From Mt. Rainier, we headed north to see our friends Gene and Abbey who live on Bainbridge Island. Along the way, my cousin Pam and her family, were kind enough to drive the 1.5 hours from Seattle to meet us at the Northwestern Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, Washington. The park boasted large herds of elk, deer, bison, big horn sheep, and other native wildlife in a natural setting with plenty of room to roam. Liam and CJ really enjoyed playing with their cousin Paxon for the first time and talking shop with him about the various animals in the park and I was happy to have had a chance to see Pam even if just briefly.
Bainbridge Island is located in the Puget Sound a few miles west of Seattle. The island has all the amenities you would want in a city, but retains a quaint, small town feel. Gene and Abbey have a beautiful spread and their garden was in full bloom when we arrived. CJ would often go missing, only to be found gobbling blackberries from the bushes in the front of the house. Abbey is an organic farmer on the island growing crops and flowers at their house and at her business partners property. We got to tag along with her one day to help pick veggies, feed goats, and set up the farm stand. Coming from Atlanta we felt it was a testament to the island’s residents that Abbey could leave a money jar out on her stand for customers to pay by the honor system.
While visiting we also spent a day exploring Seattle. We took the commuter ferry over and given my penchant for sea sickness I prepared myself for some discomfort. To my surprise, the ferry was big, comfortable, and most importantly smooth. I felt like a million bucks when I deboarded. It’s definitely a commute that I could get used to. While in Seattle, we just had time to hit the tourist highlights. We swung by Pike Place Market and the kids got to see the employees throw a rainbow trout. From there we took the light rail train to Seattle Center to check out the Space Needle and to let the kids play at the playground and splash pad. We cut our day trip to Seattle a little short because Bainbridge Island was putting on an open track meet for kids at the local high school. We thought this would be a fun opportunity for Liam and CJ who don’t get a lot of chances to participate in community events while on the road. The kids were classified by age and Liam made the most of his 4 years and 362 days by placing 2nd in three different races. Similarly CJ, bested most of the other 3 year-olds, earning a 2nd and 3rd place finish. The races were a lot of fun for the parents and the kids and another example of the strong character of the community.
As we’ve mentioned before, one of our biggest challenges of living on the road is finding playmates for the kids. Fortunately, Gene and Abbey’s two kids, Reed and Ivy, are very sweet and welcomed Liam and CJ into their space. We greatly appreciate Gene reaching out to us and welcoming us into their home for a few days. I can’t overstate how much good company and a respite from the road means for us after 8 months.
After burning up in Hells Canyon, we drove west towards Ketchum to meet up with our good friends Dan and Eleanor. Along the way we stopped for a couple of nights at Ponderosa State Park in McCall, ID –a cute little resort town located along the shore of Payette Lake. We appreciated the opportunity to charge our devices, play on the beach, and escape the triple digit temperatures of Eastern Oregon.
From McCall, we continued southeast towards Ketchum, passing first through Boise National Forest where we camped for a couple of nights at Pine Flat campground. In addition to being located in a mature pine forest along the Payette River, it also boasts a natural hot spring hidden down a ¼ mile trail from the campground. The pool was nestled in the hill giving it an infinity-style view over the river below – we felt pretty special to discover it. It was a nice way to cap off the evening after a day of hiking. While the hikes in the area weren’t particularly glamorous, on one of our hikes we found several animal remains including an intact jaw bone which Liam thought was pretty cool. We found so many skeletal remains that Liam dubbed it the “Boneyard Trail.”
From there we headed to Stanley, Idaho and camped in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Sawtooth Mountain range was aptly named for their jagged, saw-like peaks. Dan and Eleanor tagged up with us for a night on their way to Ketchum. We enjoyed a family paddle down the Salmon River to our campsite where the kids played together, and the grownups had a chance to catch up. Also, while in the Sawtooths, we enjoyed several day hikes through wildflower meadows and beautiful sub-alpine lakes. Despite all the natural beauty of the area, Maggie would argue that the most notable portion of our stay in Stanley was the discovery of Huckleberry ice cream, which she claims is the best ice cream she’s ever had (if you know Maggie that’s saying something).
From Stanley we made the short jaunt to Ketchum, a posh resort town surrounded by the Sawtooths. We found a campsite in the national forest that was biking distance to town. Dan and Eleanor had rented a house nearby with the rest of Eleanor’s family and were kind enough to invite us over for dinner and drinks a couple of times. We also got to explore the area with them, including a trip to the top of Bald Mountain (9150ft!) and a paddle on Silver Creek Preserve which was teeming with trout.
After many months away from friends, a chance to spend time with the Macken family buoyed our spirits. Liam even made a new friend in Eleanor’s mom, Mary. He barely left her side on the hikes and when he found out she was an avid bird watcher he brought over his collection of bird literature to read with her. We sincerely appreciated Eleanor’s family letting us mooch off their rental house’s amenities (cocktails in the hot tub!) and generally crash their family vacation.
From Napa, we made the short drive to my friend Tommy’s house, which was located about an hour north of San Francisco near Occidental, CA. Tommy lives on several acres so it was nice to be able to park our rig out front without fear of offending the neighbors.
Tommy and his wife DeEtte graciously welcomed us into their home for a long weekend, acting as tour guides for the area. The kids had a blast playing with their son Jones, and Liam was especially smitten with Tommy who is an extremely talented science illustrator. Liam was in hog heaven with all the animal reference books floating around the house.
Occidental and the surrounding area is a hidden gem in Northern California. Tommy’s house is situated just a few miles inland from Bodega Bay – made famous by the movie The Birds. We enjoyed a day playing on the rocky beach searching for starfish and sea anemone and eating fish tacos (what else do you eat in California?). We were also happy to have another family who was game to throw their canoe in the water and enjoyed a family paddle on the Russian River, where we saw harbor seals basking along the river and sunning themselves on the rocky beach where the river met the ocean.
This was the first “home-base” we’ve had since visiting my cousin David in New Mexico and was a much needed respite from the road. Thank you all again for sharing your local insights, showers, washing machine, company, and most importantly – the tequila!
After a 4 day stint in the Mississippi Delta, we headed northwest to Little Rock, AR to visit our friends Campbell and Mary Claire. The rain seemed to follow us from Mississippi so we started off our tour of Little Rock with a trip to the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, which was a great interactive science museum for the kids. We killed a whole day there and still did not exhaust all the museum had to offer. CJ, who goes by the moniker of “Dr. Nancy” from time to time, was particularly enamored with the imaginative play offered by the museum’s model veterinary hospital.
Once the weather improved, we took a hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain, which was located just a short drive from downtown Little Rock. It wasn’t the biggest mountain in the world, but it did require a lot of bouldering/scampering which was a lot of fun for Liam and CJ and their new friends Analise and Emmaline.
We also took a few urban hikes and were really impressed with the series of parks along the Arkansas River that were linked by several pedestrian paths including the longest pedestrian only bridge in the world (Big Dam Bridge). The trails were a great asset to the city and it was nice to see that they were heavily trafficked. A big thank you to our hosts who graciously opened their home to us and to their sweet girls who Liam and CJ took such a shine to.
Liam and Cora Jean posing outside the H. Clinton Children’s Library
CJ and Emmaline enjoying the view over the AK River
Liam and Analise really hit it off, L was happy to have a buddy
Hiking buddies – these two tore up the trail
Playing at the Discovery Museum
Testing out their on camera skills
Dr. Nancy diligently checking her patients
Liam loved all the building toys
A star is born
Dr. Nancy is all business.