Mount Saint Helens

While we were on our vacation visiting family on the west coast, we took a day to visit Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington.




It was a very cloudy and foggy day, so we did not have spectacular views of the mountain, but the clouds did part long enough for us to get a glimpse into the crater. The girls (and adults) were appropriately impressed. The kids did the Junior Ranger activity offered here at MSH. First, we watched a movie about the 1980 eruption, which complimented a video we watched back at home before we left for this trip. It talked about the events of that day in May but also the smaller, crater-building eruptions that took place over the next few years after the big one. We saw the lava dome grow and the crater glacier change size and shape. It was very interesting. Next, we attended a ranger presentation. The ranger discussed the changing shape of the summit and crater, showing us before and after pictures and also pointing out the rebuilding sequence that has since occurred.


After the ranger signed their booklets and they finished the activities inside, we noticed that the sun had peeked out and that we might be able to see into the crater from the observatory. We went outside and hiked up to the outdoor observation point, and did manage to see it for a brief minute or two before the clouds moved back in.







Finally, the girls went back in and were sworn in as Junior Rangers. They got their pins and trading cards, plus a certificate signed by Ranger Grace. I bought them each a patch, too. We had remembered to bring our National Park Kids Companion Books along, so they also got stamps in those. Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled


Lincoln’s Boyhood

We recently visited Evansville, Indiana with DH, who had to go there for work.

Lincoln's Boyhood Brochure

While dad was working, the girls and I made a side trip to Abraham Lincoln’s Boyhood National Memorial, just 45 minutes from our hotel. The park was really easy to find, and we ended up being the only ones there that morning.  The ranger seemed kind of shocked to see us pull in, to be honest. It was kind of funny. But he was friendly and helped us get our Junior Ranger booklets. Most national parks have a Junior Ranger program, which is really neat. The kids complete several activities in a booklet (which they get to keep! bonus!), then there are often other activities like attending a ranger program or picking up trash, etc., and then they get pins and/or patches to show they are Junior Rangers for that park. We’ve already earned ones from Gold Rush National Park in Seattle and the Grand Canyon North Rim. The kids think they’re fun and they are a lot more engaged than I remember being when my parents slogged us through national parks ad nauseum.



Here’s the visitor’s center, where we started. We saw a 15 minute movie narrated by Leonard Nimoy about Lincoln’s time in Indiana (he lived here from age 7 until he was 21). It was very interesting.  I didn’t know (or didn’t remember) that Lincoln’s mother died when he was 9, and that his father was remarried to a woman who had three other children.

Also very interesting: Lincoln was homeschooled.  Actually, he was pretty much unschooled.  They only had one book, the bible, until his stepmother brought three more books with her when she moved to Indiana with the Lincolns.  The film said that Lincoln probably had about a year’s worth of “schooling” over his lifetime.

Here is a view of the visitor’s center:


Each of those “panels” on the walls of the visitor’s center are a carved relief with one of Abe’s famous quotations etched above.  Here is one:


The park is not overly large, but much of the important stuff is outside. We decided to walk to the knoll where Lincoln’s mother is buried and then hike the memorial trail that loops past the Lincoln family’s farmsite. First we checked ahead in the books to see if there’s anything in particular we would want to pay attention to on our hike to the Pioneer Cemetery and the Trail of Twelve Stones.


Here we are, looking across the parking lot at the Tallest Flagpole In Indiana. It’s 150′ high.





View of the visitor’s center from the flagpole/knoll:



Bonus: the daffodils were in bloom! Ours at home are still just little shoots.


So first we checked out the cemetery. Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Abe’s mother, is buried here. So are many other pioneers from that time. This area had an outbreak of “milk sickness”, which people got when they drank the milk of a cow who had ingested white snakeroot plants. A toxin accumulated in the cow’s milk and most people who got “milk sickness” died from it. Now that we know what causes it, it’s not as deadly (or common). But back then, it was just a deadly, mysterious illness.




We wrote a few answers in our booklets, then decided to head up the Trail of Twelve Stones.




There are twelve rocks, stones and/or bricks positioned along the trail and each one has some kind of significance in Lincoln’s life. For some reason, I only photographed ten of them. But we found all twelve. We also found the family’s farmsite, which has a little monument on it.





I guess during the summer months, they have people working on the farm and running it just like it would have been in Abe’s time. Today, though, it was just us and some chickens.





O7 found a nice walking stick, though. She carried it the entire rest of the way.


Here’s where the stones begin:





This is the very rock Lincoln stood on when he delivered the Gettysburg Address:


It was pretty chilly out, but the sun felt nice and the cool air was refreshing after the long car ride.


We hiked about a mile total, which was perfect.



Then O7 insisted I photograph her at the flagpole, but with her walking stick this time.


The kids took their books inside and finished the rest of the activities, and then we got our Junior Ranger pins. I let them each pick out a postcard, and we also bought a little souvenir activity book about Abraham Lincoln that they could do in the car.






Trading Cards from Lincoln's Boyhood

Wright Brothers Monument and First Flight Museum

We are in Corolla, NC for a family wedding and decided to take advantage of our time here to visit the Wright Brothers Monument in Kitty Hawk, just a few miles south of where we are staying.



The park is quite large and includes a visitor center, two “pavilions”, the grass field that the first flights took off and landed on, and an obelisk monument up on the big hill. We walked almost all of it while we were there. Fortunately, we brought lots of water and sunscreen.

These are the pavilions:


The pavilions house the original 1903 glider and many other displays.  Unfortunately, they were closed due to a flood that happened here a few weeks ago.

We started in the visitor center. The girls went up to the desk and asked for the materials to get their Junior Ranger badges. For this park, the girls had to attend two programs and complete two pages in the age-appropriate section of the Junior Ranger workbook. We headed back outside for the kite program, which started right away.

At the kite program, we learned how you could use simple materials like a heavy trash bag, wooden sticks and some string to make a very serviceable kite. Here we are listening to a quick discussion about kites and why they were important to the Wright brothers:


Next we got to take some kites out onto the field and try them out.



Here is O6 getting a little bit of instruction from her dad:



And it’s up!



S8 figured it out right away without much help. She loved flying her kite. I liked that they could feel the wind pushing the kite up. It gave them a good sense of how wind (or moving air) is important for flight.



Next, we hiked up to the monument. We figured it was a good idea to get up there and back before the sun became too unbearable. It was supposed to be well into the 90s by afternoon.


Here’s Nana and O6 getting ready to hike up the hill.



They got a head start and beat us up there. Fortunately, they found a shady spot to take a little break.



From the monument, you have a nice view of the field the Wrights used to test their gliders and where, in 1903, they flew the motorized plane that made history.



After a little rest, we headed back down the hill and over to the visitor’s center for our second program, an interpretive presentation on the Wright Brothers. It took place in front of a very realistic replica of the 1903 glider.


Finally, we finished the last few items in our books before going back to the ranger station with our Junior Ranger materials.


S8’s booklet:

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O6’s booklet:

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Once everything had been checked over, the girls were sworn in as Junior Rangers. This makes the third of these we’ve done- after Grand Canyon and the Seattle Gold Rush museums last year.



Congratulations, Junior Rangers!

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Today we flew from Cleveland, OH, to Seattle, WA.  We have been on a few plane trips before but it was still very exciting.  This is the first time the girls have been old enough to carry their own luggage.  They each had a suitcase and S7 brought her backpack, which is full of books.  I encouraged her to leave the hardcovers at home and just bring paperbacks.  😉

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The trip went very smoothly and in a few hours, we were in Seattle. Because we got in late, we stayed near the airport the first night. The next day we took a bus into town and checked in to a hotel near the Space Needle. The kids loved seeing the Space Needle in person after seeing it so many times in photographs.

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The first thing we did, after checking in to our hotel, was to wander around and explore the area. We found the Tesla showroom, which S7 remembered seeing on an episode of Top Gear.

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That night, we had dinner at the Needle and got to ride the monorail. We learned about the 1962 World’s Fair, which was when both of those attractions were built.



The next morning, we walked all the way down to Pioneer Square, about 15 blocks. We got good views of the city and also the waterfront along the way. Finally, we got to the National Park in Pioneer Square.


This is the Seattle unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Park. It had a lot of information about the gold rush and Seattle’s role in it. We had a chance to see a gold panning demonstration while we were there.


The girls also completed the Junior Ranger booklets and earned their Junior Ranger badges at the Gold Rush museum.

From here, we went over to the Seattle Aquarium. We got to see many of the species that live in and around the Puget Sound area.



We also learned a lot more about the Orcas which we planned to see the next day.


On the third day, we took a ferry boat up to the San Juan islands. The boat then went into the Sound and we were able to see some whales!

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