Day 6: The Return

The last day of a lovely trip is always the hardest. I always want to stay longer, but the pull of home and the familiar is also strong.

We had a quick yogurt for breakfast and packed out of our motel early, setting our sights toward Seattle. As we left town my Driver asked, “Do you want to go to Second Beach? We’re passing right by it.”

“No,” I answered firmly. We’ll just have to come back again another time. I learned my lesson on this trip. Beauty is everywhere and Second Beach will be there – still beautiful – whenever we make it back.

Completing the giant circle around the Olympic Peninsula, we went north on Highway 101. As soon as we left Forks the skies began to open and the fog cleared. The temperature rose and we were enjoying a beautiful summer day in the Northwest. We traveled along the shores of Lake Crescent again and through Port Angeles.

About 11:30 we stopped in Sequim at The Oak Table for a second breakfast. Since we had not found overly tasty food in the past six days, we looked forward to a familiar favorite spot and some delicious nourishment. The Oak Table did not disappoint.

Following second breakfast we walked a few blocks through the town so my Driver could get a coffee for traveling. Carrying on, we made the ferry line in Kingston just as the ferry in dock was leaving. That left us a good half hour to listen to more of The Pioneers.

We sailed back across the Puget Sound on the State Ferry Puyallup and were treated to one more moment of grace. Mount Rainier was visible in all her glory, majestically keeping watch over the brilliant blue waters and the lush green forests of the Sound. The perfect exclamation point for a perfectly wonderful exploratory journey of the Olympic Peninsula.

Day 5: A Day in Three Movements

ONE:

The morning was a little foggy-cold as it has been here the past four days. So, instead of traveling toward La Push on the coast for pictures and on to Ozette to see one of the original fishing villages that is now an archaeological dig, we changed plans. The mountains had been so much fun yesterday, why not return, but to a different area? We chose Lake Crescent and after about forty minutes of our Pioneer’s story, we had arrived at the lake. It was not yet noon.

There was plenty of parking and an icy blue-green lake beckoning us to its shores. Needless to say, Crescent Lake is a long crescent shaped lake with mountain slopes for a shoreline. At only a very few spots is there level enough ground to pitch a tent, much less build a lodge. But, build a lodge they did. And cabins and trails. It is a most welcoming little settlement. Who knew? Certainly not us.

We walked down to the lake and admired its crystal ripples through which we could see the rocks on the bottom as if looking through a window pane. It was lovely, shimmering silver and green and blue all at once. Kayakers were paddling, kids slapping in the shallows and ducks inviting themselves among the picnicers. We walked to the lodge and admired the sun room that looks out on the lake. Truly, someone had the right idea. How restful everything was.

Checking out the literature, we decided on a short hike to Marymere Falls, a mere mile and a half through the woods with only 400 feet of elevation. My Driver actually put on shoes and a brace to protect his knee and we set out into the woods for another magical walk in Nature’s Wonderland. It was almost more beautiful than yesterday, if that could be imagined. Tall, old-growth trees with weeping moss adorning every arm. A babbling stream following faithfully beside the trail. Ferns, dead trunks, exposed root balls, vines and every kind of lichen attracted our attention. The sunlight played in all the open spaces between leaves, branches and hanging moss.

We crossed the stream and journeyed toward higher elevations. Some while later, we had to cross the stream a second time, but now on a bridge made of a narrow log. Thankfully, someone saw fit to add hand rails. I know I would balk without them. And then there were stairs. A kind couple coming down saw us hesitating at a fork in the path and advised us to go left. From that trail we would be able to see the falls as we approached, they informed us. Left was the next direction we took.

Marymere Falls appeared in our sight after only a few minutes of hiking. Water fell from 80 feet off a rock shelf to the forest floor. It is as beautiful as any falls; as every falls. There were brave hikers who had jumped the rails and crawled down into the cascading pool. But these sedate hikers enjoyed the view from the overlook along the path. A kind fellow offered to take our picture and we accepted. We journeyed back toward the car seeing all new wonders on the return hike since we were going the opposite direction. It was like having an entirely different walk through the neighborhood simply by walking on the other side of the street. The view and what we notice changes completely.

TWO:

In search of nourishment, we arrived at the tiny coastal village of La Push around 3:30. Once again we marveled at the change in climate, geography and vegetation from where we were only hours before. It was foggy here, but the sun was fighting valiantly for exposure. We rested ourselves into “The River’s Edge” restaurant on the Quillayute Reservation and anticipated the arrival of our dinner. While waiting we looked out on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean and watched the fog swirl around the giant sea rocks off the coast. It was gorgeous.

The dinner was excellent – the best of this trip, and the location was thrilling. We were sitting at the edge of the world with all the beauty of the day wrapped around us. Full, and satisfied, we walked back to the car thinking we would head back to the motel. But, I simply couldn’t rest until I had seen at least one of the famous beaches at La Push. We were here and so close, I didn’t want to miss it. “Couldn’t we just drive over there?”

My Driver took a right instead of the left he was planning and we turned into a large parking lot. Pulling into a parking place I realized this IS the beach. I got my camera and got out of the car. Amazingly, at 5:30 the sun was just beginning to break through the coastal fog that had hung here all day. I happily snapped pictures as the sun played hide and seek among the wisps of fog. Finally content after dozens of photos, I was ready to go.

THREE:

Yet, my Driver was certain there was one more beach, Second Beach, where his information was telling him was the favorite spot of photographers. “We’re going to go right by it, do you want to stop?” I wasn’t sure. We’d already hiked three miles today and I didn’t want to tax my driver (or myself.) “I’m fine,” he kept assuring me. “It’s only a .7 mile walk to the beach. We can do it.” I softened, allured by the possibility of pictures in the sun when it actually did make a full break through the fog. “Maybe we could just stop and see what it looks like,” I hedged.

There was little signage and no visible information. We guessed we were in the right spot. There were other cars parked along the roadside. I was still waffling. My Driver said, “I’m just going to get out and read that sign over there.” He came back, informing me, “This is it. It’s only a .7 mile hike. Do you want to go?”

I wanted to say “Yes,” but I kept thinking about my Driver’s bad knee. “No,” I whined, “we can come back tomorrow.” But, I also knew that by tomorrow morning the fog would be thick and there would be little opportunity for good pictures. And, the sun was beginning to pierce the cloud cover now. It could be perfect picture taking light by the time we reached the beach. Perfect!

“I’m fine,” my Driver assured me again. “You want to go. Come on. It’s a short hike.” I really, really, really did want to see this famous beach. I wanted more than anything to see it in the setting sunlight. It’s as if I couldn’t help myself and my desire for one more beautiful experience before the day was done and we left the area. Just one more.

We got out and began the hike. Again, it was more majestic trees in lush undergrowth with mossy limbs reaching out to each other over our heads. We walked on and on. And on. At one point I could hear the surf crashing and I was encouraged. But something felt wrong. I said to my Driver, “If I were by myself, this is the point at which I’d turn around.”

“Why?” he questioned surprised. “Then you wouldn’t be able to see the beach.”

But, I knew we were not close to the beach and we’d certainly walked more than .7 miles. Yet, we carried on. After a time, I questioned him again. “What beach is this we’re going to?” He calmly assured me it was Second Beach, the one the photographers love. Yet, I knew somewhere deep inside me, it was not. About this time my walking app on my phone announced “One mile.” We had already gone beyond .7 miles and still no beach in sight.

We met a family that overtook us and their pre-teen son was running ahead and then back again to meet his parents and I asked him, “How far is it to the beach?”

“I don’t know,” he said flatly. “It’s a really long way, I think.” And, I have to admit, I thought the same. But, we walked on. The sun came out in full force and fell among the tree tops to the forest floor before taking it’s time to retreat again into the fog. And we walked on.

“If we turn back now, we’ll miss it.” Certainly, my Driver was right. So we walked on, the path winding one way and then another. I suddenly had my first realization of how easy it would be for a person to get very lost in woods as dense as these. There is no possible way to know which direction you’re going or where you have been. After a while it all looks the same.

The trail started to slope downward making the walk more difficult, but at least that meant we must be getting close to the beach, I thought. We met a woman coming up the trail, huffing and puffing. “What beach is this?” I asked her. “Third Beach,” she reported definitively. “So,” I stated, “this is the longest trail to the beach.”

“Yes,” she affirmed. “But, the beach is just straight down there.” She pointed behind herself to where the trail fell off in the distance. “But it’s really a crawl back up. I mean, it’s really steep going down.” She gasped for air as she talked, catching her breath after her ascent. I thanked her kindly and we walked on for about 20 more feet. We could now see the trail drop significantly and the beach was almost visible through the thick trees about 500 feet below us.

Having climbed 400 feet to the waterfall this morning on a staircase trail I knew I was not going down this one. “I’m not doing it,” I reported to my Driver. “I’d never get back up.” He agreed. So, after walking 1.7 miles we turned around with nothing but a slice of sight to the water below between the thickness of the forest.

FOUR:  AFTER THOUGHTS

I had lots of time to ponder on the 1.7 miles back to the car. What does it take to be satisfied and when is enough enough? I simply wanted to see one more beach and I thought the sun would be perfect if we went ahead and tried for it tonight rather than returning tomorrow morning. My Driver is such an optimist and is always so supportive of my creative pursuits. He wanted this for me; I wanted this for me. We led each other on.

I realize now, I was just being too greedy; as if Mother Nature wouldn’t share her gifts with me again tomorrow. As if this day had not been glorious enough. I wanted more. It was as if I was a beauty glutton. It wasn’t enough to have this morning and this afternoon; not to mention all day yesterday and the day before; I still wanted more. I was drunk on wonder and stupefied by beauty, simply craving more.

In my disappointment at missing Second Beach in the setting sun, walking back to the car I thought about what I learned in the failed attempt.

  1. Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.
  2. All information received from others is not necessarily correct. Double check your sources.
  3. Don’t get too greedy for something that is overflowingly plentiful on a daily basis.
  4. Be satisfied with what you have seen and experienced.
  5. Trust your own instincts and be willing to act on them. Turn around if you have to.
  6. Don’t be afraid to encounter the locals.
  7. Enjoy all you can with every step.
  8. Stop and listen to the silence along the way, even if you don’t know where you are or if you will get to where you are going.
  9. Always take your best friend with you.
  10. Laugh a lot together afterward.

After hiking 3.4 miles in about an hour and a half, we returned to the site of the famous sign that said it was .7 miles to Second Beach. I examined the map closely. Indeed, it did say .7 miles to Second Beach. But, just a tiny distance to the right it said 1.4 miles to Third Beach and accompanying that was added information in a box stating: YOU ARE HERE.

The only problem with the information on the sign about Second Beach was: WE WERE NOT THERE.

Day 4: Two Faces of Olympic Park

There’s no other way to begin a vacation day than with fun. So that’s what we did. We walked across the street to “The Place” and had a breakfast that any Denny’s customer would recognize. But it was quick and filling and set us up for the day.

Our exploration of the Olympic National Park would take us to two different locations today, but mainly, we wanted to discover the Hoh Rain Forest. It’s hard to know what a “rain forest” is when it is 65 degrees and sunny, but it was not hard to imagine what a rainy day would involve. We drove south from Forks and east toward the interior of the great Olympic Peninsula. The roads were winding and narrow; trees growing right up next to the asphalt, as thick as patches of grass. And on the trees – monstrous trees, I might add, were mighty branches all laden with temperate rain forest moss. On every one. The rain forest here averages 120 inches of rain a year. The place is definitely ripe for growing mosses. The look reminds me of some fairy tale or Disney movie. It’s absolutely fascinating.

We found the Visitor Center, got our map and chose the Hall of Moss Trail for our hiking pleasure. Not surprisingly, because it was Saturday, there were a few more visitors in the park today than we encountered the past two days. There were lots of families with children, both behaved and not; foreign visitors; and chatty visitors. But, we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. We were able to speed up or slow down to accommodate our need for silence in the woods.

Seeing nature in the raw is always so inspiring and completely mystifying. There were so many species of plants; hundred year old trees growing on top of fallen two or three hundred year old trees; mosses and lichens growing on every branch and trunk; roots tangled every which way; and water traveling under and over whatever was in its way.

I couldn’t help but think of the profound interconnection of all of life in such a place. Somehow we have forgotten how necessary this is for our survival.

The sun shone through the dense canopy of leaves and mosses, dappling its golden magic wherever a crack would allow it entrance. I was entranced and could hardly make myself move fast enough to make it farther along the trail. The rain forest in sunshine was a delight to behold. Tiny birds flitted among the leaves; tiny fish darted through the stream; and tiny wild flowers graced the forest floor, along with what seemed like an endless variety of ferns. It was beautiful. The silence in the middle of the forest was certainly the sound of grace.

Refreshed, yet tired from our hike, we elected to head back to Kalaloch to see the beauty of the coastline in this vivid sun. I have to admit, I was greedy for some pictures of the ocean in the sunlight.

But, as we approached the coast the sunlight bowed and retreated, leaving only low lying clouds and mists. We did stop at Ruby Beach, however, and I couldn’t help but capture its distinct character in some photos. Even though it was gray, it was extraordinarily beautiful. It was COLD walking down to the beach today, which caused me to move quickly and return to the car promptly. At Kalaloch it was much the same. And only an hour and a half before we were perspiring in the sunlit woods and peeling off our light jackets.

By this time it was after 4:00 and we were getting a little “hangry.” We purchased a bottled coffee and a candy bar from the Kalaloch mini mart and headed back toward Forks to find some dinner. Unfortunately, this day that was so anticipated and so longed for, simply escaped the planning stage. I forgot to bring water, snacks, or even sunscreen. (Thankfully, we always keep some bug spray in the car.)

We drove back through the thick coastal fog into the sunlight and back into fog again before we reached Forks, listening all the while to “The Pioneers.”

“Sully’s Hamburgers” was our destination. Because we were so hungry we ordered way too much and ate way too much, but every bite was satisfying. I took my after dinner three mile walk through town and halfway into the country and back again before checking in for the evening to write.

What a day! Two different climates; two different ecosystems; two different experiences of sacred beauty; but only one park. Such is the stunning nature of The Olympic National Park. And, there is so much more to discover.

Day 3: Exploring Our Own National Park

We have spent so much time exploring our nation’s National Parks, but strangely, have spent little time discovering the Olympic National Park located right in our own backyard. Today we planned to rectify that, if even in only a small way.

It was cold and lightly raining this morning when we packed the car in Long Beach. We walked back to “Benson’s By the Beach” for a hot breakfast fit for a road journey into unexplored territory. By 10:15 we were heading away from the coast and traveling north on old highway 101. At 12:30 we made a quick comfort stop in Hoquiam and traveled on through thick forested lands with little population. Humptulips was a blip along the road, as was Neilton before we turned into the Olympic National Park’s southern most point of interest: Lake Quinault.

We had visited Lake Quinault once when the kids were little and we camped along the lake shore. But that was over 30 years ago. We wanted to take the time to reacquaint ourselves with the wonders of the area and just take a little time for absorbing the beauty. And, it was stunningly beautiful; more beautiful than I remembered from 30 years ago. The shocking surprise was while we were there the sun broke through the cloud cover and instantly turned the lake a vivid blue and the trees bright vibrant greens. We walked a little way down to the edge of the lake and marveled at the sights. Then we visited the lodge and inquired as to the possibility of securing a room there sometime in the future. For a Friday in the middle of June, there seemed to be precious few people around. It was such a different experience from any other National Park we have ever visited.

There was a room available for tonight, we learned, but we had already made plans to continue on to another spot in the park before calling it a day. Next time we will certainly be more alert to the possibilities when planning a visit. I would love to stay in this little piece of heaven.

Traveling on, by 3:00 we were pulling into the parking for the Kalaloch Lodge. The lodge sits on a bluff above the waves at a most gorgeous spot along the coast. We pulled the car right up the edge and parked, sitting several minutes in silence just soaking up the incredible views. Deciding we didn’t really want to move, I got our picnic out (leftover pizza from last night; grapes and sparkling water) and we dined in Nature’s Cathedral.

As my Driver rested for his midafternoon nap, I walked the area and halfway down to the beach. It was lovely in every direction. Other than the beach itself, the main attraction is a series of tiny individual cabins that can be rented for overnighters. Once again, we realized we knew nothing like this existed so close to home and we vowed we would soon return to stay longer. And, once again, although it was a Friday late afternoon and people were checking in for the weekend, there were very few people around. Nothing like other National Parks we have visited.

By just after 5:00 we were checking into the Forks Motel along highway 101 and thinking about our plans for tomorrow. As we settled in I decided I needed a longer walk and took off to explore the length of the town which is only about a mile long and perhaps four or five blocks wide. Little, but more than adequate. And our room for the night is far superior to where we have been for the past two nights.

My walk allowed me to canvas the area restaurants and we selected a local Chinese restaurant for a light, late meal of some soup and mushu pork. It was certainly fine and much better than expected, but could never measure up to our favorite places in the city. Still, their handshaved noodles could hold their own. We enjoyed it and were glad we took the risk.

So, another day of exploring and learning about what our own back yard has to offer. There is boundless grace and beauty that we must plan to come back and enjoy at length.

Day 2: A Lazy Beach Day

Needing to open all the windows last night to make the room comfortable, we woke to a bit of a chilly morning. First order of business was to close the windows. But we did have a very restful night. Something about the beach air and a walk along the boardwalk contributed to restful sleep.

So, we continued to sleep well into the morning and set out almost at lunchtime for some breakfast. It was a short walk across the street to “Benson’s By the Beach” for a very satisfying country breakfast. My serving of bacon was so large I couldn’t even eat it all and had to ask for a doggie bag to bring it with me. It was way too good to leave on the plate.

Then we took a slow and leisurely drive the total length of the Long Beach Peninsula. While the weather was overcast, it was still lovely. I especially liked visiting Oysterville at the tip of the Peninsula. It is a tiny little community that just seems trapped in time. The church there was constructed in 1889 and is still being used to this day.  I had to take a little time and stop for the photographic opportunity. It’s a picture postcard kind of place located on the Willapa Bay side of the Peninsula. The only thing that would have made it nicer was a little sunshine.

We drove out to Leadbetter State Park, to the beach, past the place where my folks used to live and all the way down to Cape Disappointment and Ilwaco before turning back toward the main streets of Long Beach.

At this point, my Driver required a little rest, so it offered the perfect opportunity for me to explore the shops along the main drag in Long Beach. There are a few that are the same as 25 years ago, like “Marsh’s Free Museum” and “Dennis’ Supply and Hardware,” while others have certainly changed many times. Dennis’ is the most amazing store that carries almost everything in the world. It’s a joy and marvel just to walk through the store and see all manner of things that we never see in a city hardware store. Items such as shoes and clothing; canning and cooking supplies; every possible nut or bolt; screening; weed and feed; as well as toys and art supplies. It’s an excursion all its own to visit Dennis’.

Part of my job in walking the town was to scout out a place for some dinner. I had a few propositions for my Driver to make a decision. We ended up walking around the corner of our hotel to “The Long Beach Tavern” where my Driver had the best clam chowder he’s ever eaten. Enough said. My pizza was wonderful, too. Mission accomplished.

Not being able to totally divorce ourselves from the world, we made it back to our room in time for the CBS news. It’s far too chilly and misty tonight to walk the beach in the shorts and light jacket we packed when when we left Seattle on a predicted 95 degree day.

So, we are having a lazy beach day by the beach, reading and writing this evening. There isn’t a lovelier way in the world to spend a vacation evening.

Happy Birthday, dear Driver

Today is the day my dear Driver turns Medicare Age. Of course, we had to celebrate. Last week we planned for a little trip out of town just to mark the day.

Yesterday he had his first of three “knee shots,” and we had enough faith that it will work, we decided to test it by driving to the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach. It has been many years since we had been here and it was an exciting proposition.

We hastily packed small bags and threw them in the car, setting out for the road at 10:45. It was a little later than we had wanted, but no matter, we’re on vacation now. The weather was calling us to the beach as it was 84 degrees as we passed Tacoma. And, it would certainly get warmer.

Our first comfort stop came West of Olympia where we buzzed into a Barnes and Noble Store (a very nice one, actually) and also found ourselves in the check-out line with several titles. One of them was David McCollugh’s “The Pioneers” on audio. We promptly put it into the now ancient CD player in our little Dixie, and we continued on while learning more about the early history of our country and its expansion into the Ohio territory.

By the time we hit Montessanto, it was 91 degrees and my driver needed to rest his eyes for 20 or 30 minutes. I braved the heat and took a short walk around the tiny town. To my surprise, they had one of the most finely stocked Thriftway stores I’ve ever visited. There were more ethnic choices, and fresh baked assortments than we have in our neighborhood in the city. Plus, they had screamingly cool air-conditioning, which made me want to extend my visit.

Back on the road to the coast, one hour later we stopped in Raymond, a familiar stop from when we used to drive this route with our kids on the way to their grandparents. It was still the same, even 25 years later. Does Dairy Queen ever change?

One more hour, passed an extremely low tide on Willapa Bay, and we were checking into a funky motel in Long Beach. Amenities are scarce, but there is a bed and pillows, the most necessary items. We refreshed ourselves for a few minutes and set out again to meet a very unusual cousin. She was discovered by my dear driver during his ancestry research. What’s so interesting about her is, she is related by DNA to both my driver and me. How unusual is that?

She welcomed us to her little beach cabin and we sat for an hour just taking ancestry. When the time was right, we took her to the local Mexican restaurant, and we continued to talk. We found we had many more things in common than simply our shared DNA. Dinner was pleasant, and the conversation even more so.

Returning to our motel, with the air cooling down with the setting of the sun, we walked down to the boardwalk along the longest beach in the world: Long Beach. Needless to say, it was a lovely walk. Our sons called their father to wish him a happy birthday, and our celebration for today was complete.

A Birthday; a trip out of town for a change of scenery; meeting a new cousin related to BOTH of us, a Mexican dinner and a walk along the beach at sunset. What could be better? Now we can rejoice in the grace of being officially “old” together. Happy Birthday my dear driver, companion, lover, and friend. Happy Birthday.

Relishing the Familiar

The Yakima morning greeted us with light rain and gentle temps. We packed the car and set out looking for some canning supplies. For some reason, while driving through the countryside yesterday, we decided we should consider doing some canning again this summer. I had given all my canning equipment away when we moved to D.C. thinking I would never use it again. (At that time it had probably been about 20 years since I had used it . . . easy to think I wouldn’t use it again.) But, know it seemed like the most natural thing to do with our summer crops that are growing in our garden.

The exploration for canning supplies took us to three different establishments before we found an old-style canner like the one I had given away. I had thought a rural community would have these things; apparently they are not as easily found as I had thought.

With our new found canner and several boxes of jars, we pointed the car north and west toward home. The rain poured and made driving difficult for about an hour. Never before have we encountered rain while driving from Yakima to Snoqualmie. The hillsides that are so familiarly brown and arid were even a little green with young growth! The clouds made shapes and moved across the wide open skies dramatically. It continued to rain in the mountains (as it so often does) and we stayed alert by finishing our listening to Barack Obama’s book, which we enjoyed immensely.

A stop at North Bend allowed for a comfort stop and we went on to also stop in Issaquah where we met our son for a few minutes after his work day.

To wait out the commuter traffic at the end of the day, we found a pizza restaurant that fit the bill nicely. By this time we were quite hungry and Tutta Bella’s filled us with hot and savory flavors atop a chewy crust that could not have been more perfect.

The final miles flew away behind us and we were once again home: that comfortable and familiar place that is even now more welcoming and more comfortable for having left it for a few days and nights. What words are there to describe that feeling which allows us to relish and appreciate something more simply because we have been far from it for a time? Pick whatever name you like, but I will call it grace.

Friends Reunited

14 May 2019

We awoke with the brightening clouds and spitting rain. But, no matter. We were excited for the next item on our agenda for this spring outing- a visit to McNary Air Field in Salem, OR. Here there is a foundation of interested folks who are restoring a 75 year old B-17 aircraft. After World War II, when bombers were no longer needed, the Army scrapped most of them. But there were some planes that escaped the destruction. This particular plane was purchased by a man who brought it to Oregon to sit on top of his gas station where it sat for several decades. (See The Lacey Lady) Unfortunately over the years, parts and pieces went missing, and the pigeons found it a most agreeable home. So, during that time there was a lot of deterioration. Four years ago the plane was removed from the top of the gas station and moved to McNary Field where there is a dedicated group putting all the puzzle pieces back together, hoping that one day the plane may be air worthy again.

The adjacent museum was small, but nicely arranged with interesting articles relating to the planes and the 8th Air Corps. The plane lay about the hangar in barely recognizable pieces. But there was lots of energy and enthusiasm around the project and faith that one day she would actually return to the air. I took lots of pictures and realized in the middle of my tour that I was having technical difficulties and I was not getting any pictures. It’s just for situations like this that I carry two (or more) cameras. Unfortunately, the pictures I did take I can’t download until we return home, so my description of the aluminium obstacle course strewn across the hangar floor will have to suffice for now. I did, however, see The Lacey Lady in her “disassembled” glory during her transformation back to life.

By noon we were back in Portland to visit with dear friends who lived close when both our families were deeply engrossed in the day to day drama of kids growing up. It is always a joy to reunite with these special friends. Somehow all the time that has passed since we last met melts away like ice in a forgotten drink on a hot summer day and we can pick up our friendship right where we left it. Even after such a length of time, our friendship is as fresh and vibrant as it was when we were living close and seeing each other every day.

We got a tour of their new condo, where they have successfully downsized, and are enjoying life in a lovely part of NE Portland. We had lunch at a sweet little cafe in their new neighborhood and then made plans to meet them later that evening at their new cabin out near the foothills of Mount Hood.

They served us a delicious dinner which was absolutely shared eucharist; and we talked, told storied, reconnected, laughed and joked into the evening. Their cabin is a grace-filled, quiet retreat from the hustle and bustel of city life. We were renewed and refreshed by our longstanding friendship as well as by the beauty and serenity of the place.

15 May 2019

I dreamed through the night of seeing eagles nesting near the water and my dad asking if I had seen the chicks in the nest. The dream was very clear and vivid. When I awoke, I was greeted by a brilliant blue jay hopping and flitting right outside our bedroom window!

Breakfast was another delightful eucharist and we carried on our discussions and stories from the night before. What a grace it is to have friends who accept you and whom you can talk with about so many interesting topics.

As we finished the breakfast dishes our friends invited us to walk with them down to the the boardwalk they had made on their property that crosses a small stream. Even though the day was overcast and threatening rain, the walk was lovely and the stream a beautiful sight. I simply love the sounds of a babbling brook. It sounds to me like Mother Nature laughing and inviting us to share in her joy. That certainly wasn’t difficult.

Our friends shared the stories of clearing the property and planting trees, as well as how they made some of their decisions with the space, the grading, the materials and all the hard work involved in making their dream become a reality. We rejoice with them in the beauty and peace they have brought to this special place. And we are so grateful for their gracious hospitality as they shared the beauty of this place with us.

As the clock reached noon, we left our friends with hugs of love and gratitude and made our way to Madras, OR where the Erickson Foundation also houses a B-17 in the process of being repainted and restored.

The drive to Madras took us south through the Mount Hood forest and the rises and falls of mountain roads. At one point we passed 4161 feet of elevation and could still see snow along the roadside.

Madras airfield was not difficult to find and as we entered the museum I never even had to inquire if the B-17 I was in search of was located on this site. There she sat – dissected – but entirely recognizable as men and women worked diligently around her.  The woman who took our entry fee was so excited that I was excited and she struck up a lively conversation about the plane and what a thrill it was for her to work there every day. I told her I had seen 27 of the remaining planes and seeing Ye Old Pub was the only reason we came all the way from Seattle. Her disbelief was visible. She questioned me and offered, “Oh, if I could, I would give you a piece of the plane. Wouldn’t you just love that?” Well . . . indeed I would, but I also knew that was a near impossibility. I laughed and started to walk into the museum to inspect the plane more closely. She disappeared and then reappeared as I reached the nose of the plane. “Here!” She offered. “It’s a nut from the plane. Just think, a nut from 1944 that’s been in this plane all these years!” She handed me a greasy nut just smaller than a dime. “Oh, maybe I should wipe the grease off,” she exclaimed. “No, please don’t,” I said. “It’s part of the authenticity. Leave it just as it is.” I thanked her multiple times and she was overjoyed to think she has given me something I would cherish that came from this plane. The men and women working on the plane all stopped to smile and wave before going back to their work. It was pretty funny, really. But now I own an authentic piece of a B-17plane. A single nut. For a B-17 nut. What could be more appropriate?

As we left I thanked her again and my driver wanted to have her recommendation for where to stop for an early dinner. Without hesitation, she suggested we go to Rio’s Mexican. Providing, of course, we liked Mexican food. Since we certainly do, we made our way to Rio’s and had an excellent dinner. It was a small place with only about eight tables, and one man working the door, the cash register, the tables and the kitchen! He seemed to have no trouble doing it all. And, it truly was excellent.

Nourished for the rest of the drive, we travelled on across the great Columbia River to Yakima for the night. Along the way we listened to “Dreams From My Father” read by the author, Barack Obama. It’s a lovely, lyrical book with lots of things to think about: family, responsibility, relationships, expectations, as well as many other topics. We’ve really enjoyed it.

We stopped at 6:00 for a comfort stop in Moro, OR and quickly made a reservation for a room in Yakima. Back on the road as the light began to wane and we made it through the hills and vales of northern Oregon and southern Washington before stopping in Yakima exactly at 8:00 p.m.

The desk clerk was not prepared for our arrival, but quickly found us on the computer. He told us we got the last room available for the night and he had to turn away a man who was standing at the counter when our computer reservation came through.

While I felt sorry for the gentleman who had to look elsewhere for a room, how could that be anything but grace for us ? We had a lovely visit with friends; enjoyed their mountain retreat; got to see another B-17; receive a nut from the overhaul of the plane; enjoy terrific Mexican food; as well as the beautiful sights of the landscape as we traveled; and get the very last room available. It all sounds like grace to me.

A Little Spring Outing

What could be lovelier than a spring outing?

After so many months of being housebound due to illness and recovery, the thought of an out of town adventure almost had us giddy. The weather was perfect, the plans made, and the escape put into action. We left Seattle about 10:00 a.m. after a coffee stop and a quick car wash. Who wants to be seen in a dirty car while exploring the countryside? Not us!

We pointed ourselves south and set out. First stop: Tacoma and the neighborhood where we lived 42 years ago when we first moved to the Northwest. We had not been back to the old area for several decades. While the ravages of time certainly had made its mark, the old familiar landmarks were still there, as was our little duplex we rented for three years at $175 a month. Yes, it really was 42 years ago!

We drove on until we needed a lunch break and stopped along the freeway at a favorite spot we have frequented many times over the years. The Country Cousin in Chehalis did not disappoint. Revived and a little rested we journeyed on.

By 4:00 p.m. we had come to our first destination, Happy Valley, OR. We stopped at a shopping center to spend some time until we had to be at the next place. I bought a pair of shoes and slowly walked the Hobby Lobby to see what different items Oregon might have to offer the avid crafter.

At 6:00 we made our way across the freeway to the home of a third cousin my driver had found on Ancestry. I remember as a little girl meeting this cousin’s grandmother when we lived in Germany, but I couldn’t remember if I had ever met this cousin. She and her husband were delightful and welcomed us to their home with warm hugs. We acquainted ourselves and shared family stories while enjoying take out Thai food for dinner.

How amazing it was to feel so familiar and comfortable with these people simply because we shared the same ancestors, even though that was several generations back. There is something in the DNA; something in the heritage; something in the shared culture that immediately makes “family” of us even though we had never met before. Pictures were shared; family trees examined; and new information exchanged. We learned that this cousin’s grandmother, the woman whom I remember meeting when I was a little girl, received the “Mother’s Cross” from the Nazi party. My cousin has the papers to prove it, although she does not know what happened to the cross itself. What a stunning tidbit of family history. Truly stunning. They were Germans, living in Germany, and any mother who had a certain number of children was honored for her contribution to society and the future of Germany.

We left their home with hugs and gratitude for this grace-filled time that allowed us to connect and call each other family even after all these years.

A few more miles down the road and we stopped for the night at a funky motel in Salem. All the better to be close to the next attraction on the agenda for tomorrow.

Day 16: Coming Home

December 20, 2018

And, then we went home. We did make it, (yesterday) safe and sound, back to the coldest of cold Northwest winters. But, first we had to travel, yet again, to get there – or here.

Because of my travel anxiety, I made my driver plan for an extra early exit from our condo in order to get to the airport with a three hour window. I couldn’t imagine what the crowds would be like, and every news program was reporting “the busiest travel time of year.”

So, we left the Royal Sea Cliff at 7:30; stopped to fill the car with gas at the Costco gas station (which opened at 4:30 a.m.); returned the rental car to Hertz; grabbed their shuttle to the airport; and arrived before there were any clerks at the Alaska ticket windows. We had printed our boarding passes and baggage tags, but we needed the nifty little plastic pouches to put the printed baggage tags into. There were none to be seen anywhere. And, there were no lines. There were no clerks! We were the only people there. We had to ask a cleaning guy if he knew where we could get an Alaska tag for our luggage. He kindly informed us the counter people would be out in a minute. They were having their morning meeting. (Or was it just their morning coffee? I wondered.) But, eventually, someone did come out and after trying three different keys in three different cupboards, found some baggage tag pouches for us.

We folded our printed pages and affixed them in the pouches and to our bags and went to the next check point – the agriculture check point. We had to send all our checked baggage through the agriculture screening before it could be checked with the airlines. Thankfully, there was no line and we walked right up to the conveyor belt and dumped our luggage on.

Then we wound around to find a TSA line, which at that hour was, thankfully, minimal. We had to remove our shoes, and cameras, laptops, tablets, game systems, and any snacks and put them in buckets to go through screening. Since I had all the tech equipment, I carefully took off my shoes first this time, before dealing with the cameras. They all happily took their conveyor ride through the x ray and waited on the other side for us.

Meanwhile, we were sent through a full body scanner. Stand here; face this direction; feet here, raise your hands over your head . . . “Ok, step, over here please.” There was another set of little printed feet where I waited, not knowing what would be next. The TSA agent came around and pulled up my left sleeve. “Oh,” she exclaimed, “It’s because you have two on.” And, yes, indeed, I did “have two on” as I wear a regular watch and a fit bit. When she saw my watch she exclaimed, “Oh, that’s pretty neat. Where did you get that? Online?” Yes, I replied, online. She liked it very much and wondered if they had it in men’s sizes because she thought her husband would like a watch like that. “This is a man’s watch,” I informed her. She waved me on. A moment later, as I was packing up my cameras after their ride through screening, she came back and took my arm again, pulling my wrist away from its packing chore. “What’s the name on that watch? I really want to get one for my husband.”

I can only imagine that little scenario took place because there was no one else in line . . . I hope her husband gets a new watch for Christmas. If she ordered it by today it might have time for delivery before the 25th.

Heaving a sigh of relief that we were through security without mishap, we found our gate (not hard to do as there were only 10 gates in the whole airport) and found a seat to camp out and pass the time until boarding at noon.

In the open air of the concourse of the airport there were men playing and singing while women danced hula dances. It was very mesmerizing – and their dancing and voices were lovely. Every airport should hire them to sooth the masses. Kona airport is also unusual in that they have no jet causeways. Passengers climb into and out of the planes on “old school” ramps and stairways in the open air. I guess it’s easy when you never have to worry about foul weather.

Eventually our time came to board the plane and we were off – about 20 minutes late by the schedule. But no matter. We were in the air and on our way home.

Six hours and thirty minutes later, we landed in Seattle and our son picked us up. The airport was packed to the seams by that time with holiday travelers. We were so thankful this was the end of our trip and not the beginning.

We got delivered to our doorstep after paying our driver with a pizza and salad dinner. It couldn’t have been a more perfect way to end two weeks in paradise. Home again.

It was wonderful to do; wonderful to be there; wonderful to experience and explore new and different places; but oh, so wonderful to be home! The entire excursion was graced and we are immensely grateful and filled with memories and pictures to entertain us through the winters to come.

Now, we get to enjoy the pineapples we shipped to ourselves. Just a little reminder of the golden sun and graceful, sweet taste of Maui.