Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


Oregon Road Trip-Mt. Hood

A family vacation, a road trip, or even a camping trip can be a lot of fun, but it can also spell disaster. Lucky for us, it was 99.999% fun, but we did have one day that just didn't go quite as planned.

We woke up early at Diamond Lake already feeling the heat of the sun. Since we planned to continue up to Mt. Hood that day, we packed everything up and headed out. Along the way, we had planned to spend a good part of the day hiking at Smith Rock State Park. The only problem? Smith Rock is in central Oregon which is basically desert. After stopping at an REI and a Walmart to restock some supplies, we arrived at 2pm and the hottest part of the day.

The river running through the park looked inviting, but the hike down to it did not. As I've stated, we've adapted to the weather on the peninsula here in San Francisco and in the 100 degree heat, I didn't want to do anything. We made some lunch and enjoyed the view from the shade of a tree and while the boys kept busy on a rock wall, while we contemplated what to do.

In the end, we decided it was just too hot to do our planned hike. After the boys got out a little energy, we got back into the car and headed to the cooler temperatures in the Mt. Hood region.
Overall, the boys were awesome in the car through all our hours of driving, entertaining themselves with games like go fish.

As we climbed up the mountains, only 30 minutes away from our next campground, the car started to have trouble. At first, it felt like the transmission was slipping and then suddenly, on a steep incline, the car was struggling to get power. We pulled over at a gas station where miraculously we had cell phone service, but just barely. Not 100% sure what was going on, we were really concerned about driving it further down road, breaking down, and having no way to get a tow truck. Instead, we decided it would be best to call AAA (thanks Mom!) and have our car towed to a local shop to get an inspection. We were already planning on spending 3 days around Mt. Hood so we figured it wouldn't be a huge setback. At 5:30 pm we called in for a tow and started to check around at nearby (less than 2 hours away) dealerships to see if anyone could check out our car. The main problem, it was closing time on July 3rd the day before a long holiday weekend and every place was closed. Needless to say, the mood in the car quickly changed.

Just kidding! Well, actually it did go south for a second, but then we found a place that seemed like they could help us and we let the boys go into the gas station, pick out one treat and one drink, and they spent the time in the parking lot happy as could be with some sugar in their systems. They really spent the hours looking more like this...

As we sat in the parking lot another stranded vehicle was there waiting for a tow as well. After an hour, their tow truck pulled up only to have to turn back due to overheating issues of its own. This couple had two kids of their own in the back, but they were not human kids; They had just picked up two pygmy fainting goats who were crated in the back of their SUV bawling up a storm. They made our boys seem very behaved. HA! They were pretty cute and it took everything I had not to ask if we could try to scare them. That would have really helped the time go by faster.

After two hours, we called to find out it would be another hour. After three hours, we called to find out it would be another 45 minutes. At this point, it was 9PM and were not sure the tow truck would ever make it. The sun was fading quickly and we just decided to go for it and try and drive the car. We headed back in the right direction and were soon driving down the mountain, as it turned out we were pretty much at the peak. The best news, the car seemed to be operating just fine. We pulled into the first place we came across for a well deserved dinner.  During dinner, we decided to needed to end this day in the best way possible.

We ditched our campsite for the night, decided we deserved a really restful nights sleep (and more importantly a SHOWER) and booked a hotel. We all desperately needed a shower, but some even more than others.

We love and have embraced camping outside, but lets face it, we are people of the modern world and also love a warm shower. We woke up the next morning, a little more refreshed, a lot more clean, and ready for a new day.

We headed back to Mt. Hood and to our campground for the next two nights on Lost Lake. This was our first time, not car camping (camping with your car right nearby). Our campsite was only a short hike from our spot, but the distance made for a much more scenic and quiet camping experience. Of course, it also meant having to lug all our stuff to and from the car and being quite a good grip away from the bathrooms. Thankfully, boys made up the majority of this group so going potty wasn't an issue for most. It was so nice being surrounded by massive pine trees and nature. We took some time to get our stuff setup before having some fun for the day.

Did I mention, the day we arrived was 4th of July? We knew we wouldn't be celebrating in the traditional sense since fireworks in a forest are a very bad idea, and actually illegal, but still had an all American day.

 We spent the afternoon hanging out in Lost Lake.

The water at lost lake was cold, but once we got in we had to swim to the middle to get a good view of Mt. Hood. What a spectacular site it was too! I don't know if there is anything more beautiful in nature than a snow capped mountain reflected by an alpine lake. After our swim, Adam walked around the lake to take a few pictures.

We went back our campsite, dried out, played around for bit and made some dinner. Now that Adam had seen Mt. Hood, he was dying to get some sunset pictures. He heard of a wonderful hike nearby that was supposed to give you the best view of Mt. Hood. Despite only being 2 miles to the top, it was a 1,500 ft elevation gain which meant the entire hike was uphill. While it wasn't the hardest hike we had done, we knew it would be a lot for the boys and so Katherine stayed with them at the campsite while we started up at 7:30pm just in time to witness the sun setting. 

The hike was very peaceful. We only passed 4 people the entire time up and they were all making their way down before darkness set in. If it were not for the constant uphill climb, it would have been very enjoyable. I just kept hoping for a bit of a flat part so I could catch my breath. It never happened and Adam refused to stop! He's such a machine! I just kept hoping that once we reached the top, it would be all worthwhile. I got my answer 40 minutes later. During the hike up, we hadn't been able to see anything outside of the forest, but as we made our way to the end of the trail, the trees parted and the most beautiful view of Mt. Hood was sprawled out right before us.

Massive Christmas Trees surrounded us in every direction, so close we could smell them, touch them, and count the endless pines cones hanging on. 

For a while, we just stopped and enjoyed the view. Catching our breath and cooling off a bit. Poor Adam works a bit harder, lugging his 30 pound camera bag everywhere we go. At least his sweat looks like a bunny on his back.

We settled in for a most spectacular sunset and he put that extra weight to good use.

The sunset was amazing, but even more amazing is the twilight that happens after the sunsets.

We had witnessed at amazing sunset at Crater Lake, but here, perched way up in the forest with this spectacular spot all to ourselves, it was a new level of amazing. And, being so far North means the twilight lingers longer than it does at home so we sat for 1.5 hours, mesmerized by the fading light.

Even if I knew every word, in every language, I would not be able to adequately describe nature's beauty. Antoli Boukreev, a famous mountaineer said, "Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve. They are cathedrals where I practice my religion." I don't have to be on the top of the mountain, to be defying gravity, or witnessing a miracle to feel the power and presence of God. All I have to do is sit still, to listen to the birds, to watch the sun set and clouds play against the sky as the stars begin to rise. Nothing makes me feel more small, more humbled, and more amazed at this world, a world that we so easily take for granted.  For me, it is a moment in time, I will always remember and forever cherish.

At 10pm when the last bit of light was setting way off on our right, we could see a small town's fireworks begin. For 30 minutes, we watched a town about 30-40 miles in the distance, celebrating 4th of July. We couldn't smell them or hear them, but the colors and the shapes were visible even in the distance. And since we were literally perched on the side of a mountain, when the sun began to set, we put on our headlamps. Safety first!  

As the stars started to make their appearance, we pulled out our star chart app on our phone and tried to pick out the constellations.

It wasn't long before we could make out a number of constellations. The beauty of the sunset may have faded, but the night sky was a whole 'nother sight to behold. If it were not for the other three people in our party being down at the campsite, we would have stayed in our spot all night, our eyes stuck open. I hope in the next few years we can begin to spend more time in remote places like this and enjoy them all night long. For now, we are limited to what our little man can do and were happy to have been able to do it at all. After a few night sky pictures, we took one last look and said goodbye to our new favorite place on Earth. A quick 30 minute hike down and we were back to our car and shortly thereafter asleep in our tents. Dreaming of the events of the day and those ahead.


Oregon Road Trip-Crater Lake and Diamond Lake

With our late night arrival to Mazama (the campground at Crater Lake), we were all anxious to get up and see America's deepest lake.

After stopping at the visitors center, we pulled onto the rim drive and got our first glimpse of the lake.

The most striking aspect of Crater Lake is the stunning deep blue water. And, despite its name, Crater Lake is actually a sunken caldera, which is not an extinct volcano but currently only dormant. We explained this to the boys and Landon was very impressed. He asked me just this week on the way to school if the volcano lake has woken up yet. I assured him it had not, but that we would know when it does. 

Another stunning feature we immediately noticed around the lake are the snow markers. For this reason alone, Adam and I are going to be sure to come back and visit this beauty in the wintertime.

Adam had two hikes on his our to do list for Crater Lake, Watchman's Tower and Cleetwood Cove. One went straight up to the highest overlook in the park and the other went down to the water's edge. Both were about a mile one way and about the same steepness, just in opposite directions. We thought it best to do the hike up first. Cleetwood Cove, the hike that takes you down to the water is the only place on the lake where you can actually get into the water. So we decided we'd cool off after working up a sweat getting to the Watchman's Tower. We parked our car and headed up, to the tippy top which is literally a lookout facility for watching for forest fires. It's almost impossible to see in the picture so I added a nifty arrow to help out those eyeballs.

The path was wide and well marked. It started out long with the switchbacks getting shorter and shorter as it worked up the hill. 

The views going up were not of the of the lake, but still pretty incredible. You see far away snow capped mountains and the curvy park road just below.

It took a little prompting to get Landon from stopping every few feet, but once we made it to the top, all the sweat was worth it. 

With a perfect view of Wizard Island right in front of us, we could see out over the vast lake. From above, the deep blue showed more variance and we could spot the shallow parts of the lake, especially around the island, by the lighter colored water. The widest part of the lake is 6 miles and from this viewpoint, the vastness really took hold, even for the boys. We read the information which stated that the deepest part of the lake is 1,943 ft deep and there are 5 trillion gallons of water in it. Try explaining that to a four year old when even you have a hard time grasping it!

We all played around on the top for a bit, Adam taking some pictures and the boys playing on the rocks. We even managed a video chat with some of our family so they could see Crater Lake too. At 92 years old, our favorite grandma can check that one off the list of places she has seen!

After hanging out at the top for a bit, it was time for the easy part, heading back down. This part, the boys did happily. 

By now, it was the middle of the day and pretty hot. We wanted to get some lunch and decided a change of plans was needed. Instead of hiking down to Cleetwood Cove, to try and swim in the notoriously freezing cold water that is Crater Lake, we decided to go ahead and drive to our next campsite for the night, Diamond Lake. Just outside the park boundaries, we figured we could have some lunch and let the boys play in Diamond Lake for some of the afternoon. It was a very good choice too. We all had a blast spending the afternoon at Diamond Lake.

With a little bit of snow still visible on Diamond Peak just off the lake, it was no surprise that this water was still a bit chilly. But it was also shallow a good distance out and after wading around for a few minutes it was pretty enjoyable. It was only a few minutes before Landon and Taylor were swimming all around and going under. Children just don't seem to care when it comes to playing in water.

They had a few boats, kayaks and paddleboards for rent so we decided to give paddleboarding a try. We rented two paddleboards and had the boys sit on the front while we did all the hard work. 

It was a lot of fun and Landon really enjoyed it. After a little bit Katherine traded with Adam so he could give it a try. Notice the difference in Taylor's face between his Mom being at the wheel and his Uncle? What does that tell you?

I'm just playing, everyone enjoyed it. It was a little harder than I imagined especially because the slightest bit of wind and wake will really push you in a certain direction. Next time, I think I'll sit on the front and make Landon steer me around the lake. If that doesn't work then I'll stick to kayaking.

After sometime in the water, we enjoyed some fun in the sun for a bit. 

Around 4pm we headed back to Crater Lake so Taylor could get his Junior Ranger badge. We also toured around the lake a little more and stopped at the Phantom Ship overlook.

I meant to read and figure out why this island looks as if it is sailing away, but never did. This ghost trail never disappears and although the island is 500 ft long, it really does look like a ship just sailing away from this vantage point. It was actually pretty neat and I'm glad we made a point to see it.

By now, we had worked up quite the appetite so we headed back to camp for some hamburgers, corn, and potatoes. If we proved one thing on this trip it was that you don't have to sacrifice good food when camping. Katherine proved to be quite the outdoor chef, cooking up all kinds of good meals throughout. The rest of us just kicked back and enjoyed ourselves.

Adam really wanted to back to Crater Lake to get a picture at sunset. We originally thought we would hike back to the top of Watchman's Tower and stay late until the night (2am or so) to get some pictures of the stars. I packed our backpacking stove and some hot chocolate in preparation and Katherine stayed with the boys so they could have a normal nights sleep. We left our campsite a little later than anticipated and didn't make to the top of the watchtower in time for sunset, but we did make it to the rim in time to witness an amazing sunset and then to watch twilight unfold.

The only downside? ... The millions, maybe even BILLIONS, of misquotes that were swarming the area right at this time. I'm not sure what brought them on as we hadn't noticed any early in the day, but people were literally covered with misquotes if they didn't have bug spray. At one point, I just sat ours out for anyone that wanted to use it and pleaded with one poor guy to put some on. A nice family of three was prepared with bug nets and ended up taking their family portrait in front of the lake with the bug nets over their face. It was so bad in fact that we scrapped our plans for the night and headed back to camp instead. Even though our plans didn't go exactly as planned,we were not too disappointed. Crater Lake was everything and more than we thought it would be. We ended our visit with the most amazing farewell and prepared to make our way to another beautiful area of Oregon; Mt. Hood. Our visit to Crater Lake was short, but it's one we will be making again and again. I cannot wait to see it dressed in white, although it will be tough for it to be any prettier than this.


Oregon Road Trip- Lassen Volcanic National Park

Our recent road trip through Oregon was pretty amazing! Over nine days, we managed to travel over 2,200 miles, visit three national parks, stay at six campgrounds, and snuck in two whole showers. We saw mountains, lakes, gorges, beaches and a whole lot of volcanoes. We viewed one amazing sunrise, a number of spectacular sunsets and discovered all sorts of creatures at the tidepools. We hiked to stunning vistas, tried our hand at paddelboarding, and cooled off in lakes. We bonded over bonfires, broken down cars, and the natural beauty that surrounded us. As Taylor so justly put it one night we "will remember this trip for a long, long time". It will be impossible to log every moment, every laugh, and every amazing scene. For the five us, all those will remain in our hearts as memories forever. But. I can share the highlights, a few amazing views, a couple of funny stories, and a number of very homemade videos. I'm not exactly sure how many posts this will take, but I think it's best to just start from the beginning and go from there.

I left work early on June 30th so we could hit the road before the evening traffic got too bad. We were on the road before 3pm with 257 miles between us and our campground for the night. As we left the city and headed North, the temperatures began to climb (like really climb...) and the three spoiled peninsula dwellers were pretty miserable. (Hint: look below the time on the picture below)

When we stopped at one point, I think Landon's exact words were "It's so hot, my legs are melting off". If it ever hits 80 degree in our area, we are all complaining, but we knew we needed to drive through these crazy desert temperatures so we stopped only twice and hoped for some relief. 

We arrived to our campsite at Manzanita Lake Campground in Lassen Volcanic National Park just before 8pm. At that time (and more importantly, that altitude), the temperatures were much more comfortable in the low 70's. We began unloading the car, setting up the tent, and getting the fire started so we could make some dinner. The boys were anxious to get out of the car and stretch their legs and it wasn't long before they were playing hide and seek and covered with dirt. Manzanita has a good bear population so all the campsites have bear boxes. The boys made a fort out of it and even asked if they could sleep in it instead of the food. No such luck for them seeing as how we had plenty of food with us that needed the space first and foremost. We had a great dinner, made some s'mores and were even serenaded by a nearby group playing a violin, an accordion, and singling along. We found throughout the trip, that sometimes you have good neighbors and sometimes you aren't so lucky. This night, we really lucked out.  Our first night around the fire was a great one!

Once the boys went to sleep, Adam wanted to go out and to the nearby lake to try and take a few pictures of Lassen Peak in the moonlight. Eager to see the mountain with the lake all light up by the full moon, Katherine stayed with the boys while we walked around the trail at Manzanita Lake looking for a perfect view. It wasn't long before Adam found his place right next to the water. While he took pictures, I kept watch for fear of a sneaky Cougar. I'm not scared of many things, but a quiet lake setting in the darkness just made me feel a little bit like fresh cat food. Luckily, the only eventful experience of the night was the stunning scenery before us and we managed to make it back to our campsite that night unscathed. 

 We woke up not long after the sun with all of us enjoying our first night of camping. Some of the old pro's may even have slept in a little longer. This one would probably choose sleeping outside to sleeping in his bed any day of the week. As you can clearly see, this is his element.

Since we planned to continue our journey up into Oregon that afternoon, we got up, made breakfast, packed up all of our stuff, and hit the road (this quickly became a routine that we would all become accustomed over the course of our trip). Our first stop in Lassen Volcanic National Park was a stop to the visitors center where the boys got their passport books stamped.

We also picked up some junior ranger booklets which is one of the greatest ways the Park helps to get children involved and excited about the place. For both of these reasons, a trip to the visitors center is always our first stop whenever we get to a National Park. We made our way South on Lassen Peak Hwy where views of Mt. Lassen were matched with foregrounds of meadows, lakes, and rocks.

With a long afternoon drive ahead of us, we only had time to experience one part of the park and we decided the 3 mile round trip hike to Bumpass Hell would be the best way to spend our time. We knew it would be something new for the boys, as the hike takes you down to the most active geothermal area of the park. They had no idea what to expect when we left the car and headed down the trail, but they were excited to be outside running around in a new place. As we headed down the trail, the views were fantastic.

Although it was early, the temperatures were already beginning to rise well into the 80's. The hike itself (for the most part) was fairly flat and pretty easy, but the altitude is around 8,000 feet which makes it a little harder and seems to take a great toll on kids. So we took our time and took some breaks along the way for the boys to explore a little and rest.

The absolute best part of the hike was how well the boys worked together. Taylor was great about staying with his younger cousin and Taylor's ability motivated Landon to keep moving. Cousins are like brothers who are only around each other enough to enjoy the company of the other. All those fighting times, never really happen so it warms my heart whenever they are together.

It only helped how extra adorable they were with matching Camelpaks on. With a little assistance from Taylor (and with Taylor testing out one of my hiking sticks), we all made our way toward the geothermals. You can smell it long before you actually arrive. At one point, the canyon opens to allow you a nice view down on the smells and pools below.

The bright blue, sometimes boiling, pools help to create a stunning landscape against the rocky terrain. Orange, brown, and even green stained Earth border these pools, a mark of the sulfur that has been spewing from below.

Once down near the pools, a perfectly woven yet properly mounted path lead us all around the area. Along the way, we read all the informational signs and explained to the boys how Lassen Peak is a volcano and in this particular area the gases and heat are escaping the volcano causing the awful smell and the water to boil. 

Needless to say, they thought it was pretty neat. Landon thought the boiling water was especially cool to see. Even though Adam and I had seen some thermal pools before, even we thought it was pretty neat. Just to think about the pressure and heat below our feet causing this to take place right before our very eyes was pretty incredible. It was a thought obviously not lost on the boys either. Landon was very curious about what exactly would happen if you fell into the water.

After hiking along the path and taking in all the sulfur smells we could muster, we started the hike back up. Despite being a fairly easy hike, the first 1/4 mile from the pools was pretty strenuous. Once beyond that though, it was an easy walk for us back to the car. At this point, the boys were happy to sit in the car for a few hours. take a nap, and head further North. As we drove up the road, a new mountain greeted us. One with a little more girth visible from quite a good distance away.

We would have liked to spent more time around Mt. Shasta that day, but it just wasn't possible given our plans to get to Crater Lake that night. Since Adam really wanted to see Mt. Shasta we stopped at Lake Siskiyou for a late lunch and little peek at the gorgeous peak. 

While Adam shot a few pictures, the boys cooled off a bit wading in the lake. We were unprepared for what an awesome lake we were stopping at and I think we all would have enjoyed spending the entire day or maybe two there. Not only was Lake Siskiyou unusually warm for a lake in the area, but  also had a massive water course that included inflatable slides, trampolines, and an obstacle course. Were were all a little envious of the fun people were having and I made a note that next year, we need to visit this area again spending more time at this particular lake most especially. The only downfall was that this extremely inviting beach was more ash than sand and the fine particles it left all over our wet legs was almost impossible to brush off. It was just another layer of dirt that coated us over the course of our trip.

As we drove away from Lake Siskiyou, the views of Mt. Shasta gave us great viewing pleasure. At one point, Adam couldn't take it any longer and pulled over to get one more picture of the mountain. I think his favorite thing to photograph these days is mountains.

It wasn't long before we arrived in the state which this trip was all about, Oregon! We passed into Orgeon around sunset, but didn't arrive to our campground at Crater Lake until almost 10 pm. We hurried up and went to bed. more eager than ever to get a glimpse of Crater Lake first thing in the morning.

All about our beauty that was Crater Lake in the next post!