Category Archives: Outdoor

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

Protection & Providence: How a scary situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise

I was going back through my travel log/journal and I remember this moment so vividly. Those of you who have been following for awhile may recall that as we were gearing up and preparing to go on our cross-country trip, I felt really apprehensive the week before our departure. It seemed the closer we got to our launch date, the more it became a reality and these worries came out of no-where. Even with all the scenarios that I had imagined, the following event hadn’t even crossed my mind. Some people believe in luck or chance. We believe in divine providence.

In this particular instance, we had checked in at dusk to the new section of the Sun Lakes State Park. We had difficulty backing in as it was getting dark, so we weren’t fully aware that this new section they had put us in was on the outskirts of the park. Little did we know that a rattle snake would be hanging out in the bush only a few feet from our front door. Thankfully, our son was not bit when he went out to explore the next morning. Just a reminder how important it is to be aware of your surroundings when you are outdoors, even if you think you’re in a location that seems to be safe. Critters can move into campgrounds and the more populated an area, sometimes the better. We also carry a snake bite kit in the RV and when the boys go out to fish we have trained them in what to do should they experience a snake bite (Lord forbid).

We changed our reservation and moved that morning from Sun Lakes State Park up the road to the next RV campground as it was cheaper and closer to the lake (and less likely to have rattlers roaming around). The kids ended up having a blast swimming in Banks Lake and searching under rocks for Crawdads. Later on that week, we actually learned that my old school mate was camping right beside us! Come to find out she lived in the area and she had us over for dinner that week. Small world and a wonderful blessing that we likely never would have experienced had we not moved from our previous site because of not feeling safe.  Sometimes when we experience delays or face difficulties, they can be blessings in disguise.

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Quail scurry by as we check in at Sun Lakes State Park in eastern Washington

[Journal Entry July 11, 2015 Stayed at Sun Lakes State Park (new section — not the resort]—Just a quick update as there seems so much that has happened… today started out with Jesse killing a two-foot-long rattlesnake just a feet outside our RV’s front door. It had moved in overnight and Peyton heard it rattle in a nearby bush while walking by early in the morning while he was waiting on everyone to load up to go out to the farm. We are praising Jehovah-God for protecting our son who could have easily gotten bit. Needless to say, we moved out of that RV site and drove down the road a few miles to another RV site in the area so that we have more peace of mind about the safety of the kiddos.

We helped move machinery to the next field. (Many people do not realize that the header on the combine is actually wider than the gravel road!) The familiar bumpiness of driving into a field and the dust brings back so many memories (and makes me long for a good shower afterwards!) lol 

Since the heat caused things to be moved up in the timeline of things, Jesse offered to help drive truck and will be hauling in loads thru the week-end as well to help out. The boys have enjoyed taking turns riding in the wheat harvester (aka combine) and the wheat truck as it hauls the loads into the grain elevator. Peyton in particular has fallen in love with it all. As it turns out, his older two brothers, Joshua and Jason, have wheat allergies (and I think I have some now too now that I’m older!) Joshua really enjoyed hanging out in the combine, but poor Jason’s eyes couldn’t stop watering so he had to keep his time in the field short. He shoved kleenex up his nose to try and help — he was a sight! Poor guy!

Tomorrow we hope that the rain will hold off so we can bring in the rest of the wheat. Really tired after a full day, but incandescently happy. God is good.

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The remains of the rattler my husband got out of the bush and killed as it would endanger children that were playing nearby.
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Peyton counts the rings on the dead snake’s tail.
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Moving the combine to another field
Banks Lake State Park
Coulee City Community Park is a small park. They have a small playground, swimming area + dock, and a boat launch. There are no online reservations, but first come, first-serve. There is a drop box where you write down your space number and leave money.

(Journal Entry July 15, 2015 Coulee City Community Park)—Sitting here, thinking about how great God is… And in His perfect providence – how a snake motivated us to move to this new camping location for the week… Well, last night, Jason shared with me at dinner that a woman had approached him and asked if his mother was (my name). He didn’t mention this to me until late at night, so come to find out this morning that a friend and classmate of mine was camping right next to us! She recognized Jason from the photos I had put on Facebook and noticed our Georgia plates and put the two together! I am so glad she said something. I haven’t seen Lisa since my eighth grade promotion – and she and her family live right here in Coulee! What a special gift from the Lord to see my friend again! What a small world…

This is what the boys have been doing this week… https://youtu.be/SkN2qXEaH-g

Crawdads

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As I look back on this period of time, I’m so glad I didn’t let my fears keep me from pursuing this trip. I can rest that the Lord will take care of us each step of the way and once again answered prayer for protection. My kids were able to make new friends as I got reacquainted with old friends and we were able to make lasting memories as we brought in the harvest.

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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

Grand Coulee Dam | Steamboat State Park – Part II

This post is continued from
Grand Coulee Dam | Steamboat State Park Part I


5kidsandarv-approvedAbout 15-minutes down the road from Steamboat Rock State Park you’ll find Electric City and the Grand Coulee Dam. We used the grocery store, Safeway, to restock our fridge and supplies and enjoyed a dinner or two at Pepper Jacks Bar & Grill — a diner that was a blast from the past. I remember Pepper Jacks well, because it was the first date night Jes and I had after several weeks of being on the road. We were camping with family and they generously offered to watch the kids to give us a needed break (evidently they thought we were looking weary from our travels), so we headed to the one restaurant we knew of in town, Pepper Jacks. As I was eating my meal, I asked Jes what the slits in the bottom of the cups were for and we quickly figured out (after watching a waitress bring drinks to a nearby table) that these slits allowed the cups to stack! I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants, but this was a first for me and we loved it! Here Jesse entertains me with some tricks! (And no, they didn’t fall!)

Pepperjacks Restaurant in Electric City, Washington

While in the area, we took the kids to see the Grand Coulee Dam.  It was originally built for irrigation and job creation, but ended up playing a key role during WWII in supplying energy production for factories and airplane manufacturing plants. The Grand Coulee Dam was the world’s largest concrete dam (until China built their dam—see video below) and remains the world’s second largest concrete dam (according to the tour guide) with nearly 12 million cubic yards of concrete throughout. That’s enough concrete to build a 4′ wide x 4″ deep sidewalk around the equator twice and 4x more concrete than what was used to build the Hoover Dam!

It generates 6,809 megawatts — enough to power 2.3 million households for a year. Comparatively, the Hoover Dam only generates 1/3 of that power. Eleven states as well as Canada benefit from the power produced by the Grand Coulee Dam. Furthermore, the spillway on the Grand Coulee Dam is twice the height of the Niagara Falls! Cables 5″ thick carry power generated by the Dam and the Columbia River.

You can see glimpses of our tour here:

5kidsandarv Crew in front of spillway
5 Kids and a RV Crew in front of the Grand Coulee Dam spillway

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The spillway on the Grand Coulee Dam is twice as high as the Niagara Falls
Sheep crossing over the Grand Coulee Dam Historical Archive
Had to take a picture of this photo in their archive book showing sheep being herded across the spillway. Now security prevents anyone from getting close to the spillway.
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This vintage poster communicates the project and the regions that would be affected.

If you want to learn more about the Grand Coulee Dam, visit this link >> http://www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/index.html

This is also a great video on the history of the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam here for your students/kiddos to learn more about this impressive project.

If you’re kiddos are learning about hydro-electric power and engineering marvels, here’s a documentary you may want to watch as well…

Here’s a list of the top 10 Dams to visit in the — something that I think every student should see at least one so they understand how power is produced.  http://www.citi.io/2016/04/29/the-top-10-grandest-american-dams-to-see/

If you’re in the Grand Coulee area and want to visit the dam, check out this link >> http://www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/visit/gcvc.html for details on when the Visitor Center is open to the public.

The Grand Coulee Dam has a laser light show that they do in the evenings. Check the schedule for play time. They’ve updated it since we saw it last and I actually prefer the previous version of the light show that would boom out, “I am the mighty Columbia!” rather then the new politically-correct Native American version. To each his own, but it may help your kiddos understand more of how water can be used as a powerful force to produce energy. There’s not much to do in the evenings in the area other than sit around the campfire (which I love) and gaze at the stars (again I love to do this), so keep it as an option to check out if you’re in the area, but don’t feel like you’re missing out on something spectacular if your timeline can’t accommodate it.

There are guided tours at the Grand Coulee Dam, but they have really restricted what you can and can’t see since the 9-11 attacks and the reality of possible terrorism threats. There is a high-level of security in place throughout the facility and be forewarned that you are being watched by many a camera. I actually found comfort in that security was beefed-up and am glad for it. You can learn more about the tour schedule here  >> http://www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/visit/tour.html 

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Can you imagine the trust that was required for the divers that would work on the Grand Coulee Dam? Whoever was operating this was their lifeline!

In all, if you are in the region or live in Washington State, we highly recommend a week get-away in the Grand Coulee Dam / Banks Lake area. You can relax and enjoy the recreational area (fishing, kayaking, hiking, boating, horse trails) and teach the kids a few things too while you’re there by going to the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center and Tour the Pump House. But heed our advice, book early because this place fills quick. Have fun!

—5 Kids and A RV


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

Grand Coulee Dam | Steamboat Rock State Park – Part I

5kidsandarv-approvedWhen I am talking about Washington with someone from out of the area, there are two assumptions that usually happen with most who have never been to the State… 1) I find myself needing to clarify that I’m talking about Washington State and not Washington D.C. and 2) that the entire state is not a rain forest (as it is commonly assumed that all of Washington experiences Seattle weather). Seattle can be very wet indeed (I should know, I lived there for ten years), but many people don’t realize that the Cascade Mountain Range puts the western side of the state in a rain shadow and is fairly dry. When it comes to eastern Washington, water brings life to an otherwise arid region. This is the region we spent some time exploring and stayed a couple of weeks in the Grand Coulee region camping at Steamboat Rock State Park campground.  This campground is clean and easy to access. If you love to hike and play in the water with a boat/kayak, this will be a great destination for you and your family. It is a popular destination with the locals that are within driving distance, so we recommend booking in advance whenever possible.

Steamboat State Park in Washington State 5kidsandarv
Our rig and set-up in front of Steamboat State Park
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Our twins venture out on their kayaks for a day of fishing on Banks Lake Reservoir  — created by the Grand Coulee Dam Project. There is a trail that you can hike to the top of Steam Boat Rock. The vista is worth the hike which takes 3-4 hours to go up and come back down.

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The boys’ catch for the day… Note: Be sure to check out fishing regulations for each state you visit as they vary from state to state. In Washington State (at the time of this posting), a fishing license is required for all individuals 15 years of age and over (our guys were 14 years old here.)  To learn more visit wdfw.wa.gov for Fishing and Hunting Regulations within Washington State.

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Big brother was so proud of his little brother!
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Our youngest son (age 5), pulled this beautiful bass out of Banks Lake. Nice catch!

Steamboat Rock State Park
51052 Highway 155
Electric City, WA 99123
Ph: (509) 633-1304

Campsite & Group Accommodations
Ph: (888) 226-7688

Hours:
Summer  6:30 a.m. – dusk
Winter  6:30 a.m. – dusk

The park is open year-round for camping and day use. The campground is partially open during the winter.  Park Winter Schedule

The main park has 26 tent spaces, 136 utility sites, three cabins, one dump station, six restrooms (four ADA), and six showers (four ADA). The park also has 12 primitive non-reservable boat-in campsites with vault toilets and water.

Individual campsites are reservable April 1 to October 31. Campsites are available on a first-come first-served basis from November 1 to March 31. Utility sites have full hookups. Maximum site length is 50 feet (may have limited availability). Tents must be placed within the designated tent pad.  There are mosquitoes during the summer months, so mosquito control occurs as required by the Grant County mosquito district evenings when weather permits. Two vehicles are allowed per campsite; campsite fee includes payment for one vehicle. Extra vehicle fees are due upon arrival. If you need to work with an internet connection, it also has (sometimes spotty) Wi-Fi. We recommend asking for a spot that has a stronger signal as it does vary depending on where you are camping.

Reservations can be made online or by calling 888-CAMPOUT (888-226-7688). For fee information, check their camping rates page.

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RV Packing Organization Tip: We pack the quilt my step-mother made for our kiddos — it is a panel piece of fabric with a picture of roads and buildings. It doubles as a spot for our littles to play with toy cars and army men (light weight and easy to travel with) and it can be used for nap time as we travel in the car or at bed time for extra warmth when needed.

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5kidsandarv littles in a hammock

RV Camping Tip: Pack a lightweight hammock as there are trees in some sites that were planted as a wind barrier and the spacing is such that you can hang a hammock. Here our littles have fun hanging out in the hammock.

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Some sites have RV and tent pads. Our site happened to have a tent pad, so our middle son who loves to tent camp (we call him our outdoorsman) had fun camping outside for a few days.

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Our son, Peyton, actually remembered a technique he had learned that the Native Americans used to pin down fish (sometime spear fish as well). He made a small version of the spear to trap crawdads he found in the shallow areas of Banks Lake.
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L.J. catches another bass — he’s on fire!
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Joshua likes to take his metal detector out to search for treasures. He found a lot of pennies!
Wild Turkeys Grazing at Steamboat State Park in Washington
Wild turkeys were grazing one morning outside our site. We also saw wild deer as well on occasion.

There is plenty of wildlife to enjoy in the area. We saw wild turkeys, wild deer, and quail while visiting. If you like to hike, there is a trail not too far from the campground that takes about 4-5 hours round trip.  Plan on 45-min to an hour to hike up and time to explore at the top and then another 45-min to an hour to hike back down.

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Recreational activities abound, but there are other things to do in the area as well… like see the Grand Coulee Dam — the largest hydroelectric concrete dam in the United States.

(Continue Reading)


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

Wyoming & Montana | The Grand Tetons & Yellowstone

Just to recap, our journey westward was on a time crunch — we needed to get to Washington State in time for the wheat harvest which was coming early that year due to heat waves.  At this point in our journey, we had made it to Wyoming and the route that day was to see as much as we could see while passing through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  It was a Monday following the 4th of July week-end.

My friend, Jen, encouraged me to see the Grand Tetons, so this dictated our decision to enter Yellowstone thru the southern entrance.  As we got to the gate for the Grand Tetons, one good decision we made was to purchase a National Parks Annual Pass. We paid $80 for access to any National Park within the United States and it was money well spent, because we would go on to use this pass to cover our admission to not only the Grand Tetons, but also Yellowstone National Park, Mt. St. Helens National Park, Lewis and Clark National Park, The Redwoods, The Grand Canyon National Park, and the Carlsbad Caverns National Park (I feel like I’m missing one in this list — just know it came in handy a lot!) The pass is good for an entire year and covers admission fees for the entire family and your vehicle.  Note: If you have a 4th Grader in the family, you can get a free annual pass!

National Parks Annual Pass

You can follow details on the National Park’s website if you want to secure the pass before you travel, but we just purchased ours at the park’s entrance. Remember that with the annual pass, you can also get a discount on gift shop purchases which adds to your savings. And if you are over the age of 62, you can get a smoke’n good deal on this pass!

One thing we noticed right away was the cooler air and how FRESH the air smelled! The clouds hung low clinging to the mountains as we made our gradual climb that morning.

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We stop for a bathroom break and I managed to get all the kids to hold still long enough for a group shot.

We stopped in at Jenny Lake at the Grand Tetons and the water was beautiful and clear! (I’ll have to find my photo of us at the lake and will add it to this posting when I find where I archived it.)

The Grand Tetons

The mountains jutted up towards the heavens and literally we stood in awe of how majestic they appeared.

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We found a RV parking spot to park at the Grand Teton Visitor Center. Be prepared to hike to the sites from these locations! And don’t be surprised if cars take RV spots!
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Baby girl has the best big brothers!
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Some pretty wild flowers.
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A pretty meadow on the way between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
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This deer grazing at the Grand Tetons was incredibly tame! She grazed while onlookers swarmed around her.

Yellowstone was gorgeous! The scenery just went on and on… until your eyes landed on all the people. Granted it was a holiday week-end, but folks, it was crazy busy with bumper-to-bumper traffic often and fighting crowds of people just kills any outdoor enjoyment for me personally. In fact, we quickly learned that if you’re towing a RV, you can’t get off on any of the side roads to visit some of the main attractions which was a bit of a bummer.

Tip: If you want to explore Yellowstone, plan to stay for a few days and have a spot where you can unhook from your travel trailer so you can see the sights that are often found on side-roads.

We were surprised to learn that you have to have a permit to put your own kayak into any body of water within Yellowstone AND you have to have your kayaks inspected. I guess there’s some sort of weed that can be brought in on kayaks that they don’t want to propagate so this is a safe guard they take. We knew we weren’t going to take our kayaks down because I had done some research in advance and knew that we didn’t want to purchase the permit for the boys to fish when we really didn’t have a whole lot of time to see the sights.

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One of our teens — they love being in the great outdoors and exploring new sites!
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So many pretty waterfalls in Yellowstone!
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On our way through Yellowstone we had a great learning opportunity for the kids as we crossed the Continental Divide three times in three different spots!

We crossed the Continental Divide three separate times while making our way from the south entrance to Yellowstone to the north entrance of Yellowstone. It provided a great learning opportunity for the kids!

We went to go see Old Faithful, but it was so crowded that there wasn’t a single place to park! All the RV parking spots were taken with vehicles that were not RVs nor towing! Big bummer as my husband had to circle and wait for us to see when Old Faithful would do her thing. We decided that almost an hour-and-half wait wasn’t worth it given the crowds and parking situation, so we opted to keep moving through the park as we were feeling the time crunch to get to Washington State.  It was shortly after leaving the Visitor’s Center at Yellowstone that we hit a major delay. We sat in crawling stop-and-go traffic only to discover people were enthralled with a small herd of buffalo. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen buffalo before, but I was like, “Really people?” An hour delay for this?!

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We encountered a huge delay and sat in traffic for nearly an hour because of these creatures. A heard of buffalo quietly grazed while people gawked nearby.

We would later laugh about how we saw more natural wild life in Washington State than in Yellowstone! But again, that may not be a fair assessment, because we only went through Yellowstone in a day.

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One of the many steaming hot spring found along our drive.

One word of advice I’d offer… the way thru the north area of Yellowstone has some pretty steep drop-offs at spots and might be a little bit nerve racking if you’re a new driver in a RV. Even my husband was leery as we made our way through some narrow passages along a cliff side overhang.

We also hit an area of construction. Here’s another tip… If they mention there’s construction in an area, avoid it. Seriously — find an alternate route because you will be c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g at a snails pace AND your rig will get covered in dust, gravel and grime! Ugh!

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On our way out of the north exit of Yellowstone.

We did see some elk on the way out of the north entrance of the park. They also were really tame paying no notice to the people surrounding them.

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An elk grazing near the north entrance to Yellowstone.

When we left Yellowstone, we found the next town and stopped for dinner. We got out of the car and were SHOCKED at how dirty it had become from going thru the construction area in Yellowstone!

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Had to take a pic when we stopped to eat dinner that evening in Montana. Our poor vehicle and trailer was covered in dirt from the construction we went thru in Yellowstone.
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A close up of our running boards on our tow vehicle after we had left Yellowstone!

Feeling the urge to get as far as we could in Montana, we aimed our sights for Missoula, Montana and planned to roll into a Walmart parking lot around midnight to break our journey. When we arrived, we were surprised to find the whole back side of the parking lot lined with RVers tucked in for the night! We managed to find a spot towards the back of the lot and as we were moving the kids from the car to the RV, there was a truck that came through the parking lot with two guys yelling profanity to the RVers (and us), “This isn’t a F***ing RV Campground!” Over and over they yelled this at the top of their lungs directed towards the parked RVs. They past by yelling their rant and went to make another loop. My husband and I looked at each other and immediately decided to move on from that location. We didn’t need a drunk’n heckler and our safety sensors were tingling telling us to get out of there! So we loaded up the kids (it was about midnight mind you) and we got back on the freeway.

We used our app to try and find a spot to overnight and the first rest stop we came across was dark and unlit. We opted to continue to keep driving. It was about 1:30 am in the morning when we came upon the next rest stop (and last rest stop before heading over the pass). Thankfully, it was well lit and we pulled in next to a semi and helped get the kids to the RV where everyone immediately conked out after a very long day.  They were such troopers! We didn’t sleep long as the road noise was pretty loud from the nearby freeway, causing my husband and I to stir and wake around 6 am. We  got back on the road pressing on towards our destination and eager to cross into Washington State stopping to eat some breakfast after we got over the pass.

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Our overnight camping spot was a safe haven that night in Montana after a run-in with some crazies in Missoula, Montana.
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This is how we do breakfast on the go while traveling … some groceries that include fresh fruit and some muffins. And it does wonders for the driver to find a good cup of coffee for the road! 😉

In summary, I think my husband and I decided that in order to really do Yellowstone justice, we needed to NOT visit on a holiday week-end and we needed to plan to stay for at least three days so we could unhook and explore.

I do have to admit that the seismic activity in the area is disconcerting knowing that this was at one time a very active volcano.  I did love it for the educational aspect as we would go on to visit another volcano in Washington (Mt St Helens), so this was a great opportunity for the kids to see two very different types of volcanos. I will post about Mt. St. Helens at a later date, but for now, suffice to say, I am glad we saw the Grand Tetons, but Yellowstone was a bit of a bust and let down on a number of levels. Probably poor planning and expectations that were over-inflated on our part. Had we not been pressed for time and visiting at a time of year that wasn’t peak season, this could have been a great opportunity to explore and learn more about volcanos and geology.  It’s on our list to try again at a later date when time allows.


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

Atlanta, GA | Atlanta Botanical Gardens

The kids ready to enter the Atlanta Botanical Garden

    The kids ready to enter the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Those of you who know me, know that I like to grow things. I am wired to nurture whether it be children, critters, or plants. So, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been on my wish list for a long time as a place to explore and we had the opportunity to do just that this last week! The main attraction was the Chihuly Exhibit which is placed throughout the entire garden to delight and give you the opportunity to explore the many types of gardens.  Here are a few of the highlights we saw along the way. Mind you, photos are great, but to experience these for yourself — you must see these glass and neon sculptures in person to fully appreciate them. They are amazing! #atlantabg #myfavchihuly

Chili Glass Sculptures at The Atlanta Botanical Garden
Chihuly Indigo Blue Icicle Tower, installed in 2015
LJ at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Our 6-year-old had to try out the cool outdoor seating along the Kendeda Canopy Walk.

As we entered the garden, we chose to go to the right and walk the Kendeda Canopy Walk to see four Chilhulys and the Cascades Garden where the giant topiary — the “Earth Goddess” — resides with a beautiful reflection pool full of brightly colored Chihuly glass. Nearly all areas are handicap accessible with nice wide paths to enjoy. If you’re limited on time and only have an hour to explore, you might want to check out some of their recommended “Power Hour” tours.

Earth Goddess at The Atlanta Botanical Gardens

The background on how the Earth Goddess was built and constructed to be a living topiary.
The background on how the Earth Goddess was built and constructed to be a living topiary.
The Earth Goddess at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with Chihuly Glass Sculptures
The Earth Goddess at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with Chihuly Glass Sculptures

Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way! 🙂 I loved seeing a beautiful bearded iris growing along the path — my Grandmother used to grow these along her house every year.

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Stop and smell the flowers!
Bearded Iris
My Grandmother used to grow the most beautiful bearded irises.

The Atlanta Botanical Gardens make a great stop to stretch your legs if you’re visiting Atlanta. It took us about two hours to walk through the gardens at a leisurely rate, but I left feeling like I could have seen even more. We didn’t make it to the Children’s garden the day we visited, so we will have to go back and share that as well.

Kids walking and looking at gardens
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy the sights while you take a walk.
Erin Castillo 2016 5kidsandarv.com
Blue and White in the Levi Parterre, a permanent Chihuly piece in the Atlanta Botanical Garden

For a moment I felt like a princess walking in her palace grounds with the groomed hedges in the Levi Parterre garden. Had it not been sweltering hot in the middle of July, I would have loved to sit on one of those benches for a bit. Definitely best to visit early in the day throughout summer months and prime weather conditions in Atlanta will be in the months of April/May and October/November.

Get great inspiration from the many beautiful planters at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Get great inspiration from the many beautiful planters at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Orange Glass Chihuly Fountain Sculpture by Gift Shop
Three Graces Tower  (2016)

I’ve been working on my own garden this year, so it was a real treat to see how professionals approached an edible garden. The vertical garden was a beautiful assortment of textures! I would have loved to see some aquaponics as an addition to how they were growing food.

Edible Garden

Edible Garden and perennial wall.
Edible Garden and perennial wall.
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Walkway to the Edible Garden area.

Also on my wish list is to return in the evening with my husband to view the Chihuly Nights where the garden glass sculptures are lit up with neon. There’s a restaurant on location making it a perfect date night destination! (Garden admission is required to access the restaurant.)

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Chihuly “Saffron Tower” (2008) with water mirror reflection pool in the Glade Garden. Remember, they ask that you not throw coins into the water features.
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Tiger Lilies infront of the Zebra Reeds (2015)

The Fuqua Orchid Center was mostly closed off except for one small section, but that section was full of gorgeous and rare orchids to enjoy. It was like stepping into a slice of paradise! Own an orchid? Check out the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s blog.

Chihuly Black and Green Stripe Herons with Icicle Clusters (2015) in the Fuqua Orchid Center
Chihuly Black and Green Stripe Herons with Icicle Clusters (2015) in the Fuqua Orchid Center

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Stepping into the Fuqua Orchid Garden is like stepping into a tropical paradise!
Stepping into the Fuqua Orchid Garden is like stepping into a tropical paradise!

We ended up purchasing a membership since it was the best value ($109 for 2 adults and up to 8 children + you get 4 visitor passes to use throughout the year).  Don’t forget that your membership card also gets you a discount in the Gift Shop! Chihuly in the Garden and Chihuly Nights will only run from April – October of 2016, so be sure to stop in if you are traveling to Atlanta during those months!

Atlanta Location:

ADMISSION:

Adult $21.95
Child ages 3 to 12 $15.95
Child under 3 Free
Garden member Free

Weather Policy: The Garden is open rain or shine. Most gardens are located outside so dress appropriately for weather. There are indoor air conditioned and heated areas for visitors including the visitor center, café and conservatory and orchid center. Refunds or rain checks on admission ticket purchases are not granted for weather related reasons.

PARKING: On-site parking is available in the SAGE Parking Facility:

Time Period Cost
Drop-off period (0 – 30 minutes) Free
31 – 60 minutes $2.00
Each additional 30 minutes $1.00
Maximum daily rate $15.00

DIRECTIONS:
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is located adjacent to Piedmont Park at 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA, 30309.

View Google Maps

REGULAR HOURS (as of July 9, 2016)

April – October
Tuesday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Wednesday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The Garden is open from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Monday, July 4 for Independence Day.

Chihuly Nights Hours
Wednesday – Sunday, 6 – 10 p.m.

November – March
Tuesday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Please note: The Children’s Garden is closed for renovations until summer of 2016. The Garden is undergoing capital improvements including renovated gardens and new amenities. Closed Mondays and in the daytime on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

REFRESHMENTS
In Atlanta, enjoy a Garden inspired menu from the team of Chef Linton Hopkins, a James Beard Award winner and popular local restauranteur, at the new Linton’s restaurant. Light snacks and refreshments are also available seasonally. Outside food and beverage are not permitted. During daytime hours, Garden admission is required for Non-Members. During Chihuly Nights, Garden admission is required for both Members and Non-Members.

Linton’s Information

For visitor info, go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Web site at http://atlantabg.org/visit/visitor-info

Be sure to observe this garden etiquette when visiting… http://atlantabg.org/content/1-visit/2-visitor-info/garden-etiquette.pdf

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Was this information helpful to you? If so, please click the links below to share on Facebook or pin to Pinterest so that others may enjoy this experience as well. Thanks for spreading the word!

5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents and caregivers to engage and explore with their children. On occasion we may post a review or provide information as an affiliate.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today!

Chickamauga Battlefield & the Chattanooga National Military Park

 

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I will never forget the first time I visited a historic battlefield from the Civil War in Atlanta and walked the rows and rows of headstones of soldiers that had fallen in battle. There was awe as I read stories about grandfathers, fathers, and sons all going out to fight and falling to their deaths as Sherman marched to Savannah. It was the first time I realized that what I had read about in my school books, actually happened and those families still remembered and felt that loss. It really happened. And there was a great cost to both sides who fought over this freedom.

Being history lovers, we always look forward to the opportunity to explore and learn something new — especially in our home state. So when we went to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the nations oldest and largest battlefield, we were amazed at how much land this battle encompassed. We started out at the Visitor’s Center at Chickamauga (which I recommend you do the same). If you’re in a RV, note that they have RV parking to the left of the Visitor Center (just follow the signs) which is great!

Chickamauga

Chickamauga Battlefield - 5kidsandarv

We were surprised to see the largest collection of antique rifles we had ever seen. The boys were in rifle heaven.  They even got to see a blunderbuss — a rifle that they had seen on the TV show, Pawn Stars — and stood within inches of one (see pic below).  The Fuller Gun Collection of American Shoulder Arms collection spans about six rows if memory serves me correctly; certainly an impressive collection. There was even a rifle that had a built-in coffee grinder in the stock!

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Rows and rows of antique rifles - 5kidsandarv

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Peyton pointing at a rifle he likes

Wax soldier charging - Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga Battlefield - Wax Soldier

They had some wax soldiers to help illustrate how the soldiers fought and even a real Battery Wagon. I especially love how they preserved the cannon balls that were lodged into the trees. I’ve seen this at Kennesaw Mountain National Park’s Civil War Museum as well and it just shows the reality of what was flying thru the air and the force that these pieces of artillery had to destroy whatever was in it’s path.  They also offer a short film, but we had arrived towards the end of the day after the last film had already started to show.

Canon balls embedded into trees

Battery Wagon from the Civil War - Chickamauga

Chickamauga Battlefield - Battery Wagon History

Model of a Battery Wagon and how it would have been pulled. Chickamauga Battlefield

There is also a selection of cannons in front of the Visitor Center, showing the variety of military arsenal used at the time. After we finished at the Visitor Center, we loaded the kids up and drove thru the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park where the battle took place. What impressed me was that there were a multitude of memorials erected in the memory of those that had fought. (Most of the 1,400 monuments and historical markers on the battlefields were planned and placed by Boynton and other veterans of the battles.) We would be driving along and a sign would simply state, this is where General so-and-so fell and died. Very sombering to know that a life — someone’s son, brother, husband, or father — ended there. We stopped by the Wilder Brigade Monument — a tower constructed around 1899 to aid in viewing the national park — and Jes and the older boys climbed the stairs to the top while I stayed in the car with the sleeping littles.

Did you know? The four Union generals given credit for bringing an end to the Civil War (Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George H. Thomas, and Philip Sheridan) were all in Chattanooga in the autumn of 1863.

Chickamauga Battlefield Tower

Chickamauga Battlefield Tower Top

Did you know? Arthur MacArthur, Jr. was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863. His son, Douglas MacArthur, was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.

Cannons on display at Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga Casualties

Did you catch that? About 37,000 men that were killed, wounded or missing! A battle that included 124,000 men! That’s a huge confrontation!

So, when I saw the little cabin (see pic below) used as the outpost for treating the wounded on either side, I couldn’t help but to think of the numbers of men lying in this very grassy knoll, probably lined up in row after row, hoping to live and survive the excruciating pain as they faced an amputation to survive… Be sure to read the following taken from the reader-board shown next to the boys. (Still can’t believe this home housed a family of NINE!)

Snodgrass Cabin - Chickamauga Battlefield

Snodgrass Cabin

We only spent a few hours at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park as we were headed towards Chattanooga to camp, fish and explore, but we saw a lot, learned more about the Civil War, and it didn’t cost us anything but our fuel. (Awesome!) Hope you check this out if you’re in the area! It’s worth the visit and if you end up visiting, be sure to leave a comment of how it was in the comments below!

Details-Costs

WHAT KIDS CAN LEARN THRU THIS EXPERIENCE:

  • Civil War History
  • Battery Wagons
  • Cannons
  • Visual progression of how guns and rifles developed over time

You’ll walk where Confederate and Union soldiers fought in the bloodiest two-day battle of the war on September 19-20, 1863. The Visitor’s Center offers exhibits, bookstore, Fuller Gun Collection of American Shoulder Arms and 23-minute film.

Cost to go thru the Visitor Center:
Adults – Free
Seniors (65 and over) – Free
Active Military Personnel – Free (with ID)
Students – Free
Children 12 and under – Free*
*Be sure to ask for a Junior Ranger Packet which is free and a great teaching tool.

Point Park on top of Lookout Mountain is the only Designated Fee Area located within Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP. The fee is $5.00 per adult (age 16 or older). Children 15 years or younger are free.


TIPGet a national parks pass and gain free admission into any National Park in the country.


Hours:
Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm Eastern Click here for more details.
*Visitor Centers are closed New Year’s Day and Christmas.

Tours:
The historic Cravens House on Lookout Mountain is open for tours Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the summer. Cravens House closes at 5 p.m. Contact Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center at 423-821-7786 for additional information. For additional tours offered click here.

Pets are more than welcome in the park. However, please remember to keep them leashed at all times.

Be sure to check the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Web site for possible re-enactments around the time of the battle’s anniversary (September 19-20)

See Map Graphic
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
3370 Lafayette Rd
Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742
(706) 866-9241

Also nearby is the 6th Calvery Museum, Lee and Gordon’s Mill, and Lookout Mountain, tour Ruby Falls and ride the world’s steepest passenger railway at Incline Railway.

Map of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park 

Click Map to Enlarge


Was this information helpful to you? If so, please click the links below to share on Facebook or pin to Pinterest so that others may enjoy this experience as well. Thanks for spreading the word!

 

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

3 Safety Tips to Know before You Go

We had been hitting the books hard this past week with school and the guys were ready for some R&R, so when we saw that the weather was going to be a warmer winter day in the 60s, fishing was the order of the day.

My 15YO dove into our Falcon Guide for Fishing Georgia and we settled on his idea of a nice little lake near a Girls Scout Campground called Lake Marvin, just of I-75 near Calhoun, GA.  We didn’t mind driving a ways and a small lake sounded manageable for keeping tabs on the boys while they fished.

First off, if you have an RV, this is NOT a RV-friendly route. As we came within a few miles of the lake, we immediately began to climb a hill with a severe grade and sharp switch backs. Great for a motorcyclist wanting to enjoy a fun ride — not great for a RV trying to just get up and down the hill and around corners. DO NOT attempt this in an RV, I repeat, do not attempt this hill. We were not towing our RV when we took this day trip and I’m glad for it. It would have been a nightmarish repeat of our California experience (which I’ll post about another time). But I digress.

Lake Marvin near Calhoun GA

So we arrive at this pristine pretty little lake just down the road from the Girl Scout Camp. It has a boat launch and a dock that squeaks when you walk on it (and it even squeaks from the water movement — lets just say it’s got a very squeaky dock.) Signs about use were posted and it was pretty clear that if you weren’t there to fish, you were considered to be trespassing (I’ll come back to this in a bit). Cost to launch a boat was $2 and each angler was $5. Kids under 12 were free to fish, so we only needed to pay for our two older boys and their launch fee.  (By the way, all funds go to help keep the lake stocked and cared for by the Girl Scouts Organization according to signage — a great group to support so be sure to pay the fee.) There was a primitive restroom just off of the parking lot as well. The location was nice and clean and the garbage can we used had been recently emptied.

Lake Marvin rules

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fishing poles waiting to be used

fishing off the dock

So, we unloaded the kayaks and the boys were on their way in no time. We set up our 6YO on the dock with life vest and fishing pole rigged and ready to cast and our 11YO worked on making some hot chocolate on a little camp stove we brought along.

Lake Marvin Kayaks

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Hot chocolate

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It was a quiet site with only the occasional motorist going by on the road not far from where we were situated.  Our 3YO busied herself with finding pinecones and my husband even set up our son’s hammock and took a bit of a rest. Ahhhh, this is how a Saturday should be spent… simply relaxing. Our 6YO son decided it was more fun to throw pinecones into the lake instead of fish, so an imaginary naval assault broke the quiet calm.

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Kickin it in a hammock

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About a couple of hours into our visit, a car pulled into the lot and some teenagers — two boys and a girl — got out and walked off down a little trail along the lake. They seemed to be local. No fishing rods were in hand, so technically, they were breaking the posted rules. Not too long after, they re-emerged and headed off down the road. Then about a half hour later, another car pulled in to the parking lot. This group of three — this time, it was two women and a man — looked a little unsavory and their car looked like it was being lived in with stuff piled in the back seat leaving only room for someone to sit to the side.  What was odd from the get-go was how one grown woman asked the other grown woman to hold her hand on the way to the bathroom. My Mama-safety-senses began to tingle. That is not something most women say, nor do. Even still, we greeted one another and one of the women grabbed a fishing pole and headed to the dock. She hung out for about 10-15 minutes on the dock and then gave up declaring that no fish seemed to be biting.  (And no, she didn’t pay the $5 use fee.) They said good-bye to us and loaded up into their car as if they were going to leave and then oddly, they pulled back over near the bathrooms and turned off the car, then got out and all three went to the restrooms. The two women, oddly enough, went into the same restroom and were in there for about 15 minutes. Folks, I had been in this restroom earlier and it was not roomy. It was basically an open hole with a toilet seat. Noticing their odd behavior, my Mama-safety-senses were in full alert mode and I was put a little at ease when my husband showed me he was packing. There was no wi-fi or phone signal in this location, so if we were robbed or if Lord forbid something worse happened, we needed to be able to defend ourselves. Like a mother hen, I kept my younger three close and ready to throw in the back of the truck if need be while my husband watched the situation. Eventually the women re-emerged from the bathroom, got in their car and drove off (thankfully) down the road.

I know the purpose of this blog is to encourage you to travel and explore, so I don’t want to instill fear, but I want to be open in sharing this experience because the reality is unfortunately that we live in a world where there are some folks that break the law and aren’t safe. I was glad my husband was prepared to defend us if needed and doubly-glad that we didn’t need to take action to defend our family. Trust your gut in these situations. It’s better to err on the side of over-safe than not safe-enough in my opinion. It was a great opportunity to talk with the kids after-the-fact about maybe putting some better boundaries for our family in place when we go to a location. We need to be able to communicate to get help if need be so cell service is a must, we need to definitely keep within eye sight of one another, and we need to be prepared to defend ourselves if needed.

This is not a location we ever intend to ever go back to — not because the boys didn’t catch anything that day — but it just doesn’t have enough visibility nor is it monitored enough to keep those who aren’t using the lake for fishing away.  So, as for fishing, the trip was a bust, but we still had some great relaxing moments and were reminded that whenever we are out and about, we need to be watchful and aware of our surroundings.  And if you live near this lake and know history of this area, I hope you feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. I’d like to think this is an isolated experience on our part, but locals would know the situation probably best. Just be safe in your travels while having fun!

So you don’t think you have enough money to travel…

Quote by Graham Cooke
Our boys exploring the gentle giants — Redwood trees in Northern California — something that has long been a dream of ours to experience.

When you have a dream and chase it, you say no to the things that you might want now in order to experience what you want later.

When everyone is at a movie opening night, you wait to watch that movie until Apple has a digital rental for $4.99.

When others are eating out, you’re eating at home and fixing dinner even though you’re tired and don’t feel like it.

When others get a fancy latte concoction at the local coffee bar, you’re brewing a pot at home.

When others go out for ice cream at the ice cream shop, you go to the grocery store and buy what’s on sale and have a sundae party at home.

When others are upgrading their phone to the latest technology release, you say to yourself, “My phone is just fine – thankful it works” and avoid the Best Buy or the Apple Store.

When others are getting a new car (or new used car), you take care of the one you have and remain thankful she still carries you where you need to go and throw some duct tape on that seat that’s starting to tear from use.

When others go to the nail salon to get a mani-pedi, you pull out your nail clippers and nail polish and give yourself your own mani-pedi.

You clip coupons and look for deals when you have the time to do so.

You don’t run into town whenever you need something, but instead make purposeful trips and stock-up.

You cancel that outrageous Cable/Satilite contract, buy an Apple TV and Netflix membership and your annual cost goes from $1,800 (estimating an average bill of about $150 a month) down to roughly $200 only annually.

Delayed gratification. It’s tough. It’s no fun. It’s doesn’t earn you popularity points on Facebook. But that’s OK, ’cause you’re on a mission to make a dream into a reality.

But when you say “no” to the things that bring pleasure now so you can say “yes” to experiencing something you’ve always wanted, well — there are no words to describe how that moment feels when you reach that goal. Simply amazing.

Want to travel, but you don’t think you can afford it? It’s like Mr Cooke says, “… you must be prepared to do things you’ve never done before.”

Now go chase that dream!

Dream Big! You can do it!