Last yearr, because Traig made a last minute decision to skip our Mother/Son trip to work another week at Harlow, we missed out on that annual experience with both of the boys. We ended up staying in Sunriver with Brayden and his buddy, Solomon - and while it was fun, it was obviously not the experience we were hoping for.
So, this year, we planned a trip that would occur before training for Camp Harlow even begun, so there would be no opportunities to skip out. (Sorry boys, you are out of excuses).
We made plans to drive down south the first night, via a route of waterfalls, spend the night in a hotel, tour some Redwoods, and then end up at the coast before returning home.
I'd forgotten just how spectacular the Lower Umpqua drive is - from Glide to Diamond Lake. It's just stop off after stop off of beauty.
Our first destination was Fall Creek Falls.
It had some neat geographical features the boys worked at scaling.
And, of course, stunning views of the creek the trail paralleled.
The end waterfall was not a huge volume of water, but definitely worthwhile.
Not too far up the road was "Tokatee Falls" It had been a long time - but, I kind of remembered this one- another gorgeous hike and view.
En route along this highway, we did our best with the boys to have bonding conversations. We asked random questions, dug deep with responses - and tried to pass on our own stories to keep the dialogue going. It kind of worked. Well done, Michele - as she was the one that really got the ball rolling. Bottom line - Traig doesn't really like people, and Brayden can't concentrate long enough to remember what the question was in the first place. ;)
Eventually, we settled into the Fairfield Inn at Medford. I actually had to text Ashton to beg her to keep Brayden occupied in text conversation as he wouldn't stop jumping on our bed, attacking Aunt Chele, or just being a pest. We had to keep clarifying, "this is our vacation too" -
Good job, Traig - that's our expectation...
Eventually, this happened. Good, attack yourselves and leave us alone, boys.
In the morning - this. Not sure what became of that bottom sheet (eewww...), but we hung around as long as we could to let them get the rest they needed.
Finally, we hit the road. After a dip into California and a stop at Subway for the picnic lunch we'd eat at our next hike, we found our way into Redwood Forest. Its crazy how just a few miles can drop the temperatures into the 60's from where they were close to the 90's already in southern Oregon. Coastal climate...
We were fortunate, though, as we had waited just long enough for the sun to emerge as we began our 5.5 round trip hike.
This was the end of the trail - a feature known as "Fern Falls". Traig was NOT impressed. "We hiked all this way for this?!!!!!" We tried to clarify that its the Redwoods - the whole point of the hike is the journey along the way to see all the magnificent trees, but he wasn't really placated. I'm pretty sure a perfect hike for him would end at a lake where a boat would be waiting for him to wake surf the rest of the day away or something. Certainly not a trickle of a waterfall and a bunch of selfies in front of it....
See that expression he has? Not happy.
But the Subway sandwiches and crackers and cheese (for us gals) was delicious.
I had to climb a tree to get a selfie that fit us in with some water in the background.
The boys kind of left us in the dust on the way back. So, that gave us some opportunity to try to take some panoramas and try to capture the size and height of this incredible forest.
"Oh, Hey Brayden" - where he waited at the trailhead.
Surprisingly, the distance from the Redwoods we were at and the Oregon Coast location where we planned to camp was only about 40 minutes - so we arrived around 5pm to set up camp at Harris Beach State Park. Stunning views.
Unfortunately, when we found our site, that looked ideal when viewing it online - it was totally cramped in by two other sites. It felt like they were on top of us and we were not pleased. I was tired and grumpy from driving as much as I did and felt responsible for picking the site (even though we all saw it and agreed). So, I just let Michele make the decision to return to the check in location and see what else was offered (nothing), and then determine to find someplace else to go.
Fortunately, we nailed it on our next try. About 12 miles out of Brookings, was Loeb State Park. While not on the ocean, it was MUCH more secluded and woodsy feeling - and fit the bill perfectly for us. It even had electricity at each site. (Which prompted a return trip to town for an extension cord and more groceries).
Home, Sweet Home.
Yes, it's light out, which would indicate these were made for breakfast and not just a post dinner treat. There's no rules when it comes to camping. ;)
Brayden doesn't always respect personal space.
An extra perk to our campsite - these neighbors -which, in contrast to the other campground, we were happy with them coming as close as they wanted to.
This is how we spent the first half of Tuesday. Solid.
It was too windy and a bit too cool to consider swimming in this river that was the focal point of that campground.
Finally, we got ourselves going and made it to the beach in Brookings.
A stunning day. Chilly, but sunny.
More roughhousing between our boys. Good to know, after all these years - and despite their vastly different personalities, they really do enjoy each other.
Of course, that's almost never a problem for the two of us. Outside of just getting cranky sometimes, we really do think so much alike.
Michele honored her son and crawled up this massive rock with him. I spent my time on my phone researching where we'd be going on the camping trip with the girls. I was kind of already moving on past all this testosterone.
Originally, we had planned to rent some ATV's and ride along the endless sand dunes of the Oregon Coast with the boys. We didn't have a place in mind to rent them, nor a location we knew to go to, so nothing was set in stone. After some thoughtful conversation inspired by Traig regarding the cost, both boys determined the expenditure wasn't worth it. Okay then, besides driving home along the coast, any other ideas? And, then, I remembered that Florence is known for its "Sand Boarding" and that's right up these boys' alley in terms of skill set. Minimal price. Perfect destination (the coast directly west of Eugene). We had a plan.
I was content to let Traig drive on the way back - and he did a stand up job. It left me in the back seat with Brayden - so we did a little return-trip bonding.
It was a pleasant enough drive, but we were happy to finally reach Sandland Adventure Park, find the rental process (and directions on how to ride) to be easy and not-intimidating and then find ourselves on the other side of town to find a somewhat private area for the boys to try to get the hang of this without a big audience of spectators.
We ended up at Honeyman State Park - gorgeous view.
It took one try before both boys had the knack of it.
And, then they were pros.
The only major problem with this sport? The climb back up the dune. BRUTAL!!! Especially with the wind whipping the sand everywhere.
Not long after Michele asked if I'd considered giving it a try, I snagged Brayden's board and velcroed my foot in. Really, not a smart move for a person who suffers from neck issues to just haphazardly try out a steep hill, but cocky me thought wakeboarding would help me just enough to figure it out. I did stay upright - and went fast - and then ended up somersaulting. When your 16 year old son scolds you for not trying it out first on an easier hill, you know you were being risky. But, it was worth it. I felt like a cool mom.
Michele gave it a try next and did about as well as I did.
We'd all worked up a healthy appetite and took advantage of the numerous fast food options Florence had to offer before heading home after four days and three nights spent with our sons.
A few thoughts on this time with our boys.
1). It takes a whole lot to get them to talk deep. Instead, the majority of their conversation on any given day has to do with either parts of the male anatomy or what the male anatomy is capable of. Really boys? We actually asked them, knowing they are pretty decent boys with pretty decent character, if we were hearing all this from them, just how shocked would we be by the conversation taking place in a guys locker room. They looked at us with horror and assured us we'd never want to know.
2). It takes a lot to keep them entertained. Clearly, a hike, or a trip to the beach - by itself, is just not enough. Nor is just sitting around a campfire. In fact, the final morning, we knew it was time to leave when they were taking a roasting iron, turning it red hot in the fire, and then using it to slice through an Arizona Iced Tea plastic bottle. The smell was nauseating (and probably toxic). "BOYS, GO CLIMB A TREE OR FIND SOMETHING TO DO!" Oh, that's right, they did that the first night, and Brayden end up crashing down with a branch and getting stung by a yellow jacket. He said, after admitting to the mishap, that in reality, he was lucky that was the only injury he suffered.
3). Camping, in and of itself - much less, nature - doesn't inspire them or take them to a "Zen" mood. Hmmm. And, speaking of moods....in the same way Brayden really benefits from medicine (that he loathes taking - especially in the summer) to benefit his ADHD and just even him out - Traig actually has his own deficiency too. I knew about it ahead of time, but this was the trip that sent it home. If Traig has an EmergenC or even a 5 Hour Energy, it just, for whatever reason, virtually eliminates his "edginess". Crazy! All that said, both boys spent the majority of the trip without the benefits of these outside influences and so, we didn't really get "their best" the whole time. Of course, they didn't always get our best either - so no big deal....but, it just highlights how unique we all are and how each of us has shortcomings that we all have to accept and decide whether or not to conquer on any given day.
4). Finally, these boys LOVE US. They gave us four days, at ages 16 and 17, just a week into their summer VACATION, to spend with their mommies. We can say all we want about just how quality our time was together, but bottom line, it was time together - without any sense of bitterness or resentfulness. That's DEFINITELY enough to be very thankful for. And we are.