Archive for the ‘pacific nw’ Category

Juliette woke up on Thursday morning eager to get back on her wheels, so we headed over to the basketball courts to let her practice her turns.  She did circle after circle around Shane and I while the Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces looped through my head.

A quick game of tag, a speedy ride home, and then high fives were due all around.  You rock, Jules.

We drove up to Bend later that morning for legit coffee at Strictly Organic and legit beer at Immersion Brewing.  Gotta stay hydrated!

And then we popped over to Farewell Bend Park for a romp on the playground and a walk along the Deschutes River Trail.

I love the terrain along here – feels like part desert canyon, part mountain woods.

We were dusty and tired after our riverside jaunt, so we pulled off at Paulina Creek on our way home to stretch out and put our feet in the calm, cool water.

This little oasis was just so…oasis-y.

Sometimes this girl refuses to have her picture taken.  And sometimes, this…

Juliette fished pinecones out of the water while I sat back and sealed this moment away in my happy PNW memory bank.

“Dips, Mommy, more dips!”

I closed out our final evening in La Pine with a sunset stroll through the neighborhood – I was ready to get back to Seattle but sure was going to miss this slow, quiet life we’d been living for the past few days.

We said goodbye to my mom and dad (and Bernie!) on Friday morning and hit the road to Portland.

First though, because you know I like to pack it in, a stop at Waldo Lake to see if the water there was as beautiful as we’d read it was.

IT WAS.

Seriously, this lake is something else, with water that ranged from the deepest cerulean blue to the clearest turquoise.

Dang it,  Jules!  Summer looks so lovely on you.

Shane asked me the other night if I’m more of a lake person or a beach person and at the time I said I was pretty evenly drawn to both.  But after taking another look at these pictures, I think it’s lakes for the win.

And with that, the paddle board was deflated and Central Oregon Bonanza 2017 was a wrap.  (Waaaahhhhh!)

We powered on to Portland for a one-night layover, where we were greeted by my brother with a couple of cold home brews.  Jack and La Verne coincidentally rolled into town a couple of hours later to begin their own Oregonian vacation, so they joined our party for a bit.

Together again and it feels so good!

 

Saturday morning was filled with cookies, cousin time, and a riverside stroll…

We got home late Saturday afternoon, dropped our bags on the floor, and ventured only as far as Costco on Sunday.  We were beat.  You’re just too good, Oregon.  Too good.

I have a tendency to over-do the sight-seeing and the getting-out when we vacation, but I made a conscious effort to lay a little lower during our week in La Pine.  Our mornings were always leisurely, with coffee and puzzles and maybe a short stroll around the block.  The espresso pickin’s are slim in my parents’ little town, but my mom and I did our darnedest to track down the best latte within a few-mile radius.  After discovering that the favorite neighborhood diner got rid of their espresso machine, we found ourselves at the coffee cart in the parking lot next to the gas station.  Desperate times, people, desperate times.

…And a post-latte morning walk (Jules hearts Bernie 4-ever).

Jules can lay low for only so long, so around lunchtime we drove up to Bend to check out the pool at the Juniper Swim Center, aka Juliette’s New Happy Place.

This place was magical, with pools and a splash pad and slides of all sizes.

After seeing that look of alarm on Juliette’s face as she blipped down the tiny slide, I was surprised to hear her say she wanted to do the BIG slide with Daddy.  I watched her excitedly wait in line, knowing this would end in either laughter or tears.

Loved it!

“Again, Daddy, AGAIN!”

The third time around she asked to go by herself – I waited near the bottom, a little anxious, but my worry was all for naught.  She shot out the end of that thing into the water, bobbed right up, and zipped back to the stairs for another round.

Getting Juliette out of the pool took no small amount of coaxing, but with the promise of french fries and a lollipop, we lured her out and headed over to Worthy Brewing for dinner.

We spent the evening chasing Juliette around the neighborhood on her bike – a couple of small wobbles, and then this girl was solidly off to the races.

I was trailing 50 feet behind her and Shane with the giddiest, proudest grin on my face when a neighbor called from their front yard, “You sure look happy!  Did you win the lottery or somethin’?”

I mean, she is one in a million…

On Wednesday we opted for an easy walk along the Deschutes River up to Benham Falls.

This river is so serene in places, so mighty in others.

Hiking with Jules can be the best of times or the hardest of times.  She can be an amazing little trooper or she can be whiny and stubborn and slow.  Usually she’s some of each within the same mile.  We’ve learned to roll with it.

We picnicked in a shady grove of pines and then Shane strung up the hammock as a makeshift swing for Juliette.

I was jonesing to get out on the paddle board that afternoon, so we went over to Crane Prairie for a quick row – it turned out to be super, super-smoky over there, but goodness, it was quiet.

My dad said there’s usually a beautiful view of the mountains from here.  I’m afraid I just had to take his word for it…

While Shane got out for his turn, Jules and my dad played a rousing game of “guess which hand”.  Three year olds can be so easily amused.

Almost apocalyptic, isn’t it?

Dip those toes while you can, darlin’.  Summer is waning!

Up next: more rivers, more lakes, more mountain zen.

AUGUST.  August was good.  I think we vacationed almost as many days as we worked this month.  Carpe summer, right?

We set out for La Pine to visit my parents two weeks ago, bags packed with swimsuits, floaties, and eclipse glasses.  We spent Friday night at a hotel in Salem to break up the trip, and let me tell you, we rocked that Hampton Inn.  The pool!  The Costco next door!  The brewpub down the street!  The breakfast waffle bar!  Suburban stays have their perks.

We grabbed coffee on Saturday morning at Salem’s finest cafe and then powered south.

Central Oregon has been pummeled by wildfires this summer, made apparent by the haze of smoke that hung over highway 58 east of Eugene.

We did a little sightseeing along the way, popping out to see gushing Salt Creek Falls.

We landed in La Pine around lunchtime, stiff-legged and a little tired of the Moana soundtrack, but hey, we made it!  Hi, Bernie!

My parents moved into a new house in December, and while they downsized their yard, they gained a great neighborhood park, complete with basketball courts and a soccer field and a club house.  It was the perfect place for Juliette to get her wiggles out.

Juliette (and her grandma, and her dad, and her mom) did dozens of laps around this soccer field over the course of the week.  “Chase me, Grandma!  CHASE ME!”  I’m done pretending I can’t catch her – I really can’t catch her.

Shane and I played a round of tennis (aka “fetch”) at the high school tennis courts that evening while my dad and Juliette took Bernie for a walk.  They spotted a family of deer in the woods and Shane and I managed to avoid twisting any ankles.  Wins all around.

Shane was bound and determined to make it to the path of totality for Monday’s eclipse, so he set out for Madras early Sunday morning to join some friends who had snagged a campsite.  My FOT (Fear Of Traffic) outweighed my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), so Juliette and I opted to stay closer to home, enjoying a quiet day at Twin Lake with my mom and dad.

It was smoky out there, but so still and serene.  For awhile, we had the whole place to ourselves.

We kayaked and paddle-boarded and floated the day away.

We super-duper love the lake life.

Some days, this girl literally lights up my world…

A lot of days, actually.

(I just told her that the general store down the shore sells ice cream.)

Our evening was a quiet bout of puzzle-mania back at the house.

Shane’s evening was quiet, too!

Madras was touted as Oregon’s premier eclipse-viewing location – everything I read projected total mayhem in the town.  Somehow, though, Shane found an introvert’s dream spot amidst the crowds.

The big event began around 9:15 Monday morning – we grabbed our glasses and walked over to the soccer field to spread out and wait for 10:30 am dusk.  Even as we were just getting started with a meager bite out of the sun, Juliette was waaaaay impressed.

Way impressed for a minute, that is.  Then it was all, “Chase me, Grandpa!  CHASE ME!”

In between bouts of beach ball soccer, we watched the sun fade to 99% coverage.  The light was eerily gray and suddenly it was so chilly that goosebumps popped up on my arms.  It felt kind of other-worldly out there.

Shane, though…he said the total eclipse blew his mind.  Texas 2024!

We chilled at home in the afternoon with puzzles and homemade coconut treats.

Shane rolled back into town in the evening and joined us for dinner at the local Mexican joint.  This kiddo missed her dad somethin’ fierce.  Together again!

That evening Juliette asked Shane to put the pedals back on her big-kid bike – he’d taken them off so that she could scoot around on it like a bigger version of the red balance bike she’s been rocking since she was two.  He obliged and held fast to the back of her seat, keeping her steady as she wobbled up and down the driveway.

And then, before I could tell him not to, he…let go.  And she…kept on going!

Oh, baby girl.  Ride like the wind.  Oregon’s a magical place.

Saturday on the Canal was relatively quiet.  Juliette was sharing a room with her cousins and would get up and play with them for awhile before traipsing over to the boathouse to say good morning to Shane and I.  The luxury of sleeping until 8:00!

The girls spent much of the morning combing the low-tide beach, turning over rocks in search of tiny hermit crabs.

With each new discovery, there was applause and exclamations of Whooooooaaaaaa!

While they treasure-hunted, I slipped away for a long morning paddle on the smooth, calm water.

A seal kept me company along the way, popping his head up to say hello every few minutes, and an eagle crossed the canal just as I was turning around.  The gratitude and serenity I felt in those 45 minutes was palpable.

And except for my flying and flippered friends, I had that expanse of water all to myself!  Not a soul in sight until I neared the house and saw Mitch and Kathryn paddling toward me in the kayaks.

My zen was nearly killed when I returned to a cranky, whining three year old, so I packed a quick picnic lunch and asked Shane to throw Juliette in the car – after two solid days of intense cousin-play, I think she needed a chance to mellow out.  We found a perfect little perch on the shore of Lake Cushman and ate our sandwiches in relative quietude.

Soak up that Vitamin D, kiddo!

Reset and refreshed, we returned to the house to change out of our swimsuits and drive up the road to the Hama Hama Seafood Co for drinks and snacks.  Shane hung back at the house because, well, rumblies…by this point he was really questioning his decision to self-harvest oysters.  And gosh, he missed out – the rosé was crisp and refreshing and the crab cakes might have been the best I’ve ever had.

Plus, corn hole!

And a mountain of oyster shells.

We returned home with ample time for an evening paddle, so Juliette and I bobbed around the canal for awhile, photo-bombing a bride and groom that were taking their wedding pictures on a nearby dock.

And then we gathered on the deck for a riveting game of Clue – I haven’t played this game for years, but it holds up!

This is the point at which Morgan thought she’d cracked the case (she hadn’t)…

There were s’mores for dessert and gin and tonics for post-dessert and then…good night.

On Sunday we drove down toward Belfair to do some exploring at the Thelar Wetlands (again sans Shane, poor guy…).

The wetlands were warm and lush and bursting with blackberries.

Some of which were quite tart!

Juliette had a tough time keeping up with the group, as she couldn’t help but stop for a snack at each and every berry patch.

We spent the afternoon lazing and paddling back at the house, enjoying our beloved little stretch of beach.

Juliette adopted this mermaid statue as her baby for the weekend and spent a good while brushing its hair and feeding it grapes.

Elise monkeyed around and worked on her cartwheels…

And then there was an epic pre-dinner dance party, where Morgan and Elise taught us all how to do the Dab.

We ended the day at the Mexican restaurant down the road, feasting on giant burritos and jumbo margaritas (happy early birthday, Kathryn!).

Shane, thankfully, was on the upswing by Monday morning and played cards with the kids while I packed up the car.  Sadly, our time at our waterfront abode had come to an end.

First, though, one more dip!  We all headed over to the beach at Lake Cushman for more swimming, more paddling, more mountain magic.

This girl seriously rocked the paddle board.

And this one with the kayak!  Lake kids, through and through.

It took some coaxing to get Juliette off the board and into the water, but finally she agreed to give the donut a go and swim out to the “island” to do some exploring.

I snuck in one last long paddle session before it was time to let the air out of that thing – I’ve never the enjoyed our SUP as much as I did over those few days.  The whooshing sound as it deflated was almost too much to bear!

Board packed, it was time to say our good-byes.  Thanks, Jarrells, for the solid fill of water and wine and sun.  Oyster-induced toilet time aside (lesson learned!), it was magnificent.

My brother and sister-in-law have back-to-back milestone birthdays this summer and kindly invited Shane, Juliette, and me to do some celebratin’ with them for a few days at a lovely little cottage on the Hood Canal.  Within two minutes of rolling up to the house last Thursday, Juliette was shedding her clothes and digging in her suitcase for her swimsuit, eager to join her cousins at the oyster-littered beach in our front yard.  The girls splashed around while Shane got to work looking for an afternoon snack.

The oysters were smooth and briney and…apparently full of bacteria.  I’ll get to that later.

The afternoon was full of paddling and kayaking and cold drinks down by the water.  THAT WATER!  It was almost Caribbean-like in its color, kind of dreamy and mysterious in the haze of wildfire smoke that had drifted down from BC.

She’s my favorite first mate.

Paddle boarding doesn’t get much better than this…

All the girls loved being on the water, but Elise was particularly insatiable, wanting to hop from the kayak to the paddle board and then right into the canal, where she bobbed around in her life jacket.

When the late afternoon winds picked up, Shane looped the kite line around a log and let it flap in the breeze, hands-free.

Between the swing and the porch and the beach and the open lawn, it was like these kids were living in their very own playground!

 

Shane quickly found his favorite piece of playground equipment…

Mitch and Kathryn picked up a filet of fresh salmon for dinner and we all enjoyed a meal with a view from our respective kids’ and grown-ups’ tables.

Then it was back down to the beach for our three little fish!

Morgan!  I’ve missed you so.

Bedtime books were read in the front yard and then three salty, tired kiddos crashed out in the upstairs bedroom.

All was quiet.

Shane was up early on Friday for a smoky sunrise paddle.

He returned with a freshly-picked oyster and shucked it on the porch while the girls watched with skepticism.  If only he’d listened when they told him it didn’t look very yummy…  (Granted, no oyster looks yummy to a three year old.)

After breakfast, we piled into our cars and drove over to Olympic National Forest for a hike along the Skokomish River.

The shady woods were a lovely refuge from the heat.

And just as the chorus of are-we-there-yet’s was beginning, we arrived at the bridge near the Staircase Rapids, which was the perfect place for a lunch break.

And a refreshing dip.

Dads and daughters!

Once we’d polished off our PB&J’s and skipped a few hundred rocks, we hit the trail again.

Made it!

Shane had read about this particular rock at Lake Cushman as the perfect place for some low-risk cliff-jumping, so made a stop on the way back to watch him walk on the (conservative) wild side.

He hovered there at the edge for a couple of minutes and there was a moment when I thought he might turn back.

But, Ka-Bam!

Post-jump, we rewarded our little troopers with cones from the Hoodsport ice cream shop.

And then there was nothin’ to do but chill, with books and games and lemonade (and beer).

It’s a good vacation when you spend as much time in your swimsuit as you do in your clothes!

In another burst of daring-ness, Shane took the paddle board out in the evening for a very wavy ride.

And then did some canal gymnastics, to the girls’ delight.

After dinner, the fire pit beckoned…

A few sugar-induced laps were run around the yard, and again the kids (and adults) were completely tuckered out.  Life on the water is so wonderfully exhausting.

Up next:  more water-play, more cousin-love, and Shane’s insides explode.  Stay tuned.

The final installment on our Canadian adventures:

Friday morning was much like the others, waking up to a canopy of green overhead, reluctantly leaving the cocoon of our sleeping bags and then dragging our chairs into a patch of sun to eat and read and laze.

I bemoaned the burn ban in those chilly mornings hours, but Jules and Isaiah warmed themselves by their pretend campfire, assembling s’mores out of moss marshmallows and tree bark graham crackers.

We returned to Alta Lake with the Rusts after breakfast, as we couldn’t imagine a better place to lunch and  lounge.

Juliette might not have any idea just how special these places we visit are, but I like to think we’re instilling in her a lifelong love of being outside, showing her that the world is big and beautiful and meant to be adored.

Shuttle Shane…

I tried to get Jules to the dock sans paddleboard, but once I dipped her waist-deep in the cold lake, she begged for mercy – we quickly waded back to the shore for frisbee and snacks.

This place was a dream, I tell ya’.

And I love how those freckles on her nose get a little bit darker with each subsequent camping trip!

Having fully reveled in the goodness of Alta Lake, I asked Shane if we could swing by nearby Logger Lake on the way back to camp, just to see how it stacked up.  I had read that Logger Lake is small but special, as it sits atop an extinct volcano.

And as was the case with any sight we saw that week, it was worth the trip!

I’m not a big lake swimmer, as I like my water chlorinated and at a balmy 90 degrees, but I couldn’t resist taking a plunge.  Plus, after three days without showering, I needed a rinse.

Swimsuit, sneakers, and a dirty butt – such a good look on her.

Juliette spent the hike back down to the car pretending that Shane was a great big bear that she could keep at bay only through the powers of her magic wand.  Whatever keeps her moving!

I put Juliette into her pajamas early that evening, as it seemed she was on the verge of collapsing into sleep at any moment.  She was completely exhausted.

And yet…

Early bedtime be damned.  This kid was set on an evening bike ride.

We closed out our last full day at camp with tacos and wine and one last round of s’mores.  While I was feeling awfully antsy for a hot shower and a set of clean sheets, I sure was going to miss this place.  I loved feeling so away from it all, loved the happy chorus of goodnights yelled by the kids to one another as they were zipped into their respective tents, loved making do with less as I got dressed out of a duffel bag rather than an over-stuffed closet and cooked meals out of a cooler rather than a crowded fridge.

Even bedtime books were simpler, as Jules chose from a stack of three rather than a shelf of dozens.

We polished off the last of our oatmeal and yogurt and coffee on Saturday morning and lingered in our favorite sunny circle.

The kids harvested huckleberries while the grownups packed…

Saturday was Jason’s birthday and he was clearly intent on proving his youth, despite the added notch on his age belt!

And then, tents down and cars loaded, it was time to snap our obligatory group pics and hit the road.

(Shane, you really need to work on your funny face!)

We stopped for lunch at Watershed Bar and Grill in Squamish, which looked a little divey from the street, but once we walked up over the bluff to the restaurant’s front door, we were greeted with this tableside view!

 

These mountains!  That river!  So hard to say good-bye.

That said, hot showers and cold, bubbly wine certainly eased my post-camping blues.  We had booked a night at a hotel in Richmond, just outside of Vancouver, to do some big-city eating and drinking with Jack and La Verne.  After Happy Hour beverages at the Fairmont, we all gathered at the Richmond Night Market for a new kind of adventure.

This place was big and bustling and a little bit hokey – such a stark contrast to campsite #20.

I mean, seriously, it was crazy-town!

But it had all the meat on a stick a girl could ever want.

Happy Birthday, J!

And wow, happy early birthday to me, ’cause this mango shave ice was soooooo good.

We woke up late-ish on Sunday morning and went downstairs to Starbucks for a latte and a vanilla steamer.

Civilization has its perks, huh Jules?

We all stuffed ourselves silly with Dim Sum later that morning, oohing and ahhing with each new dish that would magically appear at the table.

And then there was nothing left to do but hit the duty-free shop and head for home.  Ohhhhh, Canada.  We knew you were good, but wow, we had no idea.

Mornings at camp are some of my favorite times, sipping coffee while stirring oatmeal at the campstove,  stretching breakfast into an hour-long affair.  Juliette gets a big mug of warm cinnamon milk and Shane fries up a pan of breakfast sausages and we do none of the rushing around that our typical weekdays entail.

I was just settling into my chair with my second cup of coffee on Thursday morning when I heard a ruckus from the other end of the campsite and saw Jason marching toward the bridge with a log hoisted over his head, the kids excitedly trailing behind.  I couldn’t help but follow.

This bunch of folks is just so good at the camping shenanigans.

Once we’d log-jammed the river, I headed back to my seat in the sun.

And the kids had a go on the slack line…

BUPS!

We rallied late morning and piled into our cars to head out for a hike up to Cheakamus Lake.  Shane hauled the paddleboard, because, well, Shane.

We weren’t the speediest bunch, per se, but that was ok, as there was plenty of scenery to savor along the way, from deep dark woods…

To lush, glowing thickets.

Juliette was a trooper, though when J offered to put her up on his shoulders two miles in, she was quick to accept.

Some risks are just too good to pass up.

We eventually made it to the lake and hunkered down on a tiny patch of lakefront while Shane paddled ahead to see if there was a larger place to spread out for lunch.

We were waved ahead to a perfect sitting log and ate our sandwiches while the guys took turns on the paddleboard.

This place was so worth the trek!

I got out on the SUP for a few minutes but turned back when the choppy, freezing cold water started lapping over my board.  Contrary to Jason, I find that some risks aren’t worth taking!

The hike back to the cars took some coaxing in the form of a perpetual game of hike and seek, where the kids would run ahead to hide behind trees and the adults would feign utter astonishment each time they jumped out.  Also, candy.

The rest of the afternoon was quiet, with a quick spin through Whistler village for wine and ice, followed by plenty of campsite reading, hammocking, and biking.

The kids tossed a few more sticks in the river…

And then goodnight hugs were shared all around.

The great outdoors continue to beckon – on 07/11 we grabbed our passports, put on our adventure-hats, and headed north to the wondrous land of Canada with a hope and a prayer that the no-reservations campground on our list would have an open site and running water.

Negatory on the running water, but WOO-HOO to finding a site!  We snagged the very best spot at Cal-Cheak campground near Whistler, right on the river and incredibly private (note to self: #21 on the south loop is where it’s at!).

Shane’s become a master at setting up camp, popping up our tent and stringing up our hammock in a matter of minutes.

We spent the late afternoon settling into our new home and ate an easy dinner of brats while waiting for the Rust clan to arrive.

Though there was no running drinkable water on-site, rushing water was in abundance, as we were right at the nexus of two roaring rivers.  We spent a lot of time down here, skipping rocks and throwing sticks and rinsing our dusty feet.

The Rusts rolled up in the evening and we all hung out for a bit before turning in around 9:00.  Jules insisted on donning her headlamp on our pre-bedtime trip to the potty, just in case it turned dark during the 2-minute walk back to our tent.

We woke up around 7:30 most days but lingered in the tent until well after 8:00, reading and snuggling and playing until the urge to pee drove us from our sleeping bags.

Shane and Jason headed out for a morning run and allowed the boys to gallop across the suspension bridge with them before they were sent back to chill with the moms.

The Rusts went south around lunchtime to check out the kite-boarding scene while Shane, Jules, and I headed north to Whistler to grab groceries and to see if Alta Lake was as good as we’d heard.  Answer:  a resounding YES.

This place was amazing, with a wide-open lawn, stunning mountain views, and clear, shallow waters.  We’ve seen a lot of lakes over the past few years, but this one might be my all-time favorite.

I got out for a spin on the SUP and as the winds pushed me north, I found an opening in a patch of reeds and discovered a lovely little channel, filled with lily pads and pond lilies.

The against-the-wind row back to Shane and Juliette was a little dicey, and there was a period of a few minutes where I felt like I was paddling my heart out and going nowhere, but eventually I made it to the shore where all was serene.

Juliette was thrilled to discover little tadpoles circling her feet and was over the moon when a little girl offered to share her net – in just a few minutes, these two had accumulated a bucket full of fish!  Her grandpas would have been so proud.

Wind isn’t ideal for paddle-boarding, but it’s dang good for kite-flying!

Shane got out for his own excursion while Juliette and I read books and played tag.

And then it was her turn!

This was the perfect place for Juliette to test her balance, as the water at the shore was only knee-deep and somewhat protected from the breeze.  Girl’s got skills!


Adios, Alta!

The evening was reserved for a leisurely campstove dinner and assorted campsite shenanigans.  All of the kids are currently very into watching their dads play Zelda on Nintendo and spent much of the week pretending they were forest warriors.  Juliette whacked the heck out of this tree monster!

And finally, s’mores, made with mallows roasted over the campstove and eaten in the hammock due to an unfortunate burn ban.

I missed gathering around a fire in the evenings, but Juliette didn’t seem to be the least bit bummed.

Pre-bedtime yoga session…

And then bedtime stories (aka Zelda tips and tricks) by Shane.  Wednesday was a wrap.  And we were just getting started!

Camping Trip Numero Dos is in the books, and though we stayed pretty close to home this time, venturing only as far as Bainbridge Island, it was a super-special weekend.  We haven’t done the big-gang camping thing in years and so when five of our favorite families agreed to sleep under the stars with us for a couple of days, we were stoked.  Let the mayhem begin!

We boarded the Bainbridge Ferry on Friday afternoon, cars loaded down with bikes and kayaks and paddleboards and marshmallows.  Peace out, Seattle!

Helloooooooo, Rainier!

No trip to Bainbridge is complete without a stop at Mora’s for ice cream.

I wiped the last drip of strawberry ice cream from Juliette’s chin and then we hopped in the Forester to set out for camp.  The gentlemen took an alternate mode of transportation.

We rolled up to our three sites at Fay Bainbridge State Park and were thrilled to find that we had in fact reserved a big stretch of lovely lawn, perfect for running and rolling and lounging.

And caterpillar-hunting!

The kids did their own version of summer sledding by hauling each other around on picnic blankets.

And Shane did some bike wheel triage while chatting with Jack over home-brewed Caipirinhas.

Once we’d set up camp and gulped down our first round of cocktails, we walked down to the beach to play in the sand and soak in the sun.

We bought a kite a few weeks ago and have been looking for the perfect place for its maiden voyage.  Found it!

This little driftwood fort was pretty magical, especially with Rainier shining in the distance.  Jules and Stella set up a “restaurant” in there – hot coffee was served in clam shells, with a sprinkle of sand on top.

Captain of the ship!

The grown-ups took to the water on paddle boards and kayaks.

And this little lady ran naked through the sea grass.  Ah, to be young again!

We grilled burgers for dinner and followed up with the requisite s’mores.

Jules and N spent some time mind-melding before bed – they’d squeeze their eyes shut tight, link their hands, and then Jack would ask Juliette what number she was thinking of.  She’d shout increasingly complex digits, like “twenty one hundred seven!”.  Jack would then turn to Nico and ask, “Nico, what number was Juliette thinking of?”  When he repeated, “twenty one hundred seven!”, the two of them would jump up and down, hardly able to believe the mind-reading magic of it all.

Seriously, to be young again!

BTW, this kid is a maniac on the RipStik.

All was (relatively) quiet by about 10 pm and all slept well (ok, not really).  There were a few tired kiddos and parents around the breakfast table on Saturday morning, but once coffee was brewed and the sun fully shone, everyone seemed to find their mojo.  The gentlemen headed out for a bike ride…

While the women and children headed down to the beach.

YOU GUYS.

The tide was super-low that morning and we combed the kelp for crabs, clams, and other sea treasures.

As soon as Shane returned from his ride, I headed out with Nicole and La Verne for an afternoon paddle.  The water was choppy, so Nicole and I “kayaked” on our paddle boards, returning to shore with soaking wet butts but newly browned shoulders.

Blue Crush, mid-thirties mama-style!

Juliette had played so hard that morning that I expected to return to camp to find her passed out in the tent, but…not so much.

Emily and La Verne ran to the store for a couple of things and returned with popsicles and margarita fixin’s.  Effusive gratitude was felt all around.

Jules and Stella shared a Moana moment…

While Eden and Shane played the sweetest-ever game of peek-a-boo.

I’m storing this moment with this crew in the memory bank, as we drifted in and out of the circle, story-telling and group-parenting and laughing like family.

Bop it, Bups.

These two pulled out all the stops when stalling at bedtime – it was almost as if Nico whispered in Juliette’s ear, “Hug me!  They’ll take our picture and forget about tooth-brushing!”

Finally, though, everyone was tucked in and camp was quiet (ok, not really).  Juliette woke up at 2 am desperate to poop and while I very reluctantly agreed to take her to the bathroom, all was made right when we crossed the clearing on the way to the Honey Bucket and she looked up at the sky to gasp, “Mommy, the stars!  They’re so beautiful!”  We turned off our head lamps and crouched there in the middle of the grass for a moment, feelin’ that camping buzz something fierce.

One of the three of us woke up the next morning with bright eyes and a smile on her face.  Guess which one.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at camp, letting the kids harvest unripe berries while the adults pounded the coffee that Jack had graciously picked up at Starbucks.

We got in one last beach-fix, kayaking and shell-hunting and kite-flying…

And then it was time to catch our 1:10 ferry back to the real world.  Thankfully, the real world offers showers and indoor bathrooms.  Otherwise, I might never have wanted to leave our little island oasis…

There are lots of reasons to be giddy about the arrival of Summer in the PNW, but the onset of camping season tops my list.  And so the first free June weekend we had, we put “CAMPING” on our calendar, heading for the hills with a hope and a prayer that the questionable weather forecast would turn in our favor (Lord knows we weren’t so lucky last time we camped in June, but I was feeling optimistic).

Nancy had booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park up near Port Townsend, and there’s always a bit of anxiety that comes with rolling into a campground you’ve never visited before – would the sites be crammed together?  would the tent spots be right next to the road?  would it be sparsely wooded?  OR, would it be sheltered and spacious and totally amazing?  From the minute I stepped out of the car, I knew this one was the latter!

Shane got right to work setting up the tent while Juliette and I explored the nearby trails, hunting for spiders and squirrels.

Juliette and I spent a few minutes laying down in the tent, but the moment we heard the Rust clan roll up, she shot up like a dart – in no time, all three kids were helmeted and on some form of wheels.

The beach was a two-minute drive from our site and we all headed down there before dinner to check out the scene.  And the scene was…BLUE!

Shane gave Gryff some lessons in rock skipping while Jules and Isaiah watched from their sunny perch.

Juliette has fully fallen into the role of the pesky kid sister, spending much of the weekend shouting, “Come sit by me, Gryff!  Gryff!  GRYFFIN!!!”  He’s so sweet to indulge her…

Can you believe the forecast that day was for steady drizzle?  Psssshhhhh.

We headed back to camp for brats and corn and cold beer around the campfire.

And, of course, the mallows.

I was eager to see the sunset, so Shane graciously offered to put Juliette to bed while I grabbed my camera and headed down to the beach (get your scroll finger ready!).

I mean, Holy Moly, this place was lovely.

I strolled to the end of a sandy spit and then stopped to sit on a piece of driftwood for awhile and fully breathe it all in.

I headed back to camp as the sun dipped below the horizon.  The water faded to darker shades of purple and blue, looking so much like a real-life Monet.

We all slept like rocks that night and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (ok, Shane was hardly bright-eyed, but Jules was feelin’ the camping joy!).

Juliette was convinced that giants lived under this metal hatch near the restrooms, so it was crucial that we tip-toed and wore our headlamps on our morning pee-run, just in case.

After we’d caffeinated and breakfasted and taken our sweet time getting out of our pajamas, we set out for a hike along the bluff.

This kid was channeling his inner Hulk (a la Halloween 2016).

Flagler was a military fort manned during World Wars 1 and 2 and the trail was dotted with bunkers and searchlights and batteries.

And…deer!

We eventually made it to the end of the trail and down to the beach for fort-building and shell-searching.

Shane set out on a bike ride while I hung back with Juliette (climb, baby, climb!).

Jules took an afternoon snooze and then we went back down to the beach to fill her bucket with purple shells and dried-out crabs.

It was like Halloween, watching her lay out all her loot back at camp!

We ate another hearty meal around the campfire and then Juliette waited not-so-patiently for Dad to roast her marshmallow.

We found ourselves with just enough pre-bedtime buzz to walk back down to that irresistible beach to catch the day’s last rays.

Driftwood shenanigans…

Good night, sun…

We stayed close to camp Sunday morning, slowly packing up while the kids made smoke signals and played soccer.

Juliette’s a bit young to be a legitimate playmate for a seven year old, but there were certainly moments when I saw these two having a grand ol’ time together…

Cheers to a killer start to camping season!

Shane decided he wanted to make the 50-mile trek to the Bainbridge Ferry on his bike (talk about a Hulk!), so Juliette and I made our own adventure of getting home, heading to Bremerton to check out Harborside Fountains and catch the ferry from there.

She hung back for the first half-hour, timidly dipping her toes in the water’s edge.

But soon she waded farther in…

And before long the pants were off.

We caught the 3:00 ferry to Seattle and I bought Juliette her first Choco Taco as a thank you for being such a good travel companion that day.  She took that first bite and asked with astonished delight, “Do I get to eat the whole thing?!”  Have at it, kiddo.

I was pooped and asked Juliette if we could just spend some time quietly sitting on a bench inside.  Sweet kid offered to read me a story while I rested!

And then our boat cruised up to the Seattle dock and we were home, sun-kissed and smelling of campfire smoke.  Next weekend, we head out for Camping Round 2.  The future is bright!