The Big Trip Out West
Though I haven’t even been home for more than a month, I’ve been pretty busy. Almost immediately after coming home, my family and Julia set out on a great adventure west. We wanted to see some of our nation’s most beautiful parks during the Centennial of the National Parks Service. Our goal was to visit the Badlands, the Corn Palace, Custer’s State Park, Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Craters of the Moon, Crater Lake, Redwoods State Park, Yosemite, King’s Canyon, Sequoias, Moab, Canyonlands, Arches, the world’s best cinnamon roll at Glen Haven, and Trail Ridge Road. But even the perfect plan can have its bumps and amazing surprises. Come along on the journey, as I’ll be posting each day (and roughly each park) throughout the next few months.
Day Six of Our Journey
We woke up in Jackson Hole to a 28°F, sunny day and head to breakfast. It’s a massive spread with eggs, potatoes, bacon, biscuits, the works. Oh, it’s so nice to have a big plate of scrambled eggs on vacation! I don’t know what it is about breakfast that someone else cooks for you, but it always tastes better than your own.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
By the time the sun hit the village around 8 am, the temperature was already up to 50°F. We set out toward Idaho and made a quick stop in at the Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Earlier in the trip, a gentleman had recommended that we stop and see this park, so we thought we’d give it a shot. Another reason why you should be sure to engage with other people while going on a road trip!
After doing the penny press (we did them everywhere throughout the trip), we walked the North Flow Crater Trail. This area had once been the site of a volcano, and two old volcanic cones sit on the edges of this trail. Everywhere you walk are black lava rocks with differing shimmer, texture, and hues. You really do feel like you’re walking around on the moon!
Our next stop was Devil’s Orchard, which is dotted with dead trees. In the earlier history of this park, these trees were infected with the “witch’s broom” parasite. This parasite causes the limbs to become gnarled while the branches sprout out in broom-like formations.
At the time, conservationists believed that this parasite would spread to the other trees in the area and kill them. They cut many of the infected trees. It was only after the culling that they realized the parasite was not harmful for the trees. A few gnarled trees grow here today.
Further along the road, we came across the Spatter Cones. Here, there are two small volcanic cones. You’re able to follow the trail up the sides of the cones and can look down into a volcanic crater. The rock in there has melted so intensely that it appears like plastic or tar inside.
A Day of Driving
We departed Craters of the Moon and headed toward Corey, Idaho. It was just a quick pit stop, but we needed to be sure to eat some potatoes while we were in the state. We even tried something new called fry sauce (ketchup, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, and pickle juice). We continued driving throughout the night, stopping at a gas station at 6 pm for some salads and at 8:45 pm at a tiny, quiet service station nestled in eastern Oregon. It’s so bare on that side of the mountain that we were lucky to find this one place still open in the night. They even closed up at 9, so we barely made it in time!
At around 11:30 pm, we arrived in Bend, Oregon. During the duration of our trip, the wester coast was experiencing a tropical storm. This evening was our first encounter with it. The wind had been whipping the car around on the roads, and we had to run through a torrential downpour to get to our hotel room that night. We settled in quickly.
Day Seven of Our Journey
We wake to wind, wind, wind, and 55°F. That morning, we hurried off to Walmart and Starbucks to grab some supplies while Zach continued to work in the hotel room. At around 11, our group set out toward Crater Lake.
When we arrived at the north entrance at 1:15 pm, we found that it had been closed due to the snow and ice. Unfortunately, the only other entrance to this park was on the south side. We were forced to drive around the park.
Playing in a Blizzard at Crater Lake
Two hours later, we pulled up to the visitors’ center. It was 33°F. A blizzard surrounded us.
We warmed up in the gift shop first, then headed out into the snow to see the lake. As you probably guessed, the snow shrouded it. Instead of moping, our family settled in for a snowball fight, and Julia and I made two tiny snowpeople.
Zach, in his shorts, jumped off a boulder straight into the snow.
The trip thus far had taken us exactly 3000 miles from home.We grabbed some hot chocolate, warmed up, and watched a chipmunk run around the store and hide from the employees.
A Surprise Hike on Our Way to the Coast
As we came down from Crater Lake, the temperature began to rise and the snow started to melt. We pulled off around 6 pm at Mill Creek Trail (0.7 miles) that descended to a waterfall overlook. It hadn’t been part of our plan, but we never seem to follow an itinerary. Countless mossy boulders and ferns covered the floor of this tall pine forest, and the yellow and peach leaves of the trees glowed in the underbrush. Because of the rain, the waterfall was gushing. It was a breathtaking site (and definitely better than Bridal Falls). Here, we were completely alone.
Cave Junction, Oregon was our next stop where we found a restaurant called Carlo’s Mexican and Seafood. Good gravy, it was fantastic. I’ve never had Mexican food better than I’ve had in this restaurant, and those are the only restaurants we have around my home. Not only did I get an incredible vegetarian burrito, but they also brought me a whole bowl of smoky cactus. And Julia! Her chicken burrito was about the size of my head. All of us had leftovers the next day for lunch and dinner.
After winding through a redwood forest in the horrible gusts of wind, we finally arrived at Oceanfront Lodge in Crescent City, CA at 11:30 pm. An angry ocean roared outside, and my family cracked our balcony door to hear it in the night. Storms terrify me, so I hid under the covers and tried to fall asleep.
Be kind to one another,