A Yurt In Yaak

Five String has always wanted to visit the Kootenai National Forest and an area know as “The Yaak” in northwestern Montana. Since we were on our way to northern Idaho this past week we figured that it made sense to drive through the Kootenai National Forest on our way. This area of Montana is very rural and reminds us a lot of northern Maine. We loved how green everything was and the smell of the trees, flowers and fast flowing water was unbelievably refreshing.

Since we were quickly passing through the area we decided to spend the night in a Yurt at the Whitetail campground that sits along the Yaak River. The proximity to the river was fabulous for bird watching and getting our feet wet. We challenged ourselves with skipping stones across the river and by the end of the day we were all ready for our first campfire of the season.

The Yurt was surprisingly spacious with a set of bunk-beds and a good sized table. We really loved not having to pitch a tent for the night especially when we woke up to rain showers the next morning and were able to eat breakfast inside and stay dry and warm.

Since we didn’t have to devote time to packing up camp (Yurts really do make life easier) we were able to spend more time relaxing along the river bank. On our way out of the area we stopped off at Yaak Falls where we watched an impressive amount of water cascading down over the rocks. The Yaak area is definitely a gorgeous piece of wilderness and one that we hope to be able to return to for further exploration in the future.

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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Redwood (and Rookery) Coast

The past few days exploring the southern section of Big Sur have been breathtaking. While camping under towering redwoods, we’ve walked to the ocean-side of the campground to see whales spouting as they head south toward Mexico and sea otters drifting through the kelp beds. And then there’s the elephant seals, harbor seals, and dolphins we spotted from various roadside viewpoints along the way. All in all, it’s been a visit to remember! Here are some highlights in pictures…

 

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
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Limekiln State Park Beach
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Limekiln State Park History Hike
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Limekiln State Park Falls Hike
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Granite Glow

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With a week to go before we leave Southern California for Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, we’ve been thinking of some final activities to get in before we depart. At the top of everyone’s list was a final trip to Joshua Tree National Park, less than 90 minutes from the San Bernardino National Forest. This time around we decided to try something new, camping inside the park.

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We had spent most of our time in the Intersection Rock area during our last trip to Joshua Tree a few weeks ago, so the kids wanted to focus our climbing around Skull Rock in the Jumbo Rocks section for this visit. We found a great site in the Jumbo Rocks Campground, which offered some excellent climbing just beyond our tent as well as a hiking trail directly to Skull Rock. The kids wasted no time and sprinted to the rocks as soon as we parked in front of the site.

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After thoroughly exploring the formations towering over our tent, we walked to the center of the campground and took the connector trail to the Jumbo Rocks area. The rock formations in this part of the park definitely inspire the imagination, and we saw skulls, turtles, walruses, and a variety of other interesting forms in the monzogranite all around us. We had trouble keeping our eyes on the rocks, though, as the desert was in bloom around us, and all along the path we stopped to take a closer look at pencil cholla cactus and California buckwheat blooms.

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As always at Joshua Tree, we were equally exited to experience the park as the sun started to go down. We returned to our site and scrambled up the rocks there to watch the magnificent sunset, and from our perch up high we also caught a glimpse of a coyote making its evening rounds and of bats out catching their breakfast. By the time we settled into our tent a while later, we fell asleep watching the stars visible through the upper screen of our tent.

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The next day we made sure to get out on the rocks one final time before heading home when the afternoon heat set in. The Hall of Horrors area had always caught our attention, so we packed up and headed back towards Keyes View for our morning climb. After a few dead ends we found a way to the top of the middle formation, where we watched the moon still visible in the sun-drenched sky and played in some deep crevices in the rock. A few hours later we were all understandably worn out after two days of scrambling about, so we piled back into the car, put the windows down, turned the music up, and enjoyed a last view of the joshua trees as we made our way back to the San Bernardino Mountains.

Banner Years

It’s that time of year again when we update our web site header, which sadly happens about as often as we update our Daily Snapshot on the home page. Instead of merely letting the old header slip away into digital oblivion, we thought we’d take the chance to look back at banners past and tell a little of their stories.

With each header, we try to show in pictures our family motto, “Living, loving, and learning on the fly” from the year to date. The first picture shows something about where or how we’ve lived, the middle is always a family picture, and the final picture offers a glimpse of what homeschooling on the road looks like.

2015
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We’ve covered a lot of ground this past year, journeying from Croatia to Germany on our roundabout Train Odyssey that took us through 13 countries in 15 days. The picture on the right of the header is from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, a windy day indeed. The picture on the left shows our rental in Wyoming upon returning the the US. Though spring came unusually early to Star Valley this year, there were a few small storms that provided enough snow for us to make some smaller creations, just the size for the neighbor’s dog, Captain, to perch upon. The middle picture is from this past June in King’s Canyon National Park in California, where we spent a few days camping among the giant sequoia trees.

2014
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In 2014 we spent quite a bit of time south of the border in Mexico. The first picture is from Bahia Concepcion, just south of Mulege in Baja California Sur. We got our fair share of Vitamin D playing on the warm sand beaches and splashing in the water, and when we needed a break from the sun the palm-leaf palapas were just steps away. The right-hand picture is from our time in Chiapas, exploring Palenque and the many fascinating local flora and bromeliads. Finally, our family picture was taken from our back patio in Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula.

2013
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This was the year of exploring our neighbor to the north, Canada. The right picture is from the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. Having just returned to the mainland (more or less) from Newfoundland, we were practically living in our rain gear. Louisbourg was having an Archaeology Week when we visited, so we had a chance to get our hands dirty and learn about the process of uncovering, identifying, and preserving artifacts. The middle picture is from Prince Edward Island, where we spent the summer in Stanhope and biked to the red sand beaches every day. The left picture, truth be told, was a hold out from our previous banner.

2012
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In 2012 we sold our house in Maine and embarked on our first big adventure, driving the length of U.S. Route 1 from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. We camped almost every night of our 2.5 month trip, which gave us many snapshots of “Living on the fly” to choose from. The one that won out was our awesome site right on the lake at Cheraw State Park in South Carolina. Some parts of the route had very few camping options, so that is how we ended up at the Jupiter Beach Resort in Florida and had occasion to get cleaned up and dressed up for a family photo. The final picture is in front of a chunk of coral at Biscayne National Park. Learning about the plight of coral reefs and humans’ impact on them was eye-opening to say the least.

And finally, the header that started it all….
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We created this in May of 2012, before we officially hit the road. From Maine to mangroves, we knew we were in for an adventure. However, we couldn’t have possibly dreamed or hoped that after 3 years, the adventure would still be going strong 🙂