WA camping and God on the beach

In between visits with family and friends we’ve had some good camping nights just the two of us. Our night in La Push, WA was especially fun because we weren’t even planning to go to Olympic National Park, but then, we did. And once we were over there, we needed to find a place to camp. There was a campsite in the woods not far from First Beach, but it was full. We drove past a place on the ocean that had cabins but it said no vacancy. Getting a campsite/room has often become my responsibility with Andy parking the car and saying, “go do your thing.”

I walked in and spoke to the woman at the counter. I mentioned I saw the no vacancy sign, but wondered if she knew anywhere we could tent camp. She brightened and said, “Tent camp? We have two spots left on the beach if you want to see them!” We did and we happily took one. The Native American reservation we were on limits spots on the beach due a big fire that happened there years ago.

The beach was beautiful and quiet with not to many other campers, and the roar of the ocean was loud. Andy walked up and down the beach first. He came back with some rocks he wanted to bring home to my step-dad who loves all kinds of rocks. Later, I walked up and down the beach and found one rock I thought was pretty cool. I put it next to Andy’s outside our tent (which was on the little rocks) near our tent pole so we could find them in the morning.

There was a beautiful sunset- the whole night was like a dream. Falling asleep to the sound of the waves was something I didn’t expect to do on this trip and it was amazing.

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First Beach in La Push, Washington

This was my view when I woke up the next morning!

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Happy Camper! (Insert Jim Gaffigan camping quote here)

See all those rocks on the beach? They all look roughly the same. So when we took down the tent I didn’t think about moving our special hand-picked rocks. I bumped a pile with my shoe and remembered and went back to the corner we had placed them, I found Andy’s but not the rock I had picked.

I know this sounds silly, and it is, but I was particularly fond of that rock. It was mostly grey but had a big white spot on it with some pretty shiny parts going through it and it was-in my humble opinion- a unique rock compared to the others which was why I had picked it up. But that rock was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t with Andy’s rocks.

Andy picked his favorites to bring to my step-dad and helped me look for a little bit and then he headed back down over the creek, and across the logs with most of our stuff to start loading the car. I let him know I was going to look a little longer.

And then I did something even sillier. I prayed about it. I said, “Okay God- I know this is just a rock and I know there are far more pressing things in the world than this rock so I completely understand if you don’t answer this prayer, I just really liked that rock, so if you wanna help me find it- cool, and if not- I totally get it.”

I stood there staring at the same hundreds of rocks, and I slowly started moving piles of them with my shoe back and forth and back and forth. They all looked the same. This went on for several minutes (I was dedicated) and then, all of the sudden, there it was. That same silly rock, mostly grey with shiny white. And how did I respond, like a normal person, perhaps?

I burst into tears.

It was a swell of emotion so abrupt I caught myself off guard. All I could think of was verse after verse in the bible where God talks about knowing every hair on our head, every tear that falls is kept in a bottle, the story Jesus shares about going to look for the one lost sheep or the lost coin, how very, very valuable each human is to God.

And to think that the God of this universe cared enough about me in that moment to remind me that He is with me, listening and loves me enough to let me find a special rock- well… that’s beyond cool. I can’t find the words to describe the feeling.

Side note here: I’m choosing not to read into this any further and wonder about all the hundreds of people that were praying for my brother to live and he died, but God gave me a rock?! I really don’t believe in the phrase “everything happens for a reason” because I don’t think it does. But I do believe “God’s timing is perfect.”

For one example, I look at my sister-in-law’s life now and though I wish my brother was still here- I can’t help to see that God is doing an amazing thing in knitting together her new family, in the way He provides for her, and for her daughter, and I can’t deny that God works through really crappy situations to bring good out of them too (my paraphrase of Romans 8).

Okay- but back to the rock. Honestly– what are the chances I could have found it again? Look at that picture! They all look the same- and maybe from God’s view of the earth all people look the same, but He can pick any of us out of the crowd and say, “Hey you- yes YOU, I see you, I hear you, I know you, I’m with you, I love you. Let’s spend some time together.”

We’re not unknown to Him. He’s with us, loving us and listening to us- even when we don’t (even when I don’t) remember that simple truth.

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Crater Lake National Park

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Crater Lake National Park in Oregon

Andy wanted to go to Crater Lake and I knew nothing about it, but I like lakes so I was like, let’s do it! He handed me the newspaper that the bigger National Parks hand out at the entrance that talks about the history of the park and intersting facts and I read the whole thing.

The crater was formed when a volcanic mountain erupted. If the ash from that eruption had been spread evenly over the entire state of Oregon, it would have been 8 inches thick! This is the deepest lake in the US with one spot over 1900 feet deep. The deep blue color is because the lake was formed by snow melt and rain over thousands of years. Because of that it’s one of the purest bodies of water in the world because nothing can flow into or out of it.

I mean- crazy cool, right!? I honestly could have stared at it all day. And we mostly did- just from different angles all the way around it. The lake makes up only 10 percent of the park in size, there’s a bunch of cool forests all around too. But there’s no misunderstanding how the lake is the main attraction. I mean….

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It’s almost impossible to get the whole lake in one shot!

I love this last one because if there weren’t pine trees in the picture, the shifting colors at the edge could almost pass for the caribbean sea and a sandy shore.

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Long story short, if you find yourself able to pass through the middle of Oregon, you may want to hit up Crater Lake.

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I’ve heard people talk about the first time they see it as breathtaking, I can vouch for that. I don’t think I spoke for a good few minutes other than, “Wow.”

The People Part!

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Andy on the ferry from Orcas Island to Anacortes in Washington

After visiting the North Cascades we went back up into Canada, but this time to see friends. Our number 2 reason to take this trip was to spend time with people we love that we rarely get to see. We started calculating our vacation time versus the distance and cost to travel to see people and how many years it would take to see them all, and it would have been years upon years. So when we started kicking around the idea of this trip, dropping in with friends and family along the way made great sense! We couldn’t think of any better way to maintain those relationships than to spend time together- so we did.

We lived and laughed with everyone we connected with and our time together was heart and soul filling. Often our friends shared how God has been working in their lives recently and we stepped away encouraged. It would be a ridiculously long list if I mentioned each person individually and shared how much we enjoyed our visit so I’m going to summarize and please know that we LOVED our time with you and are so grateful we were able to visit!!

From BC, Washington, Oregon and California we visited 48 friends and family! (Not counting Montana and Alberta there were another 19.) Huh, it really didn’t feel like a lot until I counted them all! See– this would have taken years to pull off with annual vacation weeks!

The big chunk of visiting took place over a month, with camping and a hotel night in between. It was definitely what Andy affectionately calls, “The people part of the trip.” He said if we were going to move somewhere we should pick the Pacific Northwest because we’d have some built in support to build community out here. All I have to say is tempting… because everyone we’ve spent time with is wonderful. And then I think of the people that call us Auntie and Uncle and I want to point the car east and head toward home.

But not yet. We have a month to go (roughly- as I’m writing this) and I’m doing my best to enjoy these moments as I’m in them. I’m thankful for this time that Andy and I have together and am so grateful for the kind people in our lives that we’ve been able to reconnect with on this trip.

Thanks for inviting us into your lives, homes, vacations, breakfasts, lunch meet ups, sailboat, football stadium, beach bonfire and ice cream shops. We love you all.

And come to Minnesota, will ya?

North Cascades National Park

This park gets its own entry because we stumbled upon a beautiful place here. Andy and I bought the annual national park pass for this trip, but it turns out, you don’t need it for this park. There is no fee station at the entrance, but there was a visitor center just before the park. Since Andy and I have always learned something new and helpful at visitor centers, we don’t pass these up. A kind volunteer gave us a slew of options for places to see and we were on our way!

As is custom for our trip, Andy was driving and I was staring aimlessly and happily out the passenger side window when suddenly something caught my eye, I yelled, STOP! PULL OVER! I have to give Andy credit for this part, and maybe it’s because I hadn’t done this before, but he pulled over at the next pull out all while subtly questioning me at the same time with “are you serious?” All I could think to say was, I saw something pretty.

He parked and followed me back to what can only be described as a scene out of a fairy tale. Everything was lush, green, squishy and beautiful. There was a smallish waterfall with down trees all over and moss and old man’s beard was growing everywhere- on the big rocks, on the bark of the fallen trees across the water stream, on the ground. In a word, it was breathtaking. Once we arrived Andy said, “Oh wow.”

I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated by green things in nature and water in the form of lakes, oceans, waterfalls, brooks, streams, rivers- but I love it all. I was pretty happy in this place and was pretty content to gently explore around it. There were a zillion shades of green under a canopy of extremely tall trees.

There was no one else there, so we took our time in climbing and looking at everything from different views. It was so peaceful. The further I climbed the more little mounds I could see on the upper left side- it looked like a hobbit could come bounding out of one at any moment. I’ve tried my best to describe it with words, here are some pics that don’t nearly do the place justice. Probably because sunlight was streaming in making the place all the more magical and it was midday, or maybe just because I was just stepping around in awe, trying to capture with my little phone what my mind could hardly contain.

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My attempt to capture a storybook scene

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Doesn’t this look like a great place for a hobbit to live?

 

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What I saw out the window that made us stop

We came about this place from the west entrance of the park and it’s near a sign that says “Pyramid Lake” in case anyone wants to scope it out. I don’t know if someone else would think it’s as cool as we did. I am, self admittedly, easily amused. But this stop makes my “favorite places” list of things we’ve seen so far on this trip.

 

Homebody as a Nomad

We have a road trip tradition of stopping at A&W for a root beer. For this trip, our first A&W stop was in BC on a 96 degree day. It was notable because we had been in the mountains for the past three weeks and the highest temps we had were in the low 80s. We had our lunch in the cooler so we pulled into the A&W parking lot and Andy suggested we make the sandwiches in the shade of the car. He stood on one side, I on the other. I handed him the cutting board and knife and he passed the bread and mustard to me. He sliced the cheese and I layered the turkey and I handed his completed sandwich back.

We moved to the front seats with the car windows down and in between bites Andy said, “Nomading is weird.”

I laughed thinking back on the scene that had just unfolded and how far it was from our normal day to day life at home. After a few moments of silence I said, “Yeah, I don’t think I could do this long term.” Andy’s response was immediate- “You couldn’t! You’re a homebody.” I thought for a moment before agreeing– I am a homebody.

I like being in one place or at least having a place to come home to. 

We’ve been traveling now for 60 some days and we have just under a month left. We’ve stayed in countless tent spots across ND, MT, WY, Alberta, BC, WA, (friends and family in OR) and CA. We’ve had a couple nights in the car (one when our tent pole broke) and two hotel nights. It’s two more than I thought we’d have, but they’ve both been a refreshing break when we needed them.

And the best has been the days and nights we stayed with friends and family. Twice I’ve stayed up past 2am talking to different friends in their living room, catching up on life, sharing thoughts and ideas, discussing how we’re learning to be better adults and all sorts of real, honest things.  

For a self identified homebody the repeated changing environments have been an adjustment. I’ve had to find a new way to feel, “at home” on the road. And here’s the surprising part I discovered: Home is where the tent is

I was totally shocked by this. I didn’t even realize it until after staying with friends and family for a bit. But when we set it up after a few days without it, I crawled in, and I’m not sure if I said it aloud, but I certainly felt my heart say, “hello, old friend.”

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Andy making breakfast north of Jasper National Park, Alberta

At night I bring in my tiny bag (about the size of my hand) that holds medicine, earplugs, (I never know who we’ll be camping next to) and my headlamp. I usually grab whatever book I’m reading and my journal in an effort to stay caught up on our daily events.

And here’s something I never thought I’d say….I looovvve our tent. My 20 year old (not exaggerating) sleeping bag, teeny thermarest and inflatable pillow have become my creature comforts. Even with those things, it’s really not that comfortable. If given the option to climb into a tent or not at home, I’d never hop inside. But somehow, this tent has become my my safe place.

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Andy with our tent in California

This tent was our first joint purchase while we were dating, 11 years ago. It seemed a little roomier then!

Even if it’s cozy, it’s nice to have a home away from home on the road.

Oh, Canada!

After staying nearly two weeks in Montana, we spent 16 days in Canada visiting the National Parks of Banff, Yoho and Jasper along with some beautiful provincial parks. We crossed over from Glacier National Park into Waterton and stayed the night with gracious friends in Cochrane. We drove south the next day for our one reserved campsite of our entire trip, in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Our site was awesomely huge and private with gorgeous trees all around. The next morning was our ten year anniversary and we went back toward Banff to find a place to camp. We found a place at the municipal campground wedged between train tracks and a highway and it’s just as romantic as it sounds 😉

We went into Banff on our anniversary day where Andy skipped rocks at Lake Minnewanka, below.

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Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Alberta

We went out for our anniversary at a little indian restaurant. Once back at our campsite, we opened a bottle of wine at our picnic table that we had been carrying around with us since we left MN two weeks earlier.

The next day we went to Lake Louise, along with hundreds of others.

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Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta

We took a hike up from Lake Louise. The water looked greener and greener the higher up we hiked. We saw views like this:

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Lake Agnes Tea Hike in Banff National Park, Alberta

I’m a big fan of lakes and Andy is a big fan of mountains. We were both happy in the Rockies. It was my first time to see most of these places.

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Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta

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Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta

The Banff park area was great and beautiful, and also very crowded. I prefer to be where the people aren’t, so we drove into Yoho National Park just west of Banff into BC, and we saw a whole bunch of pretty places. There was a natural bridge formed by a waterfall, Emerald lake was gorgeous and green depending where the light was hitting it. Takakkaw Falls was also in Yoho, a huge tall waterfall– everything seemed prettier with less crowds 🙂

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Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, BC

Canada camping was some of the cheapest camping we’ve done on this trip. I’d like to thank the exchange rate for having some of our nights cost only $11. Snaring overflow campground just north of Jasper was one of my favorites, even without sinks, showers or flushable toilets. We were able to duck our tent into the trees a bit and had a great time! We had some amazing sunsets there. We kept laughing too, because for about 3 weeks in a row, each new place we camped we were right next to train tracks.

My home as a teen was next to train tracks so I felt right at home. We must have been following the Canadian railway system closer than we realized. I offered Andy earplugs at night.

If you get a chance to visit the Banff and Jasper area, I highly recommend Yoho and Kootenay is the other national park nearby too. Even though we didn’t get to the last one, I bet it is just as nice at Yoho.

Happy travel dreaming.