It’s Oregon. A place we don’t get to much. And why that is is about as lame an answer as you might imagine. Leaving takes time. Takes mowing the grass real low. Takes arranging someone else to pet your cat while you’re gone. And someone else to fill your shoes–all your shoes–in whatever it was you’d be doing. A lot of someones.
But. This last week, we took the time. Made the time. And asked the someones. We crammed the cooler, stuffed bags in and around the kids, squeezed a bike in the back and inched out of the driveway before 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
We were headed to Sunriver. A place mapquest said we could reach in six and a half hours. Granted we didn’t stop to sniff the sage brush or peek over a ravine like this one to restart our hearts.
We’re at least six hours in. Less than an hour from Sunriver. But only 300 feet from meeting our Maker.
This is the newer bridge over Crooked River Canyon. Built in 2000.
And here’s the train trestle looking the other way.
It would seem our children tripping on the path in their flip flops almost got a glimpse of Heaven.
Which is why it seems easier to admire the ledge from a 100 feet away. On a rock that doesn’t move. Clutching some piece of clothing on both kids.
Then behold! In the parking lot.
A museum gem we didn’t even have to pay to see.
Just a buck for dial tone. Heh.
And then here it is. Two miles off of Exit 153 on Hwy 97, Sunriver.
They say just follow the signs.
And by that they mean feel free to circle the same round-a-bout for the third time, squinting for a sign; it’s all part of the adventure.
At home, our neighbor’s house is blue, and the guy’s across the street is white. But in Sunriver, every neighbor’s house is brown. And most of the signs look the same.
Here’s the sign we’re looking for. The Pines.
And here’s the view straight off the deck of our room. Kind of dry and piney. And golf course-y in the background.
We didn’t golf this trip. Truth is, three of us don’t know a club from a stick. But had we, golfed that is, we’d have had 22 golf course options. Just barely enough.
And here’s the view (still from the deck) just pointing to the right. Or pointing north.
Which might as well be the view everywhere. Bike paths. And pine trees. Yes. Please.
Our resort stay came with the use of two bikes. The kind with padded seats, so we could walk the next day. Thoughtful. And a basket if we wanted one.
This is what we looked like hittin’ the town.
One kid bursting ahead on his bike. One taking in the scenery on skates. And two of us wobbling behind on bikes with a basket and back brakes.
So what’s there to do at Sunriver in the summer?
Well. If you’re over fifty and you got yourself a hankerin’ for the pool, you might just want to find yourself a white lawn chair and a decent book and never really get wet. But if you’re ten or under, why you just leap into that pool morning, noon and night until your hair is so stiff it resembles straw. You might even confess the night before leaving to peeing in the hot tub. But “just a little.”
There’s also tennis.
On a court nobody uses but us.
And there’s a half-day hike to Benham Falls.
Where the dusty path is made emphysemic by the kid dragging a stick.
And where a little girl in green shorts keep truckin’ along.
And where everybody digs in for just a half mile to go…
Over a bridge.
In a tree.
Up a path…
Until the water looks like this.
And until we realize in that moment, for a moment, that it isn’t so much the hike…it never is…
As it is getting to spend life with these guys–being a part of kicked pine cones, pocketed rocks, counted ant hills and potty stops with a half a napkin.
Because one day, when they don’t reach for our hands anymore…
Our hearts hope they still whisper to us about the world.
If being seven layers deep in dust is as much trouble as it sounds, there is the SHARC. Sunriver Homeowner’s Aquatic and Recreation Center.
Which trumps any other HOA’s pool. Mostly because it isn’t just a pool but an indoor/outdoor water park.
On the tame side. And not nearly worth the $25 per person, per day to get in. But, if you live in Sunriver, or have access to a pass to get in, what a treasure to have in your own “back yard.”
For us, seventy-three degrees and breezy meant…
That once we flung out the end of a slide…
We spent ten minutes thawing on the concrete…
Or we sat in one of these chairs with insufficient sunblock and got ourselves a hundred dollar sunburn.
But there was also this. A tubing hill on the same premises.
Where, by our own strength, we dragged a tube up to the top of the grass.
Unless we appeared sorrowful and pathetic and the guy in the blue shirt met us half way and carried our tube burden for us and we merely dragged our own legs the rest of the way.
But here’s the top of the giant silicone slide.
And the middle.
And the bottom.
Fun enough for a time or two.
Or until our legs simply said, “That’ll do.”
There is also this. Lava Butte. Two miles north–up the road off of Exit 151.
Pronounced Lave Bewt.
Unless you’re in this family and find it necessary to cover the “E” and snicker while you do it.
This was a drive that wound around the butte until you reached the ten-stall parking lot and hiked up to the lookout.
At the top is a 360 degree view of every butte and mountain. And inside the bottom portion of the lookout (the only part allowed for visitors) is a 360 degree map labeling each bump and butte. The Sisters. Mt. Bachelor. Three-Fingered Jack. Mt. Jefferson…
This. Is Mt. Bachelor.
Yes. This one here.
And here’s the lookout behind us.
Then beyond those trees somewhere–in the horizon–are the three Sisters.
And up close–the little brother. In yellow.
Tis pretty here.
It might be 80 degrees on top of Lava Butte, but we’ve been told it’s 42 degrees in the Lava Caves a mile away.
So. With every extra shirt we could scrounge for insulation and our stash of inadequate flashlights in our palms, we’re ready, we think, for the lava cave.
Here it’s bright.
And now it’s night.
Like maybe darker than night.
And the terrain is bumpy.
And according to the signs we read along the way, bats hang out here.
Which has a couple of us wondering the entire hour, why bumbling in the dark with fading flashlights is a good time.
Is it a good time?
Well. After a mile in and a mile back out, having tripped through the dark, there is this again. Freedom. Hope. Life.
Just a hundred yards away!
So…from Sunriver, Bend is just fifteen miles north. Which is where we were on Saturday afternoon when The Two Bulls fire was just heating up.
Ash was already floating from the sky in Sunriver and landing on our shorts and in the swimming pool, which prompted an urgency to find the source. For us, anyway.
We’re in the parking lot of Bend’s Goodwill store–the closest we’ll get. Here the two fires have yet to merge. And on the economic side, have yet to consume thousands of acres and get a price tag of $2.4 million dollars in damage. Everything takes time.
And so with our time, we headed south from Bend to Lava Butte hoping to catch a glimpse of the fire from on top.
Only we couldn’t drive in anymore.
Which made that butte seem a lot bigger and a whole bunch longer than it was the day before.
While three of us put our heads down and huffed our way up.
One of us ran.
Until we were met with smoky views like this one.
And this one.
And our clear sky from the day before was but a coughing haze.
It doesn’t take much for the smoke to scratch your lungs from even miles away.
So we headed back down…
In the same fashion we’d come up.
And we called it a day.
A vacation, really.
Because in morning light, we left the place that’s hard to leave.
But we know this…
Know that we’ll hold tightly to the memories God gifted us here.
And know that we’ll rejoice in the day He brings us back.
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow…” Isaiah 55