On our final travel day we stopped at Mt. St. Helens to explore the Ape Caves – they were lava tubes created over 2,000 years ago and are the longest in the U.S. (13,042 feet long).
To get there, we parked and hiked 1.3 miles in the slushy snow:
The cave entrance had only been discovered about 60 years ago by some loggers who were too afraid to enter. They told a caver about it who brought a pack of boy scouts with him to explore the cave. They named it Ape Cave after the ancient Native American legends of the “Apes” near the mountain (now referred to as Sasquatch or Big Foot).
Once inside, we were surprised by the massive size of the cave, both in height and in length.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore the tubes fully as we were running short on time, but it was still worth it!
We did spot a bigfoot-like creature. The same one we encountered at Grand Teton.
We decided to enjoy our last meal of vacation with the kids’ first visit to the Old Spaghetti factory, and were lucky enough to sit in Wally the Trolly:
We’ll follow up this post with some fun stats from the trip…
As we headed towards familiar territory, we decided to check out Southern Oregon’s sand dunes for the first time. There was a nice little hike first and no rain clouds in sight!
When we arrived, we found a unique tree that would help mark our path back to civilization.
First thing we did was hike up the tallest dune.
Aven searched and searched until he found some lost droids:
Dustin helped Aven work more on his own little movie:
Then we drove up the coast until we made it to Florence,
Italy Oregon and crossed back inland to head up to Portland where we enjoyed a “pig destroyer” pizza and reacquainted ourselves with old-school Pacman:
On to our last hotel stay of the trip! Up tomorrow: lava tubes???
They say to Go Big or Go Home. We went and saw big on our way home by driving through the Avenue of the Giants and the Prairie Creek Forest off the Redwood Highway in Northern California.
This was the first big tree we encountered, but certainly wasn’t the biggest:
The kids ducked into a tree house fit for hobbits, gnomes, or small children:
Dustin tipped it over so you can see what it is like inside:
Then we drove through it:
And we met the man who chopped it down:
And his little friends who call this area Endor:
Then we met one of the wisest trees in the area (over 1,500 years old):
We thought about climbing the trees, but the first tree limbs to grab onto were a little out of reach:
The Easter Bunny even made an appearance by hiding eggs throughout the woods.
Finally, we crossed the state border to drive up the Oregon coast:
We saw some elk that seemed to be gazing at the ocean view just like us. On to more Oregon beauty tomorrow!
With Easter taking place in the middle of our road-trip, we weren’t sure how we’d keep the tradition of an Easter brunch and hunt going, but we did manage. The kids got warmed up the night before at our friends’ house by doing egg hunts. Then the next morning we found a popular and delicious local breakfast spot in Santa Rosa:
Then we drove a few more hours up the coast and were thrilled the fog stayed away today! We loved the hundreds of rock formations with crashing waves.
And spotted harbor seals near Gualala:
Then we did our own little egg hunt on a high windy ocean bluff in Mendocino County:
It rained much of the day but we managed to find many sunny spots on the coast. After a nice Italian dinner in Fort Bragg with live music, we drove many, many hours on the extremely winding roads of US 1. We all fought back car-sickness as the road twisted and turned on the ridiculous amount of curves, with fog and deer sightings complicating things. We made it to our hotel in Fortuna- stay tuned for our visit to the Redwood National Park tomorrow!
We drove up to Santa Cruz with our first stop being Dustin’s family’s old house: a log cabin up in the forested hills. Though the house was hard to see, Dustin snapped a shot of the very woods he used to play in when he was 4 (including some redwood trees):
Pretty amazing the woods were still there. We met the current owner who has lived there the past 13 years and learned how the house had changed.
Then we dropped 2,000 feet in elevation to enjoy the Santa Cruz boardwalk and beach. It was beautifully sunny with a refreshing ocean breeze.
This was the first beach we really got to sit down and enjoy on this road trip! The kids promptly got thoroughly down and dirty to really experience it Yay for sand on the scalp and in the ears!
We told Aven to go fly a kite while we soaked up some sun, then we departed the beach to drive Grandma Susie to the Oakland airport. See you back at home Grandma!
Next we visited our friends Jeremy, Kim and Kaia at their house in Oakland to catch up, enjoy an amazing home-cooked meal & play spies!
Then we drove a couple hours further North to Santa Rosa, CA for our latest check-in yet: 1am. Happy early Easter!
We kicked off the day with an excursion to Hearst Castle. It was fun to learn the history about how it was built and the countryside views were amazing.
Aniya managed to hold her bladder through the entire tour. We were afraid she might pee on one of the million-dollar rugs. Guests are forced to use a port-o-potty: what a stark contrast to the luxurious castle!
We stopped for gas at a pier that Dustin’s great-great grandfather may have helped build. After admiring the dolphin statue, we were lucky enough to spot three dolphins swimming past the pier (they escaped our pictures)
Next stop was the San Simeon beaches to see elephant seals. This time of the year the younger seals dominate the beach – we can’t imagine how big the older adult seals are (5k pounds).
Then we continued our trip up the windy, rugged coast through Big Sur. Unfortunately it was very foggy, so cool rock formation sightings were few & far between.
In the morning we said goodbye to cousin Emma’s family, then abducted Grandma Susie to take her up the California coast.
As usual, the kids have perfect timing on when they need to go to the bathroom. It is much more adventurous to choose points in our travel where there is no sign of civilization 100 miles in any direction, of course Among other bathroom luck- one stop we were supposed to pay for bathroom use, but both doors were open: the Women’s had water constantly flowing out of the toilet and the Men’s had cockroaches. This time we were in the middle civilization (L.A.), but we struck out – gas stations without ice and employee-only bathrooms without toilet paper. We were saved by a grocery store.
Onto the more pleasant parts of our day: the California Coast. We weathered typical L.A. traffic to make it to Carpenteria where we visited Dustin’s aunt who was renting a house for a month. We checked out a nearby farmer’s market with beautiful plump local avocados and strawberries, then picked up some delicious tacos (and sampled the amazingly diverse salsa bar). The weather was cooler than Seattle’s, which meant no beach fun, but the park was super cool:
Then we headed up a mountain to view the Chumash Painted Cave. The drive up was a little hairy: a steep, skinny road with sharp turns & locals who whipped around the corners much too fast, nearly for the their last time had we plowed them off the cliff. We emerged above the clouds to get to the cave:
The cave was easy to find as it was heavily protected by iron bars:
Being paintings on rock, they are technically pictographs, as we learned on our last road trip. Some say these were inspired by a solar eclipse.
Finally, we drove up to Atascadero for a late night check-in, once again. Our average check-in time thus far is 9:30pm.