My husband once accused me of marrying him for his money. He was a teacher…in a very small school…obviously he was joking!
I knew when I married him that teaching was not the highest paying profession. But I was proud of him and the career choice he’d made and I firmly believed that kids in small schools needed good teachers too. So big D. and I decided early on in our marriage, that we would not let the lack of monetary means prevent us from having a good life. We’d find a small home, try to budget wisely and figure out a way to travel with our kids…something we both desired to do. We would never have an abundance of money, but because big D. was a teacher we had the next best thing – an entire summer off from work! He once told me that – apart from being with kids all day – the three greatest things about teaching were June, July and August. I’d have to agree with him.
Our family trips began the summer after our first daughter was born. We kept it simple – tent camping with friends at Crystal Lake in central Wisconsin – little E. scuttling around the dusty campsite in her baby walker. At days end, I’d heat upwater on the camp stove and bathe our grubby baby in a plastic dish tub – a tradition that would go on for years!
At the end of August we ventured up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Judge C. R. Magney State Park . During the day we’d hike and fish the streams – E. in a pack on one of our backs. At night, we crammed a portable crib into a 3-man tent while David and I and our dog, Kelly, curled up along the outer edges. After 2 nights of little sleep, we splurged and spent a night at Naniboujou – an historic lodge near Grand Marais on the shores of Lake Superior. All in all, the camping trips went well and I was ready to tackle something new.
The following summer, when E. was not yet 2, we packed up our white Toyota pick-up truck and headed out West on a real road trip. Exactly 1034 miles later we parked ourselves in Whitehall, Montana where we visited with family and spent a couple of days fly fishing for trout on the Madison River near Yellowstone. Here we discovered a gorgeous river canyon with braided trout streams that I fondly call, The Great Valley. After a week of visiting, we hugged and kissed and said our goodbyes and we headed back to Minnesota, waiting for another school year to begin.
These trips out West became our summertime routine and for the next four years, our vehicle would travel the exact same 1034 miles that it had the year before. We’d visit with family, spend a day or two fly fishing and then we’d head back to Minnesota. In 1993, our traveling itinerary began to change. It all started out rather innocuously – with a viewing of the movie, Sleepless in Seattle. I don’t know why this silly movie affected me as it did, but by the following summer I knew that our vehicle, now a gray Honda Accord, had to continue west to Seattle and the Puget Sound. I’m not sure what drew me to the mighty Pacific, but I can honestly say that I was compelled to go.
When August arrived, we packed up our tent, sleeping bags, camping gear and the dog and we out headed West again. After stopping in to Whitehall for a short visit, we continued on. Knowing absolutely nothing about Seattle or Washington for that matter, we made a pit stop in Spokane and picked up a couple of guide books. As big D. drove the remaining 279 miles to Seattle, I threw together an itinerary of places to go and things to see. Funny thing about plans…sometimes they don’t work out…at all!
Upon our arrival in Seattle, the plan was to take a ferry ride across the Sound to Whidbey Island and find a state park campground. As we got closer to the ferry terminal in Mukilteo, we discovered that the waiting line for the ferry was miles long and would take hours to get through. Time for plan B. Wait a minute…there was no plan B! Not knowing what else to do, we got back on the interstate and continued driving north.
Pulling out my guide book, I found another state park about 70 miles north of Seattle and called the park office to check on vacancy. Lucky for us, there was one campsite still available. Actually, I don’t think luck had much to do with it. I think it was providential…an act of God…divine intervention! We exited the interstate near Burlington and headed onto the scenic Chuckanut Drive which brought us to Larabee State Park and our campsite.
We set up camp in the late afternoon and settled in for a four-day stay. While taking the girls to the shower house, we learned of a nature hike that would be taking place the following morning and decided to join the group. We went to bed that night, excited to see what the next day would bring!
The hike to the beach was long and arduous, but there were marvelous things to see along the way. Slugs…really big slugs in various colors, inched their way across the trail! Yellow, black and brown slugs. Cinnamon-colored slugs. Slugs with stripes. My kids were thrilled! But it was upon our arrival at the beach that the real fun began. We walked for hours – oohing and aahing the entire time. There was so much to see…so much to experience. In the water there were clams and beds of eel grass. And in those shallow beds of eel grass were Dungeness and red rock crabs, purple sea stars and orange sunflower stars. On the beach we found shells of all shapes and sizes and hermit crabs, tucked into their mobile homes. It was truly amazing!
We left Larabee four days later and as we traveled around the Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula, we saw and experienced things that literally took our breath away. It was as if God had concentrated all this beauty and splendor in this one tiny corner of the country and we were being given a front-row seat for viewing it!
There were snow-capped mountains with vistas of the ocean below; temperate rain forests filled with moss-covered trees; islands that could only be reached by ferry and miles of beaches to be walked on and explored.
It’s been more than 15 years since that first trip we took to Washington. In the years since, we’ve been back countless times, discovering more of this beautiful world…finding more of His handiwork in the things He has created.
We’re planning on going back again this summer. This time we’ll be going with my brother and his wife and we hope to introduce them to the things we love to do most – wading in the eel grass beds and harvesting Dungeness crabs by hand; picking blackberries and canning jam to bring back to Minnesota; buying fresh fish, vegetables and fruit at the farmer’s market; riding the ferries out to the San Juan Islands. We won’t be camping this time. Instead, we’ve opted to rent a small vacation home – a stone cottage that was built in the 1950’s. In case you’re interested, I’ve put a picture of it below.
This will be a new adventure for us and hopefully, one that will be restful. I have a feeling we’ll do just fine, as every evening we’ll be seeing this and counting our blessings!