There's No Place Like Home...

Trip Start May 01, 2003
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15
Trip End Sep 01, 2003


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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, September 1, 2003

Aug 15-16 (Days 106-107) Sun Valley, ID
We arrived in Sun Valley to spend two days in the famed resort and see our recently-transplanted neighbors, The Ryans. The Sun Valley Lodge was quite bad and got us off on the wrong foot. Rooms were bad, service worse, but it is the only show in town. We would recommend trying at to rent some time from vacancies at Les Saisons, a brand new timeshare in downtown Ketchum which indicated it rented owners' time. The girls were interested in seeing some of the figure skaters rehearsing for an ice show the next day at the Sun Valley Lodge ice rink, they had never seen real ice skating and were mesmerized. We had some babysitting our first night there, so we had dinner at East Avenue Bistro, which was excellent, and later drove around the valley to get the lay of the land. The valley is beautiful, but different than we had expected, with more open land and fewer trees than we had envisioned. Must make for great bowl skiing in wintertime. The next morning we also had a sitter, so we had a quiet morning coffee and people-watched; Sun Valley is not that different from Mill Valley, we concluded, and we are itching to get back home. In the afternoon we visited The Ryan "compound", their beautiful new home, and went to a picnic/concert with them back at Sun Valley Lodge on a beautiful evening. The girls engaged in some interpretive dance on the lawn outside as the soprano performed in the big white tent, which brought great amusement to those of us on the lawn.

Aug 17 (Day 108) Mc Call, ID
We had our first travel setback, when a highway closure out of Sun Valley turned a 160 mile drive into a 300 mile slog on a rerouting. The drive took us back into the desertlike plains south of Sun Valley and through Boise. The drive really improved when we took ID-55, a scenic parkway north from Boise and along the Payette River. Stunning canyons of pine, miles of serious whitewater, kayakers and river runners galore and almost no one heading into McCall. McCall is a small resort town situated on Payette Lake in Western Idaho. Our stay at Hotel McCall was situated right at the lake shore and after the long drive, we took the girls to the beach almost immediately. They built sandcastles, oblivious to the ever-present smoke from nearby wildfires and major tanker plane and helicopter operations taking water from the far end of the lake. That evening we came across a brand new ice skating rink which had open skating. Despite neither of us skating since elementary school, we decided to rent skates and take the girls for their first ice skating experience. Unfortunately we forgot our camera for this one. The girls were a little bewildered, but wanted to keep going back on the ice until our backs gave out.

Aug 18 (Day 109) Joseph, OR
Our drive to Joseph would take us through some interesting scenery along the Idaho and Oregon borders, including the Hell's Canyon area. Here are some of the deepest gorges in the United States, at over a mile deep. We wound our way along the Snake River, passing several hydro dam projects, then intoWallowa national forest land, with 60 miles of hairpin turns through beautiful pine forest and some very large burn areas. We arrived at Wallowa Lake Lodge early in the afternoon, beautifully situated at the base of 10,000 foot mountains and alongside an alpine stream emptying into a lake at 5,000 feet above sea level. We took the girls to play in the stream, which was warm enough to wade for short periods of time, and they threw rocks and sticks into the water and slid down the sandy embankments until they were exhausted. The deer here are too tame with all the human contact and protected parkland, and literally followed us into our cabins on several occasions.

Aug 19 (Day 110) Walla Walla, WA
We wanted to see the Washington wine country just over the Oregon border and had a fairly non-descript drive from Joseph. We stayed at a B&B in a residential and college campus area. The town of Walla Walla and the surrounding vineyards could not compare to the Wine Country in San Francisco, and so we investigated a few vineyards, of note were Seven Hills, L'Ecole No. 41 and Ruloh. We had a nice walk through the residential area until Isabelle was knocked over by a puppy and later took a face plant with bloody lip and scratched face. Since then, whenever Izzy has seen a dog she says "doggy boo-boo" so we hope she will not be scarred for life. We had a wonderful dinner and some local wines at Grapefields on Main Street in Walla Walla.

Aug 20-21 (Days 111-112) Mt. St. Helens, WA
We had a long drive from Walla Walla but it was well worth it once we headed west from Yakima towards the foot of Mount Rainier, which suddenly reared in front of us as we twisted and turned along a roaring glacier melt stream. Rainier, at 14,400 feet is volcanic and heavily glaciated, and you could see the bluish-white peak from 80 miles away as it rises abruptly from the surrounding terrain. We then headed west towards Castle Rock, just outside Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. We stayed at the very comfortable Blue Heron Inn, which had fabulous views of the Volcano from 30 miles away across Silver Lake. Most of you remember the eruption of St. Helens on May 18, 1980. What was called the Mt. Fuji of the US had been swelling with magma for a couple of months and a large quake created a massive slide which then uncorked an explosive eruption, melting the glaciers on the peak and causing massive lahars (mudflows) for miles along the Toutle River. The lateral blast from the eruption projected rock, trees and pumice at 600 miles an hour for tens of miles to the north, scouring the land down to bedrock and pushing the waters of Spirit Lake 600-feet up the side of the surrounding basin, leaving behind a pool of superheated mud and logs. We spent one entire day in the park, which stretches 30 miles along the highway and features five separate visitors centers. The most dramatic stop was at the main visitor center 5 miles from the crater, which is still stripped of vegetation and was the location where a USGS volcanologist was taking readings that fateful morning. The multimedia presentation about the force of the blast and the recovery of the surrounding areas was well done, and Jocelyn sat through the entire film in the dark theater with volcanoes exploding, although she shook like a leaf from time to time and I could feel her heart pounding through her chest. We were proud of her fortitude.

Aug 22-24 (Days 113-115) Seattle, WA
It was Kirsten's first time in Seattle and we used the stop there to recharge the batteries before our final push down the coast. We stayed at the Fairmont Olympic in the downtown area, which was convenient to Pike Place Market. We enjoyed this large public market and partook of the great produce and baked goods offered every day, wishing that San Francisco had a similar marketplace. We took the girls on the Seattle Monorail, which had been built for the 1962 World's Fair and now shuttles people between downtown and the old Worlds Fair site; it now features a plaza of carnival rides and most importantly, the Experience Music Project (EMP), which was perhaps the coolest hands-on music museum in the world. The special installation this summer featured a Disco retrospective, complete with Saturday Night Fever dance floor, which Jocey and Izzy monopolized for 30 minutes, as well as a series of small studios with very expensive drum sets, keyboards and guitars that you can play to your heart's content without the risk of anyone else hearing how little musical talent you really have. We all were really impressed with this museum. The next day we drove across Lake Washington to check out Redmond, Bellview and Medina, the land of Microsoft. We loved the views from the bluffs overlooking the lake, across downtown Seattle and on to the Olympic Peninsula, our objective for the next two days.

Aug 25 (Day 116) Port Townsend, WA
This morning, we took the Suburban across to the Olympic Peninsula via the Bainbridge Island ferry, which departs from downtown Seattle. The short 45 minute ferry ride was pleasant and scenic. We drove another 90 minutes north to Port Townsend, a very picturesque town that sits on the northeast end of the peninsula. This town is the most tourist-friendly in Olympic. Although we stayed at the reputedly "haunted" Castle Manresa, the only frightening element of our stay was the shabby state of this old, creaky former seminary. It must have scared AAA into a 3 star rating, is all we can figure. We were impressed, though, with the many local artisans in Port Townsend and browsed the galleries. We were ready, however, to quicken our pace down the coast as we were really beginning to see the home stretch. We drove around the perimeter of Olympic National Park on our way to Quinault (250 miles) and saw many logging towns, trailer homes, clear-cut forest just outside of Park boundaries and on local Indian reservations, and huge lumber mills belching steam. It is clear what pays the bills around here. In the park itself, we visited the Hoh Rain Forest on the western side of the Olympic Mountains for its mossy, dripping old growth forest. We donned our rain gear and took the Hall of Moss Trail from the ranger station. The girls enjoyed romping around on the trails, picking up the detritus from the forest floor and stomping in the eternal puddles filling the parking lot. From there it was a short drive to Quinault.

Aug 26 (Day 117) Quinault, WA
The Quinault Lake Lodge was a pleasant enough overnight at the southern border of Olympic Park. There are more rain forests nearby to explore, but we mostly let the girls play along the lakeshore, had an early dinner and turned in for the night. It apparently rains a lot here. The lodge had a two story rain gauge bolted outside, measuring the seasonal rainfall in feet, with 7 feet so far this year. We are really moving now because we are ready to get home.

Aug 27 (Day 118) Portland, OR
This was a mistake. We thought we were going to be close to the Willamette Valley wine country and a local winery suggested a hotel when we were making reservations. Turns out this hotel, called The Rivers, was practically in downtown Portland but really not close to anything of interest. Our energy is running low at this point, so we enjoy the hotel grounds, take the girls for a blackberry hunt along the Willamette River and go to bed early for a 300 mile drive to Gold Beach. Are you detecting a sense of urgency here?

Aug 28-29 (Days 119-120) Gold Beach, OR
Long drive down I-5 through Eugene, then 126 to the Oregon Coast and down 101 to Gold Beach. Two frustrating things about the drive. Number 1, drove through Coos Bay, home of legendary runner Steve Prefontaine, and saw nary a reference to this fact. I mean, "Pre" was the only thing going for this town and the chamber of commerce missed it. Second, I have to drive completely past Bandon Dunes (top golf course in the country) because the girls are napping and to stop in the pro shop will wake them. So I am twitching as we drive right past Bandon. We get to our final stop on the trip, the Tu Tu Tun Lodge along the Rogue River. This was a great final stop to recharge the batteries. The lodge has won rave reviews in travel magazines and is rated one of the top 50 resorts in the world. I would call the décor "plush rustic" and the location is just perfect, at a bend in the Rogue with pine-covered rolling hills. We get some babysitting here; the resort is kid-friendly, with separate dining area for the kids, great river access and the beach a 10 minute drive away. We take the girls to the ocean for a picnic, and the weather was just beautiful, no fog and a deserted beach. Dinners here are fantastic and family-style, with all guests sitting at large tables and sharing conversation. There are many other activities here such as jet-boat rides 80 miles up the Rogue, but we are content to stop moving for 48 hours and stay out of vehicles of any type as much as possible.

Aug 30 (Day 121) Mill Valley, CA
We wake up, say to the girls "we are going to Mill Valley today" and they run out to the car. We are all ready to go home, and all that stands between us is a 409 mile drive. We stopped for gas once and knew we were close to home when we saw premium for $2.55 a gallon. Another stop for a burrito in Willits. That was it. Did we stop for the beautiful sea stacks near Brookings, OR? No. The towering splendor of the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt? Nope. As fast as our GPS could reel off the miles, we were on a mission. Besides, after this journey, anything in California is a day trip! We got home, kissed the ground, kissed our faithful Suburban and are staying around Mill Valley for a while.
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