Thursday, July 31, 2014

Road Trip 2014 {North Cascades National Park}

Road Trip 2014 {North Cascades National Park}

In my road trip recommendations, I suggest people allow for downtime and unplanned adventures.  We had one of those spontaneous adventures on June 13th when we ended up at North Cascades National Park. We'd done a lot of sightseeing the day before in Seattle, and we didn't have many things left on our list to see in the city.  Since we had a free day, Mark and I  thought we might drive to Olympic National Park.  The only thing that we were hesitant about is that it was going to be a long drive with a lot of traffic.  Kayreen made a great recommendation since she knew we wanted to avoid traffic, and she suggested that we go to North Cascades instead.  It was much easier to get to since it was north of the city.

We experienced true Pacific Northwest weather that day.  It was cool and rainy.
We LOVED it!

I try my best to get a photo of the entrance signs at all of the National Parks we visit.  North Cascades had one of my favorite signs of any we've seen.

My boys were happiest when they are free to roam and hike.  They liked climbing all over the rocks at the sign.  You can see in the foreground the big rock with a place for you to put your camera.  I love it when they have that!  I set the timer and we're good to go.  I should do a blog post about funny outtakes when the timer goes off before we are all ready.

It was a rainy day, and we didn't go on any long hikes.  Instead we spent time in the visitors center.  It was the least crowded park we visited, and their visitors center was really nice.  I have a lot of photos of the boys checking out all of the exhibits.  

This was an interactive model of the mountain range.

Push buttons light up specific areas

Will learned all about different kinds of rocks in 1st grade, and we thought this display of rocks from the Cascade Range was really cool.

Ben had fun looking at all the different wildlife in the museum.

You know we are all about getting our National Park passports stamped.

Another thing the boys have really gotten into is completing all the junior ranger programs for the National Parks we've visited on this trip.  They complete a workbook and then receive a patch or badge.  Those workbooks have been better than any structured, planned school work I could have ever of come up with for them this summer.  They really have learned so much about the environment and the National Parks we've visited.  You can see that the park ranger has their full attention while he's explaining the program.

My favorite photo of Ben on our short hike.

My favorite photo of Will.

On a clear day you should be able to see Picket Range in the distance, but it was cloudy and rainy so no visibility.

I took this photo as we were leaving the park. Mark stopped and from my car window I snapped this.  I've never read the Twilight books or watched the movies, but I have many friends who have.  When they saw this photo, they said it reminded them of it.

Just outside of the park, we stopped at a Cascadian Farm roadside stand.  I'm sure you've seen the brand before.  We all got organic ice cream cones, and I bought some strawberries.

Look at these itty bitty strawberries.  They were perfectly ripe and sweet.  They sure don't look like the overgrown strawberries I buy at the grocery store, or as I like to call them "strawberries on steroids".  

One more photo of the PNW.

If you are interested in my advice on taking a road trip with young children, check out my suggestions at Unexpected Elegance {here}.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Road Trip 2014 {Seattle}

Prepare yourself.  This post is going to be LONG with a lot of photos.  I can't help it.  Seattle is pretty much one of my favorite cities of all time.  I was lucky enough to live there for 6 months after I graduated from college, and it will always have a special place in my heart.  I was beyond excited to share the city with my boys.  Mark and I got to hang out there back in 2004, and I can't believe it's taken us 10 years to get back. 

The idea for this entire road trip started when I was texting my friend Kayreen.  She was my roommate when I lived in Seattle, and we are still good friends.  Our friendship proves that true friendships can survive distance and time.  She and her sister live in the city near Green Lake, and she offered us a place to stay if we decided to visit.  Mark and I decided that this was good timing because we didn't have vacation plans for the summer.  Since Kayreen was kind enough to offer us a place to stay we knew we wanted to make the trip happen.  She and her sister Kendra were gracious hosts and made us feel welcome and at home.

We were in Seattle from June 11th through the 15th. I'll share the highlights from the city, and I'll do separate blog posts about the Rangers vs. Mariners baseball game and our adventure to North Cascades National Park.  

If you follow me on Instagram (@redbirdblue), I took photos and tagged the location of most of the stuff we did.  On this visit we experienced being a tourist and living like a local.  It was the best of both worlds.  The touristy stuff was on our sightseeing list because I wanted the boys to have memories of the major landmarks in the city.  Having Kayreen and Kendra as our hosts allowed us to do what the locals do.  We went to some great restaurants and coffee shops based on their recommendations.

Here's a list of the things we visited while in Seattle.  Hopefully I didn't miss anything.
Pike Place Market
downtown Seattle
 Seattle Center
 Space Needle
Alki Beach and West Seattle
Fremont Troll
Gas Works Park

We really liked these neighborhoods, too.
 Fremont, Ballard, Green Lake, Wallingford, the University District and the U Village

Some favorite places based on our hosts' suggestions.
Milstead & Co. Coffee in Fremont, Sunfish in West Seattle,  Uneeda Burger in Fremont, Hi-Life in Ballard, Molly Moons in Wallingford

Of course, I'll start with a photo of Pike Place Market.

The famous Pike Place Fish Co. in the background at the market.  Neither one of the boys got hit on the head by a flying fish. ;)

Will was super excited to see a City Target in downtown Seattle.  He was excited because that meant he could look at Legos, of course.

We travel all the way to Seattle, and we end up buying Legos.  That's the boys' souvenir for the trip.

Ben got a ride on Mark's shoulders.  This was our first vacation without a stroller.  Ben did great, but his little legs would get tired from all the walking so we gave him a lift when needed.

We didn't stand in line at the original Starbucks downtown.  I know, I know!  We were in Seattle and didn't go to Starbucks.  I'm sure that's breaking some kind of unspoken tourist rule, ha!  Instead we went to Seattle Coffee Works just around the corner where there wasn't a line, the coffee was excellent, and a helpful barista corrected our order when it was wrong.  I think it was a good decision even though I like Starbucks.

Seattle Space Needle 
Mark and I went to the top back in 2004, but we decided not to ride the elevator to the top.  It was a gorgeous day, and I'm sure the views would have been spectacular but we didn't.  The reason is that I didn't think Will and Ben would appreciate the experience.  I think having a photo with it in the background is memory enough.

This building is so crazy!

My clothes coordinated with the architecture.  Fun photo op!

This maze/labyrinth in front of the EMP kept the boys entertained for awhile.  Mark even enjoyed running around it.  Will was the first to notice that the design was actually a maze.

I didn't attempt it.  I just took photos.

The view of the Seattle skyline from West Seattle.
One of my favorite photos from our road trip.

I LOVE this photos of the boys on Alki Beach. 

If the boys look like best friends in the photo above, here's one for the sake of keeping it real.  I took this by a mural outside of Uneeda Burger in Fremont.  Will was going to stand by Ben and put his arm around him, and Ben wasn't being cooperative at all and pushed will off the curb.  Brotherly love!!!

Fremont Troll
This tops the list of favorite things in Seattle for Will and Ben.  They climbed all over the troll and slid down the sides.  The more they played, the more they discovered cool things about the troll.  Will thought the VW bug in the troll's hand was neat.  He kept saying, "He's holding a car!"

View of Lake Union and Seattle in the distance from Gas Works Park.
This is my dear friend Kayreen.  She's an awesome person!

I really like this photo of Kayreen and Kendra.  They were both super sweet to Will and Ben and made us feel so welcome.
Here's a funny story.  You can see the remnants of the plant in the background, and when we got to the park Will and Ben started making a run for it when they saw it.  They thought all of the colorful pipes were to be played on.  We weren't sure if they were for kids.  They were disappointed, but they quickly got over it.

Kendra helped the boys collect feathers all around the park. 

Houseboats on Lake Union
I'm still a fan of the movie Sleepless in Seattle and this reminded me of that movie.

 My boys were like city kids playing at the playground in Green Lake. Will and Ben liked Green Lake because they had fun playing with the excavator and playground. Kayreen did a good job picking kid-friendly places to hang out.

Molly Moon's ice cream in Wallingford
I had honey lavender ice cream with lemon curd topping.  Amazing!

We had a tasty breakfast at at Hi-Life in Ballard.  The building is a converted firehouse.  


Kayreen got a more than thorough explanation of all things Lego.  

An unexpected surprise was getting in touch with my sweet friend Loretta.  She and I met in college, and she drove across country with me when I moved back to Texas from Seattle in 2001.  Loretta and I have lost touch over the years, but one thing we still have in common is our love for the Pacific Northwest.  She lives in Seattle, and not too far from Kayreen.  She took me to Via Tribunali in Fremont so we could catch up.

 I think that covers most of our time in Seattle.  
The only regret I have is that we didn't get to spend longer in Seattle.  I wish I would have had a chance to see my college friend Beth and my new friend Kerri.  I guess we'll have to plan another trip there!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Road Trip 2014 {Mount Rainier National Park}

On June 11th we visited Mount Rainier National Park.  We had stayed in Yakima, Washington and from there we took Hwy 12 into the park.  The views were stunning entering the park from the East.  We couldn't have asked for a better day to view Mount Rainier.  Mark and I visited the park in 2004, and we didn't see the mountain like we did on this last visit.  It was breathtaking.

This view was from a stop just before we entered the National Park.

This is the entrance near SR 123.

We took the short Grove of the Patriarchs trail to view the old growth forest.  We saw enormous fir and cedar trees. 

Can you see Will and Ben?

So big!  It looks like they are trying to hold up the tree.

We had to cross this bridge over the Ohanapecosh River.

At the Paradise Visitor Center the boys had their National Park Passports stamped.  This is the first year that Will has really gotten into collecting the stamps for his passport.  He and his aunt (who loves National Parks too) compare their stamps.  We started collecting the stamps back in 2010. 

The view of from the Paradise Visitor Center.

Will and Ben could have played for a long time in the snow.  They loved it!  
It looks like it'd be really cold.  Our light jackets were helpful, but it was sunny so you can see that Mark isn't wearing a jacket in the photo above, and he wasn't too cold.  

Getting ready to take the short hike to Narada Falls.

This is really cute!
Looking for woodland creatures living in the tree.

Narada Falls behind our family.

Will was going to see how cold the water felt in the stream.  It's really cold!

More scenes from the park.
We couldn't believe how much snow was on the ground in parts of the park.

View of Rainier from Reflection Lake

More amazing views

I'm thankful for the opportunity to see this park and share it with my family.  
It really was an amazing day.

If you missed my first Road Trip 2014 post, it's here.

Don't forget to check out my road trip secrets at Unexpected Elegance.


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