Saturday, September 26, 2009


Mountain lion in winter at Glacier

Ranger programs are a fascinating bit of Americana. When you go to one you know exactly what to expect: outdoor seating (slightly damp of course), grainy slideshows lead by a varied selection of presenters, information about the world around you and getting a workout from swatting at the mosquitos buzzing your ear. What you don't expect is a new nickname for your youngest child.

As the hours to our first full day in Glacier came to a close, we journeyed to the ampitheater ready for a program about Glacier's history. The ranger who led the talk didn't disappoint--his program was informative and very entertaining. He taught us such gems as: "Run with the sun to have fun in Glaaiceer National Park". In his sweet tenor voice he also regaled us with lovely stories about the mountain lions in the park. He launched into a sermon about protecting your children due to the mountain lions predilection to eat smaller animals and easier prey. (In fact a mountain lion had run down a kid on a bike a few years previous. Thankfully the kid survived.)

As he went on and on about the dangers of mountain lions I leaned over to my sweet family and breathed out the words quietly: "Snack. We'll just start calling Travis 'Snack' from now on." My family quietly erupted in laughter. It was one of those moments where you start laughing about something that you know you really shouldn't be...but it's really funny and totally can't help it.

So, ladies and gentlemen...if you hear us calling out the word "Snack" don't assume we're asking you if you'd like one. We're just looking for Travis.

(Don't bother telling me that we're twisted...we already know that!)


Friday, September 25, 2009

Beauty from Ashes...Thursday afternoon in Glacier

Yes, Ladies and 'Gentlemen...I'm still blogging about Glacier. :) This time I'll be short of words and longer on pics.

After Travis's rough morning of being sick, he miraculousy recovered for our car ride to Logan Pass. As our car climbed over the continental divide we caught glimpses of God's incredible creation through a thick fog. Views of jagged peaks covered with snow, tumbling waterfalls and lush green flora were forever carved in our hearts as we made our journey. The plants and rocks were so gorgeous--they make man's feeble attempts a landscaping look like child's play. I wish all of you could have been there with us.

Our view as we rounded a bend on the way down. The sheer drop off on the left was unsettling to think of.

One of the many views through the fog.

The flowers were incredible. This pic is just one of many--they were in every color of the rainbow. Awesome!

Later that day we went on a hike through an area that had burned in 2003. It's amazing to see how the area has recovered so beautifully.

The trail before us...right before the burn area.

Truly beauty from ashes...

Austin leading the way as usual.

A view through the trees.

On a light note: we carried our bear deterrent to protect us. As another safety measure we had to sing and talk loudly as we climbed along the trail. (Being loud is not an issue for us!) Spongebob (F.U.N., Best Day Ever), Chowder and a couple of Chris Tomlin's songs were in our repertoire. I'm sure the grizzlies weren't only forewarned of our presence but highly entertained (or scared) as well!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Plans of Mice and Men: Or Thursday morning in Gla-cee-er

Our first morning in Glacier dawned with the pitter patter of raindrops on our tent. Fortunately, our tent was warm and dry inside, filled with the snores of our cozy family. Being west coast Baker's we slept in until 10 and enjoyed our leisurely morning. Billy took the boys down to the lake while I made a good ol' camp breakfast of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and toast. (YUM! Bacon smells good...but when you're camping I swear the smell is magnified and turned into something completely irresistable when you toss in campfire smoke and pine needles.)

Here is one of the pics that Billy took down at the lake:

Notice anything wrong?

Travis doesn't look happy...that was probably due to the fact that he promptly threw up the minute he returned to camp. As I held my poor pukey kid that morning I was pessimistically looking forward to spending days in camp with a sick kid. Before we had left on vacation a nasty stomach bug had been making the rounds at church--it was so bad that I kept the kids at home the weekend before we left lest they would get the bug.

Oh the plans of mice and men!

Holding Travis I was fully aware that I had failed in my feeble attempts to control my kid's exposure to the bug. (Which, from what I heard upon our return had continued to rip through our congregation and even into the kids at camp.) He looked so pitiful and homeless. Me holding him by the fire while the rain pattered on our tarp.

But. Travis being Travis, he was fully recovered by lunch and raring to go on a car ride and hike. Although his recovery was miraculous and obviously not the dreaded bug, poor Aaron viewed Travis with a suspicious eye for the next two days. Anything Travis touched, breathed on or even looked at Aaron refused to touch. Just imagine a two hour car ride with the two of them sitting next to each other. The picture below is of us taking the Going to the Sun Road. As you see, Travis has knocked out after his tiring morning and Aaron is next to him. What it fails to record are the occasional squeals of horror from Aaron and his appeals to ride with the window open. He wanted fresh air to protect against the germs. For the record, he didn't catch anything--his survival skills worked.

Next post: A ride over the mountains and a hike through the woods.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

not my pic--I admit, I stole it!

See this picture? It's deceiving. The sun is shining...there's nary a cloud in the sky and the sky is robin's egg blue. In actuality when we rolled into Glacier National Park (the boys pronounce is "Glae-cee-r" all proper like) the rain clouds we had watched during our laundromat experience continued their down pour.

This would be great if we had a cabin. This would be fine if we had a trailer. This would be okay if we had a conversion van.

We didn't have any of those things.

We had a tent.

To make it worse our biggest tent is 17x10 feet. Our lot was designed for a tent half that size. The bathroom was a stones throw away to boot. We took a look, plus another drive by and decided that it wasn't going to work for us and headed back to the ranger station. Our incredibly sweet ranger friend informed us that she could change our reservation but there was a hitch: her power and phone were out. Also, to change everything would involve refunding, repaying money and moving halfway through our stay. So, we trudged through another time just to make sure the grass wasn't greener somewhere else and finally decided to accept what we'd been given. (Which turned out to be a massive gift instead of a drawback...another story coming soon.)

Dejavue kicked in as we made another loop back to our spot. By now the neighbors were staring at the freaks who kept driving by. As we stepped out of our car we felt the taunting thoughts of our neighbors bearing down on us . It was almost as though I could hear their thoughts: "Heh, heh...a bunch of rookies. Let's see them put up camp in the rain. Ha!" "Californians! This will be fun to watch!" "Wimps!"

Ha! They didn't know what they were dealing with. They were dealing with the Baker's! So what if we had a tent? So what if there were buckets of rain falling from the sky! We set it up without a hitch and dealt with it. That's what you do as a Baker--deal with what you've been given and make s'mores to celebrate afterwards.

Here is pic of our camp:


Monday, September 14, 2009

On your Mark! Get set! Wait!

Bojangles, not my pic

It was D-Day. We had made it! Glacier National Park was less than 30 miles away. The kids were ready. We were ready. However, the park wasn't ready--check-in wasn't until 1 pm. So, what to do? Eat!

As we wandered around town looking for breakfast we stumbled upon Bojangles. It was on the edge of town and the parking lot was full of local license plates. To us, this was a good sign. Locals usually know where the best food at the best price is...and they were right.

Bojangles was stuffed to the gills with a 50's memorabilia collection. On each table was the local handout of randomness (that's the only way to describe it: kind of like a massive church bulletin filled with events, small articles, corny jokes and random bits of information.) The kids played I Spy while Billy and I perused the local goings on in our, um, bulletins? When our breakfast came we were not disappointed. Our eggs were cooked to perfection (we all decided they were the best we had ever eaten) and the pancakes were sublime.

The laundromat lurks just behind the corner...

After our yummy breakfast we still had time to kill so we went to the laundromat to finish up on last minute laundry. As our wash tumbled we noticed the clouds in the sky were looking darker than they had during breakfast. Sure enough it started to rain buckets and the kids were ecstatic. Can you believe they spent 45 minutes sitting on the front porch of the laundromat just watching the rain and wind? Crazy Californian kids--they were so fascinated! This of course, drew the locals attention to the fact that we weren't from around there...the clerk inquired as to where we were from and the word "California" explained it all. She, too, was from California (Bakersfield, where else?) and enjoyed watching our poor precipitation deprived children enjoy the rain.

The rain had arrived and it wasn't going away...yes...more blog posts to come.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Evening Day#2: More Stares and a tired family.

After escaping our motel room for the evening, our family made its way to Walmart to top off our supplies. As we were checking out, once again people were blatantly staring at us. What was with all the staring? Didn't they look at themselves? They were all wearing socks with sandals! (Hiking sandals to boot.) Ha! We came up with a theory about the staring and here it is:

Californians are creatures who have no verbal social boundaries. While standing in a grocery store line anywhere in our great state you can hear the life story of the person behind you, catch up on the health issues of the stranger in front of you all while listening to the checker talk about his/her newest love interest. To top it off we walk around in flip flops--without socks.

Not one person was talking in line at Walmart. If they did it was quiet and discreet. Here we were just blaring away about whatever. All 6 of us. No wonder they were staring. Once again: Oops!

Side note:
"Supplies" to Billy included buying a knife for Aaron. Yes...I said "Aaron". The very same Aaron who freaks out in pain if a butterfly brushes his cheek--what was Billy thinking? We went to an outdoor concert later that night and Billy left Austin to teach Aaron how to used said knife while he wandered around to take pictures. The teaching did not go well. Both Austin and I were paranoid and tired. Hence, the lovely family picture below:

Please note: Aaron is the only one who's happy here!

Main Street USA...concert in the park in Kalispell.

Travis as usual was the center of the party!

Despite the pictures, we did enjoy ourselves in Kalispell. The climate and ambiance were great. Too bad we didn't get to spend more time in this sweet little town.


Kalispell, MT: The perfect place to disown kids!

Due to the crazy high cost of hotel rooms in Kalispell, I had only booked one room for our whole family. (We usually book two if we can't find one that will contain our brood.) Motel 6 is only designed with rooms for 4 people...but we thought we'd sneak 6 in no problem.

What? Didn't I feel guilt? Not too much when I booked it. However, at the check-in desk when the clerk asked us about the ages of our children I instantly was filled with fear. My face flushed, I gulped and looked at Billy. (After all, he's the head of the family right? He's the spokesperson!) He shuffled a little bit and glanced nervously at me and spit out:

"Um, 8 and, um, 5."

Realize this: Billy and I both have a hard time with lying...even to hotel clerks just making conversation. Instantly guilt pangs shot through my heart....I had disowned my two older children!

I wanted to shout out: "I've got a 15 and 13 year old too! They're in the car...we just don't want you to know because I'm too cheap to pay for two rooms."

However, I maintained my cool. I did start getting paranoid--first of all with this lovely thought: "So, if you two have two lovely children ages 5 and 8...then where are they? You didn't leave them all alllooone in the hot car in a strange parking lot did you?" Um, apparently I did.

ACK! I was so afraid they were on to us.

Thankfully the clerk just smiled and became distracted by the next customer. However, I felt as though the jig was up and we were about to get caught at any moment.

After we had checked in Billy and I strategized getting into our room with all 4 kids without drawing attention. Cautiously, we had them leave the car in pairs separated by a minute or so as to not draw attention. We also kept the curtains shut and practically taped their mouths shut to keep them quite. Believe me...a herd of elephants would've been less noticeable.

So, the next time I'll just suck it up and pay for the extra room. The guilt (and guilt trips laid by my oldest children about their disownment) was worse than the cost of the room. Ugh! Lesson learned.

Next: our evening in Kalispell. Yes...another story! Didn't I say this was going to be a long series?


The miles between Salt Lake and Kalispell...otherwise known as Idaho.

Tuesday found us on the road to Kalispell, Montana. As we breezed through Idaho, we saw field after field of beautiful golden wheat waiting to be harvested. (It took me back to my childhood--I was all nostalgic about it.) Travis would shout "Frank!" everytime he saw a combine. (from Cars.) Idaho is also where we saw this sweet gas station:

How many gas stations have you seen with giant metal palm trees in the front? I guess for me the answer is one. In Idaho. Because, obviously, (Duh!) that's where giant mutli-colored palm trees grow! We didn't get gas at this station...the one across the street was cheaper. I guess they were still having to cover the cost of their sweet palms. :)

Also, you may notice in the picture below... there was still something obviously wrong with our children:

It was Tuesday afternoon and they still hadn't broke out into sibling fights yet. This was par for the course (to this point.) They read, played games, sang or bugged us about waiting until sundown to watch movies--but were pretty much well behaved. Who were these kids? Certainly not ours! Maybe Utah did rub off on them after all?


Salt Lake City on a Monday Night...or why we stuck out like a sore thumb!

We rolled into Salt Lake City around 7pm on Monday night. After checking into our hotel we went on a search to find dinner. As we cruised the strip by our house we realized that #1: 90% of all the businesses were shut down for the night and #2: that our hotel was in a semi-seedy part of town. (Seedy for Salt Lake that is: read--as in nowhere as seedy as it can get around here!)

We mulled over our decisions and pulled into a Wendy's. As we disembarked from our vehicle we realized that ours was the only car in the parking lot. The girls at the counter gave us a really strange look as we burst through the restaurant doors (as only Baker's can.) They seemed to view us with a strange mix of aversion and fascination as we ordered then ate our food. We felt a bit strange being the only people in the restaurant. Eventually a solitary homeless guy showed up and munched on his burgers. But, nope, they were only giving us the strange looks.

I wondered about this for a couple of weeks when Cindy Roderick pointed out the obvious: Monday night is family night in Mormon-dom. In other words: we obviously were wayyy out of place gentiles. Oops!!

After our dinner we went to the pool--a nasty, slimy disappointment with black floaties in it. Once again, our family successfully drove off a crowd full of people at the pool by our mere presence. Noisy swimming Californians! Urgh.

The next morning at breakfast the kids plowed through the hotel's breakfast bar like no other. (Once again driving off other people due to the large size of our family and the teeeeny weeenie dining area.) As I checked out I noticed the desk clerk (who was also in charge of the food supplies) had the nastiest nails. Brown with chunks of dirt and who knows what in them. (My stomach started to churn when I saw them.) He was also pre-occupied by his cell phone and royally irritated by the fact that he was employed. Thankfully none of us got sick from breakfast. Salt Lake was so much fun! (not)

(I don't recommend the La Quinta in Midvale in case you're wondering.)


Rest Stops--the new spa!

Valley Wells rest stop

Who knew? Once we left SoCal we didn't encounter one bad bathroom. Not one. Every truck stop, rest stop, restaurant, grocery store and even the campground bathrooms were immaculate and fresh! Our first rest stop outside of Vegas (Valley Wells rest stop to be exact) was decorated with tile murals, air-conditioned and shock: Clean. Crazy concept--clean bathrooms. We don't see many of those out here!

Austin enjoying the luxurious grass at a Utah rest stop.

Another View of the same rest stop.
Our whole family became very fond and attached to our campground restroom by the end of our trip. (And not for what you think!) We were actually dissapointed that we didn't get any pictures of it. But, alas, that story is another blog. (Which will be forthcoming...I promise!)


Road Trip!

We rolled out of here at 7am on Monday, August 10th--ready to conquer the world! The kids were happily buzzing in the back seat and the forecast for sibling storms looked pretty clear. They were distracted by the thoughts of adventure and the bag of junk food that awaited them in the miles to come. Traffic was clear and before we knew it we were past Barstow and landed at Bass Pro Shops in Vegas. We had to shop for one last thing before hitting the vast wilderness of Glacier: Bear Deterrent.

Grizzly spray ladies and gentlemen. Everything we read and everyone we talked to who had been there before said you don't go without it. For $50, this baby can shoot 10oz of concentrated pepper spray over 30 feet in 4 seconds flat. Ours came with a handy belt attachment and loads of warning labels. After being momentarily distracted by the expanse of Bass Pro shops and the casino's gigantic fish tank full of manta rays we got back on the road. We had miles to cover!

As we headed into the canyon outside of St. George, Utah we were all mesmerized by the incredibly beautiful red rocks and soaring walls. On a random note: Austin's pitching coach is from St. George and he says that canyon terrifies him. It wasn't terrifying to us--just awe inspiring with it's desert ruggedness. I guess to each his own!

Random note for this entry: Once you get past St. George and Zion National Park in Utah...there are a ton of farms. They grow everything there...including hay. Travis was so excited to see it that he shouted out: "Hey guys! There's hay!". We started giggling because of the play on words--when he realized what he said was funny he kept repeating it. For the next 900 miles. Almost two days of: "Hey guys! There's hay!" over and over again followed by his silly giggle. It's the simple things in life that entertain a 5 year old.

At this point: half way through day one--no fights broke out or sobbing children left by the side of the road. So far so good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Where do I begin? From the beginning.

I know this is a month late...but life has finally settled down enough to give you all a blow by blow of our vacation. Okay, fine--that sounds boring. How about a tour of highlights (and low)? Better?

First of all, you need to know where we were going: Glacier National Park.

When I mentioned this to my daughter's Doctor during an appointment wayyy back in July she innocently asked:

You're flying, right?


You should've seen her jaw hit the floor.

Road trip baby! We're the Baker's...we were made for road trips!

Just so you know: Glacier National Park is in western Montana running all the way up into Canada. Our trip was going to take us 1,377 miles one way or a little over 21 hours of driving. On the way out we planned to stop in Salt Lake City over night and then go on to Kalispell, Montana for the next night. From there, Kalispell is just a short hop to the park. We wanted to make sure that we were well rested and ready to set up camp when we arrived. We were going to camp for 7 nights in Glacier and return to civilization. So there. That's the boring backstory. Are you ready for some adventure? You'll have to read our next post!