Day 9: Whitewater Rafting in Maupin, OR (Sierra)

Today we had to get up a bit early, but only so that we wouldn’t be late for our next activity: white water rafting! Cassidy and I love white water rafting, so we were super excited. We drove an hour to the Deschutes river, and then rode the bus to where we were going into the water. Our guide’s name was Madison. She was super nice and really chatty. Most of the rapids were class two and three, but there was one four. 

Cassidy and I got to “ride the bull”, or sit on the front of the raft with our feet dangling over, for most of the class twos. There were a couple class threes where we got really wet and it was sooooo fun! Then there were some parts where there were no rapids and we could just drift along and even jump in! We played a couple games. For one of them you stand on the front of the boat and everyone else spins the boat and you try to balance. I was the only one brave enough to do it and I ended up in the water, obviously. 

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For the class four rapid we had to go to the side where there wasn’t a six-foot drop. I honestly wasn’t that disappointed. Maybe next time! After the big rapid, we stopped where White River meets the Deschutes River. White River was waaaaay warmer than Deschutes River and also really shallow, so we waded around there and it was really fun. I was sad when we had to go back to the bus!

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After rafting was over, we went to one of the places that the guides had recommended for lunch. It was pretty good! Then again, we probably would’ve eaten anything. Rafting makes you hungry!

The drive afterwards was one of the longest and most boring drives on the RV trip. It was about five hours and we were driving past dead grass and hills. When we got to our campsite, we were very relieved that it was next to what seemed to be the only body of water for miles, a small lake. After dinner, I slept very well. Rafting also makes you tired!

-Sierra

Day 8: Olympic National Park to Hood River, OR (Linda)

We tried to get an early start again this morning so that we’d have time to visit the many waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. We did make one more stop in Olympic National Park along the way, which was Lake Quinault. There is a historic national park lodge right on the lake there that is absolutely gorgeous.

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The girls and I were hungry after just eating Cheerios for breakfast, so we decided to order take-out breakfast burritos from the lodge restaurant and eat them by the lake. Yum!

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After that it was a fairly boring 4-hour drive to the Columbia River Gorge area, where the scenery got much more interesting. However, we quickly realized that something was very wrong when we started seeing “Closed” signs on the exit ramps to all the major attractions. Ugh. We assumed that all the waterfall hikes had been recently closed due to COVID, though we never 100% figured it out. And that had not been the case when I did my research. SO – that was pretty disappointing.

We finally found one hike that was open, and it was a lovely waterfall along Starvation Creek (see below), so at least that was something!

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We biked a mile from the hike to Viento State Park, which I had read had river access for swimming. That was indeed the case, but in case you are wondering, swimming in the Columbia River is not what I would call pleasant. It is extremely rocky, and the water is murky (with algae) and cold. Cassidy just couldn’t make herself do it (despite the heat), and I only made it in about thigh-high!

All in all it was a rather disappointing day, especially as I had heard such amazing things about this area of Oregon. However, we finished it off with a delicious take-out pizza dinner in Hood River overlooking the area where tons of people are kite surfing and wind surfing.

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That was really cool to see – oh to be 25 again and pick up kite surfing. It looks SOOO fun, like flying!!

That night we stayed across the river in Bridge RV Park, which is technically in White Salmon, WA. It was quite hot, and we had full hook-ups, so we used the AC for the first time on the trip. That was a good thing too, as it was so loud that we didn’t even notice the noise from the train that passes very close to the RV Park. Can’t believe our trip is almost over 😦

-Linda

Day 7: Olympic National Park (Sierra)

On day two of Olympic National Park, we decided to focus on beaches. Before heading to our next campground we went to Rialto Beach. It wasn’t at all warm, but I didn’t really expect it to be, so that was okay.

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We didn’t spend much time there because we wanted to get to the next campground while there were still spots! After collecting a few rocks, we hopped back in Nacho and continued the journey.

The drive along the Hoh river to the campground was very pretty. When we reached Allen’s Bar Campground, we picked out a spot, put down some blankets and chairs, and headed back out to the next beach, Ruby Beach. Allen’s Bar Campground was super cool because you just park your RV on this rocky area with all of the other RVs and it is literally right on the Hoh river!

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Ruby Beach really wasn’t that different from Rialto Beach — though it was warmer and sunnier by this point.

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The only noticeable differences were that Ruby Beach had a few more giant pieces of driftwood, and it also had an island that you could wade to. Obviously we waded out to the island, I mean, who wouldn’t?

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After climbing on rocks covered in dead sea things that hurt your feet for a while, we finally spotted what we had come for: sea stars! Dad saw the first bunch, and Cassidy saw the second bunch. All of them were in these cool caverns underwater at the base of giant rocks.

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Well, except for one that Cassidy found that was sticking out of the water. It was orange and we got to touch it. It was surprisingly rough and hard!

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After we had climbed back over the painful rocks, we hung out and built forts in the driftwood, which was cut short when Cassidy and I both had to go to the bathroom. So we went back to Nacho Gas Station Bathroom a little earlier than expected.

When we returned to the campsite Cassidy and I played with rocks while Mom made a delicious burrito dinner! We ate in chairs right by the water, which was super cool. I think it was my favorite dinner of the trip, food wise and location wise!

-Sierra

Day 6: From Deception Pass to Olympic National Park (Linda)

The only ferry reservation we were able to pre-book was for the 7:15 AM from Coupeville to Port Townsend, so we had to get a super early start this morning. [I must admit I’m a bit jealous of the people who take a month or more to do a trip like this and therefore don’t have to worry about reservations and schedules. It’s a bit stressful to have to be up and at ‘em so early on vacation!]

In any case, we made the ferry and drove Nacho right onto the boat. We all stayed in the vehicle, so it was super easy. The first couple hours of the drive were super foggy, but as we got closer to Olympic the fog started to lift – perfect timing for our drive up to Hurricane Ridge. And boy is I glad we made this stop; I can’t believe we might have skipped it had we driven in late the night before!

It was a gorgeous drive, with wildflowers along the road for the entire second half. And then the real stunner when you pull up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and see the 360-degree panorama of snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see. The purple lupine in the foreground made the view ever more spectacular.

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The ridge hike we did at the top of Hurricane Ridge may have been my favorite stop of the entire trip – we hiked along a fairly narrow ridge with grassy meadows covered in wildflowers in the foreground and the Cascade Mountains in the background. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold – absolutely gorgeous.

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Of course if our girls were more game for hiking I would have loved to be out there hiking all day, but we decided not to push it and were back at Nacho by just after noon for lunch. It’s amazing how much you can do before noon when you start at 6am!

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After lunch in the RV, we drove to the Sol Duc Campground, where we were actually supposed to camp the day before. From there we did a short hike through the ‘rain forest’ (this is not like the Amazon!) to Sol Duc Falls.

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The waterfall was lovely, though I guess I thought the rain forest would seem more exotic than it did. Or maybe you just need to get deeper in (?) We played the categories game while hiking; note to self: this is a great way to keep Cassidy from complaining!!

After that we headed toward our campsite for the night – Riverview RV Park near Forks. We had a yummy spaghetti dinner right next to the RV (not so scenic), and then the girls and Noah built a fire to make s’mores. Yum! Can’t believe those were our only s’mores of the trip, guess we should have done that more…

-Linda

Day 5: From Orcas Island to Deception Pass State Park (Linda)

This morning we had breakfast in our hotel room before suiting up to bike to the ferry. Cassidy was clearly dreading the ride, so I promised we’d take our time and take lots of breaks. We did take the back road this time, which I thought was preferable – a bit more tranquil; we rode by many small farms.

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We stopped briefly in Westsound on the final leg of the trip – there really was not much there, but Noah enjoyed photo bombing my carefully composed picture below.

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The last stretch was tough – a super long uphill, and the girls were tired. It’s surprising how long 9 miles can feel with hills, an overnight bag, and two grumpy kids…

That said, the girls absolutely LOVED Orcas Island – to the point that Cassidy says she wants to live there when she grows up (with her 5 goats, 3 golden retrievers, and a family of ducks). And Sierra thinks we should make it our annual summer vacation. But both of them agreed that next time we should definitely come by car! They are probably right, as the truth is that we did not get to see that much of the island since we expended all of their biking stamina just getting to and from the ferry.

When we arrived at the ferry we had a nice lunch on the balcony of the Orcas Hotel.

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Things went a bit sideways for the next few hours, as our ferry kept getting more and more delayed – so our 12:50 departure ended up leaving sometime after 3pm. And because we didn’t know for sure when it would arrive we couldn’t really go anywhere – and let me tell you, there is NOT much to see or do right there by the Orcas Island ferry landing. This also meant that we were going to miss our next ferry (Coupeville to Port Townsend), and we couldn’t get a reservation on a later boat.

So, our choice was either to drive the long way around to get to the Olympic peninsula, or else to put off the drive south to the next day. We ended up doing the latter, after I was able to talk the ranger into giving us a last minute site at Deception Pass State Park, one of the biggest campgrounds in WA, which is just 30 min from Anacortes on the Pacific.

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I think it was a good call in the end; we were able to walk on the beach there, then have a nice picnic dinner by Cranberry Lake, where Cassidy and Noah took a quick swim.

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The park was super crowded, which was a bit of a bummer, but other than that it was a lovely evening, and the weather continued to hold.

-Linda

Day 4: Orcas Island (Sierra)

On our only full day of being in the San Juans we had plenty to do. First we made a quick stop at Crescent Beach. (Minus Dad because he was riding up Mount Constitution on his bike!) The beach was an extremely short bike ride from the Outlook Inn. The view was gorgeous, but while it was great for shell hunting, it also has a layer of seaweed separating the beach from the ocean.

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Not to mention the weird briny smell that you can’t get rid of. Our stop was then extended by a lady who said that there were sand dollars all over just a bit further up the beach. She clearly didn’t know what she was talking about, because I covered the entire Crescent Beach and didn’t see a single stupid sand dollar.

Anyhoo, we finally left and as a result of our wild sand dollar chase were almost late for our next activity (which Dad joined)- whale watching! It took a while to get out into the whale watching zone, but I enjoyed the ride. Who knew motor boats were that entertaining?

As usual, Cassidy’s sharp eyes spotted the first whale- although unfortunately, it was not an Orca, it was a Humpback. Even more unfortunately our guide told us that Humpbacks and Orcas don’t like to be near each other so we probably wouldn’t see any Orcas. We were all a bit disappointed- after all, we were staying at Orcas Island! Of course, I still enjoyed the tour. The Humpbacks weren’t what we came for, but they were very cool and it was fun to ride in the boat! This is a view of Mount Baker from the boat with a bunch of seals on a rock.

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When it was all over we got take-out lunch at a café that mom had scoped out called Roses. We ate it at the Library Park right down the street from the café. The food was delicious. Mom is clearly good at researching!

You know how they say that you learn something new every day? Well, today I learned that champagne is disgusting. Also that it is very hard to spell. I learned this by tasting my Dad’s anniversary champagne. (I mean the disgusting part, not the hard to spell part.) We also had take-out Mexican out on our private patio. To celebrate Mom and Dad’s 13th anniversary, even Cassidy had a bubbly drink. Apple Cider- not champagne. Don’t worry, our parents aren’t that mean.

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Afterward we had more yummy homemade ice cream at Clever Cow Creamery!

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Day 3: From Mount Ranier to the San Juan Islands (Linda)

This morning we woke up to sunny skies so did a very short hike on our way out of Mount Ranier National Park. I was hoping to do part of the Rampart Ridge trail, but we just didn’t have enough time since we had a ferry to catch at 3pm and a 4 hour drive to get there. The drive up to Anacortes was uninteresting and uneventful – lots of highway driving, which makes me a bit nervous in Nacho. When we got to Anacortes we parked Nacho and just brought our bikes on the ferry.

Our ferry was a bit late, but when we finally got underway it was a lovely ride, and the boat was mostly carrying cars, not people, so we were able to stake out plenty of space.

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The girls got very interested in identifying the different islands on the map, and of course they were psyched with the Twix bar snack from the vending machine. Our boat stopped at both Lopez and Shaw Islands before finally arriving at Orcas Island close to 5pm.

We then had an 8-mile bike ride up to Eastsound, the town where we’d be staying. It was a lovely bike ride, but much hillier than I’d anticipated, so it was definitely hard work for the girls, especially Cassidy. Still, the weather could not have been more perfect, so I felt pretty fortunate. I had wanted to take a back road with less traffic, but since it was a bit longer and a bit hillier we ended up sticking to the main road. So there was some traffic to contend with. Most of the ride was through farmland; it’s a much more rural and agricultural island than I’d realized.

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When we finally pulled into Eastsound – after a much-needed downhill stretch – I was SO pleased. The Outlook Inn was one of the first buildings I saw on the left, directly across the street from a lovely, peaceful cove. It was almost too charming to be true, a Cape Cod-esque white Inn (see below) with the backdrop of the blue water, green grass and flowers everywhere.

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Our room was crisp, clean and comfortable, and boy was I excited for a real shower and hair wash, which I did immediately.

I quickly discovered that Eastsound is like a Shangri-la of flowers – it seems like everything grows there and flourishes. There were so many different varieties, different colors, and in such abundance, as if someone sprinkled pixie dust everywhere. I kept snapping pictures as we strolled around the town.

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When we walked across the street to start looking for dinner we saw a pristine grassy patio area with tables and chairs. It was completely empty, so I assumed it was some kind of private event space. Then I saw a sign saying that it was a private patio for guests of the Outlook Inn. What luck! It was a perfect place for take-out and became our outdoor dining room for the next two nights.

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That first night we ordered take-out from a seafood place and then walked to The Clever Cow Creamery for delicious homemade ice cream. I was so glad the ice cream store was open, because many places in the tiny town seemed to be closed, and there were hardly any people around.

It turns out the San Juan Islands are taking COVID-19 VERY seriously, quite the contrast to Idaho! There are signs everywhere about wearing a mask, and everyone was doing so. Lines for take-out food were properly spaced, sanitizer available, and attention to details like jars of ‘clean’ pens for signing receipts. Other stores would only let one or two customers in at a time. A local woman actually thanked us for wearing our masks as we walked down the street!

We all got an excellent night’s sleep that first night in our two cozy queen beds and one day bed. I have to admit I did not miss Nacho at all…

-Linda

Day 2: Mount Ranier National Park (Sierra)

Our RV officially has a name: Nacho- AKA Nacho Sprinnavan or Nacho Cheezy. We get a good laugh out of it every time we say it to each other. You will only get the joke if you have spent somewhere around 50 hours researching RVs like my mom.

Anyways, on our second day of RV trip we drove to Rainier National Park.

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It was super beautiful and we were really excited to do some hikes with great views but we couldn’t do the ones Mom wanted to do because almost all of the hikes had too much snow on them. We did visit a really cool waterfall (below).

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And luckily the windy road had several stops where Nacho could successfully disrupt the vistas.

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We ended up finding the same hike that everyone else found- a hike to both Bench Lake and Snow Lake. The views of Mount Rainier- dubbed Mount rainier because of how rainy it was when we arrived- were clouded over, but we had plenty of other views to enjoy. From above Bench lake looks kind of brown, (sort of the color of a bench!) but the scenery around it distracts from that!

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Snow Lake (above) was also beautiful. Cassidy and I spent nearly the whole time trying to find the best spot (with no other people) before each other. I found a tiny cove where you had to duck a tree branch to actually see the lake, and Cassidy found a log that jutted into a marshy section. Neither were great, but it was sooooooo crowded! As soon as we left, Mom realized that we had to eat the power pills (M&Ms). We immediately ate the whole bag. Why not?

For our second dinner in Nacho, we had Pad Thai. (I highly recommend the Thai Kitchen brand of Pad Thai sauce- unusual, but delicious!) It was a little tricky because our two pots/pans barely fit together on the stove, but overall a success! Since nobody else likes the hard bed above the driver and passenger seats, I have been sleeping in it two nights in a row now, the first with Cassidy who immediately disliked it, and the second with Dad because Mom got claustrophobic.

Even though Nacho is Nacho First Pick of RVs, we have so far been enjoying our trip (at least I have!) and we can’t wait to go to the San Juans tomorrow!

-Sierra

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Day 1: Boise to Naches, Washington (Linda)

This story actually starts on Wednesday of last week, when I woke up to a text from our RV ‘host’ at Outdoorsy.com telling me our Winnebago Travato had broken down and would not be repaired in time for our trip. My first thought was that we might need to cancel our trip altogether, as I couldn’t imagine we’d find an alternative just 3 days out. But low and behold, Cruise America had a Standard (Class C) RV for us out of Boise, so after some himming and hawing I booked it. (For additional context, Cruise America was one of the options we’d originally considered, but after hours and hours of research in May, I rejected it in favor of a slightly smaller, sleeker, and higher end Class B Winnebago Travato.)

So I will admit that as we approached the Cruise America pick-up location in Caldwell, Idaho, I felt some trepidation. Were we really going to do this?

The pick-up location was exactly as I’d pictured (and feared)…possibly worse. It turns out Cruise America borrows this space from an auto collision shop, so there were junked cars and scrap metal everywhere.

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The rental office felt like a pre-fab trailer from the 1970s, complete with the stale air of cigarettes and collections of paperwork accumulated over the past 50 years. The woman who helped us was not wearing a mask (even indoors!), though she did have plenty of eyeliner to spare.

Our RV was also just as I’d pictured and feared – large, clunky, and plastered with the Cruise America 1 800 RV4Rent ads. I was definitely going to have to swallow my pride. Our attendant was clearly in a rush to show us the RV and seemed completely unconcerned by my blank expression and rather idiotic questions. Even Noah was pretty quiet through the whole thing, which worried me a bit.

After the brief tour, Noah drove the RV back to Boise, while I picked up our large grocery order at Whole Foods. It was a jarring contrast between the ‘urban wasteland’ feel of the Cruise America junkyard and the immaculate, high-end Whole Foods store in downtown Boise. To boost my spirits, I ordered a delicious smoothie from the juice bar while I waited for a friendly masked staff person to deliver our groceries the car in neatly creased brown bags sealed with stickers. I’m guessing I’m the only one here about to pack these over-priced, organic products into my Cruise America RV 😉

I drove the Highlander back to Alex and Laura’s fancy North End neighborhood to chuckle at the spectacle of the huge RV sitting in their circular driveway. Neighbors strolling down the leafy avenue raised their eyebrows, but said nothing. Hmmm…maybe they were jealous.

We spent an hour disinfecting then packing the not-so-clean RV before finally hitting the road around 1:30 pm. It was a boring 6-hour drive to our first stop: Windy Point Campground in Naches, Washington. This was more of a stop-over than a destination, and we were so hungry by the time we got there that we didn’t really explore the campsite at all. Our dinner of veggie burgers and salad was easy to make and pretty tasty. Tackling the beds was another matter, as none of the sheets seemed to fit correctly, and I realized that we definitely had not brought enough blankets for all of us. Yikes. Hope it’s not too cold where we are headed!

The girls ended up on the queen bed above the cab, Noah opted for the extra cot we brought, and I got the double bed to myself somehow. We’ll see what we do moving forward, but my first night’s sleep was better than expected!

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-Linda

Redfish Lake with the Arjona – Frey Clan (Linda)

We started our NW Road Trip with a week in Idaho, first in Boise and then 4 glorious days at Redfish Lake Lodge outside Stanley, ID in the Sawtooths.

We were with my brother Alex, his wife Laura, and their two kids: Carla (age 6) and Oscar (age 4). It was such a special time for the cousins to be together, especially in the midst of all the COVID craziness.

Here are a few photos from our time together.

4th of July in Boise

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At Redfish Lake Lodge

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Hike to Sawtooth Lake (Linda, Noah and Alex)

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Run with Sierra near Redfish Lake

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