Fort Bragg and Mendocino

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What a beautiful coast – I definitely want to return to Fort Bragg for a vacation.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the tide pools and taking photos with the GoPro - and still Jessica didn't want to leave.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the tide pools and taking photos with the GoPro – and still Jessica didn’t want to leave.

If I had a comfortable place to sit, I could've spent the day there watching the waves. It was so relaxing.

If I had a comfortable place to sit, I could’ve spent the day there watching the waves. It was so relaxing.

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the horseback ride on the beach was amazing...

the horseback ride on the beach was amazing…

Henry's horse is fussing in this photo because my horse was getting sassy - oh man, were we nervous!

Henry’s horse is fussing in this photo because my horse was getting sassy – oh man, were we nervous!

Riding the Fort Bragg Skunk Train

Riding the Fort Bragg Skunk Train

taken during the lunch break at the top of the mountain...

taken during the lunch break at the top of the mountain…

finished the journey with a kayak tour down the Noyo river

finished the journey with a kayak tour down the Noyo river

Exploring Avenue of the Giants

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Avenue of the Giants has been on Tom’s “To Visit” list for years. We were lucky enough to spend a couple  of days exploring the Avenue and surrounding areas.

The whole area was gorgeous - but so dark that we had a tough time getting photos that weren't blurry - just need practice with those setting on our camera.

The whole area was gorgeous – but so dark that we had a tough time getting photos that weren’t blurry – just need practice with those setting on our camera.

the redwoods are HUGE

the redwoods are HUGE

these are the roots from one of the trees that fell over

these are the roots from one of the trees that fell over

We had to pull our mirrors in for the van to fit through this tree.

We had to pull our mirrors in for the van to fit through this tree.

The Endor scenes from "Return of the Jedi" were shot in Grizzly Creek Redwood State Park. This is the tree the speeder bikes raced under.

The Endor scenes from “Return of the Jedi” were shot in Grizzly Creek Redwood State Park. This is the tree the speeder bikes raced under.

We also found and explored Fern Canyon which a number of scenes from Jurassic Park 2 were filmed. It felt like a jungle with all the ferns growing out of the canyon walls.

We also found and explored Fern Canyon which a number of scenes from Jurassic Park 2 were filmed. It felt like a jungle with all the ferns growing out of the canyon walls.

Early one morning we were lucky enough to come across a herd of about 50 elk - we sat there for an hour watching them and taking WAY too many photos.

Early one morning we were lucky enough to come across a herd of about 50 elk – we sat there for an hour watching them and taking WAY too many photos.

One afternoon we discovered a group of 7 male elk in someone's front yard. After we pulled over, about 12 other cars pulled over. When the sheriff pulled up, we thought he was going to shoo us away - instead, he started taking photos of the elk with his iphone.

That afternoon we discovered a group of 7 male elk in someone’s front yard. After we pulled over, about 12 other cars pulled over. When the sheriff pulled up, we thought he was going to shoo us away – instead, he started taking photos of the elk with his iphone.

The Crazy Blue of Crater Lake

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Amazingly blue – it doesn’t even look real. I haven’t enhanced any of these photos – those are the real colors – and in a few of the shots, I feel like it still didn’t capture how crazy blue it is.

Crater Lake is formed in the caldera of Mt. Mazama volcano.  Wizard Island is the volcano cone.

Crater Lake is formed in the caldera of Mt. Mazama volcano. Wizard Island is the volcano cone.

There are no streams feeding the lake and no streams fed by the lake

There are no streams feeding the lake and no streams fed by the lake

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The lack of contaminates is what makes the lake so clean and blue – it is some of the cleanest water in the world. There is still a bit of snow on the banks.

kayaking on the lake would have meant a 1 mile hike down the steep  trail and another mile back up - we passed....

taking a boat ride on the lake would have meant a 1 mile hike down the steep trail and another mile back up – we passed….

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These pinnacles were formed from erosion around lava tubes.

These pinnacles were formed from erosion around lava tubes.

 

Portland, Columbia River Gorge and Mt. St. Helens

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Still enjoying a northwest heat wave that is plenty cool compared to our typical desert temps.

So many gorgeous waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge...

So many gorgeous waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge…

seriously, there were at least 8 of them....

seriously, there were at least 8 of them….

and we managed to hike to most of them.

and we managed to hike to most of them.

The sign on the side of the road read "Alpacas and Yarn"

The sign on the side of the road read “Alpacas and Yarn”

Jessica took this selfie.

Jaywalkers...they were so cute.

Jaywalkers…they were so cute.

Mt. St. Helen's with the remanents of the ash/water flow that crashed through the valley after the blast.

Mt. St. Helen’s with the remanents of the ash/water flow that crashed through the valley after the blast.

What looks like steam coming off of the volcano is actually ash being kicked up by the wind - there is actually a glacier right in caldera that is covered in ash.

What looks like steam coming off of the volcano is actually ash being kicked up by the wind (I asked) – there is a glacier in the caldera that’s covered in ash.

Tram near downtown Portalnd - as we were wandering around downtown, people were so friendly offering us assistance and directions.

Tram we took near downtown Portland – as we were exploring downtown, we were impressed with how friendly people were offering us assistance and directions.

Exploring Vancouver

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Vancouver feels like a city that has grown quickly and it still adjusting to the shift.  It was fun pulling out our passports again in order to explore this city for a few days.

The kids got a big kick out of the plastic bills and insisted a take a photo

The kids got a big kick out of the plastic bills and insisted I a take a photo

The bird statues in Olympic Village are either freaky or totally cool - depending on who you ask.

The bird statues in Olympic Village are either freaky or totally cool – depending on who you ask.

More creepy or cool art - we loved it all.

More creepy or cool art – we loved it all.

Our first water taxi ride - a great way to get around town.

Our first water taxi ride – a great way to get around town.

An unexpected highlight was meeting Lucas and his parents - who live in Vancouver. Henry and Lucas have been online friends for months playing multiplayer video games.

An unexpected highlight was meeting Lucas and his parents – who live in Vancouver. Henry and Lucas have been online friends for months playing multiplayer video games.

We saw several pianos such as this, placed around the city - and often there were people playing them.

We saw several pianos such as this, placed around the city – and there were often people playing them.

We were there during a heat wave - this otter, at the Vancouver Aquarium, was trying to beat the heat by lounging on a pile of ice that was set out for him.

We were there during a heat wave – this otter, at the Vancouver Aquarium, was trying to beat the heat by lounging on a pile of ice that was set out for him.

One of the most amazing things of this whole trip was getting to have a personal experience with a beluga whale named Qila.

One of the most amazing things of this whole trip was getting to have a personal experience with a beluga whale named Qila.

It was just for four of us with the trainer.

It was just for four of us with the trainer.

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She soaked us with a flip of her tail - luckily we were dressed for it.

She soaked us with a flip of her tail – luckily we were dressed for it.

Do they really wear quilts? And if so, is it a strict "no peeking" policy?

Do they really wear kilts? And if so, is it a strict “no peeking” policy?

Sunny in Seattle?

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After a week in Seattle with sunny warm weather, I’m not sure our kids believe us that this was unusual. If it wasn’t for Seattle’s typical weather, I could live there – I love the town’s vibe.

Seattle skyline from Bainbridge bound ferry - just look at the clear blue sky!

Seattle skyline from Bainbridge bound ferry – just look at the clear blue sky!

The Space Needle.....

The Space Needle…..


from the Space Needle

from the Space Needle

We were impressed with the EMP museum. This interactive display showed how special effects are achieved. That's Jessica's giant hand attacking Henry on some lonely planet.

We were impressed with the EMP museum. This interactive display showed how special effects are achieved. That’s Jessica’s giant hand attacking Henry on some lonely planet.

Henry's favorite thing in the EMP Museum: Captain Kirk's chair.

Henry’s favorite thing in the EMP Museum: Captain Kirk’s chair.

The Chihuly Garden in Glass was amazingly beautiful.

The Chihuly Garden in Glass was amazingly beautiful.

The boat we took whale watching.

The boat we took whale watching.

Jessica caught this shot while whale watching.

Jessica caught this shot while whale watching.

Another photo Jessica captured - she probably took 50 of them.

Another photo Jessica captured – she probably took 50 of them.

We took the Seattle Underground Tour - where part of the original city resides. I couldn't get a good photo to capture it - but it was a cool way to learn about the history of Seattle.

We took the Seattle Underground Tour – where part of the original city resides. I couldn’t get a good photo to capture it – but it was a cool way to learn about the history of Seattle.

And, of course, we HAD to stop in at the original Starbuck!

And, of course, we HAD to stop in at the original Starbuck!

The Wonders of Glacier National Park

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Glacier Park was so beautiful – and massive. It was surprisingly difficult to capture it’s beauty with our camera.

Snow in July – unusual for even that elevation. The heaviest clothing we packed were sweatshirts!

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Logan Pass opened for the first time this season the day we arrived at the  park - there had been a snow storm mid-June.

Logan Pass opened for the first time this season the day we arrived at the park – there had been a snow storm mid-June.

The melting snow created this weeping wall along the road. There were waterfalls everywhere.

The melting snow created this weeping wall along the road. There were waterfalls everywhere.

In many places, the waterfall melted a path under the snow.

In many places, the waterfall melted a path under the snow.

Jessica checking out one of the glaciers in the distance.

Jessica checking out one of the glaciers in the distance.

A family of mountain goats near Logan Pass.

A family of mountain goats near Logan Pass.

One morning, we took a boat ride on St. Mary Lake to the other end of the lake where we went on a ranger led hike to two falls.

One morning, we took a boat ride on St. Mary Lake to the other end of the lake where we went on a ranger led hike to two falls.

Bear Grass....the closest we got to any bears.

Bear Grass….the closest we got to any bears.

Osprey family - see the babies head in the nest?

Osprey family – see the baby’s head in the nest?

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Gorgeous fields of Canola flowers - seeds used to make canola oil. They smelled AWFUL!

Gorgeous fields of Canola flowers – seeds used to make canola oil. They smelled AWFUL!

The Very Grand Tetons

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I figured that Grand Teton National Park would be cool but I didn’t realize it would be amazing. We were there three full days but easily could’ve stayed for a week.

This is the requisite "there's the Tetons - quick pull over and take a photo" photo

This is the requisite “there’s the Tetons – quick pull over and take a photo” photo

More views of the Tetons

More views of the Tetons

Elk!! (We are total wild life geeks)

Elk!! (We are total wild life geeks)

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The  best way to catch a glimpse of the wild life is to get to the park early. Tom got us up at 5 a.m. one morning - this is a shot of the sun rising.

The best way to catch a glimpse of the wild life is to get to the park early. Tom got us up at 5 a.m. one morning – this is a shot of the sun rising.

and it worked - we saw this moose, a grizzly bear, a couple of foxes and lots of pronghorn deer!

and it worked – we saw this moose, a grizzly bear, a couple of foxes, a heard of buffalo and lots of pronghorn deer!

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We saw these buffalo actually hop a fence - who knew they could move like that!

We saw these buffalo actually hop a fence – who knew they could move like that!

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Crater of the Moon National Monument

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We had never even heard of Crater of the Moon National Monument (in Idaho) until Tom accidentally came across it while planning our trip. It sounded totally cool so we made the detour.

Early settlers called it the devils vomit – it was so bizarre how we were driving along this green prairie and suddenly we were surrounded by volcanic rock. Apparently the rocks are the result of small and larger volcanic eruptions long long ago.

It was difficult to capture it on camera but here’s the best of what we got.

Early settlers found it nearly impossible to get their Conestoga wagons around these piles of volcanic rock.

Early settlers found it nearly impossible to get their Conestoga wagons around these piles of volcanic rock.

It was VERY windy there!

It was VERY windy there!

A couple of the calderas formed by the larger explosions.

A couple of the calderas formed by the larger explosions.

Looks so much like the moon.

Looks so much like the surface of the moon.

The Falls of Twin Falls

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I wasn’t sure what to expect in Twin Falls. Tom kept telling us it’s known as the Niagara Falls of the West. After seeing it, I get it – it’s smaller but it’s got the same feel. I have no idea why they call it Twin Falls – there seem to be many falls around the river gorge – and none of them look alike. We spent a day and a half there which worked, but there are enough trails around it that we could easily have spent another day or two.

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At this time of year, the Shoshone Falls are at about medium flow – when the flow is higher, the Falls spread to the ledge on the left side of this photo

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Yellow bellied marmots have so much personality!

They actually encourage people to base jump off the Perrine Bridge. We were lucky enough to see a couple of guys to it while we were there. I could never do it. never.

They actually encourage people to base jump off the Perrine Bridge. We were lucky enough to see a couple of guys to it while we were there. I could never do it. never.

The amazing thing about the Perrine Falls is that you can hike behind it. Those three tiny people in the photo are Tom, Henry and Jessica.

The amazing thing about the Perrine Falls is that you can hike behind it. Those three tiny people in the photo are Tom, Henry and Jessica.

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