Among the Giants

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Visiting Redwood National Park has been a priority for several years now, and it was truly a pleasure to spend two days camping at the lovely Elk Creek Campground in the adjoining Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It’s hard to describe the feeling of looking up and straining to see the tops of the towering redwoods all around, of having the cool fresh air wash over you as you hike through a fern-covered canyon, or spotting whales and seals from your picnic perch above the sea. We won’t even try, but we will give some glimpses into our favorite spots at Redwood National and State Parks.

 

Prairie Creek Trail
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Prairie Creek Campground
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Fern Canyon
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Lady Bird Johnson Grove
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High Bluff Overlook
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And no good trip to a national park is complete without participating in the Junior Ranger program. The booklet (available in both the national and state park visitor centers) was one of the best we’ve seen and had plenty to keep the Younger Fives engaged and learning for two solid days. Now that they’ve taken the official oath, they feel honored to do their part to protect and preserve these magnificent trees and their surrounding ecosystem.
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California’s Egyptian Oasis

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We’re often asked how we decide where to travel to next. Truth be told, one man has had as much influence on our travels as anyone: Rick Riordan. After reading the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series aloud as a family, Five of Hearts had her heart set on seeing Athens and Greece. Then, The Heroes of Olympus series hooked Five Ball on seeing Rome. We were fortunate to visit both places this past winter during our Train Odyssey, but Egypt (the inspiration for The Kane Chronicles series) remained elusive. However, driving through the Bay Area last week, we were thrilled to come across the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, an ideal place to experience in person the information we’ve learned about Egypt through the adventures of Sadie and Carter Kane.

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A dramatic entrance lined with papyrus plants leads into the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the western United States. To give our exploration some focus, we downloaded and printed their Passport to Ancient Egypt, which gave a great background for each exhibit, provided questions for the kids to answer, and had a place for a special stamp available in most rooms of the museum. The passport is also available for purchase (under $1) at the front desk, which is a more compact version for older children who don’t need as much space to write in their answers.

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The kids loved making their way through the various exhibits filled with original artifacts, and we liked how important Egyptian objects physically located in other museums were recreated (like the Rosetta Stone above) to help visitors still experience them. While not every artifact held the kids’ attention, there were plenty of kid-friendly features to keep them engaged. In addition to the passport stamps, each exhibit had special clues/ facts that were only visible when the kids shone a special light (provided by the front desk) on them. Between searching for the answers to their Passport questions and looking for the stamps and secret clues, the kids had plenty to keep them busy as they expanded their knowledge about ancient Egypt’s gods and culture.

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Our favorite exhibits were on the bottom floor of the museum, devoted to burial practices and the afterlife. The kids couldn’t believe the human mummies in the glass cases were real, and they examined many original artifacts dealing with mummification and the afterlife. The best part, though, was the guided tomb tour. The tomb itself is a recreated composite meant to give a sense of what a typical tomb would be like. While visitors can explore it any time the museum is open, we highly recommend the guided free tour usually offered once per day. The friendly and knowledgeable staff really helped us notice details we would have missed on our own, especially the significance of the murals and hieroglyphs in the inner tomb.

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We decided to wrap up our visit by exploring the grounds outside the museum. We found a shaded table and chairs for an afternoon snack, and then we explored the gardens, fountains, and temple that make up Rosicrucian Park. As we were leaving we spotted a strange sight (traffic cones and an over-sized dice), so we couldn’t resist investigating. We had stumbled upon a giant Senet game and wasted no time reading the directions and trying to move our pieces off the board through spaces such as the House of Rebirth and the House of the Three Truths. No one knows exactly how the game was played in ancient Egypt, but there were enough imagery on tomb walls and artifacts discovered to make a reasonable guess. We weren’t, therefore, too worried about following the rules exactly, which made playing more fun. Sure, we probably made some moves that would make ancient Egyptians shoot us looks of disapproval, but we felt honored to be keeping their tradition alive over 5,000 years after the oldest known boards were buried for use in the afterlife.

Days of Pine and Roses

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The signs are many that autumn is almost upon us, and the time seems right for a summer nostalgia post. We could dwell on our many walks past Coulter pines and desert roses to the swimming hole that is now dry; or we could describe the hint of chill in the air as we take our afternoon walks; but instead we’ll just highlight some of the flowers we came across during our summer in Southern California.

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The last of the summer flowers also inspired an art project in homeschool this week. Five Spice had the excellent idea to use flowers as brushes and have everyone create pictures that incorporated petals and paint. And if we find ourselves pining for summer in the coming weeks, there’s always Coulter cone prints for an art class assignment 🙂

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Backyard Bouldering

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Rock formations abound here in the San Bernardino National Forest. Just about anywhere we go, we see inviting outcroppings and boulders, and we’ve made it a priority during our time here to climb as many of them as possible. We’ve been eyeing one imposing formation near out rental, visible from our daily walks and trips to the swimming hole, for quite a while now. The other day we finally decided to see if we could find a path to the top.

DSC09519 DSC09507 DSC09509An old forest road led past the base of the slope, but from there the only trails were those of our own invention. The hillside and rocks themselves are covered in a layer of loose sand, gravel and sticks, which makes the climb a bit more challenging. Hand-holding definitely works well, especially for High Five, but as we gained elevation more large rocks poked through and we got better footing. A large tangle of felled trees added to the variety, and we found ourselves climbing over and under the branches to reach the next stretch of rock above.

DSC09510 DSC09515 DSC09512After a few slips and tight squeezes, we soon reached our destination and stopped to admire the view. We could see our house and the swimming hole, as well as the local fire station (the red building in the middle of the above picture) and Keller Peak rising above on the right. Everything was so peaceful and quiet, especially the ant-sized cars we saw on Route 18 that are usually a loud rumble for most of the day and night, especially on weekends.

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The hike back down went smoothly, and we successfully detoured some of trickier spots we encountered on the way up. Towards the bottom the Younger Fives tired of stumbling in the loose gravel, so they wisely resorted to sliding down on their bottoms. Before we knew it we were on a marked trail yet again, and enjoyed a leisurely (and fall free) walk back home.