A friend’s wedding took the family to the west side of the state in late September. The beautiful fall scenery in the rolling hills and jagged rock formations brought a wonderful rest from schoolwork, as we fit our entire trip between my weekday school schedule. (Thanks, Dad, for driving till four in the morning to get me home for Monday classes!) We brought home a multitude of pictures, and here are a few teaser pictures until I have time to sort them all.
Benjamin in the Badlands.
At last, it all makes sense; Joseph is a wild hoofed animal at heart. His first instinct when he saw the pronghorn antlers on the kids table at Wind Cave:
Almost all the family-Landon stayed home to take care of schoolwork, and Maria is the photographer. This is at Wind Cave national park.
Building an enormous sand castle at the beach was Landon’s childhood dream. It was fulfilled in California, where he spent several hours creating one with the two little boys. They painstakingly carted bucket after bucket of seawater to wet the sand at a safe distance from the ocean, which terrified Dominic. Then, they had to guard the creation in progress from being smashed by the feet of inquisitive siblings coming to look.
I love this picture Mom snapped of the boys posing with their masterpiece, complete with a trench for a moat to its shell flags for the turrets. It’s a pleasantly warm memory for this cold February day.
The architecture was beautiful, and the history felt so near. It was founded in 1776, the same year the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the thirteen colonies, by Blessed Juniper Serra. From the information at the mission, we learned that Father Serra is considered to be the founding father of California, as he founded nine missions across California.
There were lots of artifacts from the daily lives of the Indians and priests who lived at the mission. There was a vegetable garden, a furnace for melting metal, and this millstone for grinding grain.
I wish they still made buildings with so many arches and bells! I counted at least seven bells around the mission.
There was a lovely garden inside, featuring a fountain, lots of flowers, and exotic looking cacti. There were also dozens of large butterflies and hummingbirds flying around, mostly species I had never seen before.
No other view says ‘California’ quite like this one.
The Golden Gate Bridge was very pretty, and its renowned color did not disappoint. The bold orange color formed the perfect contrast to the crystal blue water and sea.
This is Alcatraz on the island. I never realized how near it was to such a large city. I wondered if the criminals found the nearby metropolis tantalizingly close.
We traveled through San Francisco on our way to Los Angeles, and spent just enough timing driving through to get a feel for the atmosphere of the downtown region. Beautiful architecture lined the city streets, and historic trolley cables hung above us.
Sometimes it seemed like Chicago and Florida ran into each other and got a little mixed up about which was which.
We left San Francisco that same day, but if we had stayed we would have been there for the strongest earthquake since 1989. The hotel where we stayed the previous night was actually within a few miles of the epicenter of the 6.0 earthquake that struck less than 24 hours later, at three o clock at the morning. While I’m happy we escaped being in an area suffering major damage, part of me still thinks it would have been cool to feel an earthquake. Maybe not one that is greater than 4.0 though.
This was the view in all directions:
The first destination on our trip was the Redwood Forest in Northernmost California. My Mom had wanted to see the largest trees on earth for a very long time. We stopped to see the largest tree in the region, known unceremoniously as ‘The Big Tree’.
The name was an understatement.
Then we explored a forest trail, surrounded by thick forest as far as the eye could see.
We were fortunate to see two of these unusual creatures. They are called Banana Slugs, and only live in pacific forests. The first one we saw was quite large, and it moved slowly along its leaf, disregarding us completely.
Our family made a last minute decision to take to the road for the last two weeks before school started. After much deliberation, my parents decided to try to drive all the way to the West Coast. We weren’t sure how one year old Claire would deal with all of the driving, but she actually did quite well. (When supplied with adequate amounts of candy.) The first state we crossed after our own was Montana. The landscape once we hit the mountains was rugged and had lots of interesting rock formations.
We also passed close enough to the Bear Tooth Mountains to see their snowy caps. That was one of the first exciting moments of the trip, since none of the kids in our family had ever seen a mountain. Then we traveled along the Columbia River for quite a while, seeing the same landscape that those on the Lewis and Clark Expedition had seen about two hundred years ago.
and this boat looked like it came right out of Tom Sawyer:
You can just barely see Mount Hood in Oregon in this picture through the hazy clouds. I would have loved to see it on a clear day, since its lone snowy top was just beautiful.
The moment of victory: passage into California! For such a big state, they sure had a tiny welcome sign.
When we arrived in California after about four days of driving, we stopped in Crescent City to stick our feet in the ocean for the first time.
Landon and I quickly tasted our wet fingers to experience the salty sea. Everyone else began inspecting the remains of sea life scattered around. All of the kids, including me, quickly began collecting souvenirs. We were astonished at the great number of shells, sand dollar fragments, and dead crabs on the shore.
I loved little Claire’s footprints in the sand:
Last weekend, Dad took Landon and I down to Kansas. I participated in a college competition on Saturday, then traveled to Kansas City for the night.
In Kansas City, we went to an amazing museum that featured the cargo of a pre-civil war ship, the Arabia, that sank on the Missouri River in 1859. The river shifted its position and left the boat buried 45 feet underground. About twenty years ago, five ambitious treasure hunters decided to try to dig up the ship. Though it turned out to be a much bigger task than they expected, they succeeded, and what they found is displayed in the Steamboat Arabia Museum.
The museum guide referred to the ship as a nineteenth century Walmart, as it carried enormous quantities of everything used in 1859, both necessities for daily living:
… and non-necessities:
These beautiful buttons are all that is left of hundreds and hundreds of fine ladies’ dresses. Animal fibers like wool and silk were able to survive 130 years submerged in wet earth. Plant fibers, such as the cotton used in dressmaking, could not. Now we can only imagine how beautiful the dresses must have been.
Archeologists have been working on preserving the cargo of Arabia for twenty years, and they still have fifteen years until the entire collection is finished. Every artifact has to be stored in a freezer until it can be cleaned and preserved, or else it will deteriorate beyond recognition. This is the lab, where you can watch the restoration taking place right in front of you!
This is a full scale replica of the wheel of the Arabia:
Landon obliged me fifty-one cents so I could add to my collection of penny souvenirs. I’ve been collecting these ever since I was little, and I now have thirteen coins from six states!
Our first stop in Chicago was the Shedd aquarium. Dominic really got a kick out of seeing the fish.
These beluga whales were one of the highlights of the visit for me. They seem to be permanently smiling!
Dominic loved these life-sized penguin statues.
We went to an amazing marine animals show. Here the beluga is ‘waving’.
Sea lion barking:
The pacific white sided dolphins were amazing!
There were some shark eggs on display, and inside the egg the baby shark was swimming around back and forth. It was so cool!
After our family finished at the aquarium, we walked along the lake and into the city to the Willis Tower.
We were there just as the sun was setting, which made a beautiful sight.
We also visited the Field Museum of Natural History and the Science and Industry Museum. Here are the boys posing with a train-the first to break past 100 miles per hour.
… Pictures from out weekend trip to Chicago! We visited to the aquarium, history museum, science museum, and the Willis Tower.
We still had a whole afternoon of free time left after the museums, so we explored downtown Chicago on foot. I got a T-shirt, keychain, and a mug as souvenirs, and Landon made a purchase at a big Lego store (funny, that’s where he went in Downtown Disney in FL too). There was even an Apple store for Dad and specialty teas for Mom.
The quiz bowl took place on Saturday, May 29, and even though we only won two out of ten games, it was a lot of fun.
I love our matching shirts. Each of us has a nickname on our backs. Mine is Degas (de-GAH) Dancer. Degas was a French artist who painted ballerinas, like these ones here we saw at the art institute:
After the Quiz Bowl, we put on a little cheer as a thank you the quiz bowl team coach, who holds lots of practice sessions to prepare for the quiz bowl.
On Sunday, we went exploring a little bit more before we went to Mass, and then from there to home.
Our trip went very smoothly, and we had a great time. There was a lot of new things to see, and you almost spent more time looking upwards at the buildings than in front of you.
While we were there, we went to science, art, and history museums. The neatest thing at the science museum was this German U-boat captured in WWII:
The art institute was really nice also, and 70% of the paintings were religious.
At the history museum, we saw precious stones, a large t-rex skeleton (discovered in South Dakota), and Egyptian mummies:
More pictures coming!
When I got home from Florida, the first thing I did was look up birds and butterflies native to Florida, for I had seen three types of birds and two types of butterflies and a moth that I had never seen before. I successfully identified five of the new species. The moth I didn’t get close enough to see enough identification marks. Two of the birds I have pictures of, but the others where to fast for me to shoot, (with my camera). I have pictures of these that I did not take so you can see them anyway.
These are American White Ibises. These birds were almost tame. They walked around Magic Kingdom Park and begged for food from people. I almost got one to eat out of my hand when I was holding imaginary food, but he wasn’t fooled after he got close.
This is a great egret. They also are everywhere around Magic Kingdom. They stand around in flower beds and on poles near to people. They are very still for long periods of time, so they look like well made statues.
This is a cloudless sulphur. One landed very close to me, and I almost caught it in my hands, but I didn’t think of taking a picture, so this picture isn’t mine. When I saw it, I knew it was a type of sulphur because we have a very similar kind in South Dakota called a clouded sulphur.
This gorgeous butterfly is a zebra longwing butterfly. I saw three of them flying around during our stay, but I wasn’t able to get any on film, so this picture is not mine either. I was able to identify this butterfly when I saw it. When I got back, I read that it is the state butterfly of Florida. I lake that I can say I saw Florida’s state butterfly. More on our great trip to Disney World later.