Normal is a four letter word. Extraordinary is the new black.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Whales, and Cougars, and Sand dunes, Oh my!!

This is post four in a series of posts on our trip to Oregon. For the first three posts, click here, here and also here

Sitting at home, surrounded by animals that are intent on communicating their displeasure at our absence. I am feeling content and ready for the coming changes, for school, for fall, for whatever other adventure are heading our way.

The final days of our beach trip, were a whirlwind of adventure and spur of the moment detours to discover something new.

The first time we spotted a whale blowing, it was surreal.

We spotted our first whale late in the evening, at a rest stop in Boiler Bay. By the following evening, whale spotting had become so common that a stop to watch the sun sink into the ocean was met with offhanded comments like,
"Wow Mom! Wow! Look at the ocean swallowing the sun!!! Oh and look, another whale." 

There are about 200 resident Grey whales that summer on the central Oregon coast, which meant that the kids got really good at sighting the spray from their blow spouts, and momma tried frantically to capture an image or two.

I'm getting ahead of myself though. Thursday, was for sand dunes. We drove the two and a half hours to Florence. Along the way, I found myself thinking about how music is really the only teleporter we have available to us. Listening to certain songs, can take you back to an awesome moment, a treasured memory.
With that in mind, I played each of the kids songs as we drove along that beautiful highway, taking in the ocean views, sandy beaches and bright sunshine.
When each child was born, I picked a song to sing to them, to this day, those notes belong to them. I found myself hoping that the connection of their song would plant a seed that would take them back to these memories each time they heard their song, whenever and wherever they go in this world.

Entering city limits, we nearly made a hood ornament out of a cougar, of the kitty variety, not barfly. Funny, that we had to travel from British Columbia to Oregon to see our first ever cougar. He looked a little like Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes, which started a fifteen minute conversation between hubby and I, wherein we took turns speculating on just what kind of cat Hobbes actually was. I'm sure this question could be answered by Google, however, where is the fun in that?

Arriving in Florence, we made our way out to Sand Dunes State Park, where we passed the loading areas, and went straight for the beach. Rookie mistake, we tried to set up by the water, and the wind laughed at us. We relocated to behind a large sand dune and settled in. Kite flying, digging in the sand and football were on the menu.

Nothing is more terrifying than Graysen running at momma, full tilt, in a football tackle. That boy will tackle me whether I have the ball or not.

He scaled to the top of this dune, plunked the ball into the sand and declared victory. True heartburst moment, right there.
I found myself grateful for the warm dunes that I was thrown in. I found myself grateful for their laughter, and the fact that they still wanted me to play with them. I found myself grateful for a little boy that was so kamikaze committed to football domination. I found myself grateful for this time in our own little world, to breathe out together.

After we had our fill, we made our way to a loading area in the dunes. Across from the parking lot sat a large dune which Caylen pretty much ran straight up. Insanity.

Miss Stinkerbell, milking the drama with all she's got. 

Climbing a sand dune is some wicked resistance training, but getting to the top of that mountain is a beautiful reward. Our last goal that day was to find somewhere for the kids to swim, to wash all that sand off. We stopped for gas, and like a crazy tourist I said to the man at the station,
"Is there a lake around here, where a sand dune goes right into it? I went there as a kid and I want to take my kids there."
He looked at me like I was seven different kinds of crazy and replied,
"Ma'am, there's so much sand here, when I have a day off I go to the mountains."

We laughed and told him we came from the mountains to find the sand.

People sand surf down this hill. I found myself wishing for a saucer slide to re-enact a Griswold moment.

He took a wild guess and, sent us to Honeyman State Park, hoping that was what I remembered. As we pulled in and I saw it I squealed. It was the same lake we went to when I was a kid. One of my favorite memories of our trip to Oregon was our day at this lake. We ran down the dunes into the cold lake and it was bliss. To sit and watch my kids run in the footsteps of my sisters and I from all those years ago, was a total heartburst moment.

The next day, we decided to get a little closer to a whale. There is a marine biologist, living in Depoe Bay. Her name is Carrie Newell and she takes people out in Zodiacs to see the Grey whales. We specifically went with her because we wanted to take the kids out with someone that was studying these whales, someone who was passionate about their existence.

So that is how we ended up out in the bay, on a fancy schmancy inflatable boat, watching a grey whale swim 100 feet away. Better yet, that is how Graysen ended up, floating in a fancy schmancy inflatable boat, watching a grey whale swim 100 feet away.
As it turns out, photographing a giant mammal in a rolling ocean, is no simple feat.

We learned before getting on the boat that we were only allowed to get within 100 feet of the whale. However, if the whale chose to approach us, then they could come closer. We also learned that grey whales love high pitched sounds and usually come closer to check them out. This is how we ended up listening to Lorelei singing, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", on a boat, in the middle of the bay, to a 30 ton wild animal. He didn't end up coming much closer, but the music was nice all the same.

He did great and I am fairly sure he will never forgive us, but he did it.

This is about the time that he told us he felt sick. Awesomesauce.
Saturday, was our final day, which we set aside for Agate Beach and a whole lot of laying in the sand.

A view of Yaquina Head lighthouse, from the dunes.

It took the kids a little while to settle out their unrest. It always seems to happen when we go somewhere new. The kids have a little time where they are restless, like baby birds in a nest. I have found, the more we just show them how to rest, the faster they find their way to calm.

Daddy flew kites to find the zen.

Soon enough they were playing football and digging in the sand, and I settled myself up against a sand dune. The sand was hot, and so comforting.

The sand was warm and it sparkled. It was fine and so soft to touch.

I read, for what seemed like hours. Hubby read, and the kids played. We sat in the valley between two dunes, and so it was as though we were the only people there on the beach. The roar of the ocean, beating on the shore, the hot sun, the kids laughing, actually getting to read past the first chapter of a book that I have been trying to read for eight months. There is nothing more from summer required.

We went back to the hotel that night, watched the sun set on the beach, had one final s'mores roast around the fire pit and woke up the next morning ready to go home.

We had a pit stop in southern Washington to meet an Instagram family, which was a lovely break in our drive. It was not at all surprising that our kids hit it off immediately.

This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. I like my photos like I like my memories...not posed, rather messy, and disheveled, but happy. On any vacation with kids, there are those moments when you are ready to pull the car over and heft them all out on the side of the road. We watched The Incredibles one night at the hotel and the kids laughed almost too hard at the scene where the Mom is yelling freeway exits at the Dad.

We were reminded more than once by each of them that, "That's how you help daddy drive too, mom!!"

Sure in those moments, they are not so warm or glowing, but they add depth and reality to a vacation. They add laughter in hindsight. I'm sure it will be a long time before the kids stop talking about "That time when we drove into Oregon, in a rainstorm, with no windshield wipers."

These real, often funny moments mix with the happy glowing warm moments.
When I put a frame around all those memories, I don't see the messiness, but rather it all melds together into this beautiful happy chaos of blissful life.

1 comment:

  1. So beautiful! I love that last picture! You have such a way with words. What a lovely vacation and sweet family :)


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