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Midway through my Vacation Without Leaving Home, I had second thoughts. Driving two hours to Mt. Rainier with four kids sounded as unappealing as crawling out from beneath the covers. My left bicep already ached from the exertion of carrying Miss Hold-Me-Mommy around Seattle.
Yet, the kids remembered that I’d mentioned Mt. Rainier, so I really had no choice. I also had no granola bars and no water bottles, so I formulated a plan. I’d stop by 7-11 to get ice for the cooler, then stop by Costco to pick up water and granola bars. I’d also drop off my film for development.
By 11 a.m., we’d made it as far as 7-11. (About a mile.) My daughter came in with me to pick up the ice, which explains why I left the store with four chocolate donuts and a Big Gulp full of Diet Coke, in addition to the ice. As I climbed back into the driver’s seat, I thought maybe I’d just go back inside and buy granola bars and then I wouldn’t need to stop at Costco.
But my gas tank was half-empty and so, I decided we’d do the Costco stop after all. Plus, I couldn’t stand to not see my pictures from the day before. (I will add them to the post below.)
Too bad I didn’t have my Costco card. I had to get a temporary one. Then, I dropped off the film, found granola bars and a case of water and off we went. By then, it was 12:30 p.m. and the kids immediately started asking, “Are we there?”
Alas, it would be two more hours before we arrived. (And only one incident in which a red SUV flipped me the bird after I very courteously pulled over to the side of the road to let three cars go ahead of me. It’s a good thing I don’t carry a revolver, because, frankly, that was just uncalled for, Mr. SUV-driver.)
The children were delighted to see snow and had to get out and cavort. I, being somewhat of a party-pooper at this point, hurried them up and down the big snow-hill, cautioning, “Do not fall! Do not get wet! Be careful!” as if those words lingering in the still mountain air would prevent them from sliding on their bottoms. Yet, a miracle occurred and no one slid or splashed in the melted-snow puddles.
(I promised a stop on the way back down the mountain, but as fate would have it, I didn’t see the turn-out until it was too late and on a narrow mountain road, you don’t have many, if any, opportunities to turn around. So, all the way down the mountain, my daughter asked for the ice . . . and I offered excuses like, “It’s melted,” or “I think we passed it,” but she remain undeterred and never gave up hope of seeing the ice/snow again.)
In the parking lot at the Grove of the Patriarchs, we unloaded our cooler and had a little picnic at the tables sitting right by the lot. A raven hopped closer and closer to us, finally turning sideways and sidestepping slyly toward us. We saw a tiny chipmunk scurrying across the path.
We finished our picnic and after a bathroom break, slipped into the woods. I couldn’t stop taking photographs. The stillness of the forest reminded me of a cathedral, which is so cliche’, but so true. I wanted to be silent and reverent, to tip-toe along the dusty path, to whisper. Unfortunately, the children felt no such compunction and could not use their “indoor voices” because we were outdoors. Duh. I did continue to shush them from time to time, though, in consideration of the other hikers we saw (including a girl with orange-like-a-safety-vest hair).
Only the mosquitoes spoiled my hike, unless you count the 36-pound girl who clamored to be held along the path. I killed several mosquitoes and carried the girl.
We came to a suspension bridge with a sign indicating only one person should cross at a time. The reason for this became clear while I traversed with my daughter, who did her best to fall over the edge. She zigged while I zagged and the bridge swayed and rocked.
Once across the river, the children zeroed in on the rocky sides of the riverbed where they pelted the clear, rushing waters with rocks. This may have been the highlight of the hike for them. On our return trip, we spent even more time throwing rocks. (They threw rocks while I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Mossy trees hanging over the rippling brook, water so clear you could see every smooth stone underwater, the swishing, trickling sound of water . . . I kept trying to capture it on film.)
We meandered along the wooden-planked path, stood to worship at the giant trees (up to 1,000 years old, they say), and the kids were ready to go. One day, maybe, I’ll return without children who have the attention span of gnats.
When we returned to our starting point, I checked the map and realized that the waterfall was also within walking distance of that particular parking lot. So, off we went, down the path to see Silver Falls. My daughter refused to walk at all, so I piggy-backed her all the way down (and down and down) the path. We saw a frog hop across the path, which was the only wildlife we saw while hiking.
The falls were spectacular, worth every drop of sweat and itchy mosquito bite. I could peer over the edge of the cliff and see logs bobbing in the tumultuous water. Each one was worn smooth and bare by the powerful crash of the water. A sign warned hikers not to cross the fence and mention certain death by bashing.
Then we climbed back up. And up and up.
And so our hike came to an end. We returned home at 7:30 p.m., just in time for a bath and the ritual nightly viewing of Spongebob.
The next morning, do you think I wanted to get up and drive to the ocean? I did not. However, my daughter (sleeping with her feet in my back) woke up and asked, “What are we going to do today?” and I said, “We’re going to the ocean,” as if speaking the words would turn my intentions into action.
I sprayed the children with sunscreen. I packed the cooler. I did not shave my legs because the ocean water is salty and stings freshly-shaved legs. I gathered towels and baby powder (when you sprinkle a sandy foot with baby powder, the damp sand brushes right off). At long last (noon!) we were ready to go.
I packed the van with kids, the cooler, buckets and shovels, towels and extra clothing. Two driveways down, I realized that we had a flat tire. The night before, after I took out the trash at 11:30 p.m., I thought our van looked off-kilter in the moonlight, but it was too dark to really determine if I were insane or not. So, when I heard that strange noise and felt the odd sensation, I knew it was the tire.
Back into the driveway. Repack the car with kids, cooler, towels, buckets, shovels and extra clothing. Try again.
We had to stop by the grocery store for ice and lunch provisions. When loading the stuff into the cooler and dumping ice into it, I felt that gooey-ooey feeling of warm gum stuck to my shoe. I hate that.
Finally, we were off! Only, first, we went through the McDonald’s drive-thru because lunchtime had arrived.
The ocean turns out to be 90 miles (a 2-hour drive) from my driveway, so can someone please explain to me why we don’t go more often?
I have a few ideas:
1) Sand. Everywhere. Children rolling in the sand. More sand.
2) Wind. Temperatures inland were expected to reach 95 degrees. On the beach, the wind rushed in, giving us all goosebumps. I forgot to pack myself a jacket, so I wrapped a beach towel around myself and tried not to die.
3) Water. Ocean waves here in Washington state are so dangerous. The kids would be standing in waves coming to their knees and I’d shriek, ‘BACK! BACK! Get BACK!” and they’d look at me as if I were a deranged lunatic saying, “It’s only to my knees!” and I’d say, “This wave was to your knees. The next wave might knock you off your feet and the wave after that? Would drag you out to sea and then you’d die.”
If the mountain air compelled me to whispery silence, the ocean inspires me to scream. The crashing waves and rushing wind create such a ruckus that you have to holler just to be heard. The children bellowed and screamed and whooped and hollered. They literally rolled on the sand, they faced the incoming waves on their bellies, they dug holes and wallowed in them like pigs.
My daughter wanted only to rush at the waves and then holler in retreat.
I wanted to walk along the shore and search for sand dollars. I found one, but it was crushed on the top: I wandered more and found one that was broken: My daughter helped me look:
I found another broken one and began to despair:
But then what to my wondering eyes did appear? And a moment later, a smaller one:
So, my day at the ocean was complete. The children, though, were not quite finished splashing, running and shouting. They still had to get sand in every crevice of their bodies.
After three hours, I dragged them away from the shore. We had a picnic–after rinsing off sand and leaving the public park bathrooms rather sandy. (I’m so sorry, park employee.) Then, once everyone was dry and dressed and full, we went back to the beach for a final farewell.
My daughter did not want to leave, but then again, she didn’t want to leave the Seattle Center fountain, the mound of snow on Mt. Rainier or any other fun location.
We returned home in time for Spongebob and baths.
When I ask them, the children report that they loved Seattle and the ocean the best. I loved our whirlwind tour of a few of the amazing attractions in this area. I didn’t love the sand and the incessant noise in the car (“Can you please. Just. Be. Quiet?”)
We’ll have to make our Vacation Without Leaving Home an annual event. It’s crazy that we don’t take advantage of our own backyard when it’s full of such wonder and beauty. My twins will be grown and gone all too soon and I want them to have powerful memories other than the ones of me losing my mind and yelling about dirty clothes on the floor and sticky dishes next to the couch.