It reached an unprecedented 103 degrees F today in Newberg, but was surprisingly comfortable because the heat is so dry compared to Illinois. The kids and I wanted to find a watering hole to go swimming but didn't want to drive all over tarnation. Convinced that there HAD to be a place to swim in Newberg, we dressed in our swim suits, grabbed our towels and headed for the Chamber of Commerce, where we emerged with a stack of pamphlets and brochures touting all the local state parks and lakes.
We decided on revisitng Champoeg State Park, a park about 6 miles from where we live, and took off down Main Street. In the cute, historic downtown, we spotted "Critter Cabana" a pet store straight from the 1950's. On a whim, we stopped. Two HUGE picture windows - one with enormous, scary looking lizards that made Paige (and I) start crying and say, "Me no like wizards. Wet's go. Hurry Mommy. Hurry. Wizards SCARY." The other picture window was full of cats and kittens playing with toys. As we entered the store, a large white exotic looking bird perched on a fake tree - NOT IN A CAGE - startled me when it moved and I saw the sign that said, "I bite." Not my kind of store, but my three little animal lovers were in heaven. I finally coerced everyone back to the van and we headed out to the park.
We saw a sign that said "Riverside Area" and followed it through the heavily-wooded park to at parking lot with wide-open picnic areas and enormous trees offering shade from the heat, but no water in sight. We found a trail and followed it to another trail that ran parallel to the Willamette River. But the river bank was steep and overgrown with blackberry bramble with no visible way to get to the water. We started praying for a way to get to the water when we spotted "IT" - a tiny dirt trail, cut through the bramble with "steps" dug out of the dirt to avoid having to scoot down on our butts. We parked the stroller at the top of the bank and carefully picked our way down the slope to the river bank.
We watched boats fly by on the water with skiers behind them. We saw tubers, water boarders, and anchored boats with their occupants swimming and enjoying the day. The kids were dying to get wet, so I started into the river to test the safety level and set up parameters. The water was murky and when I stepped in, this city girl cringed. Mud soaked up in between my toes and I fought the urge to run back to shore. But it was HOT, so I pressed on. I gave the kids the green light and they came racing into the water with no thought to the murky bottom or the mud in their toes. All the kids, that is, except Paige.
Our little princess wanted NOTHING to do with anything resembling dirt or mud or involving the muddy water. I'd try to dip her in the water and she'd yell, "No Mommy - no dip me in dat water." The shore line was also unsatisfactory because it was all dusty dirt, until it got wet and turned instantly to mud. The only "safe" place was in my arms. I found a piece of flat wood, placed it on the bank for her, and coerced her to give it a try. There she sat, in her white Ralph Lauren hand-me-down swim suit, perched on her stick throne, refusing to move because she didn't want to get dirty. It was hysterical.
Grant, Katie and Alli quickly discovered that the dry shore turned to mud instanteously, so they started dragging mud from the water onto the river bank and within minutes had a mud slide. I made the mistake of telling them that people pay big money for mud baths at the spa, so they decided to try it too. Time after time, they'd cover themselves with mud, roll in their mud slide, then run laughing into the water and rinse it all off. It looked so fun, I even joined in.
As we toweled off, miraculously chilled by the water even though the air was so hot, and got dressed to head home, we noticed the blackberries. The bramble was dripping with berries and we started picking and eating them. They were warm from the hot air and melted in our mouths. Ripe and juicy and sweet. It was heavenly. We all ate our fill and then loaded into the van - wet, dirty, hands stained with blackberry juice, and starting to sweat again from the heat, but so content.
Grant summed it up best when he thoughtfully commented, "You know Mom. Oregon is starting to feel like home."