Long Time Gone! – Olympic National Park – August 2014

It’s been too long, and many things have happened. First, my old implementation of Gallery2 is no longer supported in WordPress, so I’m going to try use a new photo/media manager. If you can’t see the pics, please let me know. I’ll probably try a few until I find the right one.

We went to Kalaloch in August. We had a great time camping, visiting Ruby Beach, the Hoh rain forest, and a few other sites.The campground is very tight quarters, but a really pretty place. It was my first time there, and a revisit for the Penning crew. We hiked the Hoh River trail and explored some great places. We even saw a monster elk, munching away at grass near the trail.

Hoh Rain Forest, Ruby Beach, lots of fun!

Blankenship Meadows

July 18-20 brought our crew to a 21 mile trek from Soda Springs, up Summit Creek, across the meadows, and out Indian Creek. Brooklynn was visiting from Utah and joined the fun and the Hartman crew also joined us for the adventure.

A big thanks to Nana Penning for helping us set up the car and dropping us off at the trailhead. After realizing I left my much-loved Leki poles at the house, we began hiking up Summit Creek to Jug lake and had a great lunch by the lake. We continued on and spent the first night at Fryingpan Lake. The lake was beautiful, but the site a bit gross; because of the allowed use of stock and relative proximity, it is a garbage dump for some. Despite that, we had a great time. Just as Price was about to jump in the lake for a brisk swim, we found leeches in the lake. Between that and the fact that any exposed skin immediately led to scores of mosquito bites, no swimming was attempted.

Shortly after taking off the next morning, we came to our short section of the Pacific Crest Trail, breaking off again after a mile. Well… there was that extra half mile unplanned when we missed the turnoff. But, we thought an extra half mile in 3 days was OK; it also led to our only encounter with another hiker on the trip, a PCT section hiker travelling from Chinook to White Pass. We had lunch at the smaller of the Twin Sisters lakes. The breeze kept off some of the mosquito hordes, but the relief was short-lived. The second night was spent at a beautiful spot next to the largest of the Blankenship lakes. As it cooled down at night, the bugs were slightly bearable, and the kids spent some fun time down by the lake.

The third day brought a return of mosquitoes, with a vengeance! We could scarcely move without another bite. We hustled through some gorgeous meadows and next to Indian Creek, as it tumbles down the mountains toward Rimrock Lake. The kids crashed as soon as they got in the car. We’re ready to plan next year’s summer trip. Suggestions?

Lots of pics below, all of the photos are in the Blankenship Meadows album.

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Round Mountain Lookout

On June 28th, I took several of the kids to the site of the former fire lookout on Round Mountain, just south of White Pass. Although the lookout is no longer there, you can get views of both Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams from the top, as well as several peaks in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. It was a simple out and back, but lots of fun. We hit patches of snow a little above 5,000′ and the kids had a blast with that. Snow in the summer, who knew?!? Another fun plus for Washington!

On the way home, we did a little exploring on Summit Creek, scouting out our next adventure.

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service project…ensign ranch

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A little bit of work.

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Then a little bit of play.

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Equals another McCracken Camping Adventure!! We headed up Snoqualmie Pass to camp and work at one of our church’s camps a couple of weeks ago. We picked up debris on the trails, prepared tee pees and tents for upcoming girls camps, and had a lot of fun with new acquaintances. We are loving camping near rivers and trees. It’s pretty amazing up here. I grew up camping and exploring in the Northwest. And, yet, the beauty and grandeur of this area of the country still blows me away now that I am back…experiencing it through my children’s eyes.

As we speak, the kids are in the backyard playing in a rainstorm. Even though we still get 300 glorious days of sunshine a year, here in Central Washington, we also get plenty of moisture and lovely spring rain, summer thunderstorms, and rain and snow in the winter. A perfect four seasons of balance, if you ask me.  Ezzy and Nikki just came to me and said, “mom, it smells SO good outside. Like real rain.” :) They are loving exploring every bit of their new version of the outdoors.

*And can I get a shout out for camping two weekends in a row while pregnant. Thank you!!

memorial day lives on…geocaching 2013

We have celebrated Memorial Day in Zion National Park, UT with friends since 2005. Although we no longer live near Zion, we hope to carry on the camping tradition with our children and friends…new and old…for a long time to come. This year we celebrated near Mt. Rainier. It was wet and green and completely different than what we have grown used to over the years. I missed the warmth of Zion and all of the familiar surroundings. But I also loved being “home” and showing my kids what it was like to camp near real trees. Rob and Jaime joined us, which was awesome.

Instead of hiking on Saturday, the guys took the kids geocaching. They have explored many geocaches all over Las Vegas and its surrounding desert.


They love looking for “treasure.” Adam loves using his GPS. And I love sitting in my camping recliner. So it’s win-win for EVERYONE! :)


We had several cousins join the fun. Everyone had a great time!! Despite being homesick for familiar faces in Las Vegas, I love being home.


good little backpackers

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Labor Day Weekend 2010 found us at Zion National Park on our very first backpacking trip–with the ninos. We have waited two years to be able to go, and the two littles are finally big enough to fit into backpacking packs. Each nino carried his or her own water, clothes, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Each of them also helped to carry parts of the two tents, food, and cooking items. Actually, my pack was the lightest it has ever been due to this help. I am thinking this is totally the way to go! :)

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Adam and I slipped out of our tent the next morning for a quiet sunrise together:

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So we only went a whopping four miles round trip. But for the kids’ first time out, it was a huge success. We have The Grand Canyon’s North Rim on our October docket. We are going to try for five miles this time.

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looking forward

Summer will quickly be upon us here in the desert. And you all know how cranky I get when summer comes. So I try and make the summer as busy as possible for myself so that I can endure the baking hot sun.

Here is what we are planning:

Zion Nat’l Park, of course. Year six. We leave tomorrow.

Spring Mountain Ranch, Willy Wonka. Planning this outing for months now with friends. So excited to take the kids to their first official play.
Camp Invent. Danny is going to his first invention camp with a buddy. He is totally stoked.
Bear Lake. The kids and I are planning a week at the lake with my mom and sister. (Adam will be in China on business–boo, boo!)
Swim lessons. Hopefully we can squeeze a couple of these in. :)

Grandma Penning Visits. YAY!
Relay for Life. We are going to Oregon to participate in Team Georgie this summer. So Excited!
Washington. Oh how I love escaping the desert heat, trading it in for two weeks in Yakima. I can’t wait to hang with my family, scrap with Jes, camp at Rainier with cousins, and see old friends and their children.

The Beach. Yes! Who love the Oregon Coast? We do. We do. We have been planning this vacation since Thanksgiving with my parents and siblings. One whole week in Seaside with my family. The kids are going to learn to body surf this time around. Can’t wait for vacation with my hubby and kiddos.

to nana’s house we go

After July 4th weekend ended, the kids and I spent a month in my hometown, Yakima, escaping the heat of the Las Vegan desert. From the pictures you can tell how much time the kids spent outside. From dawn until dusk they slip-n-slided, filled water balloons, rode bikes, and swam–just how I remembered my childhood…


We also spent some time in the mountains.


The kids very much enjoyed meeting loads of new family, playing with nana’s dogs, and getting to know their other cousins a little better. The best part was stepping outside and not feeling my life drain instantly from my body as the scorching heat sucked it right out of me. :) Yeah, that was definitely the best part. Now that we are nearing the end of September and temps are back into the 90’s, things like grocery shopping at midday and touching my steering wheel and seatbelt have become bearable once more. I know, I know, it could always be worse–we could live in Phoenix. :)