Are you ready for some pictures?!! When I asked Michele if I should do multiple posts or just one, she suggested going for one BIG post to sum up our marvelous adventures on the Metolius - so here goes...
Michele and I were also joking that if the Father-Son Retreat that our "boys" attend is called "Sons of Thunder" - maybe we should title our less formal retreat with our girls "Daughters of Lightening"?! =)
As we did last year, we used the opportunity of our boys being at Camp Harlow for their mid-school camp to whisk our girls away for a camping trip. This year, we left directly from Camp Harlow - our rig already packed to the hilt - so we could have an additional evening camping and a full day on Monday to do all that we wanted to do.
After checking out at least a half dozen campgrounds, we found our favorite, and by the time we set up, twilight was descending - and that meant it was time for a campfire and s'mores. =)
I love our tent - it easily accommodates two queen size air mattresses with another twin in between - we were all "snug as a bug in a rug" - and actually slept great both nights!
Destination #1: Jack Creek Campground (Shhhh, don't tell anyone about this campground....it's way too great to become overrun by too many people.)
Check out this campsite - in the trees, but open enough with plenty of space. Yes, in the foreground, that is an outhouse kept incredibly clean every morning by the Hoodoo Recreation staff (a gentleman that was super helpful in suggesting great places to visit). For a group of five gals - having a bathroom nearby was a must! (And, we were virtually the only users being among the only "residents" on this side of the campground).
Mikayla was our "Early Bird" - who was a little bored hanging out with her Mom and Aunt who were extremely engrossed in their books!
Our first destination on Monday morning led us through this back road - and introduced us to this flock of wild turkeys. How cool is that? We also saw plenty of deer and an unlimited amount of chipmunks. =)
Destination #2: Skylight Cave
It's in the middle of NO WHERE - but there is a sign that says "EVENTS" and an area for parking. The ladder leading down into the cave is permanently there.
These pictures illustrate why the cave got its name. Depending on the time of the day is how much light you will see and how it will shine through. It was really, really awe-inspiring, the word "ethereal" came to mind when I took the pic of Ellie standing in the light. (How I wish I'd had John's big camera here vs. just my "point and click")
All five of us - getting ready to ascend the ladder out of the cave. We would have stayed longer to explore, but in all the efforts to make sure we knew how to find this place, we forgot to pack flashlights (and for Mikayla and I - sweatshirts as the temps once you hit the cave are in the 40's). The girls begged to come back the next day.
Here's one of the "skylight holes" as seen from above ground.
Throughout all of the 100+ miles we put into our back-road driving, the views of the mountains surrounding us were SPECTACULAR! This is "Three Fingered Jack".
After all that cave exploring, we had to get "nourished" at the Camp Sherman store. =)
Destination #3: Jack Lake
It was quite a drive to this high mountain lake, but it was well worth it. The lake was small, very shallow, and warm - just perfect to blow up the rafts and do some floating.
Wisely, we put the girls all in one boat - as they were way too squirrely. The wind was constantly pushing both of us to one side of the lake, so despite any distance Michele and I would put between us and the girls, we were never far from them.
After about an hour of floating and eating our picnic lunch, the girls got bored so we set off again. Along the way, we came across this sign, in which the "Schilling Girls" had to stop and pose beneath:
Another breathtaking mountain view: Mt. Jefferson
Destination #4: Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery
For a mere $ .25 per kiddo, you can entertain them longer here than being in a raft on a mountain lake! They were able to use their quarters to purchase some fish food and walk around feeding the trout. This pic shows the massive sturgeon - they didn't like the fish food.
All the swarming fish was a little creepy, but the kids loved it!
This is where the "big fish" get to go and play - this pond/lake. So pretty - especially with the group of geese adding to the ambiance.
For me, the marvel of Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery is the color of the water beneath the bridge that leads to it. The hues of blue are unbelievable.
Wisely, I chose NOT to give my van a bath before embarking on our camping adventure. I think it's pretty clear I made a good decision.
Since most of our travels (99%) were on back roads, we allowed the girls to sit in the back. They begged and begged on any long dirt stretches for us to do "Twisties" by swerving the vehicle back and forth. It's these little things that brought our girls such delight through the day!
Destination #5: Canyon Creek Campground's "Springs"
We had been advised to check this place out by two different "locals", but ended up driving right by the trailhead to get to it on our first attempt at finding it. After a little more direction from "Local #2" - we found our way back and hiked until we found it. It looks like a waterfall along the base of the mountain, but really its springs just spouting the water out - awesome!
Even as we were hiking away, I was telling Michele that some of these places we'd found on Monday would be ideal ending points for a guy seeking to propose in some "unbelievable" nature locale....
After that hike, we figured we'd wore ourselves out sufficiently and headed back to our campground for dinner, more s'mores and another cozy night in the tent.
This morning had us awake to another gorgeous day of blue skies and 80 degree temps. We opted to clean up camp, but not pack it into the rig until after we'd done a little more back-road exploring.
Destination #6: Round Lake
Mostly, we were just curious about this one, as we'd seen a campground symbol on the map and wondered if this could be a future camping destination. Nah - it wasn't over-the-top impressive. Unfortunately, a massive forest fire took out a lot of the "beauty" of this forest not so long ago. We explained to the kids that often, fires like these are all part of the cycle of a forest, but there's no denying the impact it can have on tourism/recreation.
Destination #7: Return to Skylight Cave (This time with flashlights and sweatshirts!)
Now that we were appropriately equipped we were able to go about a quarter of a mile through the cave. I was so pleased that the girls were all so gung-ho.
I know Michele is less than excited about this picture of her back-end, but I threw it in to prove the low ceiling in certain areas - requiring us to waddle through like ducks!
This picture represents the literal "light at the end of the tunnel"
Destination #8: Snow Cap Drive In, Sisters, Oregon
This place is "an institution" in Sisters - providing homemade ice cream and your basic Americana cafe choices. We figured it was our treat after packing up camp and getting prepared to head home. (Check out that dirt all over my daughter!)
Mikayla opted for Rainbow Sherbet while Ellie and Nati chose Cotton Candy Ice Cream - they all polished off their treats. (As did Michele and I with our choices!)
Destination #9: Sawyer's Ice Caves
Located right off the main pass highway from the valley to the mountains is this little treasure. They've actually taken down the sign and closed off the parking lot to discourage tourists from impacting the terrain too much. However, 12 years ago, when I worked as an activity director for Eugene Parks and Recreation, one of our youth camp "field trips" was to this spot (when it was still identified). It was fun to introduce it now to our girls, now that they had gotten the "Cave Exploring Fever".
I was literally admitting to our girls that I wasn't sure why the caves had their title when Michele (who was in the lead) pointed this out:
Oh, Sawyers ICE Caves....I get it now!
Needless to say, all of this ice was pretty slippery to ascend/descend. While we loved exploring the caves' depths - it was probably best for all of us that it didn't go too far - I'm guessing we would have ended with an injury if it had been much longer.
There were several cave entrances in that general area, but none as beautiful as the first one we found.
A perfect final picture of the five of us - happily smiling. About an hour and a half after taking this, we were back in town (driving through the car wash!) and eagerly getting in line for our own much needed showers!
I'm thankful the time with Michele and the girls isn't over - they will be here until early Saturday morning. However, I don't think we as moms can keep up quite this pace of excitement with our girls!
Speaking of girls - I just have to throw in this quote that had us all laughing in the middle of no where.
MICHELE: (Raising her voice the get her daughters' attention) "Hey Girls!"
NATI and ELLIE: (Sitting in the back of the vehicle while I was driving) ....no response....
MICHELE: "You know when I say 'Hey Girls' I'm not talking to my boobies, I'm talking to you two!"
Oh, I love it! We all did - just a little sample of some of the fun that all these pictures can't quite capture!