This year we have really tried to explore parts of Oregon that we haven't seen before, and we've done a pretty good job, I think. We took a camping trip in May to central Oregon to see the John Day Fossil Beds, and then another one in June to see the fossil bed unit we missed the first time (blog post will be forthcoming...really, it will!). Then last weekend we went to the Oregon Caves and the Great Cats World Park in southern Oregon.
We had intended to leave first thing Saturday morning for our trip, but at the last minute Friday evening we decided to see if we could get the same Priceline deal for our hotel for one more night. When it was confirmed, we quickly finished packing up the van and arrived in Grants Pass late Friday evening. It turned out to be a great idea, and Saturday morning we got up, had breakfast at the hotel and made the 45-minute drive to the Oregon Caves.
I have to say, the rangers at this National Park have to be the friendliest rangers we have ever seen! I was joking with hubby about them being Stepford Rangers, but they went above and beyond the call the day we were there. We didn't know it at the time, but it turned out that they were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Oregon Caves National Monument this weekend. I think they were hoping for a lot more people than actually showed up. The governor was there, and they had free ice cream and cookies!
We signed up for our guided tour of the caves, and while we waited, we listened to a talk about ravens. The ranger had great stories to tell and we learned a lot about corvids: ravens, crows, jays and magpies, which are all related.
The caves were very interesting, albeit not incredibly spectacular. It was about a 90-minute tour through the caves, and our ranger, though very friendly, had a very unique metaphysical slant to her spiel. Touchy-feely sentiments aside, it was an educational tour, and we all enjoyed seeing the formations.
After the cave tour we decided we'd better feed the kids before doing any more hiking. We headed back down the mountain and found out we hadn't missed the free ice cream and cookies. Plus Governor Kulongowski was glad-handing, so the kids got their picture taken with him. That makes the second time Ryan has met the governor! We don't care for his politics, but he sincerely seems like one friendly guy. The ice cream serving turned out to be the size of a dixie cup, so we ate lunch at the cafe there at the park (Tip: Don't eat at the cafe there at the park if you can avoid it.) before heading to the top of the mountain to see what was above all those caverns in the hillside below.
Ryan kind of had a bad attitude about doing more hiking, but once we told him he could get a badge for finishing the hike, he became very enthusiastic about it! There's nothing like a goal or a reward to get him motivated, that's for sure. The hike was lovely, and we got a breathtaking view of the Illinois Valley once we got to the summit.
It had been a long day, but after our hike we went back to the visitor center to finish up some tasks so the kids could get their Junior Ranger badges and the buttons for doing the hikes. The National Park system has a very nice Junior Ranger program, and if you have elementary-age children, you should definitely check it out when you visit any participating National Park!
We were pretty worn out after our long day of exploring, so just as the park was closing we headed back to our hotel room. The kids were dying to get into the pool, so we quickly changed into our swimsuits and went down to play in the pool for a while before bedtime. It was a nice end to a very pleasant day!
Saturday, July 18
at 5:49 PM