North America · 13 Days · 22 Moments · August 2017

Morath family summer 2017 western adventure

25 August 2017

Up at the crack of dawn to head home from Seattle. We had a whirlwind vacation with many adventures and amazing sights. Think we are all glad to be going home to see Astro and get ready for school to start on Monday. What a fabulous way to end summer!

24 August 2017

Took the ferry from Bainbridge island for a 30 minute trip to Seattle. Interesting that commuters do this daily. We found our hotel and went exploring. First stop was Pikes Market, where we saw a fish toss and bought some fresh fruit. Owen was excited to see the gum wall, but when got there, decided it was too gross so only Claire stuck hers on. We walked to the monorail, which was built for the 1962 world's fair to connect downtown to city center. We opted to admire the space needle from below, and took the Duck tour that uses a military vehicle to go on land and water. Our tour guide pointed out landmarks and shared some history about the great fire; it benefited Seattle by killing rats, moved buildings out of flood zone, and rebuilt in stone. In the water we motored around lake Union, with seaplanes zipping overhead and houseboats galore (including the one from Sleepless in Seattle.) Back at city center, we went to the super cool playground and watched a street magician.

23 August 2017

Stopped by to visit Russ and Janie who live in Grandma's old house in Poulsbo. The kids had fun collecting acorns by the creek. The creek looked different, given the widened tunnel under the road and the natural overgrowth on the creek edges behind the house. Apparently the salmon don't like mowed grass so the vegetation has grown so high that you can barely see the creek in some spots. Russ looked taller than I remembered, and was nice meeting his wife Janie. They have expanded the property by purchasing the lot next door and plan to build a pottery studio. They have a garden with raspberries like grandma and have lots of other fruits, veggies, herbs, and pretty flowers.
Auntie Mag treated us to delicious blueberry pancakes and then Claire, Ray, and I braved the thorns to pick wild blackberries. So many that could have picked for hours! The ones the garden were mostly gone but kids found a few. They were intrigued by the chickens in the backyard and Bill showed us his latest collector car. Owen tested his new sling shot that we bought in Victoria. We toured the historic Poulsbo waterfront, first stop the big rock! Owen declared it was not that big, and he clambered up fairly quickly but admitted it was slick. Claire made it up too with a little assistance. Next stop was the bakery, where we selected a variety of treats and reminded me of grandma's cinnamon rolls. We found the Sea Discovery Center, which has a number of aquariums with local specimens. There was a large touch tank and kids felt a sea cucumber, starfish, and anemone. That put us in the mood for seafood lunch, enjoying a view of Liberty Bay while we ate.

22 August 2017

Our 2nd day in Victoria we visited the Royal BC museum and learned about the first nations who are indigenous to British Columbia and European settlers who colonized the area. We also saw a special exhibit on Terry Fox, who ran across Canada on his prosthetic leg to raise money to fight the disease. Next we toured the legislative building and learned more about BC history and government. The architect was only 25 years old and went on to design other important buildings across Canada. The coat of arms has the wapiti of Vancouver Island and the bighorn sheep of the mainland, symbolizing the union of the two colonies which united to form British Columbia in 1866. We took the 3pm ferry back to Port Angeles. It was a lot windier this trip so the kids and I stayed inside and played cards while Ray braved the chill looking for whales. We retrieved the van and drove about an hour to Auntie Mag and Uncle Bill's house in Poulsbo. Ate dinner, picked a few berries, bathed kids, and off to bed!

21 August 2017

We disembarked at the harbor and made our way to the Hilton, stopping briefly to admire the pretty flowers and pretty view of the Empress hotel. The weather was nice so we decided to walk the short mile to our hotel. They gave us warm cookies at check in and the 5th floor room has nice view from the balcony. We did a 90 minute bus tour of Victoria, learning a little about the top spots, climate, and history of the area. It has one of the mildest winters in Canada, has beautiful parks and harbors, and has a growing economy in the tech sector. There are flowers hanging in the streets and it is a very pedestrian friendly city. After the bus tour, we popped into the Empress and checked out the tea room and gardens. Then we did a little souvenir shopping and hunted down the pizza restaurant that smelled so delicious when we passed by earlier on the bus tour. Finally we stopped for gelato on our way back to the hotel. The kids aced the quiz questions tonight, Owen says make them harder!
We decided to sleep in and take the 1pm ferry to Victoria so the kids could get some extra sleep and play at the hotel pool. We pulled out our special sunglasses purchased at Grand Teton and saw the eclipse from the pool area. A kind hotel guest helped me change my cell phone settings to take a picture. We all took turns checking out the eclipse for just a few seconds at a time. Better safe than sorry! We did some suitcase shuffling to streamline the number of bags and parked the mini van in Port Angeles as there is no need for a car in Victoria. We successfully purchased walk on tickets and showed our passports to board the ferry. We had lunch on the boat, checked out the gift shop, and watched the Olympic mountains shrink as the ferry neared Canada. Beautiful sunny day for a sail!

20 August 2017

For our last stop in Olympic National Park, we drove the winding road to Hurricane Ridge, elevation 5242 feet. The views of Mount Olympus and surrounding mountains are amazing. We learned they were created from the rising sea floor being pushed up along with glaciers and water carving out and shaping the range. There are a number of mammals and plants found only here, and no grizzlies, due to long periods of isolation. We watched a short film in the ranger station and then took a short hike for more stunning views. On our way down the mountain, we saw a hungry fawn nursing from mom right on the side of the road. There were also a few black tailed deer around the ranger station that seemed unphased by humans; they are safe from hunters in the park! We enjoyed another seafood dinner, enjoying more fresh salmon along with shrimp and crab. We carried on a Maahs tradition of quiz questions pertaining to the days events, and both kids got all the questions right! Maybe they were too easy.
Next we drove north to the coast and explored the beaches, stopping at a few of them to look for whales and tidepools. We spotted what we think was a humpback and did see some seal heads briefly popping up from the water. The sky was overcast and with the fog, visibility was limited. There were lots of people fishing with nets and lots more families exploring the last beach we visited, Ruby beach. There were piles of huge trees turned into driftwood, strewn across the beach like bleached bones. We had to pick our way across them to make it to the sand and waves so the kids could wade in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. We continued north, stopping at Forks which is the small town made famous in the Twilight series. The vampires chose the small Pacific Northwest town given the lack of sunny days.
The crisp mountain air and early morning sun sparkling on the water Lake Quinault was so refreshing and picturesque. We took a short hike through the woods and Ray picked a few wild blackberries that grew all around the lodge. Then we took a short hike through the rainforest, amazed at the height of the trees and learning about the ecosystem of the temperate rainforest through interpretive signs along the way. Kids had fun climbing huge stumps and fallen trees, which we read are primarily downed due to high winds and shallow root systems. Some of these giant trees live to be 800 or 1000 years old and provide life for many animals, insects, moss, and plants long after they have died.

19 August 2017

We made it to Lake Quinault in the Olympic National Forest and are staying in a historic lodge built in the 1920s. There was a wedding on the back lawn and the lake was a gorgeous backdrop. We did a short hike nearby to see the World's tallest Sitka spruce, at 191 feet tall and over 1000 years old! We enjoyed a yummy salmon dinner and kids are ice cream by the fire on the beach at lake's edge. Claire dipped her toes in the lake while Owen skipped rocks. So beautiful and relaxing here!
We said an early morning goodby to the Lacy' s and it was hard to leave after only 2 short days. Good thing we get to see them at Thanksgiving! Today was our longest drive time of 9.5 hours through Oregon to the western side of Washington state on the Olympic peninsula. The terrain gradually changed from brown foothills to green forests, and we drove along the impressive Columbia River through much of Oregon. There were lots of wind farms and dams, excellent alternative sources of energy. Beautiful view of Mount Hood from the car!

18 August 2017

Beautiful day in Boise! Had a lovely pancake breakfast and then headed to the Boise swimming hole aka Simplot park next to the greenway, where Chris serves on the volunteer police force. Kids had a great time splashing in the cool mountain water which was perfect on a hot sunny day. Susanna headed off to work and the rest of us headed to the Idaho state fair, which was so much bigger than the county fairs we have at home. There was a sword swallowing demo, splash dogs, livestock barns and demos, petting zoo, lots of fried food, and carnival rides. Both kids rode a mechanical bull and realized how difficult it is to stay on! Annabel won a goldfish and decided to name it Tucker. Loretta showed her horse here last year. We ended with a few carnival rides and funnel cake and root beer floats, the quintessential fair experience!

17 August 2017

Next stop, Boise Idaho to visit the Lacy family! We had a nice drive through Montana and Idaho countryside, seeing lots of cows and horses and wide open fields before arriving in the rolling hills of Boise. We were so excited to see everyone, and even got to see Loretta briefly via FaceTime. Kendra and Chris prepared a yummy meal that we enjoyed on their back patio. Annabel taught Owen some volleyball moves, while Susanna and Claire read together before bed. So great to be here and looking forward to some more family time tomorrow!
Our last morning in Yellowstone, we did a short hike on the north rim of the grand canyon for a closer view of the falls. There was a beautiful rainbow at the base, for an even more scenic vista. From this side of the canyon, we saw many yellow rocks, prompting Owen to declare they must be the park's namesake. We made it back to the ranger station for Claire to turn in her completed booklet, and she took the junior ranger pledge. Two new rangers in the Morath family! On our way out of the park, we encountered another bison on the road. What an amazing experience to be so close to wildlife and enjoy the beauty of America's first national park. Ray is already thinking about our return trip!

16 August 2017

Yellowstone day 2. Ray got up early and explored while we slept, seeing antelope and bison. We joined a ranger hike on the south rim of the grand canyon, learning more about wolves and viewing the falls and Yellowstone river. Claire said she thought someone painted the canyon walls! After lunch we did a horseback ride through the canyon area. Claire rode a spotted pony called Leo, Owen had a brown one called Tucson, mine was Frito, and rays was Chief Joseph. We rode through the meadow and forest, our guides pointed our bear claw marks on trees and our horses were surefooted on hilly terrain. After dinner we drove to Lamar Valley and Tower Falls, pausing for a bison walking on the road and Owen spotted an antelope near the falls. We stopped to check out a bison herd, listening to their grunts and snorts while junior ranger Owen made sure we stayed a safe distance. On our return drive we saw a spectacular sunset, a big horn sheep, and a surprise elk calmly grazing next to our lodge!

15 August 2017

We drove north to Yellowstone and arrived just in time to see Old Faithful erupt! Next we listened to a ranger talk about wolves followed by two short films at the visitor center and quick exhibit where we learned about the 4 geothermal features here; geysers, mud pots, hot springs, and steam vents. After lunch we explored the upper geyser basin, walking the boardwalk past dozens of features. Kids did great following directions to stay on the trail but I was nervous until we were back in the parking lot. We made it to Morning Glory pool, which is a beautiful blue in the middle ringed by orange, sparking a family debate over why the colors have changed in recent years and which are prettier. After an ice cream stop - where we lucked out to witness the once daily Bee Hive geyser erupt- we headed north to Canyon Lodge. We stopped at Gibbon Falls along the way before checking in. Post dinner drive, spotted some elk, bison, and a bear! Ray super excited to see a bear.

14 August 2017

Day 2 of Grand Teton National Park. We started with a ranger led hike to Lake Taggart. Ranger Esther talked about bears, passing out cards with foods and asking us to look out for them on the hike. She also talked about the geologic formation of the mountains, and how being 10 million years old means they are the youngest mountain range compared to others in the US. After the hike we had lunch in Coulter Bay and then took a boat excursion around Jackson Lake. The guides told stories of John Coulter (an early mountaineer who explored with louis and clark) and Harrison Ford (who lives nearby and volunteers with mountain rescue) and we learned there are 10 glaciers in the Tetons that will probably be gone soon. Late afternoon we took a short hike to nearby String and Leigh Lakes. The kids enjoyed throwing rocks into the shallow lake water and Ray kept a lookout for bears. Then Owen completed his junior ranger badge and we saw part of a grizzly talk at our lodge.

13 August 2017

The mountains are impressive, with the tallest peak Grand Teton, rising over 13000 feet! There is a Mount Owen, which of course Owen got a huge kick out of. We stopped at a ranger station to get some hike recommendations, buy some bear spray, and watch the park video. Very interesting formation being on a fault line between 2 mountain ranges and the valley sinking between them. Checked into the Jackson Lake lodge and had a huge dinner, complete with a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sundae named the Mount Owen. Hiked the short Lunch Tree Hill trail to the summit behind the hotel, catching amazing views and enjoying the evening breeze. Ray spotted a moose with his binoculars. At the top is a plaque commemorating Rockefeller's land donation which greatly expanded the park. After getting up at 4:30am EST, can't believe these kids had any energy left to play in the pool!
Stopped in the town of Jackson Hole after picking up our rental car. The town square has 4 large arches made of elk antlers, which are fathered from the nearby elk refuge each winter.
Landed in Jackson and Claire saw big mountains for the first time! Owen not as impressed because of his prior trips to Rocky mountain national park 😉
Very early flight from Dulles to Jackson hole, layover in chicago