All posts by Erin Castillo

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Paulding County in Dallas, Georgia :: White Oak Park

If you find yourself West of Atlanta in Georgia (Paulding County), White Oak Park offers a few small lakes for fishing, a Disc Golf Course, exercise path, covered areas, and playgrounds.

We recommend you use this park in the colder months from mid-November through March. The downside of this park is it does have issues with vipers near the water areas, so you’ll need to keep your eyes open and watch for water moccasins in particular. We have sighted one before, so heed the warnings as they are justified.

Local photographers like to frequent this park for outdoor photo sessions for its picturesque scenery making it an excellent backdrop for portraits.

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Jason got skunked on his fly rod, but Joshua had some success with a Grass Carp and a couple of small large-mouth bass!

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So, if you ask my guys, they love this park, but as for me, I don’t find it friendly to families with smaller children. (Case in point, there is no bathroom near the large playground. You have to hike up the hill to use the restroom. When you have little ones, this can be a huge inconvience and remember — never send a child alone to a bathroom or anywhere out of eye sight!) Hate to be a Debbie Downer on this one, but until Paulding County can eradicate the vipers and put in a bathroom near the playground, this park won’t be one we return to often.

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Fun in the Sun 4th of July

We headed to lake on the 4th of July! The boys wanted to play on a rope swing they knew of nearby and the day was spent playing in the water and eating. Good times!

 

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Around 3 pm the first thunderstorm rolled through and we knew we wouldn’t be able to get the boat out of the water in time, so we grabbed a sunshade we had on hand and got out of the water just in time. We played in the water some more after the storm rolled through only to discover another band of storms was right behind it, so we went back to our little shelter again for round two! After the coast was clear, we packed up our gear and headed back to the boat launch to end our fun-filled day!

Remember, if you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightening! ALWAYS seek shelter out of the water if you find yourself in a thunderstorm. And if you have a cell phone, be sure to sign-up for FEMA automatic alerts — this helped us with the right amount of warning to get to safety before the storm rolled through and helped to keep our family out of danger.

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Hope you and your family enjoyed the day together as well no matter what adventures came your way!

Don’t miss this “Field Trip” to the Great American Eclipse

The last time I saw a solar eclipse I was barely in grade school. I remember my mom (who was a teacher) taking me out to the open field along with her 30 students where they all held up various box filters they had created in order to look at the eclipse for she was quite adamant that to look straight at the eclipse, I could burn my retinas. (Even a 99.9% solar eclipse of the sun can damage the naked eye. Looking directly at the sun without protection for more than a few seconds can cause blindness.) I remember feeling a little bit of trepidation and I was too afraid to look except for a brief moment (as I valued my eye sight.)

Well, approximately 40 years later, I have the opportunity to experience this event again and am determined to see the solar eclipse, safely, and in totality. (They didn’t have these CE and ISO Certified Solar Eclipse Glasses when I was a little girl, but while I’m thinking about it, you can be prepared and grab some shades here.)

On Monday August 21, 2017, millions of people in the United States will experience a unique event: a total eclipse of the sun. This is to be the first coast-to-coast “total” solar eclipse in 99 years across the United States and will last 2.5 minutes across a 60-mile wide mind-blowing total eclipse blackout from Oregon’s West Coast to South Carolina’s East Coast. (See map illustration below.)

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According to “About 12 million people are lucky enough to live in the path of totality, and about 200 million are within a day’s drive of the path.”

Fred Espanak of MrEclipse.com has calculated that the longest solar eclipse across North America will be in Kentucky and the lower tip of Illinois (see image).

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Courtesy Fred Espanak, MrEclipse.com
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This NASA chart lists eclipse times for cities in the path of totality for the 2017 total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. Credit: NASA

Because the shadow of the moon will move from west to east, totality will occur later in the day the farther east you travel. Use the NASA interactive eclipse map to find out exactly when totality will occur and how long it will last in the location where you plan to observe the eclipse. You can also download this map courtesy of NASA.

REMEMBER! Looking directly at the sun, even when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or blindness. NEVER look at a partial solar eclipse without proper eye protection. You can learn safety tips about viewing the eclipse here and ideas on how to make your own viewer here (see page 2).

If you plan on traveling to see the total solar eclipse, be sure to make travel plans in advance. And note that NASA predicts it will be one of the worst traffic days in history. To learn more about the North American 2017 solar eclipse, visit NASA’s page here or visit ExperienceAstronomy.com.

PS: The next solar eclipse will be in 2024 — a total solar eclipse will darken the skies above Mexico and Texas, up through the Midwest and northeastern U.S.

PSS: Don’t forget to grab some glasses early! I’m getting enough for our family (and our dog). As the demand goes up, I’m sure they’ll raise prices!

 

Are you getting the itch to travel? Yeah, me too.

It’s about this time of year that we begin to seriously think about warmer days ahead and what new adventures might lie ahead for our tribe to explore.

It’s been awhile since we’ve been to the beach — at this point, I’m thinking a trip to Tybee Island, GA as it’s been about five years since we’ve been there with the kiddos. On my list of “things I’d love to experience” is a live hatch of baby sea turtles and this region of Georgia offers opportunities to experience those up close. My little girl LOVES sea turtles and the boys would enjoy experiencing this, too!

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I also love this area because of the rich history of Savannah, GA and my Pinterest page is busting with ideas that are itching to be explored.  From there we could head north towards Charleston, SC or south towards Florida.

martin-luther-king-572586_1280It’s also been on my mind to explore Birmingham, AL and surrounding areas a bit more. There is rich history here in Atlanta and in Alabama relating to the Civil Rights Movement and this might be the year that we deep-dive into that with a trip to connect the kids to those events through visiting the sites where they took place.  There’s also a couple of car-making factory tours that I would love for my older teens to go on with the right planning. (I’m thinking that we’ll avoid this region during the months when tornados are more common tho’ — i.e. spring.)

It also might be good to do something more humanitarian and take the kids up to Tennessee to see if we can partner with the ongoing efforts to restore the region where fire took it’s toll this past year in the Dollywood area.  :*(web-forest-fire-blaze

Hmmm… Decisions, decisions.

The reality is where we end-up going will partly be dependent on hubby’s work travel schedule.  But in the meantime, part of my process is to plan ahead by day dreaming on Pinterest. Pinning things that might sound of interest (should we get to that region), makes it a lot easier for planning to gel and come together when the time comes to put ideas into motion.

I encourage you to do the same today. Get a jumpstart on your own travel dreams with one of the boards I’ve started. And if you know of a great resource that I haven’t pinned yet, by all means send the travel idea my way. I love new places to visit and often locals know the best places to enjoy.

Let’s dream a little… So, where would you like to go and explore this year?

University of Washington | Remembering our Roots

As we gear up for the big football game (the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal) between our alma mater UW (The University of Washington) and BAMA (Alabama), my husband reminded me of how we stopped in for a short visit to the U.W. campus last summer (2015) to show the kids what used to be our old stomping grounds for several years as we got our college degrees.

We arrived on a three-day holiday week-end and made a quick stop at the columns and borrowed the bus lane for a few quick moments— the campus police were nice to us that day as no Joe Metro (city bus) was running through there at that time.  We wanted to dash across the street to show the kids the beautiful columns that once stood at the original University of Washington campus.  Visiting on the holiday was a good thing in that it made it less congested to drive through the campus with our travel trailer. It also made it easy to park on campus as we took up several spaces. (We really don’t recommend coming thru campus with a big RV set up unless it’s on a holiday or day where classes are not in session.) I remember us drawing a lot of attention from the students who were on campus that day and thinking to myself, who would have thought all those years ago that we’d be driving thru campus with an RV loaded with kayaks and five kids on our way from Georgia!?! Crazy!

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I had the original U.W. four pillars (shown above) on my graduation announcement. Funny how now, these four sons of ours represent what’s really important to me… they are the true pillars for the future…our best work.

The University of Washington has a gorgeous campus and it was fun to explore the places we once roamed. It was a bit surreal to take our children to places that existed in our lives before they were born, but I’m glad we did it. (Will have to take them again as the amazing Suzzallo Library’s Graduate Reading Room  — one of the top 10 most beautiful libraries architecturally in the US — was closed the day we visited.)

It reminded me that it’s good to have roots. I know a lot of readers following us on this blog are drawn to the idea of freedom traveling and the open road — don’t get me wrong, there is a a lot of good that comes from traveling, but I’ve also found that roots are just as important. When we came home after being gone for 101 days, it felt WONDERFUL to have a home to come back to and rest. It felt WONDERFUL to have people say, “We missed you” and for that feeling to echo resonating in our own hearts. Yes, it’s great to explore and travel, but I have found that the people and friendships we have at home are the ones that carry us along as we go. Share your roots with your children and also be sure to give them roots for their future as well.  I am thankful for those loved ones in both Seattle and Atlanta… we are doubly-blessed to have two places we can feel at home. Where do you call home?

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Travel Journal Hack & National Parks 100-Year Commemorative Stamps

Picked up a National Parks 100-Year Commemorative stamp sheet at the US Post Office yesterday. These would be great to use as you travel! If you’re not one to keep a travel journal, here’s a quick travel-journal hack that’s easy and inexpensive… Write on an oversized post card your experiences and mail back home to yourself! When you return home, you’ll have memories ready to put in a scrapbook!

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Do you REALLY know how petrified forests are made?

We knew that we would eventually take the kids to see Mt. St. Helens National Park as part of teaching them about geology and to see the history of the volcano that at one point had impacted our lives when we were their age.

We had watched this video by Dr. Steve Austin (see below) who challenged the incorrect view of how petrified forests were formed at Yellowstone and elsewhere. The thought crossed my mind to stop and show the kids the Gingko Petrified Forest that I knew was on the way just outside of the freeway system near Vantage, Washington.

To be honest, I know that this won’t be the most exciting topic to post about when you look at the pictures, but I wanted to show how if we know of a learning opportunity along our route, we try to work it in, trusting that it is a teachable moment and will expand the knowledge of the world for our children. Even if you think the kids won’t remember it, you never know how a connection to what they are learning will be made. My parents were both educators and my Mom still says today, “At what point does a child learn?” meaning that at any point in the learning process a connection might be made, so always be approaching learning from various angles.  Perhaps, you’ll learn a little something too by watching the video above as most people don’t know that this has been scientifically proven as a theory on how petrified forests are created.

RV going down the road in eastern Washington State

We crossed the bridge at Vantage and pulled off the freeway to drive about a couple of miles off the beaten path to the Gingko Petrified Forest. The kids were thrilled to get out of the car and stretch their legs for a bit.

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There’s a nice paved trail and maps to guide you along the way, but no ranger on duty or any sort of explanation on how these are formed for the public to view.

At each of the sites on the map, the petrified logs were encased with a wire protected with a locked frame to keep would-be thieves away. It was sort of a bummer to have to view the specimens in this way, but I can understand the need to do something to protect them. Never-the-less, the kids realized that at some point, this area had been a forest and there must have been some sort of calamitic event that would have wiped out trees that once grew here in this arid region.

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Lots of sagebrush in this region. Always keep your eyes and ears peeled for rattlers.
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Petrified log encased with a protective gate to keep thieves away.
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Petrified log encased with a protective gate to keep thieves away.
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Petrified log encased with a protective gate to keep thieves away (I managed to get a shot thru the wire grate)

Gingko Petrified Forest State Park
4511 Huntzinger Road
Vantage, WA 98950
Ph: (509) 856-2700

Hours:
Summer 6:30 a.m. – dusk
Winter Nov. 1 – Feb. 1, Weekends and holidays, 8 a.m. – dusk
Park Winter Schedule

FREE
(Note: There is a small cost to park if you do not already have a day-use parking pass)

Excerpt from Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park Web site on History of this area:

 “…one of the most diverse groups of petrified wood species in North America. Professor George Beck was the first to fully recognize the site’s significance. Upon his 1932 discovery of a rare petrified Ginkgo log (Ginkgo biloba), Beck led efforts to set aside this remarkable forest and preserve it. In 1935, as part of a grand vision to establish the site as a National Monument, Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park was born.

During the midst of the Great Depression, emergency work relief funds were used to protect and develop the park. Between 1934 and 1938, Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees, as well as local emergency work relief laborers, built much of the park infrastructure we see today, including ranger residences, an interpretive center, and a trail-side museum and trail system. In 1965, the park was formally registered as a National Natural Landmark.”

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On the way over the ridge (we decided to take the old highway to Ellensburg, Washington — the scenic route), we saw up close the wind turbines in full action. It stood as another lesson in energy production after visiting the Grand Coulee Dam prior.

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5kidsandarv-approved5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”
Copyright 2016