When we last left off, we were headed south down the west coast to Southern Oregon. Since then, we have gone much farther. It’s been a whirlwind of activity – mostly stop and go, a couple nights here, a couple nights there, and never enough time to discover. As I look back on where we’ve been, there are these very simple connected moments that shine brighter than the rest. It’s not that it all hasn’t been amazing, but there’s been a few instances when our time together has been pure. The first of these happened at Sunset Bay State Park in southern Oregon. We were joined by my dear friend Todd, his long time friend Dan and Dan’s family. We went on a group expedition to the tide pools and had a remarkable encounter with a very young coyote in the parking lot before we descended down to the pools. Watching Anna totally let go of all of her teen-ish-ness to poke anemones and pick up crabs and carefully watch each tide pool – was one of the first times on this trip I knew all of this was worth it. Not that I didn’t know sooner, it just wasn’t unfolding right in front of me. My girl was in the moment, she was completely there, no thoughts of social media, she wasn’t worried about shopping or getting dirty, she was checking out crabs in stinky tide pools….. and loving it.
Our time with Todd and friends was short, but full of substance. I made them indulge my weirdness and we had breakfast at Nonnie’s Breakfast Barn in Charleston Oregon before we said our good byes, Todd went to catch a plane home and we headed south across the California border into the Redwoods.
Anna and I weren’t exactly “in sync” in the Redwoods, which was really hard for me in such a magic place. She did convince me that we needed to take the Sky Trail at the Trees of Mystery which was as touristy as it sounds, but also extremely delightful. It was quite well made and very informative. After the tram ride to the top, we came back down and walked through the “Trail of Tall Tales” which was a series of wood carvings telling us the tales of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, as well as some other delightful forest-lore. One of my favorites were the “Mossbacks” who were described as mischievous creatures responsible for putting the moss on the north sides of the mountains. Their trickery comes out when they sometimes leave a little moss on the South side to confuse travelers.
The mother/daughter friction came to a head as we weaved our way through Stout Grove – A must see road if you make it out that way – an off the beaten path, dirt road that takes you among the giants. Anna wasn’t having it, which hurt. She wouldn’t play, she wouldn’t marvel and she wouldn’t get out of the damn car. I decided that the fight wasn’t worth it and just proceeded as if she wasn’t there. At one point I noticed a small stream and a trail off the road and parked the truck – Anna stayed in the car and I wandered down where I found the most amazing crystal clear pool. I removed my shoes and waded in. I stood there in the moment and soaked it up. It was then that I realized that as much as I want this to all be for her (and it is), it’s OK for it to be (a little bit) for me too.
Refreshed, I got back in the truck and we made the rest of the loop, grabbed an adorable dinner in Coos Bay and headed back to camp – one last stop on my list was a place I had spotted on the map called “The Gold Bluffs Beach”. It was another road like the Stout Grove road, super narrow and windey but it went on, and on, and on, even when we got to the coast line and it straightened out, it still just….. kept…… going. And that was OK with me. We eventually reached the end of the road and parked the truck, I immediately noticed some beach elk grazing just beyond the parking lot at a little pool of fresh water. I slowly made my way over to them and came up over a little hill and nearly stepped on a blue heron. It took flight and flew right over the shoulder of one of the elk standing in the water. It was a nice sized heard with young ones and a few big boys with nice racks. My shooting was interrupted by a soft call from Anna, “Mom, there’s snakes over here, come check it out!” Sure enough, she’d found two snakes coiled up next to some logs. We then wandered out to sit on the beach, Anna parked at a spot a little farther back and I went to where the waves were breaking – almost instantly I noticed something it the water. It was unmistakable – “ANNA! COME HERE! DOLPHINS!!!”” She moved from her perch and came running over, and actually sat down to watch them – I found a spot to sit behind her and just watched as she watched.
She slowly started to fidget with the sand, at first she threw it about and then she started to dig. Just like the tide pools before, she seemed to shed all of the “teen baggage”, she slipped into the moment and then proceeded to build what she described as “the most awesome sand castle ever!” It was awesome. She constructed a sand barrier to block the incoming waves, and for those that breached she built a trench on the inside to catch the water before it could make its way into the enormous, Anna-sized hole in which she was standing. All in all she worked on it for about an hour and a half while I watched the sun slowly set. A couple of very curious seals kept us company as they diligently watched her construct her masterpiece. The daylight was fading and I convinced her that it was time to let it go – she walked into the waves to wash off and the moment she did, the biggest wave of the evening crashed and washed all the way up and around the castle, it conquered the previously impenetrable wall, quickly swallowed up the trench and poured into the precious hole, filling it in. It was so lovely of the ocean to wait til we were done. As she washed off, the dolphins made one final appearance and the seals peeked over the breaking waves one more time. We packed up our things and headed back to the car and took the long, winding, road back to camp.
The Redwoods taught me a lot – mostly about patience. Which is fitting, if you consider how darn long they have stood there, waiting for what ever it is they are waiting for. Our time there also reminded me that experiences are what you make of them. Anna, although she frustrates me greatly sometimes, is never wrong in the way she experiences this trip – she’s taking away from it what she chooses. Sometimes it’s less than I hope, and I know that we won’t know, right now, what all this is going to do for her in the future – but I can’t force her to have an experience she doesn’t want to have. I can just plant seeds, and hope they grow, into really really big beautiful things, like the Redwoods.