Astoria! Coast Trip 2017

Our summer coast adventure this summer was to Astoria! We hadn’t been there before, so it was fun to explore a new place. We went on Labor Day for two nights, so there weren’t too many people aorund. Unfortunately, it was also when that horrible Eagle Creek fire started, and the smoke followed us all the way out to the coast.

Our first stop was actually past Astoria at Fort Stevens the famous beach with a real life shipwreck (the Peter Iredale). The boys had a blast playing in the water, climbing the ship, and playing in the sand.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn, of course, which is my favorite hotel because it always has a reliable good free breakfast, and usually a pool. We brought the boys’ floaties and they loved going swimming! They were so cute–flapping so hard around the pool, puffing out their cheeks to hold their breath.

But perhaps even better than being cute, the swimming totally wore out the boys and they went to sleep really fast and easily. Usually vacation bedtime is *terrible* so this was a very welcome surprise. They shared a big bed–this was our first time traveling without a pack n play or a kid tent. What an exciting move up, to not need special places/equipment for them to sleep!

The next day, we drove out to Cape Disappointment and enjoyed being the gorgeous woods to see the lighthouse and the Lewis & Clark Center. (The boys were not terribly enthused about most of the outing; there was a decent amount of whining and complaining.)

On Day Three, we visited the Astoria Column! The boys walked all the way to the top with us, all 165 steps! And then about thirty seconds later they were like, okay let’s go back down.

We also found this huge playground called Tapiola Park, and the boys had a fantastic time running around playing on day two and three.

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Overall it was a really fun trip! I love going on family adventures and exploring new places. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Riptide!

This is my new friend Jeff. He rescued me from a riptide in Maui.

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That morning, my sister and I went snorkeling at Honolua. It was amaaazing. The sky was perfect. The little cove is totally protected from wind so there are zero waves. It wasn’t very crowded. There were sea turtles! We were snorkeling for maybe an hour, and I could have happily stayed another hour or two.

So I couldn’t wait to get in the water again when we had time later that afternoon back at our own hotel. There were waves out front, but I saw people out in the water. I made sure to read the sign again and I thought I understand. I asked the couple who was just coming in if it wasn’t too choppy out there. They said, no, it’s fine! and asked if I was alone. I said no, my people were right there on the beach behind me. They also said there was a good snorkeling spot right past the last buoy.

So I headed out with my rented waterproof camera and swam out. I was near the buoys, maybe five feet to the right. Around the last buoy I was noticing the waves were pretty rough and it was making me a little nervous. I ducked my head down to look under the water, took one quick photo, confirmed it wasn’t very clear, and turned around to head back to shore.

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I started swimming and after a couple minutes realized I hadn’t gotten closer to shore, and was still just a few feet in front of the last buoy. I tried a little more and still made no progress.ย I was stuck.

It did not occur to me that I was in a riptide.

I hung out for awhile, watching out for the waves. They looked 3-4 feet high, and they freaked me out. I was worried about getting under one of them and being pushed underwater. Thankfully they weren’t really coming my way.

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This of course was a bad thing and meant I was in the riptide! I did not understand this!

There were a few rolling waves that lifted me up, and one got some water over my head, which added a little more panic.ย Then I realized that I had drifted even farther out, now a few feet past the last buoy. This was not good.

So I decided to yell for help. I yelled out, HELP! as loud as I could. It felt weird because I wasn’t really panicking or in actual danger, but I was also stuck. I was starting to get a little bit tired and felt just a glimmer of a little panic. I yelled HELP! I NEED HELP! some more. Nobody seemed to hear me. I waved a couple times. I could easily see my family on the beach. They waved back and I waved my arms again, and yelled out a few more times. I should have waved a lot more.

Then I saw that they had heard me–they suddenly stood up. I saw my sister charge into the water and call something to me.ย  But I couldn’t hear her. Then I saw two men start swimming out to me.ย  Jeff might have gotten there first but the other guy was right behind. I don’t know if they knew each other or not. Anyway, Jeff swam up to me and just said pleasantly, Need some help? I said, yes please. He told me to take his hand, which I did, and he proceeded to swim on his back, towing me to the shore. Nice and easy. I introduced myself, and I asked if he was a lifeguard and if he had done this before. He said no to both, which really surprised me since he seemed so at ease rescuing me. He got me in, and everyone twittered around me freaking out. I hugged Jeff and thanked him a bunch, as did the family. He was like, aw no, you did all the work. (Which clearly I did not! He was just that nice.)

There was a bunch of talking and rehashing on the shore. Onlookers asked if I was okay. Official people from both hotels came to see if I was okay and if everything was alright. I assured them I was. My family told me that they only heard me yell once and that the extra waving of arms also told them I was in trouble, and that they had enlisted the help of the two men.

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A couple minutes later, a lifeguard Jetski roared up! We assured him that I was fine. (He almost seemed disappointed that there was no rescue needed.)ย Then a couple minutes after that, a fire engine screamed up. Apparently someone at the hotel on their balcony, saw me yelling and called 911! So I had to chat with the firemen and give them my info and reassure them that I was fine and did not need any medical attention.

This all made me feel really silly and dumb. All that attention and people out of their way to help and rescue me. I was totally fine! What I kept telling folks was that I’d been fine, but I may not have been for much longer. If I’d still been out there long enough to be rescued by the jetski guard, I would probably not have been fine.

Which is weird, because I had been floating in the ocean all week. So I wasn’t in danger of drowning, right? The waves, though…I really really did not want to be stuck in the waves. Of course the water had calmed down by the time I was out and dry!

I swear I read the sign about it before I went in, but I totally misunderstood what it meant. After I got out, everyone was like, oh you have to swim sideway/parallel to the beach to get out of a riptide. I was like, yeah, but I didn’t understand that I was in a riptide! My brain just narrowed focus to: “I’m stuck; big waves; I need to get out of here”

And for the record, like fifteen minutes later, Jeff and his brother had to go rescue a couple who had gone out on some paddle boards.

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I went back to read the sign after the hullaballoo died down (and we took some sunset pictures). I had to stand there and study the thing for like five minutes and finally it clicked what it meant and how I’d misunderstood. Oh, and my sister said she’d never even noticed the sign at all, all week! That’s not good if the sign is not super clear and super obvious. To me, I think there needs to be a big sign–maybe a four-sided one so visible from all directions–that is all red and says DO NOT SWIM HERE. And/or they need a second set of buoys and make the sign say DO NOT SWIM BETWEEN THE BUOYS.

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So that’s the story of how I got caught in a riptide. It sounds super dramatic and life-threatening, but it really wasn’t.

However, I spent a lot of time afterward thinking about it: re-hashing it, trying to figure out what I could have done differently, re-imagining being stuck out there with those waves that looked so ominous. (I mean, they weren’t giant storm waves or anything, but with the sandbars and reefs they were breaking not far from me, not just at the shore. Literally, looking at this picture I took out there even now gives me a feeling of dread and slight panic). Then imagining getting dunked by one of the waves. Then trying to re-design the sign to be more obvious. I felt kind of silly to put so much thought into it after the fact.

I guess the lessons are pretty obvious: Don’t swim alone. Look for breaks in the waves and avoid that. Don’t go out in choppy water. (Even the other times we’d gone snorkeling the waves weren’t that big or that frequent.) Always keep an eye on anyone in the ocean because things can change so fast. Don’t let small children anywhere near the ocean. And of course, if you’re stuck, swim parallel to the beach.

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Family trip in Washington, DC!

Here’s Part 2 of our first big trip–actually being in Washington, DC. (Part 1 was our flying experience) I booked us at the Hampton Inn near the Convention Center. It was pretty near to two Metro stations, and since that was our only mode of transport, it was very important.

Back when I was traveling regularly for work, I discovered Hampton Inn and it became my hotel of choice. It’s always a decent price, and they have a great breakfast buffet. (This one also had a pool, and I brought all of our swim stuff but we didn’t end up going.). Free breakfast may seem like a silly perk or amenity, but whenever I traveled on my own, having a free meal first thing makes the rest of the day seem easier.

Having two small children to feed made a big free breakfast on site even more important. It saved us a lot of money and a ton of effort to just go downstairs and have their choice of cheerios, oatmeal, milk, a muffin, a waffle, yogurt, a banana, a bagel, toast. (Otherwise we would have had to buy a bunch of food and utensils/plates and eat in the hotel room, or go out for breakfast, which would take a lot of time and money.)

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The first thing they did when we got to the hotel was start looking for things to play with, and they zeroed in the phones. We had to unplug them so they didn’t accidentally call people. Then the phones became real toys–the boys made them necklaces and guitars, among other things. (Here’s Emmett strumming the phone.) (They also do this with books, by the way–hold and strum them like guitars.)

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I was kind of excited about taking the boys on the DC Metro. They love trains, they usually like seeing new places, and it was their first foray into big city public transportation. They seemed excited to go on the escalators, and watching the trains come in and out of the stations. We also discovered that all (?) of the stations have an elevator somewhere. This was a lifesaver, because while we could take them out of the umbrella stroller to take the escalators, it took a lot of time and energy. Plus it was such a surprise, since many subway stations in NYC don’t have elevators. The only bad thing was that weekend service is pretty spread out, so we often had to wait ten minutes for every trip to get on a train.

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One of the best reasons to travel to DC as a family is all the free site-seeing. There are so many world-class Smithsonian museums, all with free admission. As anyone with small kids knows, they don’t have long attention spans, so I would have been pissed to spend a lot of money for four tickets only to spend 30 minutes there. As it was, we could sort of run in and out at our leisure.

Our first stop was on Saturday morning to the Natural History museum. We looked at the dinosaurs very briefly, and walked through the ocean room, and then the jungle/savannah area. They sort of liked seeing the dinos, I think, but didn’t seem super excited to see the other animals. We all had fun in the gift shop, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Saturday afternoon was the wedding! The boys stayed with a babysitter at the hotel, and we had a beautiful evening celebrating E & B!

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Sunday morning, the grandparents met us at the Air & Space museum. The planes were interesting, but their two favorite places were the re-created aircraft carrier area (especially the video that showed planes taking off from the deck), and this display of suitcases that opened and closed.

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On late Sunday afternoon, we went to the National Zoo, and the rest of Andy’s family met us there too. Hurray for more family time! The pandas were off exhibit with their new little babies, and so mainly we just saw the elephants.

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We all took the metro back into town together, and the boys were really sad when the others had to leave–they wanted more time with everyone!

Our last day was Monday. We began back at the National Mall again, at the Carousel. It opens at 11am, in case you’re wondering. DSC_0396_WEB

From there we spent almost two hours in the American History museum. A helpful lady at the front desk pointed out the areas that our toddlers would enjoy–the Kermit puppet, and the transportation exhibits: trains, cars, and buses. They did indeed love running around looking at all the cool things!

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The entire Mall is under construction…which is a bummer if you’re anyone but a toddler. They would seriously have sat and watched the construction vehicles for an hour, or more, I bet.

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Finally, it was time to head to the airport. We decided to just do the train after all, since Uber Family was unlikely to be around. I also found one of those suitcase straps that allows you to ‘carry’ one on top of another, which allowed me to drag all three suitcases at once, plus wear a backpack. Andy wore the other backpack and pushed the double stroller. And because of the elevators, it worked out quite nicely and easily! (Again, that would not be the case in New York!)

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So overall, as you can see, it was a great trip, and we all had a good time. Combining seeing family and seeing exciting new places was extra special, and this age seems like such a fun time to explore together. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to travel with our twins again!

Flying with Twin Toddlers

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We have just completed our first plane trip with our 2.5 year old boys, which obviously makes me a top expert in the field of traveling with toddlers! Haha, obviously that’s a joke. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the long weekend went overall, and wanted to share some tidbits in case they’re helpful.

I’m going to break it into a few posts: the flying part, the Washington DC visit, and the apps they like to play.

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This first tip is HUGE DEAL. Since my husband was out of town and our nanny has an injury, my mom was here helping out late last week, and she was planning to drive us to the airport and help us check in. But then while she was here she asked about getting a gate pass. I was like, huh? Turns out that you can get a special ‘ticket’ or pass for someone to help you in the airport, past security. (I called the airline and told them, and then the ticketing agent is the one who can issue it, or not.) Seriously, this was a gamechanger. Being able to have two adults for the entire process made a huge difference.

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We happened upon a kids’ area at the end of the Alaska (C) terminal at PDX, and my mom stayed with them while I went to buy snacks and lunch for the boys, and to the bathroom. Then we switched and she went to get a coffee. All this was done leisurely while the boys played happily!

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The next tip was something that I’d thought made sense but recently saw a blog post confirming it–don’t board early. Why on earth would you want your small children confined to a tiny airplane seat for longer than necessary? I let them keep playing after boarding began, and then we were almost the last ones on the plane. The taxi/takeoff happened really quickly after we got settled. It made the whole experience feel a lot more streamlined and efficient. (Of course, we were on a morning flight from a smaller-city airport, and a nonstop to boot. All those effected efficiency, I’m sure.)

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The boys were very curious boarding the plane and someone pointed them toward the cockpit, where the pilot brought them in and sat them on the pilot seats! We also got some coloring books and crayons from the flight attendant–can’t hurt to ask on your next flight if they have some too!

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The three of us had a row all to ourselves, which was excellent. No worrying about bothering other people with our stuff and constant moving around. Plus, since the boys’ feet barely reached to the end of the seats, that meant I had three underseat storage areas: one each for my backpack, ‘their’ backpack, and my feet. ๐Ÿ™‚

A random amazing thing is Alaska’s outlets at every seat. (I hear that some Delta flights have them too?) Being able to use devices as much as you want and not worrying about running out of juice? I’ve been on enough cross-country/international flights to know how precious that is! Overall, I was very impressed with Alaska. I hadn’t flown them in over a decade (since they don’t really fly to the east coast and I am/was a diehard Jetblue fan), but I will look forward to flying with them again in the future! Our flight attendant was really sweet and cooed at them, and also sat with one while I went to change the other.

On the flight itself, I was overly prepared with snacks and toys. I brought some silly putty and pullback racer cars, the Melissa & Doug Vehicles Reusable Sticker Pad, a Water Wow vehicles coloring book, plus our two iPads and 2 pairs of tiger headphones with a splitter.


The sticker pad was the first thing I pulled out, and they played with it for almost two hours! I wouldn’t expect them to play with it that long again, but since this was their first time seeing something like that, they really liked it. Mainly they just pointed to the sticker they wanted and then stuck it somewhere on their scene page. (I tore them out so they could each hold one, and I held on to the sticker sheets.)

(I didn’t end up taking out the coloring books or the new board books I had in my bag.)

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We had lunch and snacks, and then for awhile they listened to “songs.” (Which is what they call the kids music we play for them that they love: 52 Sing-A-Long Silly Songs, Children’s Favorites, Volume 1, and Volume 2) I was sitting in between them and I had them lay down with their heads in my lap, and they just zoned out. (And I watched a bit of a movie on the in-flight entertainment.) It was really sweet.

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At the end of the flight, they played a couple games on the iPad, and watched part of a Daniel Tiger episode. They did *not* sleep. The flight ended two hours after they would have gone down for their nap. And for the most part they were okay, but at the very end, after the seat-belt sign went on, E was really tired and wanted to lay down on his seat. Of course I tried to wrestle him into his seat sitting up..but gave up after ten minutes of shrieking (him) and a backache (me), and just put him on my lap. He calmed down immediately and looked out the window as we descended and landed. Sigh.

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On the return flight, my husband was there too, so we were evenly matched. Once again we had a row of three, and then the seat across the aisle. I made my husband sit with the boys and I helped out from across the aisle as much as I could.

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They fell asleep right after takeoff; it was several hours past their normal naptime. They dozed for an hour and then woke up again.

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The sticker pad wasn’t as interesting this time around, and the magic coloring pages only lasted a few minutes. Silly putty was a total dud. The racer cars provided some fun and interest! So did snacks. We also walked up and down the aisle a couple times, and the boys charmed the flight attendants. We put on 3 episodes of Daniel Tiger to finish up the flight.

So as you can see, overall our flying experience went quite well. What a huge relief. I think their age had a lot to do with it–a year ago they wouldn’t have been able to understand as much or communicate very well, or do as much, activity-wise.

If you have any great tips or favorite toys/activities for flying with little ones, please share in the comments!!

Summer Bucket List #7: The Coast!!

Woohoo, we finally made it to the coast! This was the outing I’ve been most looking forward to all year!

This was our first ‘real’ vacation with the babies. We’ve only stayed overnight at someone’s house before, but after the success earlier this summer, we were hopeful that the babies would do okay with a hotel.

It was about an hour and a half drive–west on 26 and then meet up with the famed Highway 101. (In 2001, I drove 101 all the way to LA; that was the last time I was on the Pacific.)

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Our first stop was Ecola State Park in the town of Cannon Beach. This stunning vista greets you to one side:

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And the open ocean is straight ahead. We got out to stretch and to feed the babies their lunch. Happily, we’ve done a lot of al fresco ‘dining’ with them, so they were totally cool eating outside in this new environment.

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Make sure to change your focus settings before handing your camera to a stranger/non-photographer:

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We continued into downtown Cannon Beach and found lunch for ourselves, and the babies had their bottles. Then finally it was time for the beach!! There’s the iconic Haystack Rock behind us. Again, this was a stranger…she almost hid the rock behind us and also shot vertically (I cropped it).

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We rolled up our jeans and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean! The babies had been cranky but they quieted down with their little feet in the water. No doubt they were trying to figure out what kind of giant bathtub they were in and why it was so cold! Emmett even managed to kick and splash while Andy was holding him up.

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On the way back to dry land, one of Andy’s shoes fell out of the plastic bag I had everything in. I suppose that’s a worthy sacrifice for an adventure. He needed new shoes anyway. He grabbed some flipflops from a gift shop and we made a detour to a mini mall so he could buy some new sneakers.

Then we continued on to our hotel in Tillamook. Babies’ first hotel stay!

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We had a ‘king suite’, so there was a little sitting area across a half wall. We set up the pack n plays there and crossed our fingers that the babies would be able to sleep. It took them awhile to quiet down (which happens plenty at home too), but they slept quite well. Andy and I watched stuff on our laptops with headphones.

Our first stop the next morning was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. For the record, 8am is a great time to visit; hardly any tourists are out yet. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a quick stroll and then we got back in the car.

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You can buy an empty ice cream bucket for fifty cents! I was stoked.

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There’s a little cape to the west Tillamook, and we drove out there to see the Cape Meares lighthouse.

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On the way back we stopped at the beach in Oceanside, a town so small it didn’t show up on the map on my iphone. We had more time this time and so the babies got to hang out and enjoy some quality beach time. IE, playing in the sand. Yes, they definitely ate some.

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And then we went back to Tillamook for ice cream before driving home! Andy got black cherry and I got s’mores. Dee-lish.IMG_1211

Overall, things went really well! It was a great family adventure. I hope we can find a closer beach-type place to bring the babies this fall, since they had so much fun. I loved seeing such pretty scenery and exploring new areas. Can’t wait for our next family vacation!

Summer Bucket List #2: Mt Hood!

Please make sure to visit my photography page for non-family, beautiful-scenery-only photos!

Last week we finally went to Mt Hood! I’ve been so excited to go there for months. This is one of the two outings I’ve been most looking forward to this summer, and I’m so happy we finally went! We decided to go for the Fourth of July, because we don’t care about fireworks stuff and the weather had been so gorgeous the past week or two. It was actually cloudy when we left our house, and I was really bummed about not having great weather at the mountain. But as we got closer and closer, the sky got clearer and bluer!

The drive was super easy. One hour east of us, on one road, and bam, national forest and big snowy mountain. Amazing. I was giddy. ๐Ÿ™‚

First we came to Government Camp, which is a small strip of hotels, shops, and ski places. Timberline Lodge is only a few minutes from there.

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Something’s different about Smokey the Bear…

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(Slightly blurry) stats about Timberline:

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We got there right around the babies’ lunchtime, so we set up in the lobby to feed them on one of the couches. Of course they were very interested in looking around at all the new stuff and hearing all those new noises.

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While they were eating, a small tour group came through right behind us, led by what was easily the dumbest guide ranger I’ve ever encountered. I hope for everyone’s sake that either it was her first day on the job or she was filling in for someone else at the last minute. She was reading from some papers, peppered her sentences with “ummm…” and “sooo…” and “….yeah.” She had a couple ‘facts’ to share, but they were incomplete. She tried talking about the stone structure in the middle of the lodge and one of her audience members had to tell her the term ‘mason.’ She also was trying to explain the phenomenon of the timberline–‘if you look up the mountain, you don’t see any trees, and if you look down, you see lots of trees. So trees don’t grow past here’–without actually using the term timberline. Which, I might suppose, is probably where the name of the lodge actually came from. Just a guess. Anyway. Andy and I kept giving each other looks like, “Really?!!!”

Anyway, we didn’t have time to walk around or anything, but of course I set up a family photo:

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Huge cougar carving–out here was a balcony with a southern view of the foothills and Mt Jefferson.

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We were starving and had a quick lunch in Government Camp, at one of the hotel ‘restaurants’ (really more of an overpriced diner). The babies sat in those wooden high chairs for the first time. So cute! They were VERY interested in our water and our food too (but we only gave them sips of the water).

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Our final stop was a short hike along Little Zigzag River to a small waterfall.

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Walking through the woods and listening to the running water was so beautiful and peaceful!

The falls were small but lovely nonetheless.

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We finally headed home after that, and the babies dozed in the car. I also fed them there, in the backseat. It worked really well and I am so glad to have that option in our pocket for future outings!

Headed back to civilization:

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It was a really great day. I can’t wait to bring the babies back next summer when they’re toddling around!