth it, and it was for us!

  

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The Land of the Volcanos

 
If you were ever wondering the answer to questions such as: Why does the buffalo have it’s hump? Is bison the plural of buffalo? How far do you have to go to get to the earth’s fiery center? Well then this post is for you. Follow us on our adventures through the land of volcanoes. Starting with the fields of Pahoehoe (pronounced pah-hoe-ey-hoe-ey) lava at Craters of the Moon National Monument and moving on over to the sulfuric smells of mud volcanoes, geysers, and boiling springs of Yellowstone.

Craters of the Moon
When Caleb was a 19 year old youth delivering furniture to folks in Idaho he had the good fortune of driving by the Craters of the Moon National Monument and just like Calvin Coolidge who thought this “… a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself” Caleb was also taken in by the seemingly endless rivers of dried lava and had always wanted to return. 20 years later he got his wish. Last (at least it was last when I started writing this) Thursday we arrived at Craters of the Moon and were met with fields and fields of Lava every where we looked.

This is what craters of the moon looks like:

  
And this is what it looks like with people walking on it. This is Pahoehoe lava, named for similar Lava formations in Hawaii, rivers flowing of lava.

  

One of the toughest things for our kids in this park was the requirement to stay on the path and leave the lava in the park. Since we could not keep any of the awesome rocks Lucy picked up she insisted we take pictures of them. As a result, we have many pictures like this:

  

After lots of walking on the path we got the the neatest part of the park, the lava caves. All of a sudden the requirement to stay on the path was gone. We could go in the caves and guided by ourselves with no tour. These caves formerly were flowing with lava which created these tunnels. Here is our family walking into dew drop cave. This was the first cave we found. It felt like air conditioning had been turned on in the hot summer. You could look around at the beautiful dew drops on the ceiling with your flashlight.

Dew drop cave:
  
The dew drop cave seemed exciting until we got to the Boy Scout Cave. Boy Scout Cave was by far the most exciting cave to climb around in. It had a very tight entrance. You can tell by the size of Caleb’s bald spot just how big the opening was. Not very big.

Boy Scout Cave:
  
This entrance also explained why we saw other kids walking down the path with their bicycle helmets. We had judgmentally assumed that these other parents were strangely overprotective. But now it was all starting to make sense.

I tried to get in but felt intimidated by the tight squeeze and paused my attempt. But once I saw Caleb go in I followed with confidence. After a few minutes of shimmying, I was in! It was very cool there were parts of this cave that you could stand up straight in and corners to explore. Here are pictures of our little spelunkers:

   

 

From Craters we headed on to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone
I always knew I wanted to go to Yellowstone. I did not know too much about it but mainly I wanted to see the Bison. But the whole Yellowstone experience was way cooler than I could have expected.

The first Yellowstone challenge is dealing with first-come-first-serve camping. To get a spot what you do is rent a hotel room outside the park and then get up at 6am the next day and drive in to beat the rush. Once you get to a campground you and about 5 other cars are on a mad rush to find someone leaving so you can take their slot and somehow claim it for your own. We were pretty excited to find out that this actually worked and we settled in a Norris campground. Norris was much more upscale than some of the other campgrounds we’d been at on our trip in as it had running water and flush toilets, but the pouring rain each night made us feel as if we were still roughing it.

Here is some of Leo’s oragami from inside the tent. Folding and then burning in the campfire was a favorite pastime on the trip.

  

After getting settled we decided to take a hike and followed the sign to Norris Geyser. We really had no idea what to expect. I’d heard of Old Faithful and seen cartoons of water spurting out of the earth but I really did not know what a geyser was. We walked through the woods for a about a mile and then we came to was a flat field with spurting geysers and florescent ponds everywhere. This was called a geyser basin. And the smell of sulfur. Boy did it stink. I didn’t mind too much because I’m always looking for a spot where my farts will be less obvious but the children hated the smell and complained bitterly. Sulfur got many more complaints than anything else on the trip.

Here is a video of what Norris Geyser Basin looked like:

The ground was so brittle that we needed to stay on the path. Falling off you could fall through the ground and get burnt.

This is basically what much of Yellowstone looked like. Smoke coming out of the ground. Smells of sulfur. And why? Well it is because Yellowstone is the Caldera (e.g. the big hole) of a volcano. Only 12 miles beneath Yellowstone you arrive at the earth’s magma layer. I heard this in a ranger session and thought that 12 miles actually seemed pretty far away deep down under there but it turns out for other parts of the earth it is more like 80 miles, so Yellowstone actually is really close to the fiery magma in the earth by comparison.

This is what it looked like to drive in Yellowstone, misty geyser’s everywhere.

  
Rocks
Yellowstone was also place where all the rockhounding came together and we saw a cliff made of obsidian and a tree made a petrified wood.

Obsidian Cliff:

 
Petrified Tree:

  

The yellowstone wildlife.
Our second day in the park was rainy so we decided to drive out to see the wildlife. Wildlife in Yellowstone include bison, grizzlies, elk, and moose (mooses, meese?). Bison are the animals people know how to find predictably so we headed out to Lamar Valley. And check out what we saw.

  
A buffalo crossing the road! We were probably closer than we should have been but this was pretty exciting.

  

It sounds like buffalo almost became extinct about 100 years about and then then came back from fewer than 100 animals with the help of the conservationists. And now for an important moment of learning: why does the buffalo have such a funny hump? … and the reason is … that hump houses all the muscles that help the buffalo dig in snow in the winter by swinging their heads side to side. They dig in the snow to eat.

If a buffalo wanted to swing its head side to side near you it could be fatal. And despite being vegetarian’s buffalo injure more people every year than grizzlies because people get so excited taking selfies with them.

  

We met a family with a young child who told us that the word bison was the plural of buffalo. This sounded fishy so once we had internet service we had to check it out. Turns out that bison is only the plural for buffalo if you have a very loose definition. Because bison is a synonym for buffalo and you can have 1 buffalo and 2 buffaloes and 1 bison and 2 bison so you can probably have 1 buffalo and 2 bison but you can also have 1 bison. Got it? What is really more accurate is that buffalo is a less sophisticated of saying bison coming from the french word for beef: boeuf.

But now back to our trip. On our way back from seeing the bison we came across the elusive grizzly bear! This is what a grizzly looks like in Yellowstone:

  
That’s right, you know its a bear if there are all sorts of people jammed up. You cannot believe how excited I was “PARK THE CAR CALEB, PARK THE CAR!!!” Caleb parked the car in a ditch on the side of the road we got out to check it out.

This is what it really looked like:

  
Could you see the two cubs? No? Oh well, we couldn’t see them either without our binoculars. Seeing this bear in the distance of our binoculars was actually quite an exciting event and left us all feeling a bit giddy. And when we read in the newspaper the next day that a park employee had been gobbled up by a grizzly we did not regret the distance separating us at all.

To summarize our wildlife sightings: we got too close to the bison, not close enough to the grizzly, and another blood thirsty animal was awaiting us in Grand Teton, and this time it attacked Lucy! Stay tuned to find out more.

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Day 10 – Hailey ID

Here we are on Day 10 of our trip, sleeping in Hailey Idaho. As far as Idaho goes, Hailey is where you stay if you can’t afford to stay in Ketchum. Ketchum is where you stay if you can’t afford to stay in Sun Valley. Sun Valley is where you ski. What the heck everyone is doing out here in the middle of the summer we have no idea. But it sure seems crowded.

What are we doing here? Well it all started with our detour from McDermitt NV on Day 6 of our trip. This blog post tells of the adventures getting us here to Hailey. Notably mineral rich McDermitt, history rich Idaho City and the hot springs of the Boise Basin.

Day 6 – McDermitt, NV:
After 5 days of adventuring we landed in McDermitt NV. McDermitt NV is a rockhounding haven. If you don’t know what rockhounding is, check out my last post. All the books say that McDermitt is just swimming in exciting rocks: opalized wood, thundereggs, agate … . The other awesome thing about McDermitt is that it is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and so you can set up your tent and camp anywhere for free. And so on day 6 we headed to McDermitt with much enthusiasm.

We ate lunch at a half diner/half casino where the ladies room sold condoms where I expected to see tampons. Then we headed out the dirt rockhounding road with much enthusiasm. McDermitt was actually a little hot out in rockhounding land. 100 degrees the car said. Lucy refused to get out and look for rocks. Caleb, Leo and I made an honest try and found a spot we’d love to spend more time at, weather being a little nicer and Lucy being a little less grumpy. Opalized wood I think I found. I swear you can see the shimmer! But by 1PM, 100 degree weather, and McDermitt looking like the place in the image below, it didn’t seem like the place to camp, nor the place to wait around until evening, so we headed out.

Caleb and Leo looking through rocks other people have discarded:

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Down the dusty dirt road we went and poof! A flat tire.

Caleb changed the tire and we decided to head on to find a place to replace the broken tire. But alas, there are no tire shops in a spot that looks like this:

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Lucy was not willing to get out and look for rocks in McDermitt but she did do some exploring in the gas station. Here she is with the Monarch butterfly she found.

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So on to Rome, OR, the next campsite. 104 degrees in Rome. Time to keep on driving. Finally a spot in Jordan Falls, OR to spend the night in a B&B. Almost to Boise which is a spot we could change our tire. But the next day was Sunday and no tire stores were open. Boise weather forcasted to be 104. What to do?

Well Caleb knew what to do.

WATERPARK!!!!

And what do you do after you’ve spent the day in the waterpark all day long in 104 degree weather? Play in your motel pool all night long.

So finally by Monday morning we were back on track but decided to reroute through the Boise National Forest. And good thing. This was now Day 8.

Day 8 – Idaho City, Pine Flats Campground.

We decided to do some touring in a ghost town of the Wild West called Idaho City. We learned a bunch of history at the Boise Basin museum. We learned so much history that in preyed on Caleb’s subliminal insecurities. In his dream that night someone said to him: “Why is it that home school kids know so much math and science but don’t know history?”

Now while it is true that our kids know a lot of math, Leo, at least, seemed to be having a little trouble bringing himself back and imagining life in the 1860s. When the museum host showed us some old fashioned desks and asked Leo what he thought the holes were for, he said: “wires”.

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Well that would make a lot of sense in 2015, but in 1865 … those holes were used for ink!

Here are some of the other things we learned. In this town in 1865 it really was wild. Of the first 200 people to be buried in the cemetery, 25 died of natural causes, the other 175, violence. The town had 38 grocery stores and 41 saloons. To commemorate all this drinking and shooting the Boise Basin museum had a display of all the kinds of whiskey bottles they had in town. It took up a wall. Both the jail and the penitentiary were two of the buildings left standing. It also had a painting of Herman St. Clair, the Mona Lisa of Idaho City. Herman St. Clair shot his long time mining partner in the back. Then they threw him in jail. And then then about 200 people, mostly families, set up a picnic to watch him get hanged. Why? What else where they gonna do for entertainment except drink, shoot each other, and watch people get hanged? And at some point someone painted this picture. Anywhere you stand in the room he appears to be looking at and also, shooting at, you.

“Just like the Mona Lisa!” my kids said. So I guess they do know something about history, at least art history.

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Along with all the history, we also learned a knock knock joke from Karen, the host of the museum. We still have not connected the dots and figured out what this has to do with Idaho history.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Duane
Duane Who?
Duane the tub, I’m dwowning.

And then we were off. Off to sleep in the Pine flats campground. Possibly the most lovely campground in the world. But who is to pick a favorite? Every campground is my favorite until I get to the next.

Nights 8 & 9, Pine Flats Campground

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The picture doesn’t really tell the story of this place. You can tell that there are trees and a picnic table and all that jazz. But you can’t see the scenic drive through the mountains to get here. You can’t see our 6 year old friend, William, and his grandparents, who joined us by the fire and brought s’mores ingredients. And you also can’t see the 1/4 mile hike over a 100 foot cliff that lands you in a natural hot springs tub.

As we got to the top of the cliff we knew we were in the right spot because we saw other people basking in the water. So while the cliff seemed a bit treacherous to climb down we figured we better do it. 15 minutes later when we were sitting in our hot tub overlooking the lovely river it was worth it. But at that point the family that was already there explained to us that it was not necessary to climb over a 100 foot cliff with your 6 year old and 8 year old children. In fact, a 20 foot wade through the river would get you there as well. At least we knew how we were going to head back.

We did not bring our camera to the hot spring, but picture the scenery. First, a river, the kind you white water raft on. You cant see around the bend because there is a big cliff there. But next to the cliff just a short sandy walk up is a natural pool, with a hot shower falling off the cliffs into it. This was the Pine Flats Campground. $15 a night. We stayed two nights and would have spent more time out by the Payette river and it’s many natural hot tubs but there was a severe thunderstorm warning, so we have retreated to civilization to write this blog post. And the Hotel in Hailey is where we are.

Caleb and the kids at a “Scenic Overlook” on the way to Hailey:

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Lucy wants to go on a real adventure where she has a map and finds a treasure. I’m not sure Caleb and I can provide that but tomorrow we are back to camping and off to see Craters of the Moon which seems exciting to us!

This post was so long that it needs an appendix:

Appendix
Cool things I have not written about are: Oragami by the campfire, my 40th birthday rich in obsidian, and The Sheldon Wildlife preserve.

Here has been the itinerary thus far:
Day 1: Campground kinda near Tahoe. Lovey swimming in Yuba River
Day 2: Quartz in Peterson MTN CA, Sleep at Long Point campground, Anderson Lake, comes with a bear
Day 3: Petrified Wood in Susanville CA, Upper Rush Creek campground
Day 4: Obsidian in Davis Creek CA, Lakeview OR Hotel
Day 5: Sheldon Wildlife Preserve Opal, Virgin Valley Campground
Day 6: Agate McDermitt, Sleep Jordan Valley, OR
Day 7: Roaring Rapids water park! Boise ID
Day 8: Idaho City touring, Pine Flats campground, Boise National Forest
Day 9: River rafting, Pine Flats campground, Boise National Forest
Day 10: Hailey ID

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Rock Hounding Day 2

Today was our second day rock hounding and tonight is our third night camping. I’d like to start on Day 1 but there is too much to tell and it is better to start somewhere than nowhere. So day 2 it is. We’ll start last night.

Picture this.  The Wright family has just fallen asleep in its tent right next to the picturesque Antelope Lake at the top of a hill somewhere in northern California when we hear a noise like pots and pans banging around.  I hear a “honey look”.  I look outside the tent.  The moon is almost full and in its beams I see a bear over by our picnic table.  A bear!

This is my first bear.  Caleb runs out and beeps the car.  The bear runs about 10 feet away but he still has something banging.  Caleb jumps around and honks the car and the bear runs away for reals.  Caelb walks around and finds a broken box that used to hold our Master Mind pegs and children’s Tylenol. Yum.

Then back to sleep.  I  was a little scared it would come back but it did not. We are guessing the bear came because our bin looked like a cooler even though we put all the food in the car. This morning our camping neighbors called it a small bear but I guess any bear looks big to me.

Here are the claw (or tooth?) marks it left in our bin.

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But now over to the hounding. If you have never heard of rock hounding it means collecting rocks.  Caleb set up this nice trip for our family where we head out to places found in rock hounding guides known to have good rocks.  So far in the first two days this has involved confusing directions of mile markers. dirt roads, and barbed wire fences.  

Today we went to a place near Susanville.  Head north from Susanville 10.3 miles and then take a left toward a barbed wire fence.  Open it and drive straight through cow country 1.4 miles. Then park, walk half a mile north to an empty stream bed and look down to find rocks. And indeed there were cool rocks.

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We were in a haven of petrified wood and agate or chalcedony. Hard to know the difference if you have never heard of either and do not have the the Internet to check.  

Here is what the place looked like:

Lucy: 

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Leo:

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Oh yeah and we found a skeleton too.

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We made a picnic and then walked around looking at the ground for about an hour. I was happy that there was a use for the oversized picnic blanket that I insisted on packing.  The was so much petrified wood that we took far less than we saw.  It made Lucy remark that the road trip was not as bad as she expected. A very high compliment.

And here is what our loot of petrified wood (and also my picnic blanket if you are curious) looked like after we poured it out at tonight’s campsite.  (Leo still has not learned how to smile at the camera).

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A close up of some savers:

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Tonight we are possibly in the nicest campsite I’ve ever visited.  But more on that later as it is time to enjoy.

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Yosemite in June

Last year Grandpa Ken’s sister Carol reserved rooms in Yosemite in the high season for a siblings retreat. Unfortunately she could not go. Fortunately me, Caleb, and the kids were able to fill the room. Unfortunately I’ve chosen to commemorate the vacation in a really long blog post. Fortunately it will be riveting the whole way through. Unfortunately … (maybe you’ve read the book). Joking aside we had a wonderful trip to Yosemite and we very happy we got to go, but also sad that Carol could not join.

I’ve been to Yosemite a few times before but never at the time of year that people actually want to go. So all my memories of Yosemite go something like: Will I really need hiking boots in the snow? OMG this place is so cold. Isn’t this an awfully cold place for morning sickness? Is that malfunctioning heater gonna hurt the unborn child? Isn’t this a cool place to show the kids snow? It better snow while we are here and not just be freezing cold. … But basically now I get it. Yosemite in June is amazing.

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So what’d we do in Yosemite?

Well on our first day we climbed some cliffs near some waterfalls. This is known as the mist trail and is the most popular in the park. We tried to keep the kids focused on hiking but they kept scurrying off into nearby boulders. You see those little dots in the picture. Those are the kids off to the side of the trail.

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We were hiking with Grandpa Ken, his brother Bill, Aunt Beth and their son Mike. Mike is an outdoor kind of guy. He has quit his day job to invent a special kind of backpack that can keep hikers from sweating.

As we got halfway up from Vernal Falls (the first waterfall) to Nevada Falls (the second waterfall) it started to thunder. Yosemite’s cliffs are made of granite and lightning off of them is no joke. So I started to get nervous and encourage folks to book it. First it started thundering. Then it started hailing. At which point I grabbed Lucy’s hand. “Is this as fast as you can move?” I asked and then I grabbed her hand started running with her down the hill. Lucy’s summary of the hike goes something like “mommy was scared”. But I feel justified because while everyone else seemed quite nonchalant it was me and Mike, the man who hikes so much he invents stuff to improve hiking, who wanted to get the hell off the mountain.

Leo’s butt before the storm. You can see Mike’s backpack holster.
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We came out safe and sound, had a great opportunity to discuss the difference between hail and freezing rain (hail freezing in the clouds, freezing rain on the ground), and were happy for another adventure the next day. Again the day started sunny as could be. The kids were splashing around in what is known as mirror lake … wonder how it got it’s name.

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Then the skies opened up again for another storm. This time not being on a mountain top it was no problem. We just walked the mile out to the shuttle stop in the rain. Here is Lucy holding up an invisible umbrella that one of her fairy friends gave her. If you don’t believe in fairies then this umbrella will not keep you dry nor will you be able to see that it is keeping Lucy dry.

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Fairies have become quite an interest of Lucy’s. She just explained to us that she was born to a bad fairy father and a good fairy mother and her good fairy mother died and so now Caleb and I are raising her. This is how she came to be half-fairy half-human.

Leo does not believe in fairies, nor do Caleb and I. We are also pretty sure that we are Lucy’s birth parents and no fairies were involved in her conception. Uncle Bill, however, claims to believe in fairies. Tinkerbell entered his life as a child as well and he used to jump off chairs trying to fly like Peter Pan.

Uncle Bill also likes to tell stories that imbue children with superpowers, kind of like how tinkerbell imbues children with superpowers. Many camping trips from his kids, Will, Mike and Sam’s, youth featured the superkids named Will, Mike and Sam with super powers. Superkids made an appearance on this trip as well. Here is uncle Bill telling the story of Leo and Lucy the superkids saying “one, two, make me a kangaroo … “ and then have magical jumping abilities

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As we were falling asleep at night I overheard the kids discussing if these powers were true. Definitely not, explained Leo.

Now while me, Caleb, and the kids were enjoying mirror lake, everyone else decided to go on a famous hike to a place called “Clouds Rest” maybe because that is where the clouds take their rest. The group decided that the 16 mile version of this hike was not hard enough so they made it more fun by hiking back to the valley and totaling 19 miles of hiking.

Here they are on top of the world:
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The next day, not to be outdone by the 60-year-olds Caleb and I decided we needed to go our own athletic hike as well. I know I’m setting this up for humor but there really is none. Caleb and I actually did take a 16 mile, 5,000 ft elevation change hike up Yosemite falls and then down some other granite cliff back into the valley in the 95 degree weather. It was probably the most ambitious hike we have done together and also probably the most ambitious hike I have done on my own. The first part was straight up. This picture below might give you a sense of how high that is.

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Getting up that cliff felt like it would never end. We had hiked for 2 hours. It was HOT. Did I mention it was 95 degrees? I was just putting one foot in front of the other. All of a sudden we met a smiling man on his way down. “Only 30 more minutes to the top!” he said. 30 more minutes! OMG I was hoping for 5 more minutes.

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The same thing happened on our way down only this time we were the ones laughing. We were coming down another steep cliff in another part of the park. We’d been walking down the hill for about 40 minutes which must translate to something like 2 hours had we been doing the same distance going up when we ran into a couple. They looked at us hopefully: “are we almost there?” Well there really was no positive to way to spin it.

Selfie from the hike. Everything was a lot more fun once we got to the shady woods:
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Most of the rest of the trip was spent hanging around in the Yosemite Valley with the kids. We took a bike ride out to El Capitan the largest piece of granite on earth.

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Caleb was feeling really impressed with how “All American” looked in his baseball cap and bike.

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Beth suggested that when the kids are bored we should play “I spy with my little eye …” you know the game where you see something and people guess what it is. So as we sat around looking up at the biggest piece of granite on earth we played “I spy”.

(Yep, that’s us lookin’ at it)

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As it turns out, Lucy is not very fun to play with.

It goes like this. Lucy starts: I spy with my little eye something yellow … Is it Leo’s shoe? … No. … Is it mommy’s hat? … No. Is it that bee buzzing around … No. Is it? … No. Is it? … No, No, No.
Lucy: Only fairies can see it. It is a golden necklace.

You can see why Leo finds this fairy stuff a little tiring. Ok, next “I spy” no special fairy stuff.

Lucy starts: I spy with my little eye something blue. … Is it your backpack? … No … Is it .. No. What is it we give up?
Lucy: Oh wait you needa have xray vision to see it. It’s my stuffed lizard over there in the bag.

Along with biking, the kids swam in the Merced river, climbed around on boulders, and did a bunch of lollygagging. Ken is a very spry grandpa and along with 19 mile hikes he climbed up boulders with the kids.

Here is a picture of Grandpa Ken. Lucy had drawn one of him before that we always refer to affectionately and she wanted to update her artwork.

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And thus ends the (LONG) story of our Yosemite vacation. It was so wonderful to see everyone.

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Kung Fu FIghting

Were all tired out from a long weekend. We’ve just finished a healthy dinner of fried hotdogs and left over pupusas. Here is some dinnertime conversation about our day and from where each kid has inherited their talents.

Me: Leo, what did you do with your friend in the park today?
Leo: Mostly we played on the really fun twisty slide.
Lucy: Well I told you to go on the slide because you were too scared.
Dad: Well I gave you the genes to give you the courage to do things like that Lucy and Leo’s mom gave him the cautious genes.
Lucy: You DID NOT give me any jeans. Neither of you gave me ANY jeans.

In truth, Leo is not that cautious. Nor am I. Come on. But Leo is sensitive not to hurt other people’s feelings. For example, he did something nice the other day, I can’t remember what, and when I asked him where he got his nice side from in perhaps a leading fashion …

Me: Leo, you are so nice. Where did you inherit this from? Me?
Leo responded in a very characteristically nice way.
Leo: I got it from everybody.

In other news, we now move on to the title of the post, Kung Fu. The kids got their red/yellow belts in Kung Fu last night. We are new to martial arts and I had never heard of this half step belt before. Before yesterday they were yellow belts. Now they are halfway to red belts with red/yellow belts. I’m not sure if it is a real thing outside this studio or a way for the studio to earn an extra $80 for the cost of a test but it was a proud moment for us, nonetheless.

It was the first belt test at the big studio over in Sunnyvale. The way it worked is about 30 kids sit in one corner. Each got called in front of 3 judges to do their moves while a bunch of parents watched. All with some light pop music playing in the background. The humor was not lost on me when the first kid went out there and in the background you hear the lovely melody from the 1970s “… oh-hoh-hoh-hoh … well they were Kung Fu fighting … fast as lighting …

Leo takes Kung Fu very seriously and practices every day. He told us he was nervous in advance. But then he went out there and just nailed it.

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Lucy also did great but she has a much more happy go lucky approach to life. Didn’t seem nervous. Also not phazed by any mess ups.

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In both cases it was neat because they had worked hard and then had a nice achievement. I thought it would be great fun to go out to ice cream after Kung Fu but everyone else just wanted to go to bed. We planned to go out for ice cream instead today but then went to a birthday party and have now each had at least four desserts so I think the ice cream is on hold.

Life goes on in the areas of trying to raise healthy, happy, children. We have been exercising together as a family. Caleb has been doing the 7 minute workout with the kids. Sometimes Lucy also likes to set up with me when I do push-ups and sit-ups. When Lucy was doing her push-ups the other day I suggested that she bend her arms more and try to get her nose to the ground like I do. But Lucy explained me: “well that is easier for you because your nose is bigger than mine.”

I respectfully disagree that that is why push-ups are easier for me. I have never heard of large noses as a push up advantage. Lucy is totally discounting all the practice I have been putting in.

The kids have also been talking about crushes recently. Leo is frustrated because Kirby said he had a crush on Annapurna and Annapurna said she had a crush on Kirby and that makes playing together as a threesome less fun.

“Wha-ut?” Lucy responds “Ewan and I have a crush on each other.”
“No you don’t”, Caleb and I explain, “you’re just good friends.”
“Well, we don’t annoy each other that much. So that means we have a crush on each other,” Lucy explains.
Maybe that 6 year old has a point. Not-annoying-each-other-too-much makes the world go round.

Love is in the air. Lucy’s piano teacher recently got engaged. “Mom, Mom, come here!” Lucy shouts during her piano lesson. When I go over to where Lucy and her teacher are sitting, Lucy says “I want to compare your rings.”

Well, we were all thinking it right?

At this advanced age I am actually not thinking such things but I wonder how Lucy knew the worst thing you are to say to a newly engaged woman? After the side by side I explained to Lucy that she probably should not do that. It didn’t really make sense to her. Why not?

Since I’m tired, I’ll end now with a picture from last week’s tiring weekend. That is Lucy smashing wasp eggs in an oak gall. (You can read more on the entomology here). She feels bad for the wasps. Not so bad, I don’t think.

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