Yesterday we returned from a camping trip with our good friends Bucky and Britta Buchstaber and their three (and a half) children. Bucky and Britta went down early on Wednesday to set up our camp site and they stumbled upon the best camp site in southern Oregon. Located in Farewell Bend Campground, it was right on the Rogue River which would normally be scary since the Rogue is so mighty, powerful and deep. However our site backed to an area of the Rogue that slowed down because of a massive log jam. The log jam was so incredible that it forced the river to disappear under the logs and come out on the other side. A small section of the river diverted toward our camp site and tumbled gently over the logs to form two small waterfalls that fell into crystal clear pools of ice cold water. The pools were surrounded by rock ledges and boulders carved out and softened by the water. It was a little taste of paradise and we definitely took advantage of our private backyard retreat. The kids and husbands were brave enough to get in the water, but I couldn't get my feet to adjust to the frigid water. I did wash my hair under the waterfall and that was enough to chill me on a hot summer day.
Britta and I took our chairs to the water's edge and set up shop. We spent the afternoon talking and watching our children play while Griffin slept in the play pen that we situated in the shade on the rock ledge above us. The big boys went fishing and Curt caught his first fish using a fly rod. Bucky, his faithful instructor, was proud of his student and we grilled that fish within an hour of catching it. It was SO good.
Chipmunks invaded our campsite and stole the food we left out on the table so the kids made it their mission to hunt chipmunks the rest of the weekend. They fashioned a stick into an arrow for Crosby's bow and tried shooting them. They tried trapping them with a box, a stick, some string and some snacks. From the shrieks of excitement and the tall tales, they were VERY close to success.
Griffin amused us with his alpha baby attitude. He thinks he's a big kid and he walked around camp getting filthy, enjoying the attention from the big kids, and making his opinions known. The girls spent hours on the beach behind our camp site playing in the sand, talking, trading clothes and being silly. The boys stuck together like glue and spent their free time exploring the woods, island and beach by the river.
The first afternoon we headed to nearby Union Creek and viewed the natural bridge. The "natural bridge" is a just that - a chunk of forest that crosses over the Rogue River. The river disappears into a lava tube and flows underground for 200 feet before emerging out the other side. It was pretty cool to see this mass of rushing, powerful water forced into such a small opening. We also lucked out and got to stand on a bridge and watch two kayakers launch themselves off a cliff and into the powerful river below. Talk about an adrenaline rush.
Our second day in camp, we took a morning trip to Crater Lake. The drive up Mount Mazama was scenic and curvy (surprise, surprise) and when we arrived at the top, the temperature had dropped ten degrees. It was not quite 50 degrees and we weren't exactly properly attired. We got out our cameras and started taking turns snapping family photos. Every ten steps was another PERFECT view and we'd start the process all over again. We made quite a scene with our seven, blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids and our look-alike husbands. The more photos we took, the goofier we got. We capped off our photo shoot by mixing up our families for two "what's wrong with this picture" family shots. Even the kids thought it was hilarious.
Crater Lake really is something to behold. I was expecting it to be beautiful and it was, but I wasn't expecting it to be as big as it was. It's 6 miles across the lake and the circumference around the rim is 33 miles. At it's deepest point, it's almost 2,000 feet deep. The rim is located at 7,000 feet elevation and the lake is 1,000 vertical feet below the rim. A narrow and dangerous hiking trail follows the rim around the lake. We explored the trail for maybe a half mile, but I was convinced one of our children (or husbands) would disappear off the edge, so we turned back fairly quickly into our hike. Shortly before our turn-around, Bucky unearthed a huge boulder from some loose dirt. It was so heavy that he and Curt had to roll it to the rim's edge. They shoved the boulder off the top of the rim and then hooped and hollered as it collided and crashed down the steep embankment, breaking into a million pieces and creating a mini avalanche in it's wake. Boys. They never grow up.
Each night we fell asleep to the sound of the rushing river as our white noise. Each morning we woke up chilled by the cold air and huddled around the fire drinking coffee and warming up before starting the process of cooking breakfast for 11 hungry campers. We ate and laughed. Talked and got filthy dirty (I know that was Britta's favorite part - NOT!). There's something about camping that strips you down to the basics, eliminating distractions and insignificant things and narrowing the focus to what really matters. God. Family. Friends. I may have been dying for a shower by the time we got home, but I can guarantee we'll do it again next year and I'm already looking forward to it.