Story by

Alli Judd

June 20th, 2017

When moving to Southern Oregon from Arizona a little over two years ago, we decided to truly try to experience ALL of Oregon together as a family. We have three young children, Violet (6), Harper (4) and Fitz (2), and we all adventure together! Did you know that Oregon has its own "Seven Wonders of Oregon?" Well, we didn't either before we moved here – and we made it our goal to get to every single one.

We decided to check off two in one trip to Bend (central Oregon), where we have The Painted Hills and Smith Rock. Of course, we have learned that with small children, traveling can be completely unpredictable! A seven-hour car ride may have smooth sailing where as a three-hour car ride may have all of us wanting to pull our teeth out. From Southern Oregon to The Painted Hills, it is about a six-hour car ride, which surprisingly turned out to be manageable.

Let's just say the whole sleeping in one hotel room together was not my favorite part of the trip. Fitz, my two year old son, had such a hard time sleeping in the PackNPlay, that I (a 32-year-old mom) actually got into his crib, curled around him and got him back to sleep for the night. (The things we do to see the world around us!)

We wanted to get to The Painted Hills early in the morning because we had heard that sunrise/sunset was amazing against colors of the hill. (We got there around 10 a.m. because, well, kids!) It was well worth it! Even though my children have no idea why The Painted Hills are so special, they still remember the colorful mountains that they were able to run around and enjoy getting covered in sand and dirt.

The Painted Hills comprise the John Day Fossil Beds that record more than 2,000 species of plants and animals dating back six to 54 million years! Coming from the Arizona desert, we almost felt at home here in central Oregon's high desert area and wide open plains. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Strolling up the path towards the viewpoint for The Pained Hills made my mama heart soar. We do so much for our children to explore and see the world around them, but this is also for my husband and I to experience along with them. The sight of The Painted Hills was the last thing I ever expected to see in Oregon. The colors on the hills were so colorful and vibrant in such a different way than the bright greens we typically see around us here in Pacific Northwest.

Next on our "Seven Wonders of Oregon" adventure was Smith Rock. Smith Rock was more amazing than I had even imagined. We hadn't done a whole lot of research before we left, so I wasn't quite sure the significance of Smith Rock. Well, it is quite breathtaking! Smith Rock attracts climbers from all over the world.

We obviously were not planning on climbing, but we are great at hiking! We've been hiking enough time with our kids to not have high expectations about what we can accomplish on the hiking spectrum, but we knew we would enjoy our surroundings, learn about the scenery, and love our time together as a family.

It is always a successful trip when we see our children exploring, discovering nature, and loving the time spent together. I will have to admit that the more we are outside as a family, the less fighting and bickering happens between the kids. There really is something incredible that happens when my children are allowed to stretch their little bodies, climb, get dirty, and run free (away from ledges of course).

It was amazing how many supportive comments we received from other hikers and travelers when they saw our young family in these amazing Oregon wonders. It was fun to hear young people say they can't wait to take their future family on adventures, and it was equally as fun to see older couples say that they've been right where we were, doing the same things with their children.

We now only have three (and a half) more Wonders of Oregon to experience. We've done half of the Oregon Coastline and Crater Lake. We are so thankful to live in a marvelous destination in our little corner of the globe. By sharing our experiences, we will hopefully prove that having an adventuring family can be so rewarding. All it takes is the courage to hop in the car and go.