We’ve been back on the east coast for almost a week, overcoming jet lag and otherwise readjusting to life here. The memories of our big northwest adventure are still fresh, since we closed out the trip with a bang. After saying tearful goodbyes to friends and family, we headed out for a few vacation days before our flight. We went towards Portland but made a few stops along the way–first at Maryhill Stonehenge, a full-sized Stonehenge replica overlooking the Columbia River that was built as a World War I memorial, then at Multnomah Falls. The weather was clear when we stretched our legs at Stonehenge, but turned rainy as we started to drive through the Columbia River Gorge. By the time we reached the Falls, rain was coming down hard and Jenny had to abandon her long-held hope of hiking up to the top. Not only would it have been too hard on Roman, but the trail was closed due to a mudslide. Sadly, this was not the only time our hiking ambitions were stymied. Still, the falls were beautiful in the rain and Elena enjoyed the exhibition center and gift shop.
When in Portland, we tried to do as Portlanders–dinner at a restaurant that promised locally-grown ingredients, then a walk through the cavernous stacks at Powell’s books the first evening. The next morning, after taking the MAX Light Rail from our hotel to downtown, we rented a pedal-powered surrey and went for a five mile ride along the riverfront. Elena loved it, especially the bumpy parts, but Roman was not quite as happy. For me the most exciting part was seeing a drawbridge lift up just moments after we rode over it. The weather was still grey, so we took our picnic lunch to the mall’s food court, where Elena was happy to find out that I had some pennies for her to throw into the water feature.
Our post-lunch plans called for a visit to the International Rose Test Garden inside of Washington park, which we decided to walk to instead of waiting thirty minutes for a bus. Had we known how big the hill was, we might have reconsidered that decision. However, the walk allowed us a chance to see a historic residential neighborhood with beautiful houses and lovely spring flowers in bloom. Sadly, roses are not spring flowers–we probably should have thought of that beforehand–so we just got to see lots of rose bushes. The varieties were all labeled with interesting names, but we didn’t get to debate whether the names fit the flowers. Luckily, we weren’t the only ones in the garden; along with some other tourists, we met some bold squirrels and overheard a few serious skateboarders talk about the best routes through the garden.
I don’t intend to say much about our accommodations, but I would like to know how families with small children handle sharing a hotel room. It was so hard to get Elena and Roman to go down when we were right there next to them that we didn’t want to risk turning on the lights or television once they were asleep. As a result, we caught up on The Amazing Race on my laptop, using headphones, while huddled in the alcove next to the entrance, and did a lot of quiet fumbling around in the dark.
I had really talked up our main event for the next day to Elena–a hike at the Grove of the Patriarchs in Mount Rainier National Park. Imagine our disappointment when, after taking a circuitous route through the mountains, we finally arrived at the park gate and found it closed. Apparently many of the park entrances don’t even open until the first of May. Somehow, none of the people we had told about these plans ever mentioned that danger. Still, we got to see some great views of the mountain as we drove around it. Defeated, we tried to find someplace where we could spread out our lunch, but there was a herd of elk taking naps at the only public picnic tables we could find in the nearest town. We retreated even further, to a highway rest stop, which was fenced in–perhaps to keep out passive-aggressive elk.
Elena fell asleep in the car after lunch and woke up only when we got close to Tacoma, where we were stopping at the Brown and Haley factory store, where Jenny knew we could get good deals on Almond Roca and other tasty treats. Despite the prospect of candy, Elena just wanted to know when and where we could go for a hike. She was so insistent about it that I looked up a hike we could go on near our hotel after dinner. We offered her a choice between that hike and some time in the hotel pool. Like almost any child would, she chose the pool.
We had an unpleasant surprise the next morning, when I discovered that our car’s window had been smashed and the GPS taken. Luckily, we were close to the car rental facility and the agents there facilitated such a quick switch to another car that we were only twenty minutes late to church. We attended church and spent the day in West Seattle with Stephanie, one of Jenny’s college roommates. Because it was such a sunny day, we went for a walk along Alki beach, along with what appeared to be the rest of West Seattle. Roman and Elena both received several unsolicited compliments on their cuteness and clothes–Elena’s zebra print dress is always a hit, even when not paired with my zebra print tie.
That evening we returned to our Seattle home base at Matt and Carrie’s house. It was great to see them one last time before we left; we all have fun together. On Monday afternoon, Jenny and Carrie took a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory while I tried to provide a calming influence for all four kids at home. We played house–I chose to be the baby, and pretended to take a nap. Jenny and Carrie tried lots of samples during their tour, and brought back some fancy treats to share. In the evening we finally fulfilled Elena’s desire to go for a hike, as Matt and Carrie took us to a great park in their community where a little waterfall was just down the trail. The kids did just what we expected: splashed in the stream and found lots of sticks to play with.
With that, the fun portion of our trip concluded. Jenny and I spent the rest of the evening packing our bags, and the next day our flights were mostly uneventful. Now we’re here for just a few weeks before we jet off on a new adventure, but I’ll write more about that soon. I recommend that you visit my flickr page to see the photos from the trip that didn’t fit into this post.