The weather is getting colder, and coronavirus cases are spiking. A typical rainy Oregon winter is coming, made worse since the pandemic has forced us all indoors. But it's also the holiday season, and the perfect time to appreciate our friends and family (but not in person, please). Today I was thinking about a memory with my family that I'm really grateful for and it made me smile. I'm sharing it here to encourage others to think back on a time with their family where they were truly happy.
This summer, my family forewent planes and hotels and opted for a camping trip instead. After some searching, we decided on Olallie Lake, a place that my dad and brother had visited on a backpacking trip a few months prior. We threw our gear in the back of the car and headed up the Clackamas River Highway.
We stopped at a wide spot in the road for lunch — sandwiches bundled tightly in Saran Wrap, Sun Chips and grapes. Below us, the Clackamas gurgled and laughed like a newborn. Above stood towering deciduous trees, their green leaves creating a canopy that stretched across the water. A collection of rocks framed looking-glass pools on the edge of the river. We sat on boulders and breathed in the fresh air.
An hour later, I was at the wheel, navigating the rough road up to the lake. My dad was in the passenger seat, repeating mantras I had heard a thousand times: "The road is smoother on the right," "Logging trucks just careen down these hills and you'll never see them coming," and my personal favorite, "You don't see that in Missouri."
We chose a lakeside camping spot far away from other groups. There, my brother Zach and I dragged our two kayaks to the shore and unfolded camp chairs while our parents put up the tent. As soon as camp was set up, my brother and I grabbed our life jackets, fishing poles and paddles and headed out on the water.
Olallie Lake is clear as glass. On one side lies Olallie Butte, on the other, Mt. Jefferson. The sky is cloudless and the air is still. In my kayak, I heard nothing but the rhythm of water lapping against the boat and the occasional splash of a fish. Lazily, my brother and I sat there for hours, our boats drifting in the current. As the fisherman in the family, Zach cast his spinner again and again. I, a fishing rookie, did so less frequently, content to let my feet dangle over the sides of the kayak and into the cool water.
On the second day, my fishing inexperience made itself clear when part of my rod miraculously loosened itself and fell into the water. It taunted me from the bottom, glimmering in the sunlight. Was it too deep to get? I checked the depth with my paddle and was pleasantly surprised when I realized the piece had landed on a log jutting up from the lake bed. Technically, swimming isn't allowed in Olallie Lake, but I stripped down to my sports bra and athletic shorts and jumped in. Zach watched on, amused, as I gripped his kayak and shivered in the glacial lake. It took a couple minutes, but soon I was back in my boat, thoroughly soaked and clutching the small silver disk like a winning lottery ticket.
My favorite photo from this trip comes from the last day at Olallie. It was taken at 6 a.m. from my kayak, where I sat bundled in multiple layers. The sky is turning shades of pink and blue, but the moon is still out. My brother's kayak glides silently along the surface. The water acts like a mirror, reflecting every minor detail on its surface. It is this summer morning that I think of now. I am thankful for the wonderful place we live in and thankful for these opportunities to explore. Most importantly, I am thankful for my family.
Staying safe is critical this holiday season, but it comes at the cost of family time. However, I have faith that although we are apart, we can look back on fond memories for warmth, and look forward to making new ones.
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