What I found at The Lost Whale Inn

I found out a lot about myself at The Lost Whale Inn, a fantastic B&B on the high cliffs of Northern California. After two weeks in the remote mountains at the river house, I was so ready to see the ocean! Wide expanses of water feed my soul and this place was a welcome feast. The view was stunning…

I also found out that I love canyon hikes. My favorite hike of our whole trip was this one… called Fern Canyon. The entire rock face on either side was covered in lush ferns… so beautiful. And a reminder to me of how God can soften the hardness. The place was magical and truly felt like another world. They said Jurassic Park and Return of the Jedi were filmed here. I hope the pictures do justice.


We got to enjoy the sunset over the Pacific…. something I was looking forward to all summer.

We also discovered a couple of really fun and unique beaches – once we figured out how to access them from the cliffs. Here we are descending to the beach below our B&B…


More pics of us at the beaches…

The place is called The Lost Whale Inn because it is located along a whale migrating path. So, yeah, I wanted to see a whale. I mean, Matt got to see his bear after all. The last night we were there, I asked God to show me one. I looked out on the ocean for about 45 whole minutes… no whale.

The next morning at breakfast I cynically asked a man who stayed at the Inn often if he had ever seen a whale there. He said yes… and in fact, that there was as whale and her calf in the Klamath river about 30 minutes away. We weren’t flying out until 5 so we went for it. And look what we found…

We sat on a little bridge for about an hour (maybe 45 whole minutes!) and watched these two surface, over and over. It was so cool! They put on quite a show. About the third time I saw her I remembered what I had asked God the night before. Took me a while to realize – often does – how personal He is. What a sweet memory this will be for me – finding the highlight of our trip at The Lost Whale Inn.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Family Time

It’s been a while since we’ve had time to blog and Internet access at the same time, so lots has happened since the last post! After Drakesbad, we were all ready for some creature comforts. We were also looking forward to landing in one place for more than 3 or 4 days. As you might have guessed from our last post, we had no trouble getting up and out of DrakesBAD early to make the drive up to Dunsmuir, CA to spend 11 days in a cabin on the river with my younger brother Clay and his family. I loved our time there! It was a great mixture of playing, hanging out, and getting to know my brother , sister-in-law, and 3 nieces better. And of course, it was entertaining for me to watch them get to know Jen, who’s almost never what people expect 🙂

The cabin itself was gorgeous and I loved going to sleep listening to the river right outside our window. The river was much higher than usual, so we weren’t able to get in the river right by the cabin, but walked up the street many days to a great spot where it was a little calmer. lt was a beautiful spot with a rope swing (which Taylor attempted), a pool deep enough to swim in (if you could bear the temperature), and a view of The Crags State Park.

Taylor and Jacob spent hours building dams with their cousins:


Kaylee (the 1st to brave submerging in the river)


Ashley (who tried her best to avoid the camera)…


and Brynn (who as you can see is a cutie)…


Clay and I went up to the same spot most nights and pulled rainbow trout out of the river on dry flies. I definitely got hooked on fly fishing while we were there and have already started researching where to go close to Charlotte! One night fishing there, I saw a bald eagle swoop down and pluck a trout out of the water just upstream from me – it was incredible to watch!

The cabin didn’t have Internet access, but we did have cable TV so we were able to watch a lot of the Women’s World Cup, including the unbelievable match against Brazil! That may be one of the most memorable parts of the whole summer for Taylor (pretty darn memorable for me too). After watching so much soccer together, Clay started teaching Taylor how to do a rainbow (soccer trick). She’s continued working on it and has pulled it off several times now 🙂

We also ventured out from the cabin for several adventures. Clay and I took a guided fly fishing trip on the Sacramento River which was incredible and definitely part of what hooked me on fly fishing! The guide was great and we hooked lots of Rainbow Trout. They were awesome to fight in the river on a fly rod and my brother and I both landed the biggest trout we’d ever caught!


For July 4th, we went up to nearby Lake Siskiyou for some water fun. It was beautiful and by far one of the coldest lakes I’d ever been in. Here’s Mount Shasta in the background – you can see why the water is so cold…


One trip out to the inflatables and Jacob’s lips were blue. Once we got used to the water (or at least became numb), we had a blast. Taylor, of course, was the daredevil and drug each of us up the “Iceberg” multiple times. Here she is showing Clay how it’s done…


We also spent one day exploring Shasta Caverns and a great day renting a pontoon boat and all going out on Whiskey Town Lake, another amazingly clear beautiful lake! We pulled into a cove and were even able to put on goggles and see bass hanging out under some tree limbs. It was one of our favorites days tubing…



cooking hotdogs on the shore…



and just hanging out and swimming…


Towards the end of the week, we decided the river had gone down enough to try borrowing some tubes from the neighbors and floating down it. Jen went first (since this was her idea). Taylor was second in a tube that was too small and completely submerged when she sat in it. I went last with Jacob in my lap, which greatly impeded my ability to see where we were going, much less control our course. After the first set of rapids, I finally caught my breath from the cold (nothing like a river of fresh snow melt), and was seriously reconsidering the wisdom and safety of this adventure! At the end, we all got out with wide eyes, posterior bruises, and a firm consensus that one trip down was enough! (no pictures, too busy paddling for my life).

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Videos from Drakesbad

Some samples of our punchy family bonding at Drakesbad…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

From the Lap of Luxury to… Drakesbad

While the stay at Tenaya was nicer than anything we had hoped (or planned) for, our next destination was a striking contrast. The drive there through Yosemite and over Tioga Pass was pretty awesome (after, of course, a late checkout to watch the US Women’s soccer match). The road had only recently been opened because of late, heavy snowfalls there. We stopped several places to play in the snow…

and look at still partially frozen lakes!

The rest of the drive was less enjoyable. We went through nondescript parts of Nevada, into the middle of nowhere, and eventually down several miles of gravel road that could have easily been used for the filming of Deliverance. The gravel road included 2 relatively deep river crossings – always exciting in a rental car!

Once we finally arrived at Drakesbad lodge (7 hours later, weary, and in the dark), it was more rustic and MUCH smaller than I had anticipated! One of the managers walked us up to our cabin…
and lit one of our 2 oil lamps (no electricity in our “cabin”). Once the lamps were lit, we saw a double bed, a single bed, a cot, a toilet, and maybe 5 square feet of available floor space. As soon as the manager left, Jacob laid down on one of the beds, and through tears said “I’m scared, I don’t like this place!”. Not exactly what I’d envisioned when writing the grant application…

Everyone eventually rallied – thanks largely to the thermally heated swimming pool…
and being able to feed carrots to the horses and ride them.

Jen, however, pronounced it “Drake’s BAD” the whole time we were there (and ever since) and it stuck with our kids.

Everything about our time there was somewhat bizarre. It was a wild mixture of Spartan conditions and luxury. We had to walk across a field to where the pool was in order to take a shower… but the pool was like a giant, soothing jacuzzi. We could even schedule a massage down by the pool… but the masseuse was also our waitress from breakfast. The managers were Swiss and most of the other staff were from Russia or other countries with thick accents, which added to the bizarre “where are we?” feeling. Even the geography was bizarre – we hiked through woods, meadows, and remnants of snow to volcanic areas called “Devil’s Kitchen”…



and “Boiling Springs Lake”, the largest acid lake in the US…


All-in-all, it wasn’t our favorite place, but it certainly was helpful in our “technology-detox”! Needless to say, along with no electricity, there was no cell service, much less Internet access. And it was definitely a memorable, family-bonding experience as we laughed and commiserated together over “Drake’s BAD” 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Traveling adventures are becoming a recurring theme and Yosemite was no exception. Our cabin in Big Sur was less than luxurious and we were looking forward to some slightly nicer accomodations. After the 3 hour drive from Big Sur, I went to check into the Wawona Hotel, a fairly nice hotel right inside the south entrance of Yosemite. After a few minutes of small talk, the lady got a funny look on her face and said, “we have your reservation for July 27th, not June 27th and we’re completely booked”. I still don’t know if it was my mistake or theirs, but I was exhausted and didn’t have the energy to figure out what to do, so I just stared at her. I think she sensed my despair and very kindly said “let me get my manager, we’ll figure something out.” After explaining our situation, the manager made several phone calls and after what felt like forever (but was probably only 15-30 minutes), she told us that “a very nice hotel” just outside the park was available and would honor the same rate we were going to pay at the Wawona. I was bummed to not be able to stay inside the park, but was relieved just to have a place to stay at this point, so we headed back out of the park to our new accommodations at Tenaya Lodge.

When I saw the entrance to the hotel, I thought we might have landed on our feet after all the reservation headaches. I was pretty sure that was the case when I saw the lobby, and it was confirmed as soon as I checked in. The first lady I spoke with behind the counter immediately called her manager over and asked her “is that rate right?”. I was still a little disappointed it wasn’t going to be the experience I had planned, but Taylor and Jen were ecstatic over the upgrade in accommodations (we discovered later that we were paying about half the regular rate at Tenaya). I’ll leave to them to elaborate on the Tenaya Lodge in their blog posts 🙂

Accommodations aside, the park itself was awesome! There was so much to see and a late and heavy winter meant that the waterfalls were incredible because of all of the snow melt! We spent our first day hiking through Mariposa Grove, a less crowded part of the park with giant redwoods. We saw redwoods that were absolutely massive, including ones that you could walk through, and one called Telescope tree that had been hollowed out all the way to the top by a fire.





We spent our second day down in the valley exploring creeks…


Mirror Lake…


and doing a little rock climbing…


Our third day, we went up to Glacier Point, another less crowded area 3000 feet above the valley. We had spectacular views of Half Dome and down into the valley.




On our way back to the hotel on that third day, we stopped for a short hike to Mono Meadow. Throughout the week we (mostly I) had hoped to see a bear while driving through the park. And right before we started to hike back from the meadow to our car, Jen saw a bear 50-75 yards walking toward us through the meadow! (See our Wall of Wild page for pictures). I was super excited… Jen, not so much! While the kids and I stood in the trail looking at the bear and taking pictures, Jen stood behind a tree telling me to hide the kids behind one as well. After looking at us for a few minutes, the bear resumed walking toward the trail we had just hiked down. Before it could get between us and our car, however, Jen led us on what the kids and I later deemed a rapid “forced march retreat” all the way back to our car. :-). It was a great and exciting end to our last full day in Yosemite!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Big Sur: Not so Sure…

I’m sure my dad has already told you the adventure we had getting into San Jose and how fortunate we were during the flights. When I heard that our flight was moved to the time we were scheduled to leave our house I doubted we would make it on the plane. Luckily we got on our flight to Chicago, and literally ran to our next flight which was luckily right next to where we landed. the next plane to Denver was AWESOME! Generally I like airplanes, but this one I especially liked. We had lots of leg room, a comfortable seat, and a TV. My favorite part of the plane ride was watching a hilarious British show called TopGear where three guys try to make a car into a boat and race them across a lake. So after another flight to San Jose, an overnight stay at a hotel, and a 4 hour drive in an amazing car from Oregon (maybe it was made in Eugene Maggs…) in which we rode along the beautiful California coast, we finally arrived at Big Sur.

I had a problem with where we were staying at Big Sur. We had our own beds, (I’m ok with that), but the shower seemed to be trying to blast our skin off. There were also some girls who must have been going to camp here who were so loud and the place was too cheap to buy walls that were thick enough for us not to hear them during the night. Then there was the pool which was a rectangle that was just a little bigger than the three foot end at Windyrush. However the food was very good! We had amazing chocolate chip pancakes, and I stole two slices of cheesecake from the buffet they had that was exclusive to the campers. Abraham Lincoln said everyone was equal, I was standing up for my rights as a cheesecake lover.

My favorite hike was the canyon hike at Julia Pfeiffer Burns. The canyon hike took us around a river that we jumped across and explored, we got to see the massive redwood trees too. There was also a tree limb that you could sit on and it would act like a swing! 20110704-053023.jpg
Once Mom, Jacob, and I were on, Mom and I jumped off and Jacob went pretty high. Then I found a stick that I chased Jacob around with – always fun :).

On our last day there, we saw military soldiers on the beach we had hiked to. It was only a coincidence, but we felt like we were going through some sort of military training too. First we had to go through a confusing trail that led us to a beach (navigation), then we crossed a river that was flowing very fast to get to a beautiful beach (strength), finally we made it to the beach only to be deceived by the sand blasting us violently on every uncovered part of our body! It felt like pins and needles! WHY?!? I saw the trail marker and made a beeline for it through the storm. Then for some reason I couldn’t comprehend, Dad told me to move to the mountains and see if I couldn’t feel the horrible torture device there. I thought he was crazy! I was the one wearing a t-shirt & shorts, and our escape was right there!! So I made my way to the mountains fast as I could and desperately climbed to safety. I waited for my family to get there and then came down from my haven to the trail, away from the evil sand. Well, the trail was a horse trail and we had to dodge massive piles of horse poop (not far from bombs). I expected the trail would lead us to a horse stable instead of parking lot, but fortunately it didn’t. There you go: navigation, strength, pain tolerance, and agility all in one session!

Big Sur probably wasn’t my favorite place, but Yosemite probably is. I miss home and can’t wait to be home, but it is pretty fun here in California.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Big Sur Lodge

It was quite an adventure, just getting to our first landing spot on the California leg of our travels, Big Sur Lodge right in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

At 2pm on the day we were supposed to fly out I found out our 6pm flight had been cancelled. After spending an hour on the phone with the airline (declining their offer to put us on a 6am flight the next morning), they put us on a 4:30 flight that day. For those doing the math, that meant we had an hour and a half to throw everything in the car, get to the airport, through check-in, through security and onto our plane! (Thanks, Matt Ham for helping us get to the airport, hope my driving on the way to the airport didn’t scare you too badly!). The good news: our flight out of Charlotte was delayed so we made it, the bad news: that left us with 10 minutes between landing and take off in Chicago. Thankfully we landed 2 gates from our departing gate (no small miracle at O’Hare), so we were able to jog off our 1st flight right onto our 2nd. After another tight connection in Denver, we landed in San Jose at 11pm, and flopped into bed at an airport hotel at 3am body-time.

The next morning, we had a nice drive down to Big Sur. Highway 1 through Monterrey and Carmel is beautiful. We stopped in Carmel on the way, played on the beach… 20110626-104348.jpg
…and ate at a great seafood place called Flaherty’s (best crab sandwich I’ve ever had!). We stopped a little farther down the road at Point Lobos State Park on our way to the lodge and saw sea lions, seals, and sea otters as we hiked.

The rest of our time in Big Sur was great as well. We hiked among the Redwoods everyday, saw deer and turkey roaming around at the lodge, and just took in the scenery. Simply driving on highway 1 was amazing, with mountains on one side and cliffs and ocean on the other.20110626-110302.jpg

On my birthday, we went for a hike in the morning, then ate lunch at the Big Sur River Inn where I had a great burger, then walked 10 yards down to the river, soaked my feet in the water and enjoyed a Guinness. Pretty great way to spend a birthday!20110626-105445.jpg

One of the purposes of our time in California’s parks is to enjoy nature and detach from technology. Big Sur was a great place to start that process as we had almost no Internet or cell access the whole time we were there (hence the radio silence on the blog until now). Several of you have asked me why we’re keeping a blog when we’re trying to get away from technology. Fair question :-). What I’m really trying to detach from is technology as a source of mindless entertainment and technology that makes me feel constantly connected and available. Getting away from that has been great – I’ve felt much more present and less distracted, more “awake” to the present moment and to my family. It’s definitely taking some getting used to, but I’m liking the effects. For me, the blog is technology that helps me be “awake” as I reflect on what I’m experiencing. (We’ll also be indulging in some technology to watch the Women’s World Cup!).

For you fellow readers, I’m still loving The Search for God and Guinness and about to finish it up. Next book “on tap”… The Pastor: a Memoir by Eugene Peterson (one of my all time favorites and heroes) and Unbroken (a birthday present from my wife)!

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments