Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BTOW: Muir Woods

IMG_0471Despite the rain and a lack of parking, Muir Woods was a great experience. The kids thought it looked like Endor and expected Ewoks to jump out from behind the trees!

One thing we learned was that these redwoods do not grow from seeds, but form family circles. That's why they are often clumped into small groups. Walking through the forest, you truly begin to feel small, even the clovers are big.

There was a cafe and gift shop so mom was able to stay dry and shop. Elizabeth thought the bear carvings were especially cute. The kids were able to complete their Junior Ranger requirements on a hike. The path was mostly boardwalk or well kept crushed rock, very easy hiking. The neat thing was that the Junior Ranger badges were not the typical plastic variety. Instead, they were carved right from pieces of redwood, very unique.

Afterwards, we drove down to the Pacific ocean for the kids' first "dip." They wanted to strip down and swim in the frigid water but were content to poke around the beach. We found jelly fish and snails and watched the waves pound the beach. It was a bit chilly for late June (the locals were wearing winter coats) but the kids were just excited to finally be at the beach.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

BTOW: Forest Learning Center

Forest Learning CenterOn our way out to Mount St Helens, one of the places we stopped was the Forest Learning Center. This was a free museum tour that focused more on the lumber industry's recovery efforts following the blast. It's educational elements focused more on the science of the lumber industry, the economic importance of the region's timber forests and how certain practices produced a faster return of the environment to productive levels.

There was a helicopter diorama that kids could climb in and feel like they were flying over the landscape. They also had a very nice outdoor playground. The museum was staffed by retired lumber workers who were both passionate and knowledgeable.

This was a nice stop before seeing the volcano up close. It also helped that Amy has taught the subject and was able to take what we were seeing and bring it into context. Plan about 1-2 hours at this stop, depending on how involved you want to get with the exhibits.

Also, an observation that may be lost on most visitors, was the subtle tension between the park service and the logging industry. Prior to the eruption, most of the land around Mount St Helens was privately owned by the logging industry. The creation of park lands was a significant reduction in their profitability.

While well presented, the basic presuppositions of the Forest Learning Center are at odds with the National Forest Service's programs. I would tend to lean more towards the preservationist side, but it is important to see the struggle that arises between business, preservation and science.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

BTOW: Badlands NP

After driving across the high plains for what seemed like days, we rolled into Badlands National Park at 7pm. The visitor center was closed and the kids couldn't do the Junior Ranger program. But with the setting sun, we were treated to amazing shadows and light across the rock formations.

Elizabeth found one group of shadows that looked like a big smiley face. It was the beware of rattlesnakes signs that really got Josiah. At first he thought we were kidding; welcome to the Wild West!

Trail hiked: Window Trail
Animals seen: Chipmunk, Pronghorn Antelope, Prairie Dogs

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fort Armstrong on the Mississippi River

On our way back home, we took a slight detour through the Quad Cities to see the locks and dam on the mighty Mississippi River. After crossing the bridge to Rock Island, we pulled over to check out the remnants of Fort Armstrong.

I'm not sure how the youngest got stuck with firing the big guns while the oldest stands around and tells her where to fire. In addition to the memorial stones, cannons and replica log tower, you could walk under the rotating bridge and see the locks. We opted not to enter the arsenal and visitor center as everyone was anxious to get back home.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Heron Haven Boardwalk

Heron Haven Boardwalk by Ben Biddle
Heron Haven Boardwalk, a photo by Ben Biddle on Flickr.
One morning the kids and Ben walked down to Heron Haven, a wetlands preserve near Uncle Allen's house. We saw several snails crossing the path and a big bullfrog on a log, but no turtles or herons.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Eating out at Famous Dave's

After a long day of working the garage sale, we all went out to eat at Famous Dave's. We got the American platter which served everybody. We could all try different sauces and meats.

Automotive memorabilia at Famous Dave's
The restaurant was decorated really well too as we sat near lots of old car parts and supplies.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Iowa State Capital

Iowa State Capital by Ben Biddle
Iowa State Capital, a photo by Ben Biddle on Flickr.
While on our way to Omaha, we stopped off for a moment in Des Moines. We've always been able to see the capital building from the interstate but this was the first time we stopped.

Found Things Antique Store, Iowa

Amy discovered this store in a magazine article from 2008. We stopped on the way out to Omaha. They had lot's of neat things but didn't purchase anything large until the return trip. Amy picked up a green window screen.
We paid fifty cents for an hour on the parking meter. When the kids returned with only two minutes left, they were very concerned that we needed to leave before the time ran up. They thought the car would get towed as soon as the meter ran out!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cousins Pose for Photo Shoot

The four kids tried to stand still for a few pictures on the farm. This was one of the last weekends the Biddle and Benzing cousins will be together before they move to Mississippi.

View the entire Cousins set on Flickr.