Alex was sure that he had figured out where we were going because of some directions I had left on my desk. So to help fool the kids I printed off several different cool places and left them conspicuously around my desk. All the kids really wanted to go to Great Wolf Lodge so as we were driving to our 2013 surprise location we finally decided we better tell them that was not our final destination as we wanted to give them some time to bury that dream.
As we drove up to our destination we were in the thick trees with a small pavilion (similar to the one picture above) was peaking out of the trees. Birch stopped the car and said, "Well, it's not as nice as we thought it was going to be. I thought from the description online that it at least had walls!" We were both in tears with laughing so hard as the rest of the kids sat like mummies in the car. Birch opened up his door and said, "Let's make the best of it and unpack." S.I.L.E.N.C.E. We couldn't take it any longer and finally told the kids we were just joking. There was an audible sigh of relief after we told them that that was not where we were sleeping for the next two nights.
As we came around the bend we saw a large sign announcing "Zion Camp - An LDS Camp." Nate blurted out "It's a camp for all the LDS people!" It doesn't sound as funny now but at the time his comment got us all rolling.
The 85 acres of heavily forested property is located on the Kitsap Peninsula in Belfair, WA and is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has longhouses, tent sites, a small lake, ropes course, a Samoan Fale, large children's playground, archery, boating and fishing, little cabins, and rope swings.
The second we arrived the kids jumped out of the car and began exploring. Alysee and I had so much fun on this wobbly swing.
There was a whole area in the woods with probably a dozen different kinds of homemade swings. I think they called it the swing garden.
The archery range was the highlight for most of the kids. The first time we went Birch and I were there monitoring and teaching them archery safety. After that Coop and Nate became true Robin Hood's and created their own contests. Alex did a great job teaching Alysee how to shoot -- soon she was a pro.
Coop in weapon heaven -- perhaps the reason Nate and Coop loved the archery so much is because I totally do not encourage weapons at our home. I think they were able to fulfill their inner boy drive.
Nate takes most everything seriously...this was no exception.
I'm horrible. I'm weak. I'm scared.
Chloe was obsessed with shooting too. Maybe I do have violent kids after all but have locked it away.
Our accommodations in the Family Cabin were not amazing but definitely worth the $45/night. There were two bedrooms (one with a queen bed and the other with a triple bunk and double bunk), a small kitchenette, bathroom, and eating area. It was just right -- the price, the location, and the activities.
Coon Lake was our second favorite spot to play. We had unlimited access to canoes, paddle boats, and row boats. Alex got his canoeing merit badge last year so I let him do all the work and paddle me around.
Confused whether it is warm or cold. It was both. Chloe had her heart set on swimming and so even though it was sprinkling she was adamant about wearing her swimsuit.
Nate is such a sweet brother to Chloe.
It was kind of chilly but Nate still wanted to try out the rope swing.
Dork alert!!! There were several huge stages throughout the camp. We all went on a little hike and found this amphitheater and decided that we would hold a spontaneous talent show. My talent...tap dancing. As you can see I've never had lessons otherwise I probably wouldn't look so dorky.
Coop on the other hand looks A.W.E.S.O.M.E. while doing his break dancing moves to Alysee and Nate's beat boxing.
Family picture at the ampatheater
Alex being a goof ball. We dined on chicken sandwiches for lunch and tacos for dinner.
Day two brought fishing, baseball games in the field, lots of family games in our cabin, and finishing off a whole bucket of red vines.
Chloe loves her daddy!
Daddy wasn't too excited about setting up the whole fishing experience for the kids but with some puppy dog eyes he gave in and got everything set up for the kids.
Tyler on the paddle boat.
So...the best thing caught was by Nathan...Alysee's bum. We were using this ancient power bait that I guess the fish thought they were too good for. Alysee wasn't too thrilled about Nate's lack of fishing skills.
My kids are so lucky to have such an awesome daddy! I love taking this picture right before Father's Day and capturing all the love that my kids have for Birch.
|Everyone decided that the cool weather wasn't going to hold them back from fully experiencing the lake. Nate was the first to try the rope swing.|
Show off Dad!
After taking this picture the kids and I were noticing that Daddy is getting a few grey hairs. Chloe commented, "Are you going to turn into a Grandpa soon?" Coop quickly followed Chloe's explanation with, "You should wear a gorilla costume but cut out a big hole at your chest so everyone can see all your hair." Thank you children.
Chloe just couldn't decide if she wanted to swim or not. I wasn't even tempted.
She did it! Again, awesome Daddy for taking her out even though it was cold. The rest of the evening we played outside, dined on a skillet dinner of chicken alfredo from the package, and took an evening hike to a spot called Moroni's Box. We did our family scripture study at this area and Birch bore his testimony of Christ. It was a pretty neat night.
Saturday morning we loaded up the van and headed toward my Grandma and Grandpa Howe's beautiful home about an hour and half from where we had been staying. Sadly, it had been about four and half years since we had visited them last so it was about time. They live near Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula in a gorgeous house on the ocean.
The kids were all really, really wanting to catch a frog or salamander to put in our now empty licorice container in my grandparent's pond. Grandma totally reminded me of my mom when we disappeared for a few minutes and came back with this homemade net that she made on the spot. Amazing!
Still no luck.
And the evil glare from Alysee as she left empty handed with no living creature to take home.
My Grandma is really an incredible woman! As we spent the day in her home I was reminded of all the memories and things that I have done with my grandma over the years. Special trips by myself or with a sibling to visit, a trip to Victoria and staying in the Grand Empress Hotel (barfing on the ferry ride over in a cigarette butt trash can), learning how to use her looms, living in their small cottage for two months while Birch was doing a grad school internship near by, time she spent with two year old Alex catch frogs and berry picking, etc.... I feel so blessed to be from a legacy of pure and strong women!
Chloe was in heaven!
I have so many memories of scooting around in the Gator at grandma and grandpa's house. The tradition lives on as Alex and Tyler took turns driving the Gator down to the ocean.
On a treasure hunt for cool things at the beach.
I loved each minute catching up with Grandma.
The kids and Grandma. Unfortunately, we didn't even get any picture of Grandpa but enjoyed having lunch with him and visiting a bit.
This is an awesome picture because my Grandparent's house is in the background. I don't think my kids appreciate how lucky we were to enjoy a day of total sunshine as it rains so much in this area.
Alex had probably been the one to change the most since the last time we visited. They were shocked to see how much he towered over them now.
And then the real fun started as Grandma taught the kids how to find these little tiny black sand crabs.
Tyler, the goof ball.
#1 Daddy and Lover
Alysee and Chloe were like crab maniacs. They were loading up all their shells with tiny crabs and plotting how to get us to let them bring them home.
Coop protecting his loot.
Our five hour visit flew by and before we knew it we were loaded in the car again with yummy munchies from Grandma. I'm so glad we were able to spend the afternoon with my Grandparents and for my kids to make some of their own memories at their home.
We took the ferry home from Baimbridge Island into Seattle. It was too windy for me outside but the kids had fun looking at the Seattle skyline.
On the way home we stopped at the Seattle Temple and enjoyed it's beauty.
Love my Lover!!!
All the way home the kids were saying how much fun this trip had been and how they loved all the surprises along the way! It made my heart swell to see everyone interacting so kindly with each other and having fun together. A family that plays together stays together!!! Now how am I going to beat this trip next year??