A 35-foot-tall Paul Bunyon and his ox Babe greeted us when we stopped at The Trees of Mystery Park outside Klamath, California. Shellhorn family photo.

The Feb. 3, 2013 Cordova Chronicles began with us landing in Seattle on the way to Disneyland and our kids discovering the difference between boat eggs and fresh eggs. 

Many more insights were soon to follow.

While waiting for our little rental station wagon to be dropped off at the hotel I suggested taking the kids on a walk around the block. I figured our 4 and 6-year-old daughters would be fascinated with the tall buildings and exotic window displays of the big city.

I was standing on the corner when they came running up after their expedition, eager to hear their report. Heidi breathlessly stated, “Daddy, Daddy, we went all the way around the block and we didn’t see any dog poop!” Gretchen nodded in agreement. Sue came up, shaking her head, saying, “We need to get these kids out of Cordova more often.”

The car still hadn’t arrived so they went around the block again, this time with eyes up, and they were excited by all they saw, and particularly the mannequins which looked like life size Barbie dolls.

In the meantime, I was excited by the headlines at a nearby newsstand – Mt. St. Helens had just erupted and highways were closing due to ash and flooding.


We quickly revised our driving plans to head over to the coast as soon as possible, and despite considerable mud and ash our faithful vehicle made it to Seaside, Oregon, where the kids ran in the surf and ate Colonel Sanders takeout chicken for the first time.

The next day we stuck to the coast to avoid any volcanic ash and went as far as Newport, where we took a detour to Corvallis, to visit my alma mater, Oregon State University. Not unexpectedly the kids weren’t too impressed by a college campus but they enjoyed picking out OSU sweatshirts at the bookstore and having a milkshake at the Student Commons beside a large carved Benny the Beaver statue.

It had been a long day and the troops were fading, so we decided to spend the night. But not before having Chinese food, another first, at the Toa Yuen, a favorite of Sue and I’s when we were at OSU. The kids ordered milk to go with dinner. Gretchen took a sip of hers, and set it back down, indicating it didn’t taste right. Before Sue or I could say anything, Heidi intervened: “It’s OK Gretch. It’s Chinese milk.”

The kids, you see, had been raised on canned whole milk, back then under the Real Fresh label, but it was hardly that. The “Chinese milk” probably came from cows on the pastures we had just driven through on our way to OSU, and truly was real fresh.

Gretchen completed the trifecta of humorous insights on our merry adventures along Highway 101 near Klamath, California at a tourist stop called The Trees of Mystery Park. Opened in 1946, the entrance features a 35-foot-tall statue of Paul Bunyan with his blue ox Babe. Someone in the statue makes it appear like Paul is talking to them as they walk by.

The kids were fascinated and of course Paul encouraged them to stop in the nearby gift store, which we did before continuing on our way through nearby Klamath. Gretchen was peering out the back window when we drove by a restaurant that had a small carved statue of Paul Bunyan, and brightly observed, “Look! There’s Short Bunyon.”

Yes, eventually we made it to Disneyland and the music to “It’s a Small World,” which we rode three times the first day, is still ringing in my ears.  But truly the best part of the adventure was just getting there.