We recently had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see some of the wonderful west of our country. We took an eleven-week trip, spending about half of the nights on a bed (in hotels or with friends and family), and the other half on the floor in our tent.
It was the ultimate field trip, stopping at places we’ve wanted to go to (like Yellowstone National Park), as well as places we have studied recently or will be studying in our upcoming unit study on Genevieve Foster’s book, Abraham Lincoln’s World.
There were several reasons for taking the trip now, including the fact that we had not seen the western states. Our children are at the perfect age to make the trip and remember it for the rest of their lives. My hubby still has very vivid memories of a similar trip he and his family took when he was about eight, from Maryland out to Yellowstone and other places, and he wanted his children to be able to have something like that too.
While field trips can be made right in your town (see the post on field trips), some places worth seeing are a little further afield. One of the biggest focuses on our trip was not museums, though we went to a couple. It was not going to workplaces of people to hear about their job, though we did that too. It was seeing the natural landscape, fauna and flora.
Spending 3 months moving around to different places throughout the western third of the country means that we spent a lot of time in the car. Because of that, we were able to see many different regions of the west, and therefore observe the fauna and flora change. We saw everything from snow on the Rockies and magnificent vistas from other mountain tops, to the Pacific Ocean, rainforest areas in Olympic National Park, and dried grasses in California. We wore shorts and winter jackets, though not at the same time.
A large portion of the nature we saw was in national parks. We spent $80 at the beginning of our trip to get the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which covered my whole family in our vehicle for entrance fees, and saved us many times the cost of the pass. It was worth every penny!
Some of the national parks we visited were:
- Rocky Mountain, Colorado’s famous park, with moose and elk
- Grand Tetons, Wyoming’s majestic mountains reflected in its lakes
- Yellowstone, Wyoming’s volcanic geysers and unparalleled wildlife
- Glacier, Montana’s icy park with mountains, lakes and glaciers
- Mount Rainier, Washington’s magnificent backdrop to Seattle
- Olympic, Washington’s best-kept secret
- Crater Lake, Oregon’s sapphire-colored lake
- Redwoods, California’s majestic trees that appear to climb into the clouds
- King’s Canyon & Sequoia, the largest trees in the world
- Yosemite, California’s rock-climbing park
We also visited some historic sites.
- The Pueblo Indians in Taos, NM
- Kit Carson’s house in Taos, NM
- Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, MT
- Other Lewis & Clark historic places in WA and OR (as we will be studying them this winter)
- The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, CA which is the site of the CA Gold Rush in 1848
If waterfalls are your thing, here are some worth stopping at:
- Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, OR
- Bridal Veil Falls, Columbia River Gorge, OR
- Horsetail Falls, Columbia River Gorge, OR
- Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA (one of the world’s tallest)
- Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA
- Waterfalls on the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado
I downloaded an app called “Every Place – Where I’ve been? Keep track of your travels!” It has a variety of options, but basically lets you drop a pin on a map to keep track of places you have visited. You can create your own category and color-code the pins, which you can sort by category, country, or date. This map shows places we have been to the north and west of us
There’s nothing to compare with going somewhere. Seeing pictures of someone else’s trip is wonderful, but packing up a tent, some provisions, a camera, and those you love, is where your own memories start. Go and make some!