Explore & Adventure

Telling Tall Tales

“A tall tale,” I’m explaining to Skye, “is a tale that is so outsized or exaggerated that it is difficult to believe, and may stretch the truth.” We are discussing Paul Bunyan, who seems to be popular in the area. Of course, she wants an example.

“Well, we’re going to go on a vacation, Skye, where we drive from somewhere that is almost always sunny to somewhere it seems to rain all the time. On that trip, we’re going to play in water that bubbles up from the ground at exactly the right temperature for a bath. We’re going to play on a beach covered with tiny tumbled rocks instead of sand. And we’re going to see trees so tall and big around, you can drive your car right through them. We’re even going to see a troll that lives under a bridge.”

Of course, she believes me. After all, on previous trips we’ve seen snow in July, smoking caves suggestive of dragon’s lairs (Yellowstone), and plenty of dinosaurs. We arrive in Los Angeles and it is, as expected, sunny and beautiful. We go straight to the beach, dipping our toes in the Pacific and running around, having the boardwalk to ourselves due to the wind.

And of course, we had to stop and visit a mouse. River’s current favorite show is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and so we did a character dinner. He was exhausted from a long day of play and, of course, jet lag, but when Goofy first danced out around the table, you could see him trying to decide whether it was real or a dream. I will admit Disney is excellent at bringing these moments of magic into kids lives.

We packed into a rental car and headed north, taking a sunny drive past Big Sur, a soak in a wonderful hot spring, and ending in the Santa Cruz mountains at a lovely hotel surrounded by redwood trees and backing up to a creek. A little over an hour outside of San Francisco and peaceful, beautiful, mountainous air.

San Francisco was up and down, up and down, trying to find parking and a Chinese restaurant with outdoor seating. The cities we still need to do again, when we can go inside more. San Francisco and Seattle both need their own trips, a chance to stay in one place and get the feel of the area, find a favorite coffee shop, try many different restaurants, gardens, museums, and shows.

The redwoods, though! We drove through the first tree we found, Skye trying to hang out the window as we eased the car through, being careful to make sure the mirrors didn’t scrape. Skye found a hole in another and declared it must be where Totoro lived (we’d recently rewatched My Neighbor Totoro), as these trees were clearly big enough and the forest clearly the type of place Totoro would live. And I believe somewhere outside of San Francisco is a Shinto shrine, so certainly those old growth forests are exactly the right sort of place for kami.

We went walking through the woods, not long enough. Just as with the cities, I want to go spend some time living and absorbing the redwood energy, having a chance to meditate as the sun is coming up among the trees, go on longer hikes, and just wrap my mind around the scope of the trees. They aren’t tall tales, they are real.

From there the beaches started getting colder, so after a bit of Oregon coast we swerved inland to check out Portland and eat some doughnuts served up by the voodoo man. The waterfalls and moss coverage was the highlight of the area. Then we pushed north to Seattle, touring Bainbridge Island and taking the ferry in.

This was so much ground to cover and there is, as always, still more to see. Yet I think the days of epic roadtrips are coming to an end, at least for now. We need to do more absorbing of specific areas. Sitting out on the lawn eating picnics with no particular plans for the afternoon, making friends on the playground that we might yet see again. Not the things that epic tall tales are made of, yet the things that children thrive from.

Tall tales don’t have to come from large adventure, they come from home, too. Feeling frazzled leaving baggage claim when my daughter looks up and says, “mom, you look pretty today.” Watching my son pull a kayak off the rack and towards the lake, though he is only two.

Tall tales sometimes border on the fanciful, which as you can tell our family tends to encourage. At Multnomah Falls, Skye lost a tooth. This wasn’t her first tooth. The tooth fairy business, as you surely know if you’ve read your Terry Pratchett, is a franchise arrangement. This explains why tooth fairies bring different things to different kids – they are probably assigned to different tooth fairies. Skye’s tooth fairy brings her charms for her charm bracelet.

Further, Skye’s dad has opened conversation with Skye’s tooth fairy and negotiated a way for Skye to get her prize, but retain the tooth. She strongly cares about this and we have them carefully stored away. I thought it was creepy that my mom kept my teeth, but Skye is clearly related to her grandmother in this regard.

Except, when you loose a tooth across the country, are you in a different tooth fairies domain? Even if that tooth fairy brings a different prize (she wouldn’t, I was prepared), would that tooth fairy let her keep her tooth? She promptly got on the phone with her dad, demanding complex answers as far as the best way to negotiate with the Oregon tooth fairy. Driving down the road, looking at the waterfalls cascading down towards the highway and the moss-covered trees, I’m sure there are plenty of fairies living in Oregon and surely an amenable tooth fairy can be found.

Regardless, the decision is made to not chance some unknown tooth fairy and tote the tooth back to WNC. Which perhaps shows how tall tales grow and spin and go from simply the tooth fairy to a lesson on negotiation and the related risks of dealing with an unknown entity. And that the adventures best remembered from a trip is not the magnificent waterfall or the giant tree, but the play and learning that happened with those as a backdrop.