We left Thursday morning, and stopped at Pinnacles National Park for a few hours on the way there. It was beautiful, and the weather was perfect.
(Sorry about the crazy red-eye, I'm not computer savvy enough to do anything other than plug my camera into the computer and click on what pictures I want to put in!)
Even I had to duck and scootch around rocks and scraped up my forearms a bit because, while very doable, this isn't a modern super-easy trail! It was built by the CCC in the 30s, and the whole place had a great kind of freedom and trust in the visitors' common sense that you don't really see here at the County parks in the
Frivolous Lawsuit Capital of the World Bay Area.
The One Million Stairs of Death
Most of the cave was made like this--gigantuous rocks that happened to fall into crevices at some point and will hopefully stay there during our entire visit. This was just at the end of the caves. Max, who is only 3, totally rocked this whole hike, without being carried, even up those crazy One Million Stairs! And I, being 5 months pregnant, totally made it without being carried either, so surprises all around! Thankfully, there weren't even any small earthquakes while we were in there, so we all got out unscathed.
At the top of the stairs was this beautiful reservoir. Evy did a great job getting over her fear of walking down steep slanty hills:
Max practiced throwing everything within reach into the water:
And Will & Ben almost immediately started climbing what appeared to be a pretty much sheer cliff face. They thought it was awesome, I quietly tried to not have a panic attack.
That one above is the zoomed-in version. Here's what I saw while sitting helplessly on the ground too far away to do anything:
We stayed here for about an hour, then headed back to the car by the other half of the loop. Back near the parking lot a Ranger noticed the boys climbing around in a dried up creek bed, and said to me, "It's completely fine for them to be playing and climbing in there, but make sure they watch out for poison oak!" That totally surprised me--he didn't holler at us for going off the trail, but instead just tried to help us. It was a great little trip, and the kids all want to come back here and camp, and especially want Scott to be able to come next time.
We drove for several hours, then ate dinner at Chik-fil-a (yay!). Our hotel was really nice (the Country Inn and Suites in Ventura). I decided it was a great idea to give Max & Evy a bath, then we all went to bed. Those kids were so excited and amped up from the long car ride that they didn't fall asleep until almost 11:00, and I slept horribly because I was getting sleepy at one point in the drive and had to get some Dr. Pepper, which unfortunately took a while to get out of my system.
We woke up early the next morning and ate the free hotel breakfast, which was really great & generous and the kids thought was awesome. Then we headed over to the Mission.
Mission San Buenaventura, the 9th California Mission
We got there before the museum part was open, so we explored the outside and the courtyard for a while. I've never been to a Mission before (my fourth grade teacher was a bit....eccentric and didn't exactly follow the standard curriculum), but this one seemed a bit weird--it was right on a big street, there were very few other buildings, and it was right in the middle of downtown. It seemed a bit cramped, but it was still a great building--it was built in 1782, and might be the oldest building I've ever seen.
Part of the courtyard and garden, side entrance (the big front doors are barricaded, presumably against rebel Indians)
Ben ran around this fountain 21 times. It's really important that you all know that.
Sorry this one is blurry, I let Will be in charge of the camera most of the time. This is one of the original wooden bells from when the Mission was first built. Apparently, this was the only Mission to have wooden bells. Which isn't too surprising, because it doesn't seen like wooden bells would be overly resonant.
We ended up walking up & down the downtown strip while we waited for the museum to open, but it was pretty disappointing, because none of the stores opened until 11:00, even on weekdays. Weird, right? We did find a Goodwill that was open, and bought Evy a Princess bike for $10 (yay!), Max used his last $2 from Grandma & Grandpa for a really cool little water gun, and I succumbed to brand-name pressure. Most of the time you guys, I don't care about brand names. But Orla Kiely is something different. Everything everything everything she designs is so perfect and gorgeous, and since I can't afford the bags or clothes, I always buy all the soaps from Target--even the ones that don't smell good! I'm telling you, this is a problem. Anyway, I bought this gorgeous iPad case for $12.
Super amazing perfect, right? The problem is, I don't have an iPad. Nor do I think I ever will. I'm hanging on to the hope that when the iPad 73 comes out, someone will take pity on me and sell me their iPad 2 for super cheap, and I can finally look at this gorgeousness all day and not be considered super weird.
In the end we did get to visit the museum, and bought a mission packet with some cool handouts and postcards and a little book about the mission, which was great because it gave Will lots of extra information, and he "got all the points," so I assume his project did well. He built an amazing model of the Mission out of LEGO bricks (we bought two of those big Pick-a-Brick containers full of white & red bricks from the LEGO store). I'll update with pictures of it when he brings it home from school. That kid has a mind that I just can't understand when it comes to building. He's incredible.
The drive home went pretty well. We were all getting pretty sick of being in the car by hour 4 or so, but we survived. I found the perfect place to have my giant horse sanctuary whenever I happen to get millions of dollars. I didn't take pictures because I was driving, but here it is on Google Maps:
It's miles and miles and miles and miles and miles of rolling hills and oak trees and grass and open fields and was the most perfect thing to drive along for a really long time. Cows live there now, but I'm sure my horses would love it too.
Also, we saw a bald eagle on the drive home! Seriously, did you know they lived anywhere but like super remote Alaska!? Again, no picture because I was driving. But, I assume we all know what bald eagles look like. I might have completely freaked out and the poor kids didn't know what was happening at first, but I think they all saw him at least a little bit.
The last thing I want to show you is my super great Postcard Book. I started this about a year ago after seeing a similar idea on Pinterest. Every time we go on a trip or even an adventure for the day (like the Boardwalk or the Beach or something) I buy a postcard each day we're gone and write all the things we did and mail it home to us. I put all the postcards chronologically in this big scrapbook binder with 4x6 sheet protector sleeves. We all like to look back and remember our trips and look at the great postcard pictures. I'm not one for taking tons of pictures while on adventures, because I'd rather just Experience things, so this has been a great way to help remember fun little details. I have a feeling it will be even more special in 20 or 40 years. Scott's parents also send us postcards when they go on trips, so I keep those in the binder as well.
I just took these pictures with my iPod, so sorry they are so terrible!
Anyway, it ended up being a great trip, and totally wore all of us out, but these are the kinds of things I want my kids to remember about their childhood, and I always love adventures, so I am definitely up for doing it again. And, with 4 more kids to do Mission projects, there is certainly a chance that we'll end up needing to visit others in the coming years!