May 27, 2014

Blairs at Sequoia National Park

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Getting back to business on the Tuesday after a holiday weekend always feels like a challenge to me. You too? But the long weekend was wonderful and even though the house is a mess and I feel behind on work, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Totally worth the effort and the aftermath! Things I want to remember from our trip:

- We spent the first few days at Sequoia National Park. We hadn’t been to a National Park since we moved back to the U.S., and I was so happy to be there! I love getting the park brochure — designed with the standard black band. Love everything about it! And I grinned when we bought a year-long parks pass. We have plans to hit the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite and more this year, so I know we’ll put it to good use.

- For the next few months there are 9 of us, while Charles from France is visiting. Our car only has 8 seat belts, so we rented an extended-cab van for the trip. It was nice for the kids to be able to spread out.

- Sequoia National Park makes for fun photos. The trees really are magnificent! We took some of the less-traveled hikes through the ancient trees, and it felt like sacred ground. (You can see more of our photos here.)

- We enjoyed learning the difference between a redwood tree and a sequoia, and we also learned a ton about black bears, which are common in the park. Oscar especially loved learning about the park animals. After a kid-friendly lecture on American Lions by a park ranger, Oscar asked, “Can a cougar jump farther than a Kangaroo?”

- One of the major highlights was finding a picturesque swimming hole, and getting it all to ourselves for at least an hour — which felt remarkable on such a busy holiday weekend.

- I brought my laptop on the trip and didn’t open it once. And we didn’t get phone coverage in the park either. So I was basically off-line for 4 days. Delicious!

- We got home from Sequoia quite late on Sunday night, then repacked the van and headed up to Stinson Beach the same night. We had planned to go in the morning, but wanted to avoid the legendary traffic, so we put the kids in their pajamas and made the 1 hour and 15 minutes drive at 11:30 that night. Everyone got to sleep in the next morning. : ) We stayed in a beach house with Jordan’s family and Liz’s family.

- The weather on Monday was ideal! We spent the whole day on the beach. At one point, Ben Blair and I had a race — it was the first time I had full-out sprinted in years (yes, I realize I don’t exercise much). It felt so good!

- This was the first Memorial Day in quite awhile where we didn’t visit a military cemetery. It was definitely a different sort of Memorial Day for us.

- Though we went went through several bottles of sunscreen, the kids still ended up with sunburns. Me too. Boo! So several of us are spending quality time with our bottle of aloe vera gel.

Overall, such a happy trip! Traveling is a hassle. There’s no doubt about it. Packing up. Figuring out how to feed everybody. Navigating to a new place. Messed up sleep schedules. But  in my experience, it’s worth it every time.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend as well!

P.S. — Have you ever had a run in with poison ivy or poison oak? I am highly allergic to both and have awful reactions. Apparently, I contacted some poison oak in our yard a few days before our trip, and all weekend my leg was an itchy, ugly mess. So gross! I’m guessing I have a few more days of this and then I should be on the mend. 

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy May 27, 2014 at 11:43 am

I am very allergic to poison anything and highly recommend NOT taking prednisone if your doctor suggests it. I took it for a bad bout last year and had to discontinue it after four days because it really messed me up mentally. I had bouts of depression as a teenager and after my first child was born eleven years ago and I think it really triggered something in my brain. It was really awful and took a little while to recede. I know everyone is different, but doctors usually warn about the side effects. Just last week, my five year old had croup and the pediatrician recommended against the standard prednisone treatment unless things got really bad. Topical steroids could help though.


2 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:36 am

Thanks for the heads up about prednisone, Amy. So far, the itching hasn’t been unbearable, and if it gets bad, an over-the-counter anti-itch lotion has been fine.

My foot is swelling a bit today, so I may end up at the doctor after all.


3 Melissa May 27, 2014 at 12:38 pm

For the poison ivy, you want hot water. Get in the shower and put your leg under the stream. Get the water as hot as you can possibly stand it. I mean, HOT.

It should feel increasingly itchier and itchier and also kind of itching so bad it’s a relief, if that makes sense. After several minutes, the itch will feel so much better and then it’s nearly gone for HOURS. Like, up to 8 hours! And it’s a lot less crusty and gross. When it gets itchy again, hop back in the shower and do it again.

I am highly allergic and I do so much better with this method than any other, I don’t buy any products for it now.


4 Jess. May 27, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I’ve recently discovered this method to be quite helpful for my extreme eczema. I thought maybe I was crazy (didn’t help that every time I ran my hands under such hot water–on purpose–I felt like I was channeling Jack Nicholson’s character from “As Good As It Gets”). Thanks for the sweet validation. “Itching so bad it’s a relief” sounds familiar!


5 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:37 am

Thanks for the tip, Melissa! I tried this yesterday and it definitely seemed to help with the “weeping” of the sores.


6 teresa May 27, 2014 at 12:50 pm

We also visit a state park- Big Trees up by Arnold…also pleasantly surprised how quite it was…very few there.
I think most people forget about this park…because it is smaller.
Yosemite is what we call our back yard (we live very close)….we do love it too.
There is a cute little chapel in Yosemite used by many faiths… for years my husband was in charge of the LDS services there. They still hold them all through summer.
Enjoyed your pictures.


7 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:38 am

It’s always fun to find a quiet spot on a busy weekend!


8 Caitlin Mallery May 27, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Seeing your picture had an odd effect on me. I grew up in the Bay Area visited the sequoias frequently. As soon as I as the picture up top I could literally smell the sun-dried pine needles! Totally bizarre way to jar the memory. I live with my little family in MT and we visit Glacier National Park on a regular basis. Totally love visiting the parks of whatever state I may be in. Have fun exploring others this year!


9 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:38 am

How fun! I hope it was a happy trip down memory lane.


10 Jessica @ Little Nesting Doll May 27, 2014 at 2:39 pm

For sunburns, the very best treatment I’ve found is Emu Oil. My MIL got some at a craft fair once and it’s supposed to be very good for regular burns. My youngest got a bad sunburn last year so I tried it, and it literally healed the sunburn overnight, I kid you not. He was still a little pink, but no pain and he never peeled! Here is the link to the brand I have:


11 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:39 am

I’ve never heard of Emu Oil before. I’ll definitely take a look!


12 jessie May 27, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Try tea tree oil for the poison! And agree with the hot, hot shower. I’ve had terrible times with poison oak and dabbing it with tea tree oil (I use a q-tip or cotton pad) seems to be the only thing that helps a bit. It still takes a while to go away though, and it will dry your skin out a lot, but it relieves the itching. Also, there is a soap called Tecnu that is great for washing after you’ve been in contact with poison ivy/oak.


13 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:39 am

Loving all these recommendations!


14 Jennifer May 27, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Gabby, we live in the woods and the kids and I come into contact with poison ivy all the time. We have been using Benadryl Anti-Itch Spray (I noticed CVS has an off-brand, others probably do too), and it works pretty well to slow down the itch. It won’t get rid of the sores, but when the itching starts driving you crazy, spraying something on it instead of applying something by touching it makes a big difference. Also, contrary to the heat recommendations above (which are fascinating, and I will try them next time), I sometimes use an ice pack. Getting the sores super cold also helps with the itching.

Good luck. Poison anything is such a bummer. Glad you had a great weekend in spite of it!


15 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:40 am

I haven’t tried an ice pack, but I can tell you that both the river water and ocean water we encountered over the weekend (both were freezing!) really brought relief.


16 jkaye May 27, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Definately pick up some pure lye soap. Our family has learned to beat the poison by immediately washing with lye and hot water. Dry skin and then reapply the wet lye soap and let it dry. Amazi;ng. Lye also is great for anything itchy, bites, acne, dry patches, etc. So affordable.


17 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:41 am

I had no idea lye helped with itching! So fascinating.


18 Abby May 27, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I had a run in with the stuff in 5th grade when my teacher took us hiking at Pt Reyes (a place you should bring the family to one of these days if you haven’t yet). Poison oak has been growing full force in my neighborhood and the city decided to hire goats to come out and “clear” it away. =) All they do is fence them in an area and have them graze on the the poison oak for a few days. Apparently poison oak/ivy doesn’t affect them at all! AND we had a mini zoo in our neighborhood. =)


19 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:41 am

Goats! We have been thinking about goats to help clear our backyard. I love the idea of seeing them running around for a few days.


20 Angi May 27, 2014 at 8:44 pm

And I thought I was the only one who loved getting (and keeping) NPS brochures! I just visited Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons and I made sure to get an extra of each to save.


21 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:42 am

National Parks are the best!


22 Linda May 27, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Tea tree oil is amazing! I slather it on and the itching stopped immediately !


23 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:42 am

Another vote for tea tree oil. Sounds like it’s a must have.


24 Christy@SweetandSavoring May 28, 2014 at 7:19 am

Wow, Sequoia and your whole trip sounds glorious! I would love to visit that park someday. Those trees…! And I love that you have such a big family and are perfectly willing to let another child stay with you for an extended period of time- so cool!
I second the tea tree oil for itchiness :)


25 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 9:42 am

I hope you get to visit the park. It made a big impact on me.


26 JesR May 28, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Gabrielle, love your blog! My husband and I live away from my big family right now, and reading about yours makes my heart happy. Thank you. I never comment, but this time it’s important. TechNu soap is used by the park rangers, and my husband is HIGHLY allergic to poison ivy. Life saver!! Good luck!


27 Design Mom May 28, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Thanks for the tip! I’ve never heard of TechNu soap, but if has the park rangers’ approval, I’m betting it’s great.

I thought my sores were improving for awhile there, but they’ve taken a turn for the worse, so I think I may go to the doctor tomorrow and make sure it’s not infected. Crossing my fingers she tells me to just wait it out, no big deal. : )


28 mamalang May 29, 2014 at 12:54 pm

We use vinegar (apple cider vinegar is best, but white works as well) on our sunburns. Ideally a cup or so of it in bathwater and soak, but we keep spray bottles in our shower if that isn’t available. After the shower we lotion up really well. Generally I may still be pink the next day, but it isn’t painful any longer. :)


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