Covered Bridge Campground

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By my count, The Flynns have gone to White Lake State Park 20 times. The first time we went was when Thane was hardly 9 months old. We had been camping only a handful of times in our misspent non-parenthood. I suddenly had some sort of fit when I realized that this was actually my life, and if I didn’t go camping I would be a person who never camps. We put a pack and play and some miscellaneous junk into the car, picked a campground and random, and started a family tradition.

My dearest husband has this great t-shirt from White Lake that says, “Extreme Outdoor Adventure”. Less true words have never been printed on a t-shirt. White Lake has an excellent lake with a sandy beach, two camp stores, coin-operated showers, playgrounds, perfect cell phone access and near immediate access to a Dunkin’ Donuts. You can get pizza delivered. It’s a pretty fantastic place to go with your three year old and six year old. If you read my last musing on Mt. Rainier, you’re likely to accurately guess that it doesn’t QUITE scratch my itch for wilderness.

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So this year, for our third and final camping trip of the year, I decided to get crazy and try (GASP) a new campground. On one of our prior visits, on our near-traditional “Car Walk” across the Kankamagus, we scoped out several of the National Forest campgrounds as possibilities for our “level up” camping trip. I settled on Covered Bridge. I liked how much more space there was between the sites – enough to feel like you weren’t actually in the pockets of your neighbors. I like the boulders for climbing and woods for exploring. It’s near the scenic Swift River, enticing with it’s clear running water and scrambly rocks.

Climbing into the car on Friday noon, headed north, I wondered how much resistance I’d get when it dawned on my children that we were not going to White Lake. Would they wail? Would they spend the entire time talking about how much better White Lake is?

I am, this very moment, sitting in a gracious beech forest at the foot of a granite mountain – which we climbed yesterday. Behind the camp site 15 feet, in the woods, is a six foot mound of granite that has made for a perfect castle for the laird and thane. There’s the slightest rain tapping on one of Adam’s exquisitely hung tarps, and a roaring fire in the firepit preparing to be excellent cooking coals in an hour. (It’s not a Flynn New Hampshire camping trip if it doesn’t rain. This one is mild – there have been no extreme weather alerts yet!) My sons and I spent a cheerful two hours in that rushing Swift River, pretending to be the lords and ladies of Michisle (Think Mike-Isle) and finding the magic stones that will grant us the power to protect our kingdom. (We liked the Heart Stone so much we brought it back.) Adam got in a first rate nap. It’s been excellent.

I even got my level up on camping – the toilets are pit toilets and the water is a glorified rerouted creek. There’s even a rather creepy cemetery at the entrance with ominous 19th century inscriptions.

I asked the boys (currently reading/playing Legos in the tent after a very active day’s play) what they thought of the campground. “We should definitely come back again!” We’ll still head to White Lake – I’ve already gotten our Memorial Day reservations. But I’m excited for a future where I can get my sons to join me on the slopes of mountain adventures!

And oh, what glory filled my soul

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Top of the world

Top of the world

When you tell people here in New England that you spent your summer vacation backpacking around an iconic mountain, they tend to think you’re hard core. I like to sprinkle in even more shocking details, saying things like “Yeah, nothing makes you appreciate civilization like a bathroom with walls and unlimited free toilet paper!” (I took a picture of each latrine on the mountain. I think I might make a gallery. You’re welcome.) It does feel impressive, from the land of cubicles.

However, when I was actually backpacking the Wonderland Trail – a 92 mile loop around Mt. Rainier that has so much elevation change it’s equivalent to summiting several times – I did not feel hardcore. Let’s start with the fact we were not doing the whole trail. Adam and I scored an amazing itinerary – absolutely my first choice. But it was only less than a third of the total length of the trail. People have run the Wonderland in the 40 hour range. I actually know some of these lunatics personally. Adam and I were on a pace for maybe a 13 – 14 day Wonderland circumnavigation. We’d stop on the trail and meet someone and they’d ask where we came from and were going. They’d give us a look, and lay out an itinerary often twice the length of ours. Any many of them WERE doing the whole trail.

Two particular meetings come to mind: the three young, map-challenged men we met outside of Mystic Lake around noon who thought they were going to Fire Creek (20 miles and 10,000 ft of elevation change). They weren’t running, so there was no way that they were going to make it. Then there was the dad with his two daughters who were doing the whole trail. The young women were having trouble with their boots, and had done 20 miles, with packs, in flipflops. We handed over our blister packs since our feet were holding up fine and they were in dire straights. These things conspire to make you feel like you’re doing the tourist edition of the trail.

Moonset over Mineral Mountain

Our choice was a good one, however. Adam and I had enough time to linger in some of the loveliest places in the world. We could stop and stare. We could rise when rested, and rest when weary. Our longest day was 10 miles. Our final day out was a mere 2 miles, which eager feet ate up. We never once raced to our goal with nervous eyes measuring the ever decreasing distance between horizon and sun.

The itinerary was this:
Day 1: Sunrise to Berkely Park 2.3 miles
Day 2: Berkely Park to Mystic Lake 10 miles
Day 3: Mystic Lake to Cataract Valley 7 miles
Day 4: Cataract Valley to Eagle’s Roost 5 miles
Day 5: Eagle’s Roost to Mowich Lake (out) 2 miles

The tactical travelogue is probably best enjoyed through the hundreds of pictures that survived the editing process. (The pictures are mostly captioned, so if you’d enjoy a day by day you can go through in slideshow.) Adam patiently stopped over a thousand times for the shutter to open and close.

Mt. Rainier above Mystic Lake

Why do I love this? We could have gone to Ashland for the Shakespeare festival, and stayed in fine accommodations with amazing food. (A fact Adam reminded me of not a few times.) We went through considerable expense and difficulty in order to walk 26 miles up and down the side of a mountain, on the week of our 14th anniversary. Why? It’s an answer I struggle to articulate. Because I can’t see these things anywhere else? Because I challenge my mind constantly and my body hardly ever? Because without the discipline of walking, I can never slow my mind down enough to listen? Because carrying everything you need forces you to embrace simplicity and to be grateful for what you have? Because I do not feel happier than I feel when I turn a corner and stare one of my oldest, deepest friends in the face, and see an aspect of that marvelous mountain I have never seen before? Because I enjoy the right kind of suffering? I’m not sure I ever have fully answered the why of loving to backpack, but I can assure you my heart exulted as soon as my boots hit the trail. (My heart promptly started to work overtime as those boots immediately pulled me up the hill to Frozen Lake.)

Since returning to the email-filled world, I have found myself as I so often do – lying in a hotel bed in some city, mind racing with the challenges of the day. There are few things I resent more than work dreams. So instead I pick a section of path, in my mind, and walk it as close to memory as I can. I pull out as many of the scenes, unwittingly recorded. The sights, the smells, the creak of the pack, the loam underfoot. I see the avalanche lily, the lupine, the columbine, the Jeffrey’s shooting star. I watch the moon setting over Mt. Rainier behind Mineral Mountain. The hike feeds and nourishes my true self, and gives strength for the labors that are needed.

Mysterious flower along the trail

I’ve thought of a thousand things I want to tell you about my five days of bliss. How much I love my purple hiking shirt. How Adam and I learned just how little water people truly need compared to how much they use. Why Eagle’s Roost is so lovely. What it feels like for me to walk in the dark without my contacts. How beautifully my knee held up in extremis. What five days without any sort of internet access was like. How desperately I need a much better point and shoot camera for my next trip. Perhaps those thoughts will sneak out, but I struggle enough just to tell the primary stories, never mind the quirkier, flashing tales that sneak across my mind and are gone in a twinkling. So you shall have to be content with this:

Hymns play through my mind as I walk, unbidden. There is less atmosphere so high to interfere between me and God.

Cairn, looking over Mist Park, headed into Spray Park

Kindly disregard this letter

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It was almost a month ago that I made the journey north to New Hampshire to pick up my son from Camp Wilmot. I had to get up crazy early in the morning for a Saturday, like 7 am, but I was so eager to see my son again – to hear how it had gone – that I was markedly less grumpy than you would expect. (I am _not_ a morning person.)

Grey and one of his bunkmates

Grey and one of his bunkmates

I arrived at the camp just a bit early – just like I had been to drop him off. Sure sign of a noobie parent a little anxious about her first-born, I think. Grey was just headed up the hill as I pulled in and I got the biggest, completest, least “hey-that’s-not-cool-my-friends-are-watching” hug ever. I breathed in deeply as I held him tight, and felt that all was well. (Happily this might be less dangerous than you think as daily trips to the lake nicely negated the complete neglect evidenced by the optimistic soap I’d put in his dopp kit.) He introduced me to some friends, and I gathered his belongings and watched the “Purple cabin” clean up the firepit before we all settled into the cafeteria for the closing ceremonies.

They started with a flash from the past. The campers and counselors did “Energizers” familiar to prior generations of Christian campers. I was amazed that “Star Trekkin'” – not an obviously Presbyterian tune – was as popular 25 years later and 3000 miles away as it was in the Presbytery of Olympia in my youth. The spirit moves in truly mysterious ways. I watched Grey, my eyes hungry for him. (Constantinope and Star Trekkin here ) He was in the penultimate row, hidden behind the much taller, more confident kids in front of him. I’m used to Grey being the biggest one – the oldest in our group of friends, the tallest in any portrait. On this day, he was the baby, unsure, learning, in the back. He was circled gently by a loving ring of twice-his-height counselors and I could tell by how they all moved together that these young men had helped Grey through what I know was a challenging week for him. I watched my son slightly out of synch and a step behind the others (an unusual spot for him) and wondered what he’d say to me when we got in the car and he was ready to talk.

There was some song singing (unfamiliar to me – I stopped listening to Christian Pop with Amy Grant) and then they launched in on a photomontage of the week. A number of the kids had opted for photography lessons, and to the accompaniment of more Christian pop I didn’t recognize. I was terribly grateful for this chance (never offered to my parents) to see his week through the eyes of his fellow campers. (Best of all, the CD of the pics was for sale. WIN!) Grey didn’t show up until about 20 in, and in the early pictures he looked shy. But as the pictures went on, he started to show up more – in the funny outfits, kayaking, hiking (an area where he apparently distinguished himself).

He fell, exhausted, into the car after all the goodbyes had been said. He had seemed very reserved, but passionately wanted a t-shirt, and the pictures. His counselors told me he’d been great.

“So what do you think?” I asked, heart in my throat.

“I can’t wait to go back next year! Man, I’m soooooo tired!”

It was exactly what I hoped to hear.

Here are some of the fast facts I’ve been able to wrest out of him:

  • They stayed up until past ten every night. The night they stayed up to see the stars, it was 11.
  • Archery was his favorite part.
  • He’s totally going back next year.
  • The food was the best, especially the BBQ chicken the first night
  • They had a wacky clothes day. He crazily wore his SOCKS on his HANDS.
  • We did this one hilarious skit …. and then we said, “oh no, a horsefly!” and pretended to panic. It was soooo funny!
  • Also, horseflies are a near-mortal peril
  • He wasn’t a fan of the Scottish country dancing. “It was ok I guess”. I was jealous.
  • The worship didn’t seem to make a big impression on him, but he liked some of the music. I have NO IDEA what songs/artists they were listening to, so I haven’t been able to spring it on him. Anyone know what was likely?

    Since he came home, Camp Wilmot has been sprinkled sparingly in his conversation. A note about what Ethan said once. This hilARIOUS skit they did. How much he liked the food. How he can totally stay up later than this. I asked him, tonight, what I should tell you about Camp Wilmot.

    “Tell them” he said “That Camp Wilmot is a great place to go if you want to make friends. If you need some time alone, they give it to you. If you need some help, they’re there. If you want fun, there’s tons of fun. Tell them they will like Camp Wilmot!”

    Consider yourself told.

    Grey handles a kayak

    Grey handles a kayak

    Grey on ropes

    Grey on ropes

    Scottish dancing - that's what you get for being Presbyterian my son!

    Scottish dancing – that’s what you get for being Presbyterian my son!

    How goofy can you get? (The glasses came home safely)

    How goofy can you get? (The glasses came home safely)

    Bunkmates with dirty faces

    Bunkmates with dirty faces

    Crazy clothes

    Crazy clothes

    A happy camper

    A happy camper

    PS – I notice he’s wearing the same shirt in all these pictures. In at least one of the pictures, he’s wearing a different shirt. What I don’t know for a fact doesn’t hurt me, right? Maybe these pictures were all on the same day, right? Right?

  • The Last Camp Gramp update

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    This is the last update from Camp Gramp. Hopefully this week I’ll update with all the stuff Adam and I were doing while Camp Gramp was going on!

    The family that kazoos together annoys other people together

    Day 8 — I don’t know if this one counts. We had mac and cheese for lunch. A Camp Gramp favorite. Then, when Uncle Adam and Aunt Brenda returned home, Uncle Adam ran a fabulous game in which everyone emerged alive, and Aunt Brenda took Carolyn to town to get her ears pierced! Isn’t that awesome!

    We had roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, wilted leaf lettuce salad for dinner. Then went for a Mineral walk to the lake side. The evening ended with baths, PEACH crisp and drama. Puppy had gone walk about. 15 minutes were dedicated to finding him on my desk ….???? How did he get there.

    This is the last night in the tents. Another Camp Gramp. Thanks to Heidi and Brenda, Adam and Matt who make this activity possible every year. It has been a real joy to watch the cousins play together and enjoy one another. And it has been a privilege and a joy to have them. Tomorrow they start departing, and Papapa and Gramama collapse in a heap, just like the famous Collapsible Frink! 

    Camp Gramp Catchup – 2014

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    Our backpacking trip was marvelous. Sensational. Superb. I have just over a thousand pictures to prove it, which I’ll be spending the next several hours getting through. However, to tide you over until I get that magnum opus up, I have my mother’s Camp Gramp notes for days 3 – 7 for your enjoyment!

    To Marie in Downer’s GroveThanks!! I have Grey’s summer camp write-up in the works, and I’ll try to get that done in the next week!

    Day 3 — Camp Gramp 2014

    I have sad news to report. The much beloved bouncy house is too small to support all the children. In fact, they have to go in one at a time to get any sort of decent bounce. This is a catastrophe! The slit in the slide required re-taping, but even that didn’t provide enough bounce for the whole gang. It is tough getting old! The joys of childhood fade away, one at a time. We have a huge collection of toys in the attic which are no longer appropriate for the grandchildren we have.

    Today we went to church, had a picnic, then Gramama headed to Sunrise to deliver the backpackers to their trailhead while Papapa and the campers stayed home. There was much game playing, running, jumping, and enjoying the crew. There were no pictures taken. I promise to do better tomorrow. (Actually, pictures were taken of Adam and Brenda as they started their 4 day hike — but they are on Brenda’s camera somewhere on Mt. Rainier.)

    We ended the day with the traditional ice cream and an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle. The Wasamatta U football story. That cartoon is rich in pun and innuendo.

    Tomorrow the Pacific Science Center. May the force be with us!

    Day 4 — I lied. The camera remained firmly in its case and you will have to use your imagination.

    Today was Pacific Science Center day. The spy exhibit was a real hit! They learned about the Enigma Machine and saw a chunk of the proposed Moscow Embassy with 8 different kinds of listening devices embedded in the wall.

    Then we went to the Lego store, where Thane and Grey purchased Legos, Brain Marbles — or some such name, where Sebastian purchased a game called “Snake Oil”, and I fell victim to the pneumatic arm kit — yes really. It is so cool! Finally, we went to Target for Little Ponies stuff — I am sorry, Heidi! Giving kids choices sometimes has consequences.

    Grey saw the sign on South Hill Collision which says “Wreck Amended” and he thought it was hilarious!

    The sleeping room hasn’t quieted down so quickly tonight. They are still talking, but hey, it is Camp Gramp. Tomorrow, day camping at Big Tree campgrounds. It has a lovely little stream for the playing and they are all ready to enjoy that.

    Happy Birthday, Matt! Hope it was a good one. Happy Anniversary tomorrow, Brenda and Adam. May the mosquitoes leave you alone!

    Editor’s Note – I don’t see a day 4, so we’ll just have to paint it in with our imaginations.

    Camping at Camp Gramp

    Camping at Camp Gramp

    Day 5
    The morning began with Lego assembly, before the adults were out of bed. My muffled voice emerged from the blankets, “Take the table cloth off the table and work there.” So Thane obediently took the table cloth off the table, put it on the floor and emptied the bags of pieces on the table cloth, on the floor. We played Sebastian’s new game Snake Oil, with fun results. It is like selling refrigerators in the arctic, but we enjoyed it. Thane’s reading is excellent for headed into K. There were, however, some little mistakes.

    Gmm washed clothes, imagine that.

    About 3, we went “camping” Camp Gramp style. That means we go to a favorite camp site, play in the stream, hike around, roast hot dogs and marshmallows, then go home to sleep. The weather is PERFECT. About 75, sunny, lovely! There was a nice breeze blowing through the trees. Just perfect!

    Then we broke “camp” and headed up to Paradise in hopes of finding the Cascade fox that hangings out in the parking lot in the evening. That was a wash. We saw only a couple of deer. No bear, no marmot, no Cascade fox. But it was really beautiful. The wildflowers, oh my! They are spectacular! I hope Brenda and Adam are enjoying them and the great backpacking weather.

    Tomorrow, OMSI. I think I will go collapse in bed!

    Day 6 – It is hard to tell which is the more popular, OMSI — Oregon Museum of Science and Industry — or IKEA for the meatballs. They were both a hit. Thane chose the dinosaur movie, which surprises no one. The older three chose the submarine, where they have decided the sleeping quarters are a little close! Then there were the exhibits. I think Sebastian liked the Laser room best. It had holograms! Thane and Carolyn went to the upstairs room to explore with the animal puppets and play in the water. For the second day in a row, Thane came home soaking wet! We will soon be out of shoes. Tomorrow we will rescue the hikers from Mt. Rainier. Mowich Lake, here we come!

    Day 7 – It is a joy to realize that children have learned from things you have done with them. But why did they have to learn that? Yesterday I took the 3 older ones on the tour of the submarine at OMSI. We got the shower lecture. He called it a sailor shower. 10 seconds of water, lather up and shampoo, then 20 seconds of water to rinse off. So, we needed showers, oh did we need showers. I sent Sebastian first. He came back in about 2 minutes — “I took a sailor shower!” Somehow I think the lather and shampoo section was not all it should have been. All of them took sailor showers, except Thane, who needs a shower, but definitely doesn’t want to take one.

    Today we went to Mowich Lake to pick up Brenda and Adam. That is such a beautiful place — flowers, crystal clear water, mountains, trees. It was amazing. The road was reminiscent of Zaire — pothole city for much of the way. But that was fun too.

    Now the children are playing together on different computers. That will make sense to me, I am sure. All I know is there are happy voices coming from upstairs!

    Camp Gramp Day 2

    Editor’s note: This is the second installment in my mother’s Camp Gramp updates. We’ll have a bit of a hiatus as Adam and I go tackle the North Side of Mt. Rainier. Tomorrow night, Berkeley Park!

    The Camp Grampers

    Day Two
    Today was chose your own adventure day. The children are old enough to have some say in what we do, so we made a powerpoint and posters for things we thought they might like, and each child chose one. Today’s adventure was the Carolyn Adventure, Northwest Trek. The tram ride was awesome. We saw a bull moose about 5 feet from the tram. We saw caribou, bison, elk, big horned sheep, deer. We saw ducks, geese, and swans. The bull elk herd was hot, so they were all standing in the water, fabulous racks bending and twisting like wind-tossed reeds.

    We even had an adventure of another kind. A 1 1/2 year old took off his shoe and tossed it out the window. In case you are wondering, they send the game keeper to pick it up!

    The core area was not so good. It was warm and everyone was sleeping. We got a good view of the fox, which is why we were there. We dragged ourselves out of NW Trek, tired but happy and came home to dinner.

    Now the living room is ringing with voices engaged in a game they say is called “politics”. Hmmm! What kind of grandchildren are they raising? I don’t know what the game is, exactly, but periodically there is the patter of little feet coming into my office and a child whispers in my ear, “Don’t tell them I am here!” I would never do that!

    They are playing together so well! Lovely!

    Checking out the scenery

    Camp Gramp: Day 1 2014

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    Editor’s Note: My parents take all their grandchildren for a week every summer for a hedonistic weekend called Camp Gramp. It includes Lucky Charms, adventures, tents and connection with family. We parental units are released on our own recognizance, and my mother sends out updates to assure us we can continue to ignore our progeny happily. I repost her updates, when I’m not on Mt. Rainier. Here’s the first.

    Camp Gramp! Day One
    It is a miracle! The children are nestled all snug in their beds — I can’t vouch for what is dancing around in their heads, but they all seem to be asleep without the usual 13 trips to remind them that tomorrow is another day. This could be because the Flynn crew were up early this morning. However it happened, it has been a good start.
    Camp Gramp t-shirts are all tie dyed and tucked in their plastic bags for a night of getting more intense.

    The tents are all up. The kids are getting to be a much better help in that capacity.

    Much laughing and giggling and “Let’s pretending” has already gone on.

    On the down side, poor Papapa has pneumonia and is feeling far from well. Hopefully his medicine will kick in soon. It is discouraging to feel worse after the doctor.

    Brenda and Adam are going tomorrow morning to try for camping spots for Mt. Rainier.

    I am headed for bed. My day hasn’t been quite as long, but it has been busy, and those kids are getting a head start on me.

    I promise to get out the camera tomorrow.

    You got to come down from the mountaintop

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    My church is in the process of preparing to partner with a new minister, after our Reverand of 34 years retired this spring. I was asked if I’d be willing to do a service this summer as we get ready to call an interim minister, and of course I said yes. The following are my notes for the sermon. The actual delivery varied slightly.

    Summerland

    Last week I picked up my son Grey from a week at Camp Wilmot, a Presbyterian run summer camp in the wilds of New Hampshire. Burlington Presbyterian has a long history at Camp Wilmot, but it’s been many years since we’ve sent a contingent. How many of you here have been to Camp Wilmot? How many here have heard of it? It was a great experience for Grey, and I’m hopeful next year the BPC contingent will be even bigger?

    We got the packing list for the week at camp a few weeks before the first day. It started with a copy of the Bible and ended with bug spray and sunscreen. Reading it over, it was pretty much identical to the packing lists I’d had for summer camp in my day! As we were getting Grey ready to go, we called my brother and sister, my mom and dad, to talk about our experiences at Christian summer camps. All this summer camp talk got me reminiscing about some of my favorite experiences.

    When I was teenager, the Presbytery of Olympia had two summer camps to choose from. There was Sound View, on the scenic shores of the Puget Sound, and there was Buck Creek nestled up against Mt. Rainier National Park. My sister went sailing and cycling at Sound View, but my heart was given to Buck Creek. One of the most exciting camp offerings was a backpacking camp. I went four years in a row.

    The second year may have been the best. We hiked the East Side of the Wonderland Trail surrounding Mt. Rainier. I remember climbing the high paths to Summerland, on the sunrise side of one of the world’s iconically beautiful mountains. Summerland is an alpine meadow, full of lupine, columbine, heather and buzzing bees. The winds that blow there come directly off the glaciers a few hundred feet distance and down to the desert country that grows the apples and cherries we all love. We campers were jubilant in our conquest of the mountain. We prayed together, read the scripture together, sang by the laboriously brought guitar, and saw more stars in that perfect night than I’d ever known had existed. My heart was unbearably full of the glory of God. In that beautiful place, and beautiful time, I could feel the Holy Spirit as a joy. I almost cried at the thought of ever coming down – and it wasn’t because the climb can be tough on the knees.

    I remember asking one of the counselors why it had to be this way. Why was it so hard, and so rare, to feel the joy of the spirit? Why did we have to go back down to the “real world”? Why couldn’t we just stay here?

    That wise counselor brought me back to the story of the Transfiguration, which is as follows:


    Matthew 17:1-13

    Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

    Jesus didn’t have summer camp, but as he went through Israel he climbed his own high mountain – distant and remote. As I imagine this story, it was also beautiful. In that high and lovely place, he also experienced God’s touch in a remarkable way. Moses and Elijah! There, and talking with Jesus! The voice of God speaking praise of Jesus’ work! And Peter had the exact same thought I’d had – this is awesome. Why can’t we just stay here and keep doing this.

    But Jesus did not stay on that holy mountain. Instead, he went down to Jerusalem and started the hardest work of his ministry – being obedient to God even to a painful, criminal’s mocking and execution. He had his mountaintop moment, and then he came back to earth to do the things that need doing.

    This story has stayed with over the ensuing decades for three reasons.

    Now that I’m on the teaching end of the equation, I’m astonished and impressed by Keith’s command of the Bible. He had such a perfect scripture to answer my question in a profound and meaningful way. Clearly it was memorable, for me to be talking about the impact of that lesson 20 years later. It is a reminder to all of us that continuing to study and learn God’s word might mean that we have that word ready to go when our children ask us a hard question.

    The second is that we are needed in this prosaic, dirty, sometimes unlovely and difficult world because we have work to do here. Jesus healed, taught, prophesied and sacrificed himself. We are also called to God’s work in the thick air of the cities. As Amy Grant sang in the playlist of my youth, “But you got to come down from the mountaintop to the people in the valley below, or they’ll never know that they can go to the mountain of the Lord.”

    The third part, the one I hold on to most tightly, is that you also have to go up to the mountaintop in the first place. Jesus took time for work, but he also took time to rest and to be available to listen to God’s word. I yearn for summer camp, and wish I could go back and reclaim some of those mountaintop moments. I think it is hard for us, as grown people with responsibilities and expectations, to put ourselves somewhere quiet and beautiful to think and pray and listen to God’s call. I find it very difficult. And I find it very hard to carry the passion of the Holy Spirit with me without those moments. Our church does try to find ways to encourage it – we’ve done retreats, and our services sometimes create mountaintop moments. We should all work to create those moments – both for ourselves and for those around us.

    As for me? I’m hoping that next week I’ll be on those same trails on Mt. Rainier, in the sunset-shadow of mighty Tahoma where I once felt the Holy Spirit move. And I hope I find a way to open my heart to feel it again.

    Letter from Camp Wilmot

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    Grey's letter

    Grey’s letter

    YAYAYAYAY!!! The mail came today with news from camp. I’ll confess to being delightfully stunned that Grey actually used any part of the stationery set he demanded as part of his camping kit. Not pictured is the front of the envelope, where in addition to the addresses, Grey included a note that “I went kayaking by myself” as well as a well-executed picture of him swimming.

    I have wondered 60 times a day how he’s doing. I still don’t have the full story, but I’ll take an update from Monday that includes BBQ chicken, nice counselors and a solo kayak trip! GO GREY!

    I pick him up tomorrow morning and I CANNOT WAIT for, as Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story”.

    Beyond the rain-drenched streets

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    It’s pouring out right now, which is kind of soothing actually. I get the feeling that we will have a cool rainy summer to follow our cold, snowy winter. But while I’m watching the rain, I am thinking about my little boy in a cabin and really, really hoping that he’s either getting better weather, or enjoying his stormy weather with some new BFFs.

    The guy I’m missing

    I’ve sent Grey away before. Camp Gramp started when he was like 2 years old. I’ve cheerfully bundled him off with my parents and only had light levels of “aw, I miss my boys”. He’s been at daycare since he was 8 weeks old. I’m a pro at parting, solid in the assurance that I’ll see him soon and he’ll have had a great time. So I didn’t anticipate much problem with this whole Summer Camp plan. I’d send him. He’d have a great time and learn a lot and make friends and grow up in new and amazing ways. I’d spend extra time with Thane – the younger, quieter child.

    But man, I’m suffering. We’ve had no news since Sunday – which is good. No news means no problems that the counselors haven’t been able to help him with. They had cell phones, those wonderful teenage boys, and Grey knows my number. I have enough confidence in his – ahem – effective communication of his desires to believe he could’ve talked one of them into calling me if he really wanted to. So signs point to a great outcome. He’s fine. He’s happy. He’s awesome.

    But I don’t KNOW! Before it’s always been someone I know that I left him with, and that he knew. So often I’ve sent them together. I didn’t realize I counted on the fact they had each other. My mom always sends Camp Gramp updates, and we call when we can. Just those 30 seconds of “Hi mom. I’m doing great… (then trailing off as some new fun thing totally distracts him)” put my mind at ease far more than I realized until I didn’t have them. I’m almost happy that the pickup time is at oh-dark-thirty on Saturday, so I don’t have to wait so long to see him.

    I’ve been consoling myself by *thoroughly* cleaning his room in his absence. (With his permission.) I think I could entirely recreate his IKEA bunk bed using nothing but Lego bricks. The older the kid, the smaller the toys, the harder to clean. But it’s nice to come home to a clean house, even if you’re an 8 year old. I suspect it serves to make me even snifflier though.

    So to console me – tell me about your first time at summer camp!

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