Monday, June 22, 2009

Our Oregon Coast Vacation

It all started a few months before we went, when Brianna and I were in a local thrift store. She spied a bag of sea shells and wanted to buy them. So, we did. But it got me thinking, if she's excited about that, how much more excited would she be to go beach combing and pick up real shells right off the beach, and our vacation plans were born.

So, the first week in June Travis, myself, Bree and Noah packed up and headed to the Oregon coast for our first ever family vacation. (And I'm just now getting around to posting the pix!) I mean, we've visited family plenty, but this was our first vacation, just the four of us, just to have fun and see sights.

The kids, chillin' out on the long drive to the coast. Our car was so jam packed, we could barely move! It was shocking how much stuff we made fit into that car.

Our first few days were spent in Newport, where we visited the aquarium and the bay. But first things first...we headed straight for the beach.

Their first forays into the waves...looking a little tentative. :)

The aquarium was a big hit. The kids were so excited, running around and pointing at everything.
Check out those Japanese crabs, just as big as Noah!

Hey look, it's Nemo!

And this is one of my favorite sea creatures, a skate. They're like a ray, only smaller I think. Isn't he cute? I just like their faces all up against the glass, and they have these funny little fin/leg things that they kick all around.

My own little sea monkey. :)

Peering down to get a closer look in the shark tunnel, sharks swimming above and below!
Bree looking scared in front of some shark jaws.... either that or she's trying to see who can open their mouth wider. :)

It was a big place, lots to see, so we took it slow and took some breaks. Here's Bree taking 5 to lounge on a dolphin statue.

I had my own way of relaxing....
mmm.... coffee....

Did you know that Bree has the arm span the same length as the wing span of a snowy owl?
Hmmm... neither did we until our visit to the aquarium.

After resting up from a big day of fish viewing, we went south a bit to Florence, had lunch at Moe's and checked out the sea lion caves.
Peeking over the wall at the lookout point.

There were a ton of sea lions there, but they were fairly far away from the vantage point, so the kids weren't too impressed. This is the view looking through Trav's zoom lens.

Then we headed north up the coast for a few days, stopping at any beaches that caught our interest and doing a lot of beach combing.
A cool off-shore rock formation at Cape Kiwanda.

Me striking a dorky pose on the beach. I'm wearing my "vacation hat." Travis and I each had one actually. They were both fun and functional. Fun, because we knew we looked a bit silly but we wore them anyway to keep ourselves in the vacation, free-spirit, I don't care if I look a bit silly mode, and functional because it's always windy on the Oregon coast. Wearing a hat was the only way to keep my hair out of my face.

Noah running down the beach... admit it, you're hearing the theme song from St. Elmo's Fire right now, aren't you? (If not, you will now! There you go, soundtrack for the rest of these pix!)

We actually had beautiful weather for our entire trip, can you believe, 10 days at the Oregon coast and it didn't rain once? Perfect beach weather for early summer.

Nice big open sandy beaches everywhere we looked. The kids loved it, like one big sand box!

Here they are inspecting something that caught their eye in the sand. If you dig down a little bit, you can actually find quite a few little sand critters that bury themselves during low tide... little shrimp and crabs and all kinds of things in shells.

At first, the kids weren't really into the beach combing thing and were just whining about the wind, and the amount of walking. But, all it took was our first peek at a tidepool, and finding our first little shell, and they were into it!
A tide pool full of sea anemones.

Tidepoolin' ... rocky areas had the best tidepools.

Yes, that's me beach combing with a cup of coffee in my hand. What? A girl has needs, even on the beach.

Noah was so funny after he got into beach combing. He would run around picking up this and that and holding it up and saying, "cool!"

This beach was where we found some of our best treasures.
Because, while that line of debris may look kind of yucky, that's the best place to find interesting rocks and shells that have washed up.At this beach, there were just tons and tons of sand dollars around. But, the seagulls had broken them all open, all but this one that is. Somehow we managed to find this one pristine sand dollar that was still whole. It was a neat find and Bree was so cute, after we found it she said, "Can we buy something with our sand dollar?" So we had to explain even though it's called a sand dollar, you can't actually spend it. :)

Of course, no coast trip is complete without visiting a light house. We checked out this one at Cape Meares.
This was the view from near the lighthouse. Look at those trees! Gives you an idea just how much wind the area has, and how very strong it must be!

On our way north we also went through Tillamook and stopped to take a tour of the famous Tillamook Cheese Factory. It was pretty neat, although, I've been to other cheese factories, and I gotta say, seen one cheese factory, you've really seen them all. This one was just bigger. But it was lots of fun. The kids love cheese so we munched on a bunch of samples and ended up having cheese squares and a big Tillamook ice cream cone for lunch that day! (Which is allowed when you're on vacation.)

As we made our way along the beach, we spent our nights camped out at state parks. It was a money saver, and a lot of fun too!
That's one happy camper! Not to mention adorable! :)

Gathered around the campfire.

One night, we even got to stay in a yurt, which, if you don't know, is kind of like a tent/hut thing. We would have stayed in them more often, but they're popular and were booked most the time.
The inside of our yurt.

Although, I can't say staying in a yurt would count as "roughing it" because they come with electricity.
The kids bathed in the glow from watching a bedtime cartoon on our laptop. Who says you can't watch Bugs Bunny while "camping out."

It was really neat to camp out right next to the beach. It allowed Travis to get all kinds of cool sunset and silhouette shots.
Me and my two little ducklings following along.

Noah running into the sunset. (There goes that St. Elmo's Fire song again!)

Me in my hat at sunset.

Bree bending down to examine a find on the beach.

Staying near the beach was also great because it gave the kids lots of time for sand play and general beach shenanigans.
Diggin' and wadin'

Bree contemplating the ocean.

Check this one out, a cool slow shutter speed shot that shows the motion lines of the waves washing in and back out.

Naturally, since we were in the area we had to stop at Cannon Beach and get our own pix of the famous Haystack Rock.
That's Haystack Rock there in the distance.

Finally we ended up in Seaside, a charming little city with a beach front promenade, an aquarium where you can feed the seals (who will clap for attention to vie for fish, much to the kids' delight), an old time carousel, and a store that has 170 flavors of salt water taffy to choose from! (And yes, Travis and I did indeed feel like kids in a candy store just as much as the children did.)

At that point we'd been traveling along the coast for a full week, and we felt we were getting tuckered out, and wanted to start the journey home. But, on the way out we decided to hit up the Portland Zoo. Noah had never been to a big zoo and it had been awhile for Bree. They had fun and of course, Trav was snapping away and got some fun shots of some of the more exotic animals.
Love birds...awww

Surprisingly, the kids' favorite animal of the day was the bats.
They were just fascinated by them, and stood and stared for a long time. The zookeepers had just fed the bats, so they were flying all over and eating fruit.
I guess when you think about it though, bats are pretty cool... they can fly, hang upside down, walk along a branch upside down and they like the same fruits as kids.

I think my favorite part was the sea lions. I know, I know, we saw a bunch of them already, but they had a display where you could see them swimming up close.
There were two sea lions there. They were very graceful swimming together, almost like they were doing a dance.
And I didn't realize how huge they are up close and personal. For reference, that's me standing there in front of the glass.

On our way out, the kids couldn't resist a photo op with some animal statues. Noah chose to ride a hippo...
and here's Bree atop a snail.

And that's it... Whew! I know that was a lot of pictures, but it was a pretty long and full vacation.

Wonder where we'll go next year....