California is a BIG state!! Here’s where we went and what we did in the Golden State….

We entered California in the southeast, coming from Las Vegas. We drove through Death Valley and spent one night there in the National Park.  I had pictured Death Valley as bleak and full of nothing…but it wasn’t like that at all.  It was beautiful with different colors painted on the foothills and sand, cool rocks and salted valleys.  On Wednesday, November 12th we took a drive to Badwater which is the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere.  It was kind of fun to be 282 feet below sea level…..although Lance’s GPS on his phone was getting pretty worried that we must be under water!

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The Salt Flats in Death Valley

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This is when we stopped at Badwater and took a walk on the salt flats.  There is a sign up on the cliff to show where sea level is, I circled it in red so it’s easier to see.

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Sam was pretty fascinated with the salt crystals


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On the drive out of Death Valley we drove past these pretty dunes

After Death Valley we drove through the mountains and stopped to see General Sherman in Sequoia National Park. General Sherman is a Sequoia tree and the largest (by volume) known living tree in the world.  Pretty amazing!  We also got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset on our way out of the park. 


Our family in front of General Sherman


A cross section of a Sequoia tree


Rose and I walking through a tunnel in one of the giant trees


The gorgeous sunset we enjoyed as we drove out of Sequoia National Park

Next we headed to Sacramento to see the state capital and then camped for a few days in Coloma which is about an hour north east of Sacramento. Some of you probably know that Lance lived in Carmichael, California for 3rd through 8th grade.  It was fun to drive around his old neighborhood and see where he went to school, his house and the park where he and his friend used a sling shot to shoot firecrackers into a softball game (his one big youthful indiscretion!!)  On Saturday we went to Apple Hill which is where Lance remembers going every year with his family to pick out a Christmas tree.  It’s an area out in the country with sprawling apple orchards and grape vines.  We all loved the cider donuts!! On that Sunday we visited the church that Lance and his family attended when they lived in Carmichael.  We had fun tagging along on Lance’s trip down memory lane…and we also had fun in and around the campground, which was right across the river from Sutter’s Mill and the first place gold was found.  Sam is our resident prospector so this was a dream come true for him!  He loved being able to put on his rain boots and head down to the river to do some gold panning.  The kids and I also went through a small museum there and learned more about the gold rush and the Indians that lived in the area during that time.


Joe, Ben, Elise, Sam and Rose are the worms in this apple!


Rose was pretty possessive of the cider we bought at the orchard


Sam panning for gold near our campground



We enjoyed the displays in the museum….especially the ones about gold panning or weapons they used!   Here’s a link to the state park and museum that we were at.


Joe and Abby checking out the teepees


Sam totally in his element!


We needed to cross this historic, one lane bridge to get back to the campground.  It was so narrow that we were pretty nervous about pulling the camper through, but we made it….barely!!

We still needed to squeeze in a visit to Nevada’s capital which is Carson City so we packed up and drove through the mountains to get there. We intended to stay the night there, but decided instead to just keep driving so after our stop at the capital and some dinner we drove back into California and ended up spending the night in Susanville (yes, yes…they named it after me!!)  The next day we drove north and west and finally arrived in Crescent City, California.


Our kids loved playing in the leaves at the Carson City capital building

The REDWOODS!!! This was one of those parts of the country that I was especially looking forward to and none of us had ever been there before.  Crescent City is right on the coast and to the east are state and national parks where the Redwood trees live.  Our first few days were spent in and around the city since Lance needed to get some work done.  Our campsite was in a beautiful spot right on the bay.  The kids had a great time exploring the beach there and playing at a huge playground not far away.  On Friday it was my birthday so I got to pick the activity!  We went to Pebble Beach, on the north side of Crescent City, and enjoyed a couple of hours there.  Pebble beach is supposed to be one of the best places to find agates on the beach….we all picked up lots of pretty stones, but since I don’t know much about agates, I don’t know if we found any of those!  After that we went out for a pizza lunch and then headed home.


Behind our campsite was this bay.  Here’s a pretty sunset and the lighthouse in the distance.


The tide was out and we had fun checking out the tide pools and looking for pretty stones and agates at Pebble Beach



This was a great place to spend a birthday!

On Saturday, November 21st we took a drive into the Redwood forest.  The gigantic trees are just amazing!  Sometimes we would all exclaim over how huge one was and then around the corner there would be one even bigger!  We drove through Jedediah Smith State Park and went for a hike on the Stout Grove Trail.  What an amazing place….you feel like an ant!  This was also the place where they filmed some of the Endor scenes from Star Wars and you can totally picture it as you walk along the path.  The kids had so much fun climbing over fallen trees, hiding behind trees and having battles with swords made out of sticks.  It was a really fun afternoon.


We tried to see how much of the tree we could encircle, but we probably only reached about halfway around



Look at how amazingly tall these trees are!


Ben is pretty impressed as well!


Look at the beautiful sunbeams coming in through the trees!  What a splendid way to end the afternoon of exploring!

The next day we left Crescent City.  Part of the drive was along the Pacific ocean coastline and part of it was through the redwood forests…it was a gorgeous drive.  The part that is through the forest is a stretch of road called “Avenue of the Giants” because you are passing giant tree after giant tree.  I loved it!  We stopped to see the Eternal Tree which is a Redwood tree that has survived a flood, fire and being struck by lightning and it’s still alive!  Our campground was just off of the Avenue of the Giants.

On Monday morning we went to see the Shrine drive-thru tree in Myers Flat, California. Lance gave it everything he’s got, but the Excursion is just too big so he had to back out before getting stuck in the tree.  There were also some super cute tree houses (literally!) that you could go into.  They had little doors and windows, bookshelves and tables and even an upstairs.  The girls began playing house almost immediately and Ben just kept going in and out….I think he especially liked that they were houses more kid-sized.  After that fun stop it was time to drive south and leave the Redwoods behind.  I really enjoyed our week there and would love to go back someday to explore even more.


That’s about as far as Lance could get the Excursion into the drive-thru tree


They also had this drive-on tree so that’s Lance up there



The cute tree houses, completely carved from Redwood trees


We were headed to San Francisco next and got there mid-afternoon. We were really looking forward to meeting up with my cousin, John and his wife, Tiffany.  We met them at Musee Mecanique which is a super cool arcade that had current arcade games and also antique ones that were 100 years old, but still worked.  We all had fun playing there for a while and then walked to an Italian restaurant for dinner.  We really enjoyed catching up with John and Tiffany and the kids loved them!  It was interesting to learn about their jobs, apartment, cats and life in general living in San Francisco.  We must have worn out the kids with such a busy day though because Elise and Ben both fell asleep at the table before the food even arrived!


Elise, Sam and Abby with the festive Fisherman’s Wharf sign


Ben watching the dancing men in this really old arcade game


Elise making Peppy the clown dance


Who do you think won???


Our family with John and Tiffany….you can’t see Ben because he’s already sleeping with his head down on the table!

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge was pretty neat….walking/running over it was even better and that’s how Abby, Joe and I started out the next day. Then we all went into the city to see some of the sights.  We visited Pier 39 and watched the sea lions, Lance and Joe had clam chowder for lunch and we drove down Lombard Street.  We saw the cable cars too, but ran out of time to go for a ride.


Joe has been running every morning since mid summer and Abby and I decided to start doing some regular running ourselves.  Even though it was windy and rainy, this morning was especially cool because we got to run/walk across the Golden Gate Bridge


The sea lions


Lance enjoyed his bread bowl of clam chowder

That evening we went to visit Lance’s roommate from college and his family. Ben and Tricia were very welcoming and we were able to relax and talk with them while Ben (our Ben) played with their little girl and her toys and the older kids thoroughly enjoyed Ben’s Legos from when he was a kid.

The next part of our trip is what I would like to call “Visiting Every Chiropractor We Drive Past”!! Lance’s back had been feeling a little worse each day for a while and all of a sudden it just went out.  He was in extreme pain and was unable to move around much.  Joe was a huge blessing to us as he stepped up to help with the setup and take down of the camper and I learned a few new things from him along the way.  I also got to experience driving while pulling the camper on the crazy busy California highway and also a very curvy, narrow road to the next campground.  As Lance took it easy and visited chiropractors in almost every city we stopped in he gradually felt better and better.  We are very thankful that he’s back to normal now! (as normal as Lance usually is!!!)

We spent Thanksgiving at a KOA near Santa Cruz. Being from Michigan we are not used to camping around Thanksgiving and we also always have family to visit on that day so this was pretty unique for us.  It turns out that some people in California bring their family…and turkey…camping!  We saw many large groups camping together and saw one family cooking their turkey in a garbage can.  It looked like a pretty fun way to spend the weekend when you have nice weather like they usually do in southern California.  Most of the time our kids only have each other to play with, since school started there aren’t many other families camping so our kids had a blast for the few days we were there.  They made some great new friends and also loved all of the special activities that the campground had planned.  We had our turkey dinner at a restaurant in Santa Cruz and enjoyed going around the table with everyone telling what they are most thankful for.  I know that I’m thankful that we are able to spend so much time together on this trip, for safety while traveling, and that we continually see God’s protection, greatness and love in our many different experiences and stops.


Our Thanksgiving Day dinner

Our next stop would be Santa Barbara, but getting there was half the fun….we drove along the coast on Highway 1 and it was beautiful! Sometimes you are curving back and forth with the beach off to the right, sometimes you are curving back and forth through the woods and sometimes you are curving back and forth with a steep cliff right off the road and the ocean down below…..whatever the landscape, the curving back and forth is pretty constant throughout!  We stopped at one beach turnout area and let everyone get out to stretch their legs for a while.  As we walked a little bit down the path we came upon some Elephant Seals lying on the beach.  It was fun to watch them blubber around and bark at us.


I never got sick of looking out the window while we drove down Highway 1 along the California coast



Sam and Elise looking for shells and other treasures when we stopped for a little bit


Abby and Rosemary on a sunny day


The lazy looking Elephant Seals


Another beautiful sunset to end another fun day

We camped in Santa Barbara for a couple of nights and were able to visit with Lance’s childhood friend and his family while there. Lance and Paul were best friends while Lance lived in Carmichael, California and they were the mischievous pair that launched those firecrackers into a softball game!  Paul and Shelley were great and our kids had a lot of fun with their four kids.  Joe and Sam were even able to have a sleepover with their boys at their house.  Our visit also overlapped with a visit they were having from Paul’s parents.  Lance has many great memories of hanging out at their house with Paul and I enjoyed hearing stories of Lance as a middle schooler.  It was a great weekend, they are a beautiful family.


Lance and Paul

Our next stop was Los Angeles. We camped in a city campground that is right on the beach so the Pacific Ocean was literally in our backyard.  We had a great time on the beach for a few days.  Native SoCal people were not swimming, but the Michiganders don’t mind some cooler water temps!  The kids had a blast jumping the giant waves and playing in the sand.  While in L.A. we also went to see the Hollywood sign and took a drive through Beverly Hills.  (FYI….the Goodwill in Beverly Hills is NOT like the Goodwill in Holland, Michigan…a little pricier for the designer clothes!!)


Our “backyard” while we camped in Los Angeles.  It was so cool to watch the big waves build higher and higher before they crashed!



Elise LOVES the water!

While in L.A. we were able to meet up with my cousin, Alison. We had dinner together at a fun BBQ joint where you eat at indoor picnic tables and use sheets of paper for plates.  We had a great time learning more about Alison’s life in the L.A. area, her boyfriend and how they met and her job as an animal trainer for movies and commercials.  She has some pretty interesting stories!  Thanks for taking the time to hang out with us Alison, we loved seeing you!  Unfortunately, we forgot to snap a pic when we were with her.

Also while in L.A. we surprised Joe with his Christmas/Birthday gift which was a trip back to Michigan for six days. He has been missing his friends quite a bit so this was the perfect gift for him.  We told him the night before he would be leaving, along with Ben, Rose and me.  We had a good flight, and with a two year old and an almost one year old that was a huge concern of mine!  While in Michigan we stayed with my mom and dad, it was so great to see them since we hadn’t seen them since the beginning of September.  We also had very nice visits with both sets of my grandparents, Lance’s parents and some good friends.  But, I think a highlight was when Joe surprised his two best friends!  The other parents and Lance and I had been bursting with excitement to see these three boys reunited and their level of unbelief and shock didn’t disappoint!!!  Soon after our plane landed Joe jumped out at his buddies at one of their houses and after the screaming, laughing and hugging stopped the three of them were almost inseparable until we left!  Joe was also able to participate in a couple days of school and loved that.  The teachers and principal at Cityside were amazing at making this special for Joe, but none more so than the band director….Mr. Good.  This man is one of those teachers that has made a great impact on Joe’s life and I know Joe will always remember and love Mr. Good, along with have very fond memories of his middle school band years playing the tuba.  Mr. Good arranged for Joe to be in the Christmas concert while we were home and even had his name in the program….that evening meant the world to Joe and I loved being there to see it.  We had a great trip back!


Joe with his best friends….Isaac and Josh


Rose and Grandpa building towers


Ben even got to help decorate my Mom and Dad’s Christmas tree


Enjoying a visit with my Grandpa and Grandma Haveman


Hanging out at Grandpa and Grandma Kornoelje’s house


Rose cuddling with her Great Grandma Wolters and Ben showing his Great Grandpa Wolters what he can draw


Joe and Mr. Good after the band concert


At the airport…..time to say good bye


Ben did pretty well on the flight home too….he got to meet the pilot and then filled his time with playing with trucks, reading the safety brochure, and reading books with Rose.

I have truly realized what it means to say that home is not a certain place, but rather, wherever the people you love most are. As we flew back to California it felt like I was going back home, even though I knew the location would be changing the next day and a few days after that and a few days after that!

Well, enough sappy stuff!!! After L.A. we spent a few days in San Diego.  The weather was beautiful so we played at a park and took a drive by Midway and to Coronado.  One evening we got to meet up with another one of my cousins, Samantha.  (Just realizing how many friends and family we got to visit in California….it was fabulous!)  She had picked out a fun Mexican restaurant for us to have dinner at.  It was delicious and so fun being able to eat outside on a December evening.  She is a helicopter pilot for the Navy and after dinner she took us out to Coronado to see the helicopters that she flies.  It was amazing!  Wow…the amount of buttons and dials seemed overwhelming and we were all VERY impressed that she does that every day!  Thanks Sam!  We loved getting to see you and hang out with you and going to see where you work was just icing on the cake!


Our dinner with my cousin, Sam


Checking out the helicopter Sam flies….so cool!

Well, I think that about sums up our month in California! It’s a beautiful state with so many amazing things to see.  We loved the Redwoods, the mountains, the beach and all of the friends and family we were able to catch up with while there.

Colorado (Again), Grand Canyon and a little bit more of Utah!

From Moab we headed back into Colorado.  My brother and his family live in Grand Junction so we were excited to see them for a few days.  Ben and Kelsey have a little girl, Olivia, who is only 3 weeks younger than Rosemary.  Even though there are many miles between the two, I hope they grow up to be good friends.  They seemed to be a little wary of each other at first, but by the time we left there they were warming up to each other!

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Olivia and Rosemary checking each other out

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Ben enjoyed hanging out with Olivia too

On Friday night (October 23rd) we went to Palisades, Colorado with Ben, Kelsey and Olivia and went to the downtown Halloween festival.  The main event was the Pet Costume Parade which we all thought was pretty entertaining.  Dogs dressed up as lobsters, sheep, Mickey Mouse, a Jedi and more are fun to watch!

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Our family all dressed up for the Palisades Halloween event.  Here you have Aladdin & his monkey (Abu), a witch, a pirate, a waitress, a boxer and Bo Peep with her little lamb.

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A little spider and lamb just watching all of the silly dogs in costumes.

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We also went to a pumpkin patch with them.  The kids had a blast there….three jumping pillows, pony rides, pig races, a couple of corn mazes, barrel train rides, a hay bale obstacle course and more.  Lance and I could have left, gone on a date and come back without them ever knowing we were gone!!  (don’t worry, we didn’t do that!!).

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Our little pumpkin in the pumpkin patch

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Ben loved riding this pony….it was difficult to get him down when the ride was done!

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Elise….sweet and spunky Elise

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Elise going down the slide in the hay bale obstacle course

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Joe and Sam playing some reball

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Sam was in his element!

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Ben riding in the barrel train…which he LOVED!!!

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Abby and Rose rode the train as well

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Ben trying to get the donkey to eat some hay

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Joe and Abby

On Sunday Lance, Joe and Sam went for a hike with my brother, Ben, up Mount Garfield.  Lance and Ben took their time and stopped halfway up, but Ben and Joe went all the way to the top.  While they were up there I got a phone call from Ben.  Our campground was right near the bottom of Mount Garfield and as I looked towards the top I could see a flash of light.  Ben and Joe were using a signal mirror to show me where they were.  My guys really enjoyed the hike and had a good afternoon together with Ben.

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Sam during the climb up Mount Garfield

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Uncle Ben teaching Sam how to use the signal mirror

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Ben and Joe at the top of Mount Garfield

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A cool panorama shot of Joe at the top

On Monday we went to Ben and Kelsey’s house for dinner.  The kids loved going in the hot tub and we had a great time visiting all together.  We also got to meet their hedgehog, Bruno.  Our kids were all super excited to watch and touch him…all except Rosemary, she was pretty apprehensive about the spiny little creature!

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Ben holding Bruno while the kids check him out

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Rose was not too sure!

On Tuesday, October 27th, we went for a hike in Nancy Hanks Gulch with their family to some amethyst mines.  The mines were abandoned and the land is public so whatever the kids found they could keep.  They were all pretty excited about the Amethyst and Fluorite they found in the creek bed.  Ben and Kelsey are both geologists so it was interesting to hear them identify the different kinds of rocks we found and educate us on the layers we were seeing in the cliffs.  (Put that one down for a homeschool win….science lesson and P.E. class all in one!!)

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Olivia and Rosemary hanging out together while the bigger kids look for cool rocks

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Ben “helping” Sam sift for Amethyst

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A good place to find the Amethyst and Fluorite was in the dry creek bed

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Hiking back down to the vehicles….Kelsey, Abby, Ben, Lance and Joe

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Ben and Olivia with me and Rosemary

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It was a beautiful fall day for a hike!

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We got to see these guys right next to the road soon after we started back towards Grand Junction

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We had to stop the car on the way home after Ben told us he had some “owies”.  They turned out to be cactus needles stuck in his knee and hand….OUCH!  Lance got out the pliers and did a little triage right there on the side of the rode.

On Wednesday we left the Grand Junction area for a couple of days and drove down to the southwestern corner of Colorado to see the Mesa Verde National Park.  I remember going there with my parents when I was about middle school age and really enjoying it.  I was excited for the kids to get to explore the ancient ruins and learn about the Indians that lived there.  Unfortunately, they had closed down the ruins temporarily because of some improvements they were making for safety’s sake.  We still drove through the park and could see the buildings built into the cliffs, but just couldn’t’ walk around in them.  We also saw some wild horses and quite a few deer there.

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Some of the ruins in the cliffs

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Deer and wild horses

While in that area of Colorado we made a stop at 4 Corners.  It was fun to have a hand or foot in four states at once….Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

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Joe doing the smolder in four states at once!

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Abby hanging out in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico

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Each state has two Kornoeljes in it!

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Even Rose gave it a try

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Stunt-girl Rosemary…..don’t worry…..Joe is right behind her, holding her steady

After that we decided to check out Ouray, Colorado.  It’s a quaint little town in the mountains and it was our first experience with snow on this trip.  The drive in was beautiful, but not as much fun for Lance as he maneuvered the truck and camper around tight turn after tight turn all while going up and down in the mountains.  The area is called “The Switzerland of America” because of the snowcapped peaks all around.  Lance and I went to Switzerland a few times while we lived in Germany back when we were first married and we both agreed that it’s a pretty accurate nickname.  We camped in a campground right downtown Ouray and right next to a river.  It was amazing to look up and see the majestic snowy mountains towering above us!  We walked downtown that evening and had some delicious burgers at a pub and then settled in for the night.  The next morning everything was covered with a thick layer of frost and we felt very cozy in the warm camper.  Ouray is known for their hot springs so we had to try them out!  The day ended up being sunny and about 45 degrees, but still swimming weather when you have giant hot tubs to enjoy!  The kids had a blast swimming in the different spring fed pools and the water ranged from 90 degrees to 105 degrees depending on which one you were in.

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The view we had while we were driving to Ouray

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Elise sitting by the river behind our campsite working on an art project

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Walking into town

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Lance and the five oldest kids in the hot springs on a gorgeous fall day

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Ben really enjoyed playing/splashing in the water

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The beautiful snowy mountains

From Ouray we headed back up to Grand Junction.  A last minute change of plans allowed for Lance’s parents to meet us there and travel along with us for almost a week.  We were looking forward to spending time with them.  Since it was Halloween when we arrived back in Grand Junction we took the kids trick or treating and Lance’s mom went along.  It was a perfect night for it and the kids came home with plenty of loot!  We found out that Ben loves suckers….on the drive back to the camper he had one in his mouth, one more unwrapped in one hand and another waiting to be unwrapped in his other hand.  When we got him ready for bed a battle ensued because he was pretty sure he should be able to sleep with his candy…..we won that one!!

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Every Halloween night we take a picture of our kids in front of our house…so here they are in front of our house!

Sunday, November 1st, was a very special day.  A few weeks before, Elise and Sam had started talking about being baptized.  We didn’t know exactly how to make that happen while on this trip, but really didn’t want to make them wait until we got home.  Well, the week before we had gone to a small church in Palisades that we loved instantly.  The people there were the friendliest, most welcoming bunch we have met yet.  Lance was able to get ahold of them and they were willing to do the baptisms.  It was extra special because Rich and Barb and also Ben, Kelsey and Olivia were all able to be there too!!  What a wonderful day it was to see Elise, Sam and Abby all be baptized and to have so much family there to witness it too!!

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Elise getting baptized

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Sam getting baptized

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Abby getting baptized

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Ben hanging out with these two sweet little ladies (Olivia and Rose) in the church nursery

After church we said good bye to Ben, Kelsey and Olivia.  We really enjoyed getting to spend so much time with them and will miss seeing them.  I loved getting to know my new sister-in-law better and Olivia is such a sweet, happy little baby….their family was a joy to be around.  Thank you for your hospitality Ben and Kelsey!!

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Ben, Kelsey and Olivia—what a sweet family.  We love you guys!!

That Sunday afternoon we left Grand Junction and headed to Lake Powell.  It’s a large lake that is in Utah and Arizona.  We happened to find a campground right on the lake in Page, Arizona.  That afternoon we enjoyed the beach.  People watching might have guessed that we were from a northern state….chilly lake water didn’t stop our kids from water fights and swimming!

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Lake Powell

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We had some chilly kids after swimming that evening

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Sam worked hard building this canal

The next day we rented a pontoon boat and tube and set sail to explore the lake.  The afternoon was mostly sunny and pleasant.  The kids and Lance had a great time tubing.  Then, it seemed like all of a sudden the weather turned and a storm blew in.  The wind was blowing and it was cold and rainy.  We all cuddled up for the half hour ride back to the marina and when we got back we were all soaked.  After getting some dry clothes and hot pizza we were as good as new!

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Ben, Rose and me on the pontoon boat….Rose wasn’t thrilled with wearing a life jacket!

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Joe tubing

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Elise loved the tubing…she was the first one out there!

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Sam was quite the little daredevil on the tube!!

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Rose hanging out with Grandma Kornoelje

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Abby had a lot fun on her turn too

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Ben helping Grandpa Kornoelje drive the boat

On Tuesday, November 3rd, we took off for the Grand Canyon.  We got there when it was dark so didn’t get to see any of it that night, but were excited to see it the next day.  When we got up Wednesday morning we saw that it had snowed a little during the night, not a lot, maybe an inch or so.  Our kids were pretty pumped about that and we stopped to buy some gloves so that they could play without freezing.  We hopped on a shuttle bus with the intention of getting off at the many lookouts to see the Grand Canyon.  It was snowing, but not too bad.  At the first stop we realized how pointless this venture was….you couldn’t see anything when you looked down into the canyon except fog and snow.   By the third stop it was a crazy snow storm!!!  We had the privilege of being there for their first big snow storm of the season!  It got very windy and snowy and we were turning into icicles as we waited for the next bus to pick us up.  It was so bad that the buses were all heading back to the station and we were glad to get one as it started heading back.  Once again we were all cold and wet when we got back to the camper.  It was a perfect afternoon for hot cocoa and chili for supper.

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The Grand Canyon is a little less “grand” when you can’t actually see it!

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Sam and Elise were ecstatic about the snow!

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Rose snuggling with Grandpa

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Plenty of snow for snowball fights!

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Here are the kids just before it started snowing like crazy

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Here we are afterwards…huddled together trying to keep the babies warm

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Our camper and Lance’s parents’ van that they drove in and camp in

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Ben and Rosemary were all tuckered out after that day….good thing they had Grandpa and Grandma to cuddle with

The next morning Lance’s parents left.  It was hard to see them go, hopefully they will get to meet up with us again sometime in January.

The good news was that the snowstorm was over and we could actually see the beautiful Grand Canyon!!  Lance took Joe and Sam on a hike down into the canyon that afternoon.  They had a good time and saw lots of deer.  The whole family took a drive that evening to some of the lookouts.  It is an amazing place….one of those places that you look at and think “God made this for us to enjoy just because He could!  What a powerful God we have!”

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Joe and Sam ready for their hike into the canyon

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Pretty amazing view that just wasn’t there the day before

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On Friday we left and stayed the night at a Walmart in Page, Arizona on our way to Zion National Park in Utah.  What a treat the next morning to see the sky filing with hot air balloons.  They must have had a festival that day.  It was so fun to see the different shapes and colors in the balloons floating above us.

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I love hot air balloons!!

We continued on to Zion.  The campground we stayed at had a little snow and Sam, Elise and Ben all have fun sledding down a small hill and Elise built a cute little snowman.  Now, I would be fine if we don’t see any more snow….but I am glad that they got to have a little snow fun since that’s something they will be missing about Michigan!  We drove into Zion that evening, but it was too late in the day to do any hiking.  We did get to see a beautiful sunset though.

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Sam sledding and you can see Elise’s little snowman at the top of the hill

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Zion National Park

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The next day (Sunday) we had intended to drive through Zion on our way to Las Vegas, but it turns out that our truck and camper together are too long to navigate the switchbacks so we would have had to leave the camper somewhere to do that and we didn’t really want to use up that much of the day.  We said good bye to Zion and got to Las Vegas that evening just as the sun was setting.  We had found some good hotel deals and had a couple of rooms at New York New York right on the strip.  We have all become pretty used to living in a camper and it has worked out very well most of the time….but let me tell you….having a giant king size bed, a normal sized toilet and a shower that you can stand in without touching any of the sides is an amazing thing!!!  We stayed for three nights and enjoyed the space immensely!!  We were only going to stay two nights, but the hotel upgraded our rooms and we just couldn’t say no.  For the third night Lance and I had a room (with Ben and Rose) that had a separate bedroom, hot tub, living room, dining room and little kitchenette.  It was as big as three of our campers!!  The other kids all shared a more normal room, but still lots of space.

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Our hotel….New York, New York

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The view from our window.  Ben really enjoyed watching the roller coaster going by.

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Ben and Rose checking out the new room….a little more space than they are used to!

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He was loving the waterfall faucet

While in Vegas we did a little sightseeing.  We went to the Hershey store, the M& M store (sensing a pattern here???) and had fun watching some of the street performers and characters.  We also walked down the strip to see the Eiffel Tower and the Bellagio fountains.  Other than that we just enjoyed spreading out in the hotel rooms.  The kids played in the hot tub and even played hide and seek in our gigantic room.

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Elise in front of the Hershey’s store (Ben is hiding behind the Hershey bar)

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We were impressed with the chocolate Statue of Liberty

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The Eiffel Tower on the strip

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Our family in front of the Bellagio

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Our “Ocean’s Eleven”  moment!

We left Las Vegas on Wednesday, November 11th.  California here we come!!

Oregon, Idaho & Utah

Boy, do I have some catching up to do!!!  Since my last post we have visited 7 states….this will cover the first three of those.

We left Washington just over a month ago and headed to Portland, Oregon.  We stayed there only a couple of nights.  After church on Sunday morning (October 11th) we went to Slappy Cakes for lunch.  It’s a restaurant that I had heard about on Pinterest (or course!!!).  You order different flavors of pancake batter, things to put in them and toppings for when they are done.  Your table has a griddle built into the middle and everyone gets to make their own pancakes.  We had buttermilk and also pumpkin batter.  We experimented with putting blueberries, chocolate chips, mushrooms and cheese (not all at once though!) in and then we just had syrup to put on top.  It was such a fun lunch!  Joe, Sam and Elise had never made pancakes before, but they sure did make some delicious ones.  We all left there very full!

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Sam and Ben had lots of fun perfecting their pancake flipping technique

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From Portland we headed towards the coast.  We stayed in a campground near Tillamook.  Tillamook is known for their cheese factory which offers free tours.  They also have a café where they serve yummy grilled cheese sandwiches, mac’n’cheese and many other meals made with their delicious cheese.  If you go there make sure you save room for dessert….their ice cream is made in the factory right there too and is pretty great!  You can order something called the “Ice Cream Adventure” which is one scoop of every flavor they make.  We decided to get that and the kids had so much fun sampling all of their yummy options.  You should have seen Ben’s eyes when I carried the giant bowl to the table….he was one happy little boy!  It was way too much ice cream for all of us and we probably ate less than 1/2 of it, but it sure was fun to try!  While there we went to the observation area and learned a little bit about how they make cheese.  They also had samples out for people to try.  It was interesting to try some varieties that we don’t normally buy.  The sampling worked….because after that we went to their store and bought a few different kinds of cheese to take home with us.  It was a very cool place and we all enjoyed our afternoon there.

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Abby, Elise, Sam and Ben “driving” the Tillamook cheese bus

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Farmer Joe and little Ben the dairy cow

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Part of the cheese making process

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That’s A LOT of ice cream!!

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Ready to dig in!

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Rose was willing to finish it up for us!  (Just kidding!!)

The campground we were at for those couple of nights was on Netart’s Bay.  We could see seals, watch people catching crabs and hear the ocean waves.  It was a nice place to stay.

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Sam had fun trying to catch crabs with his net

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The beautiful sunset over Netart’s Bay

On Tuesday (October 13th) we went to Cannon Beach, which is on the very northwestern tip of Oregon.  It was a beautiful day and a beautiful beach.  The weather was quite nice, about 70 degrees and breezy and there were some huge waves crashing on the beach.  The kids started out racing the waves, trying not to get wet…..but they didn’t stay dry for long!  We had a great time playing in the sand and in the water, finding shells and washed up jellyfish and walking up and down the beach.  When we left we were all at least a little wet with salty faces from the ocean breeze and worn out in a very good way!

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Elise trying to outrun the waves

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We had a small bag of chips that the seagulls kept trying to take.  Ben would throw a chip on the ground and command them to eat it….then he changed his mind and would pick up the chip and eat it himself.  Crazy kid!!

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Joe and Ben….brothers and buddies

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Abby and Elise built a cool sandcastle

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The Kornoelje Muscle Men

After leaving Tillamook we headed to Salem to see Oregon’s state capital.  It was another pretty fall day so we had a picnic lunch at a park afterwards.  The kids and I stayed there for a couple of hours while Lance ran some errands.  It was a nice place to relax before driving for a little while longer.

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Ben and Rose enjoying a swing big enough for two

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Abby made this cute little clover crown for Rosemary.  Isn’t her fluffy hair cute??

On Friday (October 16th) we stopped in Boise, Idaho to see the capital building there.  There was a rally going on to encourage kids to stay drug-free so the steps of the capital building were filled with school kids.  Ben was especially excited to meet Officer McGruff!

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After Boise we drove to Preston, Idaho.  If you know our family, you probably know that we all enjoy watching the movie “Napoleon Dynamite”.  Well, it was filmed in Preston and we were looking forward to seeing some of the scenes from the movie.  We set up camp in the high school parking lot that night and then on Saturday we set out on our own Napoleon Dynamite tour.  We ended with lunch at Big J’s which is a restaurant that Uncle Rico and Kip eat at in the movie.  We all had a fun day in and around Preston.

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Inside the high school.  You see a lot of these colorful lockers in the movie.

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Checking out the auditorium where Napoleon showed off his sweet dance moves.

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Pedro’s house….there’s a “Vote For Pedro” sign in the window

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Where Napoleon and Deb played some tetherball

From Preston we headed south to Salt Lake City, Utah and stayed there a few days.  We saw the beautiful Utah capital building all lit up just as the sky was getting dark.  The next day we went to see the Great Salt Lake.  Maybe we were there at a bad time, but boy did it smell!!  We had brought sand toys and beach stuff, but most of us couldn’t wait to leave.  We also went to an organ concert at the Mormon Tabernacle.  I thought it was great, but it wasn’t a big hit with the 8 and under crowd!  After the concert we went on a short tour of some of the buildings in Temple square.

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Lance and Ben by the Great Salt Lake.  Ben slipped and face planted in the smelly sand/water so we tried out the outdoor shower for the first time when we got back to the camper!!

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Joe, Abby and Sam are waving out there

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Elise signed the guestbook….check out her comment section

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The organ in the Mormon Tabernacle

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The Mormon Temple

Next we headed south to Moab.  As you are driving to Moab you pass a whole lot of nothing and then, all of a sudden, you see cliffs, canyons and crazy rock formations.  Moab is a gorgeous area!!  We camped right near the entrance to Canyonlands National Park and had a great view to the east and the west.

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Our campsite near Moab.  Very pretty scenery all around us.

On Tuesday, October 20th we drove into town for some lunch and while there it started pouring….like crazy cats and dogs!!  The local guy in the restaurant told us that if we got down by the river quickly we would see some waterfalls.  It’s normally pretty dry there, but when it rains the water cascades down the cliffs and rocks in lots of pretty waterfalls.  Sure enough, he was right.  As we got closer to the Colorado River we even got to see a beautiful rainbow.  I have never seen this before, but the rainbow came down and ended right next to the river.  When we stopped by the river Elise got out and high-tailed it across the bridge to see if there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…..there wasn’t just in case you were wondering!!  Even as we stood on the bridge and looked at the river and the rainbow more and more waterfalls were appearing all along the canyon walls.  It was an amazing sight.

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The rainbow

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Here you can see that the rainbow ends on the other side of the river

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Elise chasing rainbows

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The Colorado River with a few waterfalls from the rain storm.

After that we went to Canyonlands National Park and went for a hike.  We were all in awe of the vast canyons and interesting landscape.  We hiked along the rim of a canyon for a while, but turned back before the end of the trail because the sun would be setting soon.  It was another one of those great nights when we were all enjoying each other’s company and the nature around us.

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Beautiful canyons….Wow!!

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Our kids….each one is a pretty unique individual!

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This boy LOVES puddles!!

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Me and Rosemary

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This guy is super awesome!!

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Joe and Sam are at the top of that cliff

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My mother’s heart skipped a little bit watching him have this one taken!

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The sunset over Canyonlands National Park

The next day we went to Arches National Park.  It was raining on and off so we didn’t get to hike like we had planned, but the drive was pretty amazing too.  We decided to test out the parameters on the Excursion and took the dirt road through the park….the road with the sign that says “must have 4×4 vehicle, impassable when wet”.  We had the 4×4 and it wasn’t THAT wet!!  We didn’t go the whole 10 miles, but what we did go on was pretty intense!  Huge boulders along and in the road made for some white knuckles!  It was a lot of fun though, the kids loved it (especially the big kid that was driving!!).

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One of the arches we saw on our drive

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Balanced Rock

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Elise acting like a little mountain goat and climbing that steep and rocky hill

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4WD adventure!

From Moab we drove back into Colorado on Wednesday, October 21st.  More on that later……

3 Weeks In Washington….and it wasn’t near enough!

We have just spent about three weeks exploring the wonderful state of Washington. If you have never been there, I would encourage you to try to make your way out there sometime.  It’s a beautiful state with so many places to see.

Our first stop was Spokane. We only stayed there one night, but had a fun afternoon checking out the city.  We went to Riverfront Park and enjoyed their playground and giant wagon slide.  We also went on a gondola ride to see the river and waterfall that is right downtown.                                     ,_Washington)?s_chn=17&s_pt=source2&type=content&v_t=content

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Joe and Rosemary going down the slide

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No Samuels were harmed in the making of this photo!!

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Ben liked the gondola ride and we liked that it was like                                   a cage he couldn’t get out of!!

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The waterfall in Spokane

Our second stop was the Seattle area. We camped in an RV park near Fall City which is about ½ hour east of Seattle.   We had a really neat campsite surrounded by huge trees and ferns.  (This place was great for babies napping because it was so dark in the camper, even during the day, because of the trees….loved that!)  Sam and Elise quickly set to work making forts in some of the big tree stumps near by.  While at the campground we met a family who were our neighbors there. They had a little boy, Jonah, who enjoyed having other kids to play with just as much as our kids liked having a playmate too.  He worked on fort building with Sam and Elise and played cars and trains with Ben.  The campground also had a nice lodge that we really enjoyed.  It was nice to have a large area with comfy couches to spread out.  A couple of the days that we were there Lance worked so the rest of us just enjoyed the forest and playground.

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Our campsite near Fall City

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Elise by one of the giant ferns and the stump that she and Sam used for a fort

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Sam and a little frog he caught.  We also saw a few huge slugs near the campsite….like 3-4 inches long and quite big around.  They were slimy!!

My cousin, Wendi, and her husband live near Seattle. We were so glad that it worked in her schedule to meet for supper.  We had a good time chatting and learning about her job at Boeing and Chris’ job as a chef and restaurant owner.  She also gave us some advice as far as what to see in Seattle.

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We had a very nice time visiting with Wendi

Our first day in Seattle we started with the Pike Place Market. It was a Saturday, so it was a pretty busy place.  We saw vendors selling fruits, vegetables, jewelry, photographs, flowers and fish.  We treated ourselves to freshly grilled corn on the cob which was delicious.  We also saw a little shop making and selling crumpets.  I had never tried one before so we bought a couple different ones to sample.  In the market there are flowers stalls with beautiful bouquets of flowers.  They were such big bunches and so reasonably priced that we bought three…one larger one for me and two smaller ones for Abby and Elise.  What a treat it was to have them in our trailer and be able to look at such cheerful flowers.  While walking around we happened upon the Gum Wall.  A walkway under some buildings where people press chewed gum on the walls.  I know….it sounds disgusting!  It kind of is…but also kind of interesting.  Joe, Abby, Elise and I all chewed some gum and left our mark.  Sam started gagging as soon as he saw the wall so he stayed away!  After that we bought some cookies and apple/pear cider and enjoyed that while at a park near the water.  It was a fun afternoon.

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Saw these floating houses from the highway….just like                      “Sleepless In Seattle”!!

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Fresh grilled corn on the cob….yummmmm

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Joe by the gum wall

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That Saturday (September 26th) also happened to be our 17th wedding anniversary!!  We celebrated by going out for a nice (and late) dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant not too far from the campground.  We leave after Ben and Rose are in bed so it can make for a late evening, but it’s still nice to get out for a while!

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I love this man!  Can’t wait to see what the next 17 years bring!

Monday was also a very special day….we were celebrating Elise’s 7th birthday.  She brings so much joy and laughter to our family, I can’t imagine life without her!  She got to pick the activities for the day so we started with donuts and then headed into Seattle to see the Space Needle.  We took the elevator to the top.  It was a nice clear day so you could see the city really well and could also see Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.  We also stopped at a Cupcake Royale to pick out our treats for the birthday dinner later.  Elise had asked for a pizza and movie night so we took over the campground’s clubhouse and ate our pizza while watching one of her birthday presents…Cinderella (the new one that just came out).

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Good Morning Birthday Girl

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Me with two of my sweeties at the space needle

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Elise and Rosemary

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Ben and Abby

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Our kids loved it that there were telescopes spaced around the observation deck

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They also really enjoyed the selfie board.  You could put a picture of yourself on it and see where other visitors were from.  Joe and Abby are both on there somewhere

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That’s a pretty bright birthday cupcake!                                                      ****Oh, and those cupcakes were delicious!!!

Tuesday we went to see the Snoqualmie Falls which is in the town of Snoqualmie. The falls are beautiful and it was also a good place for the kids to run around and get out some energy before the driving that day.

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Ben checking out one of the big turbines that had been used in the power plant near the falls.

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Aren’t they cute?

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Snoqualmie Falls

After the falls we packed up and headed to Fort Worden State Park which is across the sound from Seattle and on the north side of the peninsula.  It definitely ranks in our top places to stay so far.  We had a site near the water so you could see and hear the waves crashing.  We loved walking on the beach and finding pretty shells and stones.  Ben used the driftwood as a jungle gym and also played with the sand toys until we made him come in.  The older four had a great time exploring the old fort and bunker area.  They played grounders there until it was too dark to see.  Unfortunately, this is also where Joe broke his arm.  He was in the cement bunker and fell off of a ledge and landed with his arm underneath the rest of him.  He has a nice green cast to show for it and is being a real trooper with it.  He will be getting it checked sometime this next week and we will see if he will need a cast much longer.

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Ben playing in the sand

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One of the days was especially windy and Elise was pretty excited to try out one of her birthday presents…a squid kite!

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Ben loved jumping from the driftwood.                                                          “Jump Dah-ee!  Jump Dah-ee!”

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A pretty sunset from Fort Worden

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Joe and his green cast

We stayed at Fort Worden for three nights and then moved to Fort Flager. While staying there Lance went back to Seattle for a couple of nights to hang out with some college buddies that came into town.  While he was having a nice weekend with the guys the kids and I hung out at the campground.  We didn’t do much because we didn’t have a car and I had gotten a cold, but it was still a fun campground.  They also had a large cement bunker with lots of rooms that the kids checked out and we walked to the beach and in the woods a few times.

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Our campsite at Fort Flager

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Ben and I went for a walk on the beach.  I wrote his name and he drew the “nase” which means snake.

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One of the pretty trails at Fort Flager

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My six camping buddies kept me company while Lance was                  gone to Seattle

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Ben startled these ducks and really enjoyed watching them fly away

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Another pretty sunset, this time from Fort Flager

When Lance got back on Monday (October 5th) we left Fort Flager and drove along the northern side of Olympic National Park.  We stopped at Port Angeles for one night and stayed at their lovely Walmart there.  We drove up to Hurricane Ridge to see the mountains.  It was a very pretty drive, but we had ugly attitudes so we didn’t really enjoy it as much as I’m sure it we could have.  The kids were fighting with each other and Lance and I were tired so we were a crabby bunch!   I’m sure the lady sitting all by herself on a ledge trying to enjoy a beautiful sunset found it to be much more peaceful after we left!!  We also drove Ediz Hook road which is a narrow strip of land between Washington and Canada.  We walked out on a dock and watched the jellyfish right below us and a seal swimming in the water not to far off shore.

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Looking north from a pull-out on the drive to Hurricane Ridge.  The strip of land in the upper left side is Canada

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The view of Hurricane Ridge.  You can see the glaciers in the middle.

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They look happy enough, don’t they??? 

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Abby and Sam watching the jellyfish from the dock

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Sam is “holding” Canada….it’s not very often that this one asks us to take his picture so we were quick to comply!!

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A golden sunset from Port Angeles

The next morning we left our *lovely* little Walmart campsite and drove to the town of Forks (we did not see any vampires or werewolves!). We were very excited for this section of the National Park because it’s the rain forest part.  We camped for one night at a letdown of a place.  We had planned on staying two nights, but just wanted to leave as soon as possible.  Of course, being in the rain forest, it rained all day so we were not able to go on a hike to see anything, but we went for a drive and happened upon the national park campground.  They had plenty of open spaces so we found one near the Hoh river.  We could see a huge bull Elk right from our camper.  He was just laying down by the river.  After dinner the rain stopped so we could check out our surroundings a little more.  The elk had left so we went down by the river.  There was a very thick fog all around us.  The kids had fun throwing rock after rock into the river.

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Our campsite in the rain forest at the National Park

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The Bull Elk

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Now there’s three elk hanging out in the rain!!

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My boys by the misty river

At about 4:30 in the morning Lance and I were both startled awake by a loud crash.  We tried to look outside, but couldn’t see anything.  The next morning we saw what it was and how God had been protecting us.  A large tree had fallen to the ground in the campsite right across the road from us.  It flattened a metal trash can to the ground.  If it had fallen towards our site it was long enough to reach our camper right where we were sleeping.

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The crashed trash can

The next day was a beautiful day for hiking. I was so glad that we would be able to see the rainforest from the trails.  We went on a great hike on the Trail of Mosses.  It was an easy one with kids and only about a mile long.  Around every bend in the trail were more huge trees dripping with moss and the ground was covered in ferns and moss.  We went on a bridge over a little creek that was the most clear and beautiful water I’ve ever seen.  You could see every distinct little green leaf of the plants gently moving with the current of the water.  It was a gorgeous place!  Along the trail Ben made a friend, Brooke, a little 4 year old girl from Seattle on vacation with her parents.  They were soon walking together and holding hands, it was so sweet.  Because of the rain the day before, there were A LOT of puddles.  Our most genius move of the day was putting Ben’s rubber boots on him!  That boy sought out every puddle he could and splashed to his heart’s content.  There were many giggles!  We let him fully enjoy himself, but had to put a stop to it when he got down on his hands and knees and tried to drink from the puddles like a puppy.

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Beginning our hike….I don’t have many pictures of Abby and Elise because they were often running ahead  us

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Fall in the Hoh Rain Forest

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Can you spot the wildlife in the ferns???

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Joe found this giant mushroom laying on the ground.  Don’t worry, he didn’t really bite it!

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Just look at those mossy trees

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Ben & Brooke

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Ben and Brooke checking out the inside of this tree

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Our kids love to hang out with us!!!!

After the rain forest we drove along the coast for a while and ended up in Olympia so see the state capital. There we met a lovely couple who took our family picture by the capital.  They also had many great suggestions of sights to see.  Thank you Michael and Jan-Marie….it was so nice to meet you.  We had a pizza picnic at a park there and then drove on towards Mount Rainier National Park.  We stayed at a campground just outside of the park.  We had hoped to see Mount Rainier the next day (the 9th) so we drove into the park filled with expectation….but, the day was another foggy and rainy one and we never did get to see the mountain.  Lance took Abby, Sam, Elise and Ben on a short hike while it wasn’t raining too hard and we all enjoyed the visitor’s center in Paradise where we learned about Mount Rainier.  Abby, Sam and Elise had fun filling out their workbooks and earning their junior ranger badges.

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A river near Mount Rainier.

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They are ready for their hike with Lance

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Little Ben, Big Trees

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Taking the oath of junior rangers

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The three newest Junior Rangers of Mount Rainier

We also spent a great afternoon checking out Mount Saint Helens. We drove partly around the mountain and then stopped to go for a hike in Lava Canyon.  The canyon has a river that has been there forever.  When the volcano erupted the lava flowed down through the canyon and hardened so now there are huge mounds and crevices.  It makes for some beautiful waterfalls.  It was a very nice hike over and through the hardened lava.  Near the end we “got to” cross a suspension bridge.  It was very high and very narrow and very scary when your boys purposely sway it back and forth!!  We got back to the car just in time for a gorgeous sunset.

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Mount Saint Helens

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The river and some of the waterfall in Lava Canyon

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There’s that karate kid again

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The kids and I on the suspension bridge

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Here comes Lance

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Our last sunset in Washington

That sums up our time in Washington. We were busy seeing so much, but there was so much more to see.  I hope that someday we can go back, it was definitely one of my favorite states.

P.S.  As I look over this post, I can’t help but notice that we saw A LOT of beautiful sunsets in Washington.  Hope you don’t get sick of sunset pictures!!

After Washington we headed south to Portland, Oregon…….

Autumn in Glacier National Park

September 25, 2015

We spent one very nice week at Glacier National Park from September 12 through 21. Most of that time we were camping at a KOA in West Glacier which turned out to be a perfect starting point for our adventures.

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Sam with some of the wood he found in the forest around the campground…we had to trim it down just a little!

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Sam made a Teepee out of some of the sticks that he brought back from the woods and Ben thought it was just the right size for him!

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This is our campsite at the West Glacier KOA.  I really liked staying there…I loved the view of the woods and mountains from our camper.  This is when we were all packed up and ready to head out, but at least we got a picture!!

On Monday (the 14th) we went into the park for the first time. Our first stop was the ranger station so that the kids could pick up their booklets to earn their junior ranger badge. They are really enjoying this activity. If you have kids, I would highly encourage you to check it out, it’s a pretty cool program and the kids learn quite a bit! Anyway….we planned to drive the Going-to-the-Sun road that day.

We started the drive, but stopped for the first time at Trail of the Cedars to go for a short hike. What a beautiful walk. It wasn’t all that long (maybe one mile total and it’s in a loop), but it took you right through the forest and along Avalanche Creek. There hasn’t been enough rain in Montana this summer so the creek was much lower than usual, but still very pretty. Because it was so much drier we were able to walk a little in the creek bed and cross the water using logs and rocks. Getting the kids to keep moving on the trail was like pulling teeth…they were having so much fun exploring. As you get to about the halfway point of the trail there is another trail that branches off and heads to Avalanche Lake. We were talking to some of the people coming back from that and they highly recommended it so we decided to do that hike another day. For me the highlight of the Trail of the Cedars was when you crossed the creek on a little bridge and looked upstream. The water was rushing through a narrow pass made of boulders and it wove its way toward you. It was breathtaking!! I would imagine it’s even more impressive when rushing with more water from the snow melting. The rest of the trail was nice too…the trees are amazing!! Huge Cedar and Hemlock trees reaching to the sky and the ground was covered in ferns and moss. I loved it!

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Trail of the Cedars and Abby

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Ben inside a tree

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Elise and a crazy looking tree…we thought it looked like a tree with a big nose!

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Joe tried running up the tree

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Joe, Sam and Abby crossing Avalanche Creek

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Ben, Lance and Rose showing off their big muscles!

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Ben and Lance crossing the creek and being goofy!  (They might be Dutch dancing…I’m not sure!)

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Elise and Abby inside another giant tree

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Avalanche Creek waterfall

We continued the drive after that, there was so much more to see! As we drove the road curved along with the river until we started climbing up the mountains. The fall colors were just getting pretty and the higher we got the more color there was. We could see amazing waterfalls like Birdwoman Falls which is 492 feet. We saw one glacier on the drive and got some pictures of that. We drove past the Weeping Wall where water is usually cascading down, but because of the dry summer it was just a little wet and dripping. We stopped at Logan’s Pass which is on the Continental Divide to look around. Later that afternoon we drove through parts of the park that had been on fire earlier this summer in some big forest fires. We finally made it to St. Mary’s Lake which is on the eastern end of the park and when we got to the entrance there we turned around and started going back the way we came. This time through we got to see a black bear making his way through a recovering burned area from few years ago. We also saw a mother and baby moose in the river. It was a long, but very good day!

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Driving the Going-to-the-Sun road you just kept seeing more and more of the beautiful mountains.  The river is below and Birdwoman Falls are in the background near the middle of the picture.

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Some of the pretty fall colors in the mountains

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Don’t you wonder what he’s thinking???  Probably something mischievous!

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Even on top of a mountain is a good time to read a book!

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Sam and Joe hanging on for dear life….or are they???

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One of the glaciers you can see from the drive.  Scientists predict that by the year 2030 all of the glaciers in the park will be gone.

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Where there had been a forest fire this summer

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The first black bear we saw

The next day we went back into the park and the kids turned in their booklets. Abby, Sam and Elise all earned their junior ranger badges which they were pretty proud of! We headed back to the Avalanche Creek area to begin our hike. Just as we were looking for a place to park we saw another black bear meandering around in the woods across the street from where the trail started. I was a little nervous about having all of us out of the car and beginning the hike with him so close, but he was headed the other way so we went anyway. It was going to be a longer hike this time….2 miles to get to the lake and then 2 miles back. I had packed a couple of diapers, wipes, snacks and water for the trip. We started out full of energy. The path was so pretty and interesting. I really don’t think I could get sick of looking at the enormous trees and mossy ground. The kids wanted to wander from the path every two minutes to check things out and we finally had to tell them that they could wander all they wanted to on the way back, but let’s just concentrate on getting there for the time being. When we were about 2/3 of the way to the lake Rosemary had a dirty diaper….and not just any dirty diaper! It was in her clothes and in the baby carrier I had her in. We laid her down on a little mossy rock and set to work cleaning that little lady up. She was cold and mad so she was screaming her little head off! (In case you’re wondering….no, we didn’t see any other bears on the hike…we didn’t even need to carry bear bells. They could probably hear our family from a mile away!!!) I hadn’t packed any extra clothes for her and it was a cool day and getting colder as we were hiking higher up the mountain (it was about 40-45 degrees when we got to the lake). She ended up wearing Ben’s fleece jacket on top and then we put her legs into the sleeves of Lance’s coat and wrapped that around her inside the baby carrier. Then we wrapped my jacket around her and the outside of the carrier! She looked a little goofy, but it was the best we could do! We finished the hike and were rewarded with a spectacular view of Avalanche Lake, the surrounding mountains and three waterfalls that were coming down by the lake. It was worth the hike! We hung out there for a while…enjoying the snacks and exploring the rocky beach. The kids had a lot of fun trying to catch one of the many chipmunks that were scurrying around. Finally it was time to head back. Surprisingly, the kids had plenty of energy to wander like we had promised them they would have the chance to do. We were all pretty tired, though, by the time we got back to the car so instead of going back to the campsite, we went out for pizza to finish the day!

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The second black bear we saw, right before our hike to Avalanche Lake

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Waterfalls along the trail

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Lance and Ben hiking….even though we had the backpack for Ben he preferred to walk most of the time

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This is how Rose looked near the beginning of the trail

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Joe exploring Avalanche Creek

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Ben found this branch and insisted on sweeping the path behind us…he takes it very literally when they say not to leave a trace!

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What a pretty trail to be on

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Our first glimpse of Avalanche Lake and Ben giving us a gun show!

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Joe’s out there on a stump doing the Karate Kid thing again!

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Avalanche Lake

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Look at how clear that water is!

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You can see the waterfalls coming down the mountains

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We sure did work hard for this family picture!!  (fyi…Elise had just finished crying from falling down a few minutes before, that’s why she looks so sad)

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Here’s Rosemary’s crazy get-up after her unfortunate diaper debacle!

The next couple of days Lance went to work. He goes into town and finds a place with wifi. The kids and I stayed at the campsite. They had fun going into the woods and collecting large sticks for our fire and Sam and Elise even went around and sold some bundles to other campers. They also did a scavenger hunt that I made up for them. They had to collect some of the things in a baggie and some of the things they just had to find and take a picture of. That was a lot of fun and they enjoyed that. On Friday we packed up the camper and left the KOA. We went for one last drive in Glacier and intended to hike to Hidden Lake, but when we got to Logan’s Pass it was so cold and windy that we changed our mind. We just enjoyed the drive instead!

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Another picture of the mountains….the colors had changed just a little bit more and the mountains were a little more hazy than a few days before.

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Little Rosemary sure does have some great big brothers who love her to pieces!!

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Elise and Rose…this was taken right after Ben face-planted into the lake and Lance took him back up to the car to find him some dry clothes.

We ended up driving for a little while, thinking we would leave Montana, but things weren’t going as planned so instead we stopped at a campground in Kalispell. We set up camp for that night and ended up staying three all together. The kids loved it there. Our site was right near the playground, a giant chess game, pedal carts and the hot tub. The most unique thing about that campground is their petting zoo….not so much the fact that they had one, but that during the day they let the animals roam all over the campground to explore and munch on grass. It was not uncommon to look out our camper window and see donkeys, ponies or lamas walking right next to it. There were also a couple of very friendly dogs and a cat. It was nice to stay a little longer there than we had intended. We had a lot of fun there.

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Eating lunch and hanging out with donkeys…pretty awesome!

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Elise at the playground

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Lance trying out one of the pedal carts

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Ben and the very friendly campground dog, Gabby

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Little Ben in his little chair while enjoying the campfire and a s’more

Well, after Montana we drove into Idaho and then into Washington…..but that’s another post for another day!


September 18, 2015

We spent a week exploring Yellowstone National Park between September 6th and September 11th.  It was extra special because we got to be there with my Mom and Dad!  My mom and dad have a motorhome that they camp in so they had the spot right next to us at the West Yellowstone KOA.  It was a great week.  We loved being with them and also loved seeing Yellowstone.  I had not been there since I was about 12 and Lance doesn’t remember being there at all so it all seemed new to us.

On Monday we went to see Old Faithful and took a walk on the boardwalk around the other smaller geysers and hot springs there.  Rose and I just did the smaller walk with them and then I went to feed her.  Lance and my mom took the other five on the larger loop so they got to see a lot more!    We also saw LOTS of buffalo roaming around the park that day and a couple of elk.

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Here we are by the sign for Old Faithful….unfortunately we didn’t get a picture while outside during the actual eruption!!  Can you believe it??!?

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Some of the cool geysers and pools that we saw on the walk near Old Faithful.

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A herd of buffalo

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Two elk that were just hanging out by the river as we drove by!

On Tuesday we went for a hike to see some mud pots and paint pots.  It was pretty amazing to see the earth just bubbling up like that.  The water was so beautifully clear too!  After the hike we had a nice picnic in the woods.  The kids had fun exploring there.

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Just about to start the hike.  I had to include this picture because of Ben….doesn’t he look adorable with his hat on backwards and his little “pack pack” he insisted on wearing?  You never know when you might need your trains, matchbox cars and plastic animals!!!

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Lance, Ben, my dad and Joe

I’m so glad that my kids have two great grandpas.  Ben sure does adore his “Bapa” and wants to be with him and help him any chance he gets!  We love to be around him too…my dad is such a fun guy, we are always laughing when he’s around!!

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Abby, my mom and Elise chatting together while they walk

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The mud is bubbling!!  So cool!!

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My mom and Elise

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My dad and Sam….you have to be sneaky to get a picture of Sam, he hates to have his picture taken!!

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Rose, the happy camper!!

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I call this one “Short Boy, Tall Trees”

On Wednesday we decided to relax at the campground for the first half of the day.  The kids went swimming and Ben and Rose had good naps (which were very needed!).  Lance, my dad and the boys all went out for a nice breakfast and to run a couple of errands and then my mom and I went shopping in West Yellowstone during the afternoon naptime.  We found some fun t-shirts and a couple little souvenirs.  That evening we went to Yellowstone and had the best hike of the week.  We went on a trail that switch-backed down the mountain to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and also the lower falls.  The view was unreal…it looked like a painting.  The canyon walls are a creamy light yellow and the blue water of the river below with the white rapids every so often is gorgeous enough, but put that against an amazing sunset…it’s almost too much!  That God would take the time and care to make a place so beautiful is a wonder to me!

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The hike down to the falls…switchbacks all the way

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My mom, me and Rose

My mom is so special to me.  She loves me unconditionally and has always been there for me.  Now, as an adult, I count her as one of my best friends, not just my mom.

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Joe, Abby, Sam and Elise looking down at the waterfall

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I promise…I didn’t do any editing to this picture.  Isn’t it beautiful???

After the hike we went out for dinner in the park and then started the drive home. By this time it was almost 10:00 so it was dark.  There are not a lot of lit areas in Yellowstone so we pulled into a turn-off in a meadow and just stood outside looking at the stars.  The ten of us were the only people around and it was quiet and cool outside.  I have never seen so many stars before!  We saw constellations, the Milky Way and even a few shooting stars.  Then, when we started driving again, a coyote crossed right in front of the car which was pretty cool to see.   It was such a special day.

Thursday we went back to the park to explore.  First we had a picnic by the river.  We found a wooly caterpillar and Sam and Elise were having fun playing with him.  They named him Buffy after all of the buffalo we had been seeing in the park.  After the picnic and a heartfelt good bye to Buffy we set out for our next stop.  We hiked the short trail/boardwalk to see the Grand Prismatic Spring.  It was impossible to capture how beautiful it was with the camera.  There were so many different colors in the water!  After that we drove to get ice cream by Yellowstone Lake and then went to Hayden’s Valley to look for animals with my dad’s new spotting scope.  Sam really enjoyed that!  We saw a herd of elk moving around the valley, a couple of bald eagles and a mother buffalo with her calf.  Sam also saw a family of wolves which was very exciting to him.  Around that time we noticed a large plume of smoke off in the distance.  We found out that there was a small forest fire a few miles away that had been started by lightning a couple of days before.  The park rangers were letting it burn, but watching it to make sure it didn’t get out of control.

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Sam exploring by the river before we had our picnic lunch

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Elise introducing Rosemary to Buffy.  

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Somehow this happened….Joe might have had something to do with it!!  Good thing Rose didn’t seem to mind.

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My mom and dad walking with Ben. 

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The Grand Prismatic Spring

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See???  You never know when you’ll feel the need to play with a train!!

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Ice cream at the general store next to Yellowstone Lake

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Friday morning we packed up to leave.  We just had a couple last things to do in Yellowstone.  First, we needed to take a picture by the Yellowstone sign….check!  Second, Sam and Elise needed to turn in their booklets to receive their Junior Ranger badges.  They were so excited!  In order for Sam to get his badge he had to answer a bunch of questions from a park ranger.  He did great and impressed the ranger with what he had learned that week.

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Good Bye Yellowstone…we had a great week of discovery, but there was so much more to see!  Hopefully we will get to go back in the next few years.

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Sam and the park ranger

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Elise and Sam….the newest Junior Park Rangers!

It was a very good week.  We had great weather…it was quite cool at night, but very pleasant during the day, the park was not too busy since it was not the peak season and we were able to have some great times with my mom and dad.  It was very hard to say good bye to them, not knowing how long it will be until we get to see them again.  They took off for Michigan and we headed north towards Glacier National Park.  On the way, we stopped in Helena, Montana to see the state capital.  It was a pretty evening to stop and stretch our legs.

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Joe was teaching Ben how to roll down the hill

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This sweet little lady is almost 9 months old….can hardly believe it!

We have been to 14 state capitals now.  If you want to check out the pictures from those stops just go to the State Capitals tab at the top right of the blog’s home page.

Two Weeks In The Dakotas

I wrote this post about a week ago, but because of the lack of time and available internet it is finally being published.  Here’s what we did in the Dakotas!

September 6, 2015

We just finished two weeks traveling around North and South Dakota. We first stopped in Pierre, South Dakota to see the capital. We stayed the night there and then after lunch and a picture by the capital building we took off again.

That afternoon (August 25th) we drove to De Smet. The only thing on the itinerary for De Smet was The Ingalls Homestead, which is where Laura Ingalls lived as a child with her family for 5 years. It was quite a bit of extra driving all the way to the east side of the state and the boys were apprehensive….but we all really loved it! You could explore a sod house and shanty house from way back and also a small house that was built to be just what they think the Ingalls house was like according to some paperwork that Charles Ingalls filed. Kids are encouraged to play with everything and experience everything just like they are living on the prairie. I thought it was so cool that they have all of these old antiques like dishes, sewing machine, an organ, children’s school primers and more and the kids could just touch and play to their heart’s content. Abby and Elise had a great time playing house in the little shanty. Abby also tried out the old sewing machine in the Ingalls’ house and they all played the organ. My favorite was watching them all so excited to wash clothes on a washboard and then put them through the ringer and hang them to dry outside the little house. They loved it and said they would want that to be their chore if we did wash that way….yeah, right!! Maybe they’ve never noticed how much laundry 8 people get dirty, but they would be doing wash ALL THE TIME!! There was a barn with chickens, kittens and a calf and also a water pump that they had fun using to fill a bucket to water the garden with. Elise and Ben also got to drive a little pony cart which they loved and Abby, Sam and Elise got to go for horse rides. We took a covered wagon ride through the field to a one room school house that was built in the late 1800s. The kids had fun sitting in the very old desks, using slates and looking through the primers that kids used back then. Abby, Sam and Elise each got to have a turn at the reins as we rode the wagon back to the barn.  Then, Abby and Elise made corn cob doll families and all of the kids made their own rope to bring home.  We were there for about 5 hours and we easily could have stayed more, but they were closing. Our girls could have spent many more hours playing house!

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Ingalls’ Homestead…you could stay the night if you wanted to rent a covered wagon to sleep in.  In the background is the horse-drawn covered wagon on the way from the schoolhouse to the barn.

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Lance and Rosemary in the sod house

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Doing wash….scrubbing, putting it through the ringer and hanging it to dry.  (can I just say…I’m super glad someone invented washers and dryers???)

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Ben playing with the dishes and cookstove in the Ingalls’ house

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Ben driving the pony cart

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Abby and Elise loved the aprons and bonnets they got to wear in the schoolhouse!

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Sam driving the team back to the barn

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Lance, Joe and Sam practicing their lasso skills

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We decided to drive, drive, drive late into the night after that to get closer to Bismarck, North Dakota. We stopped and saw the capital the next afternoon (August 26th) and then got back in the car for the long haul to Rapid City. On the ride east through the state we had come across field after field of sunflowers. I love sunflowers and, of course, we had to stop and take some pics of the kids in them. On the ride back to the western part of South Dakota we happened upon the best sunflower field yet and so we stopped once again. The rest of my family were very good sports as we all emptied out of the car to take more pictures.

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Me and this cute guy in the first sunflower field we stopped at

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The kids in front of the second one…so many more sunflowers blooming here!!

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The Black Hills in South Dakota was an area that we were really looking forward to with all of the amazing things to see and we were not disappointed! We found a great campground to stay at that was just outside of the city of Custer. On Thursday, we went to see Crazy Horse mountain in the morning. It was neat to see, but we wouldn’t spend the money to see it again. You can’t really get up close to it and you can get a great picture of it from the highway. After that we went to see Mount Rushmore and had a picnic lunch there. Being there makes you feel patriotic and thankful that our country has had so many great men who helped it take shape. Men who based their leadership on what God’s word says, not on what furthers their political carreer. At least that’s my take on it.

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Crazy Horse

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Mount Rushmore

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After Mt. Rushmore we drove through Custer State Park. That’s a beautiful place! We were hoping to come across a herd of buffalo, but only saw a few that day. We did get to see the wild burros though. We fed them apples that we had bought that morning specifically for that purpose. That was a lot of fun. Ben would throw down an apple slice and sternly command them to “EAT, EAT!” They obeyed, much to his delight.

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Elise hanging out with a couple of burros

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“EAT, EAT!!”

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Even wild burros need hugs sometimes

On Friday Lance and the four older kids went to see Rushmore Cave. They took a tour there and saw some cool things. I stayed home with Ben and Rose so they could get some good afternoon naps. We have found that if Ben goes more than two days without a nap he quickly starts turning into a little purple minion!!!

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The city of Custer is in the Black Hills which makes for lots of curves and steep ups and downs through the mountains. We saw many mountain sheep, antelope, white tail deer and mule deer while we were driving around the area. We especially had fun driving at dusk when it was “supper time” for the animals. We would see so many deer then and also saw buffalo and a coyote.

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On Saturday, the 29th, we took a drive to the Badlands. You come up to them sort of ‘all at once’ and it almost seems like you are on another planet! What an amazing landscape! It was about 100 degrees that day so we didn’t hike as much as we had intended, but we did have fun driving through and getting out and exploring a couple of times.                  

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The Badlands

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Joe (he’s getting really good at this pose!!)

On the way back to the campground we stopped at Bear Country.  My Grandpa Haveman had recommended it to us a few times so we decided to stop there.   It’s a drive through animal park where you see many different animals including buffalo, elk, mountain sheep, wolves and, of course, bears.  The second part is where you see smaller animals and also the baby animals.  We saw badgers, baby deer, a beaver, baby arctic foxes and the bear cubs.  We had a lot of fun there.  Near the end Ben found out that the water mister is great fun, so he left the place soaking wet!

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The cute bear cubs

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Joe, you crack me up!!

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Even Rose got a bear hug

On Sunday Lance left early in the morning to drive back to Kansas City. He needed to finish up a job that he had been working on there. The kids and I stayed at Beaver Lake Campground for that week while he was gone and still managed to have lots of fun even though we missed him! We enjoyed the pool and water slide at the campground some of the time, but also ventured out to explore. I had let the kids each vote for one activity that they would love to do that week. On Monday (August 31st) we went to Old MacDonald’s Farm which is like a big petting zoo. Since school has started here we enjoyed having the place almost all to ourselves. We fed chickens, rode ponies, held baby chicks, watched a pig race and more. It was lots of fun and we all had a good day. This had been Abby and Elise’s activity pick and they were very happy with their choice.

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Elise, Sam and Ben rode the little barrel train around the farm.

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Ben trying to get the chickens to eat gravel he had just picked up….sort of like the wild burros all over again!

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Abby bottle feeding a lamb

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Rose looks pretty impressed that Elise gets to hold the little chick

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On Tuesday (September 1st) we went to Keystone to tour the Thunderhead Gold Mine and go gold panning. That was a fun experience. This was Sam’s pick for an activity. He has been hoping to strike it rich with gold panning since we got to Colorado! Well, we didn’t find enough to pay for the tour….but we did find a few small gold flakes and it was a fun thing to do. Sam is still holding out hope that we will come upon a stream where he will find gold nuggets while panning.  After leaving Keystone we drove through Custer State Park again and this time we got to see LOTS of buffalo! They were all around the car and crossing right in front of us. It was so cool!

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During the mine tour

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Panning for gold

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It was pretty neat to be surrounded by the buffalo.  We felt safe in the big suburban, but the couple on a motorcycle next to us were a little more nervous!

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Joe’s activity pick was hiking so we did that Wednesday evening (September 2nd). We took a drive on Needle’s Highway which was spectacular! We stopped and had a picnic for supper along the way so that was the first place they went hiking. All four kids just disappear up into the rocks and trees and then I see them later at the top of giant rocks or on a cliff above me.  They sure love exploring! After driving through some very small tunnels and up the crazy winding roads we got to the Needle’s Eye. The sun was just setting and it was a beautiful time to be up there. The kids hiked around until it was almost dark and then we headed back down to the campground.

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Picnic Time

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Me and our little Rosemary

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That’s Joe up there….yes, that same pose!!

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The view you see while driving along Needles Highway

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This is the Needles Eye tunnel that we had just driven through.  Joe and Sam hiked around the side and are in that opening right above the tunnel

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Friday morning Lance got back home and we were so glad to see him!! We left the campground that afternoon and drove into Wyoming. It started storming and was getting late so we decided to stop for the night at Devil’s Tower. We camped in the national park campground right there. When we got up in the morning it was pretty neat to look out the window and see high red cliffs in front of us and the Devil’s Tower behind us.

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Now we are heading down to Yellowstone to spend the week there. We will see if I packed enough clothes for everyone for cold weather as this week looks to be pretty chilly, especially at night.

Colorado…..week 3 of 3 (maybe we should move here!!)

Last week (August 16-22) we spent with my parents and also my sister, brother-in-law and their kids. For a few days we stayed at Trail Creek Ranch which is in the middle of NOWHERE, but so GREAT!! My mom had found it on Vacation Rental By Owner. On our way out to the ranch Lance and I were both thinking….did we miss the turn?? Could it really be 45 minutes down this dirt road?? But, boy, was it a nice place to escape to. The house was old (built around 1900), was right next to a river and had acres and acres of beautiful fields and rocky hills around it. It backed up to state land so there really was NOTHING around! The owner told us that we could explore wherever we wanted to.   On Wednesday most everyone went white water rafting and had a great time. I stayed home with Ben, Rose and my niece, Natalie. We enjoyed our quiet day at home, catching up on laundry and checking out the land around the house. We found an old truck and tractor that Ben had fun climbing on and Natalie and I kept our eye out for bears which the owner had told us come down to the river by the house quite a bit to eat the berries. We never did see any bears, but it could be because of our wildlife repellant (ten loud and energetic children running around)!!!

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Ben “driving” the old tractor

There were some buildings near the house that were pretty cool too. One was in the process of being carefully taken apart to be moved about 6 miles away because of it’s historical significance. It was an old barn(built around 1900) and was used by Buffalo Bill Cody to house elephants that were part of his traveling wild west show. We were also pretty lucky to have Greg (the man taking apart the barn)there because he rescued Rose for me. She had taken a nap in one of the upstairs bedrooms, but when I went to get her up the door was stuck shut. I tried and tried to get that thing open all while she was screaming inside. Since everyone else was gone on the rafting trip I was getting a little anxious. I went out and asked him for help and after slamming into the door a few times with all his strength he got it open. We brought him a “thank you” gift in the form of fudge oatmeal bars the next day!

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Trail Creek Ranch house

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The barn building used by Buffalo Bill Cody for his elephants

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A couple of outbuildings

On Thursday some of the group also went on a train ride through the Rocky Mountains and went on a mine tour. The miner who led the tour was a whethered retired miner. He gave Abby and Sam each a rock that had a layer of gold running through it at the end of the tour which made their day.

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Abby and Jon riding the train

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Abby and Jon at the mine

Once again, the kids had a great week with cousins fishing, writing stories, hiking and playing games.

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Ben and Grandpa playing in the cold water of the river that was next to the ranch house

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Ben in the field in front of the house.  The sun rose right over those mountains….and we usually got to see it because Rose was quite the early bird!!

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Campfire time and cousin time for Joe, Ben and Ethan

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Elise and Rosemary in the house

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The morning that we left the ranch we saw this big horned sheep next to the road.

Friday we headed back into town to stay a couple of nights at a hotel in preparation for the event of the week…my brother’s wedding!  We also got to meet, for the very first time, my new niece, Olivia.  She was born only three weeks after Rosemary so hopefully they will grow up to be good buddies despite the distance apart.  Saturday (the 22nd) was the big day. Ben and Kelsey had a very nice ceremony at a the beautiful Tapestry House near Fort Collins. Afterwards we had a great time at the reception….eating a delicious dinner, visiting with people and dancing. We also had to say goodbye to my sister and her family that night, they left to drive through the night back to Michigan. We will probably not be seeing them for quite a few months so it was a hard goodbye.

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Just Married!!  Ben and Kelsey with sweet little Olivia

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Sisters all dressed up and having fun celebrating

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Sisters…enjoying our last evening together of the week.  That was a hard good bye.

The next morning we went out for breakfast with my parents. We parted ways with them then, but at least it’s only for a couple of weeks!

Well, now we are driving through South Dakota so the next post will probably be about that!!

Colorado…..week 2 of 3 (this state is awesome!)

Our second week in Colorado (August 9-15) Lance needed to be back in Kansas City for work, but the kids and I stayed at a Jellystone Park near Larkspur since we would need to be back in Colorado for the following week anyway. A HUGE blessing to me was that my parents were able to come to Colorado a week early and camp next to us for that week. It was so great to spend time with them and also to have a couple more adults to wrangle all of the kids! The kids made friends with the kids that lived at the campground so they were busy playing GaGa Ball and basketball every chance they got

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On Wednesday we went to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings which are Native American homes built into the red rock cliffs dating back to 1100-1300 AD. It was very interesting to read the history as we went through and the kids loved that you could just explore and play in so many of the buildings.  Wednesday was also Lance’s birthday! We missed spending his special day with him, but got ice cream in his honor!! IMG_9539 - Copy

Joe, Rosemary and me with my mom

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Ben kept trying to hide his sippy cup in the little openings

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This boy was quite a little dirt ball when we were done there!

Lance was back in CO on Friday and we all went on the Cog Train up Pike’s Peak. It was a pretty ride and we saw lots of deer (with crazy big antlers) and lots of Marmets.  I think if we were to do it again, I would leave the littlest two with a babysitter.  I thought that Ben would love the train, but after 10 minutes he was ready for what’s next and we still had an hour and twenty minutes until the top!  The top of the mountain was a bit disappointing because the clouds blocked any view of the valley below, but we still enjoyed our fresh hot donuts and picking out postcards! - Copy

The view from the cog train as we headed up Pike’s Peak

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It was cold up at the top!  Rose got to wear a hat that my Grandma Wolters had made for Elise when she was a baby.

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Rose riding the big horned sheep in the gift shop

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Joe, Lance and Ben with the cog train behind them.  You can also see how cloudy it was at the top!

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Rose and her Grandma Haveman

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At the top of Pike’s Peak

Friday also happened to be my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary so after the train ride we went home and they went out for a quiet dinner together. I am so thankful for their example of commitment to God and each other over the years. IMG_9843 - Copy

Happy 40th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

That weekend we all (my parents and us) headed to Boyd Lake State Park, north of Denver a little bit. We stayed there for Sunday and Monday night. It was a nice park where Sam could go fishing, there were hiking paths all around, a basketball court for Joe and a sand box and swing set right next to our sights. Ben made some friends and had fun sharing his beach toys with them in the sand box. He also found out what happens when you poke a busy ant hill over and over that’s filled with short-tempered red ants. Poor little guy, had them crawling inside his shirt and shorts in no time and had quite a few bites, but he recovered pretty quickly!IMG_5426 - Copy

Ben hiking.  He loves to pick up sticks to use as canes and guns.

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The beautiful sunset we saw from our campsite one evening

We took a day trip to go hiking again in Rocky Mountain park and hiked to the Eugenia mine.  It was a sunny day when we left on the 2.8 mile round trip hike, but when we reached the mine it started to thunder, lightning and then rain.  We would have loved to explore a little more, but headed back to the car.  The storm was over before we were halfway back so we still got to enjoy our picnic lunch in the park.              - Copy

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This is near the mine before it started raining.  There was an ice cold little stream and you used the logs to get over it.

That marks the end of the second week in Colorado….stay tuned for the third week!!


Colorado….week 1 of 3 (we love it here!)

July 26, 2015

Well, I have so much to catch up on! We have just spent the last three weeks in Colorado and loved it!!!  Since I’m trying to cover so much time at once, I’m going to break this up into three separate posts.

For the first week (August 1-8) we were near Parker, Colorado and got to meet up with Lance’s brother and sister-in-law and their kids who we haven’t seen in over three years. His parents and sister also made the trip out so the whole family was together.    This week had a few “firsts” for me….first time jumping at Skyzone (which was a BLAST!), first time looking around at IKEA (had always wondered what it was like and now I know I want to go back someday!) and first time being at the top of one of Colorado’s “Fourteeners” (a mountain with an elevation of at least 14,000).

The highlight of the week was staying at the YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park ( for a couple of nights as a family. Everyone stayed busy with all of the fun activities they had to offer….tennis, mini-golf, basketball, dodge ball or just taking a walk and enjoying the beauty of the mountains.   We also went for a hike around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was a beautiful day to be there and the kids loved climbing the giant rocks that were along the way.

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Walking to breakfast at the YMCA…look at that view!

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Elise at the playground

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I signed Elise and Ben up for the “Bugs, Bugs, Bugs” class.  The instructor taught a little about insects and then sent the kids outside with cups to catch some bugs.  Elise caught a worm and a potato bug and Ben caught a worm.  At the end of the class they all let their bugs go.  At one point the instructor was showing the kids a daddy long legs and talking about some of its features.  Ben came right up to him, looked at the daddy long legs and (much to the horror of the instructor) proceeded to step on the bug three or four times.  It was definitely dead.  The guy just kind of stood here with his mouth open and didn’t know what to say.  Ben just wandered off to catch more bugs.

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Cousins, cousins, cousins!!  Youngest to oldest

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Grandpa and Grandma with all of the grandkids

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Kornoelje Family Photo

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Scampering up the rocks like mountain goats

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Sam, the Magnificent!!

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Joe channeling a little Lion King with Rosemary

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Joe and Uncle Jeff taking a selfie

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Joe and his Grandpa Kornoelje

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On our way out of the park we stopped at this beautiful meadow.  I just loved the flowers and birch trees!

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On Thursday we drove to the top of Mount Evans (elevation 14,130).  I’m not normally a wimp when it comes to heights…but when Lance was driving the curvy, narrow road up the mountain and I could look straight down hundreds of feet I have to admit…I didn’t love it.  Once we were at the top, though, I felt a little better and even let some of the kids get out of the car.  (Don’t worry, Ben stayed in the car.  Are you kidding??  With how fast that man is??  He would have been somersaulting down the mountain in no time!)  Everyone loved the mountain sheep that were perched on rocks and nimbly climbing around.  We also stopped about half way down to check out Lake Echo and let Ben get out to stretch his legs.

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Lance, Joe, Jeff and Lynsey biking down the mountain  (sort of)

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On the way back to Parker Lance and I stopped to explore the Red Rocks (   Joe and Abby had ridden back with their cousins so we only had the younger 4.  Sam and Elise climbed all over the rock formations until we noticed a small sign saying “no climbing”.  Ooops

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Ben……licking the rock?!?!?!  Well, they just said “no climbing”, they never said anything about licking them!

It was great watching all of the cousins get to know each other again. The older ones took great care of the younger ones and the younger ones adored the older ones. They played checkers, Wii and cards together (and now our family loves to play “I doubt it”).  We had a pool/pizza party together one night and a campfire with s’mores another night. We said good bye to Jeff & Holly and family Thursday night.

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Ben and Wynter with CeCe the bunny

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Rosemary and Avery

Friday we went to visit Focus on the Family with Lance’s parents and sister and then said good bye to them also. That afternoon we drove around a little and decided to go see a lake we saw some signs for, but we made a wrong turn and instead found ourselves heading up a mountain on a narrow dirt road.  Mount Herman is definitely not a fourteener, but we sure had fun exploring when we got to the top!

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See what happens when we let Ben drive??

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Even Rose loves to climb!!

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Joe the Karate Kid

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Abby and Ben

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Lance, always the rebel!!

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My Mountain Men