Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Olallie Lake - The Best Accidental Camping Trip of Our Life

Our "summer" was short.  Curt was in doctoral school and Grant and Alli were both playing water polo through mid-July. Grant resumed water polo in the second week of August, so our family only had a three week window of unplanned, summer days and open weekends.

The first weekend Grant, Katie and Alli were away at church camp leaving Curt, Paige, and me all by ourselves.  We loaded up our dogs and drove to Central Oregon to go camping.  We didn't have a reservation, but we stumbled upon a pretty campsite in the West South Twin Lake Campground.  Paige didn't get bored until the last day and we loved having her to ourselves.
Happy Church Campers
Happy Tent Campers
We hiked to South Sister Mirror Lake for a picnic lunch.

The following weekend Curt and I ran the Cascade Lakes Relay together.  It's a 216 mile relay race (split between twelve team members) that starts in Diamond Lake and finishes in Bend.  The entire race is run at elevation, through extreme temperatures, and a lot of altitude changes. Sounds crazy but it is a riot! My non-running husband "loved everything about it except the running."  He even agreed to do it again next year.

The Finish Line is so sweet.
Our third and final weekend of freedom was held for "CAMPING."  Curt normally chooses our camping weekends in January, researches campgrounds online, and reserves the Reservable Campsites the day they become available.  But this year was different.  We were on a What Needs to Happen Today basis.  There was no planning ahead, even for camping.  The Stilp Family is learning to wing it!

We all love Timothy Lake, a giant man-made lake in the heart of the Mt. Hood National Forest.  It boasts several campgrounds with big, private, beautiful sites and a thirteen mile trail around the perimeter of the lake.  I was salivating over the possibility of such a long trail run and the kids were anxious to get back to their favorite place to camp.  With so many campgrounds we were certain we could get a campsite, but we were wrong.

Gone Creek Campground - our favorite on Timothy Lake - was already full by 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon.  The campground host warned us that "every campground on the lake was full." We went to two more neighboring campgrounds - each further off the lake and deeper into the forest - with no luck.  Our Crew was restless and disappointed.

I have wanted to go to Olallie Lake since we moved to Oregon.  One of our friends painted vivid stories of the rugged beauty and the memories made camping there year after year as a child.  It sounded idyllic - a Must See in the land of beauty that is Oregon.  But Olallie Lake is remote - you really have to want to go there.

We were out of options in the Timothy Lake area so we drove 30+ miles of Forest Service Road to get to the Olallie Lake junction, where we drove another fifteen uphill miles to get to the Olallie Lake Scenic Area. Nine of those fifteen miles were on a gravel road through what appeared to be the middle of Nowhere.  Finally we came across a map of the area.  Seven campgrounds and even one resort dotted the map. We had hope again.

The first two campgrounds weren't open. We kept driving to the "resort" which was really a smattering of tiny red cabins on the edge of one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I have ever seen.  Mt. Jefferson - majestic and glorious - guarded the lake, while backpackers hiking the Pacific Crest Trail sat on the edge of the road reading and catching their breath.  It was like something straight out of a movie.

We talked to some hikers who assured us that a plethora of open campsites awaited us at Peninsula campground - another two miles around the lake and deeper into the wilderness.  They were right.  We scored a giant, private campsite right on the water's edge.  We had to park and pack all our stuff in about 1/4 of a mile from our car but it was well worth it because we pitched our tent right on the beach! Olallie Butte - the other prominent feature of the area - was directly across from our tent, beckoning us to come and explore.
first night sitting in our camp chairs.

that Olallie Butte and our tent on the beach. Plus my handsome men.

Katie (way in the distance on that log) exploring as the sun sets on that burned out area.

Sunset as seen from my camp chair.

There was a campfire ban so we met on the fishing dock to roast marshmallows over a propane fire, courtesy of the Resort staff.

Our tent - lit only by headlamps and the brilliant stars.

view from my cot inside the tent.
Our campground matched the surrounding wilderness: bare bones and rugged.  There was no potable water and only a few scattered pit toilets, but we liked it like that.  It had the rugged feel of backpacking without all the work.

Mornings on the peninsula were calm - quiet, smooth water with no hint of wind. But every afternoon, the water began to ripple and the wind began to stir.  It slowly increased to a steady hum in the tree tops that stayed throughout the entire night.  We retired early one night to our tent, all cozied in our sleeping bags listening to the wind and playing cards by the light of our headlamps.  It was just what our family needed.
Alli playing on Curt's phone

Paige - headlamp on the tent.

Katie being awesome.

Grant and Kimber snuggling.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - a hiking trail that starts in Mexico and finishes in Canada, goes right through the Olallie Lakes Scenic Area.  The trail junction was a mere 2 miles from our campsite. and we HAD to say we hiked the PCT. We hiked the trail three miles to Upper Lake - a scenic, quiet alpine lake that we had entirely to ourselves.  It was magical!
The PCT is marked with these signs on trees along the way.

happy Dusty

bathing in a snow melt alpine lake is FRIGID.  Here I am at Upper Lake trying to warm up on the sun soaked rock.

Oh Dusty - we love you.

Kimber and Grant - always in the lead.

Paigey about to give Kimber a treat.  Look at Dusty waiting too.

My Loves on the PCT - that's Mt. Jefferson.  Isn't she lovely?
We could have stayed a week in our paradise on the water's edge, but life forced us to pack up and come home.  Olallie Lake was THE BEST accidental camping trip of our life.  We will 100% be back again.  Thank you Jesus for teaching us to wing it and leading us to the perfect spot to unplug, unwind, and rest. We all agree these were the best three days of our summer.
the morning we left

That's a LOT of stuff to pack back up and out to the car.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

THIRTEEN - Celebrating Katie (a belated birthday post)

Katie - our oldest daughter - turned thirteen this summer and man did we celebrate! 
Katie Joy on her 13th birthday
Our Katie is... known by others for her kindness and sweet, gentle spirit.  She is a friend to all, super smart and studious. If her teacher asks her to give 100%, Katie gives 110%.  She loves Jesus of her own accord and not because we're raising her in the church.  Katie loves little kids and serves in the newborn and toddler room at church, but only likes to babysit if Alli comes with her. Katie is a competitive athlete, and hard on herself if she makes a mistake. She may be little, but she is fierce.  Don't get in her way on the lacrosse or soccer field.

Katie has a low tolerance for drama and has beautifully managed to avoid it almost entirely. She gently but firmly stands up for what is right and walks away from what is wrong.  Unlike most girls her age, she hates being on her phone.  Katie teaches me to put down my phone and engage in the world around me.  

Katie is creative and free-spirited.  She draws.  Writes stories and poems.  Makes up skits. Takes beautiful photographs with artistic perspectives.  She has definite opinions but doesn't always offer them freely.  Sometimes she makes you draw it out of her. Katie likes to plan ahead and hates being rushed. She thrives on having down time and prefers one-on-one time with her friends over group activities.

In many ways the two of us are like night and day.  Sometimes we clash.  Sometimes we don't understand each other.  But always we love each other.

For Katie's thirteenth birthday we updated her room.  She now has a Teenage Hideaway that she designed herself.  (She has great taste in design and style.)  
new room
For Katie's actual birthday, we went to the beach. We took the back road, stopped at a yard sale  that was NOT selling animals, and somehow came home with a bunny in a bird cage.  The kids TOTALLY used the "It's Katie's birthday.  It's Anything She Wants Day" to get me to say yes.  I still can't believe I said yes, but Finn Thumper Stilp is now living happily in our backyard.  Proof that I can be a pushover.
Birthday morning.  Lydia spent the weekend with us.

Gorgeous day at the beach for the birthday girl.

Grant and Alli with Finn, Kimber, and Dusty
In August we invited Katie's "Adult Friends" (her wording) to come over for a Coming of Age party.  The sole purpose of the party was to encourage Katie as she transitions into life as a teenager. We sat in the backyard as the sun faded away and each woman went around the circle blessing Katie, calling out the beauty and leadership skills they see in her or sharing a passage from the Bible that they wanted to speak over her. 
Birthday girl (in black)
see what I mean about being artsy?  Katie designed and made each of these notes that she wrote to her Adult Friends.
Katie doesn't love to be the center of attention so this was mildly uncomfortable for her, but the awkwardness melted away as she let herself bask in the glow of affirmation.  We all need to be told what we're doing well.  

When each woman had a chance to share, we gathered around my Girl and prayed over her.  We asked God to take all these beautiful gifts and talents that make Katie who she is and use them to advance His Kingdom.  To bring light to Katie's corner of the world.  We asked God to remind Katie how deeply loved she is.  That she is chosen.  Loved by God.  Equipped. And supported.

I fought back tears of joy pretty much the entire evening.  When we moved to Newberg seven years ago I asked God to bring a few women into my life who would love my kids well.  

God gave me an army.  

Women of all ages and generations are standing with us in this oh-so-important task of raising kids who love Jesus. Women who see qualities in my kids that I often overlook.  Women who model to me how to be gentle and how to be slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to get angry. "Thank you" doesn't seem adequate.

As if that wasn't enough, Katie and I escaped for a weekend away, just the two of us.  We hibernated in my friend's BEAUTIFUL log cabin in the heart of the Mt. Hood National Forest and talked - about life, growing up, peer pressure, puberty, purity and how following Jesus fits into all of that.  #awkward, only it wasn't awkward at all.  It was fun.  We followed a curriculum called Passport to Purity that was surprisingly 99% cheesy-free, totally relevant, and paved the way to talk more intimately together.  Katie and I both needed this connecting point.  
One of the crafts from Passport to Purity that drove home the point that we become like who we hang around with.
When we weren't talking we were either watching movies, eating, or exercising. We ran together and hiked the Tamawana Falls trail. It was such a pretty trail, following a river two miles through a gorgeous forest to a pretty waterfall.  We both loved everything about the hike and came back into town ready for some good Italian food.  Neither one of us wanted to come home.

can you find Katie?

Happy happy birthday Sweet Girl.  I can't thank God enough for giving you to us.  Welcome to your teens.  I know you're going to rock them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"I Hope I can Make Good Decisions When I Name My Children Too" - Guest Post by Paige Stilp

Well hello there.  I have all kinds of things to write about (like that fact that I have a high schooler and two junior higher with only one left in elementary school), but it all stays in my head cause raising four active kids is kind of busy.  But I love you all and miss you.  So big virtual hugs.  (((((HUG)))))

Paige came down to my office this afternoon with a present for me - a story she wrote for her 4th grade class assignment.

PAUSE: Did you read that right?  Paige - the Stilp Family Baby - is in 4th grade!  And she got contacts and braces and probably has grown a foot in the last year, or at least it seems that way.  GAH!

So this day at the beach she wore her glasses...

..but on the first day of school she was all about her contacts.
She's been watching me edit senior portraits.  I think she nails the pouty face.
Anyway...  her story was darling (as usual) and very thorough (as usual), so I wanted to share it. Writing is definitely one of her talents and passions.

The Story of My Name
by Paige Elizabeth Stilp
9 1/2 years old
4th grade

The story of my name is fun to tell so I'll tell you it now.

When my mom was pregnant with me she had a friend named Paige Elizabeth.  My mom really liked that name because she thought it was pretty.  Her friend said that she really liked her name so my mom said, "Let's name her Paige." My dad agreed.

If I was a boy my parents would've named me Shane or Cole.  My dad wanted to name me Shane and my Mom wanted to name me Cole.  They both wanted to name me Paige, but they had different plans for the boy name.

They liked the name Elizabeth because it meant God's promise.  So my name ended up being Paige Elizabeth or Little Girl who is God's promise.  My siblings liked my name too.

I love my name and hope I can make good decisions when I name my children too!