Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lost Lake with my Katie Girl - a Day with No Agenda

at the summit of the Lost Lake Butte Trail
A few weeks ago Katie and I spend the day together on a Mom-Daughter date.  Lost Lake was our destination and Alli quipped as we left, "I hope you don't get lost."

Ironically we did get lost.  Not once - but twice - on the way up.  Both times were the result of missing road signs at key intersections outside of Hood River.  Fortunately I realized we had missed our turn relatively quickly and once we were on the right track we were able to transition to relaxation mode.

We had two items on our list for the day:  (1) have fun and (2) hike to the summit of the Lost Lake Butte.

The drive to the trailhead was long (it took us about 2 1/2 hours to arrive from Newberg) with a feeling of luxury since it was paved the entire way.  The trailhead was located inside Lost Lake Resort, a privately owned entity unto itself in the middle of the wilderness.  We had to pay a $7 day fee to enter the resort (our Northwest Forest Pass was not accepted).  We stopped in the darling General Store for a hiking map and directions to the trailhead.

Lost Lake Butte Trail was the hardest of the plethora of hiking options around the resort.  It was a two mile, uphill hike to the summit of the butte and was rated moderate in difficulty.  The trail to the butte is entirely in the woods with no view until you reach the top.  Katie was not impressed with the amount of sweat expended to reach the top or the pesky flies that swarmed us when we stopped for a break.  A few encouraging comments and some local cherries gifted to her from some kind hikers descending put her in better spirits by the time we reached the bluff.

The clearing at the top of the bluff was much smaller than I anticipated.  There were four hikers picnicking at the top.  Katie and I made a party in a small space.  Mt. Hood was on full display - radiant and majestic as always - and made a wonderful backdrop for photos.  Mt. Adams was unfortunately cloaked in a cloudy haze.  All we could make out was a vague outline of what typically is a very impressive peak.

The two-mile hike back down to the resort was easier and more enjoyable.  Oregon has such magical forests and Katie and I enjoyed the sunlight filtering through the towering trees as we walked and talked.  I really can't believe she's starting middle school in a matter of weeks.  Where has the time gone?

It was a hot day and a dip in Lost Lake sounded very inviting.  Lost Lake Resort has a marina with boats that rent by the hour.  $12 bought us an hour on the scenic lake in a pedal boat.  It was a highlight of the day for both of us.  We stashed our backpack and dusty hiking shoes in the compartments on the boat and pedaled out onto the lake.  We giggled as Katie figured out how to steer our boat and oohed and aahed at the incredible view of Mt. Hood towering over the forest and the lake.  We took turns jumping into the crystal blue water.  It was really, really fun.

After we returned our boat we got ice cream cones from the General Store.  Dessert before dinner?  Why not?  We meandered through the day use area and stopped at a viewing platform to take more pictures in the waning late afternoon light.

Reluctantly we began our drive back down the mountain.  Katie sang and danced in her seat, using the side mirror as her gauge for her dramatic talents.  We stopped in Hood River for dinner and meandered the darling downtown streets looking for an open coffee shop.  Our drive home through the Columbia River Gorge was stunning.  God painted a sunset so stunning that we stopped to take photos of it.

My favorite part of our day was having no agenda.  It was wonderfully relaxing to kill time doing whatever sounded good and fun to us at the moment.  No schedule.  No set time to be home.  All we had to do was be together.  And it was amazing.

I'm so grateful for my beautiful Katie Girl and for a day to connect with just her.  We're both thankful for the discovery of Lost Lake Resort and will definitely bring the family back for pedal boating and the traditional hike around the lake.  Happy hiking.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I'd Like to Get to Know Them Better... Part of Our Story

Church League Champions by the Bud Light sign
Seventeen summers ago I was a fresh college graduate.  With the world awaiting, I took a summer job washing windows and played all summer.  Mornings I worked, but my afternoons were spent rollerblading and lounging at the pool.  Evenings were filled with softball, softball, and more softball.
Alexa, Lara and Chad at a softball tournament
Lara was one of my favorites on my women's softball team.  Quiet and fun, she was quick to laugh and oh-so-talented on the field.  Her husband Chad came to all our games, bringing with him their adorable and precocious two-year-old daughter Alexa.  They were such a fun family and I remember thinking, "I'd like to get to know them better off the field."   I had no idea just how much better I'd get to know them...

One night Chad's younger brother came to our playoff games.  I was smitten as I watched him confidently saunter up to the field.  Introductions came at a post-game pizza party and by the end of the evening Curt had my name and phone number written on a scrap of paper.  He went home and told his mom, "I met my wife tonight."  Two days later we had our first date and a wedding followed fifteen months later.
one week after we met - this time Curt was playing and I was watching
Chad and Lara have always been part of our story.  Chad was the best man in our wedding, Lara a bridesmaid, Alexa the cutest flower girl ever, and their new addition Madison was a cherubic, blue-eyed baby in the audience.  For two years, our families lived a mere handful of miles from each other.  Chad honked every time he drove by the little duplex we were renting.  We shared meals together.  Babysat our nieces.  Played softball together.  Spent weekends together at the cabin.  We did life together - getting to know each other better with each interaction.

And then life took us to Chicago.  We all had to adjust to a new normal.  Phone calls replaced dinner dates.  Weekend visits replaced weekly softball games.  Curt and I added baby after baby after baby after baby.  Our times together as families were shorter and exponentially more chaotic, but the infrequency upped the value factor.  

When we moved to Oregon, the distance became tangible.  2,300 miles, two families' busy schedules, and the monetary funds to cover the distance separated our families.  Before we could blink five years passed.  Alexa graduated from high school and started college.  Madi graduated from junior high and started high school.  Our kids graduated from diapers to elementary school to middle school.  Five years was WAY TOO LONG for our families to be apart.

Two weeks ago Chad, Lara, Alexa and Madi drove all of those 2,300 miles to see us.  We packed every second with fun - from the moment we stormed the driveway to attack them with hugs and shrieks of joy to the oh-so-sad moment we stood in that same spot and waved goodbye through eyes veiled with tears.   
brothers - Chad and Curt
Chad, Lara, and the girls had never been to Oregon before and each day brought a new adventure.  All five cousins wanted to be together EVERY second so they crammed into one bedroom and had a corporate sleepover every night that Alexa and Madison were in town.  We took two cars everywhere we went and the kid ratio and combination per vehicle changed each time we loaded up.  Our car rides were filled with great conversation, dancing, top-of-your-lungs singing, and the kind of car sleeping that comes from Exhaustion Due to Too Much Fun.
this was typical at the end of each of our fun-filled days.
cousins being goofy at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood
Thursday was our Waterfall Day.  We took our crew to Silver Falls State Park to picnic and hike through the Oregon rain forest and behind waterfalls.  We happened upon two park guides who regaled us with stories of times past. I got the funniest picture of our crew crammed on a tiny bench looking exhausted and very uninterested in Forest Facts.  After we finished hiking the cousins entertained us with an epic water fight.  That night we took Chad and Lara to our favorite local spot - Red Hills Market - for pizza and hand-crafted, locally brewed beer while the cousins enjoyed Pizza And A Movie at home. 
cousins at Silver Falls State Park - South Falls
the whole crew
tired crew of hikers
Friday was our Mountain Day.  We took on Timberline Lodge for a massive photo shoot, including one with random snowboarders just because they looked cool.  I think Madi nearly died of embarrassment. Next we hit Trillium Lake for more pictures, a picnic, and a hike around the lake.  We set up our feast in a picnic shelter only to realize it was reserved for "Rollin D."  Oops.  The next hour was spent making fun of ourselves and pretending to be Rollin D.  We finished our Mountain Day with burgers and milkshakes at Calamity Janes.  Alexa and Grant played a duet on the piano while we waited for "the best burgers we've ever eaten - EVER!"
photo with the snowboarders 
Trillium Lake: Alexa, Chad, Lara, and Madison
Trillium Lake
Saturday was our Newberg and Beach Day.  Chad, Lara and the girls happened to be visiting during Newberg's annual Old Fashioned Festival so we took them to the Saturday morning parade to collect bags of candy and lots of laughs.  After lunch we headed to Pacific City via Cascade Head, our favorite hike on the coast.  We drove the logging road to the top of Cascade Head and hiked through the old growth forest to the viewpoint at the bluff. Curt warded off any forest dangers with his squirt gun and Chad proclaimed, "I could just lay down right now and meet my Maker." We finished our day at Pacific City.  It was cold and windy, but we drove the Jeep down onto the sand by the cape and ate piping hot pizza huddled behind the shelter of the doors.  Grant rented a sandboard and taught himself how to surf down the dune.  He was a tireless machine - hiking up and down that ridiculously steep sand dune for the thrill of the ride back down.  Chad and Curt played football on the beach.  All the girls tackled the sand mountain and the cape at one point or another.  Lara and I made our way up slowly after dinner.  When we reached the top we threw a little party and took some celebratory pictures.  It was a special time for both of us.
at the parade
cousins at Cascade Head 
magical old growth forest
never fear - he's armed and dangerous
Grant sandboarding down the dune
Lara, Dusty and I at the top of the giant sand mountain
view of the cape from the top of the dune
Sunday was our At Home Day.  We spent the day just being together - talking, eating good food, and hanging out.  Lara and I took a walk around our neighborhood and we brought the Chad Stilp Crew to our church.  It was such a pleasure to introduce them to all our friends and to worship our Savior together.  The highlight of the trip was Sunday evening before bed.  We all huddled on the loft around the computer and watched a slide show of our time together.  When the pictures were done we had Circle Time.  We each shared a favorite memory and prayed together and for each other.  The tears flowed freely as we affirmed aloud just how precious we are to each other and how much we will cherish the memories we made. 
Alexa and Katie at Cascade Head
Grant likes being the only boy cousin
our whole crew at Timberline Lodge
Madi and Paige taking a break
It's hard to put into words how therapeutic our time together was.  Life separated us physically, but our bond as family ensures that we will spend the rest of our lives getting to know each other better.  
tearful goodbye as they drove away
I'm so grateful that I was on Lara's softball team so many summers ago.  Thank you Chad, Lara, Alexa and Madi for coming to visit.  We love you!