The Beauty of Simplicity
Last year we had a lovely camping trip with friends at Crater Lake. Of course there were a few bumps in the road (for some reason, the three other families were put together at the campground and my family was out on a totally different loop!), but there are in every trip. We had fun times and took great pictures.
When we were planning our camping trips for this summer, I thought that our friends were interested in going back to Crater Lake this year, so I put in on the calendar. I also wanted to take the kids to see The Oregon Caves since my four-year-old just grew tall enough to pass the minimum height restriction, so I figured we would see the caves and camp the first night in that area, go to Crater Lake the next day, and then camp somewhere in highway 138 or at Diamond Lake the next night or two. It was during the week, so I figured we would be able to find a spot somewhere. It would be adventurous to be gypsies for a bit.
But as we got closer to the dates, I found that none of our friends actually were interested in this trip. A week before it was supposed to happen, I learned that baby-wearing isn’t allowed in The Oregon Caves. Then the road to The Oregon Caves caught on fire on both sides, so that was definitely out.
I decided to hop on the computer and make reservations for Broken Arrow campground on Diamond Lake. My only other camping trip to Diamond Lake had been a mosquito disaster (it is the only bad camping trip I have ever had), so I chose the site furthest from the lake and hoped for the best. I figured we could spend most of our time visiting Crater Lake or doing hikes, whatever, just away from the campground if the mosquitoes were terrible. I was hoping that a friend who lived about 1.5 hours from the lake would be able to come visit us, but found out that we wouldn't get to visit this time.
So it was just the kids and I. And I could not have planned it better.
Having no one traveling with us meant we could go at our own pace. Nobody would be waiting for us at camp. So we made frequent stops to give the baby a break from the car seat and eat Costco samples. We listened to Narnia and had fun conversations in the car. When we got to camp, the kids set up the tent while I set up the kitchen area and made dinner. We went for a walk to the lake shore afterwards, and kept getting “lost” in the campground on the way there (for some reason I had the worst trouble navigating that place, I swear it was like a maze!). The shore was so peaceful and quiet that we stayed til after dark and had to walk back to camp by the light of our phones.
As soon as breakfast was finished the next morning, we loaded up and drove to the Boundary Springs hiking trail. Boundary Springs is the source of the Rogue River, which is our river. We’ve all grown up on it. It’s a special thing to stand at the very beginning of it. We had hiked it with friends the year before and it’s not a particularly tough trail but it is long (6.5 miles). It was nice for it to be just us, and to be able to go at the pace my preschooler set. Four hours later we were ready to rest in the car while driving around Crater Lake.
But as we got closer and closer to the lake, the smoke from the neighboring forest fires got thicker and thicker. We soon found that Crater Lake was socked in, there would be no blue water for the background of the pictures that day, so we turned around. The children were disappointed, but I was proud of their attitudes about it. We went back to camp, had our lunch, and decided to drive around Diamond Lake instead. Then we went back to the shore area we had visited the night before. The baby napped in the car while my oldest and I played a card game and the middles played in the lake and fished. We ate chips and salsa and fed our crumbs to some adorable ducklings. The quiet simplicity of it was like a balm to my soul. There was no place to be, no obligations, my only goal was to just enjoy life with my children. It was glorious.
The oldest girls were anxious to get back home in time for youth group the next day, so we packed up camp that morning and the children all did an amazing job helping. There are so many hikes on highway 138 that we have never done before, and I had picked out one on our way to camp that I thought would be the perfect stopping pace for some leg stretching, but we ended up needing to stop for a potty break much earlier than I had anticipated, and since the baby was awake and already tired of the car seat, we decided to hike to the Watson Creek Falls instead. Once again, this ended up being better than I had planned. We loved the hike. We were happy to be hiking through green forest again (the Boundary Springs hike is in a formally burned area) and it wasn't too challenging for us at all, even after our long hike the day before. In fact the baby even made it about 3/4 of the way to the falls before asking to be carried.
The falls are amazing. Looking up to the top of the shear cliff made me feel so tiny (and like I was going to fall backwards looking up that high). The verse in Isaiah ran through my head:
If I would have planned this trip my own way, the way I had imagined it would go, it would have been totally different. But I really feel like God orchestrated things for my family to make this trip just what we needed. He knew we needed the highlights of our trip to be the simple things: the ducklings at the lake, the frogs hopping around in the bathrooms, the squirrels and birds trying to be brave enough to steal our breakfasts, and the fairy gardens and cornhusk dolls my children made in the campsite. Hiking and enjoy the beauty of God's creation together. Our family laughing and just being together.
Not that the trip was perfect, I don't want to make you think that there weren't any hard or frustrating moments. We had squabbling in the car at times. The baby was so distracted by being in new circumstances that he kept peeing his pants. The four-year-old had a meltdown over mama not letting him buy a piece-of-junk toy in a gift shop. The OCD son had a hard time getting past the fact that he accidentally dropped a jar of green olives he had bought with his own money and was so excited about eating as part of our picnic. One son had a nasty attitude for part of the long hike and had to be continually corrected about pushing past his siblings on the trail. And we wont even talk about sleeping, because we hardly did (this baby is still awful at sleeping at camp and it was freezing the second night, once the smoke cleared and stars came out). I ended up writing an apology note to our closest camp neighbors for all the noise and wishing them good nights' sleep for the rest of their trip. Lord knows, they had some catchup to do!
But this trip wasn't meant to be perfect. It was meant to be meaningful. It was meant to slow us down and allow us to simply enjoy each other.
I listened to the book Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist this summer and it really struck something in my soul. Of course, I listened to it in 1.5 speed because I was racking up points for summer reading, so I know that I didn't absorbed it all and need to revisit it. I proposed it for our next book club read, and it was chosen, and I really am excited about digging deeper into it. The book is about "leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living", and I really feel like that is the way God has been calling my heart...for a long time, actually.
It hasn't been a week since we got back from our trip and we are getting ready to go camping again, this time with friends and closer to home. And though it may sound frantic to only go 6 days between camping, I really am not feeling that way at all. I'm not stressing about getting ready like I normally do. I'm enjoying working alongside my family to prepare for our trip, but also taking the time to savor just this part of it all. I'm thankful that God is working on my heart in this area because, boy, does it need it!
This post has sort of turned into a long ramble. I hope it makes sense to you what I am trying to say. I guess I just want to encourage you to stress less and enjoy the journey of wherever God has you right now. It may not be what you had planned or hoped for, but it is a comfort to know that He has a plan, He is our hope, and He desires us to trust in Him and to have His joy in this journey. So stop and take time to breathe, mamas, and to soak in this moment.
Much love to you!