Friday, September 30, 2016

Volcano Questions

Michal wrote about our recent trip to Idaho, which included Craters of the Moon National Monument. We spent oodles of time in the car with a five, four, and not quite two year old. While we were driving through the volcanic landscape, Theo (and Vivian contributed a time or two) came up with the following questions about the scenery:

How can a volcano spread this much out? (Many volcanoes)
How can it spread this wide? (see above)
How big tall and wide was the volcano? (Many volcanoes)
What was its name? (Lots of names, including one called Inferno)
Was it a stratovolcano? (No)
How many trees used to be here? 
What did the early days look like before the volcano erupted?
How much lava did the volcano throw out?
How many houses did the volcano knock down?
How many people died?
Does the volcano have gas in it?
Did this road get knocked off?
How many rivers had the lava in it?

The short answer to most his questions (we asked a ranger on duty): It was a lot of different volcanoes over a very long period of time (certainly to a five year old).

Monday, September 12, 2016

Labor Day Vacation: Idaho

With Theo and Vivian attending the same school now (and their first day coming on Wednesday 9/6) I took three days off around Labor Day and we headed East to check out Boise and Craters of the Moon. You can view the entire album on Google Photos, or check out this play-by-play:

Day 1: Thursday, Sep 1

We rolled out of Seattle around 9am with a scheduled stop at Mt. View RV Park in Baker City, Oregon, a roughly six hour, 368-mile drive. We stopped in Kennewick, WA to eat some fast food (complete with indoor playground) then hit a highway closure in Oregon due to an accident; we found a way around to the next exit which involved off-roading on a barely maintained dirt road only to find that the highway was still closed, so we went back over the dirt road and on to the next exit where we found an open road.

Arriving at the campsite we found it to be ideal: it had a pool, paved roads (so the kids could ride their bikes) and our site was right next to the playground. We did all of the above.

We didn't know it yet, but this would be the best campground we'd stay at on the trip. It even had awesome signs at the pool:

There was even a fly-over by two fire-fighting helicopters! (We saw lots of evidence of wildfires later on in the trip).

Day 2: Friday, Sep 2

We woke up, packed up, and went three miles to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City -- something we hadn't planned on doing but we found the sign when we arrived and decided to check it out. It was amazing -- really well done, and Theo in particular got a lot out of it -- we think perhaps because his school had studied immigrants last year. First we hopped into a wagon outside:

Then we went inside and saw the diorama of life on the Oregon Trail:

We sat down for a bit to watch a brief portion of a brief film on the trail, before going through a simulated journey on the trail complete with five stops where the kids rubbed a crayon on a brass plate to color in a personalized pamphlet of their journey:

After the Oregon trail, we hit the road in earnest to make Arco, Idaho -- just past Craters of the Moon national monument, a 4-hour, 47-minute drive over 313 miles. We stopped in Craters of the Moon itself (about 15 minutes before Arco) to take in the visitor center and an initial drive around the 7-mile loop; we stopped to do the 1/3rd mile loop at North Crater (Theo's choice). It was an incredibly windy day.

We learned about two types of lava, ah-ah (rough) and pahoehoe (smooth). We learned about cinder cones.

We also stopped at Snow Cone (Vivian's choice) and Spatter Cones and got to go inside one!

The entire landscape is incredibly surreal.

After the two stops (plus the visitor center) at Craters of the Moon we went to the KOA in Arco and made camp and a quick dinner. The campground was so-so: there was a pool but it was tiny and cold (and the weather was cold, like the rest of the trip), the roads unpaved (making for tougher biking) and the playground was teeny tiny and distant from our site. The kids did take the dog to the off-leash area. This is what our camp looked like at night after everyone was in bed:

Day 3: Saturday, Sep 3

The saving grace of the KOA was the free breakfast waffles starting at 9am. After a scrumptious meal we headed back to Craters of the Moon. Everyone got to choose one activity again today. First up was Xavier's "choice" (meaning we picked something we thought he would like, and boy were we right): a sculpture you could walk through that was a model of a lava tube, but Xavier called a "tunnel".

Then we went to Theo's choice, the Tree Molds where imprints of 2,000-year-old trees were visible in the lava. This of course involved a 2-mile round trip hike.

For our final activity, Vivian's choice (but really also mine, and not to mention that Theo was also totally into this): "Bat Hunting" or looking for bats in the lava tubes. Of course as soon as we got inside an actual dark tube, the kids pretty much flipped out and wanted to get out so we went to Indian Tunnel, a tube with a lot of collapsed ceiling (it's safe! really!) so it was pretty light inside.

The last thing we did on our way out of Craters of the Moon was to stop and get the kids "sworn in" as Junior [Moon] Rangers. Vivian wasn't sure which hand was her right hand so she just raised both.

Then we drove to Boise, staying at a primitive camp site (no electricity, no running water) at Macks Creek Park -- a 3:16-hour, 199-mile drive. But first we had to deal with the cattle. Some ranchers decided to use the US highway to move their cows, while our kids were sleeping in the car -- super stressful since we weren't going anywhere fast which tends to wake them up.

We later discovered this was the result of driving through the cattle:

Anyway, this was the primary goal of the entire trip: the Sandy Point State Park beach at Lucky Peak Reservoir in Boise. Sarah and I went on a pre-kids tour of the western US and we were coming into Boise in 99 F heat and happened across this sandy lake, and found it wonderful; it was a little bit less wonderful in 73 degree weather but the kids loved the sand anyway (and are willing to get slightly wet in cold).

The campground at Macks Creek was pretty bad, no facilities, loud neighbors, dust everywhere. But the views were great, and the sunset wonderful.

Day 4: Sunday, Sep 4

Although our planned called for spending two nights at Macks Creek, with the weather forecast getting worse (it rained in the morning in fact, but only enough to get the trailer wet and not enough to get rid of any of the dust) we decided to bail out of Boise. Macks Creek had no cell phone coverage so we figured we'd pack up and go into town and try and re-schedule our Monday night reservation. We did so successfully after a brief visit to the water, and we gave the kids the choice of visiting either the aquarium or the zoo and although they picked the aquarium, once we were done (it was tiny!) they wanted to go to the zoo. We drove by but didn't feel inspired to pay another $10/person for another one-hour attraction so we left.

We stopped for lunch in Baker City (the same town we camped the very first night), then found an ice cream parlor, then an awesome oregon trail-themed playground, and two hours later kept going to Hat Rock campground.

This was the only campfire we had on the entire trip!

Ever wondered what taking down our trailer looks like? Here's a timelapse that shows the entire ~30 minute process in 26 seconds:

Monday, Sep 5

After leaving Hat Rock Campground we drove 40 minutes to the Playground of Dreams in the tri-cities (Washington). It's really called that, and it's pretty awesome but there's another one like it in Shelton, WA so it's not the only place in the world you can find it. Then all-you-can-eat pizza lunch buffet, and then a drive to the KOA in Ellensburg, WA. The KOA was awesome, because it had a kiddie pool! Alas it was too cold and windy, and although it was sunny when we arrived, it was quickly overcast with forecast of heavy rain in the morning. We set up camp at 3pm, swam, walked around, cooked dinner, then around 7pm bailed out: packed up and drove home.