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Tara sitting beside the campfire. Yep, we had a strong wireless signal in camp!

Tara and I went camping on Sunday for Mother’s Day in Silver Falls State Park. We’ve been camping on Mother’s Day, rain or shine, since the kid was in middle school.

This year it was time to find a new place. Over the years I have had Silver Falls recommended for a hike because of the trails and waterfalls.  This state park is over 9000 acres. It’s enormous. There is only one place to camp: a managed campground with paved roads, landscaping, indoor toilets, showers, several camp hosts and an office where you check in and have your problems addressed. There are 103 single-family sites and 3 group sites. I reserved our space online. It’s not at all the kind of place that T and I typically enjoy. We’re more of the kind to pull over in a wide spot in the road, and lug our stuff through the trees till we find a flat spot beside a creek.

So with initial trepidation, it was a relief and a delight to find it lovely. Full of people, yes, but overall a very acceptable large campground. It’s set up so that we could see a few campsites right next to us, but there are too many trees and strategically-placed bushes to get a sense of how big the place is from the inside. We will certainly come back some time.

I have one complaint. Even while our two vehicles fit perfectly well with lots of space left over on the paved pad at our campsite, there is a strict “extra vehicle” charge. And while others arrived in gigantic trucks and huge RVs that could barely fit, Tara’s teeny tiny Chevy Aveo was banished outside the park – outside the whole park! – or else pay the fee. We feigned not having made a decision yet, so the Ranger let us alone on her first trip through. No one showed up again that night and we celebrated that we had gotten away with a free second car. We assumed that we were so well behaved, and the extra car was so tiny, that they would certainly leave us alone. Nope. First thing in the morning they got us! I paid the fee.

South Fork of Silver Creek was near our campsite.

This covered walking bridge goes over the South Fork of Silver Creek to the cabins you can rent if you didn’t bring your own home for the night.

We found one tent site that allows access to the river so next time we will try to reserve this one.

We had a laid-back evening, exploring the campground a little. There are trails of many lengths that begin from the campground itself, from a one-mile nature trail crossing two small creeks, to a 7.2 mile loop past 10 waterfalls. It was perfect. That evening we walked to a wooden covered bridge over a walking path across the Silver Creek South Fork. We explored nearby campsites to find the best one for next time, and then we went walking on the nature trail.

We roasted sausages by the fire and talked and talked. Man, I love that kid.

We walked this nature trail around the campground.

We both thought these looked like prehistoric dinosaur plants! They are huge, and called American Skunk Cabbage, an invasive species in the UK.

Our plan was to get up early and start hiking first thing in the morning and do the 7.2 mile trail and hit all those waterfalls! We got up nice and early, but the weather had changed in the night, and it was cold. C-c-c-cold. So we moved slowly. I got the last of the sausages frying on my little stove, dropped in four eggs, and when it was close to done, topped up the scramble with some white cheddar. Yum! We made tea and held our cups in our hands to warm them, but it wasn’t enough. We finally got out of there, but it was with creaky, frozen joints.

On the map I saw there was a café! I mean, this place, seriously. So we walked from the campground almost a mile to the place where the café was supposed to be, which was on the way to the falls anyway. There is an adjacent lodge that holds a restaurant and I would have been happy for either, to go indoors, get a hot coffee and thaw out. The sign on the door said “closed Mondays.”

Building that hosts the restaurant and the cafe. Just not on Mondays.

The doors were open and we went in seeking coffee just in case, but they were having a flower show. We took some time to learn the local native flowers, all clearly having been harvested that morning from the forest. It was a great educational idea!

Out on the wide surrounding porch of the place, we sat for a bit because Tara needed to get a rock out of their boot. On inspection, it was not a rock, but a nail, newly erupted through the bottom of the boot. It had pushed up from the sole into the boot and had torn a hole in Tara’s sock. We could not begin a hike like this.

“I’ll be fine,” Tara insisted, not wanting to go back.

“You’ll be sorry, and you’ll be miserable, if you don’t protect your foot before this hike,” I said. Twenty years of hiking knocked all the tough-guy out of me. If there’s something wrong with your boots, it needs to be addressed immediately.

We hiked the mile back to camp. Tara put on two layers of socks and put a moleskin patch where the nail head is pushing up into the shoe. We hiked another mile back to where we had last left off.

We hit the trail in earnest and in about 100 yards we were met with the grandeur of the first jaw-dropping waterfall.

A lookout point above South Falls provides a view to the valley below.

Panoramic View of Tara looking down over the top of South Falls.

As the trail brought us nearer, the falls only became more and more beautiful.

Me

The hiking trail goes behind South Falls.

Standing behind South Falls.

I had my geologist Tara along with me on this hike, which added a fun dimension. Tara pointed out lava rock when I wasn’t expecting it, and of course the ever-present basalt columns that make these astonishing waterfalls possible. Tara also talked about the common rock types in Oregon, because of the millennia of volcanic eruptions, and described their favourite rock type: schist. Tara likes schist because other kinds of rock come together to make a new rock, called schist. I asked if that’s what geologists yell as an exclamation. “Schist!” You’ve heard of Dad Jokes, well, I do Mom jokes.

The next waterfall on the journey was Lower South Falls.

Approaching Lower South Falls.

The trail goes behind Lower South Falls too.

After our slow start due to the cold and the nail in Tara’s shoe, we were out of time and couldn’t make the whole waterfall trip. We will save it for another day. For the return trip, we went uphill and zig zagged up the slopes and returned along the ridgeline for a wholly different kind of look at the forest.

Larkspur grew in the cooler, wetter areas.

We found this big field of Camas up in the drier, warmer parts of the forest.

We then made the trip back to our campground and packed up the tent which had dried out by now. We were no longer freezing, and that made packing up easier. After big smooshy hugs, we said goodbye. Tara left south to go back to their college town of Corvallis, and I left to head north to home in Rainier.

Mom and me enjoying an afternoon by the river, in Hood River, Oregon.

I think Mom has been reaching out to me the last couple days. I keep accidentally stumbling onto memories of her. In the last few days I have found old photos of her, remembered that things in my house (and plants outside) were gifts from her, laughed at the memory of her ferocious opinions about things (all that emotion packed into her tiny Mom body). These things have happened while I wasn’t even thinking about Mom. Then boom, she was right there with me.

Today, a blog post popped up in the sidebar that I probably haven’t read since the day I posted it, in December 2010.  She died a year later, December 2011. It’s a message I clearly needed to hear then, and oh my gosh I needed to hear it today. I wish I still had my Wednesday morning calls with her: my ally in absolutely everything.

I’ll reproduce the post without edits below because the way it touched me is important. Thanks, Mom. I needed you today.

 

NEVER BE CONTENT

 

I just got off the phone with my mother. Our hour-long Wednesday morning phone calls are practically a given. God love her.

No, really, my mom is awesome. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to keep her happy, but it is so worth it. On this morning’s phone call, for example, she brought to me a perspective that I had not considered, but needed to hear. She said that when her mother taught her never to be content, it was a gift.

A gift!

I have battled, BATTLED, with my inclination not to ever be content. I’ve considered it a curse, not a gift. Never being content has led me through drastically changing career paths, shattering relationship changes, embracing and discarding those I call loved ones and family, moves moves moves through 11 different states for gods sake, poverty and wealth, humiliating recanting of public outcries, mountains of self-doubt…. Of course I could go on. The end result is pain – as change brings a measure of pain in all cases.

Never being content is emotionally devastating with no hope of an end.

And.

It’s also the reason I have traveled, continued my higher education, and raised an incredible child. It’s the reason I have had the opportunity to work through so many relationships, romantic and otherwise. My lack of content inspires my constant searching for knowledge and understanding, and it’s behind my pure love of humanity (tempered mildly by my raging disgust for humanity). My lack of content explains why I am an atheist and why I can’t imagine a world without religion. It explains why I am ravenous for more information about governments and governance while remaining mystified by them.

Without contentment, I am constantly on the lookout for new friends, new jobs, new homes, and new skills. And thus, why I am bombarded with new fabulous information every single extraordinary day of my life.

In fact, not being content turns out to be one of my very favourite things about myself. I LOVE that about me. Go figure. I guess maybe I’ll make peace with that battle, and move on.

Here’s the original post.

My favourite camping partner.

My favourite camping partner.

Our traditional Mother’s Day is not likely similar to yours. Nonetheless, aren’t traditions sometimes the whole reason we look forward to a holiday? For Tara and me, it’s camping.

It all started because I am the outdoorsy one and Tara less so. And when the kid was little, I just laid down the law and said, “I’m the parent and I say we are going camping.” When Tara got to be a teenager and had a mobile phone, and friends, and a bedroom where a teen could close the door and avoid interaction all weekend long rather than go trudging into the woods…well…there was resistance.

One year I got a little desperate and pulled the Mom card on Mother’s Day. “I don’t want a gift, or for you to make me breakfast, or anything else. Your gift to me on Mother’s Day is that you are going camping with me.” Surprise! Tara seemed relieved to know what I wanted, and happy to give it. Maybe they were grateful to have the excuse for friends, “I’d love to cosplay at the park with you, but Mom is making me go camping.” Whatever their reason, I had my kiddo with me in the forest.

It’s our sixth year and Tara confessed to looking forward to it. “When you called and said, ‘Mother’s Day is coming up,’ I got excited because I knew it meant camping.”

Tara set up the tent while I got the fire started.

Tara set up the tent while I got the fire started.

View from our camp across the river.

View from our camp across the river.

I was delighted by this God's Eye woven by a previous camper and tucked into a tree beside the tent.

I was delighted by this God’s Eye woven by a previous camper and tucked into a tree beside the tent.

My Jeep Dragon-Wagon is a great camp car.

My Jeep Dragon-Wagon is a great camp car.

Tara is at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. It’s about 3 1/2 hours’ drive from home. It made more sense to find a place to camp closer to the university, so I wouldn’t have to do so much driving. I found a place we had camped at before, and I blogged about it for Mother’s Day 2014. I went onto campus Friday evening and picked up the kid.

There was no cell phone service and so we had nothing to do but be together and talk and explore. Tara told me about their classes, the food, possible changes in majors. Right now they are most excited about the History of American Film classes, so we talked about those most often.

Tara's still having fun with hair colour. This year it has been the Cruella de Vil look.

Tara’s still having fun with hair colour. This year it has been the Cruella de Vil look.

Tara brushing their teeth at the creek Saturday morning.

Tara brushing their teeth at the creek Saturday morning.

The place is called House Rock Campground. Across the river is an enormous slab of rock that seems to lean against the ridge, forming a large protected space beneath. From the outside it’s hard to tell, but beneath it there is room for 20 or 30 people. You can stand up under there! The rock is along an old wagon road, and got a reputation as a good place to stop for shelter. Thus it was named “House Rock.”

Look carefully and you can see the long horizontal mouth of House Rock above the ferns.

Look carefully and you can see the long horizontal mouth of House Rock above the ferns.

That's me, inside the huge space.

That’s me, inside the huge space.

Trail between House Rock and House Rock Falls.

Trail between House Rock and House Rock Falls.

Saturday we walked across the wooden foot bridge to the trails on the other side of the South Santiam River (pronounced like “Auntie Em” – Santi Am). I was captivated by everything, as usual: the beautiful trail, the jungle plants, the bugs, the birds. I can’t help myself. We played under House Rock for awhile, then hiked up to the falls, which is simply gorgeous. From that trail, we could connect to the old wagon road, and hike a loop on that. Isn’t it exciting to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors? I love that it was a wagon road originally.

Information board out on the highway.

Information board out on the highway. Click to enlarge.

Footbridge from the campground to the trails. If you click the link to my 2014 post, you'll see the original ballet pose. We decided to recreate it.

Footbridge from the campground to the trails. If you click the link to my 2014 post, you’ll see the original ballet pose. We decided to recreate it.

Jungly plant with jungly flower

Jungly plant with jungly flower

slug

slug

milipede

milipede

Harlequin Ducks along the river

Harlequin Ducks on the river

South Santiam River

South Santiam River

At House Rock Falls. Tara said, "Pose!" So I did.

At House Rock Falls. Tara said, “Pose!” So I did.

less of a pose, but a better smile.

less of a pose, but a better smile.

On a rock ledge down by the water.

Rock ledge down by the water.

Sunday morning it was time to head out. I packed up the tent still soaked with dew, said goodbye to the families on either side of our camp. On both sides of us were young parents with small, active, vocal children who discovered each other immediately. Since our camp was in the middle, it became something of a connecting route, to the chagrin of the frequently apologizing parents. Luckily they were decent children, not being hoodlums, and I was able to easily forgive their shrieks and their bikes because they were doing exactly what I think kids should do: run around in forests and climb trees and get dirty and fall in the river and get wet.

I drove out of the Willamette National Forest early Sunday morning, intending to get home with enough time to get a few chores done before my 4:30 am alarm Monday morning. It seems like weekends just get shorter and shorter, and my enthusiasm for waking up at that obscene hour is fading over the years. I look forward to retirement and being free to go camping whenever, and for as long as, I choose.

A covered bridge near the campground.

A covered bridge near the campground.

Yup, this pretty much sums it up.

Yup, this pretty much sums it up.

Remember how, in my last post, we spotted that awesome campsite from House Rock trail the weekend before? I had my heart set on it for Mother’s Day camping with my kid. Camping has turned out to be an annual Mother’s Day plan for us, which suits me well, despite the fact that May is almost guaranteed to rain on you.

Well, rain it did.

Since one of us had awesome rain boots, I parked on the edge of the site so I could step out onto mud, but she climbed out the door into a lake.

Since one of us had awesome rain boots, I parked on the edge of the site so I could step out onto mud, but she climbed out the door into a lake.

Showers are ok, and that drizzly “liquid sunshine” we love in Portland is ok, but this weekend we got a good, solid, unceasing rain. The river was high, so the lovely beach had shrunk. The campsite was filled with puddles. Rather than spread our stuff out around the campsite for easy access, we left our gear and food either in the car or the  tent, to keep it dry.

Wet, wet, wet. Luckily, with the rain shell plus the additional green tarp, we managed to keep the inside of the tent dry for two days.

Wet, wet, wet. Luckily, with the rain shell plus the additional green tarp, we managed to keep the inside of the tent dry for two days.

Saturday morning coffee preparations in the rain. Yes, my coffee tastes require a french press even in the woods!

Saturday morning coffee preparations in the rain. Yes, my coffee tastes require a french press even in the woods!

Wildflowers don't mind rain.

Wildflowers don’t mind rain.

It took a long time to get a fire going, too. Finally the heat of the small flames dried out the fire pit and we were able to keep it burning till it was time to go.

We shared the campground with a group of people Friday night. They came by around noon on Saturday and stated, “We had been planning to stay, but it’s too wet.” And for the remainder of the weekend we were alone except for a work group of young people setting posts in a different part of the campground.

Saturday afternoon the rain fell less insistently, and we decided to hike across the footbridge to House Rock. On the way we marveled at several beautiful campsites along the river. Coming from the campground side, we saw steps built of stone, leading up to the bridge, that I had not seen the previous weekend. It’s the kind of thing one finds in old places in Oregon – stone walls built by hand, or stone benches and steps. I marvel that people of an earlier time felt that it was important to build quality features like this, putting effort into making things as beautiful as they are useful.

One of the cute campsites we found. What a jungle it is here!

One of the cute campsites we found. What a jungle it is here!

Stone steps between two huge rocks, leading to a footbridge to the House Rock trail.

Stone steps between two huge rocks, leading to a footbridge to the House Rock trail.

Some people use bridges for walking...

Some people use bridges for walking…

We explored House Rock again, even wetter underneath than I recalled, because of the increased rainfall. We wandered up the trail and spotted our camp from across the river. Then went back to camp and cooked dinner over the fire. By the time the food was ready, the clouds actually broke up and allowed a little sun to shine. Tara pulled out a deck of cards and taught me a game to play. We got in many hands of cards before raindrops appeared once more, and we went into the tent to watch a movie. I had downloaded “the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” before we left, and we watched it snug as bugs in the tent.

This bridge crosses the creek that flows under House Rock, then down the bank to the river.

This bridge crosses the creek that flows under House Rock, then down the bank to the river.

Under the rock - wetter than ever!

Under the rock – wetter than ever!

Look at our sad, damp, little home down there.

Look at our sad, damp, little home down there.

View from the picnic table in our campsite.

View from the picnic table in our campsite.

My silly kid. She did her hair like this about a month ago. I've been calling her Firehead.

My silly kid. She did her hair like this about a month ago. I’ve been calling her Firehead.

Sunday morning rain let up right about sunrise, which was handy for packing up camp. Usually, when packing camp, I spend much of the morning spreading gear over bushes and snags, letting the morning warmth dry it out. That would have been a farce this time. I rolled everything up, sopping wet, and stuffed it into the trunk of the Dragon Wagon. (Luckily the following day in Portland was sunny and warm all day, so I was able to scrub the mud off everything and dry it out well before re-packing it for storage.)

Stairs leading down to a rope swing. Believe it or not, we were not tempted to use the swing this weekend.

Stairs leading down to a rope swing. Believe it or not, we were not tempted to use the swing this weekend.

A water pump for campers. It's so pretty. Usually there is a spigot, but this - while providing the same service - is a pleasure to use.

A water pump for campers. It’s so pretty. Usually there is a spigot, but this – while providing the same service – is a pleasure to use.

Gramilda, Pulek, and me, at her home in Nampa

I told Arno not too long ago that I believe I live in such a way that I invite drama into my life. Not drama in a negative sense, but more along the lines of Big Happenings. I live with my mind open and my eyes open, and while all the normal crazy things in life happen to me (as they do with everyone else), a whole bunch of other things happen too. I create this sort of “happening” energy around me, where pistons are firing on all cylinders all the time.

To make it more chaotic, I choose to engage with everything that comes along. I feel all the requisite emotions (and then some), I participate whenever possible, and you guessed it: I am often exhausted.

Recently I have had to endure the stresses associated with loss of loved ones (something I can’t control) as well as the stress of getting ready to live in another country (something I can control), and all the little adventures in between!

As I have recently talked about here, my mother died in December, very unexpectedly. Her mother, whom I call Gramilda (Grandma + her name, Armilda), took the blow severely. Gramilda has been suffering from poor health for several years. Now she had the death of her firstborn child to grieve, and it was too much for her to overcome.

Gramilda died Thursday night.

I talked to her a week ago Sunday. At the time, she knew she was going to die, and she sounded at peace with it. She said we were not allowed to be sorry or feel bad about it. That she is happy she doesn’t have to be old anymore, because she was sick of it. Gramilda said she refused to let another one of her children go before her, and thus was willing her own passing. Achingly poignant.

I can’t exactly grieve for her, because my heart is still all walled off from trying to avoid grieving for my mother. (She says, tongue-in-cheek) But seriously, I am not emotionally prepared to process another loss. Especially during a time when I have have had limited communications with the outside world.

HP guts (and my green toenail polish!)

My computer quit on me almost two weeks ago. Everything fine, then… blip! Nothing. I went 5 days with nothing at all except work computers, and about went mad. I had spent all my savings on Tara’s plane ticket to Japan (more on that later), and a new computer for Tara, whose own laptop had finally kicked the bucket just last month. Totally broke, my knight, Arno, saved me and bought me a new laptop.

The great thing is that only the hardware gave it up. All my saved files and documents and photos and spreadsheets are just fine. I got all the old stuff transferred from the old hard drive onto the new computer, and I’m back in business finally.

Our tent on the sand of the Sandy River, near Mt. Hood

This is Mother’s Day weekend, the one I had planned as my Tara Weekend prior to departure. Next weekend is Arno’s Weekend prior to departure. The weekend after that, I fly to Hiroshima, Japan, and then take the shuttle to Iwakuni. My choice for how to spend the weekend with my daughter was to go camping. So we set up a tent and a campfire on the beach on Friday night.

She looks great in a tuxedo!

It’s important to spend this time together, but not even Mother’s Day and Mom-Daughter time overrides the constant flow of activities in our lives. We had to break right in the middle for Prom.

Tara is only a Freshman, but was invited by her Senior friend to go to the big Junior-Senior event of the year. She is just daring enough to decide to wear a tux instead of a dress. She called me at work Wednesday, “Hey! Prom is this weekend! I need a tux!” Which is, if you are a parent, often the way things get brought to your attention. I had the luxury of three whole days to prepare. We picked up the tux without any trouble aside from the bill: $190! Luckily they gave us a $50 off coupon for first-time customers.

And so now, thoughts turn more and more toward Japan. I was selected for a temporary position with my employer, the Department of Veterans Affairs, to work for 4 1/2 months in Japan to explain VA benefits to soldiers separating from military service. I’ll be responsible for three bases on the mainland. A Marine base in Iwakuni, Air Force base in Misawa, and a Navy base in Sasebo.

Many things have been happening during April and May, but as you can see…very little evidence of it has appeared on my blog. Well, the most telling sign of all that I am extremely occupied (and have a dead computer): no posts! Rest assured, I will blog again.

Very soon, you will be hearing what it’s like for me to live in Japan. Sadly, my home will be on a U.S. base and not in the community, which would be my preference. But I am learning the language with Pimsleur audio lessons, and I plan to leave the military base as often as I can fit it into my schedule!

One of my many guises

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