New Year’s Day at Caples Lake

Some time toward the end of 2017, Bruce heard from his friend Andrei that Caples Lake was frozen and because of the unusually dry weather, the ice was smooth and perfect for skating. Needless to say, he wanted to go, so we spent New Year’s Eve getting supplies (like ice skates for me) and packing up. We set out early in the morning on New Year’s Day — no coffee and Rose Parade viewing for me this year — and it took about two seconds of seeing the lake to know we made the right choice.


We started out at the south (?) end of the lake, which was smooth-ish but still felt rough for me as a beginning skater. The boys were fine since they are very good on their skates. Bruce was pretty comfortable too.


I switched to snowshoes which felt much more secure, and I took a nice walk. Bruce snapped a picture. Turns out, even though he’d encouraged me to go, he was a little worried at how far out I got.


During my walk I saw that the other side of the lake looked smooth as glass, so I went back and convinced everyone to move. I mean, look at this! Even I can skate on this.





Ezra didn’t skate as much as the rest of us because he spent most of the time using his hockey stick to smash some piles of ice. He was having a blast. To each his own. It’s hard to see, but he’s over there somewhere.


At some point we stopped for lunch (Cup Noodles and hot chocolate — perfect).



And then Finn, Bruce and I did a little more snowshoeing on the other side of the lake.


The temperature was in the 50s most of the day, but after the sun went behind the mountain it started to get pretty chilly. We finally packed up and headed home. It was a perfect way to ring in the new year!

I have lots more pictures here.


On December 29th and 30th we visited our friends, the Detchemendy-Eides, at their house in Carmel. As you can tell from this photo, it was terrible.


We spent the afternoon at the beach where the kids built structures and played around and the adults chatted and relaxed. Terrible, I tell you!




I mean, just look at poor Finn and Julia.


And this sunset!


When it got too cold to stay at the beach, we walked home and had a delicious dinner.

The next morning, Christina and I got out for a walk (and a pastry, shhhhh), while Chris and Bruce went out for their runs. The kids were happy to be home hanging out.

Later we all went to Point Lobos Nature Reserve for a hike. It was our first time there, and it was beautiful.






After the hike, we made a trip to a local restaurant for some steaming bowls of pho before packing up and heading home. A really lovely little getaway to end the year.

Thanksgiving in Belize

Way back in August, before all hell broke loose in September, we decided to jump on some reasonably-priced tickets to Belize for Thanksgiving week after initially nixing the idea because the fares were through the roof. Needless to say, after September’s drama, we didn’t really think we’d make it to Belize, but we decided to play it by ear. Lo and behold, Bruce was feeling pretty good, and whether it was wise or not, we decided to go. It was a beautiful, relaxing week and we are so glad we decided to do it.

I took a lot of pictures, which you can see here, but I’ll post some highlights.





We tried to keep the days low-key but usually had some kind of outing. One favorite was the “secret beach” where the boys paddle-boarded and we all swam and had snacks. It’s hard to see, but that’s Bruce way out there on the paddle-board.


The water was shallow and warm so we all took a dip. We’d come with the idea of having lunch but in true Belizean fashion, the restaurant had run out of gas so they couldn’t cook anything. Chips and salsa came to the rescue. And Orange Fanta, of course.


The next day we drove Jamma’s golf cart up to X’Tan Ha resort for lunch and swimming/snorkeling off their dock.



In the afternoon we relaxed on our dock …



… and had a visit from a ray.


In the evening we went to Rojo for a great dinner, a game of pool (for the boys), and a snuggle with the local cat.




We had a fabulous, unconventional Thanksgiving day which included a snorkeling trip, a stop for lunch on Caye Caulker, and a delicious dinner at Elvi’s Kitchen. First, the snorkeling trip. The time we spent around the reef was just okay, unfortunately. We have experienced a visible change and degradation in the reef since our first trip in 2010. There were such stunning, vibrant colors then, and now everything just looks brown and gray. Luckily, we had a couple of other stops which really perked up the trip. First was a chance to see a manatee. We’d heard they’d been hanging out in certain spots and we were able to see one at the second place we looked. It was amazing! No photos, of course, but it made quite an impact on all of us.

We also stopped at Shark Ray Alley where Bruce and Ezra swam with the nurse sharks and rays.


On Caye Caulker, we had lunch and then walked a bit of the island to meet up with our boat. The boys played a little horseshoes while we waited.


Then, back on the boat and headed home.



After a nice rest back at the house, we got “dressed up” for dinner.




Dinner was really good — food, wine, and atmosphere. It was also surprisingly pleasant to not be the ones cooking!

The next day, we flew over to the mainland to spend our last night in Belize at the Zoo Lodge. We’ve been to the zoo lots of times, but we’d not stayed overnight. We booked an adorable little cabin perched above the pond.





The room was comfortable and we had a visitor.


Can you see him?


In the evening we had dinner at the lodge and then went to the zoo for a night tour. First, the boys held the snake at the visitor center.



I don’t have good pictures from the tour, unfortunately, but we saw big cats and small cats, owls, a tapir, and more. The tapir got really excited and peed … on Finn! Luckily, Finn wasn’t bothered by it because it was right at the start of our tour.

The next morning after breakfast Bruce and I took a little hike around the grounds. It was really beautiful and quiet — a perfect end to our trip.




We had a long travel day awaiting us, and a very late arrival back home, but as always, it was worth it.

Summer SoCal Trip 2017

As has become tradition, in July we headed down to SoCal to spend some time with the Bannings in Laguna. We added a little time in Pasadena on the way to stomp around our old haunts a bit and attend Bren Heffernan’s 50th birthday party. We drove down late Friday night (July 21st) and spent Saturday morning wandering around Pasadena. We walked from our hotel (the newly renovated Hotel Constance which we loved) to the Norton Simon, admiring the new Metro bikes along the way.


And the bridge!


The boys are not huge fans of museums but we visited a few rooms. They liked the audio tour and the sculptures outside.



They were much happier once we got to the pizza place for lunch. In the afternoon I deserted everyone to go get my hair done by Roseanne. Such a treat! In the evening we headed to the Heffernans’ for the party, which was super fun. So nice to see so many friends we haven’t caught up with in a while.

The next day we drove down to Laguna to begin our beach vacation. It’s immediately relaxing. Just ask Chester.


And kids with bowls of ice cream.



I have lost track of some of the narrative of our trip since I’m writing this so long afterwards, but we tried to do something active each day, only some of which I actually documented with pictures. Our first outing was paddle boarding on Monday which was super fun! I have no pictures though because taking an iPhone on a paddle board (especially when it’s your first time) seems like a terrible idea.

Our second outing was a bike ride in the canyon on Tuesday. Very hard to take pictures while riding, but I got a few during breaks.





The next day we took a hike in the morning with a “surprise” showing of a herd of goats doing some brush clearing. (We thought they’d be there but we didn’t tell the kids ahead of time.) Needless to say, they were a hit with kids big and small.



We wore everyone out with some good hills and a couple of steep staircases.



We did take them to the beach later. They got in a little boogie boarding.



Later, there was more relaxing on the deck with these two peas in a pod.


The next day was Bruce’s last day so we decided to go paddle boarding again. Unfortunately, Finn had gotten stung by a bee at the beach the afternoon before and his foot was pretty red and sore.


He really wanted to go but by the time we got there and walked from the parking lot to where the paddle board rentals were he was a mess. So, he and I sat out this session. He wrapped up on the beach and took a nap. Poor guy!


As it turned out, it was much windier this day and the paddle boarding was a bust. Everyone who went came back grumpy and mad. Well, maybe that was just the kids.

We got Bruce on a plane that evening, and I kept an eye on Finn’s foot, which eventually was fine after a day of rest. When we couldn’t take any more lounging around, we planned another active outing — a bike ride in San Juan Capistrano to breakfast at Ruby’s.



I’m sure we did more that day, too, but I have no idea what it was. On Sunday, the 30th, we went to a nature preserve in Newport. Actually, we went to two, the second of which had a museum store where stuffies were begged for and purchased much to my chagrin. Actually, I was on board with the one Ezra wanted which was a bobcat. He wanted to see how our cats would like it with the hopes that if they liked the stuffed animal perhaps they’d be OK if we foster kittens. (!) Finn on the other hand, originally picked out an opossum (yuck!) and then settled on a coyote when I balked. Of course, it’s nowhere to be found now as per usual.

Anyway, here’s one of the two pictures I took at the nature preserve.


I did take a bunch of shots at the beach later in the day.



Oh my gosh, I’d forgotten until looking at these photos that we’d had a rip current scare! The day that Finn wasn’t wanting to do anything because of his foot, Cari took the kids down to the beach. Ruby and Ezra got caught in a rip current, Cari had to rush in to get them — I think Ruby knew what to do but Ezra didn’t. Luckily (and thanks to Cari) everything was OK but both kids were terrified.

So this was the day that we were trying to coax them back in the water. It took a bit, but Ezra waded in.


He was still more interested in digging but at least he got his feet wet.


We had another photo-worthy sunset on the deck that evening.


The next day we went to the San Diego Zoo.





We were nearing the end of our visit and feeling panicked to get in all of the stuff we had on our list of must-dos. One thing that always shows up on that list is Balboa Island, specifically the arcade. I mean, there are clowns to be shot!


We spent a little time outside too.



But the currents and waves were dangerous again and we got shooed away by the lifeguard. We got a little rained on in a freak storm (you can see the angry clouds in the swing picture) but luckily it was just a sprinkle for us.

Another crazy-beautiful sunset.


On our last full day, Ezra and Ruby spent a little time on the deck before our bike ride.


We had several flat tires that Rob valiantly fixed before we headed out, only to have at least one of them not hold. Twice, I think. At least we made it to breakfast. That’ll teach everyone to do any off-road biking.

We packed up on Thursday, August 3rd to make our way back to NorCal. It was a wonderful, weird, adventurous trip.

Steep Ravine Camping 2017

For the Fourth of July we made a return visit to Mt. Tamalpais’s Steep Ravine campground. On the way up, we stopped in San Francisco for a hike and lunch break at a foggy, yet picturesque, spot.




Once we got to the campground, we spent some time hauling our stuff in wheelbarrows from the car to the site. The boys were a big help this time, even though they did plenty of moaning and groaning about it. We were all happy to be back in this beautiful place.





It was chilly, so we had dinner and made a fire early. (It’s hard to tell it was cold by the boys’ clothing, but I was already in a parka and warm hat.)


We upped our s’mores game this trip thanks to Christina’s suggestion.


Here’s our campsite at dusk. The sites there are pretty separate and it really feels like you’re out in nature all by yourselves.


Our night was quite eventful with a persistent raccoon trying to help himself to our food supply. We anticipated him after he chowed down on a whole loaf of bread last year, and we made sure all the food was secure before we went to bed. However, he still managed to wake us by making a whole lot of noise trying to get into an empty food container. Bruce scared him away, but then a few hours later we woke up to his noises again! This time, he was tearing at our tent trying to get to a backpack that we had inside the tent. He must have smelled whatever remnants of food were in it, and he tore a hole in the tent trying to get to it. Needless to say, Bruce was not happy. He scared him away again and luckily that was the last we saw of him.

The next morning was cold and foggy — to be expected.



We spent the morning close to the campsite and looked for whales and dolphins. We found them! Sadly, my lens is not the right equipment for catching them, but I tried and I’ve cropped and zoomed a couple of photos.




I also got a video.

Even though it’s hard to capture on the camera, the experience of seeing the whales and dolphins roaming around is not to miss. We had some great vantage points too.


There were other animals also — birds, bunnies, some sort of small rodent that was actually really cute. And, a couple of monkeys in a tree.


After a while, we decided to go on a hike. We started out on a short trail that starts at the campground, but soon found that it led to where we could access the road (Highway 1) that had been closed due to a big landslide. We weren’t close enough to the slide to be in any danger, and it was really fun to have the road all to ourselves.


We stopped at one point and went out to a rocky area where we had a nice view. (I think Ezra was looking at ants in this photo.)



And then we headed back.


It was clearing up and we planned to head down to the beach. I took this shot of the entire campground.


We spent the rest of the afternoon down at the beach. It was chilly but beautiful.




We’d had a lovely time, but Bruce had been having intermittent chest pain and lightheadedness. After we got back from the beach and had dinner, we decided it would be best to skip the second night and head home. With the surprisingly long July days, we had plenty of light to get everything packed up. I was happy to sleep in our own bed that night since I was coming down with a cold. The rest of Bruce’s story is not blog material.

We hope someday we’ll be able to reserve one of the cabins at this campground. There are only about ten of them and they are very hard to get!


Shortly after returning from Big Basin, the boys and I went to Carmel for a couple of days with Christina, Henry, and Julia. It was fun to see their house there and discover how beautiful Carmel is. It was chilly, but that didn’t stop the kids from wanting to spend time at the beach (of course). There was the obligatory digging and building.






After that, we went on a nice walk through town. The reward was the candy store.


The next morning, Christina and I went on a moms-only walk and had breakfast at a little cafe. It was a great way to start the day.




After we got our acts together and dragged the kids off their devices, we went to the Aquarium. We didn’t stay very long but we had a good time.





We had another round of building on the beach before we headed home. Finn and Julia even braved the water … a little bit.





Great trip!


Big Basin Camping 2017

We kicked off the summer with a camping trip to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We rode bikes, took hikes, whittled, relaxed at the campsite, made s’mores — all of the usual camping activities.



Ezra was beyond thrilled to discover that Base Fake Fake (as explained in my 2015 entry here) was still there.




Here are a few other shots from the trip. Ezra whittling:


Finn roasting a marshmallow:


Melting pennies on the fire:


I took a few shots on one of our hikes. We found a gazillion banana slugs.




It’s really something to be among the redwoods.



SoCal Visit

On May 20th, right after Finn’s piano recital, we headed down to SoCal for a sad purpose — the funeral of Bruce’s stepdad, Jay. Despite the circumstances, it was great to see all of Bruce’s siblings and get all the cousins together. I didn’t take enough pictures, but here’s one of some of the cousins. It was like a meeting of the minds at this table.


One of the tasks for the siblings was cleaning out the condo. Of course, treasures abounded. Here are a few.







The funeral was a lovely celebration of Jay’s life. We all enjoyed the eulogy his brother gave with stories we’d never heard. Next time we’re all together, though, we have to do a better job getting photos!

Finn and Bruce’s Bear Valley Trip

As I mentioned in my last post, Finn chose to go on a snowboarding trip for his birthday instead of having a party. He didn’t have to twist Bruce’s arm too much since he wanted to get back on the slopes again too. So, the weekend after Finn’s birthday they went to Bear Valley. They stayed at the Bear Valley Lodge. There was tons of snow.




They did some snowshoeing.


Made a giant snowball.


And had a snowboarding/skiing day.



Lucky ten-year-old.

Colorado Trip

We spent the last few days of Spring Break in Silverthorne, Colorado with the SoCal Moisions thanks to a generous offer of his cabin from Vanessa’s uncle. The cabin is enormous, with comfortable common areas, a nice kitchen, and, much to the boys delight, a pool table.


There was still patchy snow on the ground when we arrived, enough for the boys to have a snowball fight.



The first full day we were there we went snow tubing. I’d never been before and it was super fun.





The second day we went skiing. I was a little nervous since it’s been eons since I’ve skied and I was worried about getting hurt. Bruce and I took a class for beginners, which was good (and we “graduated” early since we weren’t truly first timers). Here we are all geared up.


I don’t have any pictures of us actually skiing, which also means I don’t have any of me falling when trying to exit the ski lift. Which is good.

The boys took a snowboarding class. Here’s video of Finn (it takes a while to become apparent where he is).

And here’s Ezra.

They were both very tired by the time we caught up with them in the afternoon and there had been some mishaps. Snow sports are hard, but overall they had a really good time. I thought they looked great out there!

Overnight we had a little snow storm so we woke up to a thin blanket of snow.



Bruce and I got in a little hike around the property and then we packed up and hit the road. We were all happy to get home to our girls — even allergic Bruce.


Caples Lake Part II

Towards the end of winter break, Bruce took the boys back to Caples Lake for a few more days of snowy/icy fun. I stayed home where it was warm, so I don’t have a lot of details about the trip. But the pictures he took are stunning. I’ll post them here and perhaps when he has time he will edit this entry to add some specifics.









More pictures here.

Caples Lake Fishing Trip

On the day after Thanksgiving, Bruce and the boys went with one of his colleagues, Andrei, to Caples Lake in the Sierra for a fishing trip. As the plan was for them to leave at 2:30 in the morning, spend the day in the freezing weather, and then drive back in the evening, I passed. I did have a twinge of jealousy when I saw the gorgeous photos Andrei’s wife took, but not enough to really make me regret my decision to stay warm and cozy at home. Here are some of those photos. The boys had a really good time.









There are more pictures here.

They got home safe and sound, sans fish, but looking forward to going again!

Summer SoCal Visit 2016

On August 1st, the boys and I packed up the van and headed to SoCal for a week’s visit. Our first stop was an overnight visit in Altadena with the Kimble/Randall family. The boys were ecstatic — particularly Ezra, who misses Jack a lot. They spent most of the afternoon in the pool.


They also enjoyed sharing their latest and greatest video games and apps.


We went to dinner at our old haunt, El Patron, but I was too busy enjoying the good food and company to take any pictures. After a good night’s sleep, the boys spent the morning doing the same things they’d done the afternoon before — screens and pool.


We went to lunch at Du-par’s (new to Pasadena since we left) and enjoyed the best pancakes and french toast around. Jack and Ezra continued to acquaint each other with their latest obsessions.


After a couple of quick stops in Pasadena, we hit the freeway again and made our way to our final destination in Laguna Beach. When I’d asked the boys earlier in the summer what they wanted to make sure to do while we were in Laguna, they looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Beach time.” (Duh.) So, that first afternoon we wasted little time before hitting the beach. Happy children (and moms) all around.



After several hours on the beach and a thorough de-sanding back at the house, we had dinner on the deck. I think the kids were making menus here.


Cari and I had a plan to avoid too much kid screen time this year by getting them out for early excursions. Our first one was Wednesday morning when we packed up all the bikes and drove to Del Obispo Community Park in Dana Point. Cari and I had walked the bike path up to San Juan Capistrano when I came for the short visit in June. It was a lovely, flat path that we thought the kids would enjoy riding — especially with the promise of brunch at Ruby’s Diner at the end. Well, the best laid plans … Poor Cari had all sorts of trouble with her new bike and got quite a workout before her brakes were properly adjusted. Pedaling is hard enough without having your brakes constantly rubbing your wheels. The other main problem was the closure of the bike path, which detoured us onto regular streets. They weren’t terrible, but it wasn’t the quiet, pleasant route Cari and I had experienced.

At any rate, we finally got there, found the dismal bike parking, and had a nice breakfast. The whole thing was hectic enough that I have no pictures from the ride. After breakfast we decided to visit Mission San Juan Capistrano, which, I have to say, was amazing. Given that Finn will be studying the California Missions this year as part of the standard fourth grade curriculum, I thought it was great timing for this visit. They had a craft table where the kids made corn husk dolls.



When they were finished, we got our audio tours going and walked around the grounds on a self-guided tour. Or rather, three self-guided tours as the big kids, little kids, and adults all headed in separate directions.





It’s really an interesting and very well preserved place. Here are some shots of the buildings and grounds.




Finally we managed to gather everyone together for an attempt at a picture with the bells. It wasn’t easy.


After a trip through the gift shop (we escaped without buying anything!) we retrieved the bikes and started our ride back. I have one photo of some of our cyclists.


The ride back was about three miles but took much less time and seemed much shorter now that all of the problems had been worked out. I think the kids were all pleasantly surprised that it was quick and easy.

In the afternoon we headed back to the beach with the new boogie boards Cari had picked up at Costco on the way home from the bike ride.


There were conventional and unconventional uses for the boards.



Back at the house, we enjoyed the sunset from the deck.



After another nice dinner, we instituted an early bedtime. This is Finn, passed out before 9:00 pm, the sign of a successful day.


Thursday’s adventure was to San Diego, where we stopped for burgers …


… and a carousel ride …


… before walking along the waterfront over to the USS Midway.



Once onboard this enormous “City at Sea” as they call it, we quickly discovered that a) they have a Junior Pilot program for kids (answer some questions about the ship and earn wings), b) the map was not exactly easy to follow, and c) the kids wanted to give up on the Junior Pilot program. Cari and I encouraged (forced?) them to continue and it turned out to be a pretty good way to see the main parts of the ship. Here are some photos from our tour.




As evidenced by this photo of Ruby, she was not at all happy with the part of the tour that took us pretty deep into the bowels of the ship.


She was a good sport and managed a smile here.


It was super hot and claustrophobic at this point, and it took us a while to wind our way back up to fresh air. The boys were OK and particularly enjoyed the area with the anchor and the knot-tying demonstrations.




We passed through officers’ quarters, the kitchen, sick bay, and lots of other places. They liked this room a lot — can’t remember what it’s called but it had a lot of cool gadgets.



We finally made our way to the flight deck, and even though we’d all just about it had enough for the day, we looked around at the enormous array of planes and took in the views.


With some arm-twisting, we’d managed to finish the Junior Pilot program so the kids got sworn in and got their wings.




The drive back to Laguna was loaded with traffic, so we stopped part way and got dinner at a hipster pizza place. We made it back safely, exhausted from a great day.

The next day, Friday, we made our traditional pilgrimage by trolley to the candy store. Here are the boys enjoying their huge bags of candy. I’m not sure how they always manage to get so much more than I mean for them to get.


In the afternoon we went back for more beach time. It’s really too bad that the kids don’t enjoy each other’s company at all.





Ezra spent a lot of time digging a giant hole.


That evening after putting the kids to bed I picked up Bruce from the airport. We were so happy he was able to join us this trip since the last two trips have been thwarted by work. No Google interference this time though; he was ours for the weekend!

We went to Balboa Island on Saturday, something Cari and I do a lot with the kids but we’ve never had the dads join. After taking the ferry over to the island, the first stop, as usual, was the arcade.



Ruby won the jackpot, which is amazing since Chapin won it not long ago. Lucky kids!

We then had lunch, rented a couple of bikes for Rob and Bruce, and took a bike ride on the along the beach. I thought it went OK, but we were a big group and it was super crowded, so not my favorite ride. Plus, my pedal broke off which was unfortunate. Luckily Bruce took one for the team and switched bikes with me. He made good time riding back. We hopped on the ferry again and made our way back to Laguna.


Of course, there was another great dinner and a gorgeous sunset.


To top it off, we had stackers for dessert.


The kids (of all ages) were in heaven.


For our last beach day, we packed up everything we thought we could possibly need and drove to Dana Point. It was another beautiful day.




I could’ve stayed for another week but sadly we had to get home, so on Monday morning we packed up for the drive. We stopped at Zankou Chicken in Pasadena for lunch (oh, how we miss Zankou), and then hit the road for real. Ezra had his first middle school event the next day. What a great trip this was; the best way to finish off our summer vacation!

Lassen Volcanic National Park

After our fantastic day in Redding and Shasta, we finally arrived in Lassen in the late afternoon. Once we found our campsite at the Summit Lake South campground, we pretty much had time to set up camp …


Build a fire …


And make a quick dinner (the boys’ favorite camping meal: hot dogs).


Of course there was marshmallow roasting later and some relaxation time. We’d treated our clothes with some mosquito repellant so we were actually able to sit outside without getting bitten to pieces. (We’d heard that the mosquitos were horrible, but we actually came away with only a couple of bites.)



The next morning after breakfast, we dragged the boys away from their whittling …



… and took a walk by the lake. The landscape is stunning so I’m just going to post a bunch of photos here.





After our walk, we packed up some lunch and drove to Manzanita Lake where we rented kayaks and paddled around the lake.



It was a beautiful day.


After the kayaking, Bruce and Finn tried paddle boarding.


Ezra just wanted to walk around in the water. Can’t hardly blame him.


They did all take a swim a little later at another area of the lake.


Next we went to the Loomis Museum and the boys did part of their Junior Ranger activity. We then hiked the short Lily Pond Trail and stopped for lunch.



On the drive back to our campsite, we stopped at Hot Rock which is a 30-ton chunk of rock that was swept from Lassen Peak to its current location in the 1915 eruptions.


Climbing ensued, of course.



Next we went to the Devastated Area which had a short hike with lots of stops explaining the 1915 eruptions with before and after photos.


Of course, nature is rebounding in this area, but it is still a shadow of the mature forest that was destroyed in 1915.


The stop along the trail explaining “puzzled rocks” was of particular interest to the boys.



Back at the campsite, we had a little time to relax (with more whittling).


And then the boys went swimming at the lake. (I, like an idiot, had decided not to bring a swim suit because we thought the water would be too cold. I won’t make that mistake again.) While they were gone I read my book and watched this curious squirrel look for food we might have left behind.



Later there were the usual evening activities.



We called it pretty early as we were all tired from the day’s activities.

The next morning Finn did some reading.


Ezra did some playing in the muddy water.


And then we packed up for our big activity of the day, hiking the Bumpass Hell trail. It was a perfect hike for us — a little over 2.5 miles, mostly easy terrain although occasionally challenging, with spectacular views. There was still snow on the ground, and, in fact, the trail had only been opened for the season a few days before we arrived. Good timing as it was definitely a highlight of our trip.






The payoff of “all the walking” (as the boys would say) is the Bumpass Hell area which is chock full of fumaroles and mudpots, reminding us there is all sorts of stuff going on under the surface of the earth that we normally can’t see. It was fascinating, and easily accessible with boardwalks (and lots of warnings to stay on the boardwalks or risk burn injuries!).



Here’s a five-second video of one of the boiling mudpots.

And here’s another ten-second video.

After we’d explored the boardwalk areas, we went to the lookout point above. Google Photos stitched together my individual pictures to make this panorama of the whole thing.


Finally, we headed back out.


We’d arrived pretty early and mostly had the trail to ourselves, but as we were leaving it was quite crowded so we were happy we’d gotten an early start.

After the hike, we took a break in the parking lot for snacks and more work on the Junior Ranger activities.


On the way to Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, we stopped at Sulfur Works to see (and smell, ack!) some big sulfur pots. It was super interesting, although a little unpleasant when a big poof of sulfury steam gets right up your nose.


I made the boys pose for a picture.


I don’t have any pictures from the visitor center but we had a great time there. It’s very well done, with good activities for the kids and a beautiful setting. The boys really did a lot of work for their Junior Ranger badges this time. Here they are being “sworn in.”



They got cool badges with the notation that it’s the National Park centennial this year.


On the way back north to our campsite, we stopped at Emerald Lake at my request. The lakes just looked so inviting and I had to stick my feet in. Finn was too worn out so he waited in the car, but Ezra was game.




That evening we went to a ranger-led activity at our campground, which was a very interesting presentation about all sorts of living things that have behind-the-scenes functions in the forest that are vital to its survival. The ranger did a great job involving all the kids in the audience and it was a fun presentation. I didn’t take any photos during the presentation, but here are a few from our walk over to the amphitheater.




The next morning we had avocado toast for breakfast …



… and then packed up our site and headed for home. A year ago I’d never heard of Lassen, but it was so spectacular I would highly recommend it for anyone looking to visit one of our National Parks.

Redding and Shasta

Our second and final camping trip of the summer was to Lassen Volcanic National Park. However, since it’s about a 4-5 hour drive northeast of us we decided to drive up the day before the camping started and stay overnight in Redding. We had a surprisingly good time on this initial stop! We arrived in the late afternoon and, after grabbing what we needed from the van, we took a little walk around.



Mostly the kids just wanted to try out Pokemon Go, but Bruce’s phone was dying and the phone the kids use needs wifi, so that didn’t last very long.


We had dinner at a Mexican place near our hotel and walked around a little more after dinner before crashing. As an aside, I love this shot of all of our bikes crowding up the hotel room. I’m paranoid about them being stolen from the bike rack, so we brought them in.


After breakfast at the hotel the next morning we took off on a bike ride on the Sacramento River Trail. It was a lovely ride, mostly flat but with a few hills to make sure we were paying attention. Here are some shots from along the way.




The boys really liked the ribbon bridge and we rode across it several times.



Sadly, we had some technical difficulties on the way back. My left pedal fell off and because the crank was stripped inside it wouldn’t go back on. Thankfully Bruce managed to MacGyver his pedal on my bike (they attach differently) and my pedal went on his bike.


So, feeling a little uneven, we managed to make it back to the hotel.



After getting cleaned up and packed, we checked out of the hotel, but we weren’t ready to leave Redding just yet. We headed over to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which we’d read good things about. It didn’t disappoint. First stop was the Sundial Bridge, which is super cool and very hard to photograph!


This is my best outcome from many attempts to get it all in one picture.


And it was perfectly accurate!


We explored the inside of the museum too — good thing because it was about a million degrees outside. Lots of cool science and music stuff.








When we were done inside we made one last stop outside at the Parrot Playhouse to see the lorikeets. Ezra loved this part.


Bruce, too.


Here’s a short video of a couple of the birds fighting for Bruce’s offering.

After Redding our initial plan had been to go straight to Lassen, but we decided on one more detour — to Shasta Dam. I’m glad we changed the plan because it was quite impressive.




Lake Shasta with Mount Shasta in the background:


We missed the tour but did spend some time in the visitors center which included footage from Huell Howser’s show about it. Very interesting, but still incredibly hot outside, so we were happy to get back into the air conditioned van and drive to our final destination.