I have amazing memories of traveling to Spokane. Growing up, we made the trip on numerous occasions to visit either my grandparents (who moved there later in my "childhood") or to visit some of our favorite cousins. The trip itself was never fun. Never mind, I take that back. The first HOUR of the trip was always fun. Our snack containers were still full of yummy treats, our backpacks were filled with fun activities (coloring books, reading books, car games), we were freshly burrowed into little nests made of our blankets and pillows, and we were excited to be on the road and on the way to visit the best cousins ever. That part was THE BEST. It was the next four hours that killed us (the fighting, the numb limbs from being contorted into weird sleeping positions, the depressingly empty snack containers, the numerous potty breaks, the car sickness, the bickering parents, and the boredom). My parents were always in a rush to get to the destination as soon as possible. There were very little stops along the way.
I decided I wanted to do car trips differently. We weren't going to rush through. We were going to stop for all the adventures along the way. I love sightseeing and exploring and walking and hiking and just generally being out in the world and seeing new things (no matter how mundane) even if it means wandering without purpose. For me, the wandering IS the purpose. I hope I can instill a love for whimsical exploring in my children. Don't get me wrong. My intentions are purely selfish. I need some exploring buddies!
So I packed up the kids and we filled our snack containers (!) and we headed out to explore all the things that I had never seen before (or had only seen once) despite the fact that I had travelled the route more times than I can even count. I was at the helm and that meant we were doing things my way, the best way (i.e.- stopping at every roadside attraction and to refill our snack containers at every opportunity).
Although all the stops added about two hours to our travel time, the trip went by fast and was fun in itself. Breaking the distance into little legs made all the difference.
Our first stop was the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. Ok, I lied. Our actual first stop was Ellensburg for a Dairy Queen lunch. At the door of the DQ, Jacob started to take off his pants. When I asked what he was doing, he pointed to a sign that said "Shirts and shoes required" and informed me that he obviously didn't have to wear pants. Dear DQ, some friendly and free legal advice: you might want to clarify your sign for your very literal costumers.
Back to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. Once upon a time, roughly a bajillion years ago, some forest was covered in volcano shit. The volcano shit hardened, covered a bunch of trees, and turned them to stone. The stones were hidden for millions of years. Then a big ol' glacier sweated all over the place, exposing the rocky trees. The rocky trees were discovered in the 1930s, commoditized, and turned into little pieces of tree rock that you can conveniently purchase at a Gem Shop right next to little bottles of shark teeth during hour three of your five (or seven) hour road trip to Spokane. But you can't buy the petrified wood souvenirs until you pose next to random (and slightly creepy) statutes of dinosaurs. Or so I told my children.
Dinosaur statutes are totally the most natural thing to see at a petrified wood Gem Shop. Amirite? For documentation sake, I bribed the big kids into doing dinosaur poses. Jon, on the other hand, was no fool. No amount of dum dum sucker promises could convince him to look like a complete idiot.
In the parking lot, we saw these animals that Ryan declared to be cows.
And then I made everyone pose near a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. You know, the Columbia River. It's the one named after Columbia Crest wine.
Jon's face kills me in this picture.
We found some legit petroglyphs carved by the Wanapum Indians. You know, petroglyphs. The great-great-great-great (x10) ancestor of the emoji. How did the Wanapum people even communicate without a smiling poop emoji?!
Yay! Seeing ancient stuff!
Our next stop (my personal favorite!) was the Wild Horse Monument. This is a sculpture of 15 teeny tiny horses charging a bluff, which is conveniently located on a.... (drumroll)....bluff! From the road, they do not look very impressive and the kids were NOT excited to stop here. Especially when they saw that this attraction would require hiking. I parked the party van, strapped Jon to my back, and marched adventurously forward with Jacob and Ryan underfoot.
Until I had a stranger take our picture about 100 feet later and realized mid-pose that my van trunk was wide open and that I had to lumber all the way back to the van to close it. After I closed the trunk door (literally a minute later), I turned around and saw that the kids were here:
There were two paths up the bluff. One was a short, steep path. The other was a long, zig-zagging path. All the other adventurers recommended that I take the longer path, especially since I had a 27 pound baby on my back. But, thanks to my children, I didn't have to sit and make a decision. They were already nearly halfway up the steep bluff. The other adventurers looked on in doubt and horror as I raced forward to join them in my skinny jeans and boatshoes. My scared-of-everything four year old not only climbed up the steep path, he did it all by himself!
I was so proud of him when we got to the top. And he had the biggest smile on his face. He marched proudly onward with a new sense of courage and invincibility. Go Ryan! Wait. No. Stop. Stop Ryan! You can't conquer the world just yet. I need you to be my little Ryan. Come back and cling to my legs one more time.
At least I still have Jon (who will wear diapers and sleep in a crib until he's seven because I'll be in denial)
As we climbed the bluff, the teeny tiny horses grew and grew until they were life-sized monuments covered in bad-ass, bored teenage, road-tripper graffiti. So bad-ass, right?
The view was incredible!
And I would have enjoyed it had I not been mourning the fact that I just did a steep hike and it didn't even get recorded on my Fitbit because my Fitbit had lost its charge. So basically, it didn't even happen. So what was the whole point anyway? Pure tragedy.
I had to snap this lovely picture of my oldest son doing a booty dance on the cliff's edge. Which pretty much eradicated any doubts I had that he was really mine.
Babies- nature's strength training weights since the beginning of time.
On the way back down the bluff we did take the long, gradual path because I'm not a fan of face plants. I walked behind Ryan who stopped every five feet to pick up a rock for his (until today, non-existent) rock collection and then requested that I carry all his "treasures" for him. Because, you know, he was tired from being so brave and all that. Sure kid. It's not like I already have a small child on my back or anything. Go ahead and fill my pockets with useless rocks why don't you?
One last view!
That was it for our adventures on the way TO Spokane. Jon screamed the final hour of our trip for no apparent reason. I kept reaching one hand back to hand him snacks over his car seat in an effort to appease or quiet him. It wasn't until we arrived at our hotel and I found that his entire car seat was filled to the brim with cheese puff crumbs, broken goldfish, and smashed granola bars that I realized he hadn't eaten a single morsel. Lo and behold, two days of crying and an urgent care trip later, we learned that he had an ear infection.
The kids cleaned up pretty nicely for the funeral. Then there was a whirlwind of pool swimming, procuring meals for boys who are hungry every 2 hours, visiting family, visiting urgent care, and making (unintentionally) barefoot trips to Rite Aid for swim diapers and chocolate. Then we set back out for the road.
On the trip home, our first destination was another scenic bluff overlooking the Columbia River.
Here are the boys and Jon's beloved Blankie. Blankie was dragged against every bit of surface on which Jon walked and was so covered in dirt by the time we got home that it was a completely different color.
My littlest dude was trying so hard to keep up with his big bros but his little legs just kept conspiring against him. It's hard to be the baby sometimes.
Boy Totem Pole
And our final stop (aside from the many gas stations for pee breaks and Diet Dr. Pepper refills), was back at the Ginkgo state park where we bypassed the Gem Shop and actually hiked the remnants of the forest. Although there was a rattlesnake sign and a chance we would not get back to the car before dark, I was most terrified about the fact that I had parked without the appropriate state park pass, thereby living each moment in the suffocating throes of panic over the possibility of getting a parking ticket. What can I say. I live for danger!
Hiking, and hunting for petrified tree stumps (omg, tree rock stumps....SO EXCITING!). The boys ran ahead while I scanned the road below for perilous parking enforcement officers.
Jon helped me scout from the backpack.
LOOK GUYS! A TREE STUMP! SO EXCITING!
We hiked for about 40 minutes over the lush, green landscape:
Sidenote: Jacob is wearing headphones. No, they are not plugged into anything. He said they made his ears feel comfortable. Yes, he is awesome.
We headed rattlesnakes warning signs.
And saw a vicious, ferocious gardner snake of some sort. Can you spot the terrible creature hiding in the rocks? No? EXACTLY! That's exactly my point! That's why they are so scary!
We continued to hike until the fear of a parking ticket grew so great that I could no longer live under the weight of its clutches. We walked back to the car 20 pounds of random rock "treasures" heavier and ready to finally set sail for home so we could give stench-emitting Blankie a good wash.