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Finding Ruby

It’s been easy in the past. So simple, in fact, that years in a row my getting out of the truck has been a mere formality to cutting down the family Christmas tree.  The rogue fir trees that lined my in-laws’ driveway seemed to wait in single file for us each December as we pulled up to their house, pointed to the winner, and whittled the thing down with a tiny handsaw and three sets of hands, all before I’d even unbuckled.

But last Saturday our trip to the mountains was like unwrapping a gift we didn’t even know we needed.

We dubiously left the house in homemade hats pulled down like helmets and our winter coats zipped up like puffy breast plates and quested past Enumclaw for a Christmas tree we hoped to find.

And then we realized that if this was all we’d come to see, it would have been enough.


And if the snow wasn’t being eaten, it was being launched…

Or lazed upon.

Where it had been gray and 30 degrees at the bottom. Here on top, the sun was blinding.

We think we’ve found the one.

Except further up the mountain we laid our eyes on this one. And we decided she’s coming home with us.

This is how two of us contributed to cutting down the tree.

We took a picture of the view.

And then we snapped one of the guys doing the work.

We surveyed the route they’d be dragging the tree down to reach the yellow sled.

And then we smiled at all the work we weren’t doing.

There might be a foot in between each branch.

Which fits fine with our lack of working out this year. We might have tumbled more times in the snow if she’d been any heavier.

It probably looks more like we picked out a piece of parsley here than a tree.  But she’s perfect.

And she’s coming home with us.

Now we’re wondering how far away we parked…

Cause somebody’s got to steer the tree that doesn’t want to stay in the sled down the road.

It won’t be until we’ve nearly connected again with Highway 410 that someone will chirp from the back seat, “I think we should call her Ruby.”  Which will have been preceded by discussing all the names we’ve held for each of our fir trees–Steve, Franklin, Larry, Phil…

Only there’s something different about bringing home a noble. You just know not to call her “Dave.”

The rest of us mull it over for a moment. “Ruby,” we say aloud.  “Ruby.” And with each whisper of the name, our lips rise at the corners and we nod our consent.

So here we are, carrying Ruby to the car.

And here she is ready for the ride to Graham,

God’s landscape.

Noble Ruby.


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It’s been five weeks since Labor Day weekend. Five weeks since my boy and I drove together on Highway 410, veered into Mount Rainier National Park at the White River entrance and rolled through the A-D loops at the White River Campground looking for the best spot to land our tent.

We’d be surviving one night alone–just us–before Troy and Raven joined us.

Which meant we had time to wander across log bridges and work our way over the rocks.

We could say “sure” when someone volunteered to take our picture.

And we could twist our feet ninety degrees, so the same person could take it again with the mountain behind us.

We could glance down at the glacier water–so tremendous and loud that if I shouted Silas’s name, he couldn’t hear me.

Looks like a casual day at the beach. But I bet he’s numb up to his knees.

We walked a bit. But not far.

Just far enough to find a few fungi…

And this tiny seat.

What he’s really come for is the baked potato.

And the fire.

Maybe just the fire.

This is morning hair. Probably the result of going to bed at 8:30 p.m. when the sun went down and staring at the tent ceiling until 11:30 p.m.

But look who made it!

At which time Husband asked if there wasn’t a better campsite in another loop.

Right. More on that…

Totally amazing clear days.

Back at the river. And we found ourselves a confluence.

Ice water meeting glacier water. Pick your torture.

Must find a rock to stand on. Nerves in legs crying.

What you don’t see are his wheels turning. “How can I dam this thing up?”

Rock movers.

And after three days…professional rock movers.

Our new campsite in the D loop.

Nevermind the details.

We can at least smile about the food in our laps.

Lose themselves in a book–what these two would do all day.

But. How about a hike.

We’re headed up the Glacier Basin Trail to where it tees at the Emmons Moraine Trail.

Nobody tired yet.

What we’ve noticed is that if you’re looking for a hike that offers some of the best of God’s creation–waterfalls, the mountain practically on a platter, river crossings, this is the one you want to be on.

How can you tire of this view?

This magnificence.

Water, mountain, trees. Repeat.

We’re going to follow the Emmons Moraine Trail.

Which leads us through the rocks…

Across the river…

And up the hill.

On the ridge we can see this unnamed lake (at least on the trailhead map) created by glacier melt.

View from the ridge.

And from the other direction.

Back down the gravel switch backs.

At which time Silas pushed and pulled on his tooth a bunch and then pointed to where he thought it popped out.

And Raven found it.

More beauty on the way back.

A little river dancing while we wait for Silas to catch up.

Carrying the tired bro back to the campsite.

Morning light.

The main attraction.

Making his own moss fuse.

Babysitting his fuse.

Another hike.

Outside the main entrances to Mount Rainier National Park and accessed from Highway 410 is…

The heavily trafficked Naches Peak Loop.

They say that if you walk the trail clockwise, the view of Mt. Rainier is the most spectacular.

The trail, though, is littered with people. People with dogs. People carrying kids. Old people. People out of shape. People right in front of you. Right behind you. All types.

It seems we’re all after one thing.

This view.

The blueberry jackpot is a bonus.

Seems they’re everywhere.

Which is why we seem to be standing in the same spot.

Somebody can’t pass these up.

We’re headed to that lake for a moment.

If we’ll ever get out of the blueberry bushes.

Frogs and even salamanders…

Act as if they like to be held.

And then…right around the corner is this.

Suck-in-your-breath amazing.

Nothing shabby about the blue sky or the dipping views of the mountain on the way back.

We’ve just got to remember to look up every once in a while.

It’s Sunday.

Remember the Glacier Basin Trail? We’re on it again.

We’re headed to the end this time–3.1 miles to Glacier Basin camp.

Sometimes we need a little encouragement.

Sometimes we need a lot.

They kind of look like stair steps here.

Mmm. So pretty.

Last time we crossed the river just ahead.

This time we’ll pass the Emmons Moraine Trail junction.

Further ahead, the trail is covered in water.

And this is the stream running across it.

Beginning to see the mountain again.

I love that she can smile.

Two seconds before this. Not so much.

The last 7/10 of a mile are steep.

Kind of like walking in place at times.

But we keep putting one foot ahead of the other and eventually we make it.

And if we can make it that far, we can make it a little further to check out the “toilets.”

These are the composting toilets. Two of ’em. Which means you ain’t got to do your business alone.

Quite a few folks camping. Kind of feels like we’re walking through their living room as we pass by on the trail.

This may be the end of the maintained trail, but nobody stops here.

It’s like we’re so close to the mountain that we can no longer see the mountain.

All of us. Still intact.

If we can slide down this grade, we can sit on the rocks in the riverbed.

They clearly come in all sizes.

Looking for the flattest rock to sit on and eat a cheese stick.

Making plans to hike further and touch that snow.

But trying to get across the water first.

Which was not a problem for the gazelles here.

But it’s the last picture in this sequence, as I faltered into the drink and took my phone with me.

On Monday, the smoke from the wildfires began to hide more and more of the mountain.

Remember that glacier-melt lake we could see from the ridge on the Emmons Moraine Trail?

This is it.

The water is clear. And yet we can’t see past these rocks in front of us.

And why not swim.

Because you never know when they’ll be another opportunity to take a dip in ice cubes.

Doing my hair a favor.

End of a long weekend.



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It doesn’t always begin very pretty. The camping part. The pop-up tent doesn’t pop up in 60 seconds like it does for the lady on the video. Or in in twenty minutes. And when it’s still sagging in twenty-five and one kid is crying, sometimes you look at the thing and say, “good enough.”

But then the words, “it’s okay,” get tricky to spit out, when all the sleeping bags are accounted for and yours ain’t there, like at all. Because all you really feel like doing is kicking the dirt and crying with the kid who’s still sad about the tent.

A sleeping bag. Who forgets that?

But at least you’ve got an air mattress. And now a few borrowed blankets from the kids whose hearts were bigger than you thought. Only the air thingy that plugs into the cigarette lighter and sounds like its gunning down the rest of the campground hasn’t put a single speck of air into the mattress after six minutes. None.

Which means you really don’t have an air mattress to put your non-sleeping bag on.


One kid has found the creek.

And the other a chair.

And you look around and think maybe you could settle into this place.

We’re at Ohanapecosh Campground in Mount Rainier National Park.

The Ohanapecosh River runs through this pretty place.

And when we follow this sign…

and walk anywhere but on the path…

We come to the tiny springs themselves.

Then because there’s still sunshine and because it’s just minutes away by car, we visit the Grove of the Patriarchs.

It’s where the great granddaddies of trees still live.  And where some have leaned over to rest.

We can walk or do our own jig across the suspension bridge. But it’s across the river where the trees are waiting.

There’s just something about big trees that says, “touch me.”

“Hide in me.”

“Lean against me for a bit.”

Makes you wonder if everything and everyone isn’t just a little prettier with a bit of bark beneath them.

Even when it’s like bathing in ice cubes, the water calls to him.

And then he calls to her.

And it equals two wet bodies…

Who bring me their river treasures.

Ah. The bridge back without a soul.

Such enormity.

And beauty hidden in the woods.

They said these were the best burgers they had ever eaten.

Okay then.

How Raven camps…in a chair with a bag of books.

Silas’s method…in a chair with a stick, stabbing the fire.

Morning light.

Sun streaking through the trunks.

First hike.

On the Loop Trail headed to Silver Falls.

Voila. Silver Falls.

And the view in the other direction.

Raven all tucked into the rock.

Stopping to fuel the tanks.

The road back to Ohanapecosh.

Silas leading the way.


Afternoon exercise.

On the Snow Lake Trail now. Hoping to swim at the first of the two lakes on the trail–Bench Lake.

Mount Rainier reflected on Bench Lake.

Deep thoughts.

To get in or not to get in.

Not quite as warm as past years.

Making good on their five dollar bets to each other.

Reeling in a log.

Onward to Snow Lake. Another half mile up the trail.

Sitting on the same log here in August that my friend Mitzi and I sat on at the end of June with snow all around us.


Following the signs to Snow Lake Camp.

Crossing a few logs to get there.

Desolate place today.

Might have to do with the welcoming committee of mosquitoes.

Looking down onto Snow Lake.

Contemplating a private business meeting.

Just enough light.

Eating real camping food from a bag. For breakfast.

Heading in the direction of a shower. And cell service. And a bed less close to the ground.

Heading home.


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This might be my favorite misleading sign.

And you can find it at Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park. It’s where the kids and I were. We’d headed to the Mount Freemont Lookout.

The sign says that the Mt. Freemont Tr. is 1.3 miles away.

Which is correct. The trail to the lookout begins from this point in 1.3 miles. Which also means, Ya ain’t at the lookout in 1.3 miles. Ya gotta pick up your feet some more.

Which these two can handle. They just like their momma to be exact when they ask how much further until we’re there.

These are my hiking buddies today.

They sleep walked to the van at 6:30 this morning thinking they’d rather be anywhere than headed to a hike two hours away.

They may not realize it even on this trip, but things like the massive mountain in front of them and the wildflowers on the sides of the trail and the fat chipmunks on the rocks all seem more breathtaking without the back drop of hundreds of people bumping up the trail at the same time.

This is Frozen Lake. Hanging on to the last of its snow melt.

And just past the lake is the trail to the lookout.

Ah.  1.3 miles to go.

The trail starts with a squished view of Mount Rainier.

But then it climbs.

At which time our lungs point out that the mountain looks a bit more majestic from this vantage point.

Best to pause to take it all in.

And then it’s up again. And mostly through these rocky ridges where the rock is loose and clunky and sounds sometimes like broken glass.

Hardly any elevation gain to the lookout now, which isn’t quite a half mile away.

But the views behind us are ridiculous.

Here’s Mount Rainier with a little cloud hat.

A few more turns past these rocks…

And we’re at the stairs of the lookout.

Kinda pretty no matter which way you’re looking.

And if you can see ’em, those are goats.

It’s windy at the lookout. Gusts keep coming from the Rainier-side of the rock pile we’re sitting on.

But the view.

Makes you wonder if you couldn’t stay here all day.

At least until your stomach spoke up again.

The lookout is completely hidden behind and below the rock pile we were just on.

I can only imagine how many thousands of people have scrambled up here to eat their lunches.

Day made right here. The fact that he got to poke around in the snow and sneak some to sample on the way down the trail.

We get to pick our way back through the rock with an occasional glance from our feet to God’s incredible canvas.

Frozen Lake again.

From here we take the path less traveled back to Sunrise.

Almost there.

Made it.

Raven in her happy place.

And Silas in his.

Right here. In these rocks.

With all this water.

Might be mine, too.


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Hair Like a Campfire

My boy who doesn’t want a haircut. Who’s said so all summer. Who doesn’t even want our fingers to pull his hair to its full height and then sweep it out of his eyes like he’s a school boy. From 1950. Who combs his locks with his fingernails back into place each time. Quickly, like his arms are exercising. And yet who yesterday, by his own hand, snipped the rooster tail flapping on top of his head. Cut it right off before we headed to church. Him. He’s gone to camp. Dropped off this morning. Gone to grow older in a week. Gone to create memories he’ll chatter about for the rest of the year. Gone to be unrecognizable on Saturday at pick up time except for that orange hair, likely only washed in the lake.


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It’s the outdoors. I need them.

Which is why I’ve camped multiple times with the kids these last several summers even when Troy couldn’t come. I’ve lasted a night on a leaky air mattress with Silas and noted with crushed hips that only one of us was still off the ground by morning. I’ve packed coolers, calculated food, crammed in camping chairs and gone the extra mile for firewood. I’ve hovered over kids lighting fires, rolled sleeping bags, found lost flashlights without a flashlight and wrestled the swollen tent back in the bag.


Because getting outside doesn’t just happen.

And it didn’t just happen on this trip either. But sharing the responsibility of kids and fires and coolers with Troy made camping less of something I barely survived, and more of something we’re all still talking about.

We’re in the Olympic National Park at Heart ‘o the Hills campground–a place, having lived in Washington for decades, that we should have visited by now.

But it’s a ways from home. Just under 3 hours in early Saturday morning traffic. And maybe too far to drive without a camping reservation. On Memorial Day weekend.

But as the camp sites in the national park are filled in order of first come, first served, we left home hopeful.

We weren’t first, but we were so thankful to be served.

A half mile from our camp ground is the Lake Angeles Trail.

What didn’t get thought through as well as it should have was how warm it was, how salty the chips were we just ate and how far we had to go with the amount of water we brought.

Might as well soak our heads.

At least we won’t feel as thirsty.

For the next ten feet.

Green. That’s what this place is.

And every moment we take to look up from our feet, the view is trees.

Trees and sunlight and rocks.

And the trail is steep. No scooting along picking daisies.

It feels like we ought to be finished by now.

In fact, some of us feel finished.

But the trail keeps climbing into the snow line.

Which, if you’re low on water and you’ve left your Life Straw behind, is about the best news you can find.

Made it.

Lake Angeles.

Still thawing.

It’s sunny, but the temperature of the lake is like ice cubes.

Which means nothing to some.

The trail’s a whole lot easier going back.

Even smiling is easier.

And since our legs aren’t having to lift themselves anymore, even a patch of shaded trees is worth pausing to notice.

And a burned out tree.

And the last of the sunlight coming through the trees.

Hotdogs. That’s all anyone’s thinking of about now.

Hey. A tree we never noticed on the way up.

And a stream.

We can smell the trailhead.

And here we are.

Our favorite part of this sign is where somebody inked in “more like 5” after the 3.7 mi.

We’re all for accuracy.


Speaking his language.

With a little help.

Tent to himself.

Good night.

Good morning.

And good bye.

What the van smelled like.

What he smelled like.

For days.

Last stop: Hurricane Ridge.

What a place. What a view.



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The Hana Highway

There’s a price to seeing some of the greenest green in the state of Hawaii. It’s called 620 curves and 59 single-lane bridges on Maui’s highway 360 heading to Hana.

It’s a road full of squiggles and cars reaching speeds of 10 mph.

But driving it is worth it–even for the feint of stomach.

Because nothing could be more outrageously green.

Or blue.

Or blue and green.

It’s like driving through someone else’s photographs.

Except those are our kids.

Every view is a back drop for a post card.

Layer upon layer of greens. Shade upon shade.

How to even take it all in.

And waterfalls.

Some visible from the road.

Some tucked away.

Each a little reward from heaven.

Here’s part of the coastline glinting in the sunshine.

And through these trees is Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach.

We’re in Hana at this point. Anticlimactic. No restaurant. No historical marker. No medal for making it this far.

But from the highway we’ve turned down the Honokalani Road, which leads to the Black Sand Beach.

This is amazing. Hundreds of people must come and go from this beach each day.

But no one seems to stay real long.

It’s as if everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere else.

They do like we do…

Snap a few pictures with this parent…

And then with that one…

Before hobbling off the rocks in their bare feet and back to the car.

Only we do stay longer.

We crawl through the surf.

And watch the glass-like socks that form at our ankles as the waves rush back to the rest of the ocean.

Hours. I wonder if we couldn’t do this for hours…

Build forts in the surf while Husband figures out how to take his own picture…

Without snarling at the same time.


But…there we are!

Missin’ a kid, though.

Ah. Got it.

A little further past Hana, we brake at a coconut sign.

Silas says it is worth his five bucks.

But this. This is Hamoa Beach–a little south of Hana.  A gem on Maui.

And what makes it so great is that the waves here break further from the shore and make it one of the best places to boogie board.

I suppose you can boogie board on any beach. But it’s different here.

You can simply ride wave after wave from 100 feet out all the way to shore.

And it doesn’t get old.

Like. Not at all.

And it’s probably where we should have spent the afternoon, but I hurried us along thinking we ought to see the Haleakala National Park where the Seven Sacred Pools are.

I think someone will hit me over the head next time.

The little dotted circle at the bottom of the map is the route that takes you to the pools. The closed Seven Sacred Pools. Which means we can pay to look, but not touch.

The other dotted line is the Pipiwai Trail which leads to a couple of waterfalls.

We took the trail…

Which has its own lush green on every side of us…

And some major views.

That light green fluffiness is the tops to a bunch of bamboo.

Here’s an old banyan tree in the middle of the trail…

With branches so low it makes sense to sit on them.

This is the bamboo up close.

Which doesn’t let a lot of light down to the ground. Rather, the hollow trunks thunk and whistle and rub against each together like a low-note wind chime.

They even dip and sway like they might just lay down for good.

Here’s the trail’s destination. A waterfall with a long name.

The sign we’re leaning against says to not go beyond it.

Which seems to inspire folks to go beyond.

Lots of leafy things to notice on the way back.

And unleafy things.

And that familiar banyan tree…

Which lets us know we’re almost back.

One last bit of foliage we won’t find on Mount Rainier.

Then. Since we’ve made it this far, we walk the loop to The Seven Sacred Pools.

Of which there aren’t seven. Nor is sacred the right adjective.

The pools are foamy and full and wind-whipped. Which is why, like everybody else, we’re just looking over the edge today.

It’s a long, slow-going ride back to Kahana from here. No matter which way we go.

We could turn around and wind back the way we came.

But we don’t.

We continue around the island creeping over narrow, patchwork pieces of highway that take our very breath away.

There’s nothing halfway about driving to Hana.

And there’s nothing…nothing quite as beautiful.


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Braving the Piano Recital

This moment–eight minutes before the start of their piano recital–is the most serious I have seen Silas.

Also the stillest.

And maybe that’s because his stomach is all trembly about plunking those piano keys up there alone for all those folks in the pews.

But he rises. And he sits.

And he plays his In My Red Convertible like his fingers might catch on fire.

In mere moments we applaud with proud hands the boy who wasn’t sure he could. But did.

Raven is from a different planet. I think.

She seats herself at the keys with confidence. And plays.

Unafraid. Unabashed. Beautiful notes. Beginning to end.

When it’s over… it’s over!

And it’s not just a relief for every kid, but for this lady, the one who pours herself into my children two hours a month. Laughing. Inspiring. Understanding.

She gets my boy.

And I’ve wondered, “how could I ever ask someone to love my kids like I do?”

Only. I didn’t even have to ask.


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Maui in the Rain

Since October, we’ve wondered if the sun might ever shine again in western Washington.

Or the rain have mercy.

And it’s happened. Just twice.

Which means we’ve borne witness to the wettest winter on record. And the palest skin on anybody. Yay.

So. It’d seem we’re checking out of this state ’cause we’re near to losing our minds without the sun. But really we’re on our way to Maui because we’d planned this trip a year ago. Even a sunburn in 86 degree weather sounds like a good time.

Here’s our teensy Nissan Versa, which almost holds all of us, our bags and the food we bought at Costco.

And this is our fifth floor view and what’s left of Friday night’s sunshine.

This is what I smiled at a moment before the football in husband’s hands got launched, fell short of our railing and nailed the window of the fourth floor unit. Ack.

Bananas. Just hangin’ there.

Produce. With more numbers after the dollar sign than we’re used to.

Last week I bought these same yellow onions for $.29/lb. My aunt Nancy who lived in Walla Walla in the thick of the onion fields would still be shaking her head.

These are west Maui’s Saturday clouds.

Which confusingly could be Seattle’s clouds, as they’re heavy and wet. And have plans to dump for the next 48 hours.

Which doesn’t mean that we can’t stand here with our bare feet in the sand and still appreciate that we’re in Hawaii.

But we might be the only ones out here…

Waiting for the waves…

To soak every last bit of our clothes.

At this point, these guys aren’t gettin’ any wetter.

And they couldn’t be happier with all this sand to themselves.

Found a Saturday’s farmer’s market outside of Lahaina a ways. Just a few folks selling their homemade and homegrown goodies. Money well-spent.

But. It rained even more in Lahaina. At which time we saw our first person wearing a heavy coat zipped up to his chin.


The banyan tree of banyan trees in downtown Lahaina.

Dodging puddles en route to our parking spot.

Saturday night, it was resolved that we had come to Hawaii to play on the beach in any weather.

At least two of us had.

And so while every other person on Maui was anywhere but at the beach…


Troy and I pulled the brims of our hats down further and wrapped every towel we brought with us, around us…

While the wind blew the rain sideways, the sun stayed away, and these guys dug in the sand.

Sigh. Welcome to Sunday.

This is what Seattle might look like with palm trees.

Still raining in the evening, but running in the rain on the beach beats sitting in a chair with your swim trunks on watching it rain.


Signs of life.

Ah…and look at that. A little hope.


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Almost Tulips

We hadn’t intentionally driven an hour to Mossyrock to buy another cactus to put in the kitchen window sill.

Until we had.

In fact, one of us happily parted with even more of his lawn mowing cash when he found succulents and lilies and things with pretty leaves that he couldn’t live without.

The rest of us came for the tulips.

The rows of reds and pinks…

Which ended up being the only rows of color in full bloom.

Because a record amount of rain will do that. Delay even the tulips.

Even so, it’s hard to be unhappy when the sun is shining.

Hard to walk the length of the rows…

And not feel like you could be here forever.

Because there’s a certain freedom in the flower fields.

A refreshing of the soul.

A depth of gratitude for this day. This moment.

These three.

And maybe that’s why we come. To experience more than flowers.

And cramped knees.

We come to hit the reset button on family.

And to breathe in a glimpse of all God painted behind us.

Not every photo should be shared.

Or every song.

But hope.




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