The air turned while we were away. Today, I am wearing jeans and yanking beets the size of my fist, leeks the length of Margot’s leg, cabbage the circumference of Ruby’s head. I have equal love for every season and because of this, I mourn walking away from summer (my baby-faced kindergartner, my quiet mama’s girl) while feeling just right walking toward fall (my freckle-faced first grader, my loud mama’s girl).
We packed for our trip backpacking-style, meaning the bare essentials, meticulously placed for ultimate space-saving. We each had only a few items of clothing, everything folded and tucked into camping bowls and stuff sacks. And then we cut it all in half. Miraculously, it all fit — camping gear, our personal stuff, big dog, four humans, food, water, bikes. Our rocket box was like Mary Poppin’s satchel, sometimes like those jokester cans that look like beans but open to exploding paper snakes in your face.
The day before our trip I diagnosed verticillium wilt on our 31 tomato plants. So, while Andy jengaed items into the car, I cooked sauce from the tomatoes I picked from the plants I pulled and threw away. It seems no matter how organized I am, no matter how hard I work and plan to leave at a certain time, I have an urgent homestead something to mix in with packing toiletries. This time, it was a heaping basket of ripe tomatoes.
On the first day we traveled southwest along the Lochsa River to Lewiston, Idaho. Through wildfire smoke so thick it mixed with our words. Based on a suggestion from an instagram friend, we found a campsite. We promptly hopped in the tent where we rocked with the wind and exclaimed at lightening’s strobe that sporadically illuminated our faces. The storm was fierce and strong and quickly turned into a regular ol’ downpour. The girls held some fear that was easily distracted by mama snuggles in the down sleeping bags with headlamps and books.
Margot began journaling on this day, using the new blank book and pen I’d surprised her with. What should I write? she asked. Write what you see, write what you know and don’t know. Right what you wonder about, I said.
This morning I wok op and I sa a prasint in my car.
Nao I am in my car.
Nao I se goldin matis.
Nao there is a bad storm.
Nao it is sloing dawn.
Soggy, we packed up and headed out the next day to Sunriver, Oregon to meet up with my family.
My dad’s father’s parents lived in the Bitterroot Valley, just south of where we live now. They had five children, my grandfather the oldest. I didn’t know much about this part of my family; my grandfather died suddenly when I was five. I remember he was funny, he smoked a pipe. He called me Nick The Rock. I remember my dad crying and shaving, cutting his chin with the razor as he prepared to fly out after receiving the shocking news of his dad’s heart attack. It was the first time I saw my dad cry.
I later learned of my grandfather’s service in the FBI. He was a Flying Tiger in WWII. He was a law professor at The University of Montana. His father had also died from a heart attack when he was young. His mother left for Oregon with her youngest when her eldest children were off to college/air force.
This reunion in Sunriver was for this part of my family. My mom initiated the whole thing with an email a little over a year ago, unsure of what might happen. Dozens of Holts showed up. I met my dad’s cousins, their kids and their kids. For five days we hung with family that immediately felt like family. Yes, family can have something to do with name, blood, proximity and shared past. But mostly, it has everything to do with humanity, history and the choice to know one another. We are all related.
We had planned to head south from Sunriver to the Redwoods. Instead our little family unit drove toward the ocean. Andy and I thrive on unplanned, unbooked travel. We love the excitement of choosing small, less-traveled highways off of a wrinkled, non-talking, old fashioned map.
Always in search of primitive campsites, I read about a little spot on a lake near Sisters, Oregon. We drove the McKenzie Road through fields of lava rock and into an emerald lake with one campsite left. We set up camp, made dinner and envied the site across the way — the one tucked into the forest, right on the lake.
And, right then, as we were saying damn, that site is so awesome the people staying there packed up and left. You know it. We scooped up our piles, ran 100 yards and staked claim.
The girls spent more than an hour making a fairy house. And, two visited: Ponderosa Rose and Lava Feather. They are summer fairy who care for germinating pinecones and the homes of pikas in the lava fields.
Margot and Ruby were fascinated by the once-hot lava surrounding us. We hiked through it, read all about it and are now researching books and websites to answer Margot’s 117 questions about where the first people came from (but where do they COME from?), when the first dinosaur lived, how deep under the earth hot lava exists, where every volcano is in our country, how rock is dated…
>> trip details <<
Lava Camp Lake Campground: free and beautiful and primitive
Lava River National Recreation Trail: educational and magical
McKenzie Pass scenic byway: gorgeous, forested, lush, tons of hiking trails
>> part 2 tomorrow <<