Last weekend we took our first trip with the kids to Oregon. Our first roadside stop, before we left California, was the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the ox. Paul Bunyan talked to the boys! Not just a recording, either, he even answered their questions. (Young Son asked if he ever milks Babe, hee hee.)kids in front of Paul Bunyan and Babe statues
We stayed at Grayback Campground on OR-46. After setting up camp, we went to check out the swimming hole, which was at the convergence of Grayback Creek and another smaller (and colder) creek. It was late afternoon and I found a nice sunny spot on some rocks midstream. I was nice and relaxed until a big spider fell on me. I know nature needs spiders, but – eew, yuck! If bugs are going to be attracted to me, please let it just be butterflies and lady bugs from now on.

Family Man and boys at the swimming hole

Back at camp, we played a family poker game on which we wagered pistachio shells. Young Son was the big winner, again. I told you he was good. Later, we barbequed steak and veggies for dinner. Our campsite was right above the creek.

cooking at camp

We slept to the sound of the water rushing past. Brother said it disturbed his sleep, but he might have been exaggerating. I slept like a baby. It was chilly in the morning. We stoked the fire and had tea and hot cocoa to warm up until the sun reached our camp.

morning around the campfire

This trip was full of firsts. The kids first time in Oregon. All of our first time going deep inside some serious caves (more on that below). And our first time taking out the slackline. This was a gift from my sister. We set it up at camp and had the whole long weekend to practice balancing and walking on it. Really fun.

Young Son on the slackline

On Sunday, we drove to the Oregon Caves National Monument. The caves are home to hundreds of species, eight of which are endemic to the Oregon Caves (which means that is the only place in the world those species exist). The caves are a special and delicate environment, so the only way to see them is on the guided tour. Our ranger-guide was very friendly and incredibly informative. We got there early, so we were with a really small group and Brother and Young Son were able to ask all the questions they could think of. We learned a lot along the way. Exploring the caves was an amazing and unique experience.

banana groves cavern of the Oregon Caves

This cave here is aptly named the Banana Grove. It is impossible to convey through photos what it was like deep underground inside those tunnels and caverns. The pictures that came out okay, I put together in a slide show which you can see on my youtube channel, if you want. After we emerged from underground, we hiked up the mountain above the caves, to the lookout.

Beautiful Day Mama on top of the mountain with a view of forests all around

When we got back, we discovered our camp neighbors had left us a treat of homemade cookies before they departed. It was a family of four whose son and daughter were several years older than our kids. They were from Arizona and were traveling by RV on their way to the San Juan Islands in northern Washington. Their son hit it off with Brother, and their daughter enjoyed trying out the slackline. I wish we could have gotten to know them better – they were so nice.
gift of cookies left by friendly campers

We spent that afternoon playing in Grayback Creek.

rusty red bridge over grayback creek

Monday we packed up camp and headed home. We stopped for lunch back in California at Sandy Beach river access on the Smith River. Another first – we’d never been to the Smith River before. This was a crystal clear swimming hole next to a big boulder, flanked by a wide sandy stretch of shore. The water was so cold, snow melt that felt like it had just barely melted. It was so pretty.

Sandy Beach swimming hole on the Smith River