Surfing Down Sand Dunes

Our time in Death Valley National Park was pretty amazing. We slept out under the stars for two nights without a tent (considering all of the times that we have camped in the rain and snow this was a real novelty). We also experienced being at the point of lowest elevation in North America, and we watched the sun rise and set over some of the most gorgeous rock formations. However, our absolute favorite part of the trip was hiking out onto the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

We had an absolute blast when we visited Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and were excited to find out that Death Valley has sand dunes of their own. In Colorado we were dressed in boots, hats, and rain coats, but when exploring the sand dunes of Death Valley we were able to slip off our sandals and enjoy the sand between our toes in t-shirts and shorts. We knew that the sand would get pretty hot by mid-day, so we arrived at Mesquite Flat early in the morning when the sand was still cool on our feet. By the time we left two hours later the our feet were already starting to feel what a huge impact the rising sun has on heating up the sand.

The best part about visiting sand dunes is that there is no single trail that you have to hike. It is really fun to watch each member of the family take their own path up the dunes. It is even more interesting to see how they get back down the other side. High Five loves to surf down on his stomach, while Five Ball enjoys running at full speed straight down. Five of Hearts has a much more graceful descent as she skips her way down each dune. By the time that we were done visiting the dunes we could have made our own mini sand dune with all the sand that was stuck to the kid’s bodies. Luckily we were able to take them swimming in the pool at the Furnace Creek Ranch. Sand dunes are super fun, but having water to wash up in afterwards makes things much more enjoyable.

 

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Oregon’s Coastal Cornucopia: Cape Perpetua

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Having a few days to explore the Oregon coast with Nana Five, we were looking for a place with great tide pools, beaches, and temperate rain forest trails to explore. We found all this and more at Cape Perpetua National Scenic Area in the Siuslaw National Forest. From anemones and sea stars to krumholtz trees and Sitka spruce, Cape Perpetua really has it all. Factor in an awesome visitor’s center with super-friendly and enthusiastic rangers (they took more time reviewing the Younger Fives’ Junior Ranger booklets than anywhere else we’ve been), and you have all the ingredients for a memorable coastal visit!

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Settling Into the Children’s Forest

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After a few weeks of camping and taking care of doctor’s / dentist’s appointments in Las Vegas, we are now officially settled into our rental in the San Bernardino National Forest for the summer. The Younger Fives are excited to spend the next several months taking gymnastics, acting, and soccer classes as well as hiking the many trails in the area.

DSC09155Even more exciting, we were delighted to discover we are living practically next door to The National Children’s Forest, a 3,4000-acre forest replanted, trailed and signed with the help of children after the 1970 Big Bear Fire. The trails are very kid-friendly and provide opportunities to examine enormous pine cones (including the largest in the world from the Coulter Pine) and climb lots of interesting boulders.

We’ve rearranged our work and homeschool schedule to give us a chance to explore just about every afternoon, so we’re eager to spend much of our daylight hours out and about in the forest. By the end of the summer, we might just be able to identify all the pine cones and types of rock we’ve seen in our first week here 🙂

Four Family-Friendly Hikes Near Star Valley, Wyoming

Nestled between national forests, Star Valley has many great hiking opportunities perfect for families. For those looking for solitude and plenty of signs of wildlife (beaver dams, prints, bird sightings), here are our recommendations for great hikes that can be easily accessed with any type of vehicle (no four-wheel drive needed).

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Packstring Creek Hike (22 miles south of Afton in Bridger Teton National Forest)
About 5 miles south of the Salt River Pass on I-89, a dirt road goes north (a coral is immediately opposite on the south side of the road) and after a few feet it opens to a makeshift parking lot on the left. From the car it’s just a few steps west along the road to the intersection with the Packstring Creek Trail. The beaver activity is quite noticeable; look for signs of chewed trees, beaver dams, and beaver trails at the water’s edge. The trail goes on for miles into the mountains, but we found the first mile or so has a great mix of interesting stream scenery to the left and rocky outcroppings to the right.

 

 

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Strawberry Creek Trail (turn off I-89 between Afton and Thayne)
Look for the Forest Service sign for “Strawberry Creek” heading north on I-89 past Afton, and follow the paved road all the way to a dirt parking area just over a small bridge. For the hike itself we mainly stuck to the dirt Forest Service road and make excursions along the creek from there. The most memorable part of the hike for us was exploring Strawberry Creek itself and viewing the dramatic mountain scenery all around.

 

 

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Near Tincup Creek Historical Marker (Caribou National Forest in Idaho)
We’re not sure of the exact location of this hike, but heading west on Idaho 34 from Freedom, Wyoming, you’ll enter the National Forest and look for a small parking lot and large wooden bridge crossing the stream to your left (if you reach the Tincup Creek historical marker, you’ve gone too far). Just over the bridge the stream splits into a maze of smaller currents, and we spent hours crossing back and forth while exploring the banks.

 

 

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Cottonwood Lake (Bridger Teton National Forest near Afton)
The turn east for Cottonwood Lake is well marked and just south of Afton. The paved road soon turns to dirt, but we found it to be in good condition and definitely passable by two vehicles at once. We didn’t make it all the way to the lake because of snow on the road, but we pulled off at a nice picnic area turn off about 1.5 miles after you enter the National Forest. In addition to the many cottonwood trees all around, expect lots of rocks to climb and streams to explore.

More of Marvelous Marjan

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Out of all of Split’s attractions, the Marjan Park-Forest has impressed us like nothing else. An oasis of green making up the western part of the city, we have loved climbing its heights to peer down at the city and enjoyed exploring its forested paths and playgrounds. While not as apparent to the first-time visitor, the area has plenty of history. Josip Broz Tito chose this site for the summer residence of the Yugoslav president, and centuries before religious hermits inhabited its caves. We decided to take a day to explore the coastal path around the peninsula, searching out hermitages and other surprises.

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