Once we left Glacier National Park in early August, we made a one-night stop at our first Thousand Trails RV park called Little Dimond outside of Spokane, WA. We became members of the Thousand Trails one-year camping pass after hearing such great things about the membership. I’ll give a little bit of explanation of our membership in case you may be interested in learning more about Thousand Trails.
Thousand Trails and how it works:
It cost us $545 for access to RV parks in 3 different zones within the country. We chose the Northwest, Southwest, and Southeast zones. This way, we can stay up to 2 weeks at one park at a time. Then we have to take a week out of the system and then we may stay again at another park for up to 2 weeks. It’s a great way to save money on campground fees and know what you are getting when you arrive as there are MANY people who stay at Thousand Trail’s parks and write up reviews online or on the many different Facebook groups.
For instance, Tony and I were able to find out from previous full-time RVers who stay at Thousand Trails that there was excellent Verizon cellular connection in section C and D in the next park we were going, but very little of any cell service in the park we planned to stay at just south of Olympic National Park. These are the things that are unique to traveling around in an RV and needing internet to work full or part-time.
The complicated part of understanding our camping pass with Thousand Trails (TT) is that if we stay 4 nights or less at one park, we can hop right to the next TT park and continue jumping from one park to another as long as we only stay 4 nights or less at each park. As soon as we stay 5 nights (or up to 14 nights per our membership) we then have to be ‘out’ of the system for 7 days before we can stay in another Thousand Trail’s park.
So, we decided to do some park hopping across Washington. One reason we park-hopped was that we wanted to work our way to Oregon in time to see the total Solar Eclipse on August 21st. The second reason was that we were limited when finding the best parks with the best reviews with great cell service for longer periods of time, as we only just booked these parks in late June or early July and August is the super busy season in Washington!
We started by driving through Mount Rainer National Park on our second day into Washington, as it was right on our way to our campground in Chehalis, WA.
Mount Rainer was beautiful!
The kids were even able to complete their Junior Ranger booklets in just an hour’s time so that they could get their badges!
When we arrived at our Thousand Trails campground in Chehalis late that evening, we were excited to spend a few days just hanging out. Tony and I took the kids to the pool several times, did some grocery shopping and enjoyed some of the summer children’s activities such as face painting and finding the ‘pig’ treasure hunt each morning to earn free ice-cream or a slushy. It was a hot week with no rain and a lot of sunshine!
Chehalis Thousand Trails
Tony and I decided to take a day to drive into Olympia, WA to do a little shopping at a place called TRADER JOE’S!! It was our first chance to visit Trader Joe’s since we had left Minnesota, and boy was I excited! We also made a stop at Goodwill and grabbed some amazing deals on clothes for the family, as the kids continue to grow and stain SO many clothes.
While staying at Chelasis Thousand Trails, I took the kids on a day trip to Mount St. Helen’s. We prepared ourselves by reading the book I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helen’s, by Laren Tarshis. The kids and I were pretty excited to see it. We stopped at the Forest Learning Center, as it was highly recommended online and it was free! The kids had a blast pretending to fly the helicopter inside their exhibits and playing on their outdoor playground.
We then headed up to the Visitor Center near the base of Mount St. Helen’s. We have annual National Park passes so we were able to enter the visitor center for free. It was nice to be much closer to Mount St. Helen’s, as we had yet to see it in the skyline due to all the smoke from the wildfires in the area. It was pretty smoggy, but we did get a good look at it!
We left Chelasis, WA after 4 nights to drive to Ocean Shores, WA for a 4-night night stay at the Thousand Trails campground called Oceana. Wow were we in for a huge surprise in the temperature change! You see, we left Chelasis when it was 89 and humid but dry and arrived on the Washington coast to 57 degrees, overcast, and a cold wet feeling in the air! Yikes! We also didn’t have the best cellular service.
We also didn’t have the best cellular service.
Tony had to drive into town and up on the actual beach to work on Friday so that the internet speed was fast enough. We are learning to be ‘flexible’ with the traveling lifestyle, but we sure do feel stressed out when our internet connection isn’t the best.
We managed to get in two ‘beach’ time visits in while staying in Ocean Shores. The water was COLD, the temperature was also COLD, but the kids really enjoyed playing the in water or sand!
On Saturday, we decided to take a full day to visit Olympic National Park. I was SO excited! This was at the top of my bucket list for sure! Did you know that we have a rainforest in the USA? Yup! The Hoh Rainforest is a temperate rainforest in Olympic National Park.
I listened to a podcast, a week before heading to the Washington coast, and learned a tip when visiting Olympic National Park. You should be sure to find out when it will be low tide before planning your day out. So we planned our day in Olympic National Park accordingly. You see, we also really wanted to visit Ruby Beach, which was supposed to have amazing tide pools. Wow, did it ever!! As a family originally from ‘Middle America’ (a.k.a. Minnesota), we were AMAZED by the tide pools in the ocean at low tide! Purple and orange starfish, sea anemones, and crabs!!
Ruby Beach Tide Pool
We started at Ruby beach during low tide in the late morning, then drove inland to the Hoh Rainforest for an afternoon hike.
The hike through the Hoh rainforest was amazing! The kids enjoyed discovering animal tracks and scat near our picnic area before our hike. We also appreciated that we stayed dry, as it is a rainforest. The kids learned all about epiphytes, plants that grow on another plant for support, and enjoyed seeing the enormous trees. It was a great experience to be able to take our children hiking through a rainforest in our own country.
I have visited Costa Rica when I was in college and LOVED hiking the tropical rainforest. I’ve often spoken to the kids about my experience. So this was very exciting to take them on a hike through our nation’s temperate rainforest.
Sunday we spent at the local beach just outside the town of Ocean Shores, WA. It was cold, but the sun did show itself. So we brought a picnic lunch and let the kiddos build sand castles. This time, we did avoid soaking wet and freezing cold kiddos by parking further up from the surf. The kids were happy to play in the sand while Tony and I just relaxed for a bit. Relaxation was needed as we were beginning to feel a bit stressed.
Tony and I have learned that we need to take a few ‘breathers’ when we are feeling stressed living this traveling lifestyle. That way we can figure out what is causing the feelings and how to make a change. (can you tell that my degree is in Behavior Analysis! lol) It was the lack of reliable internet that was really causing the unwanted stress. So that night we decided to leave a day early and boondock it in a Cabela’s parking lot, halfway to our next destination outside Seattle.
When we were all packed up Sunday after dinner to leave, I discovered that the van’s battery was dead! Yikes!
I guess letting the kids play in the van so that we could do the dishes and take quick showers inside the RV wasn’t our best parenting decision. Oops! Luckily we could jump-start the van with the RV and we were on our way.
We stayed at Tall Chief RV Resort, about 30 minutes East of Seattle for 5 nights after our night at Cabela’s. It was a beautiful campground with very nice staff and a well heated large pool! They also had a playground, miniature golf, basketball, and tennis courts, and we had an amazing ‘backyard’ at our campsite! The temperature was not hot, but it was dry the entire stay!
Tall Chief Thousand Trails
We took a few day trips into Seattle. All six of us visited the Space Needle and grabbed a few gelato ice creams from a very tasty place. It was a clear day in Seattle so we had great views from the top of the Space Needle too!
We enjoyed seeing the view from the top of the Space Needle, eating a picnic dinner in the green space in front of the Space Needle, and finding a great place for some Gelato!
Space Needle – Seattle, Washington
I took the kids to the Museum of Flight another day. It was a fantastic museum to visit if you are ever in Seattle. They have a retired Air Force One airplane that you can tour, along with a Blackbird and many more amazing airplanes. They also have a great kids area and many awesome exhibits about outer space travel as well. We even got into the Museum for free by showing our MN Science Museum membership card!
Museum of Flight
Our third time in Seattle was to visit the famous Pikes Place Market. Wow, it was HUGE! Much bigger and busier than we anticipated for a Thursday afternoon. There were many artisans selling their goods as well as many farmers selling produce. However, the two highlights of the market are the selling of fresh seafood where they throw the fish,
and seeing the original Starbucks coffee shop.
We grabbed some mediocre seafood and sat near the water. We have become pretty disappointed when we eat out, hoping to eat some amazing food and not always found that to be the case. I think our budget doesn’t allow us to eat from the BEST reviewed restaurants, so we settle for mediocre when we’d rather just have eaten a packed picnic from Trader Joe’s. Lesson learned.
The yard games down by the docks were pretty fun, as well as all the people watching. Seattle really does have a large homeless population that lives in tents alongside the highway and walk up and down the street near all the tourists. It was definitely an experience to walk as a family among many of these people.
I felt that our time in Washington was rushed. We wanted to see the highlights, but we also wanted to get to Oregon in time to see the total solar eclipse. So that allowed us only 14 days to visit Washington. We made it all happen though, and I’m really glad that we did. I know that many people who travel the country full-time will comment “next year we can come back and see x-y-z”, however, Tony and I do not think we’ll be coming back to Washington anytime soon. It is very cold, even in the middle of the summer, and it is far away from everything else. So we are very glad that we were able to visit the items on our bucket-list in the state of Washington during our short visit.
Stay tuned for our next post that will cover our Oregon adventures, the Solar Eclipse and the unexpected fires and smoke!