Friday, May 22, 2015

Cape Falcon Hike

My sixth marathon was on Sunday and Curt rode his bike on the course with me.  It was so fun.  He also took the day off on Monday.  Time together been hard to come by in this current life season of graduate school.  Hooray for a date day.
#selfie.  I really should get a lightweight tripod for hiking.
all photos copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
We did a post-marathon recovery hike at the Oregon coast.  The Cape Falcon trailhead parking lot is located right off Highway 101 a few miles south of Arch Cape.

The five mile round trip hike is rated "easy" in my hiking book, so we expected it to be mostly flat.  Curt and I were both a little surprised at the amount of up and down involved in getting to the top of the cape.  I think we'd rate this hike at the "hard end of the easy" scale or the "low end of the moderate" scale.

The old growth forest we hiked through was stunning.  There's even a hidden waterfall that was really fun to discover.
old growth forest
copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC 
Oregon has the strangest trees.
hidden waterfall and creek leading down to the ocean
Once we hiked out of the forest, the trail took us through bushes and brush taller than Curt.  It felt like we were hiking through the inside of a magic garden.

The picnic spot at the top of the cape was sheltered from the wind by the brush and was incredibly beautiful and relaxing.  We could have stayed there all day watching the sea lions (or were they seals?) playing in the water off the end of the cape.
Can you see how muddy my shoes are?
#thuglife #boothang
The only thing I didn't like about this trail was the mud. 70% of the trail was thick, squishy, wet mud - the kind that would suck your shoe off if you tromped right through it. The dogs LOVED the mud.  Kimber laid down in it like a frog, all sprawled out, but I REALLY didn't like it.  We wasted a lot of time picking our way around giant mud pits.  I had just washed my trail shoes, my legs were SORE, and I just wanted to walk on the trail without thinking about it too much.  (I know - #whinypants).

MUDDY dogs!
There were some drop-offs at the top of the cape that would lead to definite injury and/or probable drowning so we kept the dogs on the leash once we got out of the woods.  If we brought our kids, we would establish tight parameters in that area as well.

On the way back, we took a short detour down to the beach and had the dogs wash off in the water before loading their muddy selves into the back of Curt's car.

Cape Falcon was a relatively easy hike with clearly marked trails.  I would recommend it in the summer when the chances of the trail being dried out are greater.

On our way home we drove straight into a fierce thunderstorm Midwest style.  Dark, ominous clouds.  Torrential downpour.  Hail pounding the car.  Roads flash flooding with no visibility.  Then gorgeous, peaceful skies and calm after the storm.  It was awesome!

Happy hiking.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Triple Falls Hike

My friend Rose recently celebrated her birthday. She took time off work to play and asked me to take her, Kelly and Becky on a hike.  I chose Triple Falls, located in the Columbia River Gorge, because it's not too long, not too hard (rated moderate) and very scenic.  In 4.75 round-trip miles we viewed FOUR waterfalls! You get a lot of bang for your buck.  And the drive from Newberg is under an hour and half each direction, depending on traffic.

We started our hike at the Horsetail Falls trailhead.
Our group at the trailhead
Horsetail Falls
copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
The forest is so lush and green right now.  I drank in the smell and all the shades of green.
copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
In less than half a mile, we came to Upper Horsetail Falls.  The trail takes hikers behind the waterfall which is always a treat.  There is no guardrail and the trail is a little muddy from the water, so watch your footing here.
copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC 
copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
#selfie with kelly
The trail winds up and around the mountains, offering sporadic views of the Columbia River Gorge through the trees.

A mile past Upper Horsetail Falls is a bridge over Oneonta Gorge.  A waterfall cascades behind and below the bridge.  It's pretty spectacular.  The bridge needs some repairs and has signs on both ends saying it's only "safe" to carry one hiker at a time.  YIKES!
copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
1/4 of a mile past the bridge, we came across the aftermath of a November 2014 landslide.  The slide was officially cleared on April 21, 2015,  reopening a major connecting point of the vast trail system within this section of forest in the Gorge.

The trail definitely needs a sign indicating which direction to take at the initial spot of the landslide.  The way the slide came down the mountain makes it look like the trail continues straight across the mountain face, when in reality it goes up through some rock scree and really exposed, barren dirt.  If it had been rainy, the dirt would have been slippery mud and the incline was relatively steep.  (Sorry.  Forgot to take pictures.)

When we reached this section of the trail we came upon another group of confused hikers who had tried two "trails" that were dead ends.  They were ready to turn around, but I love a challenge.  I picked my way across the face of the landslide and climbed up to where I could see the "normal" trail.  Once on it, I hiked the trail back to the waiting group of hikers so I could guide them up through the scree.

One of my friends found this short section of the reconstructed trail intimidating and unnerving, especially since she had never hiked across scree before.  I was proud of her for pushing on and telling fear, "Not today."  We all made it safely up and back this section of the trail, as did the hoards of other hikers out enjoying the beautiful day.  It's always reassuring to see hikers coming back the way you are headed.

Triple Falls - our turnaround spot - was only 3/4 of a mile past the landslide area.  We picnicked on the side of the trail, taking in the view and the much needed calories.  We were hungry and ready to eat.
copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
A guy at the viewpoint offered to take this photo for me and I love it.
It's always faster on the way back, especially on an out and back trail. We lolly gagged less and made good time back to the car.  We all had fun and made it back to our homes in time to get our kids off the school bus.

Happy birthday Rose!  And Happy Hiking Friends.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Do You Think I'll Do Okay? Will You Love Me Too?

On Mother's Day today I am feeling really reflective.  When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was a wife and a mom.  God gave me an incredible husband and more children and in much quicker succession than I knew I wanted.  I wouldn't change a thing.

Another unexpected twist in motherhood happened when Sarah moved in with us.  She launched Parenthood 2.0 and we gained The Bigs.  Beautiful, adult children who God knew we needed to enrich our lives.  I can't imagine how boring our lives would be without Sarah, Sarai, Todd and Shayla,  Josh and finance' Emily, and Kate and finance' Jordan​.  We love them like they're our own and are so grateful to their biological families for sharing them with us.
Crazy how things change so quickly in two years.  We're missing half our crew in this photo!
Kate's bridal shower
Being a Mom is by far the hardest job I have ever done.  I normally shy away from anything that doesn't come naturally to me.  Why waste my time striving toward something I stink at?  But you can't do that with motherhood.  The second I held Grant in my arms, my life and identity changed forever.
Game changer...
I can't tell you how many times I've looked at my crew of Lovelies and thought, "I stink at this.  I have NO idea what to do.  My poor kids got stuck with me as their Mom and I'm failing at this."  I know it's self-defeating and not accurate, but there are moments when our emotions overwhelm the truth.

Today I read a fictional account of what Mary might have thought in those first few hours after Jesus' birth.  She ponders out loud, "Do you think I'll do okay?  Will you love me too?"  It made me cry because I ask myself those same questions all the time.

copyright Jared Whitney
This season of Curt being a full-time doctoral student on top of working a full-time job has been grueling for all of us.  Change is hard to adjust to and it is taking a toll on all of us.  I have repeatedly failed my kids by responding to them in anger instead of love.  With a harsh word instead of kindness.  And yet they continually forgive me.  They choose to still love me.  We're getting through this day by day and are getting stronger because of it.

Copyright Jared Whitney

It takes a village to raise our kids.  I am so grateful for my Mom who has always modeled love to me. I inherited a mom-in-love and a step-mom who both love our entire family.  We fumbled through the growing pains of blending families, but God is so good.  He writes stories of redemption and beauty and second chances and I love all these women so much.

God has given me three sisters-in-love who are wonderful mothers, a slew of incredible friends that are raising incredible kids, and a group of older, wiser women who mentor me and pray for me and my kids.  Each woman models some mothering skill to me that is admirable and encouraging.  We need each other.  Our kids need each other.

My amazing Mom
Being a Mom might be the hardest job I've ever had, but it is also the most fulfilling.  Today my kids let me sleep in, made me breakfast, and presented me with beautiful hand-made gifts, cards, and Instagram posts that melted my heart.  I will treasure them always.  My kids extend grace to cover my failings.  They always forgive.  Always love.  Always make me laugh.  They are some of my greatest gifts.
We have a strong selfie game

Look at all my Treasures.
THANK YOU to each one of you who has joined Curt and I on this journey of raising passionate, Jesus-following, crazy awesome kids.  I am so grateful to each of you for the role you have played in our lives.

Happy Mother's Day!