Adventure Log: Olympic National Park, Camping with the Littles

I returned last week to a campground of my childhood, Mora, at Rialto Beach in the Olympic National Park. I have a single visual in my memory bank of camping with my family of origin. I don’t know where we were, how old I was, or even if it’s real. The story written on my heart is of my father up early, starting the percolator coffee pot over the campfire. I left my WWII army surplus mummy bag and my mother and sisters sleeping in the heavy canvas WWII army surplus tent to join him in the early morning chill before anyone else was up. (I can still call up the smell of the musty tent.)

That’s it. All I’ve got. Maybe I helped gather wood for the fire. Maybe he was making breakfast. (He never cooked, except weekend pancakes or scrambled “yeggs,” but I think he might have cooked breakfast when we camped. Or maybe I just like to “remember” that.) Decades later my mother will tell me we didn’t camp much. I don’t believe her. I don’t want to believe her. It’s my cherished memory of what we did together. Even though I have only this one picture in my head; this and erecting the challenging tent, maybe I “helped,” maybe I didn’t. I am hopeful that when my sisters and I finally go through the 10 thousand slides in the house, I will find proof. If not, as I told my mother, I am clinging to the memory, real or not.

This was my first time camping with the littlest grandsons, and my first time back to Mora. You can’t make a reservation there, so I headed up early—5:30am early—on Thursday hoping to score a site big enough for two tents. I figured if I didn’t get one, I could spend one night in a smaller one, or even in my car, and be there first thing on Friday before the family came in the afternoon.

I arrived at 9:15 and got one of the very few of the 94 sites we could fit in comfortably, and it was perfect in every way. I had just missed the only other vacant one. Had I stood in line for an Egg McMuffin in Hoquiam, where I took a bathroom break, I would have missed E-84 (which, serendipitously, is E-for-Emma’s birth year). I had left my chair on the table until the previous night’s campers finished packing up. When I returned a few minutes later, new arrivals were checking out the site. Maybe they had the Egg McMuffin; tarry not or you will lose. They came back later to ask if I would possibly accept a smaller site because there were four of them. As if.

Here is the story in pictures.

I never did this in my childhood camping; more’s the pity.

Rialto Beach

Day 1



While I waited the 30-ish hours for the family to arrive, I made the Littles a scavenger hunt. (Super Gigi.) Two items were to find a fort, and to stack four and seven rocks, respectively, on a log. They set right to work. Nothing said the rocks had to be stacked atop each other.
Let the exploration begin: Bull kelp. Imagine this waving, planted on the sea floor.





Day 2


Found art/created art




Nature’s art


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Curious boys.


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Hole in the Wall



We Staeblers hang onto our beach stones.



Petting the popcorn-eating slug. This little guy loves animals, and is so curious.

Day 3

Second Beach

It might be my new favorite, surpassing the forever, and hour closer to home, Ruby Beach.

It’s a .7 mile hike to the beach, making it less peopley.
I loved this so much. And forgot to bring back my own offering from the sea on the return trip up the trail.






Beach trash from across the Big Pond. Not the glass balls of my childhood.

More nature art


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The very creepy and very hungry predator anemones.



It swallowed a whole crab by faking being a flower! How very “Audrey” of it.





Dear Second Beach, We will be back. Love.




6 thoughts on “Adventure Log: Olympic National Park, Camping with the Littles

  1. What a beautiful story in pictures ! Really well done. It’s like the perfect laboratory for discovery ! This summer, and especially your presence in it, will stay in their memory forever. What a gift for all of you to have this time together. Especially love the photo of you and Emma 💞 

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It’s been a good summer. I don’t know if these times will stay in their memories (witness my own lack thereof), but hopefully it will be cumulative as time and connection go on. And, yes, Wynne is so good about taking photos of me when we are together. In the absence of a love-mate, there are few of me with my grands, or me period. I love her thoughtfulness so much.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the “remembering with love” is what counts. Like, what difference does it make if you actually helped with the tent ? You gave that “love-feeling” a story and it forever connects you to a sweet moment in time with your father. That’s how memory ‘becomes’ real, right ?  Don’t you think its true that we remember, not the act, so much as how it made us feel ? (And thank you, Wynne. You seem to have captured her perfectly …)

        Liked by 1 person

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