Camp Gigi: Day 5

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The penultimate day of Camp Gigi; “already.” Somehow I wasn’t so tired today; and we aren’t ending tomorrow after all. Elliot is relentlessly happy. Everything we do is “so fun.” Except for the later rescinded “No laughing, or Camp Gigi is over!” when he thought I was laughing at him, and a couple of “I don’t like you, Gigi,” quickly followed by a heart felt apology, he has been cheerful to a fault.

Another busy day, beginning with making donuts and eating them in the garden before picking another carrot or two, peas and lettuce that we took to the neighbor because we share our bounty when it’s more than we can use, and digging a few more potatoes. And, the first tomato was finally ready! (My neglected garden is a disaster! Next week some attention.)

We made muffins and cleaned the AirBnb in preparation for next week’s full house. (The cleaning might have gone more quickly had he not been following me around so closely he stepped on my heels.)

We returned to the library, and of course to HUBBUB and Aunt Becca. And FINALLY it was warm enough for the splash park.

Tacos for dinner, including the first tomato. In the middle of ice cream, he said, “I’m tired, Gigi.”

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Camp Gigi: Day 4

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The day began early with Summerfest (aka Fourth of July) Pancake Breakfast at the park. And the playground, and hide and seek with Aunt Becca who was supposed to be flipping the flap jacks, and a checkout of the block house from pioneer days. Gigi was ready for a nap. Only 9:45. Seriously?

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Back at home we looked for the woodpecker we had heard much earlier in the day. Elliot spotted it in the maple. And then art time!

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String art

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Alcohol ink on tile. So fun.

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And back to the park hoping to find the police and emergency vehicles on display. No luck. But the we watched the egg toss. And played on the playground some more. And got Ninja Turtle ice cream from the ice cream truck. (Disgusting stuff.) Then on to the parade!

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Waiting.

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And now the booming begins. It’s 8:00. And the official fireworks display doesn’t begin until 10:30. Elliot has made it perfectly clear he doesn’t like fireworks. Hopefully he won’t wake up. I don’t think I’ll ever be not tired again.

And he DOES NOT want to go to the river tomorrow. I was counting on that diversion.

Adventure Log: Northwest Trek, Camp Gigi Day 3

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It was an Elliot Adventure Day! Northwest Trek, up toward Mt. Rainier. Rebecca and I had never been there, but our parents took Elliot’s mom and uncle during a Camp Nana and Papa. It was a great pleasure to discover it with Elliot.

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Time to take this show on the road. But not at 5:40. (Good color coordination, yes?)

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Herself (photo by the passenger)

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Gigi’s favorite: river otters

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Looking for a bear. Found two, black ones. (The grizzlies habitat is being improved.)

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On the tram.

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Not on my head! Here to tell you, just half of the caribou rack is too heavy to lift. How the heck?

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Ride ’em banana slug!

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Okay, this one is too scary. Coming back down.

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Helping Aunt Becca

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Finally got rid of her.

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The big hole side! He was a little squeamish as bigger kids ran up the small hole side and made it bouncy, but he had gained a lot of confidence and he hung with it and got up. So proud of him.

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While waiting for me to unlock the front door, Elliot said, “Well THAT was a fun day!”

Over dinner:

“Did you have a favorite thing today, Elliot?”
“Yes, FaceTime with Mommy and Mama and Adrian.”
“Pretty special.”

Second favorite was the playground. 💜

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Camp Gigi 2018: Day 2

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It makes me deliriously happy to have the opportunity to share country life with this little city boy. To see the pure joy on his face when he gets his fingers around a potato buried in the soil; feels to see if the carrot is big enough to pull; picks a fat pea, unzips it, and pops the orbs in his mouth; picks the red huckleberries and puts them on his tongue erases any doubt that coming back here was the right thing.

“Gigi! For dinner I want to have everything we picked in the garden!” You got it. (He decided not to try the rhubarb sauce on his ice cream though.}

Elliot Hill, this is your hill.

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100 pieces, ages 6+. Pshaw.

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Camp Gigi: Year 3, Day 1

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Camp Gigi with 4-1/2-year-old Elliot began at 9:30 this morning. Several major activities on the list have already been checked off, with four days to go. 😳 Year one, when he was just 1-1/2 his heart was broken when his moms left. Last summer he was very brave saying goodbye to his moms and baby Adrian. (We skipped the year between: two was a tough year, Gigi was not feeling brave.) This year bravery was not needed, he didn’t even wave goodbye. But he was happy to see Adrian, who was missing him, by Facetime at the end of the day. Bath, pizza/movie night, games (I was declared “incredible” in my ability to match his ColorKu marble pattern), four books in bed, and out in two seconds at 7:30.

8:00: I’m in bed too. Tomorrow is going to be really long.

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It’s a wrap. We forgot to write in our journal. Oh well, morning activity.

Adventure Log: Kalaloch Beach with My Sister

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My sister is a mostly solo shopkeeper; she doesn’t get out much. I’m a solo adventurer, so I don’t often ask if she wants to join me. Okay, never. But it was her birthday and she had shop coverage. I asked, she accepted. Being the locally world famous person she is, she had to be back for City Council meeting, so we couldn’t go far. We decided on Kalaloch beach on the OP, followed by lunch at Quinault Lodge, in the rain forest.

We don’t adventure the same. When she goes somewhere with a friend, they leave home at 11ish in cute outfits, have lunch somewhere, dinner later, and there is usually shopping involved. I leave at 6 in hiking pants, with a granola bar for lunch in my back pack, and there is always a latte involved.

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But she wanted to go on one of my adventures, not hers. I promised to take her on a favorite hike when the wildflowers are blooming—we’ll see if that happens—but for this day we agreed on the beach. And she offered to be ready by 8:00 at the latest, after I told her it had to be early enough not already to have had coffee. She outdid herself, and I picked her up at 7:30. With lattes in hand, we headed northwest to the iconic Hwy 101.

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It’s a familiar beach: we went to Kalaloch and Ruby, the next beach up, often as children. In later years, Kalaloch became our parents’ favorite, perhaps because of the cabins on the bluff. They took visiting grandchildren there, and I took my mother there several times in the years following my father’s death. I wrote about it here in a visit a few weeks ago just after her death.

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I couldn’t quickly find a photo of me and Rebecca, but here is one of me and Jo Ann,

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Three oldest grands.

This time I remembered to ford the creek and go north to see the so-called “Kalaloch Tree of Life” or “Root Tree.”

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The Sitka spruce is a wonder, seeming to live on air after the ground eroded from under it. It should be dead; it should have collapsed long ago in the wild winters on the Olympic Peninsula that tosses drift logs around like toothpicks and permanently bends trees. No one understands how it survives, nor can I find anything that says how long it’s been like that. One “he said, she said” story, indicates at least 35 years.

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We made cairns, filled our backpacks with round stones, agreed that although we love the OP beaches, it’s really the stones and driftwood we go for, not the surf and sun, and returned to Quinault for smoked salmon BLTs (Rebecca’s without the B) and beers on the deck of the lodge by the serene lake.

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On the way out, we stopped at the Willaby Campground where I made a reservation last week for camping in July, not at the favored lake-side sites, but at the only site available for more than one night until mid-September (I suspect I caught a cancellation). I had cancelled the one I made months ago in the Gifford Pinchot, having checked it out in my own birthday adventure last week and found it seriously lacking. The new one is nearly perfect. I’ll be back next month, after Camp Gigi! Stay tuned for that!

Rebecca and I agree if we ever have to live together, which would challenge us, we should just travel. We do that well. But I might have to stop for shopping more often. She did buy a t-shirt in the gift shop. Adventure on.

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(Mis-) Adventure Log: Sunrise Peak

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I had an uneasiness about Sunrise Peak in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, that the last review on the Washington Trails Association website was two years ago (virtually to the day). Gone are the days of choosing a hike from the description in a 10-year-old book (or 60 years, if you live in your parents’ home). I’ve grown accustomed to up-to-the-day information about trail conditions, snow and wildflower status. It sounded like a great hike, though, and it was to be a beautiful day. And it was the first day of my 67th year; an adventurous spirit was called for on this of all days.

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Isn’t not knowing where the road will take you the very definition of adventure? What twists, turns, redirection, and road blocks might reach out to meet and challenge you? This day, as it turned out, would meet the criteria.

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The day before the day, a friend dropped off a birthday gift that included a gift card for my favorite adventure latte coffee kiosk! Sweet!

On the way down the hill at 6am (30 minutes behind my hoped for start time), a dear friend from Raleigh calls. I pull into the drive of Avenue Espresso, but not up to the window, to finish chatting with her. When I get to the window, the barista has my 16-oz-extra-hot latte, ready to hand me. I feel known and special. The day is off to a great start!

The forecast is for a hot day, and I’m eager to get to the trail ahead of the heat, so I take I-5 south to Hwy 12 rather than the more scenic route. I must say, I love the interstate’s 20 miles either side of Centralia where the sun rises with Mt. Rainier driving north and St. Helen’s driving south.

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Mayfield Lake bridge

US Hwy 12 is a deadly stretch of two-lane, for no real reason other than cocky drivers on the long straightaways through the verdant valleys of Lewis County. But it’s one of my favorites. The long bridge across Mayfield Lake—a major water source for the area—the strawberry and blueberry fields, the now fallow fields of the DeGoede Bulb Farm, taciturn cows munching breakfast, the misty foothills in the distance and peek-a-boo Rainier.

Addicted to my camera, I take a play from a friend’s book and see what I see through the lens without the lens, forming word pictures in my head. It’s harder not to write down the words than it is to let go of the desire to take a picture while I’m driving (see previous paragraph about cocky drivers).

The clouds look like the uneven patches of lettuce in my garden, then morph into more neat even rows like my overachieving friend’s garden. (Next year I’m going to have neat even rows.) There are three bent pickers with wide-brimmed hats in the vast strawberry field. I feel their pain. Commercial strawberry picking is hard work. I did it for three days in junior high, then quit getting up to catch the bus to the field. It’s a lesson in concentrating on what is right in front of you and not looking too far into the overwhelming future. We live this life one day—or one strawberry—at a time.

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This is the first year ever my mother, who was there to hear my borning cry, hasn’t told me happy birthday I realize with a stomach-clenching, eye-watering jolt. I play it in my head: “Happy birthday, my smiling daughter!” I hope she has forgiven me for asking her to stop calling me that. I haven’t forgiven myself.

I turn off the highway at Randle and a mile down the road take the left fork into the Gifford Pinchot. The right fork goes to the east side of Mt. St. Helens and is still closed by snow on the road. I’m immediately plunged into the forest with bouncing brooks, roadside waterfalls, primitive road surfaces. Where the road narrows, the vegetation leans into the single (but paved!) wavy lane. It could use a good buzz cut.

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I chose the Gifford Pinchot for the day because I want to check out the sight-unseen campground at which I have a site reserved for next month. I decide to save it for after the hike. I miss the cut off to the road to the trail and turn around in the middle of the road.

Five miles on this? My initial skepticism about this choice of hike returns.

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Barely a 10 of a mile in though, my plans for the day change. No wonder there were no trip reports. Why the WTA had no alerts is more puzzling. I was not prepared to add ten RT miles to the hike, especially with no trip reports. I’m adventurous, but I’ve never been foolhardy.

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There’s not really a place to turn around, and I am not a good backer. I move a large rock out of the way, then maneuver Flutterby up the berm on one side and jockey her around and head back out to the paved road. I don’t want to go back to the campground yet, so I decide to go to Trout Lake, thirty some miles on down the road; reigning monarch: Mt. Adams. I’ve been on the road it’s on before, when I camped at Takhlakh Lake in 2013, but I hadn’t been to the lake.

Flutterby is turning out to be a good adventure partner, and we soldier on as the odometer hits a milestone.

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I continue on Forest Road 23 through where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the road, and see two women in the shade next to a bridge, their large packs beside them. I vaguely wonder if they want a ride somewhere, but they don’t move so I drive on.

Ahead of me I see two more people who had been sitting near the road with their packs, scramble to their feet. Briefly the man sticks out his thumb. I drive by then see his hand drop in my rear view mirror, not sure it was really up. I put on my brakes and back up, knowing that even as I do so without really making a conscience decision to pick them up, I am committing myself. A man and a woman, they don’t look like ax murderers.

They hustle up to the car. I power down my window, not really believing I am doing this. But it’s an adventure, right?

“Is this the right direction to Trout Lake?” he asks.

“I think so,” I hesitate. Is it? Yes, of course it is, but maybe I don’t want to fully commit.

“Great. Thanks,” he says, they look both relieved and crestfallen as they back away.

“Do you want…” I say.

“Can we get…” he says turning with resolve back toward the car.

“A ride?” we say in unison.

Oh my god. I’m picking up hitchhikers.

“I’ve never in my life picked up a hitchhiker,” I say through the window. “But you don’t look like ax murders.”

“I’ve never in my life hitchhiked,” he says.”

“We’re definitely not ax murderers,” she says. “I was hoping you weren’t.”

“I’m definitely not,” I say. “It’s my birthday, and it seems made for adventure.”

They are effusively grateful as they put their packs in Flutterby’s roomy rear and climb into the seat. They were hiking the PCT from Walput Lake to Mt. Hood while their boys toured Europe. (They don’t look old enough to have boys touring Europe. A fourth grade field trip maybe?) They kept getting thwarted by snow, and like Cheryl Strayed were a bit unprepared with no snow cleats and not enough food for as long as it was taking. Two days (three?) to go 18 miles, during which they saw three people. Crossing snow-covered rivers, not knowing the first was a river until they saw the “DANGER” sign on the other side, hearing water rushing under their feet as the crossed the other.

They finally gave it up and were going to the Trout Lake café where his parents would drive them to another part of the trail. Their feet were burning and they had just taken off their shoes when they heard Flutterby coming on the not-well-traveled road and slammed their shoes back on jumped up, grabbing their packs.

“He told me to stick my thumb out,” she said. “I told him I’m not sticking my thumb out! And no one is going to pick us up!”

I save them ten boot miles to Trout Lake. I am really loving how this day is turning out. I didn’t get my hike, but I rescued desperate hikers. Best. Birthday. Ever.

“Where are you from?” I ask.

“Chehalis,” they say. Five miles from where I’m from.

I go into the cafe for directions to the lake. When I come out Trisha hands me $20.

“Happy birthday!” she says. “Get some lunch on us.”

“Thank you so, so much,” Shawn says.

I go to Trout Lake. It barely qualifies as a lake, more of a wetland. I don’t stay.

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I ask about hikes in the ranger station then decide not to go on a hike. I return to the café and sit outside with lunch. I had been wishing I had packed more than granola bars—and I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t. And then lunch came to me.

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Drama queen

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I visit my favorite place in all the land—Takhlakh Lake—dreaming of my stay there in September. I haven’t been back because of a road washout they didn’t fix for two years (and a forest fire in the area the year before that). Not only have they repaired the breach, but the road has been improved from the bone jarring washboard and axle clunking potholes.

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My home for four nights in September. I picked a good one. Presumably the new table will not be in the tent pad by then.

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I promised myself a rubber boat next time I came. I better get on that.

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Flutterby’s first snow.

I stop at the July campground before turning toward home; it’s the worst I’ve ever seen. When I get home, I cancel the reservation, losing $20—$20 in, $20 out. I’m looking for a new destination, and I had done so well getting an early reservation.

All in all, not a misadventure at all. It was just what it was meant to be.

Happy Solstice! Here’s to another trip around the sun. My mother has been gone for two months today, it seems longer; my father for 23 years, also today. My sister says I’m a story gatherer. Christina Baldwin uses the term Storycatcher in her book of the same name. I am gathering my family’s stories and catching my own. I love sharing them with you; mostly I love writing them.

Cheers, Mama. Thanks for borning me.

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Homeward bound.