Camping Newbies

So, in the Pacific Northwest camping is a really big thing. Adam has been camping with friends a couple times since we moved here five years ago, but I've only been camping once in my life, as a very small child. Claire and Maggie began asking to go camping last summer. We told them we could go this year, when Betsy was a bit bigger. Now, we've successfully taking them all camping overnight twice! 

Our first overnight was in mid-June. We went with the other four families in our married group (aka small group from church) to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island. June in Seattle can be quite unpredictable weather-wise and we were a little worried that we would be camping in pouring rain. The forecast was cloudy but dry, so we forged ahead and hoped for the best. 



We went to a friend's birthday party that morning and arrived on the island at 3:00 pm. Lo and behold, as soon as we set up our tent and walked down to the beach, it started to drizzle.  Of course, we are plenty used to rain, so we still gave ourselves time to explore the tide pools and hunt for seashells before heading back to camp.




Thankfully, we were with much more experienced campers than ourselves, who came prepared with multiple rain shelters. We grilled our hotdogs on a camp stove and then received a brief respite from the rain - just long enough to build a fire and make s'mores. I think we would have had a mutiny of eleven small children on our hands if we hadn't managed that!  





Our three kids somehow haven't had to share a room yet on any of our travels, so we were nervous about how spending the night in a tent all together would go. The sound of rain pelting down on the roof of our tent was remarkably soothing and all the girls fell asleep without issues. Unfortunately, the campsites at Deception Pass are very, very close together and the strangers next-door stayed up really late chatting (even in the rain!) so Adam and I didn't sleep nearly as well. 

It was pouring when we woke up on Sunday morning, so we just ate a quick breakfast of muffins, fruit, and juice in our tent, packed everything up, took one last wet walk over to the beach, and headed home. A major downside to camping in the rain is how much work everything is to clean up afterwards! But we had time to get through a couple loads of laundry and set up the tent to dry in our garage before it was time for the evening Mass and a friend's baptism party. 

A month later, in mid-July, we stayed overnight at The Dalles campground right outside Mount Rainier. When we booked this trip in January, we just planned to go by ourselves. But after camping as a group in June, we realized it's vastly superior. Much more fun and safer to have extra adults around helping to keep an eye on your small children. So, we invited our good friends, Steven and Megan, to come along and were thrilled when they agreed. We picked up Adam and Steven from work at 2:00 on Friday afternoon and all drove down to Mt. Rainier together.





After setting up our tent (we have a 10-person, so we all fit quite comfortably) we went on a little walk through the campgrounds to see the White River and that gigantic fallen tree.





Back at the campsite, Adam and Steven got a fire going. We roasted hot dogs for dinner and made s'mores for dessert. Betsy was extremely frustrated that I wouldn't let her roast a hot dog (aka wave the stick around and smear the hot dog in the dirt) completely on her own.



Thankfully, she forgave me when it was time to read stories and get ready for bed. When we were camping in the rain in June, we pretty much hung out in the tent, reading, after the girls fell asleep around 8:00. It was so nice to be able to chat around the campfire (and roast more s'mores!) instead. Our campsite was a lot more secluded than in Deception Pass, so we didn't have any noisy neighbors, but I still didn't sleep very well. I think I need to try camping when I'm not 20+ weeks pregnant sometime! Shockingly, though, our kids all slept in past 8:00 on Saturday morning.

We had muffins, fruit, and juice for breakfast (someday I will get more creative with my campout menu!), made a picnic lunch, and packed up the campsite. We had found two options for easy, kid-friendly 2-3 mile hikes in Mount Rainier. The first was in Sunrise, but there was already no parking left by the time we drove over there, so we continued onto our Plan B, the Silver Falls hike in Ohanapecosh.

We had our picnic lunch before we started on the trail. Claire, especially, did such a great job walking the 1+ miles to the waterfall. Maggie spent a fair amount of time on Adam's shoulders, but held her own pretty well too.




We stopped for a while at the overlook for a rest and snack break. I promise Claire and Maggie are not nearly as close to the edge as it appears in one of the pictures below!








Right after we snapped these last two pictures, we started to head back and things immediately went downhill. Literally.



Claire was walking right next to us when she slipped on a tiny portion of the trail that had worn away. She went under that lower guard rail and started rolling down the cliff, falling forty feet to the bottom of the waterfall. Adam immediately went after her. I was wearing Betsy on my back in the Ergo, but I quickly scooped Maggie into my arms. I just remember screaming, frantically praying, and imagining Claire falling into the swiftly moving water at the bottom. Steven climbed down part of the way as well - he was able to see Adam reach Claire and reassure me that she was okay. It was way too steep to climb back up, so Megan ran back to the trail head to find park rangers.

Within half an hour, an EMT arrived and scrambled down to assess their injuries. Claire did not have a concussion, thankfully (just lots of cuts and bruises) while Adam sprained his ankle. A team of a dozen park rangers arrived quickly afterward to begin the process of getting them out. It took them quite a while to find a suitably large tree, secure the ropes, etc. The whole rescue process was an over two-hour ordeal. Finally, the EMT brought Claire up in a harness and then returned for Adam. We took a shortcut from the trail up to the main road, where there was an ambulance waiting. Adam and Claire set off in the ambulance for the nearest hospital, while park rangers gave the rest of us a ride back to our minivan. We met them at the hospital (super glad we all came in one car - Steven drove while I sat in the middle between Maggie and Betsy) where the ER docs made sure Claire didn't need stitches and Adam didn't break his leg.

We made it home after 11:00 pm - I carried all the sleeping children into bed while Steven and Megan generously unloaded all the camping gear. I am so thankful they were hiking with us! I don't know what we would have done without them that day. I'm also really grateful to Claire's rock star guardian angel for watching over her, to the park rangers who came to her rescue, and especially to my very brave husband. This whole situation was much, much harder on him than on me. I mean, not only did he sprain his ankle quite badly, but it was very scary actually jumping down after Claire and finding her at the bottom. She was just crumbled in a heap against a rock when he found her - that initial moment of picking her up and not knowing whether she was still alive was terrifying. She was confused about where she was initially, but then just very upset and ready to go home, so it was pretty difficult to keep her calm down there for the next two hours.

It's hard not to replay the moment your daughter fell off a cliff again and again in your mind. This experience has also brought back all the memories from the other time Claire almost died - immediately after she was born. When I first visited her in the NICU, the doctors told us she might not make it through the night. That scene, especially, has been running through my head frequently. I was on so much pain medication from the c-section that I didn't fully comprehended the situation, and by the next morning they knew she was out of the woods, although she was still very sick, of course. Adam was not on narcotics, so, again, that night was much scarier from his perspective.

I spent the two hours I was waiting for Claire to be rescued thinking about how much better of a mom I want to be. If that was the last time I saw her, I would be very disappointed with how distracted I am much of the time, mostly just with chores and my to-do list, but also by my phone. It's amazing how you can spend all your time with three small people, but how little you can actually be focused entirely on them. I hope that I've been doing better these past three weeks, although it's been a hard to balance as I've had more chores to do because of Adam's sprained ankle.

Thankfully, Adam and Claire are both healing well. Praise Jesus for saving our little girl twice now!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos! And such nice ones of you with the girls- I need to try to get more of myself with our girls.

    Claire's fall sounds terrifying. I'm so glad you had friends to help and that everyone is ok.


You are awesome.