Wednesday we drove about an hour and a half west from Idaho Falls to Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve.
Craters of the Moon is so unique and almost other-world. It got its name because many thought the area resembled the surface of the moon.
We read from a sign, “Miles and miles of lava…but where is the volcano? Instead of erupting from one enormous volcano the lava oozed out from the deep cracks that start near here and stretch 52 miles to the southeast.” We found this completely fascinating.
There is a loop to drive, trails to walk and areas to explore. There are also lava tubes, which are caves formed by the crusting over of lava channels.
We would have loved to walk through the lava tubes, but those were closed. Maybe due to COVID. We did enjoy walking trails and looking around in different areas, though!
The lava rocks were so porous. They were very interesting to see. Cherish accidentally scraped her hand on one and got a very small cut. We didn’t think much of it, as we get lots of little scraps, bumps and bruises.
But within an hour, Cherish turned white and said her stomach hurt bad. We took her to the van. I cleaned her cut and put a bandaid on it. 15-20 minutes later, she was fine. We aren’t positive it had to do with the cut, but it seemed like it. It could have been that she got woozy from seeing the cut or something to do with the lava rock.
Craters of the Moon breeds such curiosity and a desire to know more. It definitely caused us to want to read the signs to learn more about each area.
It was one the the weirdest and most unique landscapes we’ve seen.
It was worth the drive and time, such a fun place to experience!
A couple evenings while we were in Idaho Falls, we walked around the River Walk.
The Idaho Falls River Walk covers 5 miles on both sides of Snake River. There are sculptures, benches, a wide walking path and great views of the waterfall and the river.
We enjoyed walking around, hearing the sound of the falls and seeing the views.
Our little girls wanted pictures taken with every sculpture they saw and on every bench they saw. Haha. I mostly complied.
There were bikers, skaters, skate-boarders, walkers and people on scooters. It is definitely a happening place, but it is peaceful at the same time.
Watching the reflection of street life on the river as the sun went down was fascinating.
Our kids sang songs, chased each other, piggy-backed each other and chased shadows.
There’s always something unique to do or see everywhere we go. There are so many beautiful places scattered throughout the United States. Idaho Falls River Walk was another gem we got to experience along our traveling journey.
We couldn’t visit Idaho without learning about potatoes!
We were excited when we saw that the Idaho Potato Museum was just a 30 minute drive from our RV park in Idaho Falls.
Tickets are $6 per adult, $3 per child ages 5-12, and free for children ages 4 and under.
The museum is very cute.
We loved walking through it and learning all sorts of facts about potatoes and about growing potatoes. One fact we found very interesting is that the average American eats approximately 110 pounds of potatoes each year.
There is a fun section for kids. It has different activities including a bin full of Mr. Potato Head toys. Our kids had fun making their own potato head creations.
As soon as Bravely saw these Mr. Potato glasses, she grabbed them. She threw her glasses on the ground and excitedly exclaimed, “I got new glasses!”
There are four computers set up with different potato games that can be played. Our kids really enjoyed taking turns playing these.
After walking through the museum and learning all about planting, growing, harvesting, storing, distributing and cooking potatoes, we went to the cafe.
There, nine of us chose to try ice cream made with potato flakes. Tapestry, Cherish and I are the salty girls, so we chose chocolate drizzled potato chips for our treat. Everything was good!
There is a really cute gift shop in the museum. We picked up post cards, a Christmas ornament and a few gifts.
Outside we saw different types of old farming equipment used to plant and harvest potatoes.
We found a rock someone painted a pretty design on the front and wrote “Safe Travels 2020” on the back. Our kids asked to add it to our rock collection as it felt meant for us.
The Idaho Potato Museum was fun, unique and an overall great experience for our whole family!
Sunday we visited Yellowstone National Park. Our older kids had especially been looking forward to this park.
We left our RV park in Idaho Falls around 9AM, picked Gigi and Pops up from their motel and arrived at the west entrance of Yellowstone around 11AM. We waited about 20 minutes in a line of cars at the entrance.
Once we were in the park, we continued driving east until we hit the Madison Junction. There we went south, heading toward all the sites we’d been dreaming of seeing.
As we were driving, we started to see steam rising from the ground ahead. We were antsy to see what was causing the steam.
The first stop we came to was the Lower Geyser Basin. We parked there and walked a boardwalk around the area. We saw hot springs, geysers and boiling mud pots. We were amazed and impressed already!
Next, we drove a little further south to the Midway Geyser Basin.
There we saw hot springs pouring into a river. The chemical reaction from a hot spring often discolors the surrounding rocks. The rock looked yellow, orange and gold where it dumped into the river.
We crossed a bridge over the river, and again, we walked a boardwalk and explored the area.
We first came to the Excelsior Geyser. It is a beautiful turquoise color and has steam rising from it.
Then we walked around to the thing I most wanted to see out of the whole park, the Grand Prismatic Spring.
We saw an array of beautiful colors. I looked up and saw people overlooking from a mountain above. I said, “We have to figure out how to get to that overlook! I’ve got to see this from above.”
We admired the rainbow colors up close, and we anticipated seeing them from above.
We continued along the boardwalk and saw a couple more pools.
After completing our walk around Midway Geyser Basin, we drove further south to Old Faithful.
There we got the kids’ passport books stamped and picked up a few souvenirs at a gift shop.
Old Faithful, named for its consistent performance, is a geyser that erupts about every 90 minutes. We happened to arrive soon before eruption time!
It was really amazing to see in person!
After watching Old Faithful blow, we headed north to the Fairy Falls Trail parking lot. There we hiked a short but steep trail up to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook.
It was all I hoped and dreamed it would be, one of the most amazing views I have ever seen!
I was sure nothing else at Yellowstone would top this for me, and nothing else did!
All of our kids said this was their favorite of the day as well.
When we finished admiring the rainbow pool, we drove about an hour north to Mammoth Hot Springs.
Mammoth Hot Springs is a large complex of hot springs on a hill in Yellowstone. It was created over many years as hot water from the spring cooled and deposited calcium carbonate.
It is a very neat area to see because it is so different than anything else seen in the park.
Once again, we walked a boardwalk trail and checked out the area.
It almost looked like ice or snow. There was a shiny gold portion that was fascinating as well.
It was cool to see this spring from the top, knowing it was pouring over creating the same type look below.
After we walked around awhile, we got back in the van and ate a snack supper as we headed home.
On the way out, Gigi and Pops got to see a buffalo. They’d been hoping all day to see one. We had seen many in Nebraska, South Dakota and other places we’ve visited, but we thought it was the perfect ending to the day for Gigi and Pops to see one.
We loved Yellowstone, and we’ve now named it one of our favorite national parks. There are endless neat things to see and do there. We only saw what the west side has to offer. I know there is a lot on the east side as well.
After our time in Oregon, we made quite the drive into Idaho! We drove through some strong winds in the middle of nowhere with no place to stop. We came upon a small town with trees down all over shortly after, which we had to route around. Then we continued our drive with gray skies out our left window and blue skies out our right – just outside the line of storms. Thankfully, we made it safely to our RV park just outside of Boise, Idaho.
I know there is a lot to do in the Boise area, but we did absolutely nothing aside from practical stuff. We cleaned, caught up on lots of laundry, grocery shopped, did haircuts, etc. I did pick up a few new book sets from Costco for the kids, and they were thrilled! We have many bookworms in this family.
After staying a few nights near Boise, we moved on to a park in Idaho Falls. We got settled in and enjoyed walking and playing on the playground that evening.
The next morning we got up and made the 2-hour drive to Grand Teton National Park.
There we met up with Ryan’s parents, Gigi and Pops, who came from Texas to spend some time with us. Our kids were so excited to see their grandparents!
We picked a bad day to be at a national park. The sky was filled with thick smoke from the California fires, so much that we never really got to see the Teton mountain range. Our hearts go out to our friends and others dealing with these fires in California!
The park was pretty crowded, especially at the Jenny Lake area. We decided to bypass Jenny Lake and head to Colter Bay at Jackson Lake.
We chose to walk an easy stroller-friendly trail around the bay.
We mostly enjoyed talking and catching up with Gigi and Pops as we walked.
Is it any surprise that we made our way to the lakeside to skip rocks? This is a Stegent family favorite.
The lighting of the sky was an orange color all day. We could barely see mountain silhouettes in the background.
We spent a good while by the lake throwing rocks, skipping rocks and venturing out onto rocks.
It was fun, though I knew the views could not be anything like they are on a normal day.
After walking Colter Bay, we drove back down toward Jenny Lake. We saw that it was still really crowded, so we decided to drive further down to the Phelps Lake area. As we drove, we started to see the Teton mountain range. We were excited to be able to see it at all. Even in its almost invisible form, it was beautiful.
We saw people stopped along the side of the road taking pictures. This is usually a sign that there is either a great view or a unique animal nearby. We pulled over to see, and sure enough…there was a moose!
After checking out the moose, we drove a little further and parked at the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve. We walked part of the Woodland Trail Loop. I will say that the signs marking trails at this park aren’t great. We had to ask other people to make sure we were on the right trail.
Shortly into our walk, we happened upon a small waterfall. We were not expecting it, so it was a great surprise! We loved that we were able to walk right up close to it and touch the water.
We walked further into the trail, and four other hikers stopped us to let us know there was a bear cub ahead. As much as we’d love to see a bear cub, we had no bear spray and people don’t say, “the momma bear rose up in me,” for no reason. Haha. It was getting late anyway, so we decided to turn around and call it a day.
I am positive we did not get to see but a hint of Grand Teton’s beauty, but we enjoyed the day nonetheless. And we really appreciated the beauty we did see.
Sunday evening we drove a long way into what seemed like the middle of nowhere. We turned down an unmarked dirt road by mile marker 77 on Highway US-20. We were on the hunt, but it was unclear where we should hunt. We stopped by a random campsite and asked a guy by his tent, “Where do we find obsidian?”
He looked at us strangely and said, “You want to find obsidian before sundown?” “Yes”, we replied. He told us to go down the dirt road another mile and to look to the right of the pond. So that’s what we did, and obsidian we found!
Obsidian is lava glass that is produced when lava from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth. Most obsidian is black, but other colors can be found in the Glass Butte area.
We mostly found black obsidian, tons of it, but we also found some black with red stripes. It did look and feel like glass.
Yes, we forgot Bravely’s shoes! Proof we don’t have all our ducks in a row. Ha.
We walked around collecting obsidian until the sun went down.
This was a great non-tourist, off the beaten path, adventure! Our kids thought it was so much fun.
Saturday we drove about two and a half hours to Crater Lake National Park, and it was worth every minute of that long drive.
We learned that Mount Mazama grew, erupted, and collapsed forming a caldera. Water eventually filled the caldera, creating Crater Lake.
The water is a deep blue color, and it is mesmerizing. The reflection of the clouds adds even more depth and beauty to the already stunning lake.
We chose to walk the Discovery Point Trail around the rim of Crater Lake so that we could check out all the beautiful views.
It was hot, but it was definitely worth the heat.
Our kids were completely fascinated with how Crater Lake was formed and thought it was beautiful to see.
After walking around for awhile and feeling like we’d really seen and soaked in the beauty of Crater Lake, we drove further into the national park to Plaikni Falls Trail.
Plaikni Falls Trail is a shaded 2-mile roundtrip hike. It is jog stroller friendly and an easy walk.
We were very happy to be in the shade after being in the hot sun the couple hours before.
Our kids had a blast walking logs, climbing rocks and looking for unique things they’d never seen.
Our older kids often ask for individual pictures in areas with amazing views. Our little girls very often ask for individual pictures by random rocks, tree stumps or in areas of devastation. While hiking this trail, I ran and stood on this little rock and excitedly said, “Oooh! Ryan, take a picture of me!” Our big kids laughed and our little kids looked at me like I was crazy. Later, Ryan posed on a log. Haha!
We enjoyed our walk and slowly made our way to Plaikni Falls.
Another great waterfall! I loved the setting of the rocks, green moss and trees.
We all touched the water and found it to be very cold but refreshing.
After seeing the waterfall, we made our way back down the trail.
Treasure searched and searched for a tree she had seen earlier. She felt it would make for a perfect photo. She was overjoyed when she found it. She asked her daddy to sit her in the hole. Then she got completely freaked out by the height but posed for her perfect photo anyway. Ha.
We made our way back to our van and started our long drive back to our RV Park. We surprised the kids by ordering Chipotle online, picking it up and eating a late dinner in the van.
Crater Lake is one of those places that looks fake in photos and fake in person because it is just that gorgeous. It’s worth making the trip to see for sure!
Smith Rock State Park is about 40 minutes from Bend, a very popular vacation destination in Oregon.
We drove there Friday afternoon. It was so hot when we got there that we decided to leave and go back Friday evening. I guess we’ve been away from the Texas heat too long and have been spoiled with cooler summer temperatures. It worked out great to return later. It was cool, shaded and not crowded when we returned.
Smith Rock is known as a great place for rock climbing and repelling. There are also many great hiking trails with interesting views.
We walked easy, stroller-friendly trails and got to watch the sun go down as we walked.
The kids skipped, ran, sang and yelled in order to hear their echos.
We found this cross in the side of a rock.
Tapestry asked to borrow my phone to take pictures of Bravely. This is becoming a new hobby of hers, and she takes some really cute photos.
My favorite view was of Crooked River running through Smith Rock. We all loved walking the trail alongside the river.
Slowly the sun faded away and we found ourselves walking in the dark with a star-lit sky and rock silhouettes. We searched for and found the Big Dipper.
As we walked in this amazing place, in the dark, we decided to yell what we all felt…“FREEDOM!”
I absolutely loved Smith Rock State Park, even as much as many national parks we’ve visited. It is just so unique and pretty.
We knew we were near Mount St. Helens in Portland, and we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hike it.
We routed to Climber’s Bivouac Trailhead in Cougar, WA. We parked in a parking lot on the mountain, and we started our hike.
We would have loved to climb to the rim to look into the crater of an erupted and active volcano. Climbing to the rim is a 9.6 mile hike roundtrip. We did not have the time or the permits to climb that high, but we set out hoping to see something volcano-like along the way.
We walked through a forested area for about 2 miles. It was nice and cool, which energized all of us.
We were starting to wonder if we’d make it out of the forested area, but we were pretty determined to see something beyond all the trees. So we kept going.
Eventually, we saw a lot of light beaming through the trees ahead. And then we saw rocks. Lots of rocks. And out of the trees, we emerged.
We were excited to see piles of large rocks covered and surrounded by ashy dirt.
This satisfied our longing to feel like we were actually on a volcano. After a bit of exploring, we turned around and started our hike back down.
Most of our kids ran ahead of us and Manning yelled back, “You want us in your sight, right?” I yelled, “Right!” And that started a long game of In Sight, Out of Site. They’d run until they were just out of my view. Manning would then yell, “Out of sight!” They’d all come to a halt. As I’d come closer, he’d yell, “In sight!” And they’d all take off again.
We ended up hiking about 4.5 miles roundtrip. Though we didn’t get to see the rim of Mount St. Helens, we had a great time!
Tuesday morning we got up early, got ready and hit the road. We drove a couple hours from Portland to the Astoria Column.
The Astoria Column is a 125-foot-tall tower with an interior spiral staircase leading to an observation deck at the top. The exterior is covered in artwork depicting events from the early history of Oregon.
The interior was closed due to COVID, but we still really enjoyed seeing the exterior artwork. It costs $5 for a parking pass that is good for one year. Otherwise, visiting the Astoria Column is free.
We ate a packed lunch there. We picked up some postcards and a Christmas ornament from the gift shop. And we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Columbia River and the Astoria–Megler Bridge.
When we left the Astoria Column we drove across that 4-mile-long bridge leaving Oregon and entering Washington. It is a really cool bridge to cross.
We headed to Long Beach to meet some new friends, Lori and Russ. Lori reads our blog and messaged me when she saw we were in the area.
We hung out at an outdoor area downtown. Lori and Russ are full-time RVers as well. We really enjoyed meeting and talking with them! They sent treats with us when we parted ways, which we enjoyed later that afternoon at Cape Disappointment State Park.
We had to look up how Cape Disappointment got its name, because oh my goodness – it’s amazing!
On Wikipedia we found that Cape Disappointment earned its name when Captain John Meares failed to cross the river bar in 1788.
At Cape Disappointment State Park there are hiking trails, a lighthouse, the beach and Fort Canby.
Our kids really liked exploring Fort Canby and reading about the history of it.
We found out that the U.S. Army constructed Fort Canby along with Fort Stevens and Fort Columbia to defend the entrance of the Columbia River from enemy warships.
I absolutely loved standing on Waikiki Beach and watching the waves crash against the rocks near the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.
After exploring the state park for a few hours, we drove down the peninsula through Long Beach and to Ocean Park. We arrived at Lori and Russ’s amazing land and enjoyed hamburgers, hotdogs and great conversation with our new friends.
We had such a great day on the northwest coast, another day packed with some really good memories!