Archive for the ‘pacific nw’ Category

Ahhh, June. We spent more weekends last month sleeping on the ground than we did in our bed!  Back in February I came across a Facebook post about family-friendly Lake Sylvia and promptly booked us a June weekend at a waterfront site.  We did waffle for a moment about whether or not we really wanted to head back outdoors just four days post-Bainbridge, but we ultimately decided to go for it.  I was eager to see someplace new, and a lot of our gear was still in the back of our car, anyway.

We rolled into camp on a Thursday afternoon and…our brows furrowed a little. Sites were tight. RVs outnumbered tents. Kids zipped by us left and right on bikes and scooters. We’ve held our remote Canadian enclave of last summer as the pinnacle of campground dreams, and this was hardly it.  But we pitched our tent and blew up our paddle board and set up our chairs at the lake’s edge.  Then Juliette wandered over to the site next door to toss rocks with two other little girls while I watched a gaggle of geese float by and I decided, alright, this place was amazing!

Plus, free salmonberries for the taking!

The campground loop was relatively flat and relatively small, so it was the perfect place for Juliette to get back on two wheels after a winter/spring biking hiatus.  I jogged along side her for a couple of loops, thrilled to see that her sense of balance was still intact.

And then she asked me to stay behind while she did a loop with the neighbor girls – a lump rose in my throat, as she ended up with a bruised a bloodied shoulder the last time I let her pedal out of my sight, but I swallowed that lump right down and told her to Go For It.  And except for one minor brush with a bush, she rocked it.

Shane eventually coaxed Juliette off her bike and onto the paddle board, so that they could go salamander-hunting while I got dinner ready.

And then, after brats and veggies, Juliette and her new buddy settled in together for some puzzle-making.  Jules can actually be quite timid with strangers at the get-go, hanging back to observe and get a vibe, but after about three minutes the urge to engage completely overwhelms her and she inserts herself into the fold – when faced with an option, she always chooses the company of others.  Shane and I are often the only “others” around I want to cry out, “Can’t you play alone for just FIVE MINUTES?!”, but really, I admire her boldness and vulnerability and desire to connect.  She didn’t get those extroverted genes from me!

Sadly, our neighbor buddies rolled out on Friday morning, but Juliette befriended the resident geese and spent much of the day feeding leftover hot dog buns to Fella, Gree, Greeda, Greedo, and Beeba.

Lazy mornings…

We set out around lunchtime for a hike on one of the park’s many trails, crossing a bridge into the deep, dark woods.

And the woods were stunning.  Lush and green and dotted with the most magnificent fuchsias and yellows.

 

Oh, Daddy.  So strong…

And so tall!

We had trouble finding the bridge that was supposed to lead us over the creek to the trail back to camp, but we made a way.  Barely.

And…done!  Four miles deserves a high-five!

Jeepers, I’m proud of this little northwestern kid.

Back at camp, I kicked back with my book and a can of Rose while Shane and Juliette rested in the tent.  Mary Oliver and sunshine and bubbles, oh my…

And then, just as I took my last sip, our go-getter was begging for a spin on the paddle-board.  Shane rowed her over to the beach on the other side of the lake while I hoofed it across the bridge to meet them at the shallow waters.

We made a quick trip into town for firewood and a latte (this campground scores two points for easy access to espresso!) and then laid low the rest of the evening.  Jules did a few (dozen) solo loops on her bike and beamed at me proudly each time she rounded the bend and saw me waiting for her back at the site.  We sat by the water and then by the campfire and ate Indian food and s’mores.  These two people + water + woods are…LIFE.

The realities of a busy campground smacked us in the face on Saturday morning when we heard kids scootering past our tent at 7 am, but this girl’s smile (and sleeping accessories!) did much to relieve my crankiness.

I drank my coffee while Juliette took some star shots of Shane.  “Be funny, Daddy, be funny!”

Before we officially packed it up, Juliette really wanted to pet a salamander and I really wanted to get out for one more paddle.  We both scored.

This was actually the first time that Shane, Jules and I have camped without any of our crew, and while I missed seeing our friends pop out of their tent in the morning, missed the evening game of s’more du jour, I did relish the three-of-us time.  Shane and I talked more that weekend than we have in weeks.  Juliette snuggled into my lap for long stretches in the evenings, seeking warmth and rest.  Roughing it, schmuffing it – camp life is nothing short of luxurious.

Camp season continues!  Mid-June brought what has become our annual group camp trip to Bainbridge Island; all of us had a grand time spreading out on the lawn here last summer and felt we were due for a reunion.  We trickled into the site on a sunny Friday afternoon and made ourselves at home, cracking open cold beers while setting up our tents and watercraft.

There was such a happy, chill-but-active vibe around the site – seemed a ball was always being tossed around, seemed there were always a handful of people kicking back near the fire pit.

Also, seemed like Jack was always grilling up meat of some sort…

Note:  pack extra, extra wet wipes when camping with kids!  Another note:  the super-sized marshmallows I picked up at the store are too much mallow.

We were one of the last families to emerge from our tent on Saturday, reluctant to leave our cozy nest.

But once we unzipped our front door, Jules was off, eager to play with her best bud.

We walked down to the beach after breakfast to toss the ball around, catch some rays, and squish sand between our toes.

Felt so good.

We capitalized on the super-windy conditions and pulled out our kite for awhile.

Then, took refuge in the fort.

Golly, I adore this kid.

While the kids lunched…

La Verne, Nance and I got out for a paddle.  The water was crazy-choppy, so I never made it into the full standing position on the paddleboard, but a good time was had by all.  Despite our wet butts!

The grown-ups happy-houred before dinner and Baby J took a snooze.  The kiddos played hard all weekend and this girl was feelin’ it!

I’m all for a creative s’more, pro-potato chip or peanut butter cup between the graham crackers, but when J started mixing in barbecue chicken, I tapped out.

Juliette and Shane hit the hay a little early on Saturday night, which left me free to walk down to the water for my beloved solo sunset stroll.  The sky was…wow.

…And, happy Sunday morning!  Don’t mind if I do, Jack!

We sipped mimosas and ate Jack’s famous chilaquiles and the kids gathered around Father Goose for a story and a good laugh.

We went down to the beach one last time before heading out, to get a little more sun and search for crabs.

It was Father’s Day, and as I watched these papas hang with their kiddos on the beach, I was struck by how uniquely wonderful each of them is at loving their kids.

My numero unos…

We made a quick stop in Winslow for lavender lemonade from Blackbird Bakery and then hopped in line for the ferry back to Seattle, a little grubby and a lot happy.  Emily is already talking about next year’s Bainbridge getaway.  COUNT US IN.

It’s CAMPING SEASON!  The most wonderful time of the year!  We knew we were rolling the dice weather-wise when we headed out at the very beginning of June, but we were exceedingly eager to take a break from house to-do’s, pull out our tent, and fall asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees.  Nancy booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park, since we had such a grand time there last year and felt it was worthy of a repeat.

Juliette is more and more helpful with each subsequent year and was a perfect first mate for Shane as he set up the tent.

Mission accomplished!

Once we’d properly gotten settled, Juliette and I took a walk down to the water to check a few things off of her Junior Ranger Treasure Hunt list.

Found crabs!  And a feather, and clouds, and other miscellaneous outdoor goodies.

Back at camp, Isaiah dazzled us with his champion fire-builder skills as he coached Juliette on finding the perfect sort of twigs to toss into the ring to really get the flames roaring.

The question of the weekend, from all three kids, was, “Can I throw this in the fire?”  The answer was usually yes, though we learned we needed to add a few qualifiers – crumple up that paper bag before it’s tossed into the flames!

We ate our traditional fare of bratwursts and grilled veggies for dinner, paired with red wine that somehow tasted so good out of a plastic cup.  I tell you, these trees work wonders on your taste buds!

After s’mores and clean-up, we walked down to the water with mugs of hot tea to skip rocks and watch the sun go down.

Juliette has a particularly fierce fondness for Jason these days and snuggles up next to him every chance she gets.  I think he likes the attention.

We made it through the night with no significant wake-ups, but Juliette was up early with the birds, so I brewed myself an extra-large cup of coffee with our skillet of sausage, eggs, and hash browns.

And then, after breakfast, I just…sat.  The kids ran around and tracked each other with their walkie-talkies, Shane strung up the hammock, Jason walked his slack-line, and I reveled in being completely stationary.

Eventually, though, the trails beckoned and we packed up a lunch for a hike along the bluff.

This trail is amazing.  Lush and densely green for long stretches, and then it will open up to an expansive view of the water or a glowing, grassy pasture.

It’s also dotted with relics from its days as a World War II military fort, which make for some fun-but-slightly-spooky detours.

There’s no other crew I’d rather trek with…

Seriously, parts of this path felt straight out of The Shire.  Dark green!  Light green!  Yellow-green!  Olive green, Emerald green, Kelly green, oh my.

We all chilled for awhile when we got back to camp and then busted out the Monopoly cards for some friendly competition.  It’s nice to play with people that don’t gloat when they win.  (HA!)

Juliette had no interest in post-hike chill-axing, so we took her down to the water to let her try her hand at kite-flying at the park’s breezy coastline.

There’s always a little bit of let-down when the kids realize the actual monotony of flying a kite, but Jules got a huge kick out of trying to catch the kite as Shane reeled it in.  And so he reeled it in, and tossed it back up, and reeled it in, and tossed it back up.

Also, watching the boys work on their headers was kind of hilarious.

Once the kite and the soccer ball lost their charm, we walked down to the beach for some fort-building.

Isaiah quickly declared himself captain.  Jules was the driver.  Jason was the chef.  I was the ship’s photographer.

We dined that night over another roaring fire, courtesy of Isaiah.

There were a couple of boys close to G and Z’s ages at the site across from us and Juliette did her damnedest to keep up with the big kids.  She was thrilled when they invited her to come along on their race around the campground loop.

And then, S’MORES.

Such a good life.

After the dishes were washed and the kids were pajama’d, I walked down to the water for a solo sunset stroll.  (There goes that Moana song again!)

We broke down camp on Sunday morning immediately after breakfast – I’ll begrudgingly give kudos to Shane for rushing me through my morning campfire coffee as it was awfully nice to have the tent packed up as raindrops began to fall.  The kids stayed dry in the car as we gathered up the last few things.  I mean, it wouldn’t be a true June PNW camping trip without a little drizzle!

Cheers, gang!  Camp season 2018 is off to a very promising start.

After our totally-dreamy getaway to Leavenworth last winter, Shane and I committed to making an annual tradition of a February snow-cation.  This year we opted to stay a little closer to home and booked a room at Suncadia Lodge near Cle Elum, setting out a couple of weeks ago with blue skies overhead and the promise of snow in the forecast.  As our check-in at the lodge wasn’t until late afternoon, we pit-stopped at the Snoqualmie Summit to strap a pair of skis onto Juliette and let her have a few rides on the Magic Carpet.  Arms out, knees bent.  She’s got it!

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what our end game is in teaching this kid how to ski, as neither Shane nor I have been willing to invest the time or money it would take to turn ourselves into downhill skiers.  We won’t be taking week-long family ski vacations to Whistler.  She won’t be the next Lindsey Vonn.  But if we can’t sustain the skiing thing (she’ll quickly surpass my skill level!), we can just chalk this up to an early-childhood exercise in confidence-building.

There are few greater joys than watching this girl’s bravery and perseverance cumulate in an emphatic “I did it!”.  This was the first time Juliette pizza-pied her way to a stop at the bottom of the hill, rather than plowing full-speed right into her dad’s arms, and she was stoked.

It was a bluebird day, so lovely and sunny that Juliette peeled off her jacket at one point.  Gosh, I love those karate chop arms!

Once the clouds rolled in and the temperatures dropped, we traded Juliette’s skis in for her purple boots and headed to the car, eager to crack open the thermos of hot cider I had packed.

First, though, a quick romp and a hunt for the biggest “snow baby” we could find.

It was a short ride to Suncadia and by 4 pm we were unpacked and settled into our weekend abode.  Fireplace?  Check.  Mountain view?  Check.  All the coziness a girl could ever want?  CHECK.

Shane watched a lot of curling that weekend while I read and Juliette pleaded for figure skating to come back on.

We popped over to the sledding hill on our way to dinner that evening, taking a few runs on the super-slick snow.

And then closed out the day with a mellow brewpub dinner in Roslyn.  I’ll tell you, that town is quiet at 7 pm.

We woke to purple skies and snow-capped mountains on Friday morning and took our sweet time getting going.

Finally, we rallied just enough energy to walk down to the lobby and get a cup of coffee and a hot chocolate.

I could get used to sipping my latte in these chairs!

After a bit more lounging and a serious self-pep-talk (so hard to leave that fireplace!), we picked up a pair of rental skis for me from the lodge’s shop and set out toward Salmon La Sac for a winter adventure.

We figured this may be our last chance to tow Jules in the bike trailer, as she’s quickly outgrowing her chariot…

The trail was freshly groomed and the woods were so, so serene.  We crossed paths with only a couple of other skiers during our two-hour trek.

We stopped at a campground mid-way to let Juliette run circles in the fresh powder.  We chased and rolled and frolicked, giddy with the freedom and joy of having an entire snow-covered campground to ourselves.

(Hat swap!)

I’ll be honest – getting geared up and schlepping the trailer and stopping every five minutes to adjust mittens and dig out new snacks isn’t easy.  By God, though, it’s worth it.  So worth it.

Snow started falling on our way back to the car, significantly upping the wonderland factor.

Again, I could have happily passed the rest of the day with my book and the fireplace, but Juliette was jonesin’ to get back out, so we walked over to the hot tub to take a dip.  In the snow.  Dreamy, but…yowsers.  Getting out was not so fun.  Particularly since Jules decided she really wanted to stay in for a few more minutes after I’d already wrapped myself in my towel and put on my boots.

Clearly, she wasn’t at all bothered by my chattering teeth.  Take your time, lady.

We ate at one of the lodge’s restaurants that night and returned to the lobby to find a full spread of s’mores fixin’s set up by the bonfire.  Don’t mind if we do!

Saturday was go-day, but we milked every last minute in our room, reveling in the snow-capped view until check-out time.

Eventually, though, our time was up, so we packed our things and went over to the sledding hill to play in the foot of fresh snow that had fallen overnight.

Faster, Daddy!  FASTER!

While Juliette and I practiced our luge form, Shane made quick work of putting together a friendly (though slightly lumpy) snowman.

Sunshine and snow.  So happy togetherrrrrr.

Shane insisted on the testing the limits of the freshly frozen pond.

We found a pristine wide-open field on the other side of the busy hill and made our mark with an intense game of tag.

By noon, we were tuckered out and ready to head home.  Shane’s capacity for hauling this kid around never fails to amaze me.

Before we’d even made our way back over the pass, I was checking AirBNB to see if our little enclave was available for the following weekend – life has been hectic lately and I wanted more of the quiet, more of the beauty, more retreat with my two favorite people.  Alas, the room was booked solid and reality was beckoning, anyway.  So I’m tucking the weekend’s memories away in my serenity bank – Suncadia stuffed it full.

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.