Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Little Things Make all the Difference

Grandpa Don and Grandma Marcy with the kiddos
Sometimes it's the little things in life that make all the difference.  Our family recently traveled to Central Oregon to visit my Dad and his wife Marcy for the weekend.  We were overdue for a visit and were so excited to have two days together.

Nothing we did was incredibly spectacular and I don't think any of us could have enjoyed our time more.  It really is the little things...

  • We got to tour and explore Dad and Marcy's new-to-us house.
  • We all flopped around in the living room, chatting and chilaxin.
  • Dad, Curt and I spent thirty minutes fighting with their awning.  The awning won, but man did we laugh while we tried to get it to play nicely with others.
  • Grant caught and killed lizards (with Grandma's blessing) and the girls honored their memory by naming them and burying them in the Lizard Graveyard.
    Lizard Graveyard with three grave sites.
  • Grandpa and Grant spent a good part of the afternoon drawing targets and then filling them with bullets from Grandpa's high-powered pellet gun.  Grant did most of the shooting.  Grandpa did the spotting.  They both wore huge smiles.
    Grant and Grandpa shooting and spotting
  • The girls played with the dogs in their outdoor kennel for hours.  They pretended they were in jail and Grandma Marcy played along with their Prison Game.  She even visited them "in jail" and brought them iced tea. 

  • We ate good food and lots of it.
  • Measured Grant's growth against Grandma Marcy's height.  They are eye-to-eye.  It won't be long before Grant is taller.
  • Dad showed us many of Grandpa George's tools and treasures.  We reminisced about what a good man he was and took pictures of all his cool stuff.
  • We took an after dinner walk to make room for more of Grandma Marcy's delicious fresh blueberry pie.
  • My Dad and I took a long walk on a river trail that showcased Bend's beauty: rivers, canyons, bluffs, snow-capped peaks, and scruffy desert.  The walking and talking was a great way to start a beautiful day.
  • The kids took full advantage of the novelty of a night in a hotel.  They closed the outdoor pool down at night and were the first ones in the water the following morning.  Curt and I sat in the morning sunshine, drinking our coffee and eating donuts while the kids played.  SO indulgently relaxing.
  • And of course there is just the straight beauty of all the snow-capped mountains and the dry desert air.  So different than the valley where we live, but still equally inviting.
All "little things" but so priceless and relaxing.  Thanks Dad and Marcy for a really lovely time.  We love you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Timothy Lake Camping Trip

the best we could do at a self-timer family photo
We recently spent a weekend tent camping at Timothy Lake.  Located in the shadow of Mt. Hood, this big, beautiful lake defines relaxation and family fun.  The lake has a thirteen mile circumference with several campgrounds nestled on its bank. We camped at the Gone Creek Campground, our third time in five years as residents here.
even Dusty got in on the fun
The camp sites at Gone Creek Campground are HUGE and private.  Well marked hiking trails surround the campground, and many of the camp sites are literally right on the shore of the lake.  Amenities are limited to pit toilets and potable water, but the toilets are clean and less smelly than most.  Boats are allowed on the water, but there is a no wake restriction on the entire lake, making for a quiet, relaxing experience.

Family Photo after our Bible Study

We prefer campsite number 39.  It's located on a bluff above the lake, is ridiculously large, surrounded by trees, backs to hiking trail on one side and has a beautiful view of the lake. The adventure possibilities are unlimited!
magical, unedited images taken in the late evening sun

Highlights from this trip include:
  • Family Bible study on the logs at our campsite.  We laughed, prayed, and learned as a family with beautiful Timothy Lake as our backdrop.
  • Trail run.  The trail around the lake is wide, well-marked, flat, and relatively smooth for being a trail.  Some year I would love to run all thirteen miles of it, but this year I settled for a beautiful five mile run. 
  • Late night swims. Both nights the kids went down to the lake and jumped in the very cold water for a swim before bed.  They frolicked and shrieked as the last rays of sunlight reflected on the water.  
  • Fort building.  The kids found a hollowed out log in the woods just past our campsite and spent the weekend constructing a really detailed, two-room fort.
  • Private beach.  We borrowed a hybrid kayak/canoe and three inner tubes from a friend and went out on the lake.  It was our first time having a boat up at the lake and we all loved it.  The girls rode on inner tubes tied behind the kayak while Curt and I rowed.  Dusty (our dog) sat in the boat and Grant swam alongside it.  We rowed/swam/tubed ourselves to a private section of beach on the lake.  The kids played for hours on a log anchored near the shore.
  • Cots.  As Curt and I get older tent camping is losing a bit of its luster in the Sleep Department.  This year we bought ourselves cots and WHOA!  We slept solid through each night, a rare and awesome experience.
  • Simplicity.  There is something restorative about taking a couple of days to just BE.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Eat.  Sleep.  Play.  Be together.  
  • Milkshakes at Calamity Janes.  We stopped in Sandy, Oregon, on the way home for ginormous milkshakes.  So yummy and delicious on a hot, summer day.

unposed - Dusty loves Curt!

Paige's late evening swim

Alli in the fort

spider web
Thank you Timothy Lake for another great camping experience.  I'm sure we'll be back soon.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Silver Star Mountain via Ed's Trail

This week our family went on an epic, memory-making adventure to Silver Star Mountain.  Hiking books are like real estate listings.  If you read enough of them, you start to pick up on The Code: fancy wording that covers up potential pitfalls.  When I was scoping for a hike, Silver Star Mountain via Ed's Trail really caught my eye.  It sounded incredible, but The Code signified that this would not be a hike I could take the kids on by myself.  We would need Curt's Man Power to get us there and back safely.  We also would need to have the "obey or you could die" talk with the kids.

Let me give you a few examples.
1.  The Road to the Trailhead
      ***  Hiking Books say:  "The road to the trailhead became so degraded that a high clearance vehicle is required," and "The trailhead is at the end of this narrow, bumpy road."
     ***  Translation:  "This death-defying, single lane trail through the woods masquerades as a two-lane, Forest Service road.  Be prepared for car-swallowing pot holes, steep inclines,  a ton of white knuckle, handle grabbing, and desperate prayers for safety."  
a wider section of the road on the way back 
I may be exaggerating slightly, but not much.  The junctions between Forest Service roads are marked with spray paint on trees.  The few times we passed cars coming the other direction, we had to fold our mirrors in and back down the steep terrain to find an opening wide enough for two cars to squeeze by each other.  It took us one full hour to travel nine miles to the trailhead on this road.  By the time we arrived Curt and I had some gray hairs and the girls had a collection of leaves they'd pulled off the tree branches that smacked their faces through the window.  The road to the trailhead is a huge deterrent for us ever going back.

2.  The Safety of the Trail
     ***  Hiking books say:  "There is a short steep section on Ed's Trail that requires a bit of scrambling where a slip could be very dangerous.  Avoid this route when wet or icy," and "The trail takes off up the ridge face, becoming nearly a climb in spots as you scramble up through the rocks to a view of two-humped Silver Star up ahead.  Dramatic, huh?"
    *** Translation:  "Ed's Trail is a narrow, single file path that traverses the ridge top of  a mountain with relatively steep drop offs into gorgeous mountain meadows the entire way.  If that didn't make you nervous, the hand over foot climb up the ridge face will make you appreciate your safety when you reach the top."
Ed's Trail approaching the ridge we hiked along

my family hiking

climbing up the steep scramble
I wasn't exaggerating on the width of the trail or the scramble portion of the hike.  There were definitely a few elements of this hike where a mis-step could cause serious injury.  However...

This hike was I N C R E D I B L E!!!!!!!!!  It seriously felt like we were on an adventure that people would pay thousands of dollars to achieve.  

The kids were less than thrilled with the idea of a hike as our Sabbath.  The hike starts off with a little bit of a steep incline and we definitely fielded some initial whining.  But once we started on Ed's Trail, the beauty, vastness, and awesomeness (now I'm making up words) overwhelmed even the grouchiest child.  No one could believe that we were traversing the top of a mountain ridge on a narrow footpath.  All whining stopped as we were filled with wonder that such a place really existed.
the start of Ed's Trail was just up from this viewpoint

look at the cloud casting a shadow on the mountain

there were some big mountain peaks hiding in the clouds behind the kids and Curt.  
The trail was seldom smooth so we alternated between carefully choosing each step and taking time to take in the views from 360 degrees.  Most of the Washington peaks (St. Helens and Rainer) were hiding in clouds, but Mt. Hood was illuminated in a celestial glow the entire time we were hiking.  It was crazy beautiful!
Katie and Curt are standing on the trail here even though it looks like they're about to vanish into thin air.
Mt. Hood shining through the clouds
We hiked through a natural rock arch and took a resting break in a little cave just past the arch.  The scramble up the rock face, while dangerous, was actually really fun.  Even Paige thought it was cool.
the rock arch
A cloud bank rolled in while we were hiking.  By the time we reached what was supposed to be the most awe-inspiring view of the hike we were socked in by the clouds.  The temperature dropped at least ten degrees and we could feel the damp moisture of the clouds on our exposed skin.  Talk about a surreal experience!
we had just walked through those clouds in the background

here's where the sun was trying to come out

sisters - I love this photo
We looped back on the other side of the ridge, using the wider and safer old Jeep trail to take us back to our car.  The sun tried hard to burn off the clouds and we enjoyed the show:  clouds swirling and dancing, sunlight peeking through then completely disappearing.  Wild flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors consumed the meadows and even the craggy rock faces.
Mt. Hood played peek-a-boo with us the entire hike

flowers, vast mountains, and a big bank of clouds

My only regret was not having time to meander.  We didn't plan for the last nine miles of driving to take an hour so we arrived at the trailhead at 5 p.m.  The hiking books give this hike a three hour average time allotment which meant we had no time to waste if we wanted to hike and get back off that hideous road before darkness fell. 

I would love to come back and do Ed's Trail again on a day when all the mountains are out to play.  I'm just not sure we want to tackle that road again.  This may be our one and only trip to Silver Star Mountain.  Thank you Jesus that it was an awesome adventure.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Silver Falls State Park - A Haven for Hikers of All Skill Levels

This week my good friend Rose and I took seven kids to Silver Falls State Park for a hiking/swimming/picnic adventure.  Rose had never been to Silver Falls State Park and I had so much fun showing her around.  It is only an hour and ten minute, scenic, drive from our house in Newberg.  We passed a field full of flowers just outside Mt. Angel.  Its beauty was so captivating that I pulled over on the way home to get some photographs.

Silver Falls State Park is a haven for hikers of all skill levels.  You can hike as little (as in NONE) or as much (nine miles to see it all) as you want.  The Trail of Ten Waterfalls showcases ten waterfalls in nine gorgeous miles of hiking on wide, well manicured trails.  The kids and I hiked the entire trail last year with Sarah but our mission this visit was to relax, not wear ourselves out covering the entire park in one day.
taking in the view of South Falls

Lower South Falls - see the boys behind it?
Many of the waterfalls have carved out caves in the cliffs behind them and the hiking trails go directly behind the waterfalls.  The kids love playing in the caves and climbing the rock faces.  The Canyon Trail follows an inviting creek in the canyon floor.  There is easy access to the creek to cool off and catch crayfish.
climbing, climbing, climbing

the boys

cute girls
The South Falls Day Use Area is really inviting.  It has multiple picnic tables and shelters, flush toilets and drinking fountains, a playground and a designated swimming area.  It even has a snack shack if you get a craving for an ice cream cone.
I really like this silhouette of Rose and the little girls
We picnicked first.  Then took the kids on a small hike.  We covered two miles in two hours, taking time for photos, cave exploring, rock climbing, and playing in the creek.  We kind of let the kids set the agenda and it led to minimal whining and maximum fun.

group shot behind Lower South Falls
When we got back to the day use area, we had a snack and then the kids went swimming while Rose and I sat on blankets in the sun and talked.
tired little hikers
We spent the entire day at the park.  No one wanted to leave, but we had eaten through all the food we packed and the sunshine and outdoor activity had reduced the kids to "near starvation."  A little fried chicken from Popeyes on the way home finished off a really, really fun day.
everything is better with a friend
If you live locally and need a fun place to spend the day, I highly recommend taking your family to Silver Falls State Park.  It's beyond crowded on the weekend so go on a week day if you can swing it. There is a $5 per vehicle entry fee that you can purchase in the park.  If you have a state park pass, you can get in for free.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Oneonta Gorge and Sabbath Rest

family photo at the falls
The summer before fifth grade my childhood family moved from the cornfields of Iowa to Gresham, Oregon.  The Pacific Northwest romanced us.  We drank deep of its beauty and majesty.  Each weekend was a new outdoor adventure filled with wonder that such untamed power and awe-inspiring beauty could exist in one place.

Years later MY family is doing the same thing.  We're five years into our Pacific Northwest adventure and still discovering new places to play and rest.  This weekend I guided my family to Oneonta Gorge, one of my childhood favorites.  They loved it as much as I did and we spent a very hot summer day playing in the ice-cold water.
kids playing in the gorge
It's hard to call Oneonta Gorge a "hike" since the total distance is one mile but it is definitely an adventure.  Not for the faint-hearted, there are some perilous sections of this hike which is why we waited until our kids were old enough to handle it.  Paige - at seven years old - was borderline in her physical and mental ability to handle the challenges.  Curt told her he needed her to be tough.  In the parts she was scared she said out-loud, "I'm tough and my name is Paige.  I'm Tough Paige and I can do it."
after Curt's "let's be kind, loving and safe" pep talk, he told us to line up shortest to tallest.  I wonder how long it will be before Grant is on the other side of me?
We parked on the shoulder of the Columbia River Historic Highway and walked to a steep, winding staircase flanking the bridge crossing the Oneonta Creek. We picked our way down the stairs to a narrow trail alongside the creek's edge.  It led us through the brush for about 100 yards before it bled into the creek.

From that point, the trail was the creek.  It feeds into a very narrow and tall canyon with cliff walls rising on either side.  The water is cold and the creek bottom rocky and unstable.  A hot summer day and tennis shoes or water sandals with sturdy bottoms are a must-have to complete this hike.

The first peril is a huge log jam that blocks up the entire gorge.  Hikers must climb up and over the slippery rocks and logs to follow the creek through the gorge.  There is no margin for error and a fall would result in broken bones.  We were there on the weekend and the backlog of people (and dogs) trying to cross the log jam was long and intimidating.  Many well-intentioned hikers turned around at this point.
log jam.  Our oldest three kids are on the bottom right - playing on the low log and swimming in the swimming hole behind it.
Paige was scared and Curt was uncomfortable with the risk factor of slippery surfaces and lots of people.  I convinced them that the hidden waterfall with a swimming hole at the end of the gorge was a reward worth working for.  We chose to wait in line and finally made it safely to the other side.

Once we were over the log jam we took a collective deep breath and followed the creek into the depths of the gorge.  Blue skies and bright sunlight danced with shadows from the cliffs.  The water numbed our toes and kept our bodies cool.  Curt and I hung back and watched our kids explore, laugh, splash and shriek in the water.  It was a glimpse of heaven.
sometimes I wish they would be a little less boring...  
The majority of the time the water in the creek ranged from ankle to knee-deep, with the exception of one section toward the end where the creek bottom drops down and the water gets deep.  I'm 5' 7" and the water came up past my chest.  There is no shoreline so hikers get WET!  Paige hitched a ride on Curt's shoulders, I carried our day pack on top of my head so our phones didn't get wet, and the big kids swam.  The water was take-your-breath-away cold but so refreshing.  A water-proof bag would be essential if I would have wanted to take my fancy camera on this hike.

Half a mile into the gorge, the creek dead ends into a stunning waterfall with an inviting swimming hole.  Grant dove right in, swam to a rock outcropping and jumped back into the water.  Normally I'm a Freeze Baby and avoid cold water like a plague, but it was just hot enough outside to be inviting.  The water beckoned and I kept thinking, "How often in life do I have the opportunity to swim with my boy in the pool of a waterfall?"  It took me a good hour to warm up after our swim but it was the highlight of the day for me and a memory I will take with me for the rest of my life.
the entire waterfall

Grant and I post-swim
When we got back to the bridge, no one wanted to leave.  Our family is learning to practice the art of Sabbath Rest.  It's a teaching we're both learning and embracing.  Woven into the rhythm of creation, Sabbath rest was created by God and he called it holy.  It's the antidote to all the hard work we do the other six days of the week.  Regular rest is restorative and takes planning and practice to learn to do it well.

We chose to spend the remainder of our Sabbath at Oneonta Creek, splashing in the shallow spots and dipping into the deeper holes when we needed to cool off.
doing nothing, something I don't naturally do well.
Grant sat with Alli and taught her how to do the "eggbeater kick," a skill she'll need when she starts water polo next spring.
teaching Alli how to "egg beater"
Katie and Paige threw rocks, chatted, and sat in the sun.
Katie and Paige
We explored the cool tunnel through the mountainside.
Grant and I climbed to the top

Curt and the girls stayed put on solid ground
Beauty was all around us:  blue skies, bright sunshine, babbling creeks, crashing waterfalls, intimidating cliff faces, and people of every shape and size.  We watched our children - healthy and thriving - soaking up the sun and simply playing.  It truly was restorative rest.

As the afternoon lapsed into early evening, we reluctantly left the gorge and headed to church via Target to buy all the things we should have packed to get ready for church (like underwear and deodorant) but forgot.  We converted from hikers to worshippers in the church bathroom and finished our day celebrating the new life we have through Jesus.

The kids fell straight into bed and Curt and I sat at the kitchen counter scheming up what to do next week on our Sabbath.

Thank you Jesus for the gift of rest...

Of family...
family (I forgot I tied my shirt around my head so it wouldn't get wet)

Of beauty...

Of life that is truly life.