Thursday, July 30, 2015

camping at Smiling River

The children and I packed up the car with all of our stuff and went camping! We left Sunday morning and came back late on Tuesday night, so just two nights, but it was a great success. (Such a relief after the earlier fiasco.)  We camped at Smiling River Campground, along the Metolius River near Sisters OR. The location and date were originally scouted by Anne, and camping with friends is just extra awesome for the children.

We met up with the Hoangs on Sunday afternoon at the Sahalie and Koosah Falls trailhead along the McKenzie River. The trail was a nice 3 mile loop on either side of the extremely impressive, somewhat frightening, McKenzie. The river rushes along and cascades over rocks with tremendous speed and force - the waterfalls are beautiful and the water a crystalline turquoise color.  It would have been an excellent start to our adventure, except for the fact that both children got stung by the same damn yellowjacket within seconds of each other. They both cried and screamed and yelled and sobbed and tried to run away and hug me simultaneously. It was pretty awful.  Hilariously awful, in fact.  But we recovered, and it was still beautiful.
Seb, Liesl, and Camille playing "secreties" in the woods. I don't actually know how the game works, because they haven't shared the details with me, but it involves running really far ahead of all the parents along the trail - and lots of giggling.
Check out the amazing wooden face of this old stump!

We arrived at our campground around 4, just in time to set up the tents and get settled in. I had some trouble remembering how to set up our giant REI tent, and it didn't help that the instructions printed on the tent back were WRONG. Cuong came over to help, and the two of us fumbled around and made mistakes and laughed a lot as we tried one thing after another.  I had a moment of fear that between the hornet sting and the tent failure, we were heading for another camping disaster story, but then we figured it out and got it up and stable.  (I remarked afterwards that it was a good thing we weren't married: clearly fertile grounds for a fantastic spousal argument. :) )

The Delloways showed up, as did Crystal and Vivienne, and our three sites were all next to one another. We had hot dogs for dinner, and then s'mores and boxed wine, and everyone was extremely happy. The stars came out and were delightfully numerous, and the moon was bright enough to cast shadows. 

Monday morning came early (5:41 am!) and COLD. Apparently the high desert of the mountains are COLD. We put on every last article of clothing - I think Seb was wearing 6 layers on top - and huddled up close to the Hoang's fire. Thank goodness they too were early risers and could keep us company. Still, the first morning was a little rough. :)
Our tent and picnic table and general setup. The campsite was really beautiful - spacious and treed, with the sounds of the Metolius rushing through the background.
The Hoangs and we walked on the river trail from our campground to the store at Camp Sherman - about a mile away - to warm up the limbs and use up some time while our friends slept in.  Once everyone was awake and fed, we gathered on our bicycles for an epic group ride: three trail-a-bikes, one back bike seat, Seb on his own, and Crystal getting onto a bike for the first time in 20 years. (As she remarked, it really is just as they say... "It's just like riding a bike, you never forget!")  We rode about 8-10 miles on the backroads of the forest, enjoying the scenery.
Along the way, we stopped to see the headwaters of the Metolius River - it is spring-fed, and comes almost magically out of the ground, fully formed.  This is the place it begins -

Mt. Jefferson in the background in these two pictures.
After lunch, and some quiet time, we decided to dip into the Metolius. It was cold. 43 degrees, according to our sources. Cold enough to freeze your toes instantly. But all the children waded in, the three girls dipped down to their necks, and Anne (bless her Norwegian soul) dunked her entire head under the water twice.  I got into the water too, and managed to gather the courage to get myself under as far as my chest. And then my fingers promptly turned white as my circulatory system freaked out. :)  It was a grand adventure for an afternoon.
Some pe-dinner tball, in the dusty grounds of the campground. The children got utterly filthy - like Pigpen dirty; coal-miners or chimney sweepers dirty. It was hysterical.
After everyone had settled in, I was reading at our site and saw a trio of deer crossing the hillside above the campground.
Second morning: still cold, but we were much happier. Everyone got a little more sleep and we warmed up our clothes inside the sleeping bags before donning them. Anne and Cuong once again built a fire, and we roasted a soggy muffin (fell into the cooler ice), some apple slices, a hard-boiled egg, an apple with cheese...  which was really a very fun and yummy pastime.
And then we headed out for another early morning walk, this time north along the Metolius River trail (which stretches 10 miles along the river on both sides). We didn't go far but we found a couple of huge old trees stretching nearly across the river, and had a lot of fun venturing out onto the expanse into the center of the water.
And then it was back to the campground for second breakfasts and packing up. The kids ran around with their friends and played and hid and laughed and had a grand time. Packing up a tent and sleeping materials and kitchen stuff and dirty clothes and bicycles as a solo parent was much less fun. But everything fit back into the car, and we waved goodbye to our friends before setting off on one last bike adventure. We headed north to the Wizard Falls fish hatchery - about 4 miles - and got to see and feed rainbow trout and salmon. The kids were delighted by the rapidity with which the fish devoured the food, and were particularly fond of one enormous salmon.
We biked back to camp, got the bikes on, and drove off - stopped in Sisters for pizza and ice cream and then the long haul back home to Portland. It was a great success - Liesl wanted to stay another night! - and I am already hoping to camp with them again.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Oaks Amusement Park

On Tuesday, we went for a bike ride on the Springwater Corridor - Liesl on the trail-a-bike, Seb on his own - about 13 miles all together. It would have been a perfectly delightful morning, except that I tried to squeeze our bikes between two posts and ended up squashing Liesl's pinky finger into one of the posts. She screamed - it bled - the nail looks to be coming off - she cried and cried - but we were 5 miles from the car in the far SE, and we had no choice but to get back onto the bikes and ride. I gave her some candy as a bribe and she gamely climbed back on, holding onto the handlebars with her right good hand and her left wrist. She cried (loudly) all the way back. I rode as fast as I could and Sebastian (such a good boy) kept up without complaint, even calling out encouragement to Liesl as we rode. It was pretty awful.

We made it back and got some neosporin and gauze onto her finger, but when I suggested we go right home, Liesl decided that she wanted to stay out in the world. We had parked right outside the Sellwood library, so we popped in for a few minutes and checked out two dozen books or so, and then the kids submitted their summer reading logs. They had both read/been read to far more than the minimum, and so they earned Multnomah County library tshirts.  Both promptly donned them and wore them all afternoon.  We had lunch at a new place, Jade Bistro - Thai/Vietnamese cuisine, which was very yummy - especially the BBQ pork buns.

Finally, we hit the main attraction: Oaks Amusement Park! Old-school rides - a mini train, a carousel, big ferris wheel, swinging boat, giant slide, pretend cars and planes... they loved it.