Thursday, January 29, 2015

Salmon River - An Enchanted Old Growth Forest, a Raging River and a Magical Day

** I feel like I need to make a blanket apology for how inconsistent and boring my writing has been lately.  Since I launched my photography business, I just haven't had the time or the mental space to write creatively.  But life is slipping by so quickly and I still want to capture glimpses of these awesome moments, even if the writing isn't super creative.  So thanks for bearing with me.**

This Monday the kids had the day off from school while their teachers worked on report cards.  Newberg was socked in with thick fog so we went chasing sunshine.  We found it - and the warmth it brings - in the forest at the base of Mt. Hood.

"We" - meaning Me, my Four Kids (Grant, Katie, Alli and Paige), Grant's best friend Alden, and our two dogs: Dusty and Kimber (sorry that's another post I haven't written yet, but she's an adorable, chocolate labradoodle puppy) - wanted to hike Ramona Falls.

It's been unseasonably warm and dry this winter resulting in less snow in the mountains.  Ramona Falls is in the lower elevation of the Mt. Hood National Forest so we drove out that way even though our hiking book said the hiking season is May to October.  We didn't even get a mile on the Forest Service Road before we came upon a gated off section.  The road was closed.  Boo.  But I appreciate the vigilance of the Forest Service to keep people from driving on roads that aren't serviced in the winter months.

We turned around and headed for our second choice: Salmon River-Devils Peak hike.  We didn't have to backtrack far to get to Salmon River Road.  The trailhead was super easy to access - directly off a paved road that funnels into Highway 26.  Easy peasy.  It was a  nice change from miles of potholed, dirt roads that we often drive to get to hiking trailheads.
This rock face was right at the trail head.  Photo credits to Alden.
The Salmon River trail goes for miles and miles.  Our hiking book gave detailed information about the hike from the lower trailhead and from the upper trailhead.  We chose the upper trailhead because it climbs from the riverbed up and up through the forest to a viewpoint of the Salmon River Canyon.  I love a good panoramic view, even if I have to work for it.  I hope I'm training my kids to like them too!

My kids are hit or miss with hiking.  Little Paigey is ALWAYS up for a hike.  She will hike miles and miles on end without complaining and she loves it.
Paigey - she melts me.  Oh and Dusty too.
Katie usually moans when I tell her we're going hiking.
My beautiful Katie Joy
Grant and Alli's reactions are unpredictable.  But they (including Alden) all manned up for this hike, strapping on their day packs and their good attitudes.
The boys took their lunch deeper into the woods.  I thought it was so reflective of their long-time friendship in the fact that they had the same hats, almost the same backpacks, and they even were taking bites at the same time! #twinsies
Alli Claire - she's so fun.
It was by far the most fun we've ever had hiking.  The kids didn't complain.  They didn't argue with each other or get mad at me.  We all just had SO.MUCH.FUN!  I am so proud of them because the climb to the canyon viewpoint required some effort.

The overall hike was 6.6 miles - a 3.3 mile out-and-back route.  The first two miles were easy.  A wide, single track trail led us into the most incredible old growth forest.  It was like we stepped into the set of a movie - Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia.  Green and lush - this forest was magical.  Even the kids noticed how incredible it was. The trail meandered up and down little ridges that alternately showcased the raging Salmon River and the magnificent old-growth forest.  Every step of the way was lovely with a capital L.
Tiny hikers.  Big forest.
We picnicked a little less than two miles into our journey in a beautifully green part of the forest using fallen logs covered with moss as our picnic benches.  Just past our picnic area was my favorite spot.  We hiked over a quaint wooden bridge to view a tiny waterfall in the heart of the forest.  We all just stood and soaked in the magic of the moment - the smell of the forest.  The sound of the water rushing over the rocks.  The vibrants greens that stimulated our sight.  The dampness of the air on our skin.  It was pretty cool.
the bridge and stream past the waterfall

Grant and Alden
Two miles into our hike we started our 1.3 mile ascent to the top of the canyon.  As far as hikes go, I'd rate the climb as "moderate."  We definitely were sweating and shedding layers as we hiked and we took two breaks as we climbed.
I really like the use of light in this image. Another great image taken by Alden.
The trail was NARROW, curvy, and had some significant drops off the edge at some points.  It was nerve-wracking enough that I never let the dogs off their leads even though Dusty is the most obedient dog on the planet. We hiked together - single file.  The boys led the way.  Then the girls.  Then me and the dogs in the back so I could keep an eye on everyone.  I didn't love being the only adult responsible for keeping everyone alive and safe.
The boys leading the way.  The little creeks that feed into the river crossed the trail in several spots.  It was so pretty!
At one point about 3/4 of the way up the climb Paigey tripped on a tree root and pitched forward on the trail.  She caught herself with her hands but started to roll toward the steep edge.  Thankfully I was right behind her and grabbed her backpack as she rolled.  Dang it all.  You can never be too careful when you're hiking.  Thank you Jesus for keeping her safe.
Grant on the trail approaching the viewpoint.  Out of the forest.  Not quite to the panoramic yet.  Another great shot by Alden.
The viewpoint came out of nowhere.  One minute we were in the forest.  The next we were on a very narrow trail with drop-offs everywhere and the most incredible view of the forest we'd just climbed through.  The raging river was a mere drop in a sea of dark green trees from the top of the canyon.  It made us all realize just how insignificant we really are in this big, vast universe!

At the viewpoint
The kids loved resting at the viewpoint, but I couldn't relax.  Flashbacks of my camera crashing over the edge of Neahkahnie Mountain and of my iPhone jumping off the edge of our picnic spot on McNeil Point trail kept me nervous and edgy.  I just couldn't relax being the only adult in a sea of awesome kids and two adorable dogs.  We took a few pictures and then I moved everyone off the open view point and back into the woods.
hiking is exhausting
Alden taking in the view.  This photo was taken by Grant. I love seeing the kids' creativity coming out in the photos they take.
Look closely.  The tiny drop of white in the middle of the image is the Salmon River.
We carefully picked our way back down the trail to the forest floor below.  It was a huge relief to get off the ridge and the narrow parts of the trail and back into the safety of the enchanted forest.

The last two miles of the hike felt long.  We all (even the dogs) got tired but the beautiful scenery kept us going.  We felt very accomplished when we finally made it back to the car.
Just to prove I really went along for the hike.
I can't wait to come back and run this trail with my running buddies.  I think we'll be able to cover more ground than I did with the kids and maybe get past the viewpoint where we turned around and closer to Devil's Peak.

If you live anywhere close to Mt. Hood, you should try this trail.  It is a little piece of heaven.  Happy hiking.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christmas 2014 - A Time to Remember

Christmas 2014
Time is passing.  Quickly.  Only one of our four children asked for toys this year.  The others wanted teenage-y stuff.  GAH!

This Christmas was extra special because my brother and his family drove out from Montana to celebrate with us - a first since we've lived in Oregon.  It was very special to celebrate the holidays with them.

On Christmas Eve my entire extended family on my Mom and Terry's side met at Champoeg State Park and did family photos - times TWENTY NINE people!!!!  We actually got every grandchild to the photo session and even managed to get a few shots where everyone was in focus and looking at the camera at the same time.  It was a Christmas miracle.

After the pictures, we headed back to our house and our neighbors joined us for a potluck dinner. After dinner the cousins acted out the nativity story while Grandpa Terry read it out-loud from the Bible.  It was pretty darling.
No room in the inn 
Angels telling the good news
When the skit was finished we gathered in a circle in the family room, illuminated by the light of the Christmas tree.  Each person held an unlit candle.  Michael lit his candle and said something he was thankful for in 2014.  Then he lit the candle of the person sitting next to him.  Around the room we went - filling it with light, love and thankful spirits.  My mom was the last person to share. When she was done, we sang Silent Night then quietly blew out our candles.  It was a holy moment.

Before everyone dispersed, we moved our entire group out to walk around the neighborhood and look at the Christmas lights.  Other families were out doing the same thing and it was so fun and festive.

 After our guests left our kids pitched in and and helped clean and prep the house for another fun gathering on Christmas day. Once everything was done, the kids started hounding us for their Christmas jammies. Delivered every year by "The Elves," new pajamas have become an annual tradition.  The girls waffle back and forth between wanting to match and wanting to be their own individual.  This year the Elves delivered stylized jammies and the girls were thrilled.

Christmas morning the kids are not allowed to come downstairs until a designated time that involves at least some level of sunlight.  They come downstairs to find gifts underneath the tree and stockings that are full.  I always make them pose for pictures too.
my babies
Usually we read the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible before we open gifts, but this year we tried something new.  Since we had just read Jesus' birth story the night before, we each went around the room and said one way following and knowing Jesus had changed our lives in 2014.  It was really special to hear what each person shared.  When we were done we prayed together, sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, and then started opening gifts.  Even the dog gets presents and she's smart enough to know to expect them. She sits like an eager toddler by the place where we set her gifts, looking expectantly for her turn to come.  It's pretty cute.
Dusty with her new toy
Later that day our home filled with more family.  My Dad and his wife Marcy drove over from Bend.  Shane, Quenby and their girls migrated to our house to stay for the next few days.  We shared a giant meal, took a walk, did family photos, and hung out.  I kind of wanted the day to last forever.
group shot
The holidays can create so much angst that every thing, every relationship, every gift needs to be perfect.  But no holiday ever goes exactly as planned and those kind of expectations are next to impossible to live up to.  This Christmas wasn't "perfect" but it was pretty close.  It's definitely one to remember for years to come.

Merry Christmas.