(Previous Oregon trips I’ve recapped: Crescent Lake and Rogue River/Indian Mary campground.)

Last Saturday we hit the road for our first official no-shit family vacation. We’ve done plenty of weekend outings with the kids, and of course there were all those epic Seattle-to-Coos Bay visits before we moved, but this was our first lengthy getaway that was just for the four of us. While we’d considered a handful of destinations that required air travel, the expense and inevitable ass-painery of flying anywhere led us to cobble together a 5-day road trip instead. The general itinerary: Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bly, Crater Lake.

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Day one: Grants Pass. We drove 140 miles from Eugene to Grants Pass and headed straight for a deep bend in the river where the water was slow enough to swim in. The boys played for hours, hucking rocks and chasing minnows and marveling at the rumbling jet boats that politely motored by before gunning it around the corner and sending white-tipped waves crashing back. An ice cream truck picked its way over the rocks to offer its wares, completing the tableau of summer perfection. We stayed in the awesomely kitschy Motel Del Rogue, and ate dinner sitting on the deck watching rafters lazily drifting by.

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Day two: Lava Beds/Klamath Falls. On Sunday we drove about another 140 miles southeast to the Lava Beds National Monument in northern California. Out of the 22 developed caves, we hiked into three: Mushpot, Skull, and Valentine. Skull was the scariest, with precariously steep sets of stairs that became so cold the handrail was almost unbearable to hold (despite the scorching temperatures on the surface, the floor of that cave is covered in ice year-round). Valentine had a lengthy section that required a bent-over scuttle and I couldn’t stop thinking about that horror movie The Descent, but they were all so awesome and after a little initial nervousness the boys were absolutely blown away. Afterwards, we drove 40 miles north to Klamath Falls where we stayed in the Best Western Olympic. The lobby looked like an outdoors store, the pool was fantastic, the staff put out sandwiches in the afternoon and cookies at night. I fell asleep dreaming of flashlights and chlorine and chocolate-coated grins.

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Days three and four: Aspen Ridge Ranch, Bly, Oregon. On Monday we drove northeast to a little town called Bly, where JB plans to hunt antelope next month. We scouted some hunting spots, then headed down some remote and winding roads to our log cabin at the Aspen Ridge Ranch. Oh, that ranch was unbelievable. So gorgeous and serene and miles from distracting cell signals or email notifications. We hiked, swam in the nearby lake, drove around the countryside, searched for obsidian arrowheads, spotted antelope, played Ping-Pong in the lodge, walked through crumbling homesteads, startled entire herds of free-ranging cattle, dropped crackers in lakes to watch the fish swarm (kids: “FISHNADO!”), tooled around in the ranch’s rowboat, fed curious chipmunks, and sat on the deck as the most glorious sunsets I’ve ever seen spread across the sky and the boys ran and played in the aromatic sagebrush. It was simply magical. I would go back there again and again and again.

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Day five: Crater Lake. From the ranch it was about 130 miles northwest to Crater Lake. We took a few hours to drive the jaw-dropping loop around the lake, stopping here and there for photos that didn’t have a chance at capturing the view. Our lodging for the night was the Wagon House at the Aspen Inn, which delighted the boys to no end with its western decor and pool table in the living room. It was fun, and I did love seeing the lake — but if I were to do it all over again I’d probably skip this last stop in favor of something else. The kids were far more impressed by the tourist-choked gift shop than the scenery, and the mosquitos were so thick in the evening we felt house-bound. Still, what a spectacular part of the country.

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All in all, it was a glorious, unforgettable trip. We definitely had our moments of frustration now and then, and I joked that by the last day JB had started to sound like an infomercial with his repeated phrase of “It’s that easy!” (”Just keep your hands to yourself! It’s that easy! And you, I told you to put your shoes on! IT’S THAT EASY!”), but really, the boys did very well with the driving and they were so much fun to be with. For the most part I felt like we were in a bubble of family bliss, miles and miles from real life and all its responsibilities and challenges. I’m sad it’s over, but so grateful for the memories.

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44 Responses to “Things to do with kids in Oregon: road trip edition”

  1. Marolyn on July 19th, 2013 11:36 am

    The ranch pics are beautiful! Love the blue of Crater Lake but the best pic I thought is the next to last picture of the boys! Looks like everyone had a great time!

  2. Mariya on July 19th, 2013 11:37 am

    That was really enjoyable to read – Thank you for that :)

  3. Kristin on July 19th, 2013 11:44 am

    That was awesome! (And who would have thought a Best Western could be so cool?)

  4. Alyssa on July 19th, 2013 11:45 am

    What a wonderful vacation. Your boys seem to be at a perfect age.

  5. Christine on July 19th, 2013 12:04 pm

    Oh, that’s so lovely. But my favourites are the way Riley is holding JB’s hand on his knee in the Lava Beds one, and the pool table.

    I’m glad you admitted to a few moments of frustration, though, or I’d have to hate you.

  6. Maggie on July 19th, 2013 12:25 pm

    Looks awesome! If you had to pick one, which stop was your fave?

  7. Cords on July 19th, 2013 12:40 pm

    gahhhh!! I’ve been reading since before Dylan was born and it feels like forever and I’m so happy for you guys and I have to admit that I was nearly having a few tears there (over a stranger’s family vacation pictures – what the?)
    So glad you are able to have such fun together!

  8. joaaanna on July 19th, 2013 1:08 pm

    How weird is it that I’ve dropped a few tears reading this post and looking at all of the beautiful pictures. You have such a lovely family and you take gorgeous photos and it’s just so, so lovely. Yay for you. Yay for all of you! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Maureen on July 19th, 2013 1:12 pm

    Glorious! What a wonderful trip. I feel a vacation to Oregon coming on….

  10. Kris on July 19th, 2013 1:16 pm

    I think you probably needed this more than anyone realizes, yourself included. I’m so happy you were able to breathe again & find your happy with your family.

    I’ve always said my soul finds peace near the water. Everything is better, somehow. Looking at your gorgeous photos & beautiful family, I’m guessing you feel the same.

  11. Christie on July 19th, 2013 2:10 pm

    That is so my idea of a perfect family holiday. Well done!

  12. June on July 19th, 2013 2:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing that with us! I love hearing about people’s vacations. I’m so happy for you – seems like you’ve come such a long way in the past couple years.

    Gives me hope about my own hellions (I broke up a fistfight this morning that involved screaming and spitting) – I’m so looking forward to getting along and having a great time.

  13. Lauren E. on July 19th, 2013 2:42 pm

    I grew up in Corvallis and I love seeing you show off our home state this way. Makes me homesick! And you also offer this “it gets better” picture of family life I find comforting. My son is 4 and my daughter is just 2. We’re not quite through the trying little kid years, but you’ve lit a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Thanks for that.

  14. LC on July 19th, 2013 2:59 pm

    That second to last pic of the boys is just perfect. What a beautiful keepsake.

  15. Alison V on July 19th, 2013 3:21 pm

    How lovely. The Oregon Tourism Board should give you a job. If it wouldn’t involve 2-3 different planes with a toddler, I’d seriously consider a trip. Maybe when he’s older…

  16. Liz on July 19th, 2013 5:27 pm

    Oh my God, those homesteads. How amazing.

  17. C on July 19th, 2013 5:44 pm

    Seeing you and your boys grow has been… oh, man, I don’t even know for sure what I’m trying to say. I think I say a lot of stuff that comes out wrong, but, dude, this is like awesome therapy for someone who didn’t have that kind of childhood. I used to be more bitter about it (um, oops), but now that I’m working through my own problems(yay, hard work!), I’ve found I really love the awesome family pictures you post. I like seeing your kids get bigger and bigger. I like seeing your always-glam face(..and hair!). I like seeing JB, who looks like such a rockin’ dad. I like seeing your life look so happy, so full of good stuff. I know it’s not perfect, but I love that you have this awesomely meaningful stuff in it — You deserve it.

  18. sooboo on July 19th, 2013 8:15 pm

    You are giving your kids the childhood I always wanted!

  19. Babs on July 20th, 2013 5:57 am

    I love Oregon and all it offers. Love. I also love what you and your boys do. A lot though I think would take a man like JB to do it with, or do it well with. A father not into all that would not create the same experience for his children, and it would be difficult for a single mom to.

    Children or no, though, it’d be great to experience it all as you and JB to.

    Thanks for sharing.

  20. NancyB on July 20th, 2013 6:33 am

    What a great vacation! Did you plan your stops ahead of time, researching them to death (as I would) or did you wing it?
    I love the pictures in particular the one where Dylan is looking up at Riley with what looks like adoration of his big brother.
    Love the other comments too – I wish I knew all of you!

  21. Christy on July 20th, 2013 8:00 am

    I felt like I was there…your pictures are gorgeous. And, your boys are growing so fast! I’m glad you had such a great trip.

  22. Maria on July 20th, 2013 10:43 am

    This is so cool. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Mare on July 20th, 2013 11:55 am

    Those boys are very lucky to have parents like you two. Your family is beautiful, and you can see in all the photos the strength that keeps your spirits up, even on the hard days. (Its that easy!) :)

    May you always be surrounded by this much love and light.

  24. Janet in Miami on July 20th, 2013 1:48 pm

    P.S. – You look really GREAT !!!!

  25. Noemi on July 20th, 2013 4:13 pm

    I think I liked every single one of these photos on Instagram. What an amazing vacation.

  26. H on July 20th, 2013 5:22 pm

    Absolutely wonderful!

  27. Lesley T. on July 20th, 2013 8:28 pm

    Beautiful scenery, beautiful family.

  28. April on July 20th, 2013 9:01 pm

    Thanks for this little summary- I love hearing about your roadtrips and it give me a glimpse into our future. Your boys sound very much like mine, except mine are 3 and 5 and we are just starting to foray into road-trip world- we went to Moab for a long weekend last month. (Aside: my older boy gets carsick and someone suggested books on tape as a way of occupying him that would not add to the sickness. Now I think it’s fair to say he’s ADDICTED, which is sort of awesome… I will find him sprawled on his bed, headphones on, gazing into space and just listening!) Oregon is SO on my bucket list and I’m going to steal all of your ideas!! Thanks again!

  29. Maura on July 21st, 2013 11:21 am

    I shed a few tears reading this post and looking at those fantastic photos. How fortunate you are to live in such a beautiful part of the country.

    I just finished reading the book “Wild” and in it she describes “Crater Lake”, and in the book she talks about the vivid blue that is so evident in your photos.

  30. Amity on July 21st, 2013 11:32 am

    All the photos are fantastic, but esp the one of little bro looking up at big bro, and the one of you and the boys holding hands at Crater Lake. HEART.MELT.

  31. Lisa on July 21st, 2013 3:52 pm

    I’m supposed to be planning our own summer vacation. Would it be cheating if I just stole your itinerary?

  32. Kathi on July 21st, 2013 4:38 pm

    You have the most amazing trips. And beautiful pictures. I’d love to replicate this itinerary when my youngest gets a few years older. Thanks for sharing!

  33. MassHole on July 22nd, 2013 5:29 am

    “It’s that easy !”

  34. Annie on July 22nd, 2013 6:09 am

    Great picture of you and the boys. You can pretend it’s Mother’s Day ! Glad you had a great time, loved all the pictures.

  35. ememby on July 22nd, 2013 8:07 am

    Simply gorgeous! It’s that easy!

  36. Melanie J. on July 22nd, 2013 9:05 am

    Handsome boys. Wow they are so grown up. Glad you had a great vacation.

  37. Jennifer on July 23rd, 2013 10:16 am

    Suntanned face of the gorgeous mom!

  38. Lauren on July 23rd, 2013 4:33 pm

    I love our state so much! I lived in Southern Oregon for years and now live in Portland, but these pictures remind me of how much there is to do down there.

    Crater Lake is worth another visit in early May, when you can still drive up easily but there is 20 feet of snow. So gorgeous!

    Yay for summer vacation!

  39. Laurelie on July 24th, 2013 12:35 pm

    My own boys are currently 4 and 1…the picture of your two boys with their arms around one another made me tear up and smile for the future of my guys.

  40. Amy on August 7th, 2013 8:27 pm

    I LOVE the photo of Dylan looking at Riley all worshippy. I also love that you got in to a couple of photos. Thank you for sharing. Also, I see the boys are now, in fact, boys…young men really. That happened fast. Riley looks so much like your husband and Dylan really favors you now. Precious.

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