Friday, June 27, 2014

Oregon in pictures

Here are pictures from our last two weeks on the Oregon coast.  Driving to the coast, we took a road that has been declared one of the most scenic drives in the U.S.  Here's one picture of a view:

We arrived at Fort Stevens State Park, which is known for the Peter Iredale shipwreck, where our young, aspiring pirates were happy to play.

Cannon Beach

Y's 6th birthday celebration, in his 6th birthday wetsuit!

This is probably not the best way to scope out a big gun, but it was interesting exploring the fort here at Fort Stevens

The first time we went to Cannon Beach, the roads were packed and traffic was at a standstill.  We saw a sign on the road that there was an event in Cannon Beach that day.  We figured we were going to that event, even if it were for the National Outhouse Cleaners' Annual Assembly, just because we were caught in the traffic.  Fortunately, the event turned out to be the 50th annual sandcastle competition, and we saw some amazing castles.  In this picture, you can see the best castle - a fish playing the cello.

This is the view from Cape Disappointment.  Gorgeous!  The short building near the lighthouse is where we were able to watch the Coast Guard work.

Lots of movies were filmed in Astoria, including the Goonies.  Apparently, we watched this the week Char and I met, but I didn't really remember that at all, as my mind was on the proximity of the man who would be my future husband.  Here, we walked to the Goondocks.

Getting a historical trolley tour of Astoria

Dressing up as settlers and Indians at the Lewis and Clark museum at Fort Clatsop

Our "scooter friends" from Louisiana arrived for our second week here, and the scootering began!  Yes, the 8 kids are sitting here to scooter, as they're about to go down a decently steep hill in a pack.

I love tide pools!  This is at Ecola State Park.  Fantastic!

More Ecola

Climbing, jumping, somersaulting, and enjoying the dunes at Fort Stevens

We got to climb the Astoria Column
to see this view
and to launch airplanes to the grounds and forests below.

I love the misty Oregon weather, and even love the rain!  Plus, it's so fun to look out and see your kids enjoying the rain like this:

And that's a picture of our last two weeks.  I do think Oregon is my favorite state.  Absolutely beautiful and so fun!  We wish you a similarly great week!
love from the Utter Family

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Northern coast of Oregon

Hello from the northern coast of Oregon!

This blog may be seriously lacking in photos, which is a shame as Oregon is amazingly beautiful, but my internet quality is quite lacking.  So, here's a description of Fort Stevens State Park, and our time in this area.

We arrived at Fort Stevens Park, which is an wonderful park.  There's ocean beach with great sand dunes to somersault down and carve into random creations.  At the bottom of the dunes, there's great sand to walk along the ocean, and you can also see a sunken ship.  It's rusty metal, huge and imposing, and it's a great attraction to play on if your kids believe they might be pirates.  The coast is rather misty, but it's so pleasant, when you've spent the last 3 months and 3 days without any rain.  I love the rain!  It's cooler here, which made me look up the average temperature for the area.  In the summer, the average high for the day is 70, and in the winter the average high is 50.  It's an area with perpetual spring weather, and in my mind, nothing could be better than that!

We've driven around the area to get to some sights.  There's a lot of Lewis and Clark exhibits around here, as this is where they made their winter home.  (Insert a mental picture of our family dressed in colonial and Indian garb from the visitor center.)  Lewis and Clark weren't quite as enamored with the place as I am.  One of the places we visited they'd named "Cape Disappointment."  I found Cape Disappointment to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  There's lots of lush, green rain forest with the best wildflowers to walk through to get to a nice lighthouse.  There was also a coast guard station there, and the workers allowed us to use their binoculars to look at the ocean and river, and look at their charts as they kept watch over the area.  The Columbia River enters here, and sailing it is declared to be the most dangerous way to enter the U.S.  It was really neat to kind of patrol the area ourselves.  And so beautiful!  There's another area called "Dismal Nitch," where Lewis and Clark were stuck for five days in a rainy cove, trying to escape the raging sea.  Driving the whole area was gorgeous!

The people here are very friendly, which is nice!  While we were in the desert in the southwest, we'd noticed that no matter how many times we said "hi" to people, no one would reply.  Here, we feel very welcomed.  We enjoyed the church we attended on Sunday, so tonight we'll be going to their worship, campfire and s'mores on the beach.  Should be nice!

Overall, we choose to live in Ohio because of the people, but if I were to choose a place to live based on the beauty, the springtime weather, the little towns and nice people, I think I'd choose the northern coast in Oregon.  Of course, we still get to see the northern part of the U.S. on our eight-month tour, so we'll see if this remains my favorite, but so far, I love Oregon!

Speaking of the eight-month tour, we are planning on buying a house back in our old town in Ohio.  The home inspection will be done tomorrow, and things are moving forward well, so we intend to be back in August.

As for next week, we'd intended to be at a state park in Washington.  However, they called and had double-booked the campsite, so we were without any plans for next week.  It's really hard to find campsites around here for a week, when so many reservations are made so far in advance!  I wasn't finding anywhere for us to stay at all.  Finally, as we like this area so much, I looked into staying here another week.  The weekend times were, of course, booked solid.  When I went up to the ranger station, someone had just canceled for the exact dates we needed, so we'll be staying here for another great week.  Making this news even better, our "scooter friends," as our kids call the family we met in New Orleans, will be joining us and camping with us next week.  Should be great!

Hopefully sometime, I'll be able to post some pictures of beautiful Oregon!  And some birthday pictures of our cute birthday Y!  We had fun celebrating his birthday at an indoor water park.  (Insert a mental picture of Y looking like a surfer in his birthday wet suit, which we bought him along with tons of legos, since he's always the coldest every time we get in the water.)  He was not cold and had a great birthday!

Hopefully you're having a great week!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sled riding down a volcano on a dinner plate... and other Oregon adventures

We've arrived in Oregon, which is incredibly beautiful, particularly when you love waterfalls!  Many thanks to Melenie and Katie for all the Oregon advice!

When I chose to see Crater Lake in June, I had some people advise us that we "might still be dealing with some snow at that time."  I thought, "How much snow can there really be in June?"

We arrived at Crater Lake, and these poles are along the roads in the National Park, so that they park service can see where to plow.  Kind of like the short poles my dad puts near his driveway.  These poles are 18 feet tall.  Crater Lake gets an average of 533 inches of snow each year.  For perspective, my town in Ohio gets an average of 47 inches of snow each year.

Each side of the road is still piled with snow, often taller than our ridiculously large truck!  Also, over half the roads are not yet open in the park because of the snow.

Here's a picture of our kids sliding down the snow pile.  There is no hill under this snow, it's just snow that was piled near a parking lot.  Crazy!

We enjoyed this so much that we came back later in the week, this time prepared with dinner plates, stopping at a small volcanic mountain to sled ride.  Some adventures on this trip make my "most memorable" list.  Sled riding on dinner plates down a volcano in June makes this list!

So how much snow can there be in June?  Hmm.  I stand corrected.

Crater Lake itself is amazingly beautiful.  Char declared it the most scenic thing we've seen so far.  We love this!

While in Oregon, we're camping near a river that flows extremely quickly.  The water speed could fill an Olympic-sized pool in a minute.  We're keeping our kids away from the edge.

We also got to hike to a bunch of waterfalls, which I love!!!

And we went to Natural Bridges.  The Rogue River flows through lava tubes from the volcano.  Most of the tubes have collapsed, but parts have not, and so the river goes underground in those places, creating the natural bridges.  Char and the boys had fun crossing this natural bridge and looking at the potholes.

Oregon is a wonderful state!  We're also really limited on technology, needing to leave our campground if we want to make phone calls or get internet.  If you're trying to reach us, and we're not replying, that's why!

Hope all is going well for you!!  Much love from the Utter family!

P.S.  While in Utah, students of the Utter Roadschool picked up a cinematography elective, and here's the result.

Tae Kwon Do Bear

Friday, June 6, 2014

Free book!

I started this blog as a travel blog, to keep my family and friends updated on where we are and what we're doing.  I also discovered it works well as my version of scrapbooking, so I can remember our special memories of what we've done.  It's been fun!

I know some strangers have found this blog out in internet land, and I hope it's useful to you as you plan family trips!

I'd also say that if you read this and don't know that I love Jesus and that He can give you purpose, meaning, life, love, joy, and peace, that I want you to know that.  Does that sound annoying?  Like someone knocking on your door and saying, "Let me tell you about my religion?"  Yes, that annoys me, too.  Still if you're looking for love or meaning, Jesus gives these.

If you're willing to hear about Jesus and the difference He makes in my life, you can get my book for free today (Saturday) and for the next two days.  It's a devotional for moms called, "The Prince of Peace and the Pancake Flippers," and it's available on amazon.  It has Bible verses and lots of stories from my life with my family that maybe you'll find amusing.  They were hilarious to me!  But more importantly, maybe God will use this devotional to deepen your knowledge of Him and of our lives.

You can click on the link on the right hand side of this blog, or use
Share this with whomever you wish since amazon doesn't allow many free days for ebooks!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

California Mish-mash

Hi Everyone, and Happy Summer Vacation to a lot of you who read this blog!

Summer vacation is going well here in northern California.  It's a little confusing, being on the road, as our summer vacation temperature is the lower 70s, which is almost exactly the average temperature we had in our winter and our spring.  I'm noticing that time passes strangely without different seasons to mark the time.  It's fun, though, always having nice weather!

Not all campgrounds are created equal, even if our temperatures have been pretty equal.  If you ever travel the country in an RV, you'll discover you have two main options in campgrounds.  You can stay in a RV park, which has the benefits of 50 amp electricity, water, sewer, and internet.  If you were camping for a week of vacation in the summer, you would NOT want to stay in one of these.  We've stayed some RV parks like this, and the view can be an amazing one of staring into your neighbors' camper, while being so close to them that the awning on your fifth wheel might hit them.  However, when you're living life on the road, these RV parks are sometimes necessary.  Particularly if your husband is trying to support the family by working from home and needing a constant internet connection.  It's worth it because of all the adventures and sights to drive to, but not overly scenic.  This is the kind of "campground" we stayed at much of the time while we were in the desert.  I'd spent one day reserving a bunch of sites and didn't know better than to avoid booking these.

By the time I reserved California campgrounds, I knew that RV parks were not what going to be our favorite.  This brings us to the other option while traveling the country.  Real campgrounds, or even boondocking.  What you lack in electricity and sewer, you make up for in scenery.  These last three campgrounds in California have been great, and this one - North Shore Campground Lake Almanor, is my favorite campground so far.  Here's our view:

There's so much empty green space for the kids to play, followed by a beautiful lake, and snow-capped mountains behind that.  So much beauty and fun!  The drawback to an authentic campground like this, is that your husband, seeking good internet for work, needs to use this as an office:

Char's been a great sport, but this campground can't be his favorite

Yep, as long as he's sandwiched between a washer and dryer in a laundry room, he has enough internet to work.  Here we have no sewer, not the best electric, and the road to get here recommended that you not drive on it if you are more than 30 feet long.  It was an interesting journey, pulling a 40 foot fifth wheel!  However, again, it's my favorite campground so far!  It's also a great place to sail the S.S. Utter.

We came to this campground specifically to see Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Along with being my favorite campground, I think Lassen Volcanic is one of my favorite national parks.  It was amazingly scenic with rivers, mountains, trees, and waterfalls.

a great place for a picnic

Some of the things we enjoyed the most, though, were playing in the snow in June

and watching water and mud boil.  Seriously.  It was very weird, smelly, and incredible.  It really lets you have an appreciation for what goes on under the ground in an area known for volcanic activity.

can you see the bubbles in this puddle of mud?
This sign warns you to watch where you step so that you don't fall through the crust of dirt into the boiling acid below.  Also, you can see the steam rising from the mud towards the back of the picture.

Speaking of national parks, I should write more about Yosemite.  Yosemite ended up being a much nicer park to explore when it was not Memorial Day weekend.  We recommend not going to one of the most popular national parks on holiday weekends.  Bad choice.  But during the week, we visited Glacier Point and we got to explore a lot of these amazingly huge trees:

Yosemite turned out to be quite enjoyable, but I think we all prefer Lassen Volcanic, just because it has so much variety and no crowds of people.  You really feel alone in nature while you explore.

Oh, we also have some other California experiences to report.  Our kids found really cute baby turtles in the river.  They were promptly named "California" and "Yosemite," and spent a night in our camper.  They are now back in their river, but they were really fun to watch crawl, climb, and swim all over the place, and our kids enjoyed having pets for one day.

I think that about sums up our time in California for now.  Again, happy beginning of summer to you!  Love from the Utter family!