On To Oregon

As I’ve been sitting here, going through my pictures, running back through my memories and then thinking of my life in more zoomed out shots, I realize just how blessed I am. I have a dear little home, a church that I love, a hometown that I’m an active part of, local friendships that are special to me, and responsibilities and duties that tie it all together. I love running off and seeing the world, experiencing new places and making new friends, but I also love coming home. And my life between these adventure blog posts are full of normalcy, of tiredness after busy days of work, and the normal ups and downs, and struggles and irritations of ordinary life. The problem with mainly blogging about the fun stuff is that it looks like that’s about all I do, when it’s actually a much smaller portion of my life. The joys and blessing of a husband and children aren’t mine at this point, and so there’s often an opportunity or two sitting on my plate, and it really does take wisdom to figure out what to say yes to, and what to decline.

Back to my trip now. So my last post had everyone headed home except for me. I was headed for a part of the country that I had never been before. Oregon. and Washington. And on most of my days out there, I was in both states daily. Waking up in Oregon, and then doing the bulk of my job across the state line in Washington.

A little background- earlier in the year, a Bible school friend of mine contacted me about coming and helping her and her family with their busy harvest activities. If you want to see some of what all it involves, check out their youtube channel: Blue Mountain Hay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-GgJD3M-Gs and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWenGVIcyNU.

Basically, David and Rosalyn and their extended family operate a wheat straw harvesting operation which has so many moving parts, and multiple crews in different locations. I’m not sure I completely understand it all even now and I was constantly googling things like: “what is a swather” or what is a telehandler”. In case you’re interested, the swathers really looked liked John Deere mosquitoes. But I digress.

Harvest is a really busy time of the year, and guys come out from all over the US to work on the crews and run the equipment. So you’re probably wondering where I fit into all of this and if I got good at running swathers and balers? I’m flattered that you asked. The answer is uh, no!

I served as an assistant to Rosalyn, and a general housekeeper at the apartment where the crew stayed. David and Rosalyn made me feel like part of the family and for that I’m so grateful. Memories with Annabelle, Daisy, Micah, and Malachi and the fun times, and the jokes and the giggles we shared are some of my favorite from my time there. I really enjoyed helping Rosalyn, and learning what it looks like to cook dinner, night after night after night, and to do it with care and thoughtfulness and finesse. I enjoyed helping with dinner prep, and the mad scramble to get the children, the food, and the serving ware out the door and drive up to 30 minutes away to feed the crew in the spot they were working. For the first two weeks, we took dinner out to the crew and while that was it’s own level of challenging, it was completely worth it for the fresh air and the incredible views we enjoyed each night. There were nights when the full moon came up, that I thought my heart would just burst from the beauty of it all.

You can’t make this stuff up.
You really can’t. These were our dinner views.
Sometimes we’d just set up on the road, if it was quiet enough 🙂

You have to understand that farms in the PNW are not the same as farms back here in the east. It is quite possible, because I saw it with my own two eyes, to be on top of a hill, and only see dusty hay fields forever and ever in any direction you looked. This is farming on a massive scale and it’s just a little hard to comprehend because it is so different here.

-get up, drink coffee, have quiet time

-drive 15 minutes to the crew’s apartment to tidy up, prep sandwiches or wraps and veggie and fruit packs for the next day. I tried to be creative and not just prepare cold cut sandwiches every day but my creativity ran dry towards the end. When you eliminate any hot options, it just really limits what all you can do. I never heard anyone complain, so that was nice, even though they surely must’ve gotten tired of all the sandwiches and wraps all the time.

-stock the fridge with drinks, snacks, and everything the crew would want for packing lunches for the fields

-make a grocery list and then head to town

-take 7 or 8 or up to 12 loads of laundry in the laundromat. These loads were full of dirty, dusty jeans. Spray them off and hope for the best. Watch with fascination the very brown soaps suds tumbling around and then with amazement as they’d emerge, squeaky clean. God bless those washers! Throw them into dryers and then do more shopping. Come back, fold them all, load them up into the car, with the mountains of groceries, and then go back to the apartment to hopefully put each person’s stack in the right room.

-Get back to Rosalyn in time to help with some dinner prep. And maybe make some cookies. Make up jokes and have fun with the children.

-Load everything up, take dinner out, serve it, clean up

-Get home late (9-10:00 sometimes), unload the car, take care of food, clean up the kitchen

-Fall into bed

It is part of my life’s philosophy to enjoy where I’m at in the moment and have fun while I’m doing it. So when there was a Mouse in The Apartment, I decided the guys probably had less reservations about confronting it than I did, so I decided to negotiate. Catch the mouse, and you get a special dessert. Apparently it was something of a team effort, made infinitely more fun by the fact that they captured it alive, and so they all got Peanut Butter Pudding cups, and the Chief Mouse Catcher got a cat on top of his.

These were full, busy days, but there’s something about being part of a team and working normal chores that went towards the success of the whole operation, and knowing the satisfaction of having contributed to making it all work that made it so rewarding.

Towards the end of harvest, the different crews would join forces and they would harvest farms closer to home, and so we’d gather on Nevin and Dorothy’s (David’s parents) porch for dinners. We spent many a wonderful evening eating together. And joy of joys, there was running water, and tables and chairs and other little luxuries that we had fore-gone on our dinners in the fields where we’d bring pitchers of soapy water, and would sit on tail gates or equipment or on the dusty ground.

But I didn’t only work. I enjoyed exploring Walla Walla on the weekends. I ate lots of tacos from food trucks that are everywhere out there. Rosalyn, the children and I spent a morning at a flower and vegetable farm close by:

We spent an afternoon visiting the Marcus Whitman mission/massacre site:

I had full privileges to all of Rosalyn’s beautiful flower beds and gardens and made many a posy while I was there. I particularly enjoyed her bed of David Austin roses. Their soil, though it must be irrigated, is some of the most fertile anywhere in the US, I believe. It is enriched by the volcanic mineral content and they can grow about anything.

Towards the end of my stay, Rosalyn took us to Joseph, a nearly 3 hour ride away. I taught the children how to play, “My Father Owns a Grocery Store, and that passed the time quite nicely and before we knew it, we were there. Its a mountain town, nestled around a beautiful lake, and you could almost pretend you were in Switzerland.

Oregon was unusually dry when I was there, and the danger of fire was always on our minds. Sometimes the sky would be hazy from the wildfires south of us. On the worst days, it felt like dusk for better parts of the day:

Annabelle, Daisy and Rosalyn prepared the most beautiful ladies’ brunch the Saturday before I left. I wasn’t allowed to see any of the preparations and what a beautiful surprise to walk into the backyard and see what they had done:

It was such an incredible opportunity, and I enjoyed it so much I’m going back this summer for a few weeks. A special thanks to the Derstine family for opening your home and your lives to me, and allowing me to be a part of something so special.

Utah-2021

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I realized recently that I haven’t written about our trip last summer, and since I have more adventures coming up this summer, I really should record it now.

Traveling is one of my most favoritest hobbies. Seeing new scenery, exploring new cultures, savoring new foods, the unexpected pops of beauty when you aren’t expecting it, and the fuzzy warmth of enjoying it with good friends. These are what make it so enjoyable.

Our girl friends group did our first trip together to California in 2019. I wrote about it here: https://writtendownbigblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/that-time-we-went-to-california/

I think every girl (and guy) needs an adventure group- a group with a shared love of exploring and traveling. After a few trips, each person’s skills start to get uncovered and utilized. Good trips require good research, navigational ability, a bit of spontaneity and flexibility and everyone contributing good attitudes. Our group covered all the needs and we had a very lovely time.

This trip was supposed to happen in 2020 but we all know what that was like. We spent many agonizing hours on zoom calls between our 3 respective states trying to make plans, only to have something or another come up. When we all met each other at the airport in St. George, the hugs and exclamations and pinching each other were all the more special because we didn’t think it would happen.

Because Jen is a school teacher, summers are our best option for longer trips like this one. Ideally, you wouldn’t be in Utah in July in a heat wave if you could help it but we all wanted to explore some part of the west so we just went with it. We landed in St. George, Utah to 109* temperatures. A combination of the heat, and some altitude change as well as time change had us feeling a bit lethargic for the first few days. We had to push ourselves to do the hikes and see the things in ways that we weren’t quite expecting. We all flew into St. George on Monday, July 16th, and as is becoming our custom, we used the first day to pick up our rental car, get our bearings, grab some groceries, and get more of a detailed game plan for the rest of our trip. We stayed at a lovely little airbnb in Panguitch, which we had chosen for its proximity to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. It would’ve been even lovelier if it would’ve had air conditioning, but most of the houses in the area didn’t have it and we just happened to be there in a heat wave. We spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the coolest parts of the house and moving things around to be more comfortable. The house, called The Pink Polka Dott is a retro-themed house and one of the greatest sources of joy and amusement came from the dictionary-page papered bathroom. “Hey guys, do you know what _________ means?” happened more than once, after someone would untangle themselves from the tiny space.

our group left to right- Kelly, Sarah and I in the back, and Bekah and Jen seated in the front.

Because we were so tired (and not sleeping the best 🙂 we opted to not get very early starts on our National Park days. It ended up being both a blessing and a bit of a problem simultaneously. We were told that lines waiting to get into the parks and shuttle stops were extremely long, so by the time we got to the congested places, the crowd had been through and we never had to wait in long lines for anything. The problem was then that we were doing our most active hiking/etc in the hottest part of the day.

Tuesday was our Zion National Park day and what a treat it was! Zion is surprisingly diverse, with the sandy, dry, desert-y topograhy of dunes and arches, but also lush and green in parts, with a winding river and beautiful shaded areas.

Zion has a few really nice hikes, including Angels Landing, which is one of the most dangerous hikes in the US. We chose instead to hike Emerald Trail back to a mostly dried up Emerald Falls. It was an easy hike, which was perfect for the heat of the day. Zion is also nice if you just want to drive through. A favorite group memory was driving down the road and through a tunnel and then this panorama as we emerged. I think we all gasped because it was so unexpectedly beautiful.

We ate a nice sandwich lunch in the shadow of some of the mountains and we enjoyed our views immensely.

We finished up the day with another famous hike- The Narrows. The last shuttle stop in Zion drops you off at the trail head for the Narrows, and it’s a nice, paved walk back to the river, where everyone then gets in the river. You can rent hiking sticks, water boots, etc from the Outfitting Center but we had brought our own water shoes along. We were running out of daylight so we didn’t hike too far back the river. If you go the distance, you get to hike in the coolness of the water, with hundreds of feet of rock towering beside you on both sides, right through the canyons. It was quite a fun experience, and the shade and water felt good after being in the heat.

We finished that day with a dinner out and then headed back to the house for another hot night.

In our research, we had run across Kolob Canyon, located in the northwest corner of Zion National Park. Supposedly it offered similar views with a lot fewer tourists. Wednesday morning we set out to see if indeed it was All That. Turns out, it is. We drove 5 miles up to the top, and then we hiked out on the Timber Creek Overlook trail to a rather breathtaking stone overlook. On really clear days, you are able to see the north rim of the Grand Canyon, located 100 miles away.

We all really enjoyed the quietness of this place, and we drove the 5 mile winding road more than once, with stopping frequently at the overlooks to enjoy the views. We attempted another hike, but a thunderstorm chased us out and we drove as fast as we could to the top again, to experience it up high.

I would definitely recommend Kolob if you have a few free hours, but Zion still is the prize jewel of the area.

Thursday was our day for exploring Bryce Canyon. Bryce is situated at an elevation of 7,664′ so it was definitely cooler. We decided to watch the sun rise over the canyon, and whoa, what a treat that was! Our first glimpse down into the vastness of hoodos was in the warm, glowy sunlight of early dawn. It was like God turned a light on and it made getting up at 4:26 totally worth it. It was the first and probably only time on the trip we were cold, and I think temps were in the 50’s. We had worn all of our warm layers but it was still chilly.

We opted to find some warmth and coffee so we left and enjoyed thawing out at a coffee shop. Our first hike at Bryce was the Mossy Cave Trail, which is an easy hike with some pretty incredible views. We ate our packed breakfast of avocado and egg sandwiches along this river, and thought life just couldn’t get much better.

Each trip has those little pleasures and bits of wonder that you can’t plan for, and this hike and the views was one of them for me. After we finished this hike, we headed back to the main part of Bryce for our hike down into the canyons. We chose the Queens/Navajo Combination Loop, which was 2.9 miles long and had an elevation change of 600 feet. Our most major concern was whether we had enough water along and we rationed it so carefully that we actually had more than enough.

The descent was a lot of fun.
The trail takes you down to the canyon floor, and it was actually quite shaded through parts of it.

Another wow moment was walking through Wall Street- slot canyon style hoodoos towering hundreds of feet beside us. It was probably 10 degrees cooler in that part and it was the best part of the trail.

That little bit of beauty and coolness was going to be the last fun part of the trail because immediately after that, the trail started winding back up to the top, switchback style. It was very steep, and every 20 feet or so we’d stop and rest, and rehydrate.

It was an amazing, unforgettable hike and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you visit Bryce. We rode around the area for awhile, and then realized that the overlooks weren’t quite having their previous effect and we concluded that we were canyoned out, so we headed back into Panguitch early. Turns out that we weren’t exactly over the canyons, because our route back took us right through the Red Canyons, and we promptly fell in love all over again 🙂 Maybe we just needed a little space 🙂

these 2 images are not mine-they come from https://utah.com/camping/red-canyon. We wanted to stop for pictures but there weren’t any safe places to do so. I think you could easily spend a day here at the Red Canyons and have a very nice time.

We ended a wonderful day with a delicious bbq dinner in Panguitch and then watched “Pygmalion” together and turned in early because of our early start.

Friday was a travel day, and we headed north up into northern Utah. It was just as cheap to fly out of Salt Lake City so we decided to spend some time exploring the larger Salt Lake area. The Bonneville Salt flats were out of our way by about an hour and a half, but we decided it was worth it to go see that. It was my second time there so I knew what to expect, but it is the strangest thing to experience what your eyes tell you should be snow, but it is still in fact, 100 degrees and all your other senses are telling you otherwise.

our rental car posing like all the other cool kid cars out there

Because it is so flat and the white sand does a number on your eyes, it is really hard to judge distance and depth perception. The mountains behind us are much further away than they appear.

We had to go down to the next exit to get on the eastbound road back to SLC and it just so happens that the exit is in Nevada, and a few of the group was excited to cross that state off their lists, even though all we saw was a kind of junk yard, I think 🙂

Its quite an interesting drive back to SLC, as speed limits are 85 and there is quite literally nothing but desert and the salt lake for many, many miles. We got back rather late, and Sarah and Kelly made a quick dash to Panda Express for food. We spent the next morning wandering some of the historic areas of SLC including Temple Square. We saw where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings and enjoyed the beautiful flowers and grounds around the temple. The Mormon missionary ladies were very friendly and happy to answer our questions about their religion. We finished our morning and our final meal at the amazing food court in the mall right there. After that, we loaded up for the last time in our car, and headed for the airport- the ending of a most wonderful trip. We dispersed in all different directions. Everyone else went home- I needed to go west yet further. And that trip is coming up next.

And now for a few post-scripts:

*If you do a trip like this, plan for lots of driving time. Everything is so much more spread out in the west than what we’re used to back east, so if you want to see multiple places, it will have to involve lots of driving. We really didn’t mind, as we had lots to talk about and subjects to discuss, and you know, we’re girls and we like to talk 🙂

*the pictures on this post were taken by various ones in the group with the exception of the ones of the Red Canyons. The especially nice ones probably were taken by Kelly who is the photographer of the group

New Year~ I’m still here

This wasn’t how I envisioned I’d be spending this week- being exposed to, then getting, then recovering from you know, it. I’m supposing that in twenty years, I’ll marvel that so many people will know exactly what it means, and the fact that I didn’t need to elaborate more. (future self, in case you’re confused- google omicron)

So I’m reminded periodically that I still have a blog, mostly through WordPress notifications, but sometimes in running into people who ask me about it.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure why I do and that makes it hard to think about posting and contributing. I’m not really into talking about controversial current topics, don’t have anything to sell, and can’t make beautiful loaves of artisan sourdough bread. If you know, you know.

Like many of you, I’ve taken some time to think and dream over a new year, and to reflect back on the old. For many, the past two years of the pandemic have been marked by crushing loss, and for those unaffected by loss, a complete disruption of life as we’ve known it. We’ve all been put under the microscope and it’s brought up things about ourselves and each other that hadn’t been known before. The best and the worst. How do we move forward with all that? Throw in simmering social and cultural issues and it’s just made it worse. Sometimes we don’t know how we can move forward but we know we must.

I think that life operates somewhat as a puzzle, with a myriad little pieces of varied colors and lines, and impossibly complex edges. We try, from an early age, to start putting them together and are surprised to realize at some point, that we also live in the puzzle as a piece. How do we put together the life puzzle, while being one of the pieces? How does God, as the puzzle maker and knower, also become a piece, and how does that change how I put it together?

I don’t know for certain, but I’m walking into this new year believing two simple things:

My best needs to be laid at His feet regularly

And so does my worst.

I need to know what God has given me to offer the world through my life and influence, but I also need to be keenly aware of the things most exposed to enemy exploitation, most prone to my own destruction.

I need to be able to have real conversations with Him about both.

You do too.

It seems that a collection of Christ-followers, giving their best back to God, and then using it throughout the world for His glory and making Him known, while at the same time taking their weakness and sin-prone areas to the cross regularly, has more chance at changing the world than the best curated reading list, podcast episode or stance on any cultural issue.

There’s something about this somewhat elementary truth that helps me put the pieces together. I suppose it’s because its easy to believe that change is somehow out there, in better systems or more ideal circumstances, not within my very heart-the one thing I can know and change. It moves me from the paralysis of helplessness and outrage to something constructive and useful.

God wants my best, the offering of my deepest and truest love, and He also wants to destroy and redeem anything that gets in the way of that.

He wants it for you too. To have both is to change our hearts, the trajectory of this new year, and our world.

Cheers to a wonderful year, my friends! 🙂