Oregon Coast Quests

We are avid Letterboxers and have always enjoyed the added fun of a scavenger hunt while on a family outing. When I first discovered Oregon Coast Quests, I was intrigued. I knew this was something we would enjoy. As it turned out, it provided so much more.

questsoregonLike Letterboxing, Quests are fun and educational clue-directed hunts that encourage exploration of natural areas. A self-guided activity whereby Questers follow a map and find a series of clues to reach a hidden box.

Similarly, the box contains a small guest book, a stamp pad, and a unique rubber stamp. Participants sign the guest book to record their find, and make an imprint of the box stamp in their clue book as proof of accomplishment. Then the box is re-hidden for the next person to find. The location of the clues and box remain a secret so others can share the fun. Oregon Coast Quest clues and boxes stay in place year-round.

What makes Quests different from Letterboxes is that in the box, there is additional information about the site. Additionally, the box is maintained by locals who are dedicated to keeping the box secure whereas Letterboxes are sometimes hidden by travelers and are essentially uncared for – causing many to go lost.


We were able to complete our first Quest when we drove up to Oregon to visit family for Thanksgiving. We had hoped to complete a second during the same visit but just didn’t have the time and it was raining something fierce.

There are presently 26 Quests in three counties (Lincoln, Coos, and Benton) – one of which is in both English and Spanish! We are excited for this new challenge. Upon completing 10 or more Quests, we are eligible to receive a Oregon Coast Quests patch! If that isn’t incentive – what is?

The Oregon Coast Quests book is currently being updated and a new edition is expected to be published in the spring of 2015. Until then, you can purchase a 2013-14 edition from Oregon Sea Grant

The City of Quito

Having spent a few days in Quito years ago on my own, I wanted to introduce this historic city to my family. We thereby arrived in Quito a few days prior to our expedition (which was to meet in Guayaquil on the 17th of October).

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m. The capital city derives its name from the Quitus, who inhabited the region a long time before the Spanish conquest.

Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are examples of the ‘Baroque school of Quito’, which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.

quitoThe city occupies a small basin in the great central plateau formed by the volcano Pichincha, the Puengasi ridge, and ridges formed by spurs from the eastern side of Pichincha. The houses of Quito are chiefly built in the old Spanish or Moorish style. The building material in general use is sun-dried brick, covered in the better houses with plaster or stucco.

Upon consulting with the concierge at our hotel, we opted to purchase tickets for the City Bus Tour (hop on hop off). This was a great introduction to the city – enabling us to see some of the famous churches and plazas. We hopped off at only a few places: El Panecillo, La Plaza Grande, y El Teleférico.

El Panecillo is a 200m high hill of volcanic origin with a peak elevation of 3,016m above sea level. The original names used by the aboriginal inhabitants was Yavirac. According to a Jesuit historian, there had been a temple which the indians used to worship the sun; later destroyed by Spanish conquistadores.

In 1976, the Spanish artist Agustín de la Herráan Matorras was commissioned by the religious order of the Oblates to build a 45m tall aluminum monument of a madonna. It is made of 7,000 pieces of aluminum and was inaugurated on 28 Mar 1976 by the 11th Archbishop of Quito.

quito2While enjoying the views from the Panecillo, we purchased a cup of sliced mango. The kids were looking forward to a sweet refreshing treat but to their disgust, discovered the fruit had been sprinkled with salt and lemon .. too sour for their taste.

Our next stop was the La Plaza Grande where we visited the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus, did a little shopping, and enjoyed a wonderful Ecuadorian meal at Hasta la Vista Señor. Geneva purchased a poncho here and wrapped herself up in it for much of our trip.

In the photo collage above, you can see Geneva wasn’t very happy. She and Jeffrey had been arguing for much of the morning and just before we snapped this family photo, he had stepped on her foot. Ah, the joys of traveling with kids.

Our last stop was the Teleférico – a gondola lift running from the edge of the city center up the east side of Pichincha Volcano to the lookout Cruz Loma.  It is one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, rising form 3117m to 3945m. Geneva and I actually began to feel the effects of the altitude. My heart felt constricted, I was very winded (hard to catch my breath), and we even a little dizzy. Yikes! We thereby opted not to walk any higher – though Patrick and Jeffrey braved forward.

The view was incredible though. It reminded me a little of the viewpoint in Hong Kong – the infrastructure was there, but it had not been maintained. From my research upon our return home, I learned that the aim was to create an entire mall at its base, with cinemas, coffee shops, and an amusement park. Unfortunately this project eventually fell through (though a small cafe, gift shop, and an amusement park – Vulqano Park, still remain).


Walk Like an Egyptian: Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

We recently began our history cycle a new, focusing once again on Ancient Times. As the kids have narrated stories about what we’ve read about the ancient Egyptians, my husband recalled fondly his visit as a child to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum.  I was thereby delighted when our visit to San Jose for the Piano Guys concert aligned with our history curriculum.

Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, religion, and art. At the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, kids can become Egyptologists as they explore the many exhibits, engage in the educational programing, and interact with the online resources.


The museum houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in western North America — including objects from pre dynastic times through Egypt’s early Islamic era. There are more than 4,000 authentic ancient Egyptian artifacts in the museum’s collection. Several of the artifacts, however, are replicas and are labeled as such.

All total, there are four galleries and a replica tomb, architecturally inspired by the Temple of Amon at Karnak from the old kingdom. The kids particularly enjoyed our guided tour through this exhibit as they pretended to be real archeologists embarking on a new discovery.

The first gallery is the afterlife gallery with an impressive collection of mummies, coffins, and burial offerings. The four mummies on display are real. Mummies of animals are also on display.

The second gallery is filled with common household items that the Egyptians used. Most fascinating to me was the display on women’s cosmetics. The Kohl tube, hair accessories, mirrors, and perfume bottles tell us that the Egyptians were fastidious about their appearance.

  • Ancient Egyptian kohl, called mesedjmet, was eye-paint made from galena, a type of lead. Kohl was stored in tubes a dry powder. Shells were also used to hold powdered makeup.
  • Eyeshadow and eyeliner were made from ground malachite (copper ore). Malachite makeup, like galena, was applied with the end of a rounded stick dipped in water.
  • Cosmetics and writing ink were ground from minerals on small stone grinding palettes.

Though they vaguely remember playing Senet when we studied ancient history during our first cycle, the kids enjoyed seeing the display of toys, including a wooden Senet board and an array of game pieces.

The third gallery has images of kingship and the gods. The ancient Egyptians worshipped hundreds, if not thousands of gods and goddesses. In addition to the many familiar names, such as Isis and Osiris, small towns had their own patron deities.

The fourth and fifth galleries are dedicated to the pharaoh Akhenaten and the goddess Sekhmet.

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum’s future looks promising. New exhibits, tours, and workshops are planned along with continued research and scholarship.

Summer Staycation: Northern California

We presently call Northern California home, or more affectionately NorCal.  It is the northern portion of the state and includes the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento, two metropolitan areas. In far northern California lies the Shasta Cascade region, a wonderland of outdoor recreation – surely providing staycation opportunities for all interests. 

The Shasta Cascade region, covering 25% of California, offers everything from glistening lakes and world-class rivers to scenic drives and backcountry roads.  It is the perfect escape from the fast pace of city life providing something for everyone to discover and enjoy whether it be great recreation, adventure or pure relaxation.  norcal staycation

Snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes, prairie swaths of forest, volcanic landscapes; the Shasta Cascade region provides scenic vistas within just a few hours drive – ensuring the journey is half the adventure. Choose from a number of great opportunities in this diverse region to create a staycation of your choice 0r follow the suggested itinerary of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association.  

Check out some of the fun NorCal excursions you can enjoy:

Discover the culture of the Coastal Native Americans, explore the Redwoods, and Pacific ocean beaches at Patrick’s Point State Park near Trinidad.

Lassen Volcanic National Park will amaze you with the variety of remarkable hydrothermal features.

With 27 miles of hiking trails, Castle Crags State Park will keep you busy all weekend.

Though the historic sailing ships, Lady Washington & Hawaiian Chieftain, call Gray’s Harbor home, they are often docked in San Francisco.

At Lucero Olive Oil, you can get a peak behind the scenes at one of the state’s most lucrative agricultural resources.

We never leave the bay area without visiting San Francisco Chinatown, one of our favorite places to do a little shopping and enjoy a delicious meal.

We enjoy the tour at Shasta Dam so much, we’ve done it three times!  As one of the largest concrete dams in the world, it is a must see!

For more NorCal field trips, check out my post 10 Free California Field Trips.

Free California Fieldtrips

 Other fun activities you may enjoy throughout the summer

no matter where you live include:

  1. Go to a movie.  Invite the neighbors for a block party, projecting the movie onto a rented screen or sheet hung between trees.
  2. Go antique shopping.  Seek out unique, locally owned antique and second-hand stores. You never know what treasures you might discover.
  3. Charter a boat & go fishing.  Go fishing with a guided fishing charter.
  4. Volunteer. Volunteer as a family at a local homeless shelter or work with the park service to improve trails.
  5. See a ball game.  The country is dotted with major and minor league baseball teams; get some sun, have a hotdog, and relax.
  6. Host a potluck or barbecue.  Have the extended family over for a reunion or host a block party.  Ask everyone to bring something and share.

For more staycation ideas, visit the iHomeschool Network’s Summer Staycation Link-up.


Shore Acres Geology Walk

Shore Acres, located on the south coast of Oregon near Coos Bay, contains some of the most dramatic geology on the West Coast.  Layers of sediment tilt at steep angles, some are spatter with dark round rock formations like cannon balls, and the surf hitting the rocks shoots spectacular waves 50 feet into the air.  Both my husband and I grew up in Coos County and most of our family still resides in this area.  We thereby get the opportunity to visit frequently.

Our Dynamic Coast

Perched on rugged sandstone cliffs high above the ocean, Shore Acres State Park is an exciting and unexpected combination of beautiful natural and constructed features. Once the grand estate of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson, Shore Acres features lushly planted gardens with plants and flowers from all over the world. Something is in bloom almost every day of the year. We’ve explored these gardens in the past but our focus this time was the geology.

1 Concretions

The rock formations that look like cannon balls are called concretions, compact masses of mineral matter embedded in a host rock.  Concretions usually form before the rest of the sediment has hardened into solid rock. This pre-rock cementing material collects around a nucleus of decaying organic material.

2 Salt Weathering

The power of the ocean is wearing away the rock formations day by day, as the waves strike the rocky coastline and explode into the air.  But an even more subtle force of geologic change comes from the evaporation of billions of droplets of seawater, deposited on the rocks and causing salt weathering.

3 Colliding Plates

The layers of rock that are part of the Coaledo Formation tilt at a 40-45 degree angle from the Juan de Fuca plate colliding with the North American plate.  The flat surface around you is formed by a wave cut pattern called the Whiskey Run Marine Terrace.

As we drove home, I encouraged the kids to give an oral narration of what they understood from the interpretive signs we had read and the observations we had made.  I hoped that they would also make a few sketches in their nature journal but a las they did not.  Nature journaling is personal.  I try to model it as often as I can but I don’t force it.

During our geology walk, we were delighted to also observe a pod of sea lions surfing the waves and racing one another.  At first, I thought they were dolphins for I had never seen sea lions leap and dive before this day. We watched them for several minutes as they continued their journey south, presumably to a secluded beach not far from where we were standing.



Submitted to the Outdoor Hour Challenge at the Handbook of Nature Study.

Discovering China: Hong Kong

Zǎochenhǎo (早晨好) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. Today’s post on Hong Kong is the final post in the series whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.

hong kong lightsHong Kong, officially named Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is a city that’s full of surprises. Hong Kong is much more than skyscrapers, teeming shopping streets and Jackie Chan. Forty percent of the land is devoted to natural habitats – sandy beaches, woodlands and mountains. Hong Kong is a water city with different islands to explore, and kids will have fun taking ferries everywhere.

Use public transportation in Hong Kong to get around – it’s varied and fun. The subway is the easiest way to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Take the double decker buses and trams for a bird’s eye view of the city. Ferries are a must, the shortest of which is the Star Ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong. Longer routes connect the islands.

The green and white Star Ferry has been in operation for over a hundred years, chugging back and forth between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The trip doesn’t take long, but you get a great view of the harbor, junks, hydrofoils, sampans, and barges. You can also pick up a ferry to go to Lantau, Lamma or Cheung Chau Islands.

The night view along the beaches of Victoria Harbor is a famous attraction. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula are full of high-rise buildings so at night, the lights blaze so magnificently and so beautifully around the harbor.

We took the ferry over to Kowloon to enjoy the Symphony of Lights show in the evening.  The largest permanent light show in the world, the 15 minute show is performed by the towers of Central District, Hong Kong. It is presented by the tourism commission through organizing 44 skyscrapers and landmarks that lie on the sides of the Victoria Harbor. Through interactive lighting and music show, it shows the vibrancy and glamorous night view of the city.

If you enjoy unusual attractions or engineering feats of wonder, you will enjoy the Central-Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system – the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The entire system covers over 800 meters in distance and elevates over 135 meters from bottom to top.

There you can take the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak. Once at the top, if it’s a clear day, you’ll have a spectacular view of Hong Kong. It was a little cloudy when we visited but the view was still stunning.

As it was Sweetie’s birthday and our trip had also come to a close, we wanted a relaxing day – she wanted the beach.  We asked the staff at the hotel and learned there are good swimming beaches at Repulse Bay and Stanley, staffed with lifeguards in summer.

hong kong

We thereby boarded bus 260 – a double decker for a scenic ride to the other side of the island – with spectacular views of the bays and mountains.  We stopped at Stanley first as it was the farthest away and we planned to work our way back to the hotel.  We did a little shopping at the nearby markets and then took a peak at the beach.  The wind on this side of the island was great for wind surfing, evidenced by the many boards and bodies in wetsuits, but the surf was too high for swimming.

We thereby opted for the more protected cove of Repulse Bay.  I learned later that the beach at Repulse Bay has wonderful plaster statues of Chinese deities and mythical figures, but we didn’t see them when we were there. We enjoyed the water here – though the water was murky, we couldn’t even see our toes when we were swimming.

Sweetie enjoyed collecting small shells and agates along the waters edge.  At one point, three Chinese tourists came up to her and literally picked her up and stood beside her for photographs.  Had we not become a little accustomed to the attention, this would have taken us by surprise.  It was still a little disconcerting but we understood their intent at this point.

On our return to the hotel, I mistakenly left my iPhone behind on the bus and didn’t realize it until we were walking through the lobby.  Fortunately, the clerk at the counter was able to help us and she called the bus station on our behalf. While Patrick and Buddy waited, Sweetie and I ran back to look in hopes I may have dropped it along the way.  When she and I returned, we learned one matching my description had been turned in.  She wrote out instructions in Chinese characters and we made our way to the bus terminal.  What a relief!

Like Shanghai and many of China’s mega-cities, Hong Kong is recognized by its skyrises.  Earlier, I shared with you a sneak peak at a new unit study I have compiled titled, The World’s Tall Buildings: An Engineering Unit Study.  If you’d like to receive this curriculum supplement for free, simply subscribe to my newsletter.

Thank you so much for joining me on our discovery of China.  I hope that you have been inspired to travel yourself .. whether your travels are abroad or close to home, you will certainly create memories you will cherish for a lifetime.


For your convenience, all 10 days of Discovering China are linked to one landing page.  This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. Visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration.