Category Archives: Kayaking

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
image
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.

image

ready-to-kayak-banks-lake-washington

image
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.

image

steamboat-state-park-washington

Los big catch
Big brother was so proud of his little brother!
image
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.

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-2-57-34-pm

img_1987

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.

hanging-out-in-the-hammock

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.

our-outdoorsman-survivalist-tent-camping

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.

crawdad-catcher-banks-lake
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.
age5-bass-fishing-banks-lake-washington
L.J. catches another bass — he’s on fire!
finding-treasures-steamboat-state-park
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.

steamboat-state-park-trail-to-top

pnj-steamboat-state-park-view-from-top

view-from-top-steamboat-state-park

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.

IMG_4752-Nearing-Yellowstone
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.

IMG_4755-GrandTetons-VisitorCenter
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!
IMG_4756-GrandTetons-VnJ
Baby girl has the best big brothers!
IMG_4757-GrandTetons
Some pretty wild flowers.
IMG_4764-YellowStonePasture
A pretty meadow on the way between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
IMG_4759-GrandTetons-Deer
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.

IMG_4760-GrandTetons-J
One of our teens — they love being in the great outdoors and exploring new sites!
IMG_4765-WaterfallYellowstone
So many pretty waterfalls in Yellowstone!
IMG_4767-ContinentalDivide
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?!

IMG_4768-YellowStoneBuffalo
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.

IMG_4769-YellowstoneHotSpot
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!

IMG_4772-ExitingYellowStone
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.

IMG_4774-ElkYellowstone
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!

IMG_4775-PostYellowStoneStop
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.
IMG_4749-PostYellowStone
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.

IMG_4779-MontanaOvernight
Our overnight camping spot was a safe haven that night in Montana after a run-in with some crazies in Missoula, Montana.
IMG_4786-MorningInMontana
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

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

image

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

image

Hot chocolate

image

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.

image

Kickin it in a hammock

image

image

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!

RVing with Kayaks

One cost we didn’t factor in with the kayaks riding on top of our vehicle was mileage. We have gone for towing at 11 MPG to about 9 MPG. Depending on how frequently you plan to use them and how far you go with your RV, it may make sense to just rent at a lake when you get to your destination. We use ours a lot and not every lake we go to has kayak rentals, so the benefits are there for our crew.

We also need a way to secure them better to the top of our rig. They are cradled beautifully on a Malone Kayak Saddles atop a Yakima Rack system and strapped down securely with tension straps. For the most part it’s easy to load and secure. What concerns me is that someone with the wrong intentions and a sharp knife could cut the straps and take the kayaks. When we travel, the kayaks do seem to garner more attention, so we need to find a lock mechanism that would deter theft.

 

Be sure you are aware of each state’s guidelines on kayaking. In Georgia, children under the age of 12 need to have an adult with them and within eye sight to operate a kayak. For our 13-year-olds, we have a buddy-system and they’re to be with another kayaker at all times. I know I state the obvious, but it’s a good idea for your kayaker to also know how to swim.

 

Other than that, the kayaks have been a wonderful addition to our RVing. My husband even said that we should sell our boat and just get kayaks for everyone! Lol I’d call that a win!