Camp Stories: Sequoia National Park

A few weekends ago we took our Nephew camping with us, it was his first time camping and also his first night ever with us. The start of the day he was full of excitement and eager to help with camp. It then quickly changed when he realized his Mom wasn't there, he's never camped before and the forest is scary, dark and vast. Poor guy was begging us to take him home, he was convinced a bear was going to attack us. Trying my best to calm his fear, I made him a promise that we would take him home first thing, if he still felt the same in the morning.... But after a rough night, he woke up confidant he was ready to camp.  He rocked the hike we did, at some point  there's usually lots of pushing our oldest boy along, reassuring him "we are almost there". There wasn't much pushing with him though, he took on this new experience with such excitement and he was rewarded on the hike out with a bear sighting not 20 feet from us. The rest of the weekend consisted of swimming holes and natural water slides, marshmallows, plenty of marshmallows.  Cave exploring, bat hunts, bow and arrow games and lots of crazy little boy antics. 

He went from begging us to take him home, to begging us to stay longer.

We saw three bears that weekend, my boys still have not stopped talking about it, I'm sure he hasn't as well.  If our goal is to get more people out there and fall in love with the outdoors,  I think we did that. I made him a promise we would take him out again and I will keep that promise.

We are not experts, we usually forget things, ( toothpaste and deodorant this time, gross i know) lets be honest we always forget something.  The camera made it into our packs, but we forgot to charge it. So this is our trip as seen through our phones.

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Trail Stories: Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge

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This ended up not really being a hike for us because much of the trail was closed due to icy conditions. It was, however, a short walk to the lower observation deck and -to us city dwellers- just being in Oregon is almost an outdoor experience in itself. 

For full information on the hike when the trail is open - and it's summer now, so expect it to be - click HERE.


Most folks will be coming from Portland. From there, it is a scenic drive tracing Lewis and Clark's path through the Columbia River Gorge.

- Take the 84 East (30 East) out of Portland. 
- Merge onto Bridal Veil Rd, which turns into E Historic Columbia River
- Follow signs to Multnomah Falls or just look for this (Lodge and Falls below): 


The portion we were able to walk was just a short distance behind the lodge pictured. This is the lower observation area where most tourists, like us, gather to take pictures and simply take in the view of Oregon's tallest waterfall. Expect a crowd most weekends, luckily for us it was 30 degrees outside which may have thinned the herd a little.

The bridge spanning the lower tier is iconic Oregon scenery. Do not leave without a picture of this. Because this is a rather large waterfall, we don't encourage playing in the pool below. I don't know if wading around in the slower moving water downstream is cool during the summer. Expect the water to be freezing cold year-round. We'll find out when we return in the future, and hopefully the rest of the trail will be open then. 

A good side-show to Multnomah is Wahkeena falls which is literally next door. This is more of a gradually sloping waterfall but worth the walk. 

Last, and probably the most entertaining for kids would be the exhibits in the lodge. Children (and adults, too) are able to learn more about the history of the falls, the Columbia River, and wildlife in the area. 

Though we love pretty much anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge are some of the most accessible gems in the region. 

Take me to Camp Wandawega

I went to a typical summer camp only once growing up, we had silly cabin names, I learned how to braid for the first time there and I think I even wielded a bow and arrow at some point.  Summer camp just says Americana, I kind of wish I was able to go more often.

I came across Camp Wandawega, over a year ago and I keep coming back to browse the site just to dream. The Owners David and Tereasa have brought this old lake resort back to its former glory. What once was David's childhood getaway, the camp has been everything from a speakeasy during the Prohibition - to a Catholic church camp. Their goal was always to preserve it, "It was always a place where folks could reconnect to the simpler pleasures of a simpler time, and that IS something this world needs."

How great would it be to take a cross country camping trip and end up here for a few nights! What a dream, it's differently on the list, one day Camp Wandawega. 

If you are anywhere near Elkhorn, WI . You should check out their Airbnb

Gear Review: REI Camp Dome 4 Tent

I grew up car camping all over the country, when tents were huge canvas structures (like the one pictured). My dad would assemble what looked like sections of plumbing into what eventually supported a shelter for us. We could stand, fit a couple air mattresses, and have room to store several suitcases in it. That was the 1980's.

Technology advanced and, thankfully, we don't have to construct civil-war era barracks for shelter anymore. We take for granted that with two or three poles and a few minutes, we have a pop-up shelter staked into the ground and move-in ready for the weekend. For dads (and moms), pitching a dome tent is a rite of passage. Poles don't always cooperate or often we have the rainfly pole where one of the main poles should be. For those who haven't camped before or very often, there is a sense of satisfaction once the tent has been erected. You start to think "we're really roughing it now" once you've established shelter (now to find a water source and hunt/gather some food, right?)

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Our normal tent is a Coleman six-person we bought at Costco some years ago. Affordable, durable, and rather large/heavy. Not a problem when you can back in and pitch the tent 20 feet from the car. We recently camped without the kids at a hike-in site where such a large tent was both not needed and too heavy to lug a half mile from the car. We borrowed my parent's nicer REI Camp Dome 4 (person) tent. Still double the occupancy we actually needed but much lighter and compact. Small enough to fit in our packs.

Weight - 10 lbs.
Floor Area - 62.5 sq. ft.
- 8ft. 4in. x 7ft. 6in.

Height - 5ft. 2in.
Poles - 2, +1 for Rainfly (optional)

Until recently, we believed in some anonymous camping tip about having a tent with room for enough-plus-two. Meaning: a family of four should size up to a six person tent. We found on our latest trip that a four person tent is actually enough for FOUR PEOPLE - what a concept! I think this to be especially true for families because kids don't take up much room anyway. 

What we like about it

Kay on the trail with half of our shelter. 

Kay on the trail with half of our shelter. 

REI in general makes great quality gear, backed with a one-year return-anything policy you almost can't go wrong with the Camp Dome 4. The poles are lightweight aluminum and very sturdy. Assembly is straightforward. I think the lighter poles, aside from reducing load, are easier to whip around and slide into place than lower quality fiberglass ones found in our normal tent. 

The room. We had space for sleep pads, backpacks, and all our gear inside the tent. Plus, enough for our kids, had they been with us. 

We like the two doorways. You can open either side for quick access to "your side". I found it most useful when reaching for gear. A single-door would have me take off my shoes or crawl in on my knees to get at something in the back corner (usually my watch or knife). 

What we don't like

The Camp Dome 4 comes in at a higher price point, it retails for $219. Consider this, you can buy four Coleman tents for that price. In our world; a tent's a tent. Ultimately you're still sleeping on the ground with a very thin sheet of nylon between you and the elements. 

The tent is also missing a vestibule that our Coleman tent has. A vestibule is like a miniature porch or patio in front of the door; a place for us to store shoes, lanterns, and anything else that doesn't need to be inside the tent but should probably stay relatively dry. This is a minor feature but I can imagine instances (rain) where this would be a small challenge.

Where to buy

Well, borrow one from my parents or visit an REI (usually a few of these are severely discounted during their REI Garage Sale events, try to score there)

Alternatively, you can always CLICK HERE TO ORDER from our friends at REI.

Though we don't plan on swapping out our trusty Coleman just yet -I'm not complaining about the extra room and vestibule- we could simultaneously downsize and upgrade our outfit with the Camp Dome 4. We may just "borrow" this one on the next trip.