Category Archives: State Parks

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.

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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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Los big catch
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.

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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