Days 1 – 10: Washington, Oregon, and Northern California


Sorry for the radio silence. We are alive and well and still talking to each other! We’re counting that as a success.

We are currently in California having a little R&R at a Sierra Club lodge near Truckee. This is a place I’ve been visiting since I was a kid and it’s a bit weird not having my parents here with us. I keep expecting to turn around and see my mom charging up the trail or my dad lagging behind, eyes glued to binoculars, looking for birds. Moments like these have me missing loved ones back home.

We had a fairly relaxed trip down through Washington and Oregon. Our first night we spent with family on the Coast so we eased into the trip in grand style. Since then we’ve generally tried to keep a routine of three nights camping, 1-2 nights in a hotel/lodge. Our somewhat skeezy motel in Chico (Cali) wasn’t super clean but it came with a pool, spotty wifi, and a laundry room so it checked all the necessary boxes. So far my favorite camp experience was a free forest service campground way up in the hills of Las Plumas National Forest, about 2 hours north of Truckee.

Rocky, rugged Oregon Coast

Ben would like the world to know that he is TIRED OF WALKING

Our little girlie is up and riding! And thanks to my Papa’s nifty bike hack, we’re not killing our backs trying to guide her along. She can go forever but so far the concept of braking has eluded her so she has suffered a few spectacular crashes. We’re taking a short bicycle hiatus while her knees recover from her adventures.

Dinner. Not ours, unfortunately.




Grubby, mosquito-bitten, and still carrying traces of campfire smores: life isn’t too shabby for these two.


The campground at Sandbeach, Oregon. Normally a haven for off-road dune buggies, we managed to find a quiet corner and a few good tide pools.

We zoomed inland at Florence (Oregon) to get some mountain time and take a peek at a little lake.

We did a somewhat poor job of explaining to Ben the concept behind Crater Lake. We drove up and he was disappointed to not spy lava pouring forth from the moutain. I suppose a big lake would be somewhat of a let-down if you come expecting molten magma in a volcano.

We also failed to anticipate how our late Spring  in the Pacific Northwest has affected the high mountains. Crater Lake was cloaked in her winter wardrobe (and consequently the eastern portion of the rim road was still closed). Bummer.

And just like that, we were done with Oregon. We zipped down into California to the Lava Beds National Monument which was hot but so very cool. Weirdly. The aptly named Skull Cave had a floor of ice.

Skull Cave

Little Emma wasn’t so sure about the caves until I put her on my back and then she was a happy camper. Nothing like a free adventure ride.

My two pieces of advice for caving: bring warm jackets and make sure you have a backup light source. May have learned those lessons the hard way.

One of the things we thought about when planning this trip was the ability to go off paved roads when the mood strikes us. We probably won’t be doing any crazy explorations but it’s nice to occasionally depart the traditional route. This was a lunch spot back in Modoc National Forest. Just us and the lucky ants that discovered our picnic.

The campground at Lava Beds was like a blast furnace: windy, hot, and dry. I was worried about snakes and scorpions while the kids were completely intent on throwing aside their shoes and playing soccer barefoot. We’re still working out our campground kinks.

At six, Ben is our social ambassador and immediately makes friends with the other campground kids, no matter their age. Emma, at three, is often left feeling abandoned, especially since she hasn’t yet got her bike riding down. But she is slowly starting to find her groove, playing by herself or tentatively making a few overtures to the younger campers.


Well, that’s a wrap on the Pacific Northwest and Northern Cali. We have a few nice weeks ahead: visiting friends in various CA towns and then hoping to pop over to Yosemite and Owens Valley. And who knows, maybe we’ll even hit Death Valley. It was 127 F there the other day. Caliente!!





  • Graham

    Awesome start to your journey. Love all the pictures!! What a special way to be together as a family!!

  • Sonja Jernstrom

    Hi Graham,

    Thanks for your note; all is well and we are having a great time so far (with the occasional mishap, of course)! Looking forward to exploring more of mexico in these next few weeks.

    All the best to you and J.


  • Matt C

    Chris, what a fun experience this will be for you and your family. Glad to see you take that opportunity while they were young. Have a great time and stay safe.

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