Yaquina Head Lighthouse: Central Oregon Coast

Our time on the Oregon Coast was just breathtaking!  I never expected to enjoy it so much!  We visited the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and took a tour of the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. IMG_0398 Besides the lighthouse itself there are amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, great whale/seal watching and a top notch Visitor Center
IMG_0400 There is a small admission fee into the parking area at the lighthouse but your National Park pass will cover this as it is run by BLM.  Once you enter the parking lot make sure to go to the VC to get your free pass for one of the day’s tours.  They start passing the passes out at 10am for the noon tour.  It is recommended that you come early to make sure you don’t miss out.  You cannot get passes for future days or make reservations.IMG_0401 IMG_0402 Our tour guide was great and did a good job explaining and involving the kids.  She showed us how the lighthouse worked before there was electricity to it.IMG_0408 More amazing views of the Pacific Ocean from the top of the lighthouse.IMG_0412 That is a LOOOONNNNGGGG way down!IMG_0413 The kids made these badges at the Visitor Center and played with many “original” wooden games.  The VC is very hands on and had a education film about the lighthouse.IMG_0415 I would recommend the tour and area if you find yourself in Newport, OR or nearby.IMG_0416TIP:   The parking lot was very big and you could find room for your RV if you were just passing by the area.

The day we had ice cream for lunch!

We have been looking forward to visiting the Tillamook Cheese Factory since we realized it was on our route and were excited the day had finally come!IMG_0510
Tillamook Cheese Factory is located on the mid Oregon Coast and is easy to reach off the 101.  Free self guided tours are offered daily which include free cheese samples!
IMG_0489There is a short film that you can watch before you begin the self tour of the facilities.
IMG_0499 You can peer through the glass and watch the process in action.  We had many employees give smiles and waves to the kids.IMG_0500 IMG_0506Where it all begins…IMG_0502
This is the only location in the whole WORLD where you can choose from each of the flavors under the same roof!IMG_0508Tillamook Creamery takes a lot of pride in it’s farmers Co-op.
IMG_0511 Homemade waffle cones and bowls!  If only I could post the delicious smell through the screen :)IMG_0513The best part of the whole tour was getting to have ice cream for lunch!  PS.  They have “real” food in the cafe for purchase, but what fun is that?IMG_0516

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TIP: There is a HUGE parking lot in the back for RV’s, buses and oversized vehicles.  Tillamook is located right on the 101 and its the perfect place to stop by and visit even if you are just “passing through.”IMG_0487

 

 

 

Mt. Rainier National Park

A volcano?!  Yes, Mt. Rainier is a volcano!  You would never know, it looks like any other snow capped mountain, but it is a volcano.  It last erupted about 1,000 years ago and is located near Mt. St. Helens.IMG_0859 We visited in mid May and many of the parks roads and facilities still weren’t open.  The Paradise Jackson Visitor Center is located about 1/2 hour from the Nisqually Entrance (open year round) and is at about 5200 ft. elevation.  It is a beautiful building that opened in 2008 and has a park film, indoor eating area, cafe, visitor services and an amazing view of the mountain.IMG_0861 Jr. Ranger books can be picked up here or at the Longmire Museum and the books can be completed without a problem in one day.IMG_0862 IMG_0863 IMG_0865 There is a great area to play in the snow right at the visitor center.IMG_0866 After the visitor center we drove back down (the roads were closed to go any further) and we stopped in the Longmire area.  We did a short hike before it started to rain (it was snowing higher up!) on the “Trail of Shadows”.  The trail head is right across the road from the Longmire Museum.  There were some natural springs, old growth forest and original structures from the settlers in the late 1800’s.IMG_0867 IMG_0868

Note: For those fellow travelers that are Thousand Trails members, we did drive from Paradise RV TT and that worked fine but I wouldn’t have wanted to make the drive more than once.  It was about an hour to the Park entrance at Nisqually and then at least another 1/2 hour to the Visitor Center.

John Muir Woods National Monument

This breathtaking park is north of San Fran, CA and worth a visit!  The land was donated by a couple in the early 1900’s to the Park Service to make sure it was preserved.  IMG_0230 IMG_0231 This was our first taste of the giant redwoods and made us excited to continue our trek north towards Redwood NP.IMG_0234 There are many signs encouraging quiet behavior which was a bit stressful with the kids.  I would caution you to reconsider this park if you have crazy kids and don’t feel like repeating “shhhhh!” the whole time.IMG_0235 A little one among the “giants”IMG_0236 IMG_0237 IMG_0239

The Redwoods are the tallest species of tress in the world!
IMG_0266Tips: Parking is very limited so make sure to arrive within an hour of opening or take advantage of a private tour or shuttle (seasonal) to drop you off!  You can find more information about alternative ways to the park here.

The road off the 101 is extremely windy and tight and I would caution anyone with a big truck.  NO RV’s are allowed and the vehicle length is limited to 17feet.

Make sure to check out Marin Headlands (part of Golden Gate Rec Area) after your visit to Muir Woods.

There is a Jr. Ranger program for the kids to do as they explore the paved path and bridges.  I recommend doing it while you are at the park.  We sometimes take them to go and mail them in for our badges so we aren’t so rushed, but this is one that you need to view things on the path to answer specific questions.

Marin Headlands

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Marin Headlands is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which surrounds the San Fran, CA area.  We had a good day trip there and would recommend visiting Rodeo Beach (pet friendly!), the Visitor Center and the Mammal Marine Hospital which are all free of charge.  They also have a Jr. Ranger program (and additional beach buddies badge) for the kids to earn their badge.

The Marine Mammal Center is small but the kids loved seeing the different parts of taking care of these sick marine mammals.  We saw many elephant seals who were just babies!IMG_0243 IMG_0250 We stopped by the Battery picnic area and had a view of the Golden Gate bridge during our lunch!IMG_0251Tips:  The drive off the 101 was much easier than the drive to Muir Woods so you don’t need to be as worried about the tight turns.  There is a tunnel to go thru (one lane only) so you may have up to a 5 minute wait for opposing traffic.

There is a Jr. Ranger program for Marin Headlands as well as the “Beach Buddies” Jr. Ranger program.  The kids can earn a separate badge for each.  The visitor center is on the small side, but does have some hands on exhibits for the kids and a gift shop for the adults to browse through.

Redwood National Park: The Pacific Ocean

When we were looking forward to our trip to the Redwoods, I thought we would see trees, tall trees, and more trees.  I never dreamed of the amazing views that we would have of the ocean!  We were blessed with a 77 degree day on May 1 and took full advantage of it.

We went to the Klamath Cove area and had fun exploring the tide pools at low tide.  We saw a lot of sealife clinging for safety to the massive rocks.  We then went to Klamath beach were we watched the seals for hours.

 Another HUGE highlight for me was finally see a group of WHALES!!!IMG_0368 IMG_0366IMG_0373IMG_0367IMG_0372This is a view from one of the many overlooks.IMG_0314
Massive driftwood was everywhere!  The kids loved building with it and tossing it into the ocean to watch the massive waves sweep it away.
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IMG_6039 Just a glimpse of the beautiful sunset we watched.IMG_0356

 

 

 

Redwood National and State Park

They call these trees the Giants.  They tower over every living thing and grow up to nearly 400 feet. Our time amongst these trees didn’t disappoint!

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For our fellow RVer’s, here is a little bit of info regarding the Redwoods.  Before we got here we were really confused about the area and all of the state parks, visitor centers and massive area covered.  After our visit, we have a bit of a better understanding.  IMG_7694

The Avenue of the Giants is in the Humboldt County area and is a 31 mile drive through some of the biggest and best Redwoods.  The actual drive is on highway 254 and trailers are not recommended on portions.  We did just fine in our dually.  We used our Passport America discount to stay at Stafford RV Park in Scotia, CA.  This park is one mile north of the “start” of the drive (or finish, depending on how you look at it).  The drive basically parellels the 101 and there are chances to hop back in forth if you want to.  The park was nothing fancy, but they had nice long pull thru spots.  It was perfect to unhook to take just the truck on the drive.  There are turnouts along the drive and some numbered areas that are highlighted.  We did two short hikes along the way and would say this was actually our favorite of all the Redwood things we did.  Do NOT miss this area!

IMG_6033 After our one night stay in Scotia, we drove about 2 hours north in Klamath, CA where we stayed at another PA campground, Kamp Klamath.  We stayed 3 nights here and had time to do everything we wanted but we certainly could have stayed longer int he area.  There are other PA campgrounds in the area and I might recommend looking into Klamath River campground instead.  It is closer to the 101 and the spots looked big and open and easier set up for big rigs.  We barely fit in our spot at Kamp Klamath, but loved the staff, the chickens and fresh eggs and the salmon berry picking they let us do!

IMG_0364From the Klamath area, we were 1/2 hour or less drive to the Redwood National and State Parks (yes, they are one.)  They co manage the areas of the Redwoods.  Klamath is a very small town but the ocean views and beaches are incredible!  Just 2 miles down the road from our campground is an amazing overlook and access via a path down to the beach.  We were there at both high and low tide and spent hours watching seals catch eels, play and bark at each other.  We also saw whales from a far!  The kids had a blast playing in the sand and building with all of the driftwood (pictures in next post)
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When we hiked the Trillium Falls 2.5 mile loop we saw banana slugs, waterfalls, old growth redwoods along with other beautiful natural settings.

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IMG_0287 We really feel at home in the forest and were so excited to be here after many months in the desert.

 

 

 

 

 

Yosemite NP: Mirror Lake

The moms and kids took on the Mirror Lake hike while the dads took on Upper Yosemite hike (7.2 mile round trip, 2,700 ft. elevation gain).

We both hopped on the great Yosemite Shuttles that run for free around the valley and headed to our trailheads (in opposite directions).IMG_0160 The 2 mile round trip hike is PERFECT for kids.  I would recommend taking the route to the right that is dirt.  There are some boulders to climb and its a very scenic trip down to the lake.IMG_0161 You will be treated with rushing water the majority of the hike!IMG_0162 The kids had time to explore and build tree forts and “kitchens.”IMG_7291 (1)IMG_0173 IMG_0169The reflection in the lake was quite impressive!
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Sequoia National Park

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is one of the most under talked about national parks, in my opinion.  We didn’t know much about it and it far exceeded our expectations.  Some of the park was inaccessible because it was early in the season but we were treated with many large trees and breathtaking views

IMG_0042We stayed at Sequoia RV Ranch and were really happy with our stay there.  The staff was VERY nice, there was a geocache on site and they even had a swimming hole at the back of the campground.  Our 3 day stay could have been longer and we would recommend this spot just a few miles outside of the NP entrance.

General Sherman is the biggest tree (by volume) in the entire world!
IMG_0050 The elevation varied greatly and the kids loved that we found snow on the same day we were in T shirts and shorts at the campground!IMG_0052 We found many nooks and cranny’s to explore away from the crowds.IMG_0053These 4 were sworn in as Jr. Rangers by a very sweet ranger who was great with the kids.IMG_0054
Holding on to her for dear life!
IMG_0056We drove through the clouds in Creasant Meadow and the dually fit through this fallen tree!
IMG_0058 Another shot of General Sherman, in all its glory!IMG_5959 IMG_5962 IMG_5966 IMG_5981 IMG_5989 IMG_5994