Back to Hunkering Down

Grandparenting is fun and this weekend much too short.

One last splash in the creek. One last barefoot in the mud. One last speed-crawl across the dusty grass. Then homeward.

Bill and I explored a little on the way home. We walked some of the Theler Wetlands Preserve trails and made plans to return to kayak the Union River (which we did several weeks later. We had a lovely, lazy paddle, pole, and drag. The tide was pretty low, but the sandy bottom was nice.)

We’re looking forward to our next grandparenting outing!

Kayaking and marshmallow guns

This morning was overcast and pleasant. I asked Ben how he slept in the over-cab bunk and he said he had “30 winks.” His dad’s morning grogginess verified that 3/4 of a night’s sleep was about right.

Breakfast pancakes were fine even though I remembered too late that the mason jar in the cooler was ice cream mix–the milk was in the other cooler in a mineral water bottle. Sweet pancakes don’t need syrup and we didn’t really need ice cream anyway.

Lynsey, Bill, Rob and Ben spent some time on the beach while Alex and I napped and read. Ben was intrigued by the clams, oysters, tiny crabs and seaweed poppers. He also got used to the mud.

The lovely, shady, shallow creek near our campsite opened into the canal a short walk away. Bill carried the kayaks down for us and I took Ben for a paddle. We have Walden Paddlers. They’re flat-bottomed, extremely stable boats. We’ve had three-year-olds happily paddling around in them.

I hooked Ben’s boat to mine with a tow rope and we headed out. I thought I was paddling in the direction he chose, but quickly realized that he wanted to cross the canal. Um, nope!

Ben used his paddle to poke at the stuff he saw under water, bright green seaweed, dark green grassy water weeds, medium green seaweed with air pockets, many other underwater plants, shellfish, and lots of multicolor rocks. Ben seemed fascinated with his new perspective on the world.

When we beached, Ben got very concerned and very busy. He dug the super big red carabiner into the rocks. Put a big rock on top and let me know “that should hold it for awhile.” I guess he’s been learning about anchors.

Lynsey and Alex watched from the beach

I’m learning Gramma skills. Next time I’ll bring regular yellow French’s mustard and Swiss Miss. Save the spicy brown Gulden’s and artisanal cocoa with nibs for other trips.

I’m not a total Gramma-fail. I remembered to pack my marshmallow guns. The adults had some sustained conversation time while Alex crawled around and Ben gleefully shot marshmallows at tree, stump, and rock targets and ran off some energy retrieving marshmallows.

Should we be doing this?

Belfair State Park Weekend

It’s Saturday afternoon and we’re heading back toward Hood Canal to camp at Belfair State Park. Covid is still raging as I’m very well aware.

I’ve spent the last month calling people with positive Covid tests and their close contacts. My team collects data to inform our state public health response and to make sure those who need it most have accurate information about isolation and quarantine. We’re also trying to provide resources so these folks can safely stay away from others.

Most of the people I talk to are conciously trying to help stop Covid spreading– doing their best based on their understanding.  Me too.

Bill and I have been been staying home.  He goes into the office once a week for about 20 minutes to swap paper files. He wears a mask and there’s usually no one else there. Bill does our shopping once every week or two. Sarah and a Erik are at our house for Pinniped practice on Sundays–outside and distanced with more tunes and less songs–Sarah’s immune system is not robust,  we’re especially careful around her.

So why am I spending the weekend camping with my grandkids and their parents?

It’s not the safest choice for us or our society and I’m not certain it’s a responsible choice.

Yes, I will hug the kids,  hold hands with the kids,  and read books to the kids while they snuggle on my lap. We’ll wear masks in public areas but not in our campsite.  We’ll self impose a 2 week quarantine on ourselves just in case.  Enough?  I don’t know.  I’ll check back in two weeks with an update.

Belfair State Park

Rob picked great campsites.  A few trees, a perfect creek, and the beach just down the road. They rented a motorhome so we all had comfy beds.

Ben is four. He wanted to take off his water shoes so they wouldn’t get wet in the creek.

He happily stood right on the edge of the water and built a line of rocks. A particularly nice rock in the middle of the creek caught his eye and he asked if I’d carry him out to it.

I said I’d hold his hand.

A minute later he was tromping up and down the creek, giggling when it reached the bottom of his shorts and generally having a great time.

The line of rocks turned into a very long T.

Alex, at nine months, isn’t quite walking, but he’s close. He pulls himself up and cruises along. He loves to walk if you hold his hands. Alex got very grubby, very fast crawling everywhere. (Alex takes after me!)

We always bring our scope for looking at birds. Tonight we used it for spectacular views of Saturn, Jupiter, and the Moon. Saturn was tilted just right. The rings were so clear. We could see several of Jupiter’s moons, and craters on our moon. Lovely.

Naked eye viewing was beautiful too!

UPDATE: All is well. Parents, Grandparents, and kids all fine. I’m limiting my interactions to Zoom, Skype, and Teams from now until an effective vaccine is available.

 

 

Getting Grubby

Rain pounding on Brave Horatio’s roof at four am signaled a wet morning.  Good thing we travel with the batwing–too bad we didn’t deploy it yesterday.

After the first points are attached you can work mostly in the dry and it wasn’t raining hard. We were soon drinking coffee and breakfasting on eggs, bacon and polenta while the rest of the camp slept.

Brane Horatio and the batwing (after my adventure in the creek)

We drank after-breakfast cocoa and read in our new camp rockers while the rest of the camp woke. I’m loving our rockers!

Bill joined a group doing some infrastructure work and I headed off to find the creek. Down the newly cut trail, past the treehouse/zen tea room (deer blind) and into DNR forest. There was a scrambly bit to a lower trail. I could see I should have kept going to the switchback. Reminder for return leg.

The trail got a little narrower and a little more scrambly. Pretty clearly marked though and definitely heading downward toward the creek.

I like a good scramble.

My phone had a dead battery so I left it charging at camp. So sad. I wanted to take pictures of the rock cairns I built (one in the middle of a log that spanned the creek).

Looking upstream, the devil’s club was beautiful with the sun behind it. There were also a couple steep banks covered in maidenhair fern. So lovely.

That devil’s club…I was careful. I used two sticks to move those spiky stems so I could climb under and over logs and make my way up the creek. I came out mostly unscathed. Sure felt the couple that got me though.

I wandered up the creek a bit–walking through the water, picking up stones, trying to outsmart the devil’s club, and generally having a relaxing, enjoyable time.

Finally the devil’s club looked to be turning into a thicket and I started to think about heading back. I could have retraced my steps, but a maple and an alder had both fallen down the bank about a foot apart. I thought I could walk up assisting myself with my hands–maybe one leg on each trunk.

Um. No.

Did I mention that the creek was in a ravine? Not particularly deep, but pretty damn steep. At a guess it was a 60-70 degree slope from the creek to the trail. But there were those tree trunks and I like a scramble.

The alder had little broken off limbs on it’s underside every couple of feet. I started out with both feet on one side and my arms around it hauling on those little stubs. The bank was nearly vertical. I ended up astride the trunk on my belly, which worked great until the stubs stopped.

I was more than half-way up. It looked even steeper from here. A dirty slide back to the creek or an impossible-looking inching to the top. I’d stopped right over a pretty vigourous seep. Neat moss and other tiny, tiny plants. Good reason to rest and take them in.

I decided on up.

There were lots of ferns and the base of sword ferns are pretty solidly adhered. I planted my feet, hugged that trunk and inched upward.

It’s an interesting viewpoint and one I don’t think I’d experienced before. Looking down seemed far steeper than it had from the bottom. I looked up into the underside of a large artist conk. Bright white and glowing in the sun. It looked like the path was just the other side of the stump that was hosting it.

A few more thoughtful rests. A few more slow foot placements and slower pressing upward. A final foot on a final friendly sword fern and I was up!

I backtracked along the little trail, passing the point where I’d scrambled down heading for that switchback. The trail just kind of ended so I bushwacked.

I couldn’t get lost. Not a chance. The camp was up. Just up. And the slope was wimpy now that I was over the lip of the ravine.

The trail and I converged and I waltzed back to camp. Wet, thoroughly grubby, and triumphant.

Covid-Conscious Camping

I like working at my office surrounded by other interesting people. I like to explore ideas in coffee rooms and hallways and over cube walls.

I love my team and interacting with folks who do very different work from me. Discovering differing perspectives and different approaches always adds value to what I do.

Back in October, well before Covid, my office space was dismantled and everyone was sent home to work while our new space was configured. That,  of course took much longer than anticipated. I was looking forward to moving into new work digs mid-March…which, of course, didn’t happen.

Instead Bill moved his office into our other spare bedroom and we started commuting upstairs together every morning

I begrudged work intruding into my home when it was due to a poorly planned move. Doing my bit to slow the spread of a pandemic just makes me grateful.

Both Bill and I have jobs and can do those jobs from home. Our kids are adults living on their own. Their old bedrooms are some of the largest rooms in our house and make pretty pleasant workspaces. We’re lucky and we know it.

We both work in Public Health and take modeling safe behavior seriously. We’ve been staying home except for twice a month grocery runs and at least weekly dinner pickup from local restaurants. (and that one day we popped out to buy Freya.)

Socializing has included weekly Zoom meetings with friends, less frequent Zoom or Skype with family and a lovely curbside cocktail hour with our across the street neighbors at least once a week (kind of like a reverse parade, we each stay on our side of the street and wave at the occasional car.) We’ve also been singing “What A Wonderful World” on our front porch at 6pm every evening since March 29.

We miss playing music with friends and miss camping.

Today we’re headed off to do both!

Did I mention that we’re lucky?

Mark,  Jess, and Julie recently organized the purchase of some camp land with a group of friends.  We opted out of buying in, but are joining them there this weekend.

The weather forecast is iffy so this might be the first auquacamp weekend of the year.

Bill missed the Purdy Cutoff so we thought we’d take the Skokomish River Road. Despite the large official looking sign, you can’t use it. You get ready to turn, notice it’s a dirt track with daisies down the middle, drive past, turn around, decide dirt tracks can be delightful, make the turn and see the large no trespassing/no motorized vehicles signs. Brave Horatio’s diminutive size made it possible to ooch ourselves around and head back to the Purdy Cutoff.

Past Two Margaritas and The Robinhood watching kayakers in the canal and the beautiful Olympics.

We knew we were ahead of our hosts so we checked out Belfair State Park. We’re headed there with Ben, Alex and their folks in August.

We’re going to have so much fun.

Three of the 9 spots were occupied when we pulled in.  Jess and Mark directed us to campsite 3 and we bounced between setting up and checking out the camp.

Flamingos guard Jess and Mark’s campsite

Beautiful Dreamer’s spot is tucked in among Doug fir, cedar, and huckleberry. He’s got a flagpole out front that flys a number of Caribbean and yachting flags. He also has his very own shed and yard decorations. Pretty fancy.

We all tried to keep a six-foot distance and generally suceeded. Bill and I sang “What a Wonderful World” at six pm as we have since March 29. We usually sing on our front porch. Today our front porch was the woods.

It was nice to be outside our house and yard. It was nice to be in the middle of trees. It was nice to eat dinner around a campfire. It was more than nice to play music and sing around that fire before heading off to bed.

Wood Nymphs and Oysters and Slugs, Oh My!

Camping on Hood Canal, day 2

SealRock Campground

The new griddle Bill and I purchased with too little forethought fit Jess and Mark’s stove perfectly.

We drove to Falls View Campground (which was closed for camping) and walked to the Falls View Canyon trailhead.

The short loop had beautiful views of the falls and the canyon trail was so pretty. It ended in a little cove where a creek entered the Quillcene River.

I balanced across a couple logs onto the little beach. My goal was an inviting boulder. I wanted to sit on top. That rock was so smooth.

Too smooth for my shoes. Too smooth for my bare feet.

If the others weren’t around I might have hugged that rock to my belly and tried to squirm up, but even I have some boundaries—if I’d been more certain of success I would have tried anyway. Soaking my feet in the cool water was a nice backup prize. 

Mark put his hand on a slug then Jess found the same slug. It brought back memories of barefooting up the bluff from Bandon beaches. That cool, oozy, smooshy feeling with the lingering goo.

Bill, Jess, and Mark took the extra half-mile loop but Carol and I started back up the hill (we’re slower). Gerald caught up with us near the top and we chatted with each other and with other hikers while we waited.

There were some little daisies nearby so I started to braid them. There weren’t enough so I added other bits of the forest until I had a wreath. Gerald took portraits of everyone who wore the wreath and we were lovely. (Julie arrived just before dinner so her wreath was a bit wilted.)

After some water and a snack lunch, I read homework and took a long walk on the beach. Sitting in the sun at the edge of the canal watching boats and birds and people—lazy and lovely.

When I got back to camp Bill was asleep in the hammock, Carol was snoozing in her chair with her hat over her face and no one else was around. I joined the nappers. Brave Horatio makes a snug nest.

When I woke up, a bit muzzy, I attempted to teach Carol cribbage.

Funny how something you just DO becomes difficult when you actually think about it. I second-guessed myself over the number of cards to deal, forgot to put the cut card face up, forgot to include it in pointing… and on and on.

With the help of my phone and quite a bit of shamefaced flapping we finally got down to playing and Carol won.

Bill, Gerald, and Mark went on an oyster run to the Hamma Hamma Oyster Company. Julie arrived and set up camp, then moved camp—picking up her fully deployed tent and walking it across the street.

Jess woke up from her long nap and we had a fantastic dinner of grilled Hamma-Hamma oysters, grilled salmon, potato salad, asparagus, green salad, and zuchinni. Yum, yum, and yum.

We’re headed home tomorrow. Grateful for the weekend and a little envious of Julie, Jess, and Mark’s additional night

Adventures with a spinning singing candle

Seal Rock Campground

It was supposed to be a noon start, but Bill’s lunch was frustratingly slow [Happy Birthday Marc] and he didn’t pick me up until 1:30. Oh well. We skipped getting shellfish permits and headed out into a beautiful afternoon.

Off to Seal Rock, a rare National Forest Service campground located on salt water.

Even behind the chip truck we made pretty good time.

Gerald and Carol with their pop-up A-frame were about 15 minutes ahead of us. They found two neighboring spots and another across the road. Pretty lucky since it was the last weekend of shrimping season.

We pulled Brave Horatio into the spot next to Carol and Gerald’s setup. Brave Horatio is sporting new dividers in his utensil drawer—pretty slick.

Bill covets Gerald’s axe

I hung my hammock next to the C-G campfire and walked to the beach. It was covered with oysters. Oysters shining in the sun and me without my shellfish permit. I poked at oysters, tipped over rocks to pester tiny crabs, and tossed pebbles into the sunny water.

Mt. Rainier over Hood Canal

For dinner we enjoyed duck breast, quinoa, and a mango-pomegranate-avocado salad around a lovely campfire… and we talked.

We totally did not notice the group that set up a couple tents and a picnic table kitchen in the spot we’d reserved for Mark and Jess—the one LuluBelle was parked in. I guess they didn’t notice the BIG RED vehicle in the camp spot when they parked along the road.

It worked out fine.

Mark and Jess, on their inaugural trip with their new TAB teardrop, set up in the campsite driveway and worked it out in the morning. (The interlopers left with no heated emotions.)

We celebrated Mark and Carol’s birthdays with a fantastic chocolate-beet cake and everyone laughed at the sparkler-flamed flower candle that spun and sang.

It just kept spinning and singing so I stomped it.

That worked for a few minutes…then the singing started again!

Another stomp killed it dead.

Happy Birthday Dammit!

Great Blue Heron