Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hey Boo Boo (Jellystone in Estes Park)

After reading about my girlfriend Jamie's visit to Jellystone in Texas, we decided to give it ago and planned a trip to the one in Estes Park Colorado. I have mixed reviews about the one here.

When we arrived, we were told we needed to wait in the parking lot for a safety escort to bring us to our site. I thought it was great that they wanted to make sure everyone drives through the campgrounds safely and they show you the proper route, but when we got to our site I realized that this was not the reason for the escort. Our site was small. Really small. So small a five year old see it and says in a disgruntle voice - Great there is nowhere for us to play. And it's steep. Really steep. As in cut into the side of the mountain in tiers so that you could literally spit on the site below you. The escort is there to make sure you can park your camper without driving off the site. Crowded, cramp sites with steep hills to walk up = a negative.

The weekend we were going was a Christmas in July theme. We didn't bring any decoration but wished we had. We meet a family that went all out. They brought a whole truck load of decorations including a fully decorated tree. In the morning, they were going to place presents under the tree for the kids. What a great idea!

On Friday we spent the afternoon playing on the playground. They have two of them and they are both up-to-date and well maintained. The kids had lots of fun on these. These are the only places that kids can really run around. There is no area to bike and there isn't an open field area for free play either.

Friday night was karaoke night. It was bad. We left after about 10 minutes and spent the rest of the evening hanging out at our very cozy camp site.

The next morning we decided to participate in some of the activities. They had tattoos. Both Morgan and Kaitlyn were a bit leary of the lady giving them.

But liked the end results.

Then the kids wanted to get their pictures taken with every status there.

Next it was craft time for the younger kids while Keaghan, Mark and Tim played some miniture golf. The kids made Christmas tree and snowman magnets by gluing together small pieces of foam paper.

Afterwards it was time for the wagon ride with Yogi. I didn't have my camera for this but it was unimpressive. They crowded everyone into a flatbed trailer that was pulled by a tractor. There were no seats/benches and we were very smashed in. Then they blasted Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, B-I-N-G-O and the ABC song while we drove around one of the loops. Not sure if the kids were impressed with this or not.

Then it rained. And rained. And rained. We were so thankful we had a pop-up and not a tent. Many tent campers had to go into Estes for the night because mud slides had covered their tents in several inches of mud.

The rain didn't stop the dance that night even though the pavillion is an open air structure. This was one of my favorite thing at Jellystone. The DJ played lots of kid and adult friendly music such as the Chicken Dance, the Limbo complete with a stick, the YMCA, the Hokey-Pokey, as well as current dance favorites. Morgan was being really shy at first and didn't want to get on the floor, but when the Chicken Dance started, she dragged me out there. She still hid behind me, but at least she was dancing while she was hiding. After a while she was fine.

On Sunday morning, I took Morgan down to the pool. This was my second favorite thing. It is heated at 85 degrees and starts at 3 feet so it's really kid friendly. It's not very big, but it wasn't crowded either.

When we were leaving Morgan wanted to know when we were coming back. I don't think we'll be coming back to this Jellystone, but we might try one in Canon City or in Castle Rock.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Five Year Check-Up

It was weird having to schedule Morgan's doctor appointments around her school schedule. I wanted to make sure she got in for her yearly appointment before school started. I figured it probably wouldn't look good if I was pulling her out for a day within the first couple of weeks.

This appointment was a fun one. They tested her eye sight by having her tell them what shapes she saw on a chart and her hearing by having her say beep when she heard the beep. There was also a four page "test" of different physical and mental skills such as having her hop on one foot and tip top across the room. When it came to completely the following sentence, she had the doctor cracking up. "I am hungry so..." The normal answer is "I'm going to eat" or "I'm going to have a snack". Not my little girl. Her answer was "so I'm starving". She was also supposed to write her name on a piece of paper. I noticed that she was doing it funny and was wondering what was going on. When she was done, I saw that she had written it upside-down and backwards so that the person holding the paper could read it. More proof we are in trouble!

She is still our little peanut weighing in at 33.5 pounds (10%) and standing tall at 41" (24%). The doctor was impressed with how much muscle she has and called her a little lean, mean, muscle machine.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The End of the Road - Day 7 and Day 8

We didn't take any pictures the last two days. Funny how we started out taking so many and then they trickled down at the end.

Spent our last leisure morning at Out N About. We were sad to leave here but are carrying wonderful memories. We needed to leave at 10:30 am in order to make it to Grant's Pass for our reservations on a Jetboat trip through Hellsgate. It was 104 degrees out and it was very hot waiting to board. We were far back in line so we had to wait for the other two boats to board and leave before our boat docked. These boats are supposed to get you drenched, so we were looking forward to getting splashed.

Our guide must have been new. He must not have been comfortable with the boats yet because we did not get as wet nor did we have as wild as a ride as the other two boats we were out with. When he did spin us in 360 - it was great. When he stomped on the brakes so water came over the windshield it was awesome. This just didn't happen very often. And we were hot! Even Morgan was mumbling "come on, come on, spin... spin". It was still fun, but I have to admit we were a bit jealous of the people on the other boats.

We climbed into our air conditioned car and prepared for the long drive back to Portland, where we would be staying at our only corporate hotel during the whole trip. While it was nice to patron mom-and-pa run places, I must admit, I was looking forward to a little more luxury.

The last day we were planning on driving to Gorge in the morning but we were beat and done with driving so we slept in as long as Morgan would let us, slowly packed, had a leisure breakfast and then stopped for some shopping at Ikea before hitting the airport.

I heart Ikea. The stores are like Disneyland. I wish there were Ikeas in Colorado but alas, there is not. I'm sure that monopoly-controlling Jake Jabbs as something to do with that! I could have easily stuffed my suitcase full of all the wonderful treasure I found but I controlled myself and only added one small item then it was off to the airport and home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just a Swinging - Day 6

Out N About Treesort is such a great place! The Treeloon was really cool and Morgan loved that her bed was upstairs in the loft. While the windows have glass doors in them, there are no screens once you open them. Not a problem for us, but if you aren't an outdoors person, you may not like this.

Swimming hole from our window.

Side of the Treeloon.

Front of the Treeloon.

Looking out at the Treesort from below our treehouse.

In the morning, we were doing the zip-lines. Morgan only weighs 33 pounds and you had to be 40 pounds in order to fit safely in the harness so she hung out below the lines with two other boys. Our first line was called Chicken Little and it's a short line about five feet off the ground where you learn how to get on the line, where you place your hands and how you stop. After that it was on to the real course. After our second line, we ended up at the end of the field. I looked back to check on Morgan and her and the boys had put the disc seat on Chicken Little and were zip-lining that way.

I guess I didn't need to worry about her being bored. From there Mark and I walked up a short trail to the rest of the zip-line. We flew through the trees, landed on platforms and climbed from one level to the next until we were at the end.

After that, we collected Morgan and I decided to try the Tarzan Swing. If I knew beforehand what I was getting myself into, I might not have done it. They took the main rope and clipped it to my harness in the back. Then they handed me two rings attached to two ropes that go up into the tree, back down and clip to a golf cart. I held these rings while the golf cart drives forward, hoisting me into the tree by my arms. Once I'm up 50 feet, I let go of the rings, free fall until the rope attached to my harness catches up to me, at which point I swing. I'd like to know who first decided to try this!

We don't have any pictures of us on these things since we couldn't really bring a camera on the zip but here is someone else doing it so you can get an idea of what it looks like. I circle the guy in the tree so you can tell how high you get.

Click HERE for a great video of the swing. It's done by the owner of the place and you get a great view from all angles.

When not in use, the Tarzan Swing can be used as a regular swing. Morgan had a great time swinging higher and higher on this thing. And Mark also participated in the this milder version.

The rest of the day was spent exploring, feeding the horses, swimming in the freezing swimming hole, swinging from ropes and riding the Chicken Little disc. At night, there was a fire where the kids could roast marshmallows and continue to play while the parents visited.

Swinging on one of the rope swings.

Collecting bugs

Exploring a swing bridge in the trees.

The communal eating and fire pit area.

I thought the day might go by slow, but it went really fast and before we knew it, it was 10 pm. We were so busy while we were here, that Morgan never took a shower. It wouldn't really have mattered if she did because we kept wiping her off and an hour later she would be covered in dirt again. We started to call her Moonbeam.

I can't say enough good things about this place. It is such a unique and wonderful experience. The staff was helpful and friendly as were the other patrons we met. The breakfast buffet they provided was delicious with lots of choices. We also loved how green they were. Everything was either recycled or put in a compost bin. We absolutely enjoyed our time here and would love to come back some day.

Moonbeam is already asking when we get to go back.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Splunking We Will Go - Day 5

Time to leave Crater Lake and head southwest to Cave Junction and see Oregon Caves National Monument. The drive through the entrance of this park is crazy. No trailers are allowed on the road because it is so curvy. By the time we got to the top, my stomach was not doing well at all.

In order to enter the cave tour, you need to be at least 42". I could have sworn Morgan was this tall, but when they went to measure her, she was an inch too short. The ticket lady said that she really should tell us no, but she would let Morgan complete a physical test by a ranger and let him decided. She had to walk up and down a special flight of stairs (steps were almost as tall as she was) while hanging on to a railing that was really wide apart. She passed with flying colors and got the go ahead to enter the cave. You could tell she was really proud.

I was a little worried about her being scared in the cave but she really enjoyed it and listened intensely to the ranger's speeches.

After the tour it was time for my parents and us to go our seperate ways. They stayed at the Lodge in the park, a really neat old building that has that campfire smell to it. Originally, they were supposed to stay at the Cave Junction Motel, but when we drove by it, it looked pretty scary. Luckily, there were still rooms available at the Lodge so they snagged one up. Meanwhile, we headed to Out 'N About Treesort.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Around the Rim - Day 4

Today we decided to complete the loop of Rim Drive, stopping at most of the overlooks. Before heading out we stopped at the Visitor's Center for some shopping and to view the short film on the park. We picked up the National Park Passport for Morgan. It's a small spiral notebook color-coded for specific regions in the country, including pre-visit information, illustrations and photographs. Each region includes area for you to collect rubber stamp cancellations at each National Park site you visit like the ones you receive in an international passport. Morgan thought it was neat to be able to stamp her pages and was excited to be getting another stamp at Oregon Caves later in our trip.

Behind the Visitor's Center is a short trail called the Lady of the Woods. Below is our own Ladies of the Woods as well as the real lady the trail is named after.

After fighting off the swarms of mosquitoes on this trail, we started our drive around the crater.

Wizard Island - a mini volcano inside the collapsed volcano.

The air is so clean that you can see for hundreds of miles

Left over snow from plowing the roads.

The Pumice Castle

On the trail leading to the Pinnacles

Back at Sun Notch Viewpoint

In the evening, my parents watched Morgan so we could attend the Ranger Program on the Pacific Crest Trail. It's a trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through Crater Lake and takes people around 6 months to walk. The ranger giving the speech was Don, our ranger from the boat ride. When he was 57 years old, he did the Appalachian Trail so he had lots of insight into what these type of trails entail. It was an extremely interesting presentation and I give huge kudos to anyone who is able to complete these type of trails. I still they must be a little off, but they definitely have my respect.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Into the Mouth of the Crater - Day 3

Woke up in Crater Lake National Park and, thank goodness, the cold temperatures from yesterday have rolled out. Today we are taking the Cleetwood Trail down to the bottom of the lake and then taking a boat tour. The hike is one mile in length (one-way) and drops 700 feet as you descend from the East Rim Drive trailhead to the lakeshore. The return trip is comparable to climbing 65 flights of stairs. When we booked the boat tour, the reservation desk was skeptical of us taking a five year old on this trail, but Morgan is an excellent hiker.

The hike down was steep but beautiful. Pictures don't capture the true beauty and peace of Crater Lake.

View along the Cleetwood Trail. Notice how steep the trail is.

Looking down at the boat docks.

At the bottom of the crater.

The boat trip was excellent. Our Ranger, Don was well informed and gave us great information about the park and its formations. I highly recommend this tour. It's the only way to really learn all about the park.

A close-up of Phantom Ship.

Morgan complained more on the way down then she did on the way up. She marched right up the side of the crater singing her little heart out.

Once back up, we had a late picnic lunch and then visited the Crater Lake Lodge (we stayed at the much cheaper and much less fancy Mazama Cabins). The inside of the lodge is all wood and logs and is quite impressive. They also have a small exhibit about the history of the lodge.

We drove around the Rim a little bit and then took a stroll up to the Sun Notch Viewpoint, which provided a view of the Phantom Ship from above.

Phantom Ship from above.

This was one of our favorite spots so we decided we would return here tomorrow as well. For today, we were done with our hiking and exploring.

It was off to Annie Creek Resturant for a buffet dinner. We did bring a cooler and our own food, but we wanted to have a few meals that weren't PB&J sandwiches. We quickly found out, if you aren't eating your own food, the park has you, so they inflate the prices. This place is a complete rip off. It was expensive ($15.99/pp for the buffet) and the food was horrible. It was late in the day and most of the trays were empty or dried up. We found out later that they offer a lighter fare buffet (salad/soup only) and individual pizzas for much cheaper but this is not advertised, you have to specifically request it. Now we now better.